Is your Mommie a Commie?….

Is your Mommie a Commie?….

My post “Is the Buddha really a Warmonger” came to be as a result of several posts, articles, and television news spots that I had read or watched recently.  They all had the same focuses:

1) A overly simplistic totally one sided view of the situation in Myanmar (Burma) in favor of the Rohingya Muslims.

2) No coverage of the history of how the situation got to this point such as:

A. The discrimination of the Rohingya early on by the Burmese government.

B. The bombing by the Rohingya of Buddhist temples, religious sites, and government buildings where numerous innocent Burmese civilians, men, women, and children who happened to be Buddhist were killed or maimed.

C. How the Burmese Military terrorized its own citizens for decades and were the ones mainly responsible for the current persecution of the Rohingya.

D. They blamed Aung San Suu Kyi for not putting a stop to the persecution without mentioning the fact that she is in charge of a fledgling government that just recently escaped the total control of the Burmese military. If she chooses to go against the military she may wind up with another coup putting all people living in Burma (including the Rohingya) back under the control of the tyrannical Burmese military.

E. There main point was simply to point out that Buddhist were engaged in killing and therefore just as bad as every other religion. They seemed almost giddy to be able to proclaim that the last religion not to be associated with violence could now be proclaimed to be guilty of this very crime. That all religions were guilty of hypocrisy and therefore all not only bad but the cause of all the worlds’ conflicts.


Even though I am a Buddhist I did not try to defend the Buddhist in Burma or Buddhism in general from this criticism.  What I attempted to do is give the other side of the story (there is usually two you know) that they were leaving out in these articles. Showing what had happened to the Burmese at the hand of the Rohingya did not justify any of the horrible acts that are being committed against the Rohingya, it just put the situation into context.  There are reasons for things to be in the state they are although these reasons are not excuses.  Then I proceeded to show that both sides were guilty of atrocities and that both were wrong for carrying them out.  Lastly I tried to show that the traits of FEAR, ANGER, HATRED and VIOLENCE were traits of HUMAN NATURE and did not belong specifically to any of the religions they were criticizing, in particular Buddhism. That these situations around the world are never so simple.  In fact a common thread of almost all religions is to minimize or eliminate these very traits and to recognize the importance of treating others as you would treat yourself.


One of the people who had read this post went on to read one of my older posts “Politics, Oh the tangled web we weave”.  In their comments they agreed with some of what I had said about the Rohingya situation.  They included a quote from the older post on politics:

“Let me ask a question. Do you think that it is possible that if you are on the right, and you view all issues through that lens, that your position is based on reality? What about if you are on the left and you instantly agree with all views on the left but are immediately opposed to any idea on the right, is your position based in reality?”

Buddhistronin, Politics, Oh the tangled web we weave”


They went on to say that they were a Democratic Socialist and that they wished other Democratic Socialist would consider the arguments of the other side. 


Definition of social democracy

1 : a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means

2 : a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices

Definition according to Webster


Well it just so happened that I was on a trip when I read the comment.  I had woke up about 2:00am and happened to look at my phone.  This is when I saw the comment that they had made and so I started typing a long response (curse the inventor of that little touch screen keyboard!! ).   I mentioned that I was not a fan of Socialism and that my personal view of it had started forming when I was in South Korea and visited the DMZ (demilitarized zone).  There are all sorts of barriers from walls, fences, barbed wire as well as troops there and the main function is not to keep anyone out, but to keep their own people in! If we could only get every American to go there and see this same sight it, in my opinion,  would radically change American politics.  After I had most of the response typed I had a sudden realization.  I could not send the response I had typed not because of any technical difficulty, which is usually the case, but because I was in a Communist country!  I was traveling in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic!  Since much of what I was writing was very critical of Communism and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic itself I could actually be arrested for what I was saying.

So I deleted about half the message and then hit send.  Unfortunately I didn’t re-read what I was sending and in the end it gave the impression to the recipient that what I was saying was that Socialism was the same as Communism which was not my intent.  By the next morning when I was thinking about this some more I realized a link between the Posts on the Rohingya and the discussion about Socialism and Communism.  So rather than just respond to the person who made the comment I decided to turn the response into a new post.

