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Thread: My censored issue: Tibet

  1. #1

    My censored issue: Tibet

    Okay so I've tried numerous times to discuss this on e-sangha, only to be censored every time. First of all, I want to explain this: I carry a profound respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, (and even planned months in advance to see him in Seattle in 2 weeks! woo!) but there is somewhat of a - well what I feel - skewed history of Tibet.

    A few years ago I traveled to China. I only knew a superficial amount of Chinese history, but I asked a lot of questions. While I was there I met a Tibetan man who (was not in tibet, but Xi'an -- very far from home!) said it wasn't always so that the Dalai Lama and Communists we enemies.

    (Right to left) Dalai Lama, Mao Zedong, Panchen Lama; photographed by Hou Bo in 1954 in Beijing

    I only know a little about this, but there is a Maoist version of events of Tibet

    From my experience most "Free Tibet" folks are good progressive people like myself. And I support Tibetan independence. However, I don't support some mythological romanticizing of Tibetan society, Tibetan Buddhism or even HHDL.

    I don't believe everything the Maoists claim , however they do have some valid criticisms of Tibetan feudal society.

    An excerpt from the Maoist claims:

    Serfs were treated like despised "inferiors"--the way Black people were treated in the Jim Crow South. Serfs could not use the same seats, vocabulary or eating utensils as serf owners. Even touching one of the master's belongings could be punished by whipping. The masters and serfs were so distant from each other that in much of Tibet they spoke different languages.

    It was the custom for a serf to kneel on all fours so his master could step on his back to mount a horse. Tibet scholar A. Tom Grunfeld describes how one ruling class girl routinely had servants carry her up and down stairs just because she was lazy. Masters often rode on their serfs' backs across streams.

    The only thing worse than a serf in Tibet was a "chattel slave," who had no right to even grow a few crops for themselves. These slaves were often starved, beaten and worked to death. A master could turn a serf into a slave any time he wanted. Children were routinely bought and sold in Tibet's capital, Lhasa. About 5 percent of the Tibetan people were counted as chattel slaves. And at least another 10 percent were poor monks who were really "slaves in robes."

    The lamaist system tried to prevent any escape. Runaway slaves couldn't just set up free farms in the vast empty lands. Former serfs explained to revolutionary writer Anna Louise Strong that before liberation, "You could not live in Tibet without a master. Anyone might pick you up as an outlaw unless you had a legal owner."
    Does anyone else have more information on this -- or informed opinions?

  2. #2

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet

    Unfortunately you can't watch it as you're outside the UK but the BBC is running an excellent series 'a year in tibet' following the lives of a number of people in one particular area, from the ricjkshaw driver, to the hotel owners and the local temple. There was also one called 'Lost Tibet' about the years before the invasion.

    It seems very balanced discussing what lives were like before the invasion and take over in '51 (not so great for many) and how things for many have actually improved vastly (health/education) since then but also how the communist party have a major play in regulating peoples lives, particularly monks, with systems of fines and rewards, though they mostly seem to get fined in what I've seen so far.

    One Tibetan woman had worked for th communist party for 40 years enforcing their rule until the finished her as she'd reached 60. Being tibetan she'd not been given a contract of employment and so now gets no pension or anything after years of supporting them.

    Also seems that you average Tibetan is not allowed a passport, so can not leave, only some business people who are tibetan can get one!

    I guess the issue isn't necessarily if it was worse or is better now but the fact that Tibetans have no choice and effectively no country any more.

    Now if there was oil there..........

    It's a very complex situation, as all these things are. There's good and bad come from it but I don't support the Chinese invasion or their presence. How to go forward is the question I think...

    Odd of E-sanga to censor some one :lol:

    In gassho, Kev

  3. #3

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet

    No Harry, I don't think a return to the 'old system' is the answer either.

    Don't know what the answer is, but may be some sort of 'devolution' along the lines of what has happened with Scotland and Wales and hopefully will happen with Northern Ireland too?


