A conversation about control… Not food, but not/not food

I wonder if its me? My restless nature, my strong attachment to individuality and my pursuit of it. I wonder if I see the world in different ways, ways that are not the same as others. I know that I have been often challenged by much of what I see and experience and frequently forced to make great sweeping changes in the way I think and act. Changes too in long held beliefs .

Seven years ago a Tsunami swept into Pangandaran and apart from the horrendous loss of 600 + lives, it caused a major change in the whole region. It caused great fear in the peoples minds that lingers still today, it caused a surge in opportunism and corruption.

Pangandaran people are mainly very laid back, easy going, accepting of their lives. From my own lofty perch they seem too accepting, too ready to allow themselves to be directed by a system which I see as binding them. Holding them down.

It seems religion, world wide, be it Christian, Islam, Buddhist or Hindu has an inbuilt method of retaining its followers often in servitude, just making sure that they have enough, not too much and that tenets of the faith make sure it is religious law to live a life of devotion and servitude. The Catholic Church practised this method for hundreds of years and enslaved its adherents. Example, take a look at the way that Archbishop Mannix ruled the Catholic Church in Melbourne with an iron fist and determination.

History tells us that where a religious hierarchy exists, then a form of servitude for the lowest of the adherents will co-exist. This can also be seen in Tibetan Buddhism which has a very distinct hierarchy that ensure its religious leaders are both glorified and followed without question. Tibet pre Chinese invasion was a country ruled by Theocracy. The ordinary Tibetans apart from those members of the important noble families, were kept ignorant of Buddhist theology. I was often surprised when ordinary Tibetans I met after the diaspora, referred to Chenrezig (the Buddha of Infinite Compassion) as their God… Buddhism is a non Theistic religion and has NO god/s. Don’t please be fooled by Tantra and its many many deities, these are called Yidam or Mind Bound.

In some parts of the world, Indonesia for example, where Islam is heavily taught in school, a move is afoot to increase the number of hours a week that this is taught. It may be a means to keep its people in bondage. I am told that in Sokharno’s days, school girls were not required to wear the head scarf, now they are. Radical Islam has taken a firm hold in rural and smaller cities of Indonesia and the practise of a form of Sharia Law is now the norm. People simply accept without question. I suspect that in the end, when a culture does not question and simply follows the dictates of any religion, this is the end of freedoms. Fascinating of course that ‘ordinary’ people who do not question nor seek an individual stand, but follow the rules, accept being ridiculed and persecuted should they elect to step outside what is perceived as normal.

This is also a political question, it seems that political survival can be closely allied to successful religiosity. Indonesia may be an example of this, the Government seems disinclined to revert to the personal freedoms that Sokharno allowed and fall in with religious leaders demands for a more controlling form of Islam as a political expedient.

Its not my wish to denigrate any religion, but I have experienced Indonesian Islam first hand and I find, in its more intense aspects, it is fierce, unyielding and extremely resistant to change. I have posed the same question to leaders of a number of faiths, what would happen should the central figures of these faiths, return today. Based on the fact that they seemed to be very tuned in with the population (specially the poor) it is likely that they would make sweeping and in some case, extraordinary changes to the religious tenets they are said to have set in place centuries ago.

I find it interesting that in the case of Islam, the language (Arabic) is fiercely held onto, even to the point that children in far flung Pangandaran are taught the language, or at least the ability to read it, if not understand it, whilst I mean no criticism of local conditions, it seems strange that precious teaching time is allocated to Arabic, when life skills would help so much more.

Buddhism in the main, with some exceptions, has been able to adapt and change to be part of what ever country it found its way to. The exception is Tibetan Buddhism which in some cases and with spectacular cockups, is having a struggle to let go of old Tibet and adapt to the world it now finds itself part of. And before I am rushed with evidence to the contrary, I am aware of some cases where Tibetan Buddhism has made the leap and ordained westerners now teach the ancient texts in local language with the rituals and meditations also localised. What seems to be the greatest issue is the Tulku system, which has not found a ready home in western culture, specially when a reincarnate is recognised and great expectations are heaped upon them. Almost invariably fails.

I am religious by nature, I have been a Buddhist for as long as I can remember. I have argued and debated with my teachers, with Western and Tibetan learned followers. I have questioned and fought against the Tulku system that demands unflinching obedience and loyalty. I experienced life in a noble Tibetan household where a son was declared an important Tulku and seen the amazing changes in family dynamics. I have met Tibetans and Westerners who have impressed me greatly, the Nachung Oracle is one, a very old Lama in Kathmandu Lhumbum Rinpoche, another. I am convinced that should Siddhartha Gautama return now, his central philosophy would remain the same, his methods would be amazingly different.

David Eddings when he and his wife wrote the fantasy story Belgarion, used the images of ancient powerful men sitting around a table performing vile magical acts to enslave a population. And he used the epithet Vulture. It conjures immediately the image of a rapacious creature intent on self gratification and imposing his will on others. It is not difficult to see that the use of this form of cartoon is appropriate.

