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The real enemy
To solve external conflicts, we must start at their root cause, in our hearts

Published: 27/04/2010 at 04:05 AM
Bangkok Post Newspaper section: Outlook

The violence that occurred on April 10 on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue was a great loss for all parties involved be they the government, the UDD and all Thais. Every one of us lost. If the destruction on that day was called a victory, then it was a victory for anger and hatred.

After the violence, everyone is pointing fingers at the other side, overlooking the crux of the problem. It is the anger and hatred which pushes us into being vindictive enemies. The more we feel angry and hateful, the more vigorous our finger-pointing gets, and the louder our condemnation becomes. So much so we have forgotten it is the anger and hatred in our hearts that has driven us to be part of the violence, directly and indirectly.

Anger and hatred does not hurt others only, it also hurts us. Whenever we let anger and hatred dominate us, it affects our mind, our disposition, our behaviour.

It is hate and anger which has turned people who used to have goodwill towards one another into enemies, ready to jump at each others throats, to beat up, even to kill with cold blood. In other words, it has turned us into devils without our realising it.

It might be true that a person we hate is vicious and inhumanely cruel. But treating him in such a fashion will make us similarly inhumane. We view him as sub-human, but our action reduces us to his level, or even lower. We do not see him as human because of our hate and anger, which has driven us to destroy our own humanity.

Just because he or she has a different political ideology or wears a shirt of different colour, we view it as enough to brand him or her evil. This results from our presumption that people of that ideology, of this and that shirt colour, are all bad, unpatriotic, fascists. We may not know them at all, but because they belong to the group or the institution that we despise, it is enough for us to label them as bad.

Rationally, we may understand that a view one holds does not make them a bad person. But emotionally, the fact that he or she subscribes to the ideology which we detest, or belongs to the group that we hate, is enough to make us hate them. It is easy to see the other side as bad people. For when we believe we are on the side of righteousness, the people on the other side must be the evil ones.

But it does not stop there. When we believe they are evil, we feel it is legitimate to deal with them as we deem appropriate. The reasoning is that we should not let such bad people live and create more problems. We are ready to condemn them with the crudest language we could find. We are ready to make accusations, lie, or inflict pain on them. But the more we do that with people we label evil, the more evil we ourselves become.

When the angels are ready to use any means to get rid of the devils, they become devils themselves.

There is indeed a fine line between angels and devils. Whenever we let hatred and anger dominate our hearts and minds, the angels easily become devils. Take note:

When we fight with the devil, be cautious not to become the devil ourselves. When hate and anger arise, it will push others away from us, particularly the people who are the target of our anger. Strangely, however, the more we grow apart, the more similar we become in dispositions, views and behaviours, which only mirror each other. We similarly believe they are right and the other side is wrong. We are alike in cursing the other side with rude, angry words. Our behaviours, such as making false accusations, are the same.

Isnt it strange that the more we hate someone, the more we behave like them, although we label them evil? The more we want to hurt others, the more we hurt ourselves because we allow hate and anger to dominate our minds. It does not only put us on fire, it also destroys our image, reduces our humanity, and leads to many actions that we must repay. We plunge ourselves in the deep pit of vengefulness and suffering, which is so difficult to climb out of.

Everyone is human. They love, hate, are happy, and sad like us. They have dreams and fears also like us. But we are fixated with the labels we attach to them. For example prai (the oppressed), amataya (the elites), PAD, UDD, police, troops, or any organisations they belong to. So much so that we cannot see their humanity. We are so fixated with the colour of the shirts they wear that we cannot see them as a person. When we hate, we see them as the evil we must eliminate. We condemn and demonise them. The more we see them as less than human, the more righteous and more legitimate we feel to hurt them.

The age of catastrophe, which we call migasanyee, is a time when people can cruelly kill one another because we see the other side as just flesh, or miga, instead of people. We do not have to wait several hundreds of years to enter such an age. We are in the middle of it right now. People no longer see the humanity in others. We will pass this era when we start to see people beyond the labels, ideologies, shirt colours; to see the humanity of one another.

What is important is not to reclaim the street space from the protestors. We must return humanity to the yellow shirts, the red shirts, the police, the soldiers. Only then we can live together in peace.

We can only see others humanity when we interact with one another as humans, when we open our hearts to listen to them instead of just acting our roles or insisting on listening selectively to what confirms our prejudices.

One important dharma in time of conflicts is sajja nurak, which is not to be stubbornly attached to the belief that only ones view is correct. One should constantly remind oneself that the view of the other side may also be correct, so we are more open to other peoples views.

In conflicts, all sides tend to insist they are right and the other side is wrong. Thus, they are not willing to listen to the other side. This applies not only to the conflicts between the government and the protesters, but also to people who love each other, such as husband and wife, father and children. During an argument, is there anyone willing to listen? This is because we are confident that we are right. Because we dont know how to listen, the quarrel is getting more serious.

Even when it involves people who love each other, listening is difficult. It is then all the more difficult for people we hate. Because we close our heart, we are more convinced that we are right and you are wrong. But how can we be sure that we are 100 percent right or good, and the other side is 100 percent bad?

How can we know if our information is 100 percent accurate? How can we be certain that what they are demanding is wholly out of selfishness? How can we be sure when we have never opened our hearts to listen to their points of view, for we have concluded right from the start that they are wrong and evil?

The Buddhas teachings in the Kalamasutra are very important in this time of conflicts. It reminds us not to believe something just because we hear it from others, because it is logical, because it agrees with our ideas, because it is plausible, or because the speaker is our teacher [or credible]. If it is the case, dont conclude that what you have heard or what you have been informed, including the opinions based on those information, are wholly correct.

It is difficult to have compassion for the other side, although it is good for our own mind. But at least we should see them the way they really are. When we all desire justice, we should give justice to others and ourselves by viewing them the way they are. But how can we do that when we are full of prejudices? It is only when we can transcend these prejudices and open our hearts to listen to the other side, when we do not believe so easily, that we can see other people accurately as they are.

It is only then that we will realise other people are not our enemy. Our hatred and anger is.

Edited translation from an article in Thai by Phra Paisal Visalo printed in the Matichon newspaper on April 18, 2010.

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