Buddhist attitude towards politics

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clw_uk
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Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by clw_uk » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:59 pm

I would like to ask the members here how they view politics.

As Buddhists what is the best politically persuasion to adopt? Is it socialism, communism, capitalism, liberalism, Buddhist theocracy, the autocracy of wise elders as per Plato etc


What do you view as the best way to run your country/world?

Also, as mostly lay Buddhists, should we politically active?


Also where do your political persuasions lay?
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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Taijitu » Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:38 pm

My father once told me the people who would be best in power are the ones who don't want it.

This makes sense to me but it is hard to tell the difference between those who are political because they want to help others and those who are there to help themselves.

I think any political system can work, even a dictatorship, if those in power put other people's aims at least on par with their own and perhaps, given they have power, ahead of their own.

Personally I no longer follow politics and prefer to be active on a very small scale.
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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by DNS » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:59 pm

Politics is an interesting subject and I have often wondered which system is best too. I think there have been at least a few prior subjects discussing this. I found this one:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1571

You find Buddhists along the entire spectrum from far left to far right. Western convert Buddhists seem to be primarily left wing. Although Bhante Dhammanando is apparently right of center.
Dhammanando wrote:
As someone who isn't hugely knowledgeable about general Buddhism yet, I personally can't really see how Buddhism and conservatism would ever be compatible,
I find them to be perfectly compatible. To the extent that the Buddha has anything at all to say on social and political matters, the positions he takes are for the most part traditionalist conservative ones. The most political Buddhist text of all —the Mahasupina Jataka— reads almost like a manifesto of classical western conservatism (though not of what goes by the name of 'conservatism' in contemporary Britain or America).
Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Jason » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:42 pm

clw_uk wrote:I would like to ask the members here how they view politics.

As Buddhists what is the best politically persuasion to adopt? Is it socialism, communism, capitalism, liberalism, Buddhist theocracy, the autocracy of wise elders as per Plato etc


What do you view as the best way to run your country/world?

Also, as mostly lay Buddhists, should we politically active?


Also where do your political persuasions lay?
Although a large number of the Buddhists I've spoken with in past few years take the position that engaging in 'worldly' issues is something that we, as Buddhists, should seek to renounce ("Samsara is imperfect and it can't be fixed, so why bother?"), I personally don't think lay followers should shy away from being political active in some shape or form if they're motivated by things like compassion to change things for the better.

I think part of the reasoning for the former view is the Buddha's discouragement of monks and nuns from discussing certain unsuitable or 'bestial' topics: i.e., "conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not" (AN 10.69).

If we live a worldly life, however, I think we, as 'householders,' have some responsibility to engage in worldly issues. While the Buddha clearly discouraged the monastic community from engaging in worldly activities such as politics, I think it's a mistake for lay followers not to be. For one, politics affects almost every aspect of our lives, and being engaged in our communities and being a part of the political discussion, not to mention being active in broader social and political movements, is what makes our society and political systems function more effectively, and how progress, however slow it may sometimes be, is made.

To these these kinds of activities and decisions solely in the hands of others, some of whom are slaves to their defilements, isn't wise, in my opinion. And if we choose to live in the world, then I think we share some responsibility for shaping it; and it makes sense to have people motivated by things like non-greed, non-aversion, and non-delusion add their voices to the mix, not to mention helping do what they can to fix things like inequality and injustice as long as it's done with a spirit of compassion and harmlessness. The greatest danger of the practice of renunciation, in my opinion, is the tendency of practitioners to ignore the world around them while seeking their own happiness (which is one of the things that give non-Buddhists the mistaken impression that Buddhism is a selfish religion).

All too often in my experience, Buddhists fall back on teachings like 'all processes/conditioned things are inconstant, unsatisfactory, and not-self' (AN 3.134) while neglecting teachings such as "I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir" (AN 5.57).

Moreover, just from a practical standpoint, not addressing many of the material conditions giving rise to and supporting society's suffering ultimately serves to help maintain their continued existence (when this is, that is), which can negatively affect our practice, as well as that of others. If the society one lives in isn't conducive to practicing Buddhism, for example, then it does matter what kind of society one lives, so we should naturally try to make it as conducive for ourselves and others as possible. As the Buddha said in Khp 5, "To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course — this is the greatest blessing." To help illustrate what I mean here, I'll give two example.

