As Spiritual Leadership enters its final weeks of the semester, it is time to invite everyone to provide feedback on this project. Likewise, I will summarize and engage in critical reflection.
What is Spiritual Leadership? The term connotes transcendence. From the perspective of Liberation Theology, I would reject this definition. Rather, I would argue that Spiritual Leadership is a reorientation to the potential to be realized in the immanent, in the mundane. Thus, I chose to illustrate this point through the particular case of Snack Pack Pudding.
Looking deeply into Snack Pack Pudding, its non-pudding elements, and its connections revealed suffering including links to illness and oppression (viz. slavery)! In cases when corporations and governments are jointly and severally responsible for suffering, extra-governmental organizations, such as the press and/or religious leaders are called to engage their asymmetrical agency, responsibility, and accountability to be spiritual leaders and organize the collective will of the oppressed.
Per Allan G. Johnson, Power, Privilege, and Difference, society channels people’s behaviors towards paths of least resistance. These paths are not easy. Deviation from these paths is harder, at least initially. Yet, the essence of spiritual leadership is to deviate from these paths of least resistance in order to change society if we are to transform individual and collective experiences of suffering as pain and oppression into love and justice.
In consumer-driven society (i.e. the hungry ghost economy), people unwittingly and, often, inevitably, participate in the creation and perpetuation of suffering by engaging in mindless consumption represented by tens or hundreds of individual and seemingly trivial and innocuous transactions every day. The sum of these decisions have tremendous impacts upon world suffering.
No one person can do everything. Every person can do something. Spiritual leadership is not about creating guilt and paralysis. It is, at least from this perspective, about orienting people, promoting awareness, and facilitating contemplation and action. It functions on the faith that each person, in his or her time, will gradually or suddenly achieve insight into an issue and take action to change it.
Orienting people to the mundane topic of Snack Pack Pudding has been an intentional statement that no topic should be particular to spiritual leadership. Mindfulness practice is powerful in orienting people to the possibilities available for agency, responsibility, and accountability at every level.
The key lesson learned, the fundamental challenge in spiritual leadership, is identifying the media that will connect a particular issue with a particular constituency.
To date, Hungry Ghost Economy
generated 64 views on dharma dialogues
created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HungryGhostEconomy) with 13 Likes
created a petition on http://www.whitehouse.gov (http://wh.gov/eMAA) to ask the Obama Administration to ban the import, distribution, and/or sale of products produced using slave labor with 6 signatures.
created a twitter account with several tweets. It gained 0 retweets or replies and 1 follower (surprisingly, a local business)!
I value the opportunity to inform. At times, the internet has demonstrated its power as a means to raise awareness and funds, and to create, organize, and sustain action; at times, it has helped initiate high levels of coordinated global activity.
Yet, research indicates people look to shift their attention within seconds, and shift topics or pages in 7 minutes or less.
It is a lot of effort to maintain an internet presence and create “fresh” content for a small audience.
As a result of this experience, I think the internet can be a place for the exchange of ideas and a resource where people can learn more, exchange ideas, and coordinate efforts. However, I emerge with the belief that the spiritual leadership models of grassroots activism are still relevant and needed.
The right issue at the right time can begin in a congregation, sangha, temple, mosque, or meeting. Spiritual leaders, engaged in common causes in solidarity with the oppressed, can promote awareness and action within their organizations. Tens, hundreds, or thousands, still attend religious services and meetings of various types. These groups can initiate movements that transcend religious differences. I think there is an experience of solidarity when people are in the physical presence of one another that can be empowering. There is something about physical presence that promotes different forms of relationships. These empowering relationships can collectively engage in actions that serve as the impetus for movements that gain momentum and expand across space and time to effect change.
This assessment of the Hungry Ghost Economy project is a statement about fit between the issue, communication/presentation, media, culture/zeitgeist, and skillful means.
In June 2010, according to ConAgra, Snack Pack owned 84 percent of the $210 million category of shelf stable puddings and gel packs. As discussed in earlier segments, ConAgra co-packs the pudding for all or almost all of its “competing” store brands. So, Snack Pack pudding, one consumer packaged good selling at approximately 25 cents per pack, generates millions in advertising and promotion.
This is the landscape in which Spiritual Leadership, typically operating with $0.00 budget, must operate. Spiritual Leadership is about overcoming these odds. It is, as aforementioned, about the transcendent potential in the immanent and mundane. It is a calling. There is no promise that the work will save countless sentient beings. There is only the individual and his or her vow to save countless sentient beings.
27 million slaves continue. Old age, illness, and death continue. Suffering created by Snack Pack Pudding, and other consumer packaged goods, continues. So, too, therefore, have I vowed to continue.
I will tell the story and try and change the world, 1 person and 1 action at a time. I can do no other.
I hope you, having read this testimony, will do likewise.