We have recently been tweeting about some political issues, such as using the NZ Labour tag #LetsDoThis. Political commentary might seem to fall outside the mandate of articles on Buddhism. But in this article we describe why we are making statements about the impact of politics and your vote.
The reason is simply that political decisions made by governments affect the millions of people in that country. Political groups are generally split into two main runners:
1. US Republicans, NZ Nationals, UK Conservatives, AU Liberal Party: The business-first parties are all about big business and free markets that will somehow safe-regulate (companies do not self-regulate). They are typically strong on policing, nationalism, and removing social services.
2. US Democrats, NZ Labour, UK Labour, AU Labour: The people-first parties are big on social issues, such as increasing the minimum wage, ensuring there is a strong healthcare system in place, and schools can provide a solid education for all students.
After years of govern by the US Republicans, NZ Nationals, UK Conservatives, and AU Liberal Party we feel that these countries have had much of their infrastructure and social services dismantled under the name of “austerity” after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007. The “austerity” measures were a misguided approach by the government to cut spending by cutting jobs in government and social services. This was “misguided” because it is in direct contradiction to the “New Deal” programme that was successfully implemented by President Roosevelt to kick-start the US economy after the Great Depression. In the “New Deal” the government spent money on infrastructure projects to put money into the working woman’s and working man’s pockets, that put food on tables, and that made people more confident about spending money. By comparison the “austerity” measures made everybody want to save their money because they were worried about the future. As Paul Krugman explains, “austerity” is simply a delusion:
These political decisions have made life incredibly difficult for many people, that is why there are so many people sleeping in cars in the US and NZ, and so many food banks in the UK. These situations have arisen because of the political decision making that has put business interests first and pushed people to the very edge of society.
By comparison, the NZ Labour party said in their first 100 days in office they would complete a range of tasks, including these objectives that will improve the lives of people in NZ:
> Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis.
> Introduce legislation to set a child poverty reduction target and to change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress on reducing child poverty.
> Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace.
Here is another example from the US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders:
People who can’t afford health care don’t deserve to die. It’s crazy that we even have to say that.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 21, 2017
The only way to turn the conversation to issues that you are interested in is by participating in the democratic process. Without your vote you lose your voice in the conversation. We warmly recommend that you register to vote in your country and let your voice be heard by your government.
We choose to vote in a way that will mean that hungry people are fed, sick people receive healthcare, even if it means we do not get tax breaks. This fits with the dedication verses from the ‘Bodhicaryavatara’ by Shantideva:
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.
May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food;
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy;
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity.
May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.