Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Illusion of Self and the Truth of Non Self



“Over the last century as scientists opened up the Sapiens blackbox, they discovered neither soul, nor free will, nor ‘self’ – but only genes, hormones and neurons that obey the same physical and chemical laws governing the rest of reality”.  Yuval Noah Hariri – Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow - pp 328   

In Buddha’s teachings, one of the three characteristics of life is Anatta – ‘non-self’, where the mental-physical ego-self is a deluded view based on our conditioned ego-personality which arises out of ignorance.  This is the ignorance that has been exploited in the name of ‘self’ in the consumerist capitalist world. 

Now, we witness the ultimate manipulation of the ‘self’ by Cambridge Analytica (CA), the UK based political consulting company on how they exploited deep seated fears in people to even elect governments they normally may have not.  CA would profile and target undecided people by subliminally coercing them to vote in a certain way, giving them a false hope of salvation to meet the ends of a powerful few.   

Psychology of Mass Deception

The use of psychology for mass marketing started in the late 19thcentury to enable the consumerist world by Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. 

Bernays, known as the father of Public Relations (PR) in the USA played a pivotal role in politics and business using techniques to create desires in individuals.  With that, the power of PR to control the masses was discovered.

Edward Bernays wrote in his 1928 book Propaganda

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.[i]

As science and technology evolved, as wealth was created, the corporation slowly took over, installing and sustaining politicians in our modern democracy. The limited liability laws gave corporations the license to operate as an 'individual' and a ‘person', to make financial contributions to political parties, to lobby and influence governments to suit their business ends. 

Wealth of the USA grew with an economy driven by the corporation, where the individual self’s desire to become somebody – the material self - was driven using tools of mass persuasion via media advertising.  

Bernays’s work pioneered the concept of mass consumption by creating emotional desires for things people did not really need.  The result was a new psychology of conspicuous consumption perpetuated from his office on Madison Avenue in New York.  Bernays found his allies in the media business and Madison Avenue became the hub for communications empires built by the likes of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate and the publisher of Time magazine, Henry Luce and others.

This empire controlled the message focused on ‘self’, to create desire using a mythological system of symbolic meaning with marketing techniques to promote styles and ideas.  The corporate world fulfills these desires through brand names and marketing. 

The media campaigns were designed to massage the ego’s of fragile selves, who were subliminally coerced to find their salvation and anchor in material possessions. This came with Hollywood, Disney and celebrity sports which spread around the world - a kind of American populism that the globe enjoys yet fallen prey to at the risk of its sustainability and resilience.

It is a deluded ‘self’ - mine included - that attaches to a false permanence aiding and abetting the mass marketers who promise happiness and eternal life, where people like Google's Futurist Ray Kurzweil thrives.   

Even though Kurzweil thinks we can extend life span with human-machine coming together, if we inquire mindfully and critically, eternal life in this human form maybe a pipe dream in a universe governed by laws of thermodynamics and entropy.  

The Dream of Eternal Youth and Hollywood

                             Source - Big Think
No other civilization was able to proliferate this entire globe with science and technology leading to consumerism, as the United States of America has in the last two centuries.  

It has provided a platform for intellectual freedom to explore territories and inquire into vast areas from outer-space to our own  human mind and body - from the esoteric to physical matter.  Yet the underlying premise is based on money, business and markets.     

This has conditioned most of us on this interconnected earth to have, materialistic aspirations gratified externally through our six senses.  

This feeds consumerism and denigrates anything that takes us back to nature and our own spirituality - so tree huggers get laughed at and indigenous communities are marginalized.    
     
It has been a human ego based one-sided development, without thinking about the balance which the homeostatic nature operates in.  At a basic level, the First Law of Thermodynamics states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed the total quantity of energy in the universe stays the same.  When we break fundamental laws of nature, there are consequences, and at the heart of that is ‘self’.      

This is especially interesting in light of Kurzweil’s prediction of Singularity when artificial intelligence (AI) will lead to machines that are smarter than human beings.  According to Kurzweil,  “That leads to computers having human intelligence and putting them inside our brains, connecting them to the cloud, expands who we are”. 

At a material and technology level, it is possible to interfere with our brain. However, Kurzweil’s grandiose project for human-machine synthesis maybe the end of the human being as we are.  What would that mean to ‘self’ as we know it?. 

