Sometimes I feel like the Lone Wolf depicted in the famous painting by Alfred Von Wierusz Kowalski. I’ve often pondered my vintage print of the painting, thinking that its popularity must also touch a deep place in the hearts of many people, through various interpretations of it.
During the years, when I manned the graveyard shift at the radio station the painting seemed especially poignant. On my days off duty, I could literally look out upon the sleeping farm or town. I thought of the citizens sleeping snugly in their beds while I remained awake. The painting really symbolized, to me, an existential observation of myself in relationship to the world.
During some of those reveries, I pondered the Nobel Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Unlike the popular obsession with the Seventh area, Skillful Mindfulness, I was drawn to number five, Skillful or Right Livelihood. This relates to how we earn our living and support our families and communities. In that jobs have become a scarce commodity, I ask, how can I earn a living that honors and fulfills my deep need to invest my time in work that is constructive, not destructive.
In plain English, Skillful or Right Livelihood means that a person should abstain from earning a living through a profession that brings harm to others. Specifically, what is listed are professions involving intoxicating drinks, killing of animals, poisons, deception, warfare, along with trading in arms and lethal weapons.
The fifth area of the Eightfold Path advises that it is best to live by a profession that is blameless, honorable, and innocent of harm to other sentient beings. The best life is that which does not involve any unjust and evil means of livelihood.
How does one carry out this aim? A practitioner simply follows the advice of the fourth area, Skillful or Right Action. In a nutshell, we are admonished to abstain from dishonest dealings, abstain from theft, and never destroy the lives of sentient beings. It is best to lead a peaceful and honorable life and provide a good example to others of this wisdom.
I do not give lip service to the vows I made regarding my intentions to follow these and other aspects. My intentions were forthright and sober when I took refuge in my spiritual practice. These practices are fundamentally important to me.
Because I live in what remains of a democratic republic, it is important that I also express my views about these matters to those in authority. Those in authority are not only our elected officials and appointed bureaucrats. Those in authority ultimately include the voting citizens.
That is why I am writing about tomorrow’s GDAMS or Global Day of Action on Military Spending. GDAMS helps me feel less like the Lone Wolf of the painting and more connected with other concerned citizens around the world. It is a time for people to address the gross and very troubling imbalance regarding war spending.
I am not the only person who understands that trading in arms and lethal weapons has devolved into something resembling a runaway nuclear reaction. With the United States in the lead, Russia and China are racing to become the largest arms merchants in the world.
For Instance, unstable, undemocratic governments in Africa have increased their purchases of heavy grade weapons by at least 45-percent during the last decade. The Middle East is an arms merchant’s fantasy land in which theocrats and other tyrants vie for the latest weapons of mass destruction. I sometimes harp about the lopsided, so-called “defense” budget at home, in the US.
There is a growing movement of people who are frustrated and tired of the ever-increasing military budgets at home and abroad. Aside from the waste and fraud, the massive build-up of arms can lead to no good. The folly of shovelling massive amounts of money into armaments has been long ago exposed. The only beneficiaries of mass death and destruction are the arms merchants and their political advocates. Activists are tired of simply complaining, we want to see a complete paradigm shift.
Most of us understand that nations have a basic need for armed defense against foreign enemies and potential invaders. The problem is the bloated level of spending on military interests. Right now, there are higher priorities that are not being met.
Massive levels of poverty, more virulent epidemics, the flagging economy, the environment, and global climate change deserve the highest priorities. Millions of individuals and thousands of non-governmental organizations are asking why we continue to overspend on the military and leave only a few scraps for needs that enhance and improve life. Military overspending has literally bankrupted the treasury of the United States.
The GDAMS movement is about citizen action to urge the nations of the world to reallocate the global military budgets towards important and urgent human life needs. Tomorrow’s Global Day against Military Spending is about local, national, and international mobilizing of this urgent effort. It is about scaling back the massive amounts of money and resources used to develop and deploy weapons systems. It also focuses attention on the negative consequences of research, development, testing, and eventual decommissioning of weaponry.
A realignment of priorities and money can only help us to work together to end many of the reasons that nations go to war in the first place.
It really boils down to the Skillful or Right Livelihood area of life. A person doesn’t need to practice Buddhism or any particular religion to understand basic human dignity and justice. We inately understand that a sober, realistic balance of priorities makes for a thriving human community.
Now is the time to refocus our priorities away from destruction. Now is the time to rebuild and to heal. We don’t need to be isolated Lone Wolves anymore.