Fifteen years ago, a business manager from the United States came to Plum Village to visit me. His conscience was troubled because he was the head of a firm that designed atomic bombs. I listened as he expressed his concerns. I knew if I advised him to quit his job, another person would only replace him. If he were to quit, he might help himself, but he would not help his company, society, or country. I urged him to remain the director of his firm, to bring mindfulness into his daily work and to use his position to communicate his concerns and doubts about the production of atomic bombs.In the Sutra on Happiness, the Buddha says it is great fortune to have an occupation that allows us to be happy, to help others and to generate compassion and understanding in this world. Those in the helping professions have occupations that give them this wonderful opportunity. Yet many social workers, physicians and therapists work in a way that does not cultivate their compassion, instead doing their job only to earn money. If the bomb designer practises and does his work with mindfulness, his job can still nourish his compassion and in some way allow him to help others. He can still influence his government and fellow citizens by bringing greater awareness to the situation. He can give the whole nation an opportunity to question the necessity of bomb production.Many people who are wealthy, powerful and important in business, politics and entertainment are not happy. They are seeking empty things - wealth, fame, power, sex - and in the process they are destroying themselves and those around them. In Plum Village, we have organised retreats for businesspeople. We see that they have many problems and suffer just as others do, sometimes even more. We see that their wealth allows them to live in comfortable conditions, yet they still suffer a great deal.Some businesspeople, even those who have persuaded themselves that their work is very important, feel empty in their occupation. They provide employment to many people in their factories, newspapers, insurance firms and supermarket chains, yet their financial success is an empty happiness because it is not motivated by understanding or compassion. Caught up in their small world of profit and loss, they are unaware of the suffering and poverty in the world. When we are not int ouch with this larger reality, we will lack the compassion we need to nourish and guide us to happiness.Once you begin to realise your interconnectedness with others, your interbeing, you begin to see how your actions affect you and all other life. You begin to question your way of living, to look with new eyes at the quality of your relationships and the way you work. You begin to see, 'I have to earn a living, yes, but I want to earn a living mindfully. I want to try to select a vocation not harmful to others and to the natural world, one that does not misuse resources.'Entire companies can also adopt this way of thinking. Companies have the right to pursue economic growth, but not at the expense of other life. They should respect the life and integrity of people, animals, plants and minerals. Do not invest your time or money in companies that deprive others of their lives, that operate in a way that exploits people or animals and destroys nature.Businesspeople who visit Plum Village often find that getting in touch with the suffering of others and cultivating understanding brings them happiness. They practise like Anathapindika, a successful businessman who lived at the time of the Buddha, who with the practise of mindfulness throughout his life did everything he could to help the poor and sick people in his homeland.
Thich Nhat Hanh
New Rule: Never underestimate the ability of a tiny fringe group of losers to ruin everything. We've all been laughing heartily at the wacky antics of the birthers--the far-right goofballs who claim Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii and therefore the job of the president goes to the runner-up, Miss California Carrie Prejean. And there's nothing you can do to convince these people--you could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate, with the placenta and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background...and they still wouldn't believe it. Hey, birthers, wanna hear my theory? My theory is Obama was born in America and your were born with the umbilical cord around your neck. I don't know what his mother was doing when she was pregnant, but I am pretty sure yours was drinking.Oh, I kid the birthers and actually, there is one thing that makes me think they could be right: We're Americans; of course we're gonna hire an illegal alien to clean up. I am joking, of course and laughing it off has also been the reaction from Democratic leaders so far, proving that Democrats never learn: In America, if you don't immediately kill arrant bullshit, no matter how ridiculous, it can grow and thrive and eventually take over, like crabgrass or Cirque du Soleil. This might be a deluded, time-wasting right-wing obsession, but so was Whitewater and look where that ended up. Liberals said, Oh, what're they gonna do, keep expanding the case until they impeach the president over a blow job?I am telling you, in America, there is no idea so patently absurd that it can't catch on. For example, have you ever met a Mormon? More recently, we had the Swift Boat allegations against John Kerry, making him, a genuine war hero, into a coward in a race against a guy who never left Texas--this was so stupid that Kerry refused to even discuss it. And we all know how well that worked out.You may ask, how does something as inane as Whitewater or Swift Board or the birther phenomenon gain traction? I'll tell you how: the same way the story about Elton John almost dying from ingesting too much of Rod Stewart's sperm gained traction in my high school: dummies talking to other dummies. It's just easier now because of the Internet and because our mainstream media does such a lousy job of speaking the truth to stupid.Lou Dobbs said recently, People are asking a lot of questions about the birth certificate. Yes, the same people who want to know where the sun goes at night and where to put the stamp on their e-mail. And, Lou, you're their new king. That's why it's so important that we the few, the proud, the reality-based, attack this stuff before it has a chance to fester and spread. It's not a case of Democrats vs. Republicans. It's sentient beings vs. the Lizard People and it is to them I offer this deal: I'll show you President Obama's birth certificate when you show me Sarah Palin's high school diploma.
Bill Maher
The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] illustrates what might be called the natural history of government intervention. A real or fancied evil leads to demands to do something about it. A political coalition forms consisting of sincere, high-minded reformers and equally sincere interested parties. The incompatible objectives of the members of the coalition (e.g., low prices to consumers and high prices to producers) are glossed over by fine rhetoric about the public interest, fair competition and the like. The coalition succeeds in getting Congress (or a state legislature) to pass a law. The preamble to the law pays lip service to the rhetoric and the body of the law grants power to government officials to do something. The high-minded reformers experience a glow of triumph and turn their attention to new causes. The interested parties go to work to make sure that the power is used for their benefit. They generally succeed. Success breeds its problems, which are met by broadening the scope of intervention. Bureaucracy takes its toll so that even the initial special interests no longer benefit. In the end the effects are precisely the opposite of the objectives of the reformers and generally do not even achieve the objectives of the special interests. Yet the activity is so firmly established and so many vested interests are connected with it that repeal of the initial legislation is nearly inconceivable. Instead, new government legislation is called for to cope with the problems produced by the earlier legislation and a new cycle begins.
Milton Friedman