A general example is that a society that's not only consumerist, but also politically and economically geared more towards the idea that greed and self-interest is the highest good, will potentially be less supportive culturally of monastic communities that live entirely in an economy of gifts (e.g., in comparing Eastern cultures, in which alms-giving and gift exchanges characteristic of 'human economies' regulated by custom and reputation and based more on co-operation have historically been more prevalent, to Western culture, where market-based economies based more on competition have been the norm, I noticed that Eastern monastics often receive more lay support as opposed to Western monastics, who often have to produce goods like beer, chocolate, coffee, wine, etc. to sell in order to support themselves).

A more specific example is the ecological impacts of logging in Thailand. The Buddha praised the wilderness and the benefits of practicing in the forest. The Thai Forest tradition grew out of a movement among monastics to return to this way of practice. In the past few decades, however, much of Thailand’s forests have disappeared, making this more difficult. Being involved in conservation efforts and trying to find better farming techniques and/or other ways of raising revenue is one way of trying to help preserve remaining forests in order to help keep this tradition alive.

The point is that, if the world is ruled by conditionality, doesn't it make sense that working towards contributing positive conditions for the benefit of ourselves and others is a skillful thing for householders to do? It’d be great if everyone were free from greed, hatred, and delusion, and everyone treated everyone else with kindness, compassion, and generosity—if the world was free from all forms of exploitation, privation, and gross inequalities. But the world isn't a perfect place, and we’re not all saints; and one of the ways we can help alleviate some of the world’s suffering is by trying to materially change it for the better. And from this point of view, it's not about making Buddhism political, but about applying the ideals of Buddhism in all that we do, which for me includes being socially and politically active.

A friend of mine gave me a book for Christmas called No Beginning, No End today, and I think the first three paragraphs of the foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh beautifully sum up what I'm trying to say here:
  • It has been said that the twenty-first century is going to be a century of spirituality. If it is not a century of spirituality, there will be very difficult times ahead for all of us and for the generations to come. If we are not able to stop and look more deeply at the suffering in ourselves, how will we be able to address the suffering in the world around us? In order for us to transform our own suffering, we must do something radical.

    The first radical thing we can do to transform the suffering in ourselves is to practice stopping (shamatha). We stop in order to return to ourselves, to become calm. When we are calm, we have a better chance to see our suffering more clearly. The second radical act is to look deeply inside ourselves and see our suffering, be with our suffering, in order to understand and transform it. This is also true for the suffering in the world. We as entire nations need to stop and look deeply at the suffering in the world in order to see it more clearly without prejudice and understand how to transform it.

    The practice of mindfulness in these troubled times is more important than ever. If we as individuals do not take the time to practice mindfulness, not only will it be difficult to transform the suffering in our own lives, but it will be difficult to transform the suffering in the world. It is vital to ourselves, our children, and the Earth that we have a practice that helps us to be mindful, that lets us come back to ourselves and dwell in the present moment in order to transform suffering in ourselves and others around us.
In other words, the practice and social engagement can go hand-in-hand and are entirely compatible.

As for what the Buddha himself said about politics, he general abstained from talking about them; although there are suttas which seem to suggest that he was at least in favour of some type of welfare-state. There's the case of DN 5, for example, where the brahmin Kutadanta asks the Buddha for advice on how to best conduct a great sacrifice. Kutadanta, who was evidently wealthy, had been given a village and some land by King Bimbisara, which he ruled as a king himself. On being asked by Kutadanta — who had a legion of animals waiting to be slaughtered — how to perform a great sacrifice, the Buddha answered with a fable about a great king who asks his chaplain a similar question.

Long story short, the king (i.e., the state), who'd amassed great personal wealth but whose kingdom was "beset by thieves" and "infested with brigands," is told by his chaplain that taxing the people, executing and imprisoning them, or simply banishing them from the land won't solve his kingdom's problems, and is given this advice:
  • To those in the kingdom who are engaged in cultivating crops and raising cattle, let Your Majesty distribute grain and fodder; to those in trade, give capital; to those in government service assign proper living wages. Then those people, being intent on their occupations, will not harm the kingdom. Your Majesty's revenues will be great, the land will be tranquil and not beset by thieves, and the people, with joy in their hearts, will play with their children, and will dwell in open houses.
In general, though, I think the Buddha would favour any kind of politics informed by the Dhamma, rooted in harmlessness, compassion for others, and honesty. And even though no person or system is perfect, I don't think that means we each shouldn't try to improve ourselves or the world around us. If the proper Buddhist attitude is to complacently accept things like exploitation, imperialism, racism, sexism, etc. rather than challenge them, then I'm not a proper Buddhist nor do I ever wish to be one.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Mkoll » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:44 pm

Dear friends,

:popcorn:

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Modus.Ponens » Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:41 pm

Hello.