It makes it even more interesting with author Yuval Hariri’s assertions in his book Home Deus that science is proving there is no ‘self’, no free will nor soul, which may make the earlier question a mute point. 




The Basics of Buddhist Teachings 

I realized at a young age that Buddhism does not come from a theistic, doctrinal position where I have to follow or obey a higher power, but it is a way of life learned to live well through insight and wisdom - to take responsibility for myself based on mindfulness, reflection and contemplation on our common human experience of suffering. 

As a child I was first exposed to three Pali words – Dukkha-Suffering, Anicca - Impermanence and Anatta-Non-Self through the Jataka tale of the Prince Siddhartha at age 29. 

Story relates his encounter with an old man, a sick person and a corpse - as he ventured out of his sheltered palace life for the first time - and to finally see an ascetic.  He was mystified and when he inquired about the ascetic, he was told that the monk in robes was seeking salvation from life’s suffering.  The prince was intrigued and thus began his journey of inquiry to finally attain Nirvana.  

I was able to relate to Dukkha, as I knew suffering from being ill, not getting the dinky toy cars I loved, the suffering of others who were poor and now, as I have grown older, the general un-satisfactoriness of life, which is palpable.

The second truth of Anicca – impermanence was also drummed into me at an intellectual level, validated through my experience of everything changing around me, life’s uncertainties as people got sick, old and died – so that was clear. 

It was the third truth that I had a hard time grasping.  Anatta – Non Self, has taken a life time of inquiry and a mindfulness practice to finally get a glimpse of that truth through intelligent insight.   

This is a direct contrast to life as we live now with our conditioned ‘self’ as the prime mover - the subject that is separate from the object of the physical universe, so we humans can subjugate the universe without realizing any consequence, as life revolves around the individual ‘self’.

Self, Descarte and Individualism


The importance of ‘self’ in this age arose from the individualism that evolved from the work of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) - the father of modern philosophy[ii].


Descarte’s time saw four major developments: the Renaissance, Reformation, change from agrarian Feudalism to urban Capitalism, and the discovery and conquest of overseas territories and peoples.

In the reformation, Martin Luther’s Protestantism imbued a culture of individualistic self-reliance by setting the individual free, defying the spiritual authority of the church, which encouraged the notion of modern individualism. 


The evolution of capitalism depended on individual initiative to build personal wealth.  This was intrinsic for an economic system complementing Protestantism to breed the kind of individualism that is the hallmark of western culture.


Therefore, it is this focus on the individual ‘self’, which has defined the character of our present civilization as capitalism, materialism, technology and global expansion. 

All this has happened in one dimension of the duality that Descarte created in separating the mind, which he said was his essential ‘self’, from the body and the physical world.  He expanded on this with his statement - "I think therefore I am".   Descarte gave precedence to the 'thinking matter' and relegated 'physical matter' to be subjugated by the mind. 

This separated the mind from the physical world as the "Cartesian Dualism", which drives materialism, technology and global expansion, especially inspiring the 19th century westward movement to create the United States of America. 


As the USA systematically took over as the world’s superpower, it spread a popular culture, which thrives on individualism and this duality with most of the rest of the world.  


This consumer driven material world dominated by the human mind seeking a ‘super happiness’ has impacted on the environment and the balance of nature, divided and separated societies in ways that are not sustainable anymore.

North America and Manifest Destiny of the Self

North America received hundreds of thousands of European settlers getting away from religious and social subjugation from the mid 1600s. These 'free people' wanted to create a society based on that very 'liberty' they had acquired from venturing across the Atlantic ocean.  This liberty based on individualism, bred self-esteem and a contentiousness that fueled an ambition to succeed over the overbearing motherlands of Europe.  
                                Courtesy - Pinterest

Their ingenuity improved upon the industrial age developments of Europe, especially in significant areas of steel production, electric power generation and industrialized farming, was showcased to the world at the Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 along with what was emerging as a distinct, swashbuckling free spirited American culture.  It was exciting and contagious.

At the Chicago Expo, an academic and ideologue Frederick Jackson Turner gave a seminal talk based on his essay on the American frontier entitled The Significance of the Frontier in American History. 