One of my main points in “Politics, Oh what a tangled web we weave” was that people tend to see the world through a lens of right or left.  Right or left seems to be much more important these days than right or wrong!  The problem is when they do this no matter how much sense an idea makes it will be vilified if it originates from the other side.    In Buddhism the Buddha taught the concept f the Middle Way.  This means that you do not find truth in the extremes, but that it lies somewhere in the middle of the opposites.  If you view something consistently from one extreme or the other you are not seeing reality but something that is distorted.  So in this post I do not claim that right or left is the correct one but that what is best for the people is somewhere in the middle.  We just have to be willing to throw away our partisan lenses to be able to see and idea for the benefit it provides and not where or with whom it originated.


The Buddha set up a system that today would fall on the side of Socialism.  He created a framework that relied on a symbiotic relationship of all of those involved.  He had to create an environment where the monks could focus 24/7 on their individual spiritual development.  Well if you need to worry about money, clothing, or food you cannot really do this.  So in the Buddhist community when the lay members come to the Temple they would donate money for the building of the monasteries and for the robes that the monks wore.  The monks would go on their begging rounds to get food.  They walk from house to house and briefly stand a wait a distance from the home.  If the lay member wants to, and can afford to, give some food they will come out and put it in the monks bowl.  In return the monk will recite some sutta or Buddhist teaching that will help the lay person in their own spiritual development.  Since the lay member lives a normal life they can work a job and earn money but at the same time learn the Buddha’s Dharma from the monks.  The monk can now focus all of his time to his Buddhist practice and does not have to worry about the day to day problems of family life and earning a living.  One thing to notice is that this whole system is voluntary on all sides.    Nobody is compelled to do anything against his will.  This Socialist setup worked because everyone involved had the same belief system and the same goals.


In my series “Politics, Oh the tangled web we weave”  instead of arguing that left or right is the better option I am arguing that to think that one or the other is the only correct one is a delusion.  One simple reason for this is that they both suffer from one of the Buddha’s teachings, that of Impermanence.  I was born in 1962 and both of my parents were Democrats (Generally considered left).  The truth is that they would not even recognize the Democratic party of today.  The very same can be said about the Republicans (Generally considered right).  Throughout time what these parties represent, and the ideas of left and right, have been under such constant change that to make a claim that a political idea is truly right or left is a difficult claim to prove.  The Democrats of today are portrayed as the party that looks out for minorities.  The Republicans are portrayed as anti-minority or at the very least not very concerned with minority issues.  But wait a minute wasn’t Abraham Lincoln, the one who set the slaves free, a Republican?  Weren’t the Democrats on the side of the slave owners and against Abolition? Weird huh?


The problem with left and right is that they do not exist on a flat line. In reality they form a circle. If you keep going around in one direction you will start to go the other way! The following is not a totally accurate model and is based on the American system but I am using it just to illustrate a point. If you start at the center (middle) and follow the left around the circle you pass through Democrats, Progressive Democrats, Socialism and then to Communism.  To the right we have Republicans, Conservativism, and eventually we arrive at Fascism.   The point of this overly simplified model is that there is something common when you follow either the right or the left to its extreme.   The more you go in either direction from the center the more freedom you lose and the less important your individual existence is.  There is not a huge difference living under Fascism or under Communism.  Remember the Nazi’s were the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”.


As I was writing this I looked up the Webster definition of communism and after the definition was this fitting quote:

On one side stood Hitler, fascism, the myth of German supremacy; on the other side stood Stalin, communism, and the international proletarian revolution. —Anne Applebaum,  New York Review of Books,  25 Oct. 2007


Ask anybody who the most evil man to ever live was and they will surely respond with the name Adolf Hitler.  History is very skewed in this respect.  Did Hitler commit atrocities?  Yes of course he and his Nazi government was responsible for killing some 6 million civilian Jews.  Of course that is evil! But what is not taught so freely in our history classes is the following:


The Bolshevik revolution ,  9 to 20 million people killed

When Stalin took control, 20 – 40 million people killed

Mao’s take over of China, 40 to 60 million people killed


Those numbers are huge!  Why are the range of numbers so broad?  It is because the very Communist governments that are responsible for the killing control the numbers!   Since they want to control the perception of their governments they will not give out accurate numbers and others have to come up with estimations.

