Updated: June 12th, 2019
by Mark Karadimos
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is by all counts a reverent soul. He spreads joy and compassion on all his travels and to all of the peoples he engages. However, few know of the perils he and his fellow Tibetans had to face due to Communist China's relentless pursuit to squash Tibetan influence.
Whether due to the likelihood of violence, death or incarceration, the Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet in 1959. He and thousands of fellow Tibetans fled to India to seek asylum. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands (possibly over a million) Tibetans were killed, starved, or died in labor camps from China's Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Temples and monasteries were also destroyed.
Horrors like this have been all too common and have occurred throughout much of the first half of the 20th Century. Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi) killed over 7 million Jews. Stalin, as leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Communist Party, killed 20 million non-combatants, but his total number of kills can easily be double the non-combatant number.
In each of these cases throughout history, there is a commonality: as large governments grew and civilian rights diminished, horrors occurred. Hitler may not have given the order to disarm civilians, but his regime benefitted from civilian disarmament. Communist leaders could easily sentence a person to a Gulag (a prison work camp) as a "political prisoner" and atheism was enforced.
History supports the view that a powerful government and a weak civilian population is a ticking time-bomb for destruction of epic proportion. It is with this in mind that citizens of modern and future civilizations must contemplate the relationship between rights of the people versus powers of the state.
Even though the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of non-violence, which is well-received and respected, he has spoken about self-defense:
"...if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, he said, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun. Not at the head, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg."
Self-defense is a necessary and fundamental right and the exercise of it can save lives, especially those of epic proportion. In other words, democide in all its unholy incarnations can be avoided. For instance, the Dalai Lama indicated -- indirectly -- that the taking of Osama Bin Laden's life was a necessary counter-measure to terror.
It is with Dalai Lama's compassion that citizens remain peaceful but able to respond to threats, or does it? Buddhist teachings indicate that hitting is not allowed, unless it is to protect oneself so that only escape is possible. Yet, in practice Buddhists have formed militias and have fought against armys.
One can wrestle with the notions of these competing thoughts: a) the greater good is achieved through discipline, knowledge of combat, and strength, b) the spirit of Buddhism has been twisted by political forces based on the imperfections of the flesh and desire to survive.
Anyone who comes to a place of satisfaction thinking 100 million or more lives lost due to tyrants in the 20th Century is part of a greater good must also not value human life. It would also be such a mental construct that would give rise to further tyrants who would continue the slaughter of civilians.
Rummel, the researcher who originated the term democide, came to the same conclusion. He wrote. :
"...certain cultures may simply place little value on human life and in fact believe that life should be sacrificed to their sacred or secular Gods. Such cultures may thus provide the conditions in which Power can operate or diversity have its bloody effect."
The United States is not built on the precept of one sacrificing himself or herself at the hands of despots. The evidence of this rests within the 2nd amendment to the Constitution and more recently the Heller decision. The second amendment guarantees a right to arms and the Heller case ruled of an individual right to arms.
While American values are historically and constitutionally clear regarding perspectives concerning tyranny, Buddhist teachings of pacifism (or any other religion) need not exist as a dichotomy in that light. It is the presence of mind that: a) human life has value, b) despots are capable of killing millions of people, and c) self-defense is a civil right. The amalgam of those three points is the only force that stands against democide.
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