Thursday, May 08, 2008

Many More Sides of Tibet

people always knee-jerk assume I'm pro-China when i mention the realities in Tibet. and it is understandable, for when Chinese people cite the horrible pre 1956 conditions or Dalai's association with SS officers, is is usually in service of a pro-China agenda.

let's make one thing clear: i hate the chinese government and CCP more than any other living soul. everyone in my parent's genereation were traumatized by the persecutions of the cultural revolution... i feel the effects of the brutality and inhuman acts of those years immediately prior to my birth to this very day -- my family has been in many ways shattered by it, and has never healed.

but even with that in mind, shouting stupid slogans in ignorance of what they mean (like Bjork does) is not helpful to anyone - least of all Tibetans.

now to address a few particular points. recently a friend of mine said

"we should ask Tibetans what they want - and all the ones there i have talked to said they want their Lamas"

at the risk of sounding patronizing, it is important nonetheless to consider the education system under the rule of the monks: all buddhism, zero anything else. so of COURSE Tibetans want their Lamas, because THAT IS THE ONLY THING THEY KNOW.

as much as i immensely value a drastically different world view from the way I was raised, because i do believe that there are amazing and unspeakable truths, understandings, and experiences which are unique fruits of a spiritual practice such as Tibetan Buddhism --- the value of a well rounded education can NOT be underestimated -- and this has been but entirely deprived of Tibetans by their Lamas. and of course this would be perfectly acceptable and the rule of the Lamas would be peaceful and just and prosperous except... except it's not and never was. actually quite the contrary as we have seen from these articles:

the Dark Ages before the Chinese came: an elite owned all of the land, and serfs who labored under them with not a penny to gain. not more than slaves with no freedom, owned by their masters. debt was passed down from generation to generation, and those who tried to run away were brutally beaten. yes, indeed, torture was common place - hands chopped off for stealing, tongues cut for lying, eyes gouged out for betrayal.

last week i met with a friend who was a "Tibetologist" for 20+ years, who has traveled there on many occasions, and have had significant interaction with Tibetan people and monks, who rightfully claim inside knowledge, assures me that there is not merely 2 sides to the coin, but it's more like a tetrahedral die (like those used in role playing games). so, a brief run down of things glimpsed from this man's knowledge:

• Tibet was itself headed toward the direction of modernization around the time the Chinese invaded in the 1950s. but no one can say how that would have went with the conflicts that would have surely arisen.

• Chinese certainly did build infrastructure during occupation, but not with Tibetans in mind -- for its own ends of establishing trade route.

• many Tibetans did welcome the Chinese as agents of change, but after 10 years life did not get better for them under Chinese rule, and in some cases, even worse -- Tibetans, just like the Chinese people themselves, were subject to many of the disastrous policies of the CCP.

• it was not until much later, 1970s or 80s, when Chinese efforts in Tibet yielded some positive results.

• corruption certainly existed and exists in the theocracy of the monks, where inequality, injustice is common place, many recorded accounts of bribery, abuse of power, sexual abuse, etc.

• many attempts have been made in recent history to address the gap between western perception and realities in Tibet, such as many conferences with leading scholars which were well attended, and best selling books on the subject, but nothing seems to fundamentally shake the false conviction of most who simply WANT to believe in a mythical paradisal Shangri La, even when confronted with irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

• India never had a problem with border until Chinese took over - since then they have had to pour a ton of money into defense, almost bankrupting them.

• in current events it is very stupid for the Chinese government to blame the Dalai for instigating anti-China protests, for he acts more than anything else as a mediator and peace keeper, without whom the anti-China sentiments would become more heated.

so... what conclusion can we possibly draw from all of these disparate facts? the answer is i have NO IDEA.

but someone just said this:

Heres a simple question:

Do you support national self determination - that is, the idea that those who live in a country or region have the right to decide on their own future free from outside interference?

If the answer is yes in relation to Europe, the middle East or wherever, then its yes for everywhere.

sometimes it's good to have someone cut through all the butter with a hot knife. i guess on some level it is as simple as that.

my answer is of course yes.

the chinese should get the fuck out (not happening anytime soon though).

but also the world needs to stop projecting it's own spiritual privation on this country full of poor folks who have been suffering for way too long.