Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The human zoo

As some of my old friends may already know, I was born in Eastern Europe at a time when communist rule was in power and the Berlin Wall stood tall.
Life in a communist country would be difficult to describe in a single post, but to give you a general idea of what life was like behind the iron curtain, imagine living your life in a zoo as a zoo inmate.

You have your assigned cage, which usually it is to small and quite uncomfortable.
You suffer of heat in the summer and cold in the winter and of course you have just enough space to move around in circles.

Food is scarce, never fresh and never appetizing, just barely enough to avoid starvation. Same goes for the health benefits. Everybody has them, but they are reduced at a minimum and it doesn’t do much on improving the quality of your life but rather just to keep you alive.

Since competition is gone, everybody has a paying job. There is no unemployment and if somebody doesn’t have a job, a job would be created for him.
Of course the pay is dirt, barely enough to survive, hence the general attitude of the workers is: “You pretend to pay us; we pretend to work for you.”

All other commodities are limited and inadequate and the way to acquire them is usually by waiting in line for your turn – or by learning how the system works and how to grease the proper wheels.

- Have you notice how emigrants have no problem navigating through the red tape and getting along with the bureaucratic system with no problems while the regular American is quite stunned and incapable to make any sense out of it?
It is years of training baby!
You may want to stick around and learn a thing or two since it is looking like we are heading for the socialist paradise at a rapid pace :)

Entertainment and spiritual life in the communist zoo revolves around but kissing the party leader “the father of the country” a God like figure that all bow to and adore. (More or less voluntarily.)
The scientific materialism is the philosophy of the party and everybody in the zoo has to feel, think, and act in accordance with the party line. “Reason” rules supreme!
All human thought and beliefs were to be dictated by specially appointed “scientific” comities.
The schools curriculum, the books you read the music you listen the radio and television, theatre, opera, ballet and film, all aspects of social, artistic and spiritual life serve “the common good”
Individuality – unless you are the leading elite – is reprimanded and crushed.

Art has to serve the people, goes the party line.
All that is deemed unnecessary, decadent, bourgeois and immoral is dutifully removed.
Picasso paintings are removed from museums because they are anatomically incorrect. Monet and Manet are removed for depicting decadent bourgeois life.
So one and so forth – (Foot note: Some how all of these “bad” influences end up in the party cadres houses!)

Church and religion are eliminated too. (The beloved leader doesn’t like competition!)
All believers are persecuted and if lucky enough not to end up in a jail or a labor camp, you would end up at the bottom of the social order as a genitor or unqualified manual laborer.

Life in the communist zoo is kind of boring and uneventful if you are a compliant and dumb animal but it is quite a drag if you dream of the wild and open spaces.
Being one of the “born wild” animals I had a hard time adapting with the subservient life. I couldn’t understand why the other inmates did not revolted and quietly accepted their faith and their master.

So I didn’t have much of a choice other than ending in a political jail or even worse in a mental institution. Part of the signing of The Geneva Convention for human rights, political prisons were abolished and all the prisoners were moved into mental institution for “reeducation.”

So my only remaining choice was to run for the border.


Lydia said...

Fascinating and haunting, Buddha. You have had a fascinating life and, therefore, you have real insights to share.

This sounds much more along the thinking of the administration that just ended than anything I've seen building in the new one: . . .and everybody in the zoo has to feel, think, and act in accordance with the party line.

As always, it is important for Americans to have eyes, minds, and hearts wide open.....don't be complacent, be aware.

Thanks for a really interesting view of "the zoo."

Psiplex said...

The joy in your post is that you gave yourself permission to be free-on many levels. Your courage to acknowledge this and pursue 'you' is admirable and wonderful. My hats off to you for your beautiful spirit.

What you have gained form this journey you must keep sharing and being the spirit you are. There is a vibrational connection that will carry over and synch with others through your sharing, not by a mere 'doing' but just by being who you are naturally, effortless and perfect.

Don't think a journey is worth anything without this type of struggle that focuses and guides the soul on the path to the underlying, eternal truth.

One Love

mickael said...

well, it's the first time i see a buddha complaining :)

i'm a former citizen of USSR. what you wrote is hardly close to direct experience. and most of it is half true.

moreover, it's the very precious experience that made you who you are. condemn it do you? what part of yourself do you condemn in it? what part of this world do you condemn in it?

buddhas do not condemn. buddhas love this world. buddhas know the lack of difference. perhaps you should try some of it.

good luck.

Ted Bagley said...

One says life is no choice and the other says life is multiple choices. HMM. I smell a rat.

Christian Apologist said...

Capitalism, and Democracy may not be very good systems of government, but they are leaps and bounds better then every other system devised by man.

Rob R said...

Thank you for sharing this experience.

I think one of the best criticisms of communists governments comes from the Dali Llama:

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is nor much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

candlemamma said...

WOW, Wonderful Post... Zoo, I can believe it!


Aggie said...

Glad you made a run for it ... George Orwell was close wasn't he.

