Stalin was asked once by a foreign dignitary during a dinner, “How long do you intend to keep torturing your people and expect them to keep following you?” In response, Stalin requested that alive chicken is brought to him. He grabbed it vehemently by the neck and one by one, plucked the feathers off until not one was left on the bird. Then he put it on the floor, grabbed a piece of bread off the table and started walking away. The chicken wobbled after him and when it started to rub on his trousers, Stalin got a small piece of the bread, really a crumb and reached down to the animal. The chicken pecked at it. Then Stalin said to the dignitary, “Do you see this chicken? I inflicted pain on it. Now it will follow me for food for the rest of its life. People are like that. If you inflict pain on them, they will follow you for the rest of their lives.”
Having grown up under communist regime I do know what Stalin was talking about. But also knowing the blood line I come from I know that Stalin’s conclusion can also have different and undesired results. As Bulgarians we say that we have “hot blood” because even though our country has been through many periods of slavery and oppression, a point has always been reached when our “hot blood” started “boiling” and we have fiercely and righteously risen up to overthrow the oppressor. Five hundred years of slavery and being massacred by the Muslims were not able to erase the name of Christ written on our hearts. Young Bulgarian women committed mass suicides because they refused to give up their faith in Jesus and because they refused to willingly give their bodies to the Ottomans. The Ottomans also put the so-called blood tax on my land. Yes, the Bulgarians even back then had to pay taxes just as we now in the USA pay our taxes annually. So would the Muslims once a year collect blood tax. What it was? It was the time when the oppressors walked through the villages and collected the healthiest and strongest Bulgarian boys. They converted them into Islam, made them part of their military and brainwashed them to be ruthless killing machines of the infidel. There is the story of one village where the Ottomans went to collect the blood tax but one mother refused and said “No.” They then told her, “We will come tomorrow for your son. If you do not give him to us, we will kill him.” The mother responded, “I will kill my son with my own two hands than to give him to you.” The next day in the morning, the mom hides her son in the forest and kills a rooster, sprinkling its blood on the home’s front door and porch. When the Ottomans arrive, they had been so shocked and shaken to see that, thinking that she has killed her son that not one of the oppressors had returned to this village to collect blood tax anymore. We commemorate this day in my home country to this very day as Rooster day. But my home land has been saturated with bloody history even before the Ottoman Empire and even before the year 681 when Bulgaria was officially established.
I say all this to point out a little flaw in Stalin’s thinking that I believe the Western exploitative mind has realized. Pain can be an activator – one that strengthens you, builds your faith and hope, and causes you to rise up. And when you do rise up, it is like a tsunami wave – taking down all along the way. I still remember the overthrow of the communist regime in my Bulgaria. The whole city center and parliament set on fire (that would be as if the White House and congress were set on fire) by the people’s revolution, and documents being torn and thrown out from the politicians’ offices.
What in my opinion is the ultimate opioid for the masses (so cleverly exploited in the USA) is pleasure and empowerment. They are the most efficient remote yet close control of the people. From politics to media to modern day gurus and healers, they know this truth well: people are suffering and aching, people are unhappy, but give them the supposed right and means to feel good, and to seek self-empowerment and self-realization, and they will sell their soul to the devil thinking they are on some spiritual journey of enlightenment plus hey, they get to claim their power and significance too. The gullibility of Americans, the ease with which they allow themselves to be deceived, and their egoic self-centered desire for the sensational, powerful, magical, easy, big, and fabulous are a well-known fact to other cultures. I guess it is a well-known fact for some of our modern day teachers too. Give people little crumbs of feel good rights, okay-ing immoral behaviors in the name of one’s personal choice, self-empowerment, and even invoking magical powers (and I am not joking here), and people will follow you for the rest of their lives.
Pleasure is destructive and addictive. The thing is that people who are addicted to the pleasure of self-empowerment and the miraculous, even when they realize the deception instead of pulling away they go even more into it. Like a drug, giving it up is so hard. And so interestingly, in so many of these movements natural drugs are advocated. Just today, I received an email from an organization called Four Winds society going into a historical review and neuroscience, and somehow ending with encouragement for the use of plants. First of all, they were speaking of dietary habits of ancient Europeans and Mesopotamians which was faulty. Is not that I know more but this is where I grew up and where my ancestors come from, so I have simply lived it. Second, being a neurodevelopmental specialist I know few things and when I see organizations like that clearly pushing their agenda but not having any credible and reliable research to back it up with, and quite the contrary what they wrote was quite selective and misleading – I had to email them back. And thirdly, speaking about shamans and other cultures healing modalities with the agenda to push people into using drugs even if they are natural plants – is not okay. In the email, they talked against medical drugs but they forget that medical drugs have been patterned and formulated after the plants. So whether it is a synthetic drug or natural plant it is still a drug and is harmful. That is why in many cultures, traditionally it is only the healer who takes the plant and not the person who is being healed. I once visited a friend in the Amazon jungle for couple of weeks. A whole healing ceremony was designed with the native shamans where the westerners drank ayahuasca, a mixture from the same called plant. When I inquired the shamans and my friend to tell me more, I was surprised to learn that nowdays ayahuasca was given to the people who are seeking the healing because of their demand (and after all they pay money for their retreats so they expect to get an opening and life-changing experience). I was explained that traditionally the actual medicine is in the singing of the shamans, not the plant. Traditionally, it was only the shaman who is supposed to drink ayahuasca so to reach a sort of opening, and the healing ceremony is with the shaman seated in front of the person and singing to them. That’s it – singing. The singing is the medicine for the person and the plant is for the shaman. There is a reason for that and I think it is because the shamans in their wisdom knew very well the risks involved with it. We will only see in the future as this seeker generation suffers from them.