In Laos, the country that I was traveling in, there is repression of human rights and we have a similar situation that is going on in Burma with the persecution of the Hmong people.



“The rights to freedom of expression,

association and peaceful assembly

remained severely restricted. State control

of media and civil society was tightened as

Laos hosted international meetings.

Repression of human rights defenders

continued. Two prisoners of conscience

were released in March after being held for

almost 17 years.”

Amnesty International, 2017


There was no love lost between the new communist Lao government and the Hmong People. Immediately the communists were determined to eliminate all the Hmong people. They are still suffering the consequences of backing the losing side in the Vietnam War to this day. Persecution is a daily reality and many Hmong live in fear of arbitrary arrest and torture while experiencing abject poverty. Their lands are being stolen and exploited with gold mining, illegal logging, over building of dams, flooding the land and the reduction of wildlife and fisheries.

It is apparent the Lao Government is intent upon committing genocide against its Hmong population and its neighbors are complicit in this vile objective. When Hmong people seek refuge in other countries they are in danger. Vietnam and Thailand have agreements with the Laotian government to detain and aid the forceful repatriation of Hmong refugees. 2016


The people that died during these Communist takeovers were killed mainly for just speaking out or disagreeing with the Communist leaders. In the cause of the Hmong it was because they were on the wrong side (according to the Lao government) of the Vietnam war.  Strange, have you heard anything about the persecution of the Hmong in the western media lately?  Ask yourself why Hitler’s name is always first to come to people’s minds when asked the question of the most evil person?  It is clear that Chairman Mao wins the Mr. Evil contest hands down. One reason is that the people that are very in favor of these types of governments do not want you to know the truth.  It is because the “ideals” of Socialism are so appealing to so many of them.  Even though these facts of the atrocities are out there these people think that the problem is not with the form of government it I just that these specific governments have implemented it wrong.  Oh course when they implement it these very same things will not occur. What could be wrong with Communist/Socialist ideals that appeal so much to so many of these people that they are willing to ignore history?    If you think this is not true just remember the Comments of Anita Dunn, Obama’s White House Communications Director:

“Two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa – not often coupled with each together, but the two people that I turn to most.”


In order to maintain a Communist government you have to systematically remove the individual rights of its people.  The people have to lose their rights to freedom of speech and expression, they have to lose their rights to peacefully assemble, they have to lose their rights to own property, they lose the right to due process, they have to lose the right to vote their conscious, and they have to lose their right to defend themselves against an oppressive tyrannical government.  Do these things sound familiar? These are all rights that Democracies have to some degree or another. In Communism/Socialism you have to give up the notion of the individual in favor of society as a whole.  Remember Spock in Star Trek “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.   That sounds nice doesn’t it? Well if Communism is so great why does it always involve so much violence in order to make it work?  Why do you need to give up all your individual rights? Why have the two largest Communist countries (China, Russia) had to adopt Capitalist policies in order to survive?


Well what about Socialist Democrats?  Are they the same as Communist?  No not at all.  They cause the change from Democracy to Socialism using peaceful means right?  So that’s OK isn’t it?  People are voting for these changes. The problem is that the change from Democracy to Socialism means in simple terms a slow transfer of your individual rights to the government!  Once you give these rights up you do not have a means to get them back!  So in some ways this slow hand over of your rights can be more dangerous because many people are unaware that it is even happening until their rights are already gone.  You are trans-versing that circle toward Communism and once you have lost your rights and means to defend yourself if the government decides to become Communist you have no way to stop it.


My whole contention is that Socialist policies can be fine in and of themselves.  A good idea that helps people in some way is a good idea.  We should not view it through that left/right lens. What I am against is the giving up of individual rights in order to implement the policies.  If in a free Democratic society we create a system such as Social Security (which is Socialist in nature) that is fine because as a free Society, if it turns out that this policy does not work, we have the power to change it.  Under a Socialist or Communist Government you do not.   The government decides what your rights are. Governments have proven time and time again that they do not know better than their citizens.  However imperfect a Democracy is it is the best option that anyone has devised to date.