He expounded on the Anglo-American settlement – from hunters and trappers in the East to farmers clearing land for agriculture to the village-dweller and finally to the city-building 'men of enterprise' in the West, marking the progress of civilization.  Cities, became Turner’s final frontier marking the triumph of civility over the wilderness - institutionalizing  individualism and the notion of ‘self’.  This enabled the formation of a consumerist liberal democracy where business began to rule politics.[iii]  

When one reflects on the virtues of individualism as self reliance, personal responsibility, independence and consequent blameworthiness and credit, the world’s super power USA founded on individualism carries the burden of this responsibility to live it - to walk the talk.  The ego of that is what keeps the USA trying to fix the rest of the world in its own image of ‘self’.

The Paradox of Non-Self

The modern world mindset focused on ‘self’ promotes obsessive behaviour as desire and ambition.  Setting goals for a material future of accumulation is what is touted as success.  

That compulsive behaviour of seeking success by accumulating leaves little room for spiritual growth, because we are too busy to stop, reflect, contemplate, meditate and inquire.  

These are not productive pursuits in a material world.  Yet, finding the space in our mind for insights and wisdom can help put 'self' in perspective.   

Yuval Hariri’s assertions in his book that there is no soul, no free will and no self, but only an electro-chemical process may mean that it is shaped by our genetic makeup, which in turn reflect the ancient evolutionary pressures and chance mutations. 

If that is correct, when I take action or react to something, it is deterministic or a random process driven by a chain reaction of a bio-chemical process.  Hariri goes onto state that the Theory of Evolution supports this notion of no free will and no self, as all the basic reptilian survival choices we make – habitat, mates and food – are based on a genetic code.  If that is the case, why not become more mindful and aware about how we live and love?.

Mindfulness and Perspective 
                                                           Coartesy - Phsycactive

The practice of mindfulness is fast becoming a way for people to find some space in a cluttered mind bombarded by the media giving mixed messages.  

A meditation practice helps to stop our thought process and reflect on ’self’ in a natural way.  A long term practice leads to a realization - an awareness, that this physical body which belongs to the physical universe is not ours to own. It has a life of its own as it rises at birth and disappears at death in a bio-chemical process. 

The delusion of ‘self’ is conditioned into us through nurture and now more than ever the consumerist media.  The assumption is that we are the same person from one moment to the next.  

Buddha taught that there is no consistent self, which to the cluttered conditioned mind, is hard to grasp.  Our physical body, which includes the brain and the mind are in constant flux. When we know this intelligently and wisely, there is nothing to fear the notion of ‘non-self’. 

‘Non self’ combined with impermanence, gives us freedom as we do not have to attach ourselves to our thoughts and things as they do not define us.  That way we can let go of those obsessions and self limiting beliefs driven by the notion of the consistent ‘self’ - to own things, build things, to grow and expand – needed or not - for the sake of our deluded and conditioned mind massaging the ego of self-importance.  

That is how the media or a demagogue manipulates us. 

By letting go we gain our power to be objective, critical and become truly aware. 

This awareness is what gives us the space to take our leaders or the media with a pinch of salt. Critical thinking require us to pause and check where the message originates, who’s agenda is it promoting and what is in it for them?.

Conditioned to the Unconditioned – Self to Non-Self 

I have no idea where the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) - the use of big data and algorithms to manipulate us to an institutional agenda promoted by the affluent - will end. 

If we pause in mindfulness, we will be open to learning from saner, wiser minds like Cathy O’Neil who wrote in her book Weapons of Math Destruction how at the end of the day a human being will be biased in whatever we do – whether to weed out so called 'bad' teachers from a school system or to sell products to us – there will be some ideology that is driving the algorithm.  

Our ideology is driven by our thoughts, values and desires and they arise out of a conditioned place. 

A mindfulness practice enables us to reflect on what has conditioned us to move towards bare attention and awareness of life in the unconditioned.

American born Buddhist monk, Ajahn Sumedho [iv] paraphrases the Buddha;

There is the Unborn, Uncreated, Unoriginated:[v]

  • If there was not the Unborn, Uncreated, Unoriginated, there would be no escape from the born, the created, the originated.
  • But because there is the Unborn, the Uncreated, the Unoriginated, therefore there is an escape from the created, the born, the originated.

