Donald Trump and The Dalai Lama

by Saul Levine, M.D., Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at UCSD September 26, 2018
 

 

screen-shot-2018-09-26-at-1-31-01-pmWhile they are two remarkably different men, “The Donald (Trump)” and “The Dalai (Lama)” are both immersed in international fame as well as controversy. Frequently seen on television, newspapers and social media, they each have the distinction of being vigorously admired and criticized. They are revered by millions of devoted followers and reviled by millions of impassioned haters.

Mr. Trump obviously has many dedicated acolytes in the United States who elected him president (notwithstanding the Electoral College imbroglio), but he has many admirers in other countries as well. His strong supporters tend to be politically and socially conservative voters who find authoritarian leaders appealing. His many angry detractors at home and abroad tend to harbor more liberal or progressive views.

Similarly, the Dalai Lama is adulated and denigrated. He is loved in Tibet, where he was born and anointed as the “Chosen Leader,” and where he remained until exiled by China. He has many devotees in China and India, where he now lives, and he’s admired by legions of people throughout the world. He also has severe critics and is seen by the Chinese government and many citizens as a traitor. He has been criticized by conservatives for his “naïve and dangerous” messages of respect for all humanity.

The differences between Donald Trump and the Dalai Lama can be a metaphor for the intense polarization we are witnessing throughout the world, as rigid perspectives and beliefs comprise close-minded opposing “camps.” This social disharmony breeds civic rancor and paralysis of the political process. But politics aside, if we look at the personalities of these men, polarization prevails.

Donald Trump is known worldwide by virtue of his status as president of the USA and his larger-than-life personality. Countless reporting and opinion pieces are churned out daily, in which he is either vilified or praised.

His personality projects assertiveness, brashness, competition, individualism, impulsivity, aggression and turmoil.

The Dalai Lama is renowned on the world stage via frequent appearances in media interviews and presentations, his prolific and popular speeches and writings, and the many articles about him in the press, magazines and journals.

The personality projected by the Dalai Lama over the years has been one of tolerance, respect, cooperation, empathy, compassion, contemplation and inner peace.

For purposes of this column, I selected these two famous men from entirely different backgrounds and spheres of influence. One stems from deep roots in business and politics, the other from a profound religious and spiritual tradition. One was elected, the other anointed. Leading a country and a religious movement obviously entail widely disparate responsibilities and skills.

The personality types and behaviors of these men could not be more different. Yet they are both either placed on pedestals of admiration, or held as targets of derision. Both would like to change the world for (their conception of) the better and both are revered and reviled.

Having recounted some of their dramatic differences, I have salient questions for you to ponder:

Which of these famous individuals are you more drawn to?

With whom would you most like to be identified or associated with?

Do you see personal characteristics in either which you admire?

Are there personal features of each which you abhor?

Finally, which of these men would you like your own children to emulate?

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