Self-immolating Tibetans

I was delighted to see that longtime commenter Kevin Carrico has translated into English Tsering Woeser’s book Tibet on Fire: Self-Immolations Against Chinese Rule, and a generous sample has been published in the NY Review of Books online. The article helped me understand why these Tibetans light themselves on fire and what they are hoping to achieve. It comes down to politics.

In my interviews with international media on the topic of self-immolation, I have always tried to emphasize one area of frequent misunderstanding: self-immolation is not suicide, and it is not a gesture of despair. Rather, it is sacrifice for a greater cause, and an attempt to press for change, as can be seen in these two peaks in self-immolation. Such an act is not to be judged by the precepts of Buddhism: it can only be judged by its political results. Each and every one of these roaring flames on the Tibetan plateau has been ignited by ethnic oppression. Each is a torch casting light on a land trapped in darkness. These names are a continuation of the protests of 2008 and a continuation of the monks’ decision that March: “We must stand up!”

Tibet is always a tricky topic to blog about because it is so not black and white. It’s important to understand how the majority of Chinese see Tibet and how they wonder why Tibet would recoil from its supposed benefactors. The Han have built schools and roads and hospitals, ended serfdom and raised the standard of living for thousands of Tibetans. Why then do so many Tibetans see the Chinese as oppressors bent on snuffing out their culture, even their language? The reality of life in Tibet is far different from that imagined by so many Chinese people. Maybe the Tibetans really were “liberated,” but many of them ask, “Liberated by whom? Liberated from what?” This fine translation sums up their despair.

After the 2008 protests, a “patriotic education” program, forcing monks to denounce the Dalai Lama openly, was intensified and expanded beyond Lhasa to cover every monastery across Tibet. Outside of the temples, the people of Tibet face regular searches of their residences: images of the Dalai Lama are confiscated from their homes, and there have even been cases of believers being imprisoned simply for having a photograph of His Holiness.

Second, the ecosystem of the Tibetan Plateau is being systematically destroyed. The state has forced thousands to leave behind the sheep, grasslands, and traditions of horseback riding with which they have practiced for millennia to move to the edges of towns, where they remain tied to one place. In their wake, a sea of Han workers has arrived from across the country armed with blueprints, bulldozers, and dynamite. They have immediately gone to work on the empty grasslands and rivers, mining copper, gold, and silver, building dams, and polluting our water supply and that of Asia as a whole….

So how should we feel about Tibet? As I said, it is a very tricky subject, and I have always exercised a good deal of caution while writing about it. I have never advocated that Tibet be made an independent nation and I have criticized articles in the media that I see as biased against Tibet, only offering the point of view of the Free Tibet crowd, while there is more to the story than that. On the other hand, I’ve never congratulated the CCP for generously helping Tibet end serfdom and get on its feet. That, too, is simplistic.

Pieces like this remind me of just how harsh China treats Tibetans, to the point where more than 140 of them have chosen self-immolation since 2008. Like under apartheid, Tibetans are second-class citizens to the Han Chinese, and typically, the CCP responds to unrest only by making the oppression worse, to the point of not even allowing Tibetans to make photocopies, lest they make and distribute copies of anti-government literature. I want to be fair in my blogging about Tibet, but no matter how much I strive to remain unbiased, the stubborn facts remain: Something is terribly wrong, and the Chinese government bears direct blame for treating an entire class of its people as second-class citizens and worse.

Please read the entire excerpt. It is obviously told from the point of view of a supporter of the Dalai Lama, but it sheds important light on the steadily tightening of the screws on the Tibetan people and offers great insights into what is motivating these people to make the ultimate sacrifice for their ideals and setting themselves on fire. Congratulations to Kevin for this fine translation.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 41 Comments

Be careful about ‘serfdom.’ Is that the right word to use? Was serfdom endemic to all of Tibet, or only parts of it? How did serfdom work in different areas, in nomadic regions, in farming villages, in Kham, Amdo, and U-Tsang? This isn’t to say that there was universal equality in pre-Chinese Tibet- there most certainly wasn’t, but I don’t think most Tibetans at the time would have recognized the cartoonish propaganda advanced by the Party through the Chinese education system, films and television series, and museums. When we say the Chinese ended feudalism in Tibet, we should think carefully about whether or not this sentence is the result of what happened on the ground on Tibet, or if it’s the result of justifications cooked up in Beijing. Somewhere in the middle, perhaps- but closer to which side?

