A cause-creating drive is powerful within him; someone must be to blame for his feeling vile. His “righteous indignation” itself already does him good; every poor devil finds pleasure in scolding – it gives him a little of the intoxication of power. Even complaining and wailing can give life a charm for the sake of which one endures it: there is a small dose of revenge in every complaint, one reproaches those who are different for one’s feeling vile, sometimes even with one’s being vile, as if they had perpetrated an injustice or possessed an impermissible privilege. “If I am canaille, you ought to be so, too”: on the basis of this logic, one makes revolutions. Complaining is never of any use, it comes from weakness. Whether one attributes one’s feeling vile to others or to oneself – the socialist does the former, the Christian for example does the latter – makes no essential difference. What is common to both, and unworthy in both, is that someone has to be to blame for the fact that one suffers – in short, that the sufferer prescribes for himself the honey of revenge as a medicine for his suffering.
— Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
The Buddha said, “All life is suffering.” This doesn’t mean that your entire life is always spent in pain. Obviously not. We all have times in our lives when we’re happy. Our entire lives are not constant misery.
No. What the Buddha meant was that all of us are suffering. Every single person you see is having a tough time just getting through life. No matter how rich they are or how much supposed “privilege” they have. The Buddha was a wealthy man from one of the most privileged races and classes of his time. He gave up his wealth and privilege because it didn’t do anything to relieve his suffering.
There is a poisonous notion gripping much of the United States these days that there are people in our midst who never suffer. Holding such ideas is a way of dehumanizing others; it’s a way of allowing ourselves an excuse for hate and providing an easy target to take out our frustrations on. It’s a bad idea. And the saddest thing of all is to see so many Buddhist centers in our country embracing this awful idea and promoting it.
We are all suffering. There is no measurement for suffering. There are no ranks for suffering. It affects every single one of us.
…Women suffer. Men suffer. The poor suffer. The rich suffer. This disabled suffer. The able-bodied suffer. Gay people suffer. Trans people suffer. Straight cis-gendered people suffer. Homeless people suffer. People in beautiful homes suffer. Black people suffer. Latinos suffer. Middle Eastern people, Native Americans, and Asians suffer. White people suffer.
We are all lonely and sad and confused and frustrated. We are all afraid to die. No one is exempt.
The idea that some suffer while others don’t is false and damaging. The idea that some forms of suffering are important while other forms of suffering don’t really matter is ugly and wrong. It gives those in the supposedly “privileged” classes the notion that they are not suffering — which is at odds with their real, lived experience. It often makes the supposedly “privileged” more likely to cause suffering. And it gives others the notion that if only they had the supposed privileges accorded to those other people that they too would no longer suffer. It makes for needless jealousy and envy and greed. It’s a rotten idea that stands in the way of getting at the real root of suffering. It is a lie.
This is probably the best articulation one could ask for in response to the incessant, pernicious cant about “privilege” we’ve been hearing for years. I suppose it’s an idle question to ask why, at this particular point in time, so many people have become possessed by the idea that there is such a thing as a life free of suffering, that it’s being unfairly hoarded by this or that group of people, and that we deserve to take it from them by means fair if possible, or foul if necessary. As Warner said in the previous post, the Buddha called such things “questions tending not to edification.” Regardless of the particular origin, the response is always the same. Envy has spontaneously combusted throughout history and always will; the point is to see it for the lie it is and to stop indulging in the behavior. The simplest things are often incredibly difficult.