What I realized in when I could not hit the send button to respond to a comment on my blog turns out to be related to the problem in Burma.  I could not express my distaste for Communism because in the country I was currently in I did not have that right of free speech.  I think the average westerner does not in any way appreciate what not having that right means.  The current popularity of Socialism/Communism in the west reflects this fact.  I do not think that the vast majority of people who are for these forms of government realize exactly what they will be giving up. You cannot become Socilist/Communist and think that you are only going to get the ideal, the good parts! The reason that Socialist and Communist governments fail is not due to the ideal that they represent.  Just like in Burma the ideals that Buddhism represents have to be carried out by people, by human beings.  So these governments are subject to the same problem.  They fail because of HUMAN NATURE.  As FEAR, ANGER, HATRED, and VIOLENCE are all traits of human nature so is GREED, CORRUPTION, and the DESIRE FOR POWER.   Whenever all of a society’s power is placed in the hands of an individual or small group of people (relative to the population) bad things will happen.  It is just HUMAN NATURE that we cannot handle responsibly that kind of power over others.  So instead of the ideals of equality that Socialism and Communism espouse you end up with a few being very very rich with all the power and the rest of the population being relatively equally poor and powerless.


Doesn’t Buddhism teach that we should have compassion for all and should give up the idea of a self-centered self.  Yes it does.  But the difference is that it is not forced, it is all voluntary.  We study the nature of the small “self” so that we can see the truth of how we are interrelated to everything else.  Once we realize this we will naturally have the compassion and desire to help our fellow beings on this planet.  We act compassionately due to our own realization of the truth.  To harm another being is to harm ourselves. This process cannot be forced and has to happen on it’s own in it’s own time.  Does this mean that since Socialism/Communism and Buddhism fail to reach their ideal that we should avoid Buddhism as well?  No because Buddhism presents a POSSIBILITY of a cure to FEAR, ANGER, HATRED, and VIOLENCE, GREED, CORUPTION, and the DESIRE FOR POWER.  Once you realize the fallacy of the small self-centered “self” these traits are simultaneously overcome.  You will not need to be forced to do anything.  In my post “What is Kongo Zen….”  Doshin So points out that they way to change a society is to change what is in the individuals heart and it will naturally radiate outwardly and change society as a whole. For a society is nothing more than a group of individuals living together with a common purpose. So next time you go to hit that send button take a moment to realize how important the ability to do just that is and how bad things would be if you could not.

2 thoughts on “Is your Mommie a Commie?….

  1. Moving over here from the comments in the other post! Since you mention me in the post, I’d like to make sure that my stance is represented accurately. So I’ll mention again this excellent piece that represents my view:

    If you’re interested in talking about socialism with modern democratic socialists, do please give it a read! In particular, look at the last three paragraphs. They get right at the core of what you’re addressing in this post. Like the author of the article, I am an anti-authoritarian socialist, and I uphold free speech as a value.

    So, as a wise blogger once wrote, “What I attempted to do is give the other side of the story (there is usually two you know) that they were leaving out in these articles.” 🙂 Let me respond directly to a passage in here that illuminates that we’re not talking about the same thing here:

    You cannot become Socilist/Communist and think that you are only going to get the ideal, the good parts! […] Whenever all of a society’s power is placed in the hands of an individual or small group of people (relative to the population) bad things will happen. It is just HUMAN NATURE that we cannot handle responsibly that kind of power over others. So instead of the ideals of equality that Socialism and Communism espouse you end up with a few being very very rich with all the power and the rest of the population being relatively equally poor and powerless.

    Ah! This is very interesting. Because at the heart of the reason I’m a democratic socialist is my firm belief that when all of society’s power is placed in the hands of a small group of people, bad things will happen. And that’s precisely what I see happening under our present system, which we tend to call “capitalism.” The way I’d define capitalism is “an economic system under which the means of production are controlled by small group who own capital.” This is, of course, placing all the meaningful power in society in the hands of a small group of people relative to the population. And it ends up with a few being very very rich with all the power and the rest of the population being relatively equally poor and powerless.

