Although "Western Buddhism" presents itself as the remedy against the stressful tension of the capitalist dynamics, allowing us to uncouple and retain the inner peace and Gelassenheit, it actually functions as its perfect ideological supplement. One should mention here the well-known topic of the "future shock," i.e. of how, today, people are no longer psychologically able to cope with the dazzling rhythm of the technological development and the social changes that accompany it — things simply move too fast, before one can accustom oneself to an invention, this invention is already supplanted by a new one, so that one more and more lacks the most elementary "cognitive mapping." The recourse to Taoism or Buddhism offers a way out of this predicament which definitely work better than the desperate escape into old traditions: instead of trying to cope with the accelerating rhythm of the technological progress and social changes, one should rather renounce the very endeavor to retain control over what goes on, rejecting it as the expression of the modern logic of domination — one should, instead, "let oneself go," drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference towards the mad dance of the accelerated process, a distance based on the insight that all this social and technological upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances which do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being… One is almost tempted to resuscitate here the old infamous Marxist cliche of religion as the "opium of the people," as the imaginary supplement of the terrestrial misery: the "Western Buddhist" meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way, for us, to fully participate in the capitalist dynamics, while retaining the appearance of mental sanity. If Max Weber were to live today, he would definitely wrote a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of the Global Capitalism.
And, instead of playing the old game of the aggressive Islamic monotheism against the "gentle" Buddhism, one should rather use the bombing of the Bamiyan status to reflect on a more fundamental deadlock. It is not only that Western Buddhism, this pop-cultural phenomenon preaching inner distance and indifference towards the frantic pace of the market competition, is arguably the most efficient way, for us, to fully participate in the capitalist dynamics, while retaining the appearance of mental sanity — in short, the paradigmatic ideology of late capitalism. One should add that it is no longer possible to oppose this Western Buddhism to its "authentic" Oriental version; the case of Japan delivers here the conclusive evidence. Not only do we have today, among the Japanese top managers, the wide-spread "corporate Zen" phenomenon; in the whole of the last 150 years, Japan's rapid industrialization and militarization, with its ethics of discipline and sacrifice, was sustained by the large majority of Zen thinkers — who, today, knows that D.T.Suzuki himself, the high guru of Zen in the America of the 60s, supported in his youth, in Japan of the 30s, the spirit of utter discipline and militaristic expansion. There is no contradiction here, no manipulative perversion of the authentic compassionate insight: the attitude of total immersion into the self-less "now" of the instant Enlightenment, in which all reflexive distance is lost and "I am what I do," as C.S.Lewis put it, in short: in which absolute discipline coincides with total spontaneity, perfectly legitimizes one subordination to the militaristic social machine. Or, to put it in somewhat simplified terms (which, however, just repeat the central ethical lesson of Bhagavadgita): if the external reality is ultimately just an ephemeral appearance, even the most horrifying crimes eventually DO NOT MATTER.
"Western Buddhism" thus perfectly fits the fetishist mode of ideology in our allegedly "post-ideological" era, as opposed to its traditional symptomal mode, in which the ideological lie which structures our perception of reality is threatened by symptoms qua "returns of the repressed," cracks in the fabric of the ideological lie. Fetish is effectively a kind of envers of the symptom. That is to say, symptom is the exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed truth erupts, while fetish is the embodiment of the Lie which enables us to sustain the unbearable truth. Let us take the case of the death of a beloved person: when I "repress" this death, I try not to think about it, but the repressed trauma persists and returns in the symptoms. Say, after my beloved wife dies of the breast cancer, I try to repress this fact by throwing myself into hard work or vivacious social life, but then there is always something which reminds me of her, I cannot escape her ghost haunting me. In the case of a fetish, on the contrary, I "rationally" fully accept this death, I am able to talk about her most painful moments in a cold and clear way, because I cling to the fetish, to some feature that embodies for me the disavowal of this death. In this sense, a fetish can play a very constructive role of allowing us to cope with the harsh reality: fetishists are not dreamers lost in their private worlds, they are thoroughly "realists," able to accept the way things effectively are — since they have their fetish to which they can cling in order to cancel the full impact of reality.
So, when we are bombarded by claims that in our post-ideological cynical era nobody believes in the proclaimed ideals, when we encounter a person who claims he is cured of any beliefs, accepting social reality the way it really is, one should always counter such claims with the question: OK, but where is the fetish which enables you to (pretend to) accept reality "the way it is"? "Western Buddhism" is such a fetish: it enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game, while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless this spectacle is — what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw. http://www.gazette.de/Archiv/Gazette-Au ... izek2.html
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek ... ist-ethic/
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek ... -buddhism/