in an Interdependent World
Our interdependent world
Today's world requires us to accept
the oneness of humanity. In the past, isolated communities could
afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. Some
could even exist in total isolation. But nowadays, whatever happens
in one region eventually affects many other areas. Within the
context of our new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies
in considering the interest of others.
The world has changed, and with this change humans
face new responsibilities vis-a-vis each other and the
planet they share. In earlier times, families and communities
lived more or less independently of one another. In the modern
world of global communications and technology, societies are
much more interconnected than in the past, on the material
level at least. With this new reality comes the need for a new
The Dalai Lama emphasizes the reality of interdependence
in human life, beginning from birth and early childhood dependence
on our mother.
We can extend this logic of dependence
from the family out to the community and society, to the national
and international levels, and even to the economy and environment
— then we can see how interconnected we are, how interdependent
the world is.
"Globalization" is a common theme today. Do
you think that peoples around the world today are
more economically interdependent than before?
"Our" interests are now so often
interwoven with those of "others" that in serving others
we benefit ourselves as well, regardless of whether this was
our original intention.
The Dalai Lama gives the example of two families
sharing a single water source — each family's
efforts to protect the water from pollution benefits
both families. Consider how the technological developments
and policies of one country can affect the environment
of other countries.
With an understanding and appreciation of this
highly complex and interdependent world, we cannot escape the
necessity for care toward each other. Then, even from the point
of view of one's own personal survival and well-being, one can
argue for an ethical system based on affection.
A young child's affection does
not come through faith; it is naturally very strong. I think
the mistake we make is that when we're grown up, we start to
think we're independent. We think that in order to be successful
we don't need others — except maybe to exploit them! This
is the source of all sorts of problems, scandals, and corruption.
But if we had more respect for other people's lives — a
greater sense of concern and awareness — it would be a
very different world. We have to introduce the reality of interdependence.
Then people would discover that, according to that reality, affection
and compassion are essential if anything is ever going to change.