Thursday, March 27, 2008

follow-up rant

I could rant about so much, but will restrict myself to a few candid observations.

a) Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, found herself in India last week as part of a bi-partisan trip to India and took advantage of her spot in the limelight as a guest of the Dalai Lama to proclaim that "The cause of Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world." And the speech she gave in Dharmsala sadly recycles an entire paragraph of a speech she gave in November, 2005, on the occasion of his 70th birthday in which she recounts the "'magnificent gift'" of a gold Rolex that FDR gave him as a young man beginning a "valued relationship" between the United States and His Holiness.

And while she has met His Holiness at least four times now, her office has issued no further statements or speeches since March 21st.

b) Vaclav Havel, a man who knows more than a little about cultural resistance in the face of a totalitarian regime, described "...the most dangerous development of this unfortunate situation is the current attempt to seal off Tibet from the rest of the world." And that that we can only really understand the quiet, or quiescence, of Tibet as the "peace of the graveyard." The comments below Havel's piece are worth reading if only for the range of opinions.

c) It seems like something of a shame that the President of a nation often referred to as 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' is one of few active world leaders who is actually prepared to threaten something remotely substantial -- even if entirely symbolic -- namely to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies in his capacity as the president of the European Union. There are a few more details here at The London Times.

d) It seems that the Chinese government may have resorted to planting 'fake monks' during a highly scripted visit today by foreign reporters to Lhasa. This story from the International Herald Tribune adds some further dimensions to the extent to which this visit by selected reporters was strictly orchestrated.

As reported in the London Times Online, China, too, has made the ridiculous claim that the Dalai Lama is responsible for "planning attacks with the aid of violent Uighur separatist groups seeking an independent East Turkestan for their largely Muslim people in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China." Or maybe the Chinese government can barely contain the bubbling dissatisfaction of all its ethnic minorities and is trying to unite them to instill fear. Or perhaps yet, as Wayne Madsen has identified, this connection between Uighur and Tibetan nationalism and international terrorism was actually sown by the Bush administration back in 2002. That's a 'valued relationship' for sure. I would encourage folks to check out the UNPO, the Unregistered and National Peoples Organization, and then try to imagine what it could feel like to be an ethnic group without any significant international representation.

For my part, I do happen to believe that China relied on a selective piece of national memory to justify its invasion of Tibet, an invasion that opened up more physical living space and natural resources for its expanding population. And I have met Palden Gyatso -- and have no doubt that the oppression visited on his mind and body during his three decades of imprisonment by the Chinese government was and remains absolutely real. (I am also certain that amidst all the confusion and unrest of protest, there are predatory individuals taking advantage of the chaos to loot, steal, and cause pain to their neighbours -- whether Tibetan or Chinese.)

I do also believe that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the few genuinely radiant people I have ever encountered (albeit in a large convention hall) -- and an astute politician whose advocation of a 'Middle Way' acknowledges that the politics of resistance sometimes has to begin with the politics of survival. Unlike the author of this story in the China Daily, and this will be the only way I could compare myself to His Holiness, I believe history is dynamic, that even things as monolithic as 'nations' alter and change (and that actively resisting such change through ardent nationalism can be just as destructive). What saddens me about all of this is the denial, moral outrage and hypocrisy that the situation generates.


Ulaana said...

The Dalai Lama is amazing, isn't he? There are very few spiritual leaders/reincarnations that get so much respect! I heard him speak in Madison last year and he really glowed.

Rocket said...

AMEN! I could not have ranted any better about this myself.

Anonymous said...

For some time now we have been doing what we can to boycott China. Sadly, unless I find a way to build my own environmentally correct machine shop, extrusion facility, chemical plant, etc. - it's no longer possible to find goods that don't contain at least some parts that are made and/or assembled there.

When will our government agree to realistic trade rules with China? We take jobs away from American workers and send them to a country who's disdain for it's people and our Earth is utterly mind-boggling in scale.

redgirls-in-scotland said...

So Andrew Campbell. What are your views on the Scottish Nationalists.And Alex Salmond???

John said...

Andrew Campbell said...

JP: thanks for the additional insights. Nice to know all that schooling didn't go to waste. there are obvious other dimensions to the whole question of the dynamic nature of nationality and nationhood. As part of the post-WW2 post-imperial era when new countries declared themselves independent in a great flurry, the question of the modern creation of the state of Israel is a very interesting one, for example, and not one I have a thought-out opinion on. There are two issues, as I see them, with regard to Tibet/TAR: first, China and Tibet were established geo-political states and nations; second, they are also cultural and ethnic entities deeply bound to either religious or political ideology. It seems to me that HH the Dalai Lama understands that 'Tibet' can still exist if the second part can be satisfied; whereas the Chinese government doesn't respect either part.

Thanks for the post.