Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stephen Walt on Jared Diamond & Decline

In his most recent FP post, "What I Learned from Jared Diamond", Stephen Walt considers the elements of decline that Diamond discusses in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail. Walt gives a succinct account of the factors that Diamond catalogues in his book, and Walt considers current U.S. problems in light of those factors, such as groupthink, tragedy of the commons, failure to anticipate, failure to detect (e.g., climate change amidst fluctuations in the weather), etc. Walt's points are well taken. In summary, both as individuals and as societies, we have to have our crap-detectors on full blast 24-7. (Thanks, Neil Postman.)

David Loy: Money, Sex, War, Karma

I finished David R. Loy's Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution (2008, 152p.). Loy's perspective, which I've remarked upon in an earlier post, issues forth from a few simple but profound tenets of Buddhist thought: the concept of lack and an appreciation of the three poisons (greed, ill will, & delusion) and the need to transform the three poisons by generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom. Add to this his understanding and explanation of dukka (suffering or dis-ease), annata (not-self), shunyata (emptiness), and other Buddhist concepts, and you have a sense of his range. However, if all of this strikes you as intimidating, don't let it. In fact, Loy's consideration of these topics is easy to follow. He writes about current topics so that his deep understanding of Buddhist concepts becomes well illustrated by current concerns, giving us a better understanding of Buddhist perspectives and contemporary concerns (such as the morality of sex, money, war, and so on). In fact, if someone wanted to explore Buddhism in the context of our contemporary culture and concerns, I can't think of a better book to use for this purpose. Even if one isn't a Buddhist, I think that the consideration of these issues is so profound and insightful, that anyone from any background would benefit from the read. I highly recommend this book.