This kind of escape is encouraged to free oneself from being bound and caught up in the 'deathbound' state.

He calls it ‘deathbound’  because, when you really contemplate it, everything -  thoughts, memories, feelings, the body, which are conditioned in ideology - will die.

He points that being attached to these, you are attached to death.  When we desire perfection – 'when I meet the right person, I will live happily ever after' or 'when I make money everything will be fine and will not desire anymore' – and when these expectations are not met, we suffer.

Yet we know that desire perpetuates itself and that is what Edward Bernays built his empire on, stoking it with the promise of eternal happiness in the consumer world.  

This is what the conditioned mind gets caught up in, as our gratifications are impermanent, as we get bored with what we have and seek more gratification with wants beyond our needs - it goes on and on in a cycle of suffering, joy and suffering.  The reality is that, it is difficult to hold onto the happiness these gratifications bring. 

Buddha said there is the unconditioned and timeless here and now.  With mindfulness through meditation and reflection, we may realize that thoughts, memories, feelings, the body are not me or mine. 

These insights come to us as we focus on our breath rising and falling in our meditation. We realize our thoughts will rise and ebb away, as will our memories, feelings and then we realize our body too has risen at birth and will cease to exist at death.  

This way we realize ‘non-self’ – as everything that rises will cease in the natural cycle of this universe.  This is the unconditioned.

Realizing this simple truth, can be liberating.  We can then take personal responsibility to not get caught up in dreams of eternal life in this human form.  If they want to alter my brain with chemicals and computer chips, that changes the game entirely as that is not 'self' anymore anyway.

The moral of the story is not to get caught up in all this hype about everything.  

First of all, I acknowledge the utility of money and material wealth to meet our needs.  I am also mindfully aware when my needs turn to wants, as wants can be driven by my ego 'self'. 

Therefore, I keep reminding myself that this notion of 'self' is an illusion.  That way, I can put things in perspective to let go and live my life in abundance – abundance of love, compassion, empathy, become generous and vulnerable to wade through the roller coaster of ups and downs with equanimity.  

May you be well and may you be happy.....




[i] https://books.google.ca/books?id=3De8nd_B_C8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
[ii] https://faculty.frostburg.edu/phil/forum/Descartes.htm

[iii] http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/gilded/empire/text1/turner.pdf

[iv] The Anthology of 5 volumes - Ajan Sumedho

[v] Ajahn Sumedo.  Escape.  Forest Sangha Newsletter: October 2000, Number 54. Source : http://www.forestsangha.org



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Vigilant, Engaged, Rational Citizens Elect Mindful Leaders that Unite

Dwight D. Eisenhower said "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it."  

Many politicians stand in the way of peace for their own vested interests, or from a sheer lack of self awareness, care and emotional control.  This makes them blind to the impact their words and action have on millions of people. 

In an interconnected, transparent world, our political leaders are under scrutiny unlike any other time and leaders who do well for the world will manage themselves - their emotions and actions and find the power of balance.  

Dee Hock founder of the VISA card wisely said - 

"Without management of self no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire, for the more authority they acquire the more dangerous they become.  It is the management of self that should occupy 50 percent of our time and the best of our ability. And when we do that, the ethical, moral and spiritual elements of leadership are inescapable." 

Management of self can only come from self awareness grounded in a practice of mindfulness. 

History provides enough painful narratives about nations divided and ruled by selfish leaders.  The separation of people causes tremendous suffering that can lead to violence and destruction. 

Trumpism - in going back to a primal reptilian emotional place to stoke fears of people who are disadvantaged for much larger reasons than the other’s colour or where they came from – globalization, neo-liberal economics, the World Trade Organization, the Federal Reserve and the likes of Wall Street – Donald Trump, one of the most self obsessed, emotionally immature leaders we have seen in a long time, keeps finding scapegoats and separating his people through fear when they should be coming together to meet its economic, social and climate change challenges.
         
A divided nation is easily tampered with and the USA has a lot more to lose than any of those waiting to pounce on it for 
their own advantage.

Divisive rhetoric of a national leader puts people on edge - separates neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and even families.  Not only that, a divided nation has a tremendous cost to individuals, communities and institutions, as the dissonance, pain and suffering it generates could end up in a major upheaval and tragedy.

