[Buddha-l] Accuracy

Richard Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Mon Jun 14 11:34:58 MDT 2010

Dan Lusthaus recently said (yet again) that I admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chávez and others who trash America. He also said not long ago, when I questioned the accuracy of his allegation, that anyone interested in verifying his accusation could search the buddha-l archives. Actually, that is not quite true; there is no easy way to search the buddha-l archives. There is a rather difficult way of doing so, which I will describe in another message. Anyway, knowing how much Dan treasures accuracy and hates character assassination, innuendo and carelessly formed allegations, I decided to search back through the archives and find all the messages in which I cheered on the various anti-American tyrants. Here, for everyone's conveniences are all the passages in which I mentioned those people whom I allegedly admire. I'll leave it to those who have the patience to read through them whether this is another case in which, as Dan's favourite Pentecostal Christian, Bob Dylan, once observed: 
"What looks large from a distance  
Close up ain't never that big."

January 5, 2006
Hell, if Ahmadinejad can convince himself and his followers that German
concentration camps were a hoax, and if George W. Bush can convince
himself that the theory of evolution and global warming are hoaxes, and
if Pat Robertson can convince himself and his millions of viewers that
Ariel Sharon's stroke is punishment from God for letting God's land be
divided, I suppose it is possible that the day is coming when we may
have to think for ourselves or live with the potentially unpleasant
consequences of being duped by our governmental and cultural leaders,
and even by newspapers and Curt Stienmetz. 

On September 21, 2006, in response to Curt Steinmetz's claim that "Buddhism has never promoted radical, much less revolutionary, changes in society":
In fact, it's almost axiomatic that a 
Western Buddhist will have a leftist orientation. (I imagine more than a few 
of us cheered wildly as we listened to the speeches by Ahmadinejad and Chavez 
in the UN. We love it when people speak truth to power.) What is one to make 
of that? That Western Buddhists aren't Buddhist after all? That Western 
Buddhists are somehow unique in the history of Buddhism for their penchant 
for reinventing Buddhism to suit their own psychological needs? 

On another list, Dan Lusthaus speaks of how many Westerners are drawn to 
Buddhism because of a "carefully crafted" image of Buddhism as non-violent. I 
think that's an example of bovine feces. It's not that crafty Buddhists made 
up an image of Buddhism to draw gullible Westerners in. Rather, I think, it's 
that Westerners who were sick of wars turned to a contemplative tradition and 
thought of that tradition as they wished to think about it. That was 
certainly true of a lot of Buddhists I knew back in the 1960s and 1970s. Many 
of us were pacifists and wanted our Buddhism to be pacifistic, so we made it 
that way. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, there is a name for any tradition 
that isn't constantly reinventing itself to meet new conditions; extinct.

September 21, 2006
Ahmadinejad's critique of the USA and Israel was right on target. His 
reference to the coming of the Mahdi left me cold. Chavez's critique of the 
USA was brilliant. His reference to Bush as el diablo was stupid and 
regrettable. Not everything said by someone who says some worthwhile things 
is worthwhile. Hence the need for discernment.

September 22, 2006, in response to Dan's observation that Ahmadinejad is anti-Semitic:
Yes, he is anti-Semitic. No one would deny that. But you glide past my point that it is not that particular predicate that wins my admiration. What I admire is his courage to come to the USA and to offer an accurate portrayal of the Bush administration. One need not be 100% admirable to be admirable. I admire some of what Ahmadinejad says, and cringe at the rest.

As a Buddhist, I follow the principle: Look at the saying, not the speaker.

October 18, 2007, with reference to the Ahmadinejad's treatment at Columbia University and on the program "60 Minutes":
I have never seen any situation improved by rudeness and hostility. If
Ahmadinejad is aggressive (a claim for which I see no evidence
whatsoever, but I'll let that pass), then surely his character is not
going to be improved by being treated rudely. Someone I once heard of
said that hatred is never overcome by hatred; it is overcome only by
love. Suffice it so say that Ahmadinejad's reception at Columbia
University and by the boorish twit who interviewed him on the "60
Minutes" television tabloid was hardly what one would hope for if one
took Buddhist principles at all seriously.

October 18, 2007 as a response to someone's quoting Saddam Hussein as saying "I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking."

Again, the man speaks wisely. It just goes to show how much wisdom we fail to 
attribute to a person when we choose to see only the person's villainy. What 
bothers me most about the way discourse has gone in America lately is that 
some profoundly important and insightful statements have been made in this 
country by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Hugo Chavez, but they have been 
completely ignored because these same people also said some offensive things. 
This is even more the case with Osama bin Laden. The man makes some very good 
criticisms of American policy, but because he has been seen as a villain, we 
collectively turn a deaf ear to him. We are become a nation built upon the 
fallacy of ad hominem arguments.

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
MSC03 2140
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

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