The Dalai Lama spoke today in Berkeley, and reminded me strongly of Gandhi. This was Gandhi’s approach to the Nazis, as expressed to the English (who were, you remember, the nation against which he was rebelling):
“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. . . . If these gentlemen [a word Gandhi apparently used without irony] choose to occupy your homes you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them” (Non-Violence in Peace and War.)
As an interesting historical aside, it appears there was a lot more talk than action behind Gandhi’s non-violence stance, and he seemed to preach it most aggressively to those whom he disliked and who happened to be in the Nazi line of fire. Nevertheless, he is the standard bearer for the coffee klatch approach to dictatorships, which is that one should just walk into their lair for some peaceful chit-chat, after which everything will be well.
Of course, Hitler walked all over countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium) and peoples (Jews, Gypsy’s, homosexuals) who hadn’t done a damn thing to him and who had been strikingly non-violent. He did it because he could. Nonviolence against someone determined to be violent works only when you negotiate from a position of peace. The wagging tail is great when you can back it up with sharp teeth. Otherwise, you’re just a victim in the making.
The Dalai Lama told a standing room only crowd of some 7,000 at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Saturday that peace and nuclear disarmament can be accomplished if only the world’s leaders could talk to one another in a compassionate and understanding way.
The exiled spiritual leader of Buddhist Tibet chose the university where the Free Speech Movement began more than 40 years ago to endorse President Obama’s philosophy of establishing dialogue, even with reviled world leaders.
“We must promote dialogue with full respect and consideration of others’ interests,” said the world’s best known Buddhist as he sat cross-legged in a maroon robe on a cushy chair placed atop a platform covered by a rug, presumably Tibetan.
Unsurprisingly, the DL managed to be exceptionally nasty about George Bush, ostensibly praising him and then slapping him ungraciously across the face:
“As a human being, very nice person,” the Dalai Lama said, “but not, like, a great leader or good politician.”
I think the DL will be surprised when he discovers that Obama’s kissy-face across the table from the Chinese, rather than bringing in a new era of love and sunshine, will see a resurgent China, more determined than ever to stomp on the DL’s beloved Tibet.
The DL also showed himself to be no student of human nature:
“Everybody, including animals, want peace. It is clear,” he said. “Our long-term goal should be a more compassionate humanity.”
So untrue. As studies show, war appears to be hard wired into human beings. (See, for example, Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors.) People do want peace, but only on their terms. Also, some people actually crave warfare — the excitement, the power, the volatility, the clarity, etc.
Lucky Chinese. Their avowed enemy, the one who goes around the world opposing them, is an idiot preaching the approach most likely to defeat his own interest.