Lesson
12

Compassionate Society

6 of 7

Politics and Economics

Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. We need to reassess our motivation and our behavior in the light of a greater sense of universal responsibility.

Politics and economics play a crucial role in the kind of world we live in and profoundly affect our pursuit of happiness. The Dalai Lama says that if we wish to make it a reality, we have to ensure that compassion inspires all our actions. Do you think compassion and universal responsibility are forces in political and economic policies in your culture? In the world?

If you answered yes, consider this:

Probably half the worlds population lacks the basic necessities of adequate food, shelter, medical care, and education, I believe we need to question whether we are really pursuing the wisest course in this regard. Ethics for the New Millennium

The Dalai Lama proposes that a continuation of current political and economic policies will result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  Here we present a few areas of consideration.

"It's the politicians."

Politicians are a product of their societies, so if we want less corrupt politicians, we must practice ethical discipline in our own lives.

Do you agree with this conclusion by the Dalai Lama:

I do not deny that even in the world's most established democracies it is quite usual to hear politicians making unrealistic promises and boasting about what they are going to do when elected. But these people do not drop out of the sky. So if it is true that a given country's politicians are corrupt, we tend to find that the society is itself lacking in morality and that the individuals who make up the population do not lead ethical lives.  When people possess healthy values, and where they practice ethical discipline in their own lives out of concern for others, the public officials produced by that society will quite naturally respect those same values. Each of us, therefore, has a role to play in creating a society in which respect and care for others, based on empathy, are given top priority. Ethics for the New Millennium

Ethics and politics
  

Is it mere idealism to expect ethics in politics?

History shows that many of the positive developments in human society have occurred as the result of compassion. If we look at the evolution of human society, we see the necessity of having vision in order to bring about positive change. Ideals are the engine of progress. To ignore this and say merely that we need to be "realistic" in politics is severely mistaken. Consider, for example, the abolition of the slave trade. Ethics for the New Millennium

Ethics and economic competition
    

Can universal responsibility coexist in an environment driven by competition? Can empathy and profit coexist?

Competition can be conducted with a spirit of generosity when compassionate motivation is present. If the motivation is to conquer or exploit others, then a positive outcome is impossible. But competition with positive intention and a spirit of generosity will not harm others, even if those who lose the competition experience some suffering.

The Dalai Lama reminds us that those who run the world's industries and businesses are human beings who benefit like anyone else from developing their compassionate nature. As they do economic competition will more and more manifest basic human values.

How does universal responsibility affect the economic responsibility of individual societies and nations?

As all nations are economically dependent upon one another more than ever before, human understanding must go beyond national boundaries and embrace the international community at large. Indeed, unless we can create an atmosphere of genuine cooperation, gained not by threatened or actual use of force but by heartfelt understanding, world problems will only increase. If people in poorer countries are denied the happiness they desire and deserve, they will naturally be dissatisfied and pose problems for the rich.

Ethics and international relations

Ethical concepts such as reconciliation, non-violence and compassion are becoming more commonplace in international relations.  Collectively we are giving more weight to justice and truth.

The more interdependent our economic relationships become, the more interdependent our political relationships must become.  Alliances comprising hundreds of millions of people are increasingly transcending geographical, cultural and ethnic divisions.  At the same time regional communities united in trade, social policy, and security arrangements can consist of a multiplicity of autonomous ethnic, cultural, and religious groups.  The challenge of the new millennium is to find ways for better inter-community cooperation, wherein human diversity is acknowledged and the rights of all respected.