Lessons from Sri Lanka

We never imagined, growing up in a multi-ethnic Sri Lanka in the 1960s and 70s with Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Sinhala people in relative harmony, that we would end up in a brutal thirty year war starting in the 1980s, which killed almost a 100,000 people.   

In order to make amends to the domination of Tamil bureaucrats and other favours by the British colonial government, the post-independence government of S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake pandered to Sinhala nationalists and denied the Tamil minority, their language and civic rights in 1956.  

Allowing a peaceful group of Tamil protesters in Colombo to be beaten by Sihnala thugs, the country began to squander its ability to come together as one nation, rather than divide along ethnic and language lines. Instead, if Prime Minister Bandaranaike, invited the protesters to a conversation and others also continued a dialogue into the future, perhaps Sri Lanka could have changed the course of history. 


As Sri Lanka liberalized its economy in 1977 aligning with the USA and the west, India played cold war politics to destabilize the country. What better way than to fan the fire by training a cadre of disenfranchised Tamil youth[i], which eventually resulted in the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Ealam (LTTE) - one of the fiercest fighting forces of its time[ii]

The Sri Lankan government also walked into a trap of the Sinhala extremists in July 1983.  The riots left hundreds of Tamil people dead and thousands displaced in Colombo and other cities, which brought the country’s deep divisions to international notice. 

Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation lost its cohesion and control as the world deemed it a pariah and the war was fueled through international support and interest.            

As the country was divided and separated with poor leadership, opportunistic politics, stoking xenophobia, outsiders with geopolitical interests and the arms industry took advantage.  

No nation is immune, not the US and not even Canada, if we, the people, do not play our role to keep pluralistic values that hold together the diverse tapestry of humans in harmony.  This requires exemplary, mindful leadership and we, the people, are responsible for putting them into power.

Canada’s Strains

“Why don’t you go back to where you came from” said the young man to a response - “What!, do you want to me to come and build my Teepee in your backyard?” from a First Nations women who was threatened a few days after the tragic October 2014 shooting of Sgt. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa. 

The young man was bewildered by the response and made a hasty retreat, according to the woman - a Canadian Federal 
Government employee, who was at one of my soft skills training programmes.

This young man would have been emboldened like others who harassed people of colour over the next few days, egged on by Prime Minister Harper’s insinuations of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – differentiating old and new Canadians – implying the ‘them’, the non-white are separate and could be terrorists.  The authorities deemed this a terrorist attack by Canadian born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau - who happened to have a Libyan father and was known to be mentally unstable. 

Nevertheless, the ambiguous yet subtle finger pointing reaction towards Muslims extended to minorities by the Prime Minister, gave license to some ignorant opportunists towards aggression.

These reactions are reptilian, could be driven by a larger fear of the other, now perceived as perpetrating terror, they were also acts of cowardice, as many men picked on women of colour.  Yet it put us all on edge, as the head of Canada was not speaking out on these.

So refreshing was Justin Trudeau at the time, leading the Liberal Party for elections, as his principled fearlessness led him to take a stand on the notion of us and them Canadians. His position on the Niqab (the face covering as a part of the Hijab), which the Harper government was bent on banning for the Canadian citizenship ceremony to begin with, was courageous, as it was a political risk just before elections.

 At a time when the polls showed the Harper conservatives leading, when the security issues were front and centre driven by extreme Islam of a few and the ISIS  - Trudeau did what was right in stating that the government had no right to legislate a dress code and that it was un-Canadian to do so. 

Trudeau was bold enough to say the following, even if it risked losing support of the average Canadian for his fledgling Liberal party at the time;

 “You can dislike the niqab. You can hold it up as a symbol of oppression. You can try to convince your fellow citizens that it is a choice they ought not to make. This is a free country. Those are your rights......But those who would use the state’s power to restrict women’s religious freedom and freedom of expression indulge the very same repressive impulse that they profess to condemn. It is a cruel joke to claim you are liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear.”

Then he went onto say;

“But what’s even worse than what they’re saying is what they really mean. We all know what is going on here. It is nothing less than an attempt to play on people’s fears and foster prejudice, directly toward the Muslim faith,”

This brought Harper’s Evangelical Christian religious beliefs, even showing a Social Darwinistic approach of manifest destiny and superiority into light, and the dangerous edge he brought the country towards racial divisiveness. Canadians were more astute and Trudeau’s emphatic response actually put the Harper government on the back foot. 

