Freedom and the Alleviation of Suffering

Yesterday I watched Trudell, and I have to say that it’s had me thinking since then about just what it is that I’m working to accomplish, if anything.  I mean, what is it exactly that I want from the world, what am I working towards?

I think what I want is freedom and the alleviation of suffering.  It irritates the fuck out of me about the Democrats that they so often just get hung up on the alleviation of suffering–they’ll tell us what and where to eat and where and whether to smoke and if and when we can own guns and such–and they lose sight of the necessity of also advancing freedom.

Still, isn’t that better than giving up both in order to feel safe?

Anyway, I liked Trudell a great deal and also felt like it was not enough, that it was more infomercial than gripping documentary.  I felt like I came away from it knowing something about Trudell, but really nothing about Trudell; what I mean is that I feel like I learned some facts, very thought-provoking facts, but not much about him as a person.

It also got me thinking, though, that there’s a certain strand of Christian thought that just drives me crazy, the outlook that teaches people to think of this world as, at worst, evil and at best, somewhat meaningless overall, and teaches them to only focus on what comes after this.

Clearly, this is not endemic to all Christianity, and I hope you see that I’m trying to make a specific criticism about a kind of mindset that allows us to assume that suffering is not something we can really do anything about and so why bother?  I wish, instead, that those folks saw that their god loves this earth and the people in it (deservedly or not) and so we should treat this world and each other like things god loves.

12 thoughts on “Freedom and the Alleviation of Suffering

  1. There is profit in convincing your fellow human beings that this life is for nothing but to bide one’s time until the next. You can fleece them and then enjoy the fruits of their labor right in their faces, and they’ll thank you for it.

    For the followers, well, being a sheep is easy. You don’t have to do the hard work that comes with critical thinking and respecting the validity of other’s viewpoints.

  2. It irritates the fuck out of me about the Democrats that they so often just get hung up on the alleviation of suffering–they’ll tell us what and where to eat and where and whether to smoke and if and when we can own guns and such–and they lose sight of the necessity of also advancing freedom.

    YES!!! This is exactly why I refuse to call myself a Democrat.

    there’s a certain strand of Christian thought that just drives me crazy, the outlook that teaches people to think of this world as, at worst, evil and at best, somewhat meaningless overall, and teaches them to only focus on what comes after this.

    Again, YES!!!! If a religion doesn’t work in the moment then what good is it?

  3. >>there’s a certain strand of Christian thought that just drives me crazy, the outlook that teaches people to think of this world as, at worst, evil and at best, somewhat meaningless overall, and teaches them to only focus on what comes after this.<<<

    I have so much I would like to say about this. I’m not great at articulating or arguing things like this. I just think if this is what you (collective “you”) were taught to think about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian, that’s just sad. I would not want to be part of any sort of religious anything that held that sort of thought.

  4. Sista-there is very little evidence that Christianity, at least as currently practiced and showcased for recruitment, holds the Earth in much esteem. The meek would tread more lightly, i should think.

  5. B, I’m not entirely sure how freedom gets “advanced.” Since there but two viable political Parties, (and I go back and forth about whether or not I’d like to see a third) one of them is constantly forced to keep the other one in check. Also, since you mentioned Christianity, I’d say the alleviation of suffering alone is sufficient to make baby Jesus do cartwheels. Lets do what we can, by representing the interests of those who hold no power.

    I’m proud to be a Democrat. I’m not always proud of the job the Party does, or of every Democrat, but there is a clear choice and I embrace the Party’s ideals. Especially the Progressive wing of the party.

  6. Sigh, i guess i have more. To me, Trudell is the activist’s activist. The real deal. What he had to say almost 40 years ago was visionary, and we would be well served to heed his words today. I have been fortunate enough to be invited onto Reservations in new mexico to participate in some ceremonies held there, and my limited time with the people there changed me forever.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the documentary. I hear what you are saying about knowing more about the person, but that format has built in limitations and i am glad they focused on his words and his substantial trials. Losing your loved ones in a fight for equality could easily make a lesser man bitter, and dangerous.

  7. B, I know what you mean about the undervaluing of the here and now by some versions of Christianity, and it drives me crazy. But is that strain of thought all that different from the Buddhist teaching that the world = illusion and attachment = suffering? I mean, a lot of the human condition sucks. And some religions say “so your mission is to go out and help fix that sucker” and some say “but the suckage you go through now will lead to rewards later.” And, while my religion gives the first answer (to the point that we can’t even agree whether or not there’s a heaven), I can sort of understand the person who says, “it’s all too much for me to fix” and hopes just to live through it all and get some payoff later.

