The Russian and the Ukrainian Within Us

By Nejoud Al-Yagout

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Some people say that this quote is attributed to Einstein, others claim he never said it. The point is: Here we are again. Another dictator. Another invasion. And another instance of people taking sides.

As a citizen of Kuwait, it is reminiscent of what happened to us in 1990. Saddam sent troops close to the border. Many across the globe, including Kuwaitis, did not think Saddam would dare enter the country with most nations against him. After all, he had just come out of a near-decade long war against Iran a couple of years prior. Would he dare to take such a risk while his country was already facing economic issues and post-war fatigue? Yes, he dared. What amazed Kuwaitis was that it was the first time, at least in modern history, that an Arab had invaded another Arab country. Some Kuwaitis even share their heritage with Iraqis. Sound eerily familiar? There are many parallels between then and the current crisis. And it makes one wonder: What are we doing wrong? How could we come back to such a sorry state?

We cannot sit comfortably while fellow human beings are leaving their homes, while fellow human beings have lost their livelihood, while fellow human beings are being killed, while a land is being invaded. The last thing the world needs is another humanitarian disaster. It is easy to blame Putin. But that whole insanity repeating itself? It makes one wonder what we are doing wrong. As such, we need to address the underlying issue. And the issue is this: We are all responsible for the madness in our world. And the dictator, a manifestation of our ego, is a siren-a loud, terrifying siren-that we need to get out of the mess we have created.

We hear that the world is safer than ever before. But how can we claim that when our world is in shambles? And this takes us to Carl Jung and his theory of collective unconsciousness. If we are brave enough to venture within ourselves, we will find the dictator within us, the little child who pouts when we don’t get what we want, the little monster who wants a bigger house, a bigger garden, more clothes, more shoes, more, more, more. Sure, many of us would not invade land to get what we want, but the seed is the same. We don’t think enough about the seed, do we? Instead, we attack the monsters out there, those greedy leaders who send in troops and take over territory that is not rightfully theirs, those politicians who wave the flag of nationalism and arrogance and prejudice. Yes, it’s them. Not us. But who votes for these politicians? We do. They reflect us. Some are even related to us. Critics may argue that polls are rigged. But, even so, these politicians and dictators have countless supporters and followers.

There are many who would die for them. Have we forgotten that many countries were founded on blood and tears? How did they manage if they weren’t supported by many people and soldiers who carried out their mission for them? And what is the solution? Do we eradicate them all, one by one? This is the tendency of man. Kill or ostracize anyone who does us harm. But if we look closely enough, the dictator brings to life the dictator within us, that monster who seeks revenge, that judge who protests and condemns and mocks, the gossiper who can’t wait to vent at the dinner table. And then we enter full victim mentality mode. And what does the victim do? In many cases, the victim becomes more nationalistic, purging its country of anyone who is not like them. And, in extreme cases, the victim becomes the dictator, killing the so-called other, avenging what has been done to their community. The cycle perpetuates until there are more dictators in power, more bloodthirsty politicians who want to eradicate anyone who threatens their ego, their land, their resources.

It is easy to judge. It is easy to take sides. And the ego prides itself on being on the right side, even as we are not on the right side when we ostracize our family members, fight ourselves daily, gossip about our colleagues, betray our friends and families, or obsess about ourselves. We take pride in being the good ones fighting evil, ignoring the evil within us. We ignore all the times we belittle others, the times when we bully others, throw tantrums, are cruel to those near and dear to us. We go to war with others every single day and, in turn, gasp when it is manifested. If we spent as much time looking into ourselves as we do on criticizing and condemning others, peace would finally rear its gorgeous, stunning, and beautiful head.

Only then will we know the enemy was lurking within our very selves the entire time, telling us who to hate, who to condemn, who to attack, who to invade. That enemy might get the Putins in the world to kill, but it gets us to kill the love we have within us, to kill our relationships with others, to kill family ties, to kill sacred bonds with our spouses, to kill the self-esteem of our children, and to kill the concept of oneness at our workplace or, on a larger scale, in the world. We have lost our ability to love, forgetting that the enemy can dissolve as soon as we stop letting it control our lives.

Putin’s time will run out. All we need to do is look at history. Violence never prevails. But another Putin will arise. Another Saddam will pop up. Another Stalin, another Hitler. Why? Because we haven’t learned the lesson. As Eckhart Tolle so eloquently states: “You can see human unconsciousness in so many forms. You can see it very clearly in the terrorists. Sometimes it’s easier to see the madness in others-but we also have to see it in ourselves.”

And Lao Tzu had it right eons ago when he said: “If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” There is a voiceless voice inside each of us that knows the way, that knows that the only path is love, no matter how much we fight against it. We think we are fighting hate. No, we are fighting love. We are resisting love. And when we say humanity can never change, we keep ourselves deluded and we allow the enemy within to fool us and keep us in its stranglehold of deception. We can change. Each of us. One by one.

There is already plenty of good on this planet. But when all we report is bad news, fearful news, that is how we see the world. And how we see the world changes the way we are with ourselves and others for the worse. There is enough news about people misbehaving. Yes, we need that to galvanize us to do better; but where are the stories of people helping others? Where are the headlines of all the heroes and heroines who practice love? Where are the accounts of so-called enemies working side by side for peace in the world? Where are the stories of enemy soldiers helping those on the other end? Why don’t we post such stories? We don’t because we are afraid our community will call us traitors or condemn us for choosing love over fear. That’s why.

But love is the way. When we send love even to those we hate, the hate in the world dissolves. This does not mean accepting abuse from others or staying silent when invaded, but it means transforming our minds when tragedy strikes, so that another disaster doesn’t come in its place. This means holding the Putin within us and asking it to remember love. This means asking the Ukrainian soldiers to let go of revenge when the crisis is over, so that future generations do not carry the hate within them, so that history does not repeat itself. A few years ago, when Kuwait wanted to invest in Iraq, many critics were shocked that we would invest in a country that once invaded us. But we refused to live in the past.

The Iraqi government had changed after Saddam was toppled, so we chose to move on and restore our brotherly ties with Iraq. The way to go is by letting go when a tragedy is over. Even when the whole world prides itself on hating its enemies, even when critics tell us to continue to punish those who hurt us in the past, let us, one by one, choose love and forgiveness and compassion and understanding.

We have a lot to learn about love. But it’s the only law. It’s what will save this planet from war, destruction, climate change, and mistreatment of animals, creatures, and one another. And the love we seek is within us, ever trying to guide us to love better, to live better. We can do this. But each of us must take up the lofty challenge of doing better in our homes, first and foremost. And the home is in our heart. It is a mansion with sprawling gardens and flowing rivers. Some people call it heaven.


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