Collective delusion can unite us

Legacies of Collective Delusion

Delusion is one of the three poisons and according to Buddha’s teaching, is the root of  our suffering.

But as Funie Hsu elucidates in her amazing article on Turning Wheel, delusion can also bring us together. It is a wonderful article that deserves to be read in full. I will try to present highlights here in the interest of motivating you to read it.

Delusion in the Buddhist teachings is understood as the fundamental error of our mind, the dualism in our thinking, the idea that we are separate from others, from nature, from everything – as I have discussed here previously.

Hsu, a former teacher and now doctoral student at UC-Davis, relates our personal delusion to that embodied in the systemic oppression of people of color and other ghettoized segments of the population.

Drawing on the ideas of Wayne Yang about colonialism and post+colonialism, Hsu expands the notion of delusion to include our social order.

…K. Wayne Yang (La Paperson) cautions that viewing segregation as a cause of inequality situates the problem in the ghetto and further stigmatizes it. “More fundamentally,” he notes, “this view assumes the zone ‘outside of the ghetto’ to be the place of universal rights.” The solution, then, cannot be to simply get rid of the ghetto (whether by redevelopment, gentrification or other means) because racial/economic segregation is not the core cause. Rather, Yang argues, it’s colonialism.

Yang says colonialism is ongoing, and that ghettos are actually colonies, or dislocated territories whose existence in critical to the continued existence of the so-called ‘normal’ parts of our society.

They are [colonies] because of their alienation from the other parts of the city, which cannot distinguish themselves without their ghetto counterparts. These colonies are “dislocated” territories with residents who have been involuntarily dislocated from mainstream society. The violence that youth of color, especially black and Latino youth, endure in these colonial neighborhoods are a product of both racial and economic displacement stemming from the ongoing process of American imperial domination.

Then Hsu makes the leap: “We can also begin to see the inherent reality of our systemic and human interconnectedness. Even our systems of oppression are reliant upon interdependent relations to create privilege.

In other words, in spite of our delusion of separateness, our society relies on the essential interconnectedness among humans to create the class divisions that oppress us.

Indeed, our delusion [blinding us] to systems of oppression is a learned way of thinking, taught to us through many ‘benign’ lessons that illustrate seemingly benevolent relations. They distract us from understanding that individual lives are interconnected to broader (violent) systems and that individuals are connected to each other within these systems. In doing so, violence can be rendered an anomalous act, committed by one person against another, instead of being the effect of systemic oppression. When looking at our own communities, “the focus on ‘crime’ naturalizes violence to pathologized places, as something that ‘happens’ in the ghetto, rather then something that is ‘done’ to the people there…black on black violence is highlighted and institutional violence fades into the background.”

She ends with an amazing paragraph that presents this beautiful thought: “despite the widespread feelings of aloneness we all feel at different points in our lives, alienation—from the modes of production, from each other, from our hearts, from our environment—is a commonality that connects us to each other in our suffering and struggle. Though we try to delude ourselves by assuming an inherent duality from self and other, our interconnectedness remains a constant.”