The politics of peace

I’m being topical this week, by asking what politics is all about? Fundamentally, I think it’s about change, about making the world into what we concieve as being a better place. But we have to question whether politics can provide that. Where does a better world come from? It has to come from pure minds. While people have greed, intolerance, and selfishness, we cannot expect to live in a pure and harmoneous society, no matter who is voted into government. We all have to take some responsibility for being part of the problem. For example, a consumer society is motivated by the greed of each individual within it: we all want cheap bananas, while rarely thinking of the social or environmental cost.

If each individual is part of the problem, we all need to be part of the solution: we can’t expect govenrment legislation to solve the problem for us. We can create peace within our own minds and share that with others, allow that inner peace to produce an outer peace in our immediate circle, and eventually in our whole society.

In Transform Your Life, Geshe-la says:

Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called ‘peacekeeping forces’ into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be imposed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.

We expect far too much from politics: if we’re expecting political solutions to solve our own problems, then we are not taking responsibility for our own minds. I’m not saying we don’t need politics: our society does need to be organized, and we can try to do that in the fairest and most humane ways. But just changing Prime Minister will never be enough; we need to remove the negative views and intentions within everyone’s minds. To do that, we first have to stop believing that external change can solve our problems, and start looking for change within.

Because of our expectation that political change alone can create the world we want to live in, we easily develop attachment to our political views. Even is a view is beneficial, if we develop attachment to it, believing it is the only opinion that counts, then we create problems. Tune in to a political debate: everyone is talking louder and louder, but no-one is listening to each other’s opinions.

Due to strong attachment to our own views, we immediately experience the inner problem of unpleasant feelings when someone opposes them. This causes us to become angry, which leads to arguments and conflicts with others, and this in turn gives rise to further problems. Most political problems experienced throughout the world are caused by people with strong attachment to their own views.

Geshe Kelsang, How to Solve Our Human Problems

If we allow attachment to views to arise strongly, then politics stops being about making the world better and becomes just about being right. Of course we all have views – that’s fine. But we wary of attchment telling you that other people’s views don’t matter.

I’m not saying that our political system is bad – there are certainly far worse – or that we shouldn’t be part of it. But I think that as we vote, we should recognize the limitations of politics. We can’t wait for politicians to solve our problems and then complain when they don’t. Thay can’t; it’s not their fault. We have to solve the problem of our own unpeaceful minds ourselves.

So, I vote for peace; and the power to make that happen begins with me.


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