Beyond Obama: The Yoga of Politics. ~ Ramesh Bjonnes

Via on Nov 9, 2012
Photo: go thunk yourself

It’s ironic that half of America uses the word “Obamacare” as a curse and the other half dreams they are living in dark, cold places like Norway, Canada or Sweden, where health care is virtually free—for everybody.

As I grew up in Norway and took this human right for granted, I would never have dreamed I would actually live most of my life in America, self-employed and healthy, but precariously uninsured. One serious health problem and I’d be seriously in debt; or, if not too serious, on a plane back to Norway.

Once, my meniscus went out, either because of too much sitting in lotus watching my breath repeating mantras, or, perhaps due to my early years playing soccer, or both. At any rate, the American doctor wanted to operate, and it would only cost me about 15 thousand bucks, he assured me.

The American doctor with a second opinion also wanted to operate, only for 13 thousand bucks. So off I went to Norway and talked to a doctor who just happened to have worked in America. He laughed and said: “If we’d been over there, I’d say you would have needed an operation too, but here I make the same amount of money either way, so let’s take a closer look at your MRI scan.”

He looked and looked and then said: “It looks to me that you’ll be able to sit in lotus soon without an operation because your tear will reshape itself if you bicycle regularly and practice these exercises I’m going to teach you.”

That’s exactly what I did. And that’s exactly what happened. Well, to be on the safe side, I’ve actually mostly been sitting in half-lotus, or siddhasana.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh keeps calling Obama, who actually does seem to care, a communist, or, depending on what his coffee tasted that morning, a fascist. But unbeknownst to Rush, if Obama had lived in Norway, his policies would be to the right of our right wing party. That’s right, says the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. That’s quite ironic, is it not? Except to Rush, of course.

I like to think of my own political convictions as neither left-leaning nor right-leaning but somewhere beyond some kind of political padhastasana toward a more flexible, more sustainable future.

Whenever Rush screams his right-wing venom through the airwaves when I visit the local hillbilly hardware store, I am reminded that this tobacco spitting store owner listening to this crap is also the same person who left a whole bunch of merchandise outside his store after closing time to be picked up by a commie friend of mine—a person whom the big-hearted Republican had never met, by the way. He simply said over the phone to my friend, “You can pay me for that stuff whenever you come by some other time.”

Incidents like that remind me that beneath all the political bickering and the attack ads, we are all just people who actually do care. Even those who hate Obamacare. Even those tobacco chewing rednecks, they are yogis at heart, even though their minds often seem to be as restricted and closed as their tobacco-stained lips.

Obama won the election, but the country is still divided. He won by democratic means, but due to all the money wasted on buying lies on TV, we the people, we lost. Our so-called democracy lost.

We lost, and America is still divided between those who are open-minded and closed-hearted and those who are open-hearted and closed-minded.

As one woman from New York City told me when we struck up a conversation at the grocery store in the liberal oasis of Asheville, N.C., “This would never happen in New York. You people are so nice and friendly down here in the South.” Yes, we are, I thought, even though I’m actually from Southern Norway.

In all irony, people were nice where I used to live also. And so I had to remind her that when I lived in the liberal New Age Mecca of Ashland, Oregon, we used to speak about “those redneck idiots” living in Medford, Oregon—an old logging town about 15 minutes away.

Now, I live about 20 minutes away from the coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants of Asheville, N.C., a liberal oasis in the Blue Ridge mountains. Now, I live among those people I used to criticize. And although it can be challenging, I love the realness of it. It’s like yoga, you go with the flow, and you embrace the inflexibility the best you can.

Smaller places make people nicer, for sure. There seem to be more chances to rub elbows. “But we so-called leftists, we know how to mudsling, too,” I reminded my new friend from New York. “And, frankly, I got tired of it. So, I moved down here. And now I live right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt listening to Rush Limbaugh every time I go to the hardware store.” We both laughed, exchanged emails and walked out into the humid southern sun.