Answering in reverse order:

1- My political "ideology" is somewhere between center left and radical left. Democratic, obviously. Progressive on the social level.

2- This is a more interesting question. I can only share my experience. I see politicians, wether portuguese, british, american, chinese, and I haven't seen a single government who is not corrupt. They are all in it for their own interest and they do whatever is necessary to obtain what they're interested in. It causes me enormous anger to see these guys running things. And people not caring that this happens also really gets on my nerves. I eventualy had to put it away because it was hurting my practice.

3- The first question is almost as asking what is the correct political system. Very difficult to answer in a general forum. Much easier to answer on a buddhist forum. The thing all humans share is that they want to be happy and avoid suffering. Thus, this should be the measure of success of a political system. By this parameter, the nordic system(s) are ahead. Even by purely economic standards, the nordic countries are slightly ahead in GDP per capita. Considering that they have less weekly work hours, less land, less resources (with the exception of Norway that has oil) and worse climate than the US, or France, or the UK, they clearly have a better economy. So far, in human history, this equilibrium between private and public ownership of the economy, with high levels of education, in the framework of a democracy, was the best system created so far.
Furthermore, underneath all the (honest) right wing rethoric is always, always the same flaw: happiness is directly proportional to wealth. In a buddhist forum it's easy for people to see this flaw.
In short it's very natural for buddhists to be left wing.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Schaublin » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:35 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Hello.

Answering in reverse order:

1- My political "ideology" is somewhere between center left and radical left. Democratic, obviously. Progressive on the social level.

2- This is a more interesting question. I can only share my experience. I see politicians, wether portuguese, british, american, chinese, and I haven't seen a single government who is not corrupt. They are all in it for their own interest and they do whatever is necessary to obtain what they're interested in. It causes me enormous anger to see these guys running things. And people not caring that this happens also really gets on my nerves. I eventualy had to put it away because it was hurting my practice.

3- The first question is almost as asking what is the correct political system. Very difficult to answer in a general forum. Much easier to answer on a buddhist forum. The thing all humans share is that they want to be happy and avoid suffering. Thus, this should be the measure of success of a political system. By this parameter, the nordic system(s) are ahead. Even by purely economic standards, the nordic countries are slightly ahead in GDP per capita. Considering that they have less weekly work hours, less land, less resources (with the exception of Norway that has oil) and worse climate than the US, or France, or the UK, they clearly have a better economy. So far, in human history, this equilibrium between private and public ownership of the economy, with high levels of education, in the framework of a democracy, was the best system created so far.
Furthermore, underneath all the (honest) right wing rethoric is always, always the same flaw: happiness is directly proportional to wealth. In a buddhist forum it's easy for people to see this flaw.
In short it's very natural for buddhists to be left wing.



Is it though? Everyone has their own understanding of what left and right means but a choice between forced collectivism and crony capitalism does not seem much of a choice.

Natural cooperation is only possible in a small group - hunter gatherers come to mind. As numbers of people increase and personal knowledge of others is no longer possible, collectivism has to be imposed just like any other control system. The sham democracies of the West have managed successfully to control their vast populations by the simple but effective tactic of pretending that there is a difference between the red and the blue team.

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by SarathW » Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:03 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Politics is an interesting subject and I have often wondered which system is best too. I think there have been at least a few prior subjects discussing this. I found this one:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1571

You find Buddhists along the entire spectrum from far left to far right. Western convert Buddhists seem to be primarily left wing. Although Bhante Dhammanando is apparently right of center.
Dhammanando wrote:
As someone who isn't hugely knowledgeable about general Buddhism yet, I personally can't really see how Buddhism and conservatism would ever be compatible,
I find them to be perfectly compatible. To the extent that the Buddha has anything at all to say on social and political matters, the positions he takes are for the most part traditionalist conservative ones. The most political Buddhist text of all —the Mahasupina Jataka— reads almost like a manifesto of classical western conservatism (though not of what goes by the name of 'conservatism' in contemporary Britain or America).
Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Throughout the history all leaders (kings etc) try to have one objective where all human should aspired for.
Instead of having many Gods they try to have one God.
Some try to have capitalism or socialism as one goal.
They all appeared to fail. (They have minor victories though)

