Friday, March 20, 2009

Richard Davidson

Mr. Compassion-For-All-Beings

On the cover of this week’s Isthmus, Madison’s weekly hip progressive what’s-happening newspaper is a large smiling visage of Richard Davidson. (I’ll edit this post and add a picture of the issue when they get it on line.)

The article is essentially the same one that Madison Magazine featured on their cover a while back. I can sum up both articles in a few words: Davidson (“call me Richie”) is “proving” by the use of brain scans that Tibetan Buddhist meditation, what he terms “compassion meditation,” changes one’s brain and one becomes a better person through this practice. And, as always, the Dalai Lama, Davidson’s personal friend, is mentioned throughout the article to add bona fides to Davidson’s claims.

Even people who know the unwritten about parts of Davidson’s career say the articles make them think he is a saint.

I will say it again: Davidson is a fraud, a cruel fraud.

You cannot make claims about compassion for all beings – as he does in his public performances – and torture animals - as he does behind closed doors - without being either insane or a fraud. If he's nuts, then I wish him well and hope he gets the help he needs. But he does not seem crazy to me. Evil, cruel, self-serving, arrogant, and a publicity whore, but not crazy. Am i too harsh? Maybe he is just uninformed?

Over a decade ago, he and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Ned Kalin and Steve Shelton, discovered an identifiable trait in a small minority of rhesus monkeys. They have described this trait in various ways, but it comes down to fearful. You may have known young children who are easily frightened, filled with anxiety, shy, and inhibited; the monkeys they learned how to identify through brain scans are just like those kids.

Once they had these monkeys in their control, they frightened them. (What else should one do with fearful young monkeys?) Then, they damaged their brains, frightened them again, and then killed them. And they have done this many times, and are still doing it.

And yet, adoring fans flock to his lectures and bask in his love for all.

Next thing you know, media won’t question a President’s justifications for bombing another country or going to war; business experts will say that the economy is healthy even as it begins to collapse. The United States doesn't torture people. Gullible drones. That’s us.

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