What The Dalai Lama says about Nationalism

Today I am going to discuss nationalism with you. This is a theme that weighs very heavily on my heart. Everywhere I go I see flags flying high, allegiances being pledged, dividing spirits leaping from the lips of every proud citizen of various nations. The USA is one of the most nationalistic countries I have ever been to. Nationalism is almost literally bred into us. We are bombarded with the word “freedom” on a regular basis. Yet what I see, having travelled a fair bit, is not freedom but cleverly masked control. Jacque Fresco says: “All institutions sing, ‘We are free.’ The minute you hear ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, watch out… because in a truly free nation, no one has to tell you you’re free.” Not only is this nationalism cleverly masked control, but it is also hurting us all more than it is helping anything.

The following is an excerpt from An Open Heart by the Dalai Lama. I implore you to read this with an open mind. Clinging to old nationalistic ways is not going to make you more secure, rather more vulnerable, and also a bigger threat to the future existence of the human race. If we are to continue on this path and survive, we must be awake, we must think, we must open our hearts and our minds. 

“Since our very existence and well-being are a result of the cooperation and contributions of countless others, we must develop a proper attitude about the way we relate to them. We often tend to forget this basic fact. Today, in our modern global economy, national boundaries are irrelevant. Not only do countries depend upon one another, but so do continents. We are heavily interdependent.

When we look closely at the many problems facing humanity today, we can see that they have been created by us. I am not speaking of natural disasters. However, conflicts, bloodshed, problems arising out of nationalism and national boundaries, are all man-made.

If we look at the world from space, we would not see any demarcations of national boundaries. We would simply see one small planet, just one. Once we draw a line in the sand, we develop the feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ As this feeling grows, it becomes harder to see the reality of the situation. In many countries in Africa, and recently in some eastern European countries such as the former Yugoslavia, there is great narrow-minded nationalism.

In a sense the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is almost no longer relevant, as our neighbours’ interests are ours as well. Caring for our neighbours’ interests is essentially caring for our own future. Today the reality is simple. In harming our enemy, we are harmed…today the concept of war has become outdated. When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer relevant.”


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