A Sense of Universal Responsibility

by Anna

An email arrived with a link and suddenly I found myself listen to thoughts and feelings of mine being expressed by someone on a YouTube clip, which was strange at first, yet also somewhat reassuring and prompted me to write about a topic that had been on my mind for the past weeks.

A few weeks ago I was exposed to Games of Thrones for the first time. I didn’t know what it was, had never heard of it and quite frankly didn’t even care about it. So the box set, lent to me in an act of goodwill by a friend, had sat on the shelf for over a month when I finally thought I might as well see what it is about.

I finished the whole first season in less than a week and was left wanting to know more. The second season was kindly handed over soon after by the well-meaning, though surprised, friend.

However, I seriously wonder why I am so keen to watch it. It has incredibly strong acts of violence which I find really upsetting at times and the affection on display is very much porn.

What hooks me though is the interpersonal relationships, the hearts of the people, the injustices with hope of justice and the developing characters, their life-stories unfolding in front of me without having to do much more than sit and watch.

So does it sell because it has violence for the hard men out there, sex for those who can’t get enough and an actual storyline for those with an intact thinking apparatus? Does it fill some gap in felt experience that otherwise would never be felt?

So that above mentioned YouTube clip arrived by email on an unrelated topic, yet it opened with a battle scene from Games of Thrones

And having meant to write about the above for the past weeks, the YouTube link acted like a hit with a pole, though a gentle one, since I’m not really that much into violence 😉

Watch it below, I’d like to know what it brings up in you!


My emotional response in regards towards any kind of violence everywhere on the planet is unsettling, be it a mere play on TV or factual on the news. And comparing my experience of peace at Plum Village, I wonder if it will ever be possible to live in complete peace.

Sadly, I doubt it.

To top Game of Thrones, I merrily went to see Kick-Ass 2 last week and after the “violent but kinda funny” first movie was somewhat appalled at the sheer brutality of the follow up. The constant splattering of blood and breaking of bones didn’t leave much space for anything else  and left me somewhat distressed instead. It’s not like I didn’t know what to expect, with Kick-Ass it is the “funny side”, the “cartoon effect”, that lets it get away with it. But maybe I should have leave it be after the first one.

In the end, most TV violence can be put aside for “not being real”. But what does your brain “see” as real? Can your unconscious mind really completely differentiate between “real” and “unreal” violence when it is quite clearly happening in front if it’s very eyes?

I notice myself how much I had already got desensitised to violence from the first episode of Game of Thrones to the end of the first season. After many beheadings and endless gut-wrenching scenes, in the literal sense, not the poetic, throughout the series I noticed how little my felt experience alarmed when Jim Carrey’s head got twisted off his neck in Kick-Ass 2.

On an interesting note, Jim Carrey actually stepped back from promoting Kick-Ass 2 after “a change of heart”. Does he feel similar to how I felt after watching it?

It worries me to think that violence will simply more increasingly be seen as something that happens without sending a much needed alarm message to our conscious brain telling it that it is not acceptable. We laugh about it, “maintaining the funny side of it”, thinking it isn’t real.

How do you feel if someone is being murdered right in front of you? Or if you are the one “having to do” the murdering? Is it just as acceptable to kill to defend yourself as it is to defend whatever it is you are representing? (remember the “duty” of those in charge during the Holocaust)

The bigger question here would be that of responsibility: “How much do we feel responsible for something that happens outside of our view, either far away or with participants that are not personally know to us?”

In the book “Understanding the Dalai Lama”, Raimon Panikkar talks about “Universal Responsibilities”:

“Why should I be responsible for a murder committed in a distant island by an unknown “fellow” for reasons totally incomprehensible to me? Is this distant person actually my fellow? Or have we fellowship only with our family, clan, caste, nation, religion, culture?

The only rational answer is to say that willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or not, we belong together and are not isolated individuals, unconnected monads, independent being. In a word, universal responsibility implies a certain type of universal solidarity. Individuals can only be linked by external ties, like a common interest. The moral responsibility which flows from a common goal is limited to the means used in the acquisition of that goal.

If power lies exclusively with the people and I am the people, and I have not voted for the constitution (of a country for example), why am I obliged to obey that law? Individuals feel united only if there is a common purpose or if there is a threat form the law, the police or the army. No wonder that our planet has more than 40 million in the armed forces. They “enforce” law and order because there is no sense of responsibility.”

So this somewhat lengthy account of mine that began with a mere unexpressed emotion and ends with an interesting account on Universal Responsibility by a very wise man is only an expansion of the awareness of my very own responsibility towards humanity.

If I don’t agree with violence then I shouldn’t apply violence and maybe shouldn’t merely sit and watch it either. Just, would it make any difference to humanity if I did carry on watching it on TV?

Ask yourself 😉


Let me share a few more quotes by Raimon Panikkar with you:

“His Holiness suggests we should include in our responsibility the entire ecosystem of our planet and soon of our solar system.

Humanity as such is responsible for its own destiny.

I am responsible if I have in me the capacity to respond to the summons of what makes me precisely responsible. Human freedom is an essential ingredient of responsibility.

We have responsibility towards others (legal) and to ourselves (ethical).

We should not understand universal responsibility to mean a single universal moral code. Each culture may have different visions and interpret and justify this responsibility in diverse forms.

We are not just responsible for our actions but also for our thoughts.

The seat of our responsibility lies not in the good or bad example we set, not in the good or bad effect we have on others, but in our very being. The seat is inside us, it is ourselves.

Our responsibility is based on the response we give to ourselves, to our being, because our being is constitutively related to all other beings.

Aware of our intrinsic responsibility in our very being, we do not frantically run to influence other people or “convert” them to our ways by extrinsic means. Instead it is the purity of heart that counts and the transparency of our lives.”