In light of the attention given to religion and religious extremism in wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, the Dalai Lama had some pragmatic advice for the people of the world currently obsessing over questions of inherent violence in Islam, which are naught but barely disguised bigotry.
“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place. We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest. So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments. Furthermore, the problems that we are facing today are the result of superficial differences over religious faiths and nationalities. We are one people.”
He’s absolutely right. Our tendency to fetishize labels and artificial divisions like race, nationality, and religion have left us blind to the real socioeconomic problems that lead to terrorism and conflict across the world, content to place the blame on superficial differences that dehumanize those on the other end. All humanity have primal savagery buried deep within their souls; it takes extreme situations like the suffering imposed on the people of the Middle East, the powerlessness of those oppressed under authoritarian rule, the frustration of having no opportunities and being unable to provide for their families which drive people to draw out the violence within and commit these despicable acts. #PrayersForParis might assuage one’s own conscience, but does nothing to rectify the problems from which terrorism draws breath.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.