True, it is important to understand how Chinese people see Tibet. It’s important because it’s only by understanding these views that you can break through the walls erected in their minds by the Party- false historical narratives, false understandings of how Tibetans live today. I’ve heard laowais say that we shouldn’t lecture the Chinese people about Tibet, because it’s their country. That’s exactly the point though- it isn’t their country, it belongs to Tibetans. Even living in a corner of China very explicitly given to police stating and authoritarian controls, an astounding number of Tibetans are very clear when they reject Chinese rule.

It’s nice that you haven’t ever said that Tibet should be independent, but to be honest this isn’t your call, nor is it mine. Tibetans should make that choice. I don’t know about you, but after spending a good deal of time in Tibet talking in Chinese and Tibetan and English to every Tibetan I could, I would be absolutely astonished if that vote wouldn’t go at least 90% for independence if the gun was removed from their heads- which is precisely why China will never ease up. Like you said, it’s cyclical- and it’s a cycle which teaches Tibetans that they will never be able to live happily under Chinese rule.

I love your blog and I’m glad you’re offering your thoughts on Tibet, but sometimes I think us Sinologists tend to get way too invested in staking out a middle ground between the Party and a bunch of loud Rangzen twitter accounts. We lived through people in the 90′s describing pre-Chinese Tibet as an enlightened land of love and peace on the one hand, and heard Beijing describing it as the cruelest system of feudal serfdom on the other, and proudly stuck our claim to the territory halfway between the two. We learn about Tibet through a Chinese lens that leaves us permanently seeing it partially askew, always Tibet as viewed from China, not Tibet seen in itself.

Can I ask, why do you describe Woeser as a supporter of the Dalai Lama in the final paragraph? Do we know, from this article, if she supports his Middle Way approach over Rangzen? I think when you describe her as such you unwittingly fall into the Chinese paradigm on Tibet, in which it’s a personal struggle between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. Her Tibetan political preferences aren’t clear in this article- all we know is that she’s Tibetan, and that she doesn’t appear to like Chinese rule. Does this make her a supporter of the Dalai Lama? Is that a useful descriptor?

The concerns that she writes about in the article are echoed by Tibetan society broadly, even including Tibetans in the Chinese political system I’ve heard from. I would simply describe Woeser as a Tibetan- a well-educated and articulate and brave Tibetan, for saying in print what many of her people are only comfortable saying quietly with friends in their living rooms or on the grassland or over a cup of butter tea.

One final point for consideration. We tend to view Tibetans on the outside as an extreme ‘Free Tibet’ crowd. What does it mean when of all of the primary candidates for Sikyong, the only one to stake a position on the Rangzen side is also the only one to have grown up inside the PRC? I think in many ways the Tibetan community outside the PRC is far more conciliatory towards the Party, a few twitter accounts excepted, than the Tibetans who have spent their lives under Chinese flags and at Chinese gunpoint. As you said, something is terribly wrong over there.

January 14, 2016 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

I have to admit, I’ve always felt a bit sceptical about the Free Tibet crowd. There is a hint of orientalism in their willingness to ascribe deep wisdom to what are, in reality, ancient superstitions. The hyperbole of claiming that Tibet is being subjected to “cultural genocide” also causes me to be sceptical. Self-immolation is undeniably an act of suicide and it is not justifiable in the name of any cause.

However, CCP oppression in Tibet is undeniable, and deplorable. Tibet stands to be made into another Inner Mongolia – an area in which the native population become a minority in their own land, this may have happened already.

January 14, 2016 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

Jamgon, to me the “Free Tibet” line of thinking is that Tibet was some kind of Utopian paradise as described in the book Lost Horizon. This myth imagines a land of contentment and spiritual bliss that is mainly believed by Westerners who know very little about actual life in Tibet, past or present. I say the author of the above piece is a “supporter of the Dalai Lama” based on what she’s saying and her referencing him as “His Holiness,” which, I believe, a non-believer wouldn’t use. About serfdom, I’ve read many articles and a book or two that refer to it. Maybe they are wrong. Not saying it was everywhere, but there was serfdom in Tibet.

