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Right speech
April 10th, 2015
illustration

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Right speech
(food for thought)

   Social media is constructively 'social' only when people cease thinking that attacking others as persons is legitimate, and drop the confusion between deconstructing an idea and deconstructing the author of the idea.  If a buddhist practitioner lumps ideas and author as one 'identity', then there's a serious need to review the teachings on selflessness! For anyone (buddhist or not), to drop the confusion is good logical practice anyway: it reduces the chances to fall for the (sadly common) ad hominem  and ab auctoritate   logical fallacies.

   It is helpfully 'social' only when insults stop being mislabelled as « just some fun » from the safety of the distance, and other irresponsible minimisations: how many suicides from cyber-bullying do we need before we learn about this moral irresponsibility?
   Even if it's ignorance that causes the appropriation of the insults by the receiver, blaming the victim would only be a copout: we have a moral duty to minimise the unwholesome conditions which could be appropriated with such unhelpful consequences.
   Equanimity is not indifference or denial, so equanimity is not found in automatically  labelling just anything as un-important, or in systematic  irreverence. There’s little wrong with not  idealising, but there’s a nuance between the simple restraint from idealising and a forceful lowering of others (e.g. refusing to acknowledge any quality in others that oneself doesn’t have).

   It also is positively 'social' when people try to fix, correct, improve the ideas of others (not "trying to improve others"!)… instead of solely shooting everything down, thinking one is clever from finding flaws but being blind to one's utter lack of wholesome contribution!
   There's little 'social' or 'collaborative' in solely destroying. Mass hysteria and clan dynamics are rarely wholesome. It's when you build anew, something better, that destroying what preceded might make sense: going to war without building peace afterwards is profoundly senseless. Even ceasing an oppression makes sense only when you then build safeguards for similar or identical oppressions not  to re-appear: many countries suffer from regularly ending an oppression (by one ethnic group) solely to create the next (by another ethnic group)!


   The discipline required —the restraint from easy insults, projections and identifications— can be achieved out of non-violence, compassion, loving-kindess or out of refraining from logical fallacies (ad hominem  in particular). It can be achieved by valuing the reduction of suffering (as a meaningful step towards the cessation of suffering).
   Admitting that we're not enlightened just yet, we might struggle with maintaining such a discipline, but it's important we keep manifesting the right intention: just like we might 'recenter' on the chosen object of meditation when we catch ourselves drifting, we can 'recenter' on the appropriate communication when we catch ourselves drifting!

Food for thought:
• 22’26’’ video ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame
• article opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/10/young-minds-in-critical-condition
• satire theonion.com/articles/bully-cant-believe-classmate-took-4-straight-years,38394
• comment thread in plus.google.com/+IrreverentMonk/posts/EDHaacvWWVJ,
  vs. data like e.g. census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p60-245.pdf
        or previous post gplus.wallez.name/3YVW2zyvQvq

   To bring well-grounded arguments (the ground of which can be communicated and enquired into) requires more efforts than to just throw insults and insinuations at people… For buddhists, "right effort" is part of the eightfold path though, so there's no excuse not to try (and try again, and again)!
   The resulting behaviour is often manifested as patiently and perseveringly bringing back each conversation to some form of reasoning (ideally about the phenomena unfolding, not about 'persons' —as the latter will too easily be reified and appropriated by the ordinary mind).
   The resulting behaviour is usually not  manifested as some blind promotion of ignorance: « oh that's too many references, too much history, too many stats… » Discerning between relevant data and obfuscation is key: more data isn't always obfuscation, even when it's a lot of effort to get your head around the said data. "Right concentration" is the spoke of the wheel we rely on to produce the needed reflexion: to respond to a complicated, nuanced reality is  the practice! It doesn't pass by caricaturing the said reality, not even in the name of "cutting through".
   Of course, it takes two to tango: some interlocutors are presently bent on making any effort towards reason fail, and/or on taking any comment 'personally'… [Akkosa Sutta (SN 7.2): gplus.wallez.name/PLdHjY2BB18] One might then need to "let it go" for now, and seek more fertile circumstances.

   All beings have equal dignity, and buddha-nature, but not all views are equally legitimate: ignorance is unwholesome and leads to dissatisfaction. Discernment is the root-cause of both ignorance and  wisdom: the potentially dramatic difference in result demands that we enquire into our discernments, that we use our (multi-dimensional) intelligence, that we connect with wisdom… Mindfulness is key; directness is not reducible to dumbness; the un-examined life is not worth living, it's just tendencies and automaticisms.


   If this sounds like an entreaty for some boring  "seriousness", it's only from the classical confusion that what one likes is fun, is pleasant, not dukkha…
   The cessation of lust is integral to the cessation of dukkha;  the cessation of clinging to personal preferences, personal prejudices, personal biases is true bliss.
   So, indeed, the Buddha promoted a rather 'serious' speech as "right speech" (SN 45.8): abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter…

   We may still utter some 'light' speech as "right speech" though…
   A statement "well-spoken, blameless and unfaulted by knowledgeable people" is spoken at the right time, in truth, affectionately,  beneficially, spoken with a mind of good-will (AN 5.198).
   The key to successful embodiment lies with the cultivation of mindfulness about what we label "light"! Is this labelling wholesome and inclusive (i.e. "light" for all — racist, sexist or other discriminatory jokes don't qualify, even when all those present laugh… "all" is not limited to "all present"), or is it just a self-serving delusional "I do/say whatever I like (without questioning why I like it)" ?
   The Buddha is routinely represented with a smile ("affectionately"), but neither with hilarity nor laughing at the expense of others. To state "we're not buddhas yet"  in order to justify not taking others seriously, or not treating them with respect, is a recipe not  to awaken: “right speech" is not optional to the eightfold path.
   ‘Light' speech might be light-hearted while it also sheds light onto wholesome views. To find such a brightness requires us to patiently cultivate wisdom.

   The Buddha did not speak of "social media", obviously… but isn't his guidance worthy of being practically embodied in the modern context too?


#Buddhism   #Dharma   #socialmedia  
Illustration: one of the difficulties is that people misperceive their own abilities (gplus.wallez.name/NPY9So13jED). The antidote is to maintain curiosity, a willingness to learn, "not-knowing", exploring, reading, debating (not 'insulting')… Then, even if one was over-estimating them, one's abilities will improve anyway, catch up (at least partially) and reduce the perception gap.