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Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama on Refugees in Europe

Yellow-single-candle-on-a-dark-black-background-000054664548_LargeThe Dalai Lama is one of the world’s most popular spiritual leaders.  His compassion, wisdom, and humour have won him fans and friends all over the globe.  He is welcomed by both religious and political leaders who give him their time and attention.  When he speaks, people listen attentively.

As well as the millions of Buddhists who revere him there are millions more who buy his books, contemplate his teachings, and listen to his every word.  His reach goes far beyond those of the same faith.

He’s also a Tibetan refugee, so he knows a thing or two about what it is to be driven out of your home country by strife and violence.

He knows first hand how it feels to be a long term refugee.  Along with many thousands of fellow Tibetans he fled his homeland in 1951 when the Chinese invaded and took over the country.  He is now based in India.

Given his reputation for compassion and other qualities it may come as a surprise to some when they hear what he had to say about refugees in Europe.

On the other hand, if you imagine what might be the best possible outcome for those whose plight moves you, his words may come as no surprise at all.

Help those in need

He begins by recognising the humanity in those refugees and expressing compassion and empathy for their plight:

When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering

Then, he moves on to practicalities and he balances the view with the recognition of those in the host countries:

A human being who is a bit more fortunate has the duty to help them. On the other hand, there are too many now,

Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country

..he said, according to the German translation of the interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Germany is Germany

..he added.

Return and Rebuild

He seems to recognise the strains placed upon the communities in the host countries who welcome in refugees:

There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.

…from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily.

The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.

In short, he seems to be saying that we should of course help all those in need, show them compassion, and treat them with dignity and respect.

We should give medical, material, and emotional comfort and support to those who have suffered.

However, we should not maintain an open door policy and we should work towards the goal of returning most refugees to their homelands once the crisis has passed.

I suspect many refugees would agree.  My guess is that many who have fled war would like to return to their homelands to rebuild their communities one day.

His advice speaks for itself, though it should be remembered that he’s talking specifically about refugees, not economic migrants moving from poor to richer countries, and not even asylum seekers who may never be able to return to their places of origin.  The terms are used interchangeably, the stories are politicised, and the meanings are lost.

Compassion

Real compassion isn’t selective.  If you feel compassion for refugees and their plight then you can’t claim the moral high ground and dismiss the concerns of those affected by their arrival en masse, and yet that it’s precisely what happens.

In real democracies everyone’s voice is heard, even the voices of those you may dislike and those with whom you disagree strongly.

Welcome to Brexit Britain. It’s up to all of us now

Welcome to Brexit Britain

Welcome to Brexit Britain.  I’m one of the 17.4 million people in the UK who voted to leave the EU. According to many this means I am likely to be an ageing little Englander, a racist xenophobe, and a short sighted ill-informed idiot who has been duped by a campaign run by clowns.

It seems I’m also partly responsible for ruining any chances of prosperity and happiness for future generations, and the possible collapse of western civilization.

Who knew putting an X on a ballot paper could be so powerful?

The reaction is ongoing and it’s likely to be some time before feelings subside.  After all, the intensity of the convictions are proportional to the importance of the event.

There is a lot of anger, but I wonder what the reaction would have been had the result swung the other way.  How would the Remainers appease 16 million Brexiteers for example?

I’m not going to ask anyone to calm down or suck it up.  Your reaction is your own responsibility and you’ll have your reasons.  I respect your views and I hope you will respect mine.  After all, isn’t that what a tolerant, fair and democratic society is all about? Aren’t we supposed to be mature enough to work this out despite our differences of opinion?

However, it seems some Remainers won’t be happy until we keep having referenda until they get the ‘right’ result. Either that or, some have suggested, this result is ignored.

Did you vote?

The turnout was so large and the outcome so close that it was inevitable that several million people were going to be disappointed either way.  There was no room for compromise.  You were either for or against Britain leaving the EU.

However, this didn’t stop a lot of people sitting on the fence and abstaining altogether.  It has been reported that there was an 80%+ turnout among voters aged 60+ and only a 45%+ turnout among those in their twenties, so it’s just possible that if more young people got off their backsides and voted then the result might have been a win for the Remainers.

On the other hand, I suspect there would have been even more votes Brexit were it not for the fact that there were some who didn’t want to feel associated with Ukip and Mr Farage, even though they broadly agreed with the principles of the Leave campaign.  Eurosceptics on the left in particular may have wavered at the last minute onto the Remain side.

One thing I do know is that this referendum was not a General Election.  A vote for Brexit was not an endorsement of Ukip policy, whatever the simplistic memes on Facebook may suggest.