I think the best political system we can have is, every human to have Nirvana as the common goal.
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by culaavuso » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:12 am

Schaublin wrote: Natural cooperation is only possible in a small group - hunter gatherers come to mind. As numbers of people increase and personal knowledge of others is no longer possible, collectivism has to be imposed just like any other control system. The sham democracies of the West have managed successfully to control their vast populations by the simple but effective tactic of pretending that there is a difference between the red and the blue team.
I think this is an important point. To support a political system in a large population is to support enforcement of that political system, which involves imposing the values of some people upon other people. Usually imposing values means a threat of physical harm, confinement, or unwillful loss of property. This seems to imply the support of harmfulness and taking what is not given out of greed or aversion to other people's behavior. On the other hand, it is clearly the intention of large groups of people to maintain and enforce such systems and expecting that to change to fit one's personal whims is a cause of stress. In this way, I think most political debates are best avoided since they reduce to whether harmfulness and taking what is not given should be applied in situation A, or in situation B, without a choice for "neither" being entertained.

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by SarathW » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:38 am

Dasa Raja Dharma

In the dasa-raja-dharma or the ten royal virtues, the Buddhist ideal of kingship is further elaborated upon. The ten royal virtues are dana, charity; sila, morality; pariccaga, munificence; ajjavan, straightforwardness; majjavan, gentleness; tapam, restraint; akkodho, non-hatred; avihimsa, non-violence; khanti, patience, and avirodhata, friendliness and amity.

Dana in this context means giving of alms to the needy. It is the duty of the king to look after the welfare of his needy subjects, and to give them food, clothing and other wherewithals.

Sila here means morality. The monarch must so conduct himself in private and public, life as to be a shining example to his subjects.

Pariccaga means the grant of gifts to those who serve the monarch loyally. By the grant of gifts not only does the monarch acknowledge their efficient and loyal service, but he also spurs them on to more efficient and more loyal service.

Ajjavan means that the monarch must be absolutely straightforward. The good king must never take recourse to any crooked or doubtful means to achieve his ends. His yea must be yea, and nay must be nay.

Majjavan means gentleness. The monarch’s straightforwardness and rectitude that often will require firmness, should be tempered with gentleness. His gentleness will keep his firmness from being over-harsh or even cruel, while his firmness will keep gentleness from turning into weakness. A harmonious balance of these two qualities is essential not only for a ruler but for all leaders of men.

Tapan means the restraint of senses. The ideal monarch is the one who keeps his five senses under strict control, shunning indulgence in sensual pleasures.

Akkodha means non-hatred. The good king must not harbour grievances against those who injured him, but must act with forbearance and love.

Avihimsa means non-violence. The Monarch should not indulge in games where killing is resorted to, or cause injury to any being. He must practise non-violence to the greatest possible extent that is reconcilable with the duties of a ruler.

Khanti means patience, The king must conduct himself with patience, courage and fortitude on all occasions. In joy and sorrow, in prosperity and in adversity, in victory and defeat, he must conduct himself with calmness and dignity without giving in to emotions.

Avirodhata means non-enmity, friendship. The king must cultivate the spirit of amity among his subjects, by himself acting always in a spirit of amity and benevolence. It will be seen that avirodhata is in this context opposed to bheda—the divide and rule policy in the Hindu statecraft.

The Buddha also laid emphasis on the fact that the evil and the good of the people depend on the behaviour of their rulers; and for the good of the people he set out these ten royal virtues to be practised by the rulers of men.

Simple though this looks to us, it must be viewed from the point of view of contemporary society where the Brahmin hierarchy divided the society permanently into various castes, and gave religious sanction to that division. No doubt the Buddha had in mind the claims of the Brahmins that they were a unique people being “twice-born“ once in the natural way and again from the shoulder of the creator himself.

