What non-duality is to communism? If one views capitalism as inherently selfish, and communism as a social utopia, then perhaps this relationship could seem true. But the communism of Stalin or that which led to the Chinese Cultural Revolution were closer to dictatorship or tyranny than anything else. Likewise the rampant, predatory capitalism we live in today is a far cry from the freedom and liberty our ancestor fought for in too many civil wars to mention.
I recently asked someone what wealth meant to them. Their reply was, “it means I don’t have to live in poverty, I can do what I want”. And there it was… “I” in centre stage, adorned in all its vulgar bling. I believe this is the same “I” that led to the communism of Stalin and Mao, and is the same “I” that has led the utter failure of capitalism to end human suffering.
Capitalism and Communism are merely signs – labels we assign to a set of ideas and concepts of the mind. In the west, particularly in the US, the aversion to the ‘sign’ of communism (fuelled by those with a vested interest in power) has led to the worst kinds of excess and over-consumption. Neither system is inherently good or evil, and neither can claim the moral high ground in terms of freedom and liberty for all. Those attributes can only be assigned to the personalities who lead those regimes, and not the philosophies themselves.
It might be argued that communism at least owns up to humanity’s tendency for greed and selfishness, but in its attempt to redress our selfish behaviour through state control it is seen as morally repugnant – the nanny-state gone mad, so to speak.
In the end, there is no capitalism or communism – there are only human beings. If “I” takes action to avoid living in material poverty, then “I” will create poverty somewhere else. If “We” take action to avoid living in material poverty, then “We” will end material poverty. When “We” means all living beings, then it’s really as simple as that, and holds true whether one is a communist, capitalist, or Munchkin. The American Dream – that we can all as free (selfish) individuals pursue and obtain the kind of wealth and lifestyle to which we have been taught to aspire – is a dualistic lie responsible for incredible suffering on a global scale.
I recently listened to a lecture by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he recounted a meeting with a delegation from the Chinese communist party. After he explained to them how the Plum Village community lived and mindfully shared their resources, he joked that it was the Buddhist monastics who were the real communists. He didn’t recount the reaction of the delegation, but I imagine the temperature dropped.
Education of our children, therefore, should concern itself primarily with ethics, and particularly the view that we are part of a greater whole. That whatever we do has an effect, and that those causes we create will revisit us. But the first is the most important, because when we begin to believe that we can fix the problems in our lives, neighbourhoods, towns, countries whatever, without having to worry about what effect this has on the rest of the world, then we find ourselves in the deep doo-doo that we are now in.