January 15, 2016 @ 5:43 am | Comment

Richard- Agreed in regards to westerners who know very little about Tibet- but I suppose my point is, they’re more or less irrelevant here. If you’re devoted more than 30 seconds of thought to them, that’s too many. See FOARP’s comment above yours- it colors the debate in a way that a Tibetan in Tibet would find baffling. His grandfather was gunned down by the PLA, his father spent a decade in a laogai site, he’s been discriminated against and left jobless, alienated in a state whose handling of his people has crept closer and closer towards apartheid, but you’re leery of freeing his country because some white people he’s never met on the other side of the planet have a poor grasp of history?!?! It’s a logical non-sequitur. “Yes, I know Party rule in Tibet has involved one calamity after another, but you see, these aging hippies in America think your country used to be a utopia, so… *throws hands up in the air*”

His Holiness, ‘gong sa chog’ in Tibetan, is one of the most common names for the Dalai Lama in Tibetan- up there with ‘gyalwa rinpoche,’ the glorious precious one. Both of them are far more common in day to day use than actually saying ‘Dalai Lama.’ I suppose a non-Buddhist Tibetan might not use those terms, but I don’t think you meant to draw a distinction between Buddhist Tibetans and the relatively tiny number of non-Buddhist Tibetans, did you? If so we should probably describe almost all Tibetans as followers of the Dalai Lama. More germane to your post is whether or not she’s a political ally of the Dalai Lama on the Rangzen-Middle Way-Chinese Rule continuum.

As for serfdom in Tibet- again, we should use caution here. Tibet was a fragmented area with dozens of different polities- was something approximating serfdom present in all of them? Even if we ignore more or less half of Tibet and focus solely on the area administered by the Ganden Phodrang government in Lhasa prior to the Chinese invasion, there’s good cause for choosing our words carefully. Quoting Robert Barnett from Authenticating Tibet:

“Tibetans could equally well be described simply as peasants with particular kinds of debts and taxation responsibilities, rather than using a politically and morally loaded term such as “serf.” Other scholars have noted that such social categories, Marxist and otherwise, are in any case rooted in European history, and do not match the social system of pre-1951 Tibet, let alone the very different arrangements found among the people of eastern Tibet.”

Later:

“The more important question is why Chinese officials raise the issue of conditions in pre-1959 Tibet at all… In any case, China made no claims at the time of its invasion to be freeing Tibetans from social injustice. It declared then only that it was liberating them from “imperialism.” The issue of freeing Tibetans from feudalism appeared in Chinese rhetoric only after around 1954 in eastern Tibet and 1959 in central Tibet. Its justification then became that it was freeing them from class oppression… Chinese references to preliberation conditions in Tibet thus appear to be aimed at creating popular support for Beijing’s project in Tibet.”

Please note that the transition from rhetoric based on anti-imperialism to liberation from serfdom only appeared after the PLA found that the foreign presence in Tibet was limited to a tiny handful of diplomats, radio operators, missionaries, and the infamous Austrians. This is why I urge caution in accepting Beijing’s centering of the issue on serfdom.

As for the books you’ve read alleging serfdom, I wouldn’t say that they’re necessarily false in terms of content- they could certainly have found and described serious injustice in pre-Chinese Tibet. Melvyn Goldstein, for example, may be very close to the Chinese line- but he doesn’t tend to make things up entirely. The more important questions are- is serfdom really the best term? Can we really say that Tibetans were liberated when so many of them were then immediately sent to, and worked to death by, Chinese work units? (Thubten Khetsun’s ‘Memories of Life in Lhasa under Chinese Rule,’ and Naktsang Nulo’s ‘When Ice Shattered Stone’ are good accounts of life immediately following the invasion) And finally, how is this relevant to a discussion of contemporary Chinese rule in Tibet?

I hope you don’t mind my taking up so much room on your website :)

January 15, 2016 @ 7:53 am | Comment

“you’re leery of freeing his country because some white people he’s never met on the other side of the planet have a poor grasp of history?!?!”

No. As I said in my initial comment I am leery of the “people . . . with a poor grasp of history” who you refer to. I have no problem with saying that the CCP government in Tibet is oppressive, though I’m not really sure much can be done from outside China beyond protest, although I’ve been willing to do that and have taken part in demonstrations alongside the Free Tibet people.

You talk about “colouring the debate” – but surely you can understand that when non-Tibetans hear people refer to the Dalai Lama as “his Holiness” they start to doubt the objectivity of the people talking?

The debate about serfdom is a historical one and irrelevant to today’s Tibet. Even were CCP rhetoric about serfdom true it wouldn’t justify anything they do today, event though they present it as a justification.

January 15, 2016 @ 4:16 pm | Comment

“Surely you can understand that when non-Tibetans hear people refer to the Dalai Lama as “his Holiness” they start to doubt the objectivity of the people talking?”

I had never even really considered that. If someone reads Woeser’s article and comes away concerned with her use of an honorific title for a major religious leader… I’m trying to think of analogous cases here, and I’m coming up empty. If I hear someone addressing a priest as Father, or a Supreme Court justice as Your Honor, am I going to doubt their objectivity? If I hear a Catholic refer to the Pope as his Holiness? Probably not.

I think Woeser is probably a bad example for your case here, too. She lives in Beijing under close watch and is generally regarded as being extremely accurate and objective in her reporting on Tibet. Whatever limited form of protection she enjoys would certainly disappear if she started writing up falsehoods. If a non-Tibetan is put off by her (extremely Tibetan) tendency to refer to the Dalai Lama as His Holiness and concludes she’s biased as a result, they’re doing themselves a disservice.

January 15, 2016 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

If I hear a Catholic refer to the Pope as his Holiness?

Nobody but a Catholic would do this, which is the point.

I think Woeser is probably a bad example for your case here, too.

We’re not talking specifically about Woeser here.

January 17, 2016 @ 6:52 am | Comment

Tibet is part of China. Period.

At least in the same way that California is part of the USA

American Indians are 1 to 2% of the US population, and that 1 to 2% is pretty much genetically diluted.

Tibetans are around 70% the population of Tibet. There is absolutely no policy or deliberate attempt on the part of the Chinese government to encourage Han migration to Tibet.

Han should be allowed to live in Tibet, in the same way that non-Native Americans are allowed to live in California.

Tibet stands to be made into another Inner Mongolia – an area in which the native population become a minority in their own land, this may have happened already.

So what are you calling for? For China to limit freedom of movement of Chinese within their own country? For some sort of internal passport system? Was not those sort of policies condemned by the West when implemented by the Soviet Union?

January 18, 2016 @ 1:17 am | Comment

but surely you can understand that when non-Tibetans hear people refer to the Dalai Lama as “his Holiness” they start to doubt the objectivity of the people talking?

Actually, I agree with you here.

If someone goes round claiming they are Jesus, then they are rightly considered lunatics and somewhat sinister. Such as this guy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iax6eNC_6KU

Yet the Dalai Lama claims to be the incarnation of previous rulers of Tibet, and he is some modern day saint and guru to millions of gullible Westerners.

January 18, 2016 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Well this is nostalgic – you wouldn’t happen to be the Wayne who was also known as Wayne Lo/Yihetuan/Mongol Warrior, would you?

As for your question: I’m not calling for anything except that oppressive policies in Tibet end – Tibetans should be free to say and do as they like within the bounds of reasonable law. Unwarranted restrictions on freedom of speech and religion should end.

My mentioning of Inner Mongolia is merely my way of saying that the idea of establishing an independent Tibetan state may well be a pipe dream as Tibetans may already be a minority within Tibet.

January 18, 2016 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

FOARP:

“Nobody but a Catholic would do this, which is the point.”

Originally we were talking about whether or not Woeser referring to the Dalai Lama as His Holiness reveals that she’s a supporter of the Dalai Lama. My point was simply that as a Tibetan Buddhist, she’s probably going to do that, and that we shouldn’t take that as a sign of any meaningful bias in this case- her article was essentially a political argument, and not a religious one. Do you disagree? If you want to talk about westerners calling him His Holiness or something that’s fine, but I’m not very interested in that discussion, as generally my position on that comes down to “who gives a shit” :)

January 18, 2016 @ 11:10 pm | Comment

I want to clarify one point: While I believe the author of the book is most likely sympathetic to the Dalai Lama, I do not think she is “biased” per se. I agree with most of the excerpts I cited. She is simply telling a truth. We all have a point of view, and hers is clearly in the “pro-Tibet” camp. My own “biased” viewpoint is that Tibetans have suffered greatly under Han colonization but have also reaped certain benefits, and that I am not enough of a scholar to say what the solution is. The question as to whether Tibet is part of China opens up a Pandora’s box I am not eager to subject this blog to, as it usually deteriorates into a shouting match.

FOARP, you are onto something. “Wayne” is using his usual MO by starting off as rational and solicitous. After a while he shows his true colors. Wayne, please prove me wrong: Are you Mongrel Warrior? (To those who don’t know, MW is the most vicious troll ever to post here, and has been known to attack other commenters, sending them hateful, threatening emails and the like. I can’t exaggerate just how evil he is.

January 19, 2016 @ 7:38 am | Comment

Self-immolation is, in a sense, much better than the traditional Tibetan “Sky Burial” (chopped up the dead human body and fed to the vultures). Communist China has officially been banning the Sky Burial due to sanitation and disease prevention even some areas in Tibet still insist to perform this tradition. Not too many Western “professional” human rights and democratic activists have made comments on this. “Professional” means those who making living by exposing and, hopefully, destabilizing the unfriendly countries to the national interests of another country. See the following links for the details about the “Sky Burial”:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=666_1414847845 (***GRAPHIC***)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2376190/Chopped-fed-vultures-glimpse-closely-guarded-tradition-Tibetan-sky-funeral.html

January 22, 2016 @ 8:57 am | Comment

‘Chinese’ is a racist word, I don’t call myself ‘Chinese’

-ese and -o are are created by Anglo-Saxons to call “lower” cultures originally: Vietnamese, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese.

American, Canadian, British, French, German. Tell me a single Anglo-saxon ethnicity that ends in -ese.

I’m not a Chinese. I’m a Centralian. My home country is the Central Empire

January 24, 2016 @ 4:24 am | Comment

‘Chinese’ is a racist word, I don’t call myself ‘Chinese’

Cry me a lake.

January 24, 2016 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

The only examples you can give are Genovese and Vienese. That’s it ?

American, Australian, Austrian, Canadian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Russian.

Chinese, Congolese, Japanese, Nepalese, Portuguese, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Burmese.

How would you like to be called ‘Americanese’, ‘Britainese’ ?

“http://www.psychologyandeducation.net/pae/2011/08/08/do-you-want-to-be-called-as-an-americ%E2%80%9Cese%E2%80%9D-or-americ%E2%80%9Can%E2%80%9D-psychological-analysis-of-racist-and-derogatory-suffix-in-english/”

January 25, 2016 @ 1:05 am | Comment

There’s nothing racist about “Chinese” or “Japanese.” They are ubiquitous, and thousands of restaurants owned by Chinese people advertise themselves as “Chinese restaurants.” And Japanese restaurants. And Vietnamese restaurants. Are they all racists? I think we have a troll.

January 25, 2016 @ 6:10 am | Comment

Well, just because a word is currently being used does not preclude it from being racist. Negros was also a word used ubiquitously in the 60′s, even by African Americans themselves, so it must they it’s not a racist word ?

January 25, 2016 @ 7:02 am | Comment

Definitely a troll. Chinese people have referred to themselves as Chinese for centuries. Nice job of throwing the thread off-track.

January 25, 2016 @ 8:15 am | Comment

Come on, Richard. Sure, Mongol Warrior is a calculating troll, but you’re making him sound like the Devil Incarnate/the Sino Anti Christ of the blog world.

He is no more and no less than the average extreme Sino-nationalist with time, keyboard skills and a Hidden Harmonies appetite for dodgy references.

