In Hillary Clinton’s recent review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order,” she quotes John F. Kennedy’s observation that peace and progress are “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions…a process – a way of solving problems.”
I believe that peace and progress are based on a revolution in human nature, just not one that is sudden. Human institutions are just that – institutions comprised and run by people. Institutions themselves have no way of evolving or transforming their nature, any more than an international corporation can change its ways. It is up to the men and women who run these institutions to change the way they work (or don’t work). If people themselves don’t change for the better, nothing else will either.
SGI President Ikeda states in his ongoing novel The New Human Revolution, “Social systems and institutions are necessary, but even more important are the hearts and minds of the people who operate those systems. No matter how ideal a system may be in theory, there is always the possibility that people will abuse it, or that it will devolve into mere formality. It comes down to whether we can establish a philosophy of life that teaches that the lives of all human beings – both the rulers and the people – are equally noble and respectworthy; whether we can make compassion central to our way of living, empathizing with others and seeking to relieve their sufferings; and whether we can overcome our selfishness and insatiable greed.”
– The New Human Revolution Vol 26 Chapter 3
This is what society needs, a compassionate and humanistic philosophy of life. A philosophy that teaches respect for all people, including both men and women, gays and lesbians, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Africans. This is what is meant by Buddhist humanism or compassion. We are not all the same, but we all deserve the same respect.
Changing as a person is no easy task. It takes courage and strength and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. When Kennedy says it won’t be “a sudden revolution in human nature,” he is right. Peace and progress require a gradual revolution in human nature – one brought about by a more compassionate and humanistic philosophy of life.