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lol, don't get me started.
Besides the above thread on HHDL and materialism, you can read some of my thoughts about that here and here. The shorty answer is, my Buddhist practice made more aware of and concerned about the material and political state of the world, and motivated me to get politically active. And that eventually led me to a critical view of capitalism and the conviction that fundamental changes in our economy have to be made, not only for our happiness but also for our survival as a species.
Yes, but only if you're a Chelsea or Leicester fan.
Seriously though, one can enjoy things, just try not to get too wrapped up into them and become angry when they lose or haughty when they win, etc. Have a healthy distance from them, try to enjoy watching without becoming attached and enjoy the sport for what it is.
While it's true that eastern culture helps support things like monasteries and renunciates more than western culture, I think everyone has the potential to be a good contemplative. I've known many westerners who are amazing contemplatives, many within the Buddhist tradition. I don't think anyone would accuse Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Pasanno, etc. of not being good Buddhists. They just had the right character and motivation to do well in the practice. And just as many in the west practice well, many in the global east don't and make not-so-good practitioners. Buddhism isn't an identity so much as a practice, and anyone can be good at it if they have the desire and conducive surroundings. There may be more eastern or western trappings to it, but I think the core of contemplativism is essentially the same.
It's difficult and requires a lot of practice, such as developing dispassion, contemplating death for perspective and motivation, developing contentment with what one has, seeing the world as empty of self, and realizing that these things aren't ours and can't bring happiness on their own and can actually cause us suffering if we become too attached (see some of my thoughts on clinging for more).
Re: Sam Harris, I've read some of the transcript of their exchange via Klein's article about it, and I definitely think Harris is starting to slide into dangerous intellectual territory. Much of what he's trying to defend re: Murray and the Bell Curve has been heavily criticised by others, and some I thought thoroughly debunked years ago. He's sounding more and more like the social Darwinists of the 19th century.
Re: progress, very few people would argue that progress hasn't been made. What people like me criticize, however, is how that progress has been historically engineered in such a way as to really benefit a small minority of the population while often times being used to supress the progress of others, from colonial conquest and physical suppression to intellectual supression via various forms of discrimination and restrictions placed upon distribution of new technologies and medicines via property rights. I'm actually amazed at the level of progress we've made despite all that, and can see how much further along we'd be with a more equitable world.
Also, for what it's worth, Pinker glosses over a lot of the negatives and out right harm that's been done to paint such a rosey picture of progress, e.g., his treatment of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.