Marlboro Men in the White House

Rev. Will Tuttle, Ph.D.

Like many of us, I’ve been deeply disturbed by the actions and attitudes of the gang that has grabbed the helm of the most powerful industrial and military machine the world has ever known. Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Ridge, and the rest are, I believe, the most shockingly virulent examples of the corporate values of exploitation, secrecy, and high-handed, self-serving arrogance that we have ever seen at the top levels of government in this country. It’s a dangerous time for our world.

How are we to understand this, and how are we to respond?

The culture we were all born into is still fundamentally a herding culture, for all its speedy technology and pretenses otherwise, and its core values are still domination and commodification of nature, animals, and people. Its most basic ritual is the eating of enslaved and brutalized animals, and this illustrates and reinforces its philosophy that might makes right. It has birthed transnational corporations, non-mortal legal persons with vast wealth and power, who exist only to further their own ends and who are forced to single-mindedly maximize their profits by the global investment system. These giant corporations, through their increasing control of social institutions and the media, have succeeded in creating a puppet administration that is dedicated to doing their bidding.

Corporate values and goals reflect the underlying herding ethic that is their source, and they are the exact opposite of spiritual values and goals. Spiritual values are based on seeing the interconnectedness of all life and all beings, and reflect universal love and compassion as well as justice, peace, and caring, and spiritual goals involve helping others and maximizing freedom and creative opportunity for everyone. Spirituality understands that the welfare of all beings is inextricably connected; no one can become free by enslaving another, or become happy by stealing from or otherwise harming another.

Corporate values emphasize the welfare of some at the expense of others, and are rooted in the herding ethic of the strong dominating, enslaving, and commodifying the weak. Corporate goals are inherently self-centered, and lead to endless conflict, manipulation, deception, and destruction. Fear is the foundation of the corporate worldview, for it is based on the belief in the separateness and disconnectedness of beings. We can see that a basic task of the Bush administration is spreading fear and promoting violence, building walls of secrecy, and separating the rich few from everyone else.

The heart of veganism is compassion, and it is rooted in the felt understanding of interconnectedness. As long as we have a herding culture and eat animals, we will create self-centered corporations and oppress and destroy the earth, animals, and each other. Most of us are familiar with the idea that we must, as a species, evolve to a higher level of living or perish. With the advent of the cowboys in the White House it is all so painfully obvious—as a culture we must go vegan, stop seeing living beings as commodities, and recognize that the welfare of us all depends upon our treatment of each other, and includes all sentient beings.

And so we come to the great test: we include all beings, including corrupt CEO’s, politicians, and military men, within the circle of our love and compassion, though we may be excluded from the circle of their concern, and may even be directly attacked by them, as Jesus, Gandhi, and many other activists have been. They are wounded people, abused as children by the hard-heartedness that this herding culture we all live in propagates and rewards. This stunts spiritual growth, and the dilemma seems to be that those who are so stunted are willing and eager to use deception and force to seize political and economic power, and end up governing those who, being more spiritually evolved, are not willing to exercise such violence and deception. This is ironic in the extreme, and has happened before, as in Germany under the democratically elected Hitler regime.

Corporations were created for one reason: to avoid responsibility; spirituality and veganism, if they are expressions of anything, are expressions of taking responsibility. In the big picture, we are all responsible for our treatment of others, as well as for our failures to act to help others. To finally solve the dilemma we see reflected in the White House, we must cut the root of the problem, which is the herding mentality that commodifies animals and the weak and gives rise to the corporate worldview. Veganism is the only lasting solution. Let’s practice sincerely to get through this difficult time! The spirit of veganism requires non-cooperation with violence and oppression, and responsibility and love for all beings.

Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.

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