Lotus BloomSo, the point is: we need a culture that is both openhearted and open-minded. And that’s what yoga, for me, is all about—the union of heart and mind, the union of tradition and innovation, the union of old and new thinking, the union of rationality and intuition.

So, here’s my political program. America needs to move beyond the bickering of the two-party system. We need to move beyond left and right. In the spirit of Rumi, we need to move beyond rightdoings and wrongdoings and join hands and form a partyless democracy. I’ll join you there. I’ll dance with you there.

In that new field of dreams, the Tea Party folks will understand the irony of holding onto Medicare while hating Obamacare. And we, the liberal leftists, we will understand the irony in our hate for those who are as narrow-minded in their hate as we sometimes are. Then we can move on and get some real work done. What about working on our economic democracy for a change?

In that new reality, Obamacare would just be the beginning. After all, Medicare, that’s what all of those people living in cold places like Norway, Sweden and Canada have. For everybody, all of the time. Indeed, nobody wants to touch Medicare. So, let’s just have it for everybody—in America, too!  Indeed, not even the most radical right-wing party of Norway—Fremskrittspartiet—would ever conceive of depriving people of that fundamental human right.

 

~

Ed: Brianna Bemel

 

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About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

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14 Responses to “Beyond Obama: The Yoga of Politics. ~ Ramesh Bjonnes”

  1. Carol Horton carolhortonbooks says:

    Great post, Ramesh! Your open-mindedness and even-handedness is very refreshing. I can't help but cynically wonder, however, how many Americans even have the slightest idea of what the term "economic democracy" might mean. Slinging around such terms, you're going to get written off as a redneck commie from "old Europe" anyway :)

    • Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

      Thanks, Carol. You're right about economic democracy… it can mean a lot of different things, but to an old commie like me it means economic power to those who work, decentralized economics (local economy) and a living wage for all, and even a maximum wage or cap on wealth…

  2. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    From Facebook: Sohail wrote: "beautiful piece, Ramesh. My experience as well with knee tears…no need for surgery but regular visits to the gym a must, and good lesson not just in the external (taliban-teaparty-Republican-Democrat, social democrat, left….) politics but the even nastier politics within yoga groups."

    • Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

      Sohail, yes, the body is an amazing healer if given the ability and time… seems like demonizing "the other" is part of the human experience, even in yoga groups, as you say. so the challenge to us all is seeing the other as yourself–that, after all, is yoga in daily life

      • Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

        More from Sohail: "And: if those are rights then economic productivity actually increases and not decreases – what the economist calls the blood pressure measure. Of course, there are extremes to every position, as metaphors of the economy: obesity and malnutrition."

  3. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    From facebook: Nicholas wrote: Excellent, excellent treatise. Really strikes to heart, tempers the poles, and reminds us all of what's really important in politics and in life.

  4. as always brilliant..shared

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thanks, I shared too

  6. Frida says:

    Ramesh nice post, though you seem very romantic in your Rumistic view of economics. I think P R Sarkar's concept of Economic Democracy sits very well with me. Here it is ( A little ong though..splitting it into parts) . Sorry people :-))

    Economic Democracy ( PT 1)

    Nearly all the countries of the world today have come under some sort of democratic structure. Liberal democracy has been established in such countries as the USA, Great Britain, France and Canada, while in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Eastern Europe socialist democracy is the dominant system. The plight of the people in liberal democratic (so-called democratic) countries is not as miserable as it is in communist countries, because in communist countries the political and economic system is imposed on society by party officials, causing untold human suffering and severe psycho-economic exploitation. Both liberal democracy and socialist democracy may be considered forms of political democracy because these systems are based on economic and political centralization.

    Political Democracy

    In all countries where democracy is in vogue today, people have been deceived into believing that there is no better system than political democracy. Political democracy has no doubt granted voting rights, but it has snatched away the right of economic equality. Consequently, there is gross economic disparity between the rich and the poor, immense inequality in people’s purchasing capacity, unemployment, chronic food shortages, poverty and insecurity in society.