    You also asserted that you can’t be socialist and think you’re only going to get “the good parts.” Here I see two related problems:

    1. You’re being artificially dualistic.
    2. You’re talking about something other than what I mean by “socialism.”

    Elaborating on point 1 and flowing into point 2: To a significant extent, this dualistic approach to “socialism” and “capitalism” is the legacy of Cold War geopolitics. One group of self-styled socialists (who fervently disagreed with others also calling themselves socialists) was focused, as the theory of the 19th and early 20th century went, on state power. Many socialists today reject this in favor of “grassroots” or “bottom-up” socialism. I could go into depth on this, but it’s something of a digression; my point here is that there are myriad — perhaps endless — permutations of policy that could give rise to economic systems that aren’t properly what Cold Warriors would call “socialism” or “capitalism.” The question that I see as most important as a 21st century self-styled socialist is “are we orienting our policy around people, or around profit?” Related: “How can we increase the power of the majority of working people when they have no control over the means of production and, therefore, their government?” Incidentally, seizing the government and installing an authoritarian party is not on the list of options we’re considering to answer these questions.

    So here I do have a question for you: do you think those are worthy and proper questions for policymakers to be asking? Or do you have some fundamental objection to asking them, or to any possible policy that could address them? I’d be very interested in your thoughts!

    So when you said this…

    The problem is that the change from Democracy to Socialism means in simple terms a slow transfer of your individual rights to the government!

    …you might see, based on what I just said, why this isn’t accurate. It’s accurate with respect to the Marxist-Leninist systems that modern democratic socialists as well as non-Bolshevik socialists of eras past disavowed and condemned, yes. But now, in the modern US, many socialists are more interested in shifting to more local control rather than federal/party control (and I mean the Democratic or Republican Party, not just the CPSU!), because that’s what empowers the people we actually want to lift up — and that’s where many meaningful economic decisions are made. Consider also that what’s been called “private government,” i.e, the undemocratic control of most people’s lives by employers, developers, corporate sponsors, and the like, raises problems in terms of human liberty…and that there are many answers to this that don’t involve transferring any individual rights upward. To be sure, we are interested in transferring rights, but in an opposite direction from the way they are already being transferred by the concentration of power in corporations and their owners.

    People can still disagree with this, of course. We may still be failing to see what this will lead to, so of course feel free to argue that. My only goal here today is to make sure our politics (which will still vary pretty widely from socialist to socialist, which is what caused me to agree with your call to consider multiple perspectives in the first place, in that other post!) are accurately represented.


    1. Jessie

      First let me say that oh course I can be wrong! I have no corner on the market of truth! My opinions are just that, opinions. But my opinions come from my life experience. That is one of the reasons people have so many different opinions because of such a huge variance in life’s experiences.

      I did read the article that you sent me the link for. For the most part I agree with what they were saying except for a few things which I will point out. I also want you to know that even though I mentioned the conversation that passed between us I did not mention you specifically. I did this precisely because I did not want to mis-represent you! To me it was just a very on confluence of events that kind of hit me in a powerful way. Oh course I had posted the stuff about the Rohingya and my thoughts about it being human nature that was being shown and not a failure of religion. But it was when I realized that I could not send my responses because of where I was at that I was kind of dumb founded for a bit. And then that got me thinking about how lucky we are to not have to worry about getting arrested for speaking our mind. Don’t think it is an exaggeration as foreigners get arrested all the time because the government watches social media closely. Even where I live (which is a monarchy) there was a foreigner who got 15 yrs for posting something on Facebook that was critical of the monarchs dog! So then I start thinking why do Communist governments go wrong and it sort of hit me that it was the same cause of why the Buddhist were doing what they were doing in Burma.
      I think if you read what I wrote closely you will see that I made no arguments against any specific Socialist policies. This is because part of the purpose of the post was to say that a good idea that helps people is a good idea no matter where it comes from. The partisanship is what is destroying America. So the focus of what I was trying to communicate is that the ideals of Socialism or Communism are not bad in and of themselves. The problem begins with how they are implemented. This is because to have a Socialist or Communist government peoples individual rights have to by nature be given up. So I am fine with a free people voting for a specific policy that is Socialist like in the United Kingdom for example. What I am against is the government itself being specifically Socialist or Communist. The UK is a Democracy that has many Socialist policies that work for the people of that country. Because they are a free Democracy the people have the power to get rid of a Socialist policy whenever it no longer works for them. Once a government becomes Socialist or Communist the decision for change is no longer the people’s choice, it is under the government’s control. That it my mind is because when these governments are created it is our human nature to gravitate towards greed, power, and control. Our system however flawed it may be has checks and balances to try to keep the control with the people.