I personally have treated a young 19 year old boy in neuro rehabilitation because he had suffered brain injury from smoking too much pot. Yup! And yes, it makes me think more about all the medical marijuana “wellness” centers and policy proposals pushed forth. That there are documented pain relief benefits for some critical patients, there are. But what breaks my heart is the corruption of people now days because any credible neurospecialist will tell you how damaging to the brain marijuana is, how it shuts the brain off so that one is so much more susceptible to control, addiction, neurologic injury and how it numbs down the person. Moreover, the negative effect on one’s intellectual capacity especially when consumed before one’s late twenties has been well documented.
I know that there are many people who will get angry at me for writing this but I have had enough. When I treat my patients, especially when it is little toddlers and babies, who have been damaged because of their parents’ use (even of the so-called natural plants), it breaks my heart. When I see people like the natives in the Amazon, it breaks my heart. What we do with our western retreats for opening and seeking our own healing, empowerment and transformational experiences is not only abusing and misusing but raping those cultures. I know this sounds harsh but sometimes we need the harsh truth to be spoken. If it were otherwise and if we really had respect for people’s ways, we will do it truly their way and not change it to fit our demand for experience. It’ll be allowing the shaman to sing to us and not we ourselves trying to achieve the place of the shaman and a high-experience by taking the plant. It will mean that if we are to truly walk the way of the Hindu, we will remember that we cannot pick and choose what we like and feels good but follow through with all that is in the religion we’ve chosen. Hinduism is one culture that to this day practices blood sacrifice at the altar of their gods and goddesses and self-mutilation (Islam is another religion that to this day practices genital mutilation in women). Just an example of the past: up until the 1960s, it was normal for Hindus to throw away female babies in the rivers and for some widows to throw themselves in the fire that was cremating their husbands as ritual required. All of this changed because of the human rights changes driven by Christian workers. My Thracian ancestors in their ritual to seek appeasement from the gods and for their personal empowerment sacrificed the most beautiful, good and wise virgin girl in the tribe. How many of the people today claiming to walk the ancient way of other cultures are truly doing it? Or are they living a lie? For the people living in ceremony and following the path of Indian culture for example, that would definitely mean blood sacrifice. Excuses like “well, it is inhumane and uncivilized nowdays” are cheap because that would mean that you are not really respecting and honoring the very healers and spirituality in this culture and that you’re using only what suits you… and may be you are in for the feel good spirituality and shape of yoga? (and by the way, yoga is not a physical exercise like many in the U.S. are sold to think. It is a religious/spiritual practice of Indian religion (Hinduism). Some faiths have sacred scriptures to use in spiritual life application; others like Hinduism have practices such as is yoga, which is like a sacred sign language in the life application of the religious practice of Hindus) – and that very pursuit of “feel good,” and spiritual attainment and enlightenment is nothing more or less than being in alignment with the character of the modern day oppressor and exploiter hiding behind the cosmetic veneer of good intention and preservation of ancient ways.
But we have no right to pick and choose what we will take from other cultures or faiths because when we do that we are modifying them to suit our own purposes. And we have no right doing that. It would be as if me a Bulgarian telling a Mexican how to cook their traditional dish or that I know better how to dress in their traditional attire. I am sure I will go with what looks better and sexier on me and what feels better to my Mediterranean taste buds then to what is really true in the Mexican heritage.
On a similar note, we must also remember how universities started. They started as and to this day are one of the biggest control mechanisms. Yes, no wonder universities started from Aristotle’s thought. Aristotle told his private student Alexander the Great, “Kill them all” in regards to the native people in the lands that Alexander conquered. But Alexander as a good student answered, “No. I will teach them!” – what a genius! And so he built the first universities teaching people Greek, astronomy, and philosophy. Giving people the (false) sense of empowerment and pleasure by giving them the very sense of superiority, feeling good about themselves, and feeling empowered from their knowledge and the mystical while achieving control over people’s thoughts and intentions, and subverting them to his way without the people even realizing. Truly… genius! It also reminds me of many modern day teachers from Chopra to Oprah to Michael Beckwith and Marianne Williamson, who know well how to use the ancient clever techniques to keep the masses following them and so keeping the flow in their bank accounts “following” too.
This is a good place to stop my observation of life in the USA and the world with a reminder that making a personal choice does not mean that we are making a good choice or the right choice. It is a good reminder that in some cultures, people love their neighbor while in others they eat him. It is good to also remember as Ravi Zacharias puts it that “Pleasure, not pain, is the death knell of meaning… Pleasure without boundaries produces a life without purpose. That is real pain” because at that point of ultimate bliss and personal satisfaction when it is “all about me” and having an ecstatic experience “…no death, no tragedy, no atrocity – nothing really matters. Life is sheer hollowness, with no purpose.” I believe that on some level we all know that our problem is not that suffering and pain produce unhappiness and emptiness. The true problem is that pleasure, ambition, and our searches for personal experience and enlightenment leave us empty and unfulfilled. So “when the pleasure button is pressed incessantly, we are left feeling bewilderingly empty and betrayed” (Ravi Zacharias).
I hope people mature and say, “Enough.”
“The depravity of the human heart is at once the most intellectually resisted yet most empiraclly verifiable reality,” Malcolm Muggeridge has said.
But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offence to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Jesus (Matthew 16:23-26)
Rooster day in Bulgaria: