Monday, March 31, 2008

Dalai Lama's Depressing Past, Disappointing Politics

The Dalai Lama may be universally admired; but he is poorly advised. His condemnation of China for alleged "cultural genocide" strengthens China's depiction of him as a separatist, ethnic leader bent on splitting his homeland from China.

China is an incredibly vast, multiethnic, multicultural country. It will never relinquish its right to modernize and develop Tibet, which was a feudal theocracy (actually admired by Hitler and his Nazi henchmen for its swastika and brutality) before China liberated the Tibetan people from serfdom in 1951. No outside powers (not even occult-obsessed Nazi Germany, which sent emissaries to Tibet) have ever recognized it as a sovereign state. Without China, the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against China, would most likely still be Tibet's absolute ruler, and illiteracy, ignorance, and crushing poverty would still prevail there.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, incidentally, has never satisfactorily apologized for the fact that monk-exploited, endlessly taxed Tibetans had no human rights before China intervened in Tibet's affairs. Nor has he apologized for his life-long friendship with at least two notorious Nazis, including a major SS figure, Dr. Bruno Berger (whose photo with the Dalai Lama appears below), and shocking acceptance of a substantial donation (45 million rupees, or about 170 million yen) from Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Supreme Truth cult, which subsequently attacked the Tokyo Subway system with sarin nerve gas. A photo of the Dalai Lama and the psychotic cult leader appears above. The Dalai Lama also seems to have maintained a friendly relationship with the Chilean Nazi mystic, Miguel Serrano, whose photo appears below the Berger image. Revered by his followers as the "father of esoteric Hitlerism," Serrano once told a neo-Nazi interviewer:

I also met the Dalai Lama at the moment he escape from Tibet during the Communist Chinese invasion. He was very young, 25 years old. I went to meet him at the Himalayas. he never forgets that. and when we met again during the funeral of Indira Gandhi in Delhi. he invited me to go to Dharmasala. where he lives now. We had a very interesting talk. It is good to know that before Buddhism was introduced in Thibet. Tibetans were a warrior' s race and their religion. the Bo, used also the same swastika of Hitlerism. Until today Intelligence Services of England and United States have been unable to discover the real mysterious links that existed between Tibet and Hitlerist Germany.

For most Buddhists, apology is a central teaching. One would also expect the Dalai Lama to apologize for--and unequivocally denounce--the recent, un-Buddhist-like Tibetan riot that targeted innocent Chinese civilians and businesses for destruction.

With the above in mind, a recent essay by Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, is a must-read. A sharp critic of China's Communist Party (which he mistakenly calls "Stalinist"), O'Neill writes:

In many ways, campaigners and commentators in the West are projecting their own disgust with ‘the Western way of life’ on to China. They see in China everything that they doubt or loathe about modernity itself. That is why commentators frequently tell China not to make ‘the same mistakes that we made’. On everything from economic growth to sporting competitiveness, from the use of coal to the building of skyscrapers, today’s China-bashing is motivated by Western self-loathing, as well as by spite and envy towards the seemingly successful Chinese. Ironically, this means that China is now seen as ‘the Other’ precisely because it appears too Western: it is China’s ambition, growth, its leaps forward - things that a more confident West might once have celebrated - which make it seem alien to Western observers who today prefer carbon-counting to factory-building and road tolls to road construction. China-bashing is underpinned by a crisis of belief in the West in things such as progress, growth, development.

It is the sweeping consensus that China is dangerous and diseased that has attracted Western observers to the issue of Tibet. Both left and right elements in the West are exploiting the Tibet issue as a way of putting pressure on China. They are less interested in securing real freedom and equality for Tibetans, and for the Chinese people more broadly, than they are in using and abusing internal disgruntlement in China and nearby territories as a way of humiliating the Chinese government. That is why Tibetans can symbolise different things to different people. For conservative commentators, the Tibetans are warriors for freedom against a Stalinist monolith; their protests are a replay of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. For greener, more liberal campaigners, Tibetans are symbols of natural and mystical purity in contrast to rampant Western and Chinese consumerism. As one author puts it, Tibetan culture offers ‘powerful, untarnished and coherent alternatives to Western egotistical lifestyles [and] our gradually more pointless pursuit of material interests’. Various political factions in the West are using Tibetans as ventriloquist dummies in order to mouth their own complaints against modern China. They are promoting Tibetan unrest not to liberate Tibetans but in the hope that the protests will represent their own personal disgust for China in a real-world, physical manner.

