Global cultures take-home final exam
Both the Dalai Lama and the United Nations have indicated a belief in the potential existence of a global culture. Each has striven to improve conditions for and relations between various sectors of that culture, though their methods differ.
(a) In Ethics for the new millennium, the Dalai Lama points out several sufficient conditions for achieving an ‘ideal’ global culture. He states, “…a generous heart and wholesome actions lead to greater peace (21).” This reflects the Dalai Lama’s belief that the ideal global culture is a peaceful one, and being generous and acting on that generosity are sufficient conditions by which peace is achieved. He also writes about the importance of recognizing all humans’ needs as being interrelated: “When we neglect others’ well-being and ignore the universal dimension of our actions, it is inevitable that we will come to see our interests as separate from theirs. We will overlook the fundamental oneness of the human family (163).” Neglecting the well-being of others is a sufficient condition for self-centeredness. Race, religion, and physical characteristics matter not to the Dalai Lama. He writes, “If I were to look on each as one of my own kind—as a human being like myself…—then automatically that sense of distance would fade (164).” He believes it is paramount for humans to look upon each other as having similar needs and desires. He explains how we can achieve this point: “…when we commit ourselves to honesty, we help reduce the level of misunderstanding, doubt, and fear throughout society (168).” The Dalai Lama believes honesty is a sufficient condition not only for improving understanding, but also for reducing doubt and fear. These objectives can bring humans closer together, because it is through fear and ignorance that many societal problems arise. The most tragic of those problems is violence, and the Dalai Lama takes a succinct stance against it: “Violence begets violence. And violence means only one thing: suffering (202).” Violence is a sufficient condition for more violence and suffering. Much of Ethics is devoted to pointing out methods for reducing suffering, because happiness and suffering are generally inversely proportional.
The United Nations takes a different approach to achieving global culture, traditionally focusing on human rights. The preamble to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights implies that “disregard and contempt for human rights” are sufficient to cause “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” This statement makes obvious that the United Nations, too, believes that all humans are interconnected, because all humans actually share a “conscience.” The U.N. Millennium Development Goals detail the United Nations’ recent attempt at making the global culture better. Straying from a largely rights-oriented message, the goals aim to increase ‘development,’ apparently measured by overall wealth, equality, and health. The eighth goal, titled “Develop a global partnership for development,” includes a strategy of assisting developing nations by resolving debt problems and striving to provide affordable drugs in those countries. The achievement of these things would be a sufficient condition for furthering development.
For the most part, the Dalai Lama speaks about inner peace, and peace between humans. The U.N. initiatives have more to do with improving what people have, not how happy or peaceful they are. Increasing wealth is part of the first development goal, whereas the Dalai Lama does not give any advice for increasing wealth. He helps his readers obtain a higher level of satisfaction with what they already have, usually through focusing on eliminating suffering. The U.N. goals do, however, state the importance of reducing hunger and disease, two things which cause suffering. The United Nations and the Dalai Lama, therefore, share in a desire to reduce suffering. While the Dalai Lama desires to reduce suffering to increase happiness and peace between humans, though, the United Nations desires to reduce suffering on more of a human rights ground. Article three of the U.N. declaration states “Everyone has the right to life…” This right is basically what the United Nations is trying to protect. An additional difference between the two, interestingly, is that the U.N. goals make no mention of reducing violence, whereas the Dalai Lama points to violence as a supreme cause of suffering.
(b) The Dalai Lama states, “inner restraint is indispensable for being genuinely happy,” and “…as is an ethic of virtue (101).” Having both inner restraint and an ethic of virtue is a necessary condition for happiness. Not only that, but we need to cultivate and reinforce our positive qualities, because our happiness is influenced by how we appear to, and thereby affect, others. The Dalai Lama says, “Peace in the world thus depends on us all practicing ethics by disciplining our response to negative thoughts and emotions, and developing basic spiritual qualities (202).” Practicing ethics individually is a necessary condition for peace globally. In fact, all of these ideas of self-improvement carry over into achieving the Dalai Lama’s global culture, illustrated on page 162. He says, “It is essential that we cultivate a sense of what I call universal responsibility.” His stating ‘universal responsibility’ implies that each human has a duty toward all others.
The first article of the U.N. declaration says that equal and inalienable rights, including gender equality, are necessary conditions for freedom. They are, in fact, the “foundation of freedom.” Since different countries may have varying ‘levels’ of freedom currently guaranteed to their citizenry, countries must work to solidify the freedom bestowed upon their citizens. This can allow for more harmonious interaction between nations. The U.N. declaration preamble outlines the importance of legal protection of human rights and friendly relations between nations, calling these ‘essential.’ They are necessary conditions for the achievement of the U.N. global culture.
As the United Nations remains focused on human development, specifically development of freedoms, the Dalai Lama continues to be focused on peace. A notable difference between the United Nations and the Dalai Lama is how each deals with gender equality. The U.N. declaration makes gender equality key, while the Dalai Lama is silent on the issue. This does not necessarily mean he is against gender equality, but his lack of addressing the issue stands out. Perhaps this is because of his upbringing as a Tibetan monk, with presumably little interaction with women.
