It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s dharma, even though perfectly. By doing one’s innate duties, a person does not incur sin. (The Bhagavad-Gita, 18:47)
This week, as I watched the Trump-Putin new conference and the subsequent coverage, I have been pondering this quote from The Gita.
Unlike many of the commentators, I don’t find Trump’s friendliness to Putin, or Trump trusting Putin more than he trusts his own intelligence community, that surprising. Even a cursory attention to people like the alt-righter Alex Jones or the white supremacist Richard Spencer shows that many people in America (how many?) feel greater affinity to white nationalists in other countries than they do to fellow Americans who they see as globalists.
On this view, all the following are basically the same: liberal democracy, globalism, a global state, multi-culturalism, feminism, anti-colonialism, secularism, liberal fascism, etc. And opposed to it is are basically various forms of nationalisms, where to each nation there corresponds a people bonded along cultural and racial lines. So each nation belongs, first and foremost, to the unique people who culturally define it.
So, then, on this view, the big fight now is between nationalists and globalists. The nationalists want nothing more – from their perspective – than to have their country, as it is true to their culture and race. They are simply trying to be themselves. And then here come these globalists imposing a fake/false/imperialistic universal framework which they are trying to impose on everyone else.
I have no doubt that when the cameras aren’t around this is how Trump talks to his friends. And how he talks to Putin and Kim Jong Un. Trump’s famed confidence that he can make deals with these autocrats is just the confidence that he and them can get aligned against the globalists. The issue isn’t democrats vs republicans, or capitalism vs communism, or even democracy vs dictatorship. Those are all by and by. The main issue is seen as: a global cadre of elites have formed in the last 50 years, who espouse multiculturalism and anti-colonialism and feminism and all other such “good” things, and in the name of that goodness, they are taking most of the wealth for themselves. This cadre is diverse in gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and so because of that diversity, it assumes that it has found a universal framework for all people. This group presumes that it is more enlightened because it embraces people beyond culture, race, religion and nationality. And the “main stream media” gives them the praise and adoration, since it is part of this cadre itself. So people like Trump and Putin, though wealthy, feel as if their not being globalists limits their ability to have more wealth – and, as importantly, to have prestige and admiration. So they feel more affection for each other than to, as they see it, globalists who are betraying America and Russia.
This isn’t to deny that Putin might have something on Trump. Or that Trump’s finances might be tied into Russian money. Things which give Putin leverage over Trump. But it is to say that beyond that, there is here an alignment of resentiments and worldviews against the coalition of “globalists” like Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, etc. (women, blacks, jews, etc.).
Much of the dizzying sense around Trump and his actions in our politics and media is created by the confluence of two facts:
- Trump is operating with a framework of globalists versus nationalists, and
- The American cultural, media and political consciousness is still mired in the framework from the last 50 years, in which it is unthinkable that a prominent American might feel he has more in common with a Russian than he does with many of his fellow Americans.
Ironically, while nationalists like Trump and Steven Bannon are so intent on physical boundaries around America, they are doing more than anyone to explode the old conceptual boundaries of America. It’s an issue even beyond race. Trump seems more comfortable with a non-white nationalist like Kim Jung Un than with a white, spreading freedom globalist like George W. Bush.
I predict that as our media and political consciousness itself comes to adopt the globalists vs nationalists framework, much of Trump’s actions will stop seeming mysterious, and thereby will stop seeming miraculous and as if he can never be held accountable. Right now he is gliding in between the old and the new frameworks, and so getting by without being held responsible in one or the other.
So, what does all this have to do with the Gita quote?
It’s a reminder to myself to keep doing my dharma, and not to get lost in all the cultural upheavals of the moment. I am not just a spectator of the history that is happening out there out in the world, or on TV. I am a part of the history myself. Trump has his dharma. Putin has his. Robert Muller has his. Politicians have theirs. Academics have theirs. And I have mine. Everyone’s dharma is to listen to the voice of God in them and to not worry about the dharma of others. Whether they are able to do that will determine how joyful and peaceful a life they lead, and ultimately how transformative.
The seismic shifts happening our culture and politics are huge. And they can be confusing and disorienting. But as long as one listens to one’s own dharma without worrying about the dharma of others, one can be grounded in that reality, the true reality. One then still feels in control, or at least not out of control. For one is then not trying to control others or the world. Not trying to control how Trump or Putin or the Republicans or the Democrats or the media should act, but focusing only on the source of inspiration within oneself. Content in the awareness that the inspiration within oneself which doesn’t put down others is the greatest and the shortest path towards a brighter future, and that such inspiration is always within us and guiding us. All we have to do is listen.