Bohemian Buddhist Review

How Quantum Activism Can Save Civilization, Part 2

Amit Goswami: Let our Heads Be Guided by our Hearts
Two months into the world-wide Occupy movement and Goswami's book -- as well as his DVD, "The Quantum Activist" -- only gets more relevant.
One of the many insights of Goswami is that, to quote a teaching from the Bhagavad Gita, those who want to help the paradigm shift we're now undergoing need to commit to positive activism, or Right Action, without being attached to any specific outcome.  In the words of another spiritual teaching, Reiki, one learns to ask for "this or something better for all." It's humbling but important to realize that as individuals we don't always -- or even very often -- know what's really best in any given situation.  And as a shaman friend recently said, "Our expectations can have limiting effects on the outcome."
Amit Goswami isn't afraid to go where the angels of liberal apologism fear to tread. He calls for "spiritual economics" to replace capitalism and denounces our much-ballyhooed higher education system as job training instead of meaning processing; this latter should be, in his opinion, one of the main purposes and goals of life.  (As an admittedly cynical aside, the phrase "economic democracy" is more likely to replace capitalism than anything with the word spiritual in it.)
But still, Goswami deserves credit for taking on one of the major shibboleths of our time, the grossly misquoted and misunderstood Adam Smith.  "One major shortcoming of Adam Smith's capitalist economics is the ignoring of people's needs."
How refreshing to read someone who ranks a non-working mother or the need for leisure time as a higher need!  The corporate state only values us as so many cogs in the wheel of commerce; in distinct contrast to corporations' supposed and utterly absurd claims to personhood, it cares nothing about ours.
While a visionary, Goswami asks himself and the reader all the right questions, such as, "Can spiritual economics solve capitalism's current problems?"  He points out the obvious downsides to a materialist world-view in a finite world.  Infinite expansion and use of natural resources simply isn't possible, to believe otherwise is delusional.  In addition, materialist expansion produces massive environmental pollution.  "Many environmentalists think that global warming has already reached doomsday criticality."  But in spiritual economics, material consumption is reduced -- because people have other means to satisfy their needs for happiness -- "thus automatically reducing environmental pollution."
OWS is asking some of the same questions that Goswami does.  ows.jpg"Now society has to deal with the shortcomings of materialist economics, with little opportunity to expand in the face of finite resources and challenges of environmental pollution.  In addition, society has to heal the wounds created by materialism.  There is a new frontier; the new frontier belongs to the subtle dimensions of the human being and we need a subtler economy to ride in order to explore them."
Goswami waxes positive.  "So the implementation of spiritual economics is inevitable because our society needs it.  As humanity collectively moves beyond our competitive ego needs, as we begin to explore the benefits of cooperation en masse, the old competetive-only material economy has to give way . . . " 
We need to remember that Adam Smith's desire to break up the corrupt feudal and mercantile system of his time and place was the basis for the emergence of capitalism, in which many more people were allowed to pursue meaning in their lives, not just material survival.  But now we need another model, something closer to the Occupy movement's horizontalism.  "The forefront of economic expansion in the 21st century will involve subtle energy," writes Goswami. "There is no doubt about it."
Smith's reviled mercantile system evolved into capitalism, which now needs another evolution.  "Democratic leadership all over the world must recognize that the crisis conditions facing us today are largely due to the gross violations of evolutionary ethics."  
Ethics!  Remember that word?  Two of the pillars of Buddhist ethics are right thought and right action. And most of us could use reminders of what ethics means in our lives, because only when we return to ethical behavior for the good of all, not just the wealthy few, will we transform the world into a sane and humane place -- and improve our lot as well.
Paki S. Wright, November 2011