Internet trolls might jam up the home pc for awhile, cause inconvenience and a lot of cursing, but the damage they do is insignificant compared to a whole host of politicians/policies I could name, and JR knows who would be the first on this list.

January 25, 2016 @ 3:32 pm | Comment

KT, you have no idea what MW did to this site and its commenters, sending them hate emails and worse. You don’t know what was going on behind the scenes. MW is no ordinary troll, he is a psychopath. Ask FOARP.

January 26, 2016 @ 1:56 am | Comment

If Chinese is a racist word, then what about Centralian? Sounds a lot more racist to me.

In any case I don’t know why some nationalities end with -ese in English, and why they tend to be concentrated in Asia, but I think it’s coincidence, judging from other related languages.

In Italian the words for Chinese and Japanese are Cinese and Giapponese. Thai is also Tailandese (but Vietnamese is Vietnamita). On the other hand French is also Francese, and Swedish Svedese. A person from London is a Londinese. The ending -ese is not limited to Asian countries, and it’s certainly not offensive at all.

So my guess is that it is only a coincidence that this ending -ese isn’t used for European countries very much in the English language.

January 26, 2016 @ 7:31 am | Comment

Tibet is too important for China to be and independent country, so no what the “REAL SITUATION” in Tibet. The reality is that it will be securely a part of the Chinese map. You understand that both the Yellow river and the Yangzi river starts started from the Himalaya (If you don’t know these two rivers, pls excuse yourself from talking about Tibet or China cuz you’re not qualified). Tibet is the key to water and food security in China. Giving up Tibet is unthinkable for us Chinese. Liberal western thinking are based in what it “should” happen.. e.g Tibet should be free because they are….( fill in the blank). This is the real world here. We face hard decisions everyday. We judge people base on the decisions they make. Losing a strategically important region will be a name you don’t want to have as a politician. Again, don’t look at the Chinese in the prism of what “should” happen in the liberal sense. See us as a rational group of people making rational decisions. When some of the hard decisions we make hurts your liberal feeling. Do excuse us because that’s all you’ll gonna get, cuz everyone has their little black book and we’re not counting scores so should you.

January 26, 2016 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

Steven, totally agree with all your points. Finally some clear voice on this issue. Do you think US or Israel get to occupy the land they occupy today by being nice to others? Major powers will do what major power do: acquire more power, more wealth, more resources, more influence. This is what major power politics are. What is one common theme of the current 5 security council members in the UN? They all represent the ‘just’ side of the world? No. The major theme is that they are all nuclear powers, they all either in the past or now engage in expansionist and imperialist policies ( and in that respect China is the least expansionist and imperialist of that club).

Let’s get back to the real world please.

January 27, 2016 @ 11:15 am | Comment

@KT – Here’s what “Wayne Lo” (which just happens to be the name of the only Chinese-American school-shooter), AKA Mongol Warrior, AKA Yihetuan sent to me:

“one day we are going to sweep down, and just really flay fuckers like you alive and rip the breasts off your whore mother and and fuck your sister with a shotgun up the pussy. And you are going to watch while I deal to your girlfriend with a claw hammer. And then smash your head to a pulp with a baseball bat you white motherfucker.

The real ‘world’ true ‘global’ opinion does not hate China or the Chinese. They hate your lot.

Rise of the Coloured Races.”

He also sent similar threats to people like Ryan Mclaughlin, threatening to murder their children. These were not blog comments, but emails. He’s one sick puppy and I hope the cops catch up to him one of these days.

@Centralian – This is just deranged:

-ese and -o are are created by Anglo-Saxons to call “lower” cultures originally: Vietnamese, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese.
American, Canadian, British, French, German. Tell me a single Anglo-saxon ethnicity that ends in -ese.

Anglo-Saxon people’s have Anglo-Saxon name-endings, not Latin ones. People discovered by Italian/Portuguese explorers have Latin name-endings. It’s that simple.

And no, we don’t look down on the Portuguese (who are the UK’s longest ally) or the Genoese. Nor do we somehow respect the Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos, Koreans, Mongolians, Laotians, Cambodians etc. more than we respect the Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese.