Spin doctors come in all forms and shapes. They are to be found in every walk of life and their sole aim is to further/protect/develop/aid/assist/defend the good name and brand of their employer. Religions and Governments are passionate users of these faceless, but very often seriously clever manipulators. If you go back into history to ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh’s used them. Books can and have been written about the work of these people, but we seem unable to understand the impact on every day life that they have. No politician would dream of making even the smallest utterance unless it was approved, religious leaders of every persuasion would consult with advisors (read spin doctor) before making an utterance, even if that utterance was purported to be the word of God.

It is abundantly clear that we live in times when the dynamic norm is evolving and changing to what? Hard to say. I am reminded that in the not too distant past, this country was said to be carried on the sheep’s back, meaning wool. Now days, farmers are regarded as hindrances to the big picture and in fact something of a nuisance. I was appalled to note that USA grown stone fruit was now allowed into Australia at the very time when dozens of orchards in the Riverina are being bulldozed because no market can be found. Further that because of financial imperatives, fruit is now grown and processed off shore, in China and New Zealand. Appalling situation.

My own dilemma both religious and temporal is a lack of sense of where things are going. I am not averse to being flung into a swirling mill pond of challenge and threat, but when I am swirled out of the pond, I would like to have some idea of where and what I will land on/into.

I read with some amazement that a sausage has been created which is both egg, bacon and pork and it is served in a sweetish roll with both tomato relish and hollandaise, hence it is called a breakfast HOT DOG. How many more ways are there for disguising fast food. I remain convinced that all the myriad cooking shows have done very very little to advance the knowledge base of food and cooking, but much to advance the bank accounts of celebrity chefs and television studios. This is exactly what I mean about a lack of clear understand… butter is good, butter is bad, sugar is good, sugar is bad, white flour will kill you, no, depends how it is milled. The list goes on and on with no discernable stopping point.

Religion is now seen as something for others. The fact that it has always been the arbiter of moral values is now meaningless. We are a society that is uncomfortable with religious morality, we see it as some form of hindrance. I may well be as guilty as the next man of this, I highly value my personal freedom and moral stands, gained I suspect as a result of religion. I become agitated if I perceive some threat or intellectual aberration ‘Arabic is the divine language of heaven’ didn’t go down well. specially since it was spoken by a highly qualified engineer. As a Buddhist and free thinker, I had issues with both heaven and language.

And I return to what I still think of as the centre of life, food and eating. The pleasure of the table and its central importance in our lives has now diminished and become of mundane significance, we lack any real knowledge of food, we have little understanding of the traditions of Australia and food, we do not value the contribution that food and eating makes to our lives. We pursue tastes from around the world, we sadly embrace some of the less virtuous aspects of some cuisines, huge portions, excessive salt, sugar and fat. We confuse and combine cuisines and foods in ways which do not work. We think that when we eat pasta we are embracing a Mediterranean diet when we are not, merely a part of it. Every time that I travel into remote or non tourist areas I am reminded over and over that simple people eat simple foods, with little variations, that they consume vastly more vegetables than we do, that they eat within the seasons and would not consider looking to eat what was not grown at the time. Indeed in some countries, preserving extra vegetables from the abundant growing time (drying, salted, under oil etc) is normal. We have almost entirely lost our connection to land and season. I was forcefully reminded of this when told that an Australian importer had now gained Government approval to import USA grown stone fruits into Australia when at the very same time, Australian growers were being forced to plough in their orchards. It was not good reading. In essence we no longer exercise any control at all over the foods we consume, but allow Multi Nationals, Government and Food Chains to dictate and control. That is simply sad.

My mother was raised a Christian, most people in Australia at that time were. Christian and Jewish were about the only menu options, there were Muslims, Hindus and many other believers in Australia but in number way to small to matter, Christianity ruled! In every town, village, suburb and city, Christian churches of all the popular denominations erected splendid edifices to loudly proclaim their gospels. The offerings ranged from the exotic to the very plain. Port Fairy was no different, plenty to choose from and plenty to divide the town. Catholics on one side, the rest on the other. Mum was a full on Anglican (Church of England), married in the church, even at one time engaged to the local Vicar (he turned out to be a big poofter, but went on to become a Bishop). My father was uninspired and essentially non religious, I doubt he was ever even baptised, that would have been his fathers ways, Poppy was not persuaded by religion.

I was baptised, Sunday schooled and eventually confirmed in the C of E. The impact of religion on my younger life was of little consequence. The influence of the life of the town, the rhythm of the seasons and the cooking of the towns domestic cooks, the local baker, the fishermen, the ladies bowling club afternoon tea, mums card evenings, her afternoon teas, the strawberry fete, the annual debutante ball. The smell of the rich black soil in a summer garden, the juice running down my cheeks after gorging on ripe summer fruits from Dad’s garden. The smell of mum making jam, chutney, sauce and pickling all the garden excess to be available all year round. Sitting with my Auntie Mon in her tiny kitchen with its wood stove as she pickled, jammed, chutney and sauce all the bounties of her garden. It was being in tune with the rhythm of the natural world and all it had to offer. My spirituality was different. The holy host was never heaven bent, but earthly bound.

 

 

~ by peterwatson on June 23, 2014.

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