    The type of democracy prevalent in India is also political democracy, and it has proved to be a unique system of exploitation. The Indian constitution was created by three groups of exploiters: the British imperialists, the Indian imperialists and the ruling parties representing the Indian capitalists. All the provisions of the Indian constitution were framed keeping an eye on furthering the interests of these opportunists. Just to hoodwink the masses, the people were granted the right of universal suffrage. Millions of Indians are poor, superstitious and illiterate, yet the exploiters, through such practices as making false promises, intimidation, gross abuse of administrative power and vote rigging, repeatedly win over the electorate. This is the farce of democracy. Once they form the government, they get ample opportunity to indulge in rampant corruption and political tyranny for five years. In the subsequent elections – whether on the provincial or state level – the same absurdity is repeated.

    This type of political opportunism has been going on in India since independence. For the last thirty-five years, the political parties have maintained that in order to attain economic parity with the industrially developed countries of Europe, India must follow the democratic system. To support this argument, they cite the examples of America and Great Britain or China and the Soviet Union. The political leaders urge the electorate to vote in their favour at election time so that the country’s starving masses can reap the benefits of a developed economy. But once the elections are over, the exploitation of the common people continues unabated in the garb of political democracy, and other areas of social life are completely neglected. Today millions of Indian citizens are being deprived of the minimum requirements of life and are struggling to procure adequate food, clothing, housing, education and medical treatment, while a handful of people are rolling in enormous wealth and luxury.

    One of the most obvious defects of democracy is that voting is based upon universal suffrage. That is, the right to cast a vote depends on age. Once people reach a certain age, it is assumed that they have the requisite capacity to weigh the pros and cons of the issues in an election and select the best candidate. But there are many people above the voting age who have little or no interest in elections and are not conversant with social or economic issues. In many cases, they vote for the party rather than the candidate, and are swayed by election propaganda or the false promises of politicians. Those who have not reached the voting age are often more capable of selecting the best candidate than those who are entitled to vote. So age should not be the yardstick for voting rights.

    Whether or not a candidate gets elected usually depends upon party affiliation, political patronage and election expenditure. In some cases it also depends on antisocial practices. Throughout the world, money plays a dominant role in the electoral process, and in nearly all cases, only those who are rich and powerful can hope to secure elected office. In those countries where voting is not compulsory, often only a small percentage of the population participates in the electoral process.

    The prerequisites for the success of democracy are morality, education and socio-economico-political consciousness. Leaders especially must be people of high moral character, otherwise the welfare of society will be jeopardized. But today in most democracies, people of dubious character and those with vested interests are elected to power. Even bandits and murderers stand for election and form the government.

  7. Frida says:

    Economic Democracy ( Contd..3)

    In some democratic countries such as Canada and Australia a large percentage of the population is engaged in agriculture, and although these countries are regarded as agriculturally developed, they depend on industrially developed countries because they themselves are industrially undeveloped. For instance, Canada has traditionally been dependent on the USA, and Australia on Britain.

    As far as India is concerned, as long as around seventy-five percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, the unbearable economic plight of the people will continue. Any country confronted with such circumstances will find it very difficult to meet its domestic and international responsibilities. The purchasing capacity of the people will keep decreasing, while economic disparity will go on increasing. The social, economic and political environment of the whole country will degenerate. India is a clear example of all these evils.

    So, economic decentralization does not mean that the majority of the population will be dependent on agriculture for their livelihood or that the other sectors of the economy will remain undeveloped. Rather, each sector of the economy must strive for maximum development, and all sectors must strive for maximum decentralization.

    In all the democratic counties of the world, economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and groups. In liberal democracies economic power is controlled by a handful of capitalists, while in socialist countries economic power is concentrated in a small group of party leaders. In each case a handful of people – the number can be easily counted on one’s fingertips – manipulates the economic welfare of the entire society. When economic power is vested in the hands of the people, the supremacy of this group of leaders will be terminated, and political parties will be destroyed forever.