Mark said...

Thank-you for sharing. So few people know of this and those that do choose to look the other way. We who live in a fee society cannot understand the opposite which you have so well articulated.

Buddha said...

@ Lydia _ A very sage advice. Today more than ever we have to be aware of what is going on in the world.

@ Psiplex – The journey never ends. We die the moment we stop growing.

@ Mickael – It is true, I am a very opinionated and passionate man and that makes me a lousy Buddha, but to insinuate –without any supporting argument – that I am twisting the truth, is nothing but the old BS communist propaganda.

@ Ted – We always have a choice but we rarely / never have the choice of our choices!

@ Christian – Unfortunately without perfect people we cannot have a perfect society!

@ Rob – Hell is paved with good intentions and communism is a classical example of that.

@ Candlemamma – Thank you!

@ Aggie – The very first book I read after defecting – in the refugee camp - was “The animal farm” It blew my mind!

@ Mark – It is essential to have different perspective on things. It is the first step to enlightenment.

Ted Bagley said...

Maybe "No" always leaves things open.

mickael said...

hi Buddha,

it seems the point of my message is missed completely. only you can do something about it.

i see you in err. that err brings harm, which your comment confirms; the harm i know well, for my hide bears scars from it. the path i chose demands that i aid you here. yet while your cup is full not one drop will come into it. thus whether to deal with the harm is your choice, i can only hint.

argument will bring no peace.

good luck.

Buddha said...

@ Ted - It is the "yes" that leaves things open, I say.

@ Mickael - Oh, so you just wanted to be my master and I miss the opportunity to kiss your superior ass. I see...
Well comrade, if arguments will bring no peace you shouldn't start accusing people of being untruthful and expect them to bow and offer you alms.

mickael said...

well, i'll pass on any ass involving relationships, sorry :)

seriously, i have no reason to seek any power over you. and i state clearly that all i offer is a hint. whether to think over it or send to semantic depths of the language you favour is your choice.

some call me master, yet while they do, they can not step forward. it's good that you see it otherwise.

regarding soviet times, mind that i walked same streets, ate same food, etc. am i not worthy of having memories about that time quite different from your writing? ;) that's another hint: "I" always seeks things be "MY" way. that brings harm. pretty simple.

ask yourself whether you were at peace when you wrote all that. perhaps you've heard that buddhas are always at peace.

good luck.

Ted Bagley said...

Like I said, saying yes to the No. The No that says this is the way I've always done it. Why is that? What has it gotten me? What has it gotten my friends? Something is not right here. What could now be looked at from a different angle? Where is the suffering in this? Who says this is good? Who says this is bad? What affect do those Who's have on me? What do I want here? The No that says wait first before you leap.
It looks like being in the No opens up possibilities. You're right. I think one has to say yes to it, though.
If it's not a yes/No, then it's a yes/yes which is also a no/No and will lead to suffering.
Your escape from Communism story was your impression of the elephant and, although meaningful to you, not the whole elephant. Some people in Eastern Europe actually wish they had the old ways back. They knew where they stood then.

Buddha said...

@ Mickael – You couldn’t be more wrong comrade - We never walk the same streets, unless you consider your soviet tanks rolling over my country a “walk” You never had your food rationed and your children never went to bed hungry. So before you call me a liar check out the facts.
Second. Not all Buddhists are Buddha – I am not a Buddha and if you are you should not complain of me throwing rocks. Enjoy your enlightenment!

@ Ted – There are many dreaming of the socialist elephant of happiness even in this very country. Elephants are fun when you ride on the top but very unpleasant when they step on you :)

Val said...

Hi Buddha

There's a question about emigrants I always wondered: what are your feelings towards your country?

If you hate it because it's "zoo-like", why would soviet tanks on its streets bother you? Your country has accepted their regime.

If you love it, why have you left? Sometimes people fight for what they believe in.

If you're indifferent, why are you so passionate about it?

mickael said...

well, i had food rationed, i went to sleep hungry, i've seen tanks on the streets. yet, of course, a fool like me can not understand what you're talking about, right?

don't get wrong idea - communism is an utopic concept, more so the failed attempts to get to it. no less it is illusory than 'democracy'. neither will last as many before them and many after. either leads to deaths of millions.

you are welcome to throw at me as many rocks as it takes to have a second thought. no complains. you will always be right while you think you are right, thus i will always be wrong. there is no way known around it.

a human differs from a buddha only in illusions. it is a choice: to indulge the illusions or do something about them.

good luck. i mean it.

Brigit said...

Hmm, not quite sure why the intensity between you and Mickael. What we experience collectively is often interpreted differently. Buddha, you write with passion. Your writing is thought provoking and enlightening. I don't always agree with everthing thing you write, but that's not the point is it?

Your experiences of the USSR are yours to share and have opinions on. You live in a country where you are free to do that in.

When it comes to Buddhism and passion...well. But your blog is the buddha of Hollywood after all.