Thursday, July 24, 2008

Freedom in Tibet

People like to call the Dalai Lama a "spiritual" leader and a freedom fighter. Both of those terms are relative enough to be useless unless it's to deceive. Unless one believes in spirits, which of course, I do not, what we're talking about is a religious leader. So that no one will fail to observe my bias, I also do not believe that a religious leader has any particular right to speak for a country or a people or for anyone who doesn't give him that right. In the US, we've had a constant struggle with various "spiritual" leaders who have arrogated the right to lead on matters, moral, fiscal, military, sexual, political and racial. Other countries have taken rather a harder line. China is one of those.

Before the current incarnation of the Dalai Lama left Tibet, the poverty of that country was virtually unequalled, while the religious establisment consumed more than the lion's share of everything that could be consumed. In a way similar to medieval Europe, the monestaries and clerics owned nearly all the land and it's resources while serfs were cold and hungry - but very spiritualy assured of a better life after they succumbed to starvation and disease. China's solution to one of the most massive human rights problems was harsh and brutal. China's continued occupation continues to prevent the return of theocracy and feudalism, but of course although the standard of living and of education has grown greatly, freedom of speech is still no better than under the Lamas. How is it a restoration of freedom to return to religious feudalism?

None the less, the Bourgeois Buddhists of Hollywood have adopted the charming monk as a "spiritual leader" while of course continuing to lead their rather hedonistic lives. They seem not to know that the Tibetan religion is as far from Buddhism as Voodoo is from Roman Catholicism and they've also sold us some revisionism as rancid as the yak butter that lights the Potala on cold winter nights. Tibet has never been a Democracy nor have the people been anything we would call free. As much as two thirds of the territory the Dali Lama claims have been part of China for hundreds of years. Making Tibet an independent nation would be much like insisting we "free" the American Southwest and Puerto Rico by handing them over to the Roman Catholic Church. As much as Hollwood stars would like you to think they're agitating for freedom, they're agitating for a medieval theocracy where all power is vested in hereditary "spiritual leaders" who made a bit of a mockery of the compassion at the heart of Budhism.

Is it fair to compare John McCain to a Hollywood liberal? At least he's making a bid for the attention of the people who swoon over bits of quartz and babble about their "chi" and other trendy designer beliefs. John claims he's taking time out from the campaign by visiting the man born as Tenzin Gyatso. He's not, he's sucking up to another "spiritual leader" who would like very much to have more to say about power, a man who Thomas Jefferson would condemn as a tyrant over the mind of Man. Of course I would love to see peaceful protest allowed in China, I would love to see a free press, freedom from illegal searches and seizures and all the other things we're still fighting for here, I would like to see democratic institutions, an independent judiciary. What we are seeing though is the beginning of prosperity, the beginning of an educational system, but restoring an absolute theocracy is not the way to further those goals and kissing the skirts of theocrats is no way to influence China toward liberalization.


RR said...

Great post...

I've made the same point many times in various discussions: Tibet was one of the worst places to be born (50+ years ago)... Poverty was rampant -- the death rate terrible.

While I don't approve of the way the Chinese "changed things", arguing that the feudal/religious oligarchy should be restored is nothing more than lunacy. At least things have improved for most of the tibetens.

When I think about this situation I can't help but think of the mess our own indigenous peoples find themselves in. While I certainly respect the individuals choice to remain on the "reservation", the fact the government established and perpetuates keeping a people in ignorant poverty is appalling.

Again: if people want to keep there culture, that's one thing: but pretending that maintaining a 1000+ year old way of life is somehow better than taking advantage of progress is ridiculous. It costs people their lives -- both literally and in terms of quality of life...

Capt. Fogg said...

China is as heavy handed and clumsy as a country can be -- that's another way of saying brutal and unconcerned with individual rights.

Still, I agree that the best future for Tibetans doesn't include being the subjects of an absolute feudal theocracy. I can't believe that they would vote for starvation if they had the chance.

Settling large numbers of Chinese in the country though is another and disturbing matter.

veracity said...

Aha yes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.
You’ve obviously been reading the ‘right’ sort of information on Tibet available these days.
You should be more wary about the credentials of authors, you never know they might just as well been bought off by someone having ulterior motives.

And to suggest that Tibet would go back to this invented past is one of the more bizarre slurs levelled at the Tibetan people.
Another favourite old trick is the comparison of conditions and circumstances from 60 years ago to “prove” that the Han Chinese communists only brought improvements and were a great benefactor.
This could equally be applied to any country to make such a mendacious case.
Tibet under the current Dalai Lama could very well be a model of freedom and democracy; he’s implemented change long before the invasion of the Han Chinese Communists.
This is more than can be said about the US for example, where the veneer of democracy hides the uglier truth of corporate bribery, intimidation, bullying and corruption at the highest level.

I invite you to read up on this subject before you declare yourself an instant expert and offer your ‘wise counsel’ again.

The view of eminent, independent scholars surely has more weight than any propaganda, from whomever it is proffered.
No offence intended, but you’ve invited some response with this careless post.

Capt. Fogg said...

Yes, I've made the mistake of listening to Tibetans rather than to your selected websites. Argumentum ad Googleum is so persuasive.

Anyway, a lot of anger is a dangerous thing. It causes you to be rather bellicose about an argument I didn't actually make such as that the Chinese occupation brings only good things.
Were your argument bases on what I did say, rather than what you're so angry about I might bother to make some kind of detailed riposte, but life is too short to waste it arguing with self-important blowhards.

Suffice it to say that I don't think returning to religious tyranny offers a bright future for Tibet. I don't believe in governments where absolute rulers are determined by reincarnation. Perhaps you do. Perhaps you're full of it.