“Many people may not be aware that the spread of western science and technology throughout the world is precipitating rapid changes in traditional values and lifestyles, upsetting the balance of entire cultures.
Occupations that gave millions a place in society, however humble, are being displaced by new methods and technology that leave many with no employment or position.
The sense of inherent human worth and self -respect, which once could be maintained even in the face of poverty, is being lost as human value is coming to depend more exclusively on wealth and power.”
Knowledge of Freedom, Time to Change, by Tarthang Tulku, Dharma Publishing, 1984.
The sad truth is that there is a knowledge crisis in the Western world and we have already drawn other cultures into the whirlpool of our mistaken views of what is most important.
As the passage quoted above from “Knowledge of Freedom” observes, the prosperity and benefits of the western world has caused many less industrialized cultures to want the efficiencies and material benefits that science and technology can make available. And this, in turn, has caused them to abandon their own traditional way of doing things and thereby—as is also coming to roost in our own western societies—to abandon self-respect for themselves and their human potential, in pursuit of prosperity and progress.
It took 36 years (since the publication of the book quoted above), but at this point in the flow of global time, few of us can still be unaware of the great cost that has been paid for turning our society over to forces that do not care for this living world or for the lives that depend on a healthy planet; and few of us can still be unaware of the folly of sacrificing the living being of our world to secure the prosperity of a few (who hold “wealth and power”, but who appear unable to appreciate the true wealth available to human beings).
There is a paradox: the knowledge that is now so desperately needed is found in those older ways, in the elders who remember how to live in harmony with the Earth. But those surviving pockets of understanding that still remember the deep connection between humanity and our world—have been decimated by imperialist aggression. “Decimated” (the destruction of 10%) doesn’t begin to account for the unrestrained and uncaring sweep of the scythe of human history.
But now the future of our species depends on a contrite return to the altars of traditions that honor Earth and respect all of life. Not only have the dominant forces of humanity failed to be the “good stewards”–which the main religious tradition of the west identifies as our core responsibility–but our prevailing way of life has destroyed our self-respect. Most of us live lives that feel empty, if not downright harmful to the world on which we depend. But even if we feel unable to resist the global forces desecrating our world, we can still live in a way that allows us to restore our self-respect.