Why I voted for Brexit

I’m not going to repeat all the arguments here.  We had months of debate and everyone voted for their own reasons. The media was awash with information and there was no shortage of data to mull over while you made up your mind.

Personally, I voted for Brexit with a sense of optimism and a positive view of a stronger, more prosperous country free of the reins of the EU, trading with our European neighbours and the rest of the world, but on our own terms.

Far from pulling up the drawbridge to retreat into Little England I sensed a chance for us to turn to look outward and further, with bigger ambitions and more freedom in which to explore them.

To me, a vote for Brexit was a positive move in a different direction away from a club that looks upon the UK as a rich but badly behaved uncle.  Someone EU members tolerate for his financial contribution, but secretly don’t respect and find a bit embarrassing.

It was a chance to divorce ourselves from a failed project.  Time will tell, but it may the case that once again Britain has shown the way and others will follow.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue be trading partners, friends, and allies to our European neighbours.  Far from being insular we now have a chance to strike deals with any other country, free and unfettered by rules with which we don’t agree.

The idea that we could somehow fix the EU from the inside was a pipe dream.  Mr Cameron tried a few months ago and returned with barely any concessions. The men (and it is mostly men) in Brussels would not compromise even though we he had the leverage of a UK referendum on the horizon.

The EU’s agenda will always come first and the pleas by individual member states for change or reform for the sake of their own populations will always come second.

The immigration bit

We will continue to welcome immigrants to Britain, both from Europe and the rest of the world, who are ready and eager to contribute to our nation. It’s neither desirable nor practical to do otherwise, but we should be able to control who and how many come in to our country.  There’s nothing racist about that.  It’s just good government.

The thing is though, we seem to have bred a generation of people for whom the subject of immigration is the ultimate taboo. The political correctness is so powerful and ingrained that it’s difficult to even open the debate without a fair proportion of the audience assuming you’re a closet Nazi.

It’s been ridiculous for years.  The mainstream media tip-toes around the subject while everyone from career politicians to sanctimonious students and Guardian columnists are ever ready to describe the benefits of immigration, as if they had never occurred to anyone else.

I’ve grown weary of being lectured like this by people half my age who assume anyone over the age of 50 thinks like Alf Garnett and deserves to be shipped off to the Winnie Abbott Re-Education Camp for the Politically Incorrect.

There are all too many people who, for the best of reasons, have a rose-tinted view of the consequences of mass immigration.  They are often isolated from the impact and far removed from the real effects of a sudden increase in population in an area that doesn’t have the services and infrastructure to support it.

Even Miliband and Corbyn have managed to work that one out, but only because they didn’t get the number of votes they expected from certain areas that have a history of voting for Labour.

The aftershocks of the referendum result

The media loves to report on bad news and attracts more viewers using sensationalism.  We pride ourselves on being intelligent enough to know this and to be able to discern the difference, but the fact is we keep falling into the trap.  We lap up the hysteria and have emotional reactions as a result.

Jobs were lost and created before the referendum.  Contracts were won and lost, and businesses failed (BHS, Austin Reed etc).  They will be lost and created afterwards and I’m sure that there will be those who blame the losses on the referendum result while at the same time suggesting that any created couldn’t possibly be due to the outcome of the vote.

I’ll bet there’s many more of the 17,410,742 Brexit voters who can freely admit to not being an expert in economics, but to pin our hopes for prosperity for ourselves and future generations on EU membership seemed an unwise choice.

No doubt many will think we foolish and uniformed, but there it is. I expect millions more voted either way on less information.  I simply do not trust the people running the show in Brussels.

Meanwhile, on June 29th, there are already positive reports to be seen among all the negatives and the FTSE 100 has closed at a pre Brexit level.

Where do we go from here?

Assuming we want peace, prosperity, unity, happiness, and the whole nine yards then we’ve got to start imagining those outcomes, formulating a strategy, and moving towards it.  I say ‘assuming’ because there are those who want disruption, anarchy, and violence.  You’ll find them on the far left as well as the far right of politics.  They’ve always been there, ready to leap in and seize any opportunity to prey on people’s fears and create turmoil.

What unites people despite all their differences is a common desire to live in peace and dignity, with a reasonable standard of living,  and to see their children grow up happily with a decent education.  That may seem obvious and simplistic, but it’s the foundation for everything else. Politics is just arguing about how to bring that about.

Britain remains a great country with a great future, if we choose to create it.

It’s up to all of us as a country now.  If we can imagine it then we can make it happen, but if we’re determined to live under gloomy clouds of bitterness and regret then that’s exactly what we’re going to get.

As the eloquent Sufi mystic and poet Rumi so aptly put it:

Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.

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