Trudeau was consistent with his earlier response when former provincial Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois unveiled her government’s plan to legislate cultural and religious symbols. The Charter of Quebec Values was designed to ban the turban, hijab, head scarf or wearing the cross in the Quebec public sector. Trudeau kept to his values and spoke out in public against it, despite much criticism. 

 

On September 12th 2013 - Trudeau wrote an article called I have faith in Quebec. So should you in the Globe & Mail newspaper where he said;

 

The PQ government’s plan is divisive, negative and emotional. It is designed to be that way. Quebeckers will reject it.

Quebeckers rose to the occasion to oust Marois’s 18 month old provincial government to even unseat her own riding of Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré.

Canada voted in spades for Trudeau and Liberals at the time, as it showed Canada in its true light – a multicultural, plural nation that is an example to the world that diversity can work with a strong set of values and fearless leadership.

The new Trudeau government also made a commitment to make amends to another glaring separation – our Aboriginal people.   

However, the Liberal government has lost momentum on the reconciliation process, frustrating many aboriginal communities again. As such, we, the people, have to hold them accountable.

Our Aboriginal Pedigree

Historian and writer, John Ralston Saul asserted - we should not be imagining ourselves in the tradition of either, but recognize the country's distinct nature, born of this land, and the integration, not just interaction, of settler and aboriginal life.  

Saul begins his book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, by establishing the country's aboriginal pedigree where he says, we all owe many of our best qualities as Canadians to our indigenous peoples’ heritage.

In one of Harper’s rare brilliant moments in June 2008, he made a formal apology to our aboriginal people for the residential schools acknowledging that an absence of an apology gets in the way of reconciliation and he said we are sorry.

His formal statement read in the Indigenous and Northern Affairs website[iii];

Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.  These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child".  Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.

What he said then and the follow-up action did not match, making a mockery of the apology, yet it opened the door for a more sincere effort at reconciliation later.  

I was surprised on a trip to North West Territories not long after I came back to Canada in 2011, an aboriginal business leader told me - “We do not tolerate nor do business with people from the south.  I will speak to you because you are not white”.

I was afraid that the fissures I witnessed between mainstream Canada and the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, now to be one of the fastest growing and advancing communities in Canada, would someday hurt Canada’s cohesion.    

That is why sooner we accept and honour that pedigree the better. That especially goes to us new Canadians to know and accept that history, as we come together and influence each other, into the ever evolving culture of Canada.

Pluralism

Another positive move by the Stephen Harper government was to establish the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) in partnership with the Aga Khan to spread Canadian values of pluralistic democracy around the world.

Canada certainly has the credibility right now to do that as the GCP website states[iv] - in too many places, diversity is a source of competition and fear.  Taken to extremes, escalating exclusion leads to oppression, extremism and violence. Rooted in respect and inclusion, pluralism offers a different path. 

More than anything, a commitment to pluralism creates mutual benefits, giving every member of society reason to get along.  

o   When valued rather than feared, human diversity enriches and benefits a society.  
o   Having difference recognized by the state and the nation fosters belonging, participation and equality. 
o   Cultures of inclusion do not erase difference or disagreement; rather, they offer ways to manage conflict peacefully.
o   Majority identities and minority aspirations must be considered.
o   Pluralist societies require ongoing work and investment – by citizens, civil societies and governments – but the returns are enormous. 

That is why we, the voters, globally, have to be vigilant and engaged never to allow in the likes of Pauline Marois, Kelly Leitch, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, even at 95, emotionally immature Robert Mugabe and other unwise, opportunistic individuals to come into power, as they will divide, separate and create dissonance - as we see Trump doing to the USA.   

At a time when the world has to come together to deal with issues of inequality, poverty and most of all, natural calamities, we can ill afford for nations to implode for prejudice and xenophobia.

For that, we, the people, have to ensure we only elect leaders who are mindful, emotionally mature to manage them selves first and understand the implications of the power they wield. 

That is the power of balance that comes from quietening the mind daily for contemplation and reflection through a practice of mindfulness meditation.




[i] https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKCOL223047

[ii] Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India's intelligence agencies


[iv] http://www.pluralism.ca/en/