For further info:
http://www.bps.lk/olib/bl/bl011-p.html
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by seeker242 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:39 am

People like Thich Nhat Hanh extol a good "buddhist politics" IMO. :smile:

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Schaublin » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:29 am

culaavuso wrote:
Schaublin wrote: Natural cooperation is only possible in a small group - hunter gatherers come to mind. As numbers of people increase and personal knowledge of others is no longer possible, collectivism has to be imposed just like any other control system. The sham democracies of the West have managed successfully to control their vast populations by the simple but effective tactic of pretending that there is a difference between the red and the blue team.
I think this is an important point. To support a political system in a large population is to support enforcement of that political system, which involves imposing the values of some people upon other people. Usually imposing values means a threat of physical harm, confinement, or unwillful loss of property. This seems to imply the support of harmfulness and taking what is not given out of greed or aversion to other people's behavior. On the other hand, it is clearly the intention of large groups of people to maintain and enforce such systems and expecting that to change to fit one's personal whims is a cause of stress. In this way, I think most political debates are best avoided since they reduce to whether harmfulness and taking what is not given should be applied in situation A, or in situation B, without a choice for "neither" being entertained.
I have noticed a marked reluctance in people that are concerned with living skilfully to address the fact that they are contributing tacitly (or with wilful ignorance) to a system of control based on violence. When I address the issue of debt based fiat currencies, for example, most do not want to know - because, I suspect, if they did consider the facts, they would have to change their "comfortable bubble".

I probably will not make too many friends on here for saying it but "lefty" kumbaya "lets send money to Africa in order to boost our own egos" wannabe Buddhists are right up there with the worst of the self deluders. Behind the faux humanity lies an all too common cowardly narcissism and latent violence.

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Schaublin » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:21 am

Schaublin wrote:
culaavuso wrote:
Schaublin wrote: Natural cooperation is only possible in a small group - hunter gatherers come to mind. As numbers of people increase and personal knowledge of others is no longer possible, collectivism has to be imposed just like any other control system. The sham democracies of the West have managed successfully to control their vast populations by the simple but effective tactic of pretending that there is a difference between the red and the blue team.
I think this is an important point. To support a political system in a large population is to support enforcement of that political system, which involves imposing the values of some people upon other people. Usually imposing values means a threat of physical harm, confinement, or unwillful loss of property. This seems to imply the support of harmfulness and taking what is not given out of greed or aversion to other people's behavior. On the other hand, it is clearly the intention of large groups of people to maintain and enforce such systems and expecting that to change to fit one's personal whims is a cause of stress. In this way, I think most political debates are best avoided since they reduce to whether harmfulness and taking what is not given should be applied in situation A, or in situation B, without a choice for "neither" being entertained.
I have noticed a marked reluctance in people that are concerned with living skilfully to address the fact that they are contributing tacitly (or with wilful ignorance) to a system of control based on violence. When I address the issue of debt based fiat currencies, for example, most do not want to know - because, I suspect, if they did consider the facts, they would have to change their "comfortable bubble".

I probably will not make too many friends on here for saying it but "lefty" kumbaya "lets send money to Africa in order to boost our own egos" wannabe Buddhists are right up there with the worst of the self deluders. Behind the faux humanity lies an all too common cowardly narcissism and latent violence.

I just re-read that post of mine and it does come over a little harshly! My intention was not to hurt the spirit of those (hypothetical?) people but rather the sly tyrannical egos that have them in their thrall.

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by manas » Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:57 am

Hi clw,

I would have quite a different system in place. There would be no career politicians. There would be much more involvement by ordinary people in decision making for councils, states, even the country. Positions are held only for a few years, given average wage and their employer must agree to re-employ them, when parliamentary term is done. There are no politicians as such, there are 'people's representatives'. Corporate rule is over, and the needs of the ordinary folk are seen to. Obviously representatives get some training etc. They will not be in it for the money, it will be about service: representing their communities' wishes, to higher levels.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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Re: Buddhist attitude towards politics

Post by Modus.Ponens » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:33 am

manas wrote:Hi clw,

I would have quite a different system in place. There would be no career politicians. There would be much more involvement by ordinary people in decision making for councils, states, even the country. Positions are held only for a few years, given average wage and their employer must agree to re-employ them, when parliamentary term is done. There are no politicians as such, there are 'people's representatives'. Corporate rule is over, and the needs of the ordinary folk are seen to. Obviously representatives get some training etc. They will not be in it for the money, it will be about service: representing their communities' wishes, to higher levels.
Hello

I once saw a news report about how swedish MP's live in a condo. They have no particular luxury, a just-enough house, with a common laundry room. They have arverage wages.

Journalism, these days, is so bad that this can be misinformation, though.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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