      For example if someone advicates for the state to take over an industry such as power generation so that the workers get. Individual rights have to be compromised. When if the current owners do not want to give up ownership of a power company that they worked their whole life to build. Then the only option is for the government to forcibly take it. The claim will be that it is OK because it is for the good of the many. This is a slippery slope because in no time at all the government can claim that almost anything is for the good of the many and before you know it we are right back in Russia! 

      Now to the article:
      “Ideals are still good, but there need to be strict limits on what acts those ideals can justify.”
      It seems that by this statement we are in full agreement. Let me ask a question. Can you name one country where communism worked without all the violence and bloodshed? There has to be reasons why they all begin or become this way. It is nice to think that if it were done just a little different it wouldn’t need to be that way. If that is true then why has no one been able to do it successfully. I think that it is because sometimes ideals are just not practical. So in my mind it doesn’t mean that we have to throw the baby out with the bath water. Why not use the aspects that are good within a free democracy? The answer is that parts can be used but there is an obstacle. In a free society you have to convince a large number of people that it really is a good idea before it gets accepted and implemented. That is why Socialist and Communist governments tend to become authoritative. Because those governments think that they know better than the people and what really needs to happen is that they force the change and then eventually the people will see that they were wrong. The problem with this is that governments are wrong a good percentage of the time.

      “It’s much more fair to hate someone for something they do than for some aspect of themselves they cannot change, and hatred of the rich stems from the fact that rich people, through their actions, make the world more unjust.”

      I am sorry but making a blanket statement that any group of people, and that includes the rich, are all the same is just ignorance. I stayed away from arguing for or against any specific concepts because you have to take them each on their own and it can take a great deal of time. Let’s just take the idea that “rich people through their actions make the world more unjust.”

      So Bill Gates has an idea. He wants to make a computer operating system that he can sell (I am just going with he had no intention to help anyone but himself). So he takes his own life savings and starts a company. All the risk is his, no one else’s. He has to do all the work himself to both think of what to make and how to do and then actually write the software. So he does this and then takes to the streets trying to market it to someone. He gets rejection after rejection. The life savings he risked to do this is dwindling day by day. Well finally he gets someone interested in buying his product. What is the first thing he needs to do? He can’t fill the orders by himself so he has to hire some people. He is making a good product (that is hard to say because I do computer work and I honestly don’t like Microsoft! but others did like it! 😦 ) so the orders keep coming in so the hiring continues and he has to expand and start at another location. Well this same scenario continues until he is employing 100,000 people most of which make an above average salary. His product is helping make millions of people around the world’s life easier. Well now he is making millions in profit. Well at this point the people who made that statement above think that this applies to him. Next thing you know he is giving away lots of money to charity, lots of money. In fact he gives away more than the GDP of many small countries in charity each year. He starts scholarships for kids to go to school. He gets involved in politics to use his position to create change.

      So how is it this rich person, one of the richest in the world, is “making the world more unjust.” How is it that this person does not deserve to make the money that he is making? He paid taxes, his company paid taxes, he gave people jobs, he give generously to charity, people bought stock in his company for their 401k’s and can now afford to retire, he changed people’s lives for the better.

      I do think that our leaders should be challenged and that these idea’s should be considered. So I am not looking at this dualistically. I have repeated several times that I think that there are Socialist ideas or concepts that have merit. What I am against is having a government that in order to accomplish their goal individuals have to give up their rights. What people’s rights should be is a topic all of its own! But I do not believe that all Socialist ideas work in practice. That is why if you have a free Democratic government you can take the best from Capitalism and the best from Socialism and have the best of both worlds! 🙂


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