About tragedy...

Hooh boy I think I caught myself in the middle of my first "internet argument" over at Jane's post about a Tibetan Nomad. I thought I'd just write about it here instead of dragging it on on someone else's board. It's kind of nice when I have the opportunity to mention something else outside of fashion here once in a while.

So the gist of it is, some people were offended because "blase" comments were being made about the nomad's attire, which isn't a choice of style but rather a necessity imposed on him by his living conditions. Yes, yes I agree.

Then, because sometimes political correctness annoys me (far too knee-jerk), I stupidly barged in saying that "you can choose to see tragedy everywhere or you can choose to see life as a whole. If we're talking tragedy, I think Western culture, with it various substance abuse problems, full bellies but undernourished bodies, and increasing rates of depression, is equally tragic. You never know, underneath that weathered old skin could be a man sublimely happy and accepting of his condition. In that case he's better off then the rest of us miserable fools who can't even be happy living in the lap of luxury."

Unfortunately me equating spiritual deprivation to material deprivation didn't sit too well with people, and I was called a whiny over-privileged first-world kid (ouch).

Now the funny thing is, spiritual deprivation actually is a serious problem, and it often goes unacknowledged. These days many of us were taught to believe that if the external environment is perfect, life would be perfect. That change can only come from outside of you, brought to you by various political ideologies whether they be communism, conservatism, liberalism, etc. We argue over ideologies because we believe that we can arrange the outside world in a way that could benefit everyone. Well in my opinion, the external world is a reflection of the internal world. All of the corruption and inequality we see in the world sprung out of the internal, our thoughts, our own choices, our own actions. It's a collective disease.

In my opinion, which obviously isn't shared by all but it's still worth an honest consideration, spiritual deprivation is far more tragic than material deprivation. Material over stimulation is far more tragic because it causes so much harm in the world, including causing the deprivation of the freedom and material needs of others.
I wasn't dismissing the fact that this particular Tibetan might have had a hard life, I was trying to get people to think about why this may be so. I'm trying to question why we automatically assume that if other people had the many things we in the west call necessities, they'd be better off. Isn't that a bit ethnocentric too?

Anyways, if there's anything I want to share with you all out of this, it's that to change the world you have to change yourself first. Approach things with compassion and an open mind. Question everything. Don't hate people because they hurt others. Feel compassion for them too. Feel compassion for everyone, even spoiled western kids, because we're all in this together, and we're all a bit lost together.

I very much look forward to hearing your insightful comments as well. Just no knee-jerk hateful comments please.


Amelia said...

I agree. While I think it was risky for Jane to do such a post, I don't see any problem in taking inspiration from anywhere. Plus, your argument about spiritual deprivation is really compelling and much more informed than the unthinking politically correct reaction.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful points, I'm most certainly with you on that. The world has become such a cesspool for consumerism that we all believe objects can mend unhappiness both emotionally and spiritually. We foolishly convince ourselves that with wealth and influence comes perfection, yet I strongly believe that those living in the most downtrodden conditions are those that have the most potential to be truly happy. They do not rely on material objects to fuel their emotions, but rather observe the beauty and compassion in the world as no one on a pedestal can see. Now, I live in a fortunate area of the world, I am extremely privileged and I know that. Yet I am careful to not let material goods cloud my mind and distort my perception of what is good in the world. Just because I am privileged does not mean I am not compassionate or spoiled as I suppose people perceived you to be. No, I don't think you're an over-privileged first-world kid. Sure, many of us live in wealthier environments and are exposed to more opportunities than those less fortunate, but that most certainly does not mean that our location affects our ability to be good people. Your comments in this post alone show that you are not a shallow "first-world kid", but are thoughtful and compassionate, two qualities that can only be found in a good human being. I agree with you, we are all a little lost in this world of ours, but maybe if we all sat down and thought deeply about the way in which we live our lives, we could put ourselves on the road to happiness. You've done that. Bravo to you.

Frou Flu said...

