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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 12 March 2016


I stayed at the fabulous #Jumeirah Hotel at #Etihad Towers in #AbuDhabi a while ago, a gleaming tower of opulence brooding over a flat sea and displacing the desert sand which once was there. Everything in the hotel and surrounds was simply perfect: wonderful food, outstanding and subservient service, plush rooms, carved agate walls and floors in the elevators and having fantastic facilities. It was so incredibly easy to live and be cared for in this place. Why would one ever want to leave?

And yet this had a feel of the palace of the Buddha about it: everything was too perfect. There was no visible poverty, unemployment, illness or anything else to associate with suffering anywhere in the hotel or its surrounds. Just people going about their business and taking the luxury and perfection for granted.

The only hint that all might not be well was the plethora of Pakistani taxi drivers and other foreign nationals who all appeared to be doing the menial work. Not too may locals could be seen getting their hands dirty. Which had a feel of subjugated races doing the bidding of the Arabs for scant reward. 

I couldn't help feeling that, like the Buddha, if I drove outside and scratched the surface a little, I might find that life in the Jumeirah Hotel was pretty sheltered, but there was a body of suffering outside to which the guests of the Jumeirah would not be exposed if possible.

Now, I don't exactly know if that is true - perhaps I'm speculating unfairly and all the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi are opulent and there is no suffering, but the point is that many of us live in a privileged position: plush houses, fancy cars, good schools and so on, and think that because all is mostly well in our lives all must be well outside of our lives or, worse still, because all is well in our lives we needn't care about what is not well outside our lives.

The truth is that our greater society is made up of everyone, from all walks of life, rich, poor, able, disabled, healthy and sick. It is easy to pretend that the suffering in our society is not our problem, but for a society to flourish it needs to care for all who make up that society. In South Africa we have a mass swell of discontent, for instance, against prohibitive tertiary education fees in the context of education being the very thing that will help the poor to help themselves. It doesn't help for the already educated, or those who can afford university, to say: "Not my problem." You need only look at the fall-out - protesting, rioting, burning and fighting to see that it is everybody's problem.

All suffering is everyone's business, and when we can buy into that as a concept we may not attain immediate enlightenment, but we at least take a genuine step towards connecting and engaging with our humanity. 

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