Date: Fri, 06 Oct 1995 14:46:52 +0100
From: "peter.harvey" [email protected]
Subject: Government legitimacy
Williams (first name?) writes that to talk of ‘the basis of government legitimacy’ implies a government is ‘unconditioned’. How so?? It is conditioned, among other things, by the fact that if it breaches its legitimacy, it may soon be brought to an end.
Williams has also, in various postings, referred to certain social groupings as ‘sentient beings’. I’m afraid I’ve no idea what this means- and even as an analogy, it is potentially dangerous. Does it give that ‘being’ a right to destroy part of ‘itself’ if it becomes disruptive? But that would be a classic government excuse for abusing people.
Date: Fri, 06 Oct 1995 15:13:30 -0400
From: "williams" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Government legitimacy
Perhaps I would better have said "an air of the unconditioned." I did not intend to say that this would in fact make a government unconditioned.
I do not talk of these social beings as analogies, but a factual beings. It may be a bit hard to talk of Buddhism as a single being, but — for example — the Catholic Church clearly exists as a social entity. Buddhism may itself be a social entity, or it may be an aggregate of social entities. The different branches and schools are social beings even if Buddhism itself is not.
These social beings have numerous characteristics similar to cells and individuals. The most obvious and direct such characteristic is that they maintain their existence through the mutual causes of their constituent parts. That is, social beings are made from the same fundamental "stuff" that everything else is made from even though the particular form of this "stuff" is individuals rather than thoughts or cells.
There are differences between social beings constituted of individuals and indviduals constituted of cells. The most obvious is that an indvidual may be part of more than one social being — in fact most individuals are part of several social beings, such as family, community, religion, and nation.
Of course being a part of a social entity is dangerous. Just as I may choose to cut off my arm and cause myself suffering, a social entity may choose to destroy a sub-culture and cause itself suffering. The analysis up to this point is descriptive, not normative.
A nation has the same type of "right" (or lack thereof) to cause itself suffering as I do — but it isn’t "right" for either the nation or myself to cause ourselves suffering.
Normatively, I think Buddhists should suggest that perhaps it isn’t such a good idea for a nation to destroy a sub-culture, given that this is part of the web of suffering and can only cause the nation to suffer. That is to say, Buddhism should offer the same prescription socially that it does individually. Buddhists should attempt to reduce suffering at all levels, not just the human level. The language of human rights has some faults in this regard, but it does capture some aspects of the Buddhist prescription and should not be summarily discarded. -Sphere