  8. Mack, I’ve been thinking on it since then and I think you’re absolutely right that it’s a limitation of the medium–kind of–but also, maybe it’s a sign of a good documentary, that I wanted to know more and to dig deeper. So, my comments stand, but I’m just wavering on whether it’s a problem with the documentary or not.

    One thing that I did appreciate was the amount of time he was willing to actually be on camera talking. You can learn a lot about someone from studying his face and so I was glad he was willing to let the camera linger on him as long as he did.

    Well, shoot, man! Next time we’re together, I want to hear about this New Mexico stuff. Now I’m incredibly self-conscious about my goals for you.

    As for Christianity, maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but this is a point on which I’m willing to let most Christians off the hook. I think that, if you’re not being taught to put all your hopes in Heaven (to the detriment of the earth), it’s very hard to imagine the folks who are. I mean, if you believe that god loved life enough to create the world and that he loved the world enough to send his son to live here, and so you then believed that the world had value and should be protected as something beloved by god, I’m just not sure you can imagine a mindset another way.

    As for Democrats v. Republicans, well, clearly I agree with you that there’s a choice and often it feels to me like that choice, especially on a national level in the face of this administration, is a choice between weirdly incompetent and evil. And, like the Butcher says, even if our votes don’t count, you have to take a symbolic stand against evil.

    But I still think that the Democrats need to do a better job of promoting freedom. And, perhaps you cannot imagine how one would promote freedom simply because it’s been so long since (if ever) since the government worked to do it.

    But I guess what I mean is in part that I want the Democrats to promote the expansion of rights and the civic welfare. So, I don’t just want “welfare programs,” I want bad schools fixed.

    Shoot, I want someone in your school district to stand up and say, “Oh, no, bullshit! I will not give money to the schools to pay for books for the library. Fundraisers are for unnecessary luxuries–like band uniforms or new bleachers or class trips to DC. Books for the library are a necessity and one that should be covered by budgeted money and, if they’re not, we have a serious problem.”

    I don’t want to go off on a diatribe, but do you see what I mean? The Republicans have a nice-sounding platitude–“Getting the government out of your business.” (or variations)

    After all, who doesn’t hate busybodies?

    But there are damn good reasosn why the government should be sticking its nose in places and the e. coli problems and the lead paint in our toys (and our make-up) and the failure of gutted programs like FEMA prove it.

    That, to me, is part of advancing freedom.

    NM, hmm. Yeah, okay, I see what you’re saying and I agree. But I think it’s one thing for a person to come to that herself, to say “I am but one person and there’s so much suffering and anything I do is either just a drop in the bucket or counterproductive, so I’m just going to put my faith in God that he can straighten it out and that things will be better in the by and by.” I can sympathize with that perspective.

    What I cannot sympathize with and what I would warn others against is the leader (political or religious) who encourages that line of thinking in his followers. That seems to me to be a problem.

  9. I know what you mean about the undervaluing of the here and now by some versions of Christianity, and it drives me crazy. But is that strain of thought all that different from the Buddhist teaching that the world = illusion and attachment = suffering?

    If you’re just saying that many religions can be interpreted in such a way as to devalue the here and now, you’re right. But, much in the same way that my understanding of Christianity does not exclude the here and now (though some practice it in a manner that does), I don’t think Buddhism’s teachings against attachment suggest a withdraw from the here and now. A good Buddhist very much engages in the moment, they just do so with the awareness that the moment they are engaging in is, just that, a moment: transient and ever changing. Christianity (the way it’s practiced by most) says, live this live the best way so you can then go to heaven, where as my understanding of Buddhism (and for that matter MY personal understanding of Christianity) says the best way to live this life is by constantly going to the heaven that exists in the current moment.

  10. Eh, Dolphin, I should have been more specific. I meant that there are some versions of Buddhism that take the exteme anti-now view, just as there are some versions of Christianity that do so. I guess I was trying to make the point that there’s no reason to single out (some versions of) Christianity for this failing, when it’s so very wide-spread.

  11. I guess I was trying to make the point that there’s no reason to single out (some versions of) Christianity for this failing, when it’s so very wide-spread.

    I think that’s fair.

    I think Christianity gets singled out here simply because it’s what’s most familiar to most of us here in the US.

  12. Of course. But the problem of tagging Christianity with this particular problem (as I see it) is that when we do so we fail to recognize what a powerful human force the rejection of the now can be. When we put it all on any one religion, we forget that that religion contains it (among other things) because it has a basic human appeal. I find it a very troublesome appeal, myself, perhaps even dangerous. But I don’t think it’s helpful (if one is trying to jolt people into a more activist, participatory, mindful mindset) to think, “gee, if it weren’t for that particular pesky version of Christianity, people would have better attitudes.”

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