Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hope: Overrated

With Obama holding his lead over McCain as the clock runs down, one might be almost overwhelmed by the sheer stench of hope in the air. Change is also becoming an increasingly good bet, with recent polls exposing a large number of imperiled Republican seats nationwide. Want something to ground yourself with, something dreadful to cleanse your palate? The news from Tibet is crushingly depressing. Let’s check it out!

Last March riots erupted in Tibet proper and ethnically Tibetan areas across China. The cause was the same as that in the riots in Burma from the year before: Tibetan and Burmese citizens don’t like seeing the government hassle/arrest/torture/kill their monks, which for some reason the Chinese Communist Party and the Myanmar junta can’t help but to do. It’s like they would like to stop, but then they see a red-robed old man crossing the street and go mad with rage. Anyway, drowning in bad press and with their torch relay continually disrupted by protests the P.R.C. agreed to hold new talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama.

This would have been a great time for good-natured outsiders from any number of places to make a serious impression on the Chinese government that the talks better go well. Instead, however, the global community collectively avoided eye contact with the Chinese, choosing to stare at their shoes and check the time instead. I would have found that pretty dispiriting if I were the Dalai Lama, but he’s got decades of experience of being bullshat by Western leaders and international organizations. What’s that Darfur, your pleas for help have been largely ignored by Bush? Wow, I’m sure that’ll really impress the Dalai Lama, whose letters to the West in the 1940’s I paraphrase below:
DL: Hey guys, it’s me, the young leader of Tibet. If anyone could lend me a hand I’d really appreciate it. I don’t even need you to militarily reinforce me, I could just use someone to officially acknowledge that Tibet is a sovereign nation, it would probably take ten minutes and you’d be saving the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism itself from hostile foreign occupation. Everyone loves talking about how they champion freedom and democracy so… can I get a hand here?
FDR: Uh, right, I just have to… go see… that thing. Back later… much later.
England: We acknowledged your status as a nation back when we forced you to give some land to India, but right now we’re simply too busy. Keep your chin up, don’t let the coming decades of needless oppression get you down!
(For the sake of brevity I’ve omitted the part where every other nation on Earth does the exact same thing)
DL: …Fuck.
I’ve mentioned this in a past update, but it’s worth repeating: at around this time Chinese plans to invade Mongolia were scuttled after the Soviet Union reiterated that Mongolia was a free and independent country. They then got to spend a few decades as a crappy Soviet satellite, but today they’re on the map. In less time than it’s taken me to write this, any number of pre-invasion world leaders could have averted the Tibet problem.

Coming back to the present, two days ago the Dalai Lama announced that he was giving up on diplomacy with the Chinese. That isn’t me paraphrasing; it’s exactly what he said:
"I have been sincerely pursuing the middle way approach in dealing with China for a long time now but there hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side," he said in Tibetan at a public function Saturday in Dharmsala, the north Indian town that is home to Tibet's government-in-exile.

"As far as I'm concerned I have given up."
Later he revealed that a special conference has been scheduled in November, when every major Tibetan organization will come together and decide a future course of action. Can they come up with something better than the “middle way” of diplomacy? Given that the Chinese have made increasingly ridiculous demands with each attempted negotiation, and that their policy is very openly built around waiting until the Dalai Lama dies and then muddying the waters* in the search for his successor, I’ll go ahead and say they might have to get dramatic. Several prominent exiled Tibetans called for a march back from India into Tibet during the Olympics- at this point the exile community is hundreds of thousands strong, so that would certainly qualify as dramatic.

In response the Chinese government has claimed that it will indeed talk to envoys of the Dalai Lama, but that path doesn’t seem very promising given that Chinese preconditions for previous talks have involved Tibetans effectively giving up all claims to Tibet; more or less saying they didn’t want the place anyway. For now we’ll just have to wait until the Tibetan Congress announces its next move.

You may now return to your previously scheduled hope-based posting.

*And given that they’ve shown themselves perfectly willing to abduct/murder (how about this, China: you give me proof that the boy is still alive, and I’ll stop accusing you of killing him) religious leaders, I think we can assume that the Dalai Lama line of reincarnation/succession (which runs back to 1391) will indeed be broken when the current Dalai Lama dies.


  1. Sounds like you need the help of a Beverly hills cop.

  2. Turn that frown upside down starshine!!