There is a long history of Western politicians and activists using Tibet as a stick with which to beat China. In his fascinating book Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, Donald S Lopez Jnr shows how, in the Western imagination, ‘the invasion of Tibet by [China] was and still is represented as an undifferentiated mass of godless Communists overrunning a peaceful land devoted only to ethereal pursuits… Tibet embodies the spiritual and the ancient, China the material and the modern. Tibetans are superhuman, Chinese are subhuman.’ Today, too, pro-Tibetan activism often disguises a view of the Chinese as subhuman. Indeed, in the current, all-encompassing right/left consensus about China, even left-leaning campaigns can employ old right tactics of demonising the Chinese. A poster for the trendy campaign group Free Tibet shows Tibetans as serene and peaceful and the Chinese as smog-producing modernisers with distinctly slitty eyes and goofy teeth.

POST SCRIPT: The Washington-Hollywood embrace of the Dalai Lama fuels Chinese nationalism and refocuses attention on his well documented role as a recipient of CIA funding. During the Cold War, the US intelligence agency spent tens of millions of dollars on pro-Dalai Lama Tibetan guerrillas, set up a training camp for Tibetan fighters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, helped the Dalai Lama to escape to India after the failed armed insurrection of 1959, and established Tibet cultural centers in New York and Geneva to keep alive the dream of an independent Tibet. The CIA also paid the Dalai Lama a personal stipend of $180,000 a year. The Nixon administration ended CIA support for the Tibetan movement while maintaining the spiritual leader's direct subsidy. In recent years, he has criticized the US for supporting Tibet in those days for narrow political reasons; he has also argued against US retaliation against Al Qaeda and radical Islam for the 9/11 attacks.


No Shangri-La: More on Old Tibet can be found here.

In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation--including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation--were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs. Journeying through Tibet in the 1960s, Stuart and Roma Gelder interviewed a former serf, Tsereh Wang Tuei, who had stolen two sheep belonging to a monastery. For this he had both his eyes gouged out and his hand mutilated beyond use. He explains that he no longer is a Buddhist: “When a holy lama told them to blind me I thought there was no good in religion.”21 Since it was against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then “left to God” in the freezing night to die. “The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking,” concludes Tom Grunfeld in his book on Tibet.

In 1959, Anna Louise Strong visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, breaking off hands, and hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling. The exhibition presented photographs and testimonies of victims who had been blinded or crippled or suffered amputations for thievery. There was the shepherd whose master owed him a reimbursement in yuan and wheat but refused to pay. So he took one of the master’s cows; for this he had his hands severed. Another herdsman, who opposed having his wife taken from him by his lord, had his hands broken off. There were pictures of Communist activists with noses and upper lips cut off, and a woman who was raped and then had her nose sliced away.

Earlier visitors to Tibet commented on the theocratic despotism. In 1895, an Englishman, Dr. A. L. Waddell, wrote that the populace was under the “intolerable tyranny of monks” and the devil superstitions they had fashioned to terrorize the people. In 1904 Perceval Landon described the Dalai Lama’s rule as “an engine of oppression.” At about that time, another English traveler, Captain W.F.T. O’Connor, observed that “the great landowners and the priests… exercise each in their own dominion a despotic power from which there is no appeal,” while the people are “oppressed by the most monstrous growth of monasticism and priest-craft.” Tibetan rulers “invented degrading legends and stimulated a spirit of superstition” among the common people. In 1937, another visitor, Spencer Chapman, wrote, “The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them. . . . The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth.”24 As much as we might wish otherwise, feudal theocratic Tibet was a far cry from the romanticized Shangri La so enthusiastically nurtured by Buddhism’s western proselytes.