Throughout all the U.N. documents, the main ideas seem to be promotion of human rights and friendly international relations. This is sensible because an organization with the name ‘United Nations’ should play a role in bringing countries together. The Dalai Lama mainly p
romotes healthy spirituality, which leads to happiness, which leads to peace. His antiviolence stance also promotes peace, which ties in to the U.N. goal of bringing countries together. The agency and the man, therefore, have different methods of achieving what is essentially the same goal: a global culture of peace and happiness.
(a) In Vietnam, the departure of American soldiers caused a terrible situation to unfold. Many Americans had either married or entered into other arrangements with Vietnamese women, and prostitutes. When these men returned home, they left thousands of women behind, many with children (Vietnam, 32). For this reason, the men were the main oppressors. Perhaps one could also blame the United States for sending the soldiers to Vietnam in the first place.
The Vietnamese women also were oppressors, because many of them abandoned their partially American children, leaving them to the streets as “children of the dust.” Luckily, many of these children were adopted, but unfortunately many were adopted by people with an ulterior motive: adopting an American child made immigrating to America easier. In fact, upon arrival, many of the children were abandoned again.
(b) The women whose husbands and lovers abandoned them were affected gravely. First, the emotional scarring that surely resulted from the abandonment, combined with the ill effects of the war for all Vietnamese, probably made life very hard. Additionally, many of the women had little financial means to raise any children they had with the American soldiers. This caused many of the women to do the unthinkable and abandon their children, just as they were abandoned by their men. This shows the extreme degree of oppression the women must have felt.
(c) We can only speculate as to why the American soldiers would have abandoned their wives and lovers. Surely many of the men already had families in the United States, so bringing back a new woman, or not returning home, would not have been honorable. Given the extreme chaos at the time, a fair number of soldiers were probably mentally ill. Perhaps under better conditions, the men would have exercised more common sense and remained faithful to their American wives, or perhaps they would have considered the feasibility of having a Vietnamese lover after the war ended.
Similar reasoning can be attributed to the mothers who abandoned their babies. Everyone had recently witnessed much killing and loss of loved ones. Nobody knows what was going on inside the head of anybody in Vietnam.
(a) One of the most appalling instances of oppression of a marginalized group occurred in South Africa during the past century, and ironically the oppressors were the minority by number. General Barry Hertzog and his supporters, panderers to the Afrikaners, formed the National Party (South Africa, 25). This signaled a massive deterioration in black rights, beginning with a loss of labor rights. Then, in 1948, the National Party succeeded in passing apartheid, “the state of being apart (26).”
This policy embodied some of the most extreme oppression of blacks by whites. The most direct responsibility lay with the National Party. Ultimately though, all the whites who partook in the system of segregation were really the oppressors. Even the Dutch Reformed churches played a role, as they provided the religious backup for apartheid.
(b) The African National Congress, representing blacks, quickly developed a program of open resistance, including “strikes, acts of public disobedience, and protest marches.” The oppression of the blacks caused them to unify and take action. There certainly was suffering, and many blacks were jailed and abused by the whites for defying the law. Blacks were “detained indefinitely without trial.” The arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1963 proved to be one of the most notable events in the history of apartheid. His jailing helped his cause, to the dismay of the government.
Eventually, the blacks overcame apartheid through boycotts, and ultimately through democratic elections, beginning in 1994. While the oppression of the blacks was severe for a long time, much progress has been made.
(c) The first justification for the oppression was simply that the National Party gained control in 1924, and the party’s goal was to promote Afrikaner interests. This caused the increasingly restrictive policies toward blacks. Eventually, with the Dutch Reformed church’s backing of apartheid, religion became a major justification for the oppression. No sensible justification existed, though, because suppressing an entire population on the basis of skin color, as we know, is absurd. Unfortunately, “some whites still believe the dangerous myth that apartheid was basically a reasonable political system that was poorly implemented (26).”
(a) History can show us many examples of Muslim commitment to nonviolence. The Khudai Khidmatgars, an army of Muslim ‘servants of God,’ required members to take an oath of nonviolence: “I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty (Easwaran, p. 111).” Ghaffar Khan, son of Gandhi-influenced Behram Khan, led the Khudai Khidmatgars. “They armed themselves with only their discipline, their faith, and their native mettle.”
Much of the world, unfortunately, is quite ignorant in matters of Islam. Largely due to the media, many people think Muslims are inherently violent because Islam dictates such behavior, but this is not the case. According to Qadar Muheideen, Islam does not allow aggression. Only a limited amount of fighting is ‘allowed,’ mainly to stand up to oppression, despotism, and injustice on behalf of the oppressed (Satha-Anand, p. 9). The only type of war a Muslim should engage in is one of defense. These criteria, though, can feasibly be construed to cover acts that might be deemed as terrorism, but the consensus of a significant portion of Muslims should also help in determining whether an act is against the Qur’an.