  4. #4

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet

    I think that is the point I am getting at - I support Tibetan independence, just not a return to the old system. And just to repeat - I don't blame HHDL for something that was going on long before him. In fact, he has often made statements similar to Hez - that Buddhism in Tibet was a "forceful" thing. My primary issue is that often this argument can't be made with people already romanticize Tibet - and movies like 7 Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt don't help any serious analysis.

  5. #5

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet


    I can't see Tibet getting independence - and the Dalai Lama has said that autonomous government would be a realistic and acceptable solution. The problem seems to be that the Tibetans feel like they are becoming a disadvantaged minority in Tibet.

    The whole situation reminds me a bit of the situation of Catholics in Northern Ireland. They were also barred from attending university, important jobs and tended to live in separate areas which became effectively ghettoes. The fear between Catholics and Protestants was always that one group would significantly outnumber the other and this, along with other factors such as economics, opportunity and deprivation,etc., were what led to the Troubles.

    It's difficult to find hard facts that aren't disputed by one side or the other but I have read in several places that the Chinese Government are, at the very least, encouraging the abandonment of Tibetan culture by for instance insisting on Chinese language in education, enforcing settlement on nomadic groups, controlling monasteries and discriminating against ethnic Tibetans in areas of business and enterprise in favour of ethnic Chinese. Of course there are always two sides to every story, but the Chinese Government has a bad history of human rights abuses in general.

    I find it puzzling that this situation has caused such a polarisation of views in the rest of the world. Some of the problem does seem to stem from the perception of Tibetans as 'nice Buddhists' which tends to make them seem like some fairy story characters, when what they really are is 21st Century humans trying to get through life in the best way they can - much like the rest of us! This makes the whole situation seem rather unreal. I did see a quote from a woman from a Tibetan Women's Group who was trying to explain exactly that - I think she said 'we're just ordinary folks' who can get angry just like anyone else (that was a paraphrase). The Chinese Government don't help with their extreme rhetoric and paranoid secrecy either.

    None of this is any excuse though for censorship when people are genuinely trying to find out about the situation. Isn't that just being like the Chinese Government? It seems to me that it is very easy to sit in a democratic country and try and sort out such complex problems with celebrity endorsements and idealised notions of Shangri-La (a la Hollywood). My thoughts, as usual, are with the ordinary folk who always seem to end up as pawns in someone else's power games.


  6. #6

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet

    I don't think that Tibet can ever go back to being the Tibet of old. Right now, Tibetans are quickly becoming a minority in their own country. The real concern is their rights as a people and a culture to exist. When China took over, there was a massive pogrom (about a million Tibetans, mostly monks and nuns, were slaughtered). Since then, Tibetans have not really been allowed to practice Buddhism except in very staged showplaces for tourists. Only those practitioners who follow the party line are allowed to be lamas. The lineages have been greatly disrupted (China seized the Panchen Lama identified by the Dali Lama according to their traditions and replaced him with a boy who was carefully brought up by the Chinese government.) It is clear that the Chinese intend to interfere with the succession of the Dali Lama as well.

    The Tibetans have not been able to erect stupas, prayer wheels or many of their normal practices. Their medicine folkways have been destroyed. The ecosystem is being devastated by massive clear cutting of forests and strip mining. (Of course, this is happening in China too)

    It think the issue here is one of whether minority cultures will be wiped out or allowed to exist. When I hear the stories the Tibetans have to tell, I think of the United States' attempt to wipe out the Native American culture, ostensibly for their own good. We did many of the same things the Chinese are doing now. And, we lost a rich source of diversity and culture.

    I do not support the violence that is going on in Tibet. I hope a way will be found to encourage the Chinese to accept, support and value the contribution that a thriving Tibetan culture can make to the country.



  7. #7

    Re: My censored issue: Tibet

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    The wiping out of native cultures is much more subtle and pervasive than what happened to the native Americans or the Tibetans. US cultural imperialism is quite a piece of work... y'know honey.

    The 'General Custers' are heads of corporations now. We're paying through the nose for our dispossession and "We're Luvin' it"(TM).
    Yup, Harry. I can't agree more.


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