    People will have to opt for either political democracy or economic democracy. That is, they will have to choose a socio-economic system based on either a centralized economy or a decentralized economy. Which one will they select? Political democracy cannot fulfil the hopes and aspiration of people or provide the basis for constructing a strong and healthy human society. The only way to achieve this is to establish economic democracy.

    Requirements for Economic Democracy

    The first requirement for economic democracy is that the minimum requirements of a particular age – including food, clothing, housing, education and medical treatment – must be guaranteed to all. Not only is this an individual right, it is also a collective necessity, because the easy availability of the minimum requirements will increase the all-round welfare of society.

    The second requirement for economic democracy is that increasing purchasing capacity must be guaranteed to each and every individual. In economic democracy local people will hold economic power. Consequently, local raw materials will be used to promote the economic prosperity of the local people. That is to say, the raw materials of one socio-economic unit should not be exported to another unit. Instead, industrial centres should be built up wherever raw materials are available. This will create industries based on locally available raw materials and ensure full employment for all local people.

    The third requirement for economic democracy is that the power to make all economic decisions must be placed in the hands of the local people. Economic liberation is the birthright of every individual. To achieve it, economic power must be vested in the local people. In economic democracy the local people will have the power to make all economic decisions, to produce commodities on the basis of collective necessity, and to distribute all agricultural and industrial commodities.

    The fourth requirement for economic democracy is that outsiders must be strictly prevented from interfering in the local economy. The outflow of local capital must be stopped by strictly preventing outsiders or a floating population from participating in any type of economic activity in the local area.

    For the success of economic democracy, PROUT must be implemented and the economic welfare of all people must be enhanced step by step. This in turn will lead to greater opportunities for the spiritual emancipation of human beings.

    Finally, it should be remembered that economic democracy is essential not only for the economic liberation of human beings, but for the universal well-being of all – including plants and animals. Economic democracy will devise ways and means to effect the smooth progress of society by recognizing the unique value of both humans and non-humans alike.

    P R Sarkar
    Proutist Economics
    June 1986, Calcutta

  8. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    From Facabook via Shannon Sati Rose: this made me laugh, smile, and warmed my heart so much because i felt so intimately connected to the places you mentioned in the article. thank you for writing something about yoga and politics that's personal, clear, coherent and calm. So much 'political' material sent my way lately has made me cringe. this is so refreshing ramesh. thank you.

  9. Excellent review of things from where I stand, Ramesh. I am grateful to have lived as a displaced east coast liberal in the buckle of the bible belt here in Tennessee for these many years. Living with folks who do not share your history or impressions is freedom because there is great experience to be had there. How can you like people who listen to Rush others ask me. Some of the brightest, kindest, funniest people I know share those politics. I don't get that but I like them all the same. We have had wonderful conversations and some not wonderful arguments over ideas but with kindness there is still communication.

  10. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    Hilary, glad to hear we share the same sensibilities. My training in seeing past people's political beliefs started when growing up in a household with fundamentalist grandparents and communist parents in the same house in Norway. We got along fine and the discussions were pretty civil most of the time. And as a green vegetarian, I also have to acknowldge that some of the meat eating hunters around here live more green lives than I do, as they shoot just what they need and grow most of their own food. If we all lived like that, of course, there would be no more deer left, but selfrightious veganism is not the solution to these practical issues either.

  11. edieyoga says:

    Thank you Ramesh. I agree, the 2-party system leaves much to be desired. And meeting in a field, which EJ provides in a way, to share views and learn from one another. I say I always reserve the right to be wrong. I am more interested in what I can learn in a dialogue. Ultimately we all are yogis, living life, engaging self and world, doing our best at surviving and with what life offers and then growing from there.
    Beliefs are there to help us live, and understand…I find people can be narrow minded and judgmental in every camp…left or right, yogi's or business folk…And ultimately what I choose to believe is a choice based on my experience and it serves me…and in world view, I hope it helps me serve others as well.

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