Sabrina, this was very well said. I couldn't agree with you more. I wish people would learn to think this way.

xyndz said...

well said.

bluebird said...

awesome! i wish i could add more, but I think you've said it all...i really wish people could understand this...

The Frocker said...

I agree with you, mostly. However, having to live without real necessities like water and electricity is absolutely miserable (I'm speaking from experience). So I don't know if I can agree that spiritual deprivation is worse than material deprivation, having essentially only experienced one of those circumstances.

Still, I understand your point of view, and it's unfortunate that you were attacked for expressing your opinion, but I think that it might have been because you may have come across as the type of person who enjoys their luxuries but believes that people who live in abject poverty are truly happy. By the way, I'm not saying that's what you think or that that's what I think of you! Just want to be clear about that.

Cruz said...

Firstly, I think it's awesome you had the balls to eloquently portray your point of view. Secondly, I agree with you. Tragedy and happiness are everywhere no matter where you look. Excess can be just as bad as shortage. We have so much, I think we forget that life goes on with or with out computers and washing machines. Personally, I find the nomadic lifestyle to be romantic. I see it as a bit of a catharsis from the luxuries we have; stop me if I sound like a spoiled western kid~. Yes, life would be easier for nomads with the luxuries of the world, but that doesn't mean that because they don't have them they're all miserable. And yes, China's treatment of Tibet is indeed terrible. Inspiration comes from everywhere and it's a shame people confused it with insensitivity for their situation. It's the same thing with hobo-chic, just because you take inspiration from their clothes doesn't mean you don't have sympathy for and knowledge of their situation. These are merely my two cents, I apologize if I offend anyone in advance.

Tamia said...

While I certainly agree with most of your points (I know a lot of spiritually deprived people--I live with a lawyer), I think this

"...spiritual deprivation is far more tragic than material deprivation."

can only be believed by someone who hasn't experienced true material deprivation. I think if you had, you'd have a different perspective.

From one whiny over-privileged first-world kid to another.

Very thoughtful post. Thanks for putting this out there!

Sabrina said...

Tamia, I understand where you're coming from, but I don't think I would change my mind. How come? Because the point I'm trying to make is when some (mostly in the developed world) are spiritually deprived, they tend to only focus on material things. They start to equate material success with having a successful life, and this in turn, mean more more more for them and less for others. I'm trying to say that spiritual deprivation is more tragic because it LEADS to the abuse of self and others. Does that make sense?

Elsa said...

I totally agree with you. I've travelled through a few thrid-world countries, seen dire poverty, and while I have often seen incredibly sad situations, I have also felt comparably poor myself to some of these people who are spiritually totally at peace with themselves and the world, something which I could only hope to achieve.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I'm a Tibetan myself and I thought it was pretty unfair for people to automatically assume that the nomadic man was "unhappy".
And yes, spiritual deprivation IS far more tragic than material deprivation.

yulanda said...

Hmm, some googling led me to the original article that that photo was from:

Sabrina said...

Thanks Yulanda!

I read it all, very interesting, especially how one of the women said that she believes their life is comparatively easy. It's inspiring to read about how a group of people can live in harmony with their environment.

One of the pages was missing though! Drat.

yulanda said...

Ah, no problem!

I didn't bother putting my two cents in on Jane's blog because internet debates never get anywhere, but I couldn't stand people making assumptions without reading the article regarding their lifestyle. It's interesting to note that they are trying to preserve their methods, traditions, and way of life as it is (or was, twenty years ago). That is not to say I think their life easy based on that (although they think it's easier then the farmers and townpeople!), because I wouldn't last a day in their shoes.

In any case, I agree with much of what you've said so far.

I tried to look for more recent articles on the Chang Tang nomads (couldn't find any specifically about them), and came across these slides from BBC. I found the commentary on this one particularly interesting:

-h said...

i didnt read the full article i only remember seeing the 1st post of the man's outfit. so i had no idea there was a whole debate going. but i do wish that people would be more accepting of other peoples opinion. we all dont have to agree with each other but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

i think you bring up a very good point. but at the same time, im extremely greatful to live in the environment i live in. but i do know that material things is not a path to happiness.