Especially when terrorism results in the death of innocents, claiming the act was defensive is hard. Any type of action to spread Islam should be entirely nonviolent. According to ‘Abd-af-Radhiq’s reading of the Qur’an, “God has instructed the Muslims to propagate their religion only through peaceful persuasion and preaching (Satha-Anand, p. 10).”
Another instance of Muslim nonviolence occurred following the murder of six Malay Muslims in Pattani in 1975. After a month-long peaceful protest, the Thai government finally caved, and among other changes, Pattani’s governor was replaced by a Muslim. Five qualities of the Muslims allowed them to successfully and nonviolently protest: they possessed the will to disobey, because “God alone is supreme”; they were courageous because they “submitted only to Allah”; their Muslim discipline allows for an efficient protest; their strong concept of ummah (community); and finally, the feeling among the Pattani Muslims was an ‘active’ feeling, not a passive one. This last point is important because jihad “can be performed by heart, tongue or hand (Satha-Anand, p. 21),” and two of these three methods are ‘active.’ Islam encourages active, but nonviolent, change.
One final illustration of Muslims committed to nonviolence is when Muslim clerics responded to the September 11, 2001, attacks. “Those who attack the innocent will be punished by Allah,” said Sheikh Mohammed Sayyad al-Tantawi of Al-Azhar (Khan, p. 1) Additionally, Shaikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon said that the “barbaric attacks” were “un-Islamic, forbidden by Islam.” These two opinions clearly illustrate that many Muslims frown upon violence.
(b) Though Christianity’s history may the most violent of the major religions (Kimball, 27), Christians have also shown a commitment to nonviolence. One poignant example is a man featured on the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings video. His wife was shot in church, but he wanted to let the media know that people in such situations should not take revenge. His faith allowed him to forgive his attackers, and now the matter is between them and God.
Gandhi, who embodied nonviolence, considered himself a follower of Jesus. Martin Luther King Jr. “found strength” in Jesus’s teachings, as well as in Gandhi’s example. Ironically, both these men faced oppression by supposed Christians “supporting segregation and opposing civil rights.” (Kimball, 28)
(c) The main justification for September 11, 2001, has supposedly come from Osama bin Laden. First, he mentioned a century of Palestinian murders by the West. Bin Laden uses much scripturally linked reasoning. He said, “Here is the Islamic nation, who with the grace of Allah has started to throw at you her dearest children, who have promised Allah to pursue the jihad, with the pen and the sword, in order to establish the truth and banish falsehood.” He is obviously interpreting jihad to mean military war, apparently in retaliation for grievances. Still, this is not a defensive war, and is thereby against the Qur’an (Satha-Anand).
Bin Laden gave additional reasons in a later speech published by AlJazeera. He said that his grand schemes were inspired in 1982 when America permitted an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Bin Laden also mentioned Bush Sr., and how Bush committed the “greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known” in Iraq. These reasons, however distant, wrong, or skewed, apparently served as Al Qaeda’s excuse to attack.
(d) In January, 1993, on Orthodox Christmas Day, Muslims killed between 30 and 100 people in Kravica. In fact, “Muslim defenders of the enclave” invaded many times Christian Serb villages, killing hundreds. This provoked the murder of “up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys” by Bosnian Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic (Economist, 18). It is apparent that Muslims committed horrible crimes against the Christians, made worse because the massacre of 30-100 occurred on Christmas. This provides most of the justification for the horrendous massacres, however anti-Christian such massacres surely are.
Though these Christians didn’t justify their use of force with scripture, they felt content with themselves in carrying out the massacres. This shows that they were at peace with themselves for using violence as a reaction to the Muslims’ use of violence.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ethics for the new millennium, New York: Riverhead Books, 1999, pp. 101, 121, 162-8, 202
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948
Dane County Chapter of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A., www.una-usadanecounty.org UN Millennium Goals site: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/index.html
“Facts about Vietnam – history,” Vietnam, Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1999, pp. 11, 19-35
“Facts about the region,” South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland, Victoria, Austria: Lonely Planet Publications: 2000, pp. 15-33
Eknath Easwaran, A man to match his mountains: Badshah Khan, nonviolent soldier of Islam, Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press, 1984, pp. 103-113
Chaiwat Satha-Anand (Qadar Muheideen), “The nonviolent crescent: eight theses on Muslim nonviolent actions,” in Glenn D. Paige, Chaiwat Satha-Anand (Qadar Muheideen) and Sarah Gilliatt (eds.), Islam and nonviolence, Honolulu, Hawaii: Center for Global Nonviolence Planning Project, Matsunaga Institute for Peace, University of Hawaii, 1993, pp. 7-25
“Muslim clerics say attacks on US are un-Islamic,” E-mail to Joe Elder from Irfan Khan, Sept. 16, 2001
Charles Kimball, When religion becomes evil, San Francisco: Harper, 2000, pp. 15-33
Osama bin Laden, “… call on every Muslim …” “As you kill, you shall be killed,” in Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda, New York: Berkeley Books, 2002, pp. xlvii-xlix, 1
“Full transcript of bin Laden’s speech,” [Oct. 20, 2004], Aljazeera, NET
The Economist, 7-9-2005, “The Srebrenica Massacre”
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