On July 4 countless people in the United States celebrated Independence Day and many enjoyed a long leisurely Independence Day weekend. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating freedom and all that is good in your country, I’ve become increasingly nervous about any form of unchecked, uncritical nationalism. Lately in global politics there’s been a resurgence of nationalism, populism, and isolationism of the ugliest kind. The kind that says, “Our own people first,” and “We need to build a wall,” and “Let’s drive out the immigrants,” and “Let’s start a trade war with China.” In Europe this sort of nationalism manifests itself in political movements like Brexit and in right wing populist parties like Front National in France.
To counter these divisive trends, I believe we need a new global holiday and a global Declaration of INTER-dependence. Our stark reality is that we inhabit an increasingly densely populated and fragile planet with finite resources. All human and non-human life on the planet is facing the specter of climate change and other environmental factors that threaten the fabric of our very existence. We live in an increasingly interdependent global economy. If China crashes, we will all feel the repercussions. Russian interference tipped the 2016 US election. A war in Syria and wars and grinding poverty in Africa have flooded Europe with refugees, which, in part, gave rise to this right wing, populist, anti-immigration push back. But if people in the developing world continue to suffer the worst ravages of climate change and the resulting famine, war, and poverty, our global refugee crisis is only going to escalate.
Our planet is one great ecosystem and we are a part of that ecosystem. We all exist in interdependence. To prosper and thrive, we need to look at the big picture, not just our own narrow backyard.
Our global interdependence is literally woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Much of our clothing is produced in factories in India and China. Much of our fresh produce is harvested by migrant laborers. Our coffee beans are picked by farm workers in Latin America, Africa, and Indonesia. We will probably never meet any of these people and yet their labor enriches our day-to-day life. Next time you sit down to a meal, give some thought to the men and women who tilled the soil and planted and harvested the crops. If you consume animal products, give thanks to the animals, too. For every breath we take, we need to be mindful of the green, growing plants that produce the oxygen.
Buddhist philosophy takes this even further. According to Alan Watts, the doctrine of sunyata, or “emptiness,” states there are no self-existent forms, for the more one concentrates upon any individual thing, the more it turns out to involve the whole universe. No woman or man is an island. We are all inextricably interwoven with our culture, our environment, our biology, our ancestors and family, the food we eat, our relationships, our socio-economic status, and so on. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to acknowledge the deep inner truths presented here.
If you’re still with me, I’d like to invite you to take part in a meditation that celebrates and cherishes our precious interdependence.
Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her novel, Ecstasy, about composer and life artist Alma Mahler, is now out in paperback. Learn more at her website. If you enjoyed this article, please sign up for Mary’s newsletter.