Though we are all human beings, we have built walls between ourselves and our neighbors through nationalism, through race, caste, and class – which again breeds isolation, loneliness.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
Protests are now commonplace in many of America’s largest cities. These protests have been ongoing since the police killing of George Floyd.
Portland, Oregon, is once again bracing for large protests as thousands are expected to descend on the northwest city Saturday in support of President Trump and “law and order.” The right-wing rally will be met by counter-protesters who have been reignited by the recent decision not to charge any officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
America is at war … within. Not since the Civil War has America been so divided. Will we, once again, see brother killing brother and neighbor killing neighbor?
Institutional, systemic racism is only one of the underlying reasons for the ongoing civil unrest. A few of the additional issues are:
- Inequality (economic, educational, medical care, housing and jobs)
- Classism between the haves and the have-nots
- Health care crisis
- The major impact of COVID-19 to minorities and the poor
- Family upheaval due to online education instead of in-person (or hybrid programs)
- Jobs. I live in a South American city in which 52% of the restaurants, bars and hotels have closed due to COVID-19
- State Unemployment Benefits are woefully inadequate
- Many people and businesses (small and large) are absolutely buried in debt and don’t see a way out other than bankruptcy
The frustrations and fears of people are being played out in the streets. In several cities, the residents are afraid to leave the security of their homes … night or day. The people are not only afraid of violent protestors — they are also afraid of the police who have lost disciplinary control during the civil unrest.
It’s quite obvious that humanity, for many people, has been lost somewhere along the pathway of life. We, as human beings on a shared planet, need to find our commonality and find our way back to a path that we can peacefully live together.
In our quest for happiness and the avoidance of suffering, we are all fundamentally the same, and therefore equal. This is an important point. For if we can integrate an appreciation of this fundamental human equality into our everyday outlook, I am very confident that it will be of immense benefit, not only to society at large, but also to us, as individuals. For myself, whenever I meet people—whether they are presidents or beggars, whether dark or fair, short or tall, rich or poor, from this nation or that, of this faith or that— I try to relate to them simply as human beings who, like me, seek happiness and wish to avoid suffering. Adopting this perspective, I find, generates a natural feeling of closeness even with those who until that moment were complete strangers to me. Despite all our individual characteristics, no matter what education we may have or what social rank we may have inherited, and irrespective of what we may have achieved in our lives, we all seek to find happiness and to avoid suffering during this short life of ours.
For this reason, I often make the point that the factors which divide us are actually much more superficial than those we share. Despite all the characteristics that differentiate us— race, language, religion, gender, wealth, and many others—we are all equal in terms of our basic humanity. And this equality is corroborated by science. The sequencing of the human genome, for example, has shown that racial differences constitute only a tiny fraction of our genetic makeup, the vast majority of which is shared by all of us. In fact, at the genome level, the differences between individuals appear more pronounced than those between different races.
In light of these considerations, the time has come, I believe, for each one of us to start thinking and acting on the basis of an identity rooted in the phrase “we human beings.”
Lama, Dalai. Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (pp. 28-30). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
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