January 27, 2016 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Crikey FOARP. I retract that comment.

(MW should be given the full rural treatment, and taken down to the bottom paddock, dumped in a deep hole and covered with white lime, just like any other rabid creature.

Fortunately I’m well protected by a couple of deranged pig dogs.)

January 28, 2016 @ 8:35 am | Comment

To conclude:

If the dogs Luke and Blondie were napping, I could still rely on my very non-nice trailer trash neighbors for protection, because as a matter of course they simply tar and feather anyone they perceive as non-local, due to their DNA.

@ Foarp. MW is simply a very extreme version of a whole range of agents and their cultural formations who would like to kill off the progressive Enlightenment Project which, as you know kicked off around the 1780s. (I’m speaking generally, so don’t tell me that Montesquieu wasn’t a democrat as we understand the term today.)

China and the Shia-Sunni middle eastern rag heads loathe and detest the West (which for all its faults rightfully focuses on human rights, the ROL and most importantly gender rights), and they would like to terminate the whole endeavor with extreme prejudice.

So far major European countries have hidden behind a veil of political correctness and ineptitude.

Unfortunately, effete cultures for all their goodness end up in a female position.

January 28, 2016 @ 5:24 pm | Comment

Oh, I knew I had heard of Centralia before. It’s the city that has the longest-running mine-fire ever, the one where the local government ended up having every building condemned as unfit for human habitation due to toxic pollution and general risk of collapse.

If that’s where “Centralian” comes from, no wonder he comes off a bit cranky.

January 28, 2016 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

“The Pope” and “His Holiness” seem to be used pretty much interchangeably when reporting on the Vatican, and papal stories. Both are used more as descriptors than to suggest any bias or belief in the sanctity of the Pope. Perhaps this is also the case with the Dalai Lama?

KT, as someone pointed out to me some years ago; those who think Europeans are weak and unwilling to engage in violence need only look at history. Beneath the facade of culture and sophistication lies as violent barbarism given to extremes of cruelty and bloodletting.

February 9, 2016 @ 2:05 am | Comment

I love the Pope, but have never, ever seen a news story in which he is referred to as His Holiness. Maybe in opinion columns, but never in a news story. Same with the Dalai Lama. It is used by their respective followers/admirers, not news reporters, like with the NY Times or Washington Post. If you can point to a hard news article that calls the Dalai Lama His Holiness I’ll take it all back.

February 9, 2016 @ 2:25 am | Comment

Richard, you may be right that it was opinion or non-news portions of reports. I do not recall the exact circumstances of the reports. I will be following the media coverage of the Pope’s visit to Mexico.

It is also highly possible that the reference was made in a local news report. I live in an area with a high Catholic population. Local news tends to reflect the area’s cultural viewpoints.

February 17, 2016 @ 7:17 am | Comment

@ Jim S. To be sure, there are instances which totally support your point:

Belgium @ the Congo.

The Balkans, but what can one expect from that part of the world.

Not to forget, Germany/Austria and all those sewerage Mittel European countries circa 1935-45.

And the most recent perp the USA – Vietnam, Iraq plus about 50 interventions in South America from 1945 to the Reagan presidency.

Almost forgot, France and Algeria.

Crikey, you may have a point.

But overall in the 2000s forward, most Western countries have lost their appetite for conflict and good old fashioned bloodletting.

Much easier to fall back on the silly view that you can socially engineer Islamic and other non western types into worthwhile models of western citizenship.

February 24, 2016 @ 6:15 pm | Comment

KT, you’re right that the beliefs about conflict and bloodletting have undergone dramatic changes. No one talks about the inevitability of war, or how war is some kind of glorious undertaking. It may be due in part to how the media covers conflict. Conflict is brutal and ugly and it is soothing to the national character to believe one’s country is above all that. It may also be due in part to an arrogant belief that everyone coming into to our country is going to instantly recognize that we are an extra special kind of sparkly snowflake – and abandon or alter belief systems and customs practiced for hundreds of years. Despite the outward displays, there are still a lot of old school warriors and barbarians around. Thankfully so.

