Ecodharma Sangha has been exploring the nature of our current global hyper-individualistic economy, our notions of an isolated self and our consumerism. We have discussed how our economy and consumerist habits came to be, identified the problems with it and how its underlying principles are translated into our daily lives. We advocate for aligning our economic system with the well-being of the entire planet as outlined in the Meadows Memorandum and hope that Buddhists and contemplatives will help manifest the overarching Meadows memorandum.
There has been tremendous wonderful progress towards a better world over the past generation. Most businesses practice sustainability, some exceptionally well. Many communities offer recycling, encourage water conservation, support “alternative” transportation and incentivize energy efficiency. Organic food is available in most grocery stores, especially in Boulder. Renewable energy is now cheaper to produce than fossil fuel electricity. The tipping point on cost and quality of electric vehicles has reached the point where they should replace most internal combustion engines over the next decade.
And yet, for all this progress, the world remains in dire straits. Every major ecosystem is in decline. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase causing extreme weather and increased natural disasters. Persistent toxic chemicals are bioaccumulating in almost all human tissue to a level that is damaging immune systems and increasing mortality. There are 15 major wars raging on the planet killing hundreds of thousands a year and forcing 65 million people to flee their homes and search of any country that will allow them to safely live.
Our modern economy is based on a neoliberal paradigm that values individual self-interest over all else. It fulfills this primary goal by producing good, bad, and the unacceptable without concern for the difference. In early 1970s, the Powell Memo consolidated the roadmap for systematic removal of all possible hindrances in the path of widespread adoption of neoliberal ideology. Neoliberalism is not a conspiracy theory: GDP grows when nuclear waste is created and ambulances clear carnage from our streets. If we look carefully, the three poisons of delusion (confusion), ill will (aversion) and greed (attraction) are assumed societal norms hidden in the neoliberal economic narrative. To be happy consumers, we are taught delusions about who we are, reminded that any discomfort is unacceptable, and seduced to desire identity building brands, goods and services. The social norms, inculcated by the 5,000 advertisements and brand impressions that each of us receives every day, are unhealthy. The cumulative impact of brand marketing’s ubiquitous messaging and our overall neoliberal economy encourages the three poisons to thrive within each of us as individuals as well as all of our societal organizations.