Richard, there hasn’t been much Pope or Dali Lama news of late. The terror news and the Jerry Springer show (also alleged to be the Presidential primaries) have tended to suck all the energy out of the news cycle.

March 30, 2016 @ 6:52 am | Comment

KT, you’re right that the beliefs about conflict and bloodletting have undergone dramatic changes. No one talks about the inevitability of war, or how war is some kind of glorious undertaking. It may be due in part to how the media covers conflict. Conflict is brutal and ugly and it is soothing to the national character to believe one’s country is above all that. It may also be due in part to an arrogant belief that everyone coming into to our country is going to instantly recognize that we are an extra special kind of sparkly snowflake – and abandon or alter belief systems and customs practiced for hundreds of years. Despite the outward displays, there are still a lot of old school warriors and barbarians around. Thankfully so.

Richard, there hasn’t been much Pope or Dali Lama news of late. The terror news and the Jerry Springer show (also alleged to be the Presidential primaries) have tended to suck all the energy out of the news cycle.

March 30, 2016 @ 6:53 am | Comment

sadly, what CCP doing in Tibet, Xinjiang, and now HK and Macau is called “mainlandization” destroying everything with importing a bunch of locust mainlanders while turning those native to those lands into second class citizens.

I am surprised that IS haven’t recognize what CCP is doing in Xinjiang against their Muslims to the point of making Beijing and Shanghai flowing in rivers of blood instead of wasting their energy on Europe, the Middle East and North America…

March 30, 2016 @ 5:10 pm | Comment

I am reminded of the concluding lines of Anne Sexton’s poetry collection Life or Death, in which Sexton proclaims: “I choose life.” Sexton’s proclamation is deeply haunting to me, since it is sadly ironic that she eventually committed suicide (choosing death, it would seem to most observers). Her words led me to wonder whether one can choose life despite committing suicide, or even through suicide. The self-immolation of Tibetans provides, perhaps, an answer to my question. (Although Woeser does not see such deaths by fire as suicide, they fit into the common definition of suicide as intentionally bringing about one’s own death. Thus, I would categorize them as a unique type of suicide distinct from despairing suicide.)

Tibetans’ self-immolation can be seen as choosing life because it acknowledges life’s value rather than rejecting life as too painful to bear. The goal of self-immolation is to create a better future for those who live on, therefore recognizing the beauty life can contain if oppression is successfully combated. Self-immolators’ understanding that their deaths may expose the cruelty inflicted upon Tibetans likely leads them to view the final moments of their lives as deeply meaningful, enabling them to affirm the value of their lives rather than wish they had never been born at all. Relevant here is Slavoj Zizek’s atheistic Christianity. For Zizek, Christ’s resurrection did not take place literally. Rather, the Crucifixion allowed Christ to live on metaphorically in the community of believers who followed his teachings. Likewise, self-immolators’ sacrifices enable them to live on through those who remember their deaths and follow their example of standing up to Chinese oppression. Interestingly, the words “I choose life” are connected to Sexton’s decision not to abort or drown Dalmatian puppies, although neighbors had urged her to do so. Her proclamation is thus connected to compassion and allowing other beings to live, rather than seeing life as something valueless and therefore potentially worthy of destruction. Similarly, insofar as self-immolation is tied in part to protecting Tibet from environmental destruction, self-immolating Tibetans apparently choose life by using their deaths as attempts to protect other beings from harm resulting from mistreatment of the environment. So, it would seem, one can indeed choose life through suicide.

Is it possible that Sexton, whose death WAS motivated by despair, chose life through her suicide in a certain sense? Perhaps, but I do not find this likely. Her candid discussion of her deep depression allowed her to communicate the nature of her sadness to others, so it is conceivable that she saw her death as an act that would help others by generating discussion about despair. Given the severity of her depression, however, I find it more likely that her final action was taken solely out of despair.

May 29, 2016 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

“Tibet is too important for China to be and independent country, so no what the “REAL SITUATION” in Tibet. The reality is that it will be securely a part of the Chinese map. You understand that both the Yellow river and the Yangzi river starts started from the Himalaya … Losing a strategically important region will be a name you don’t want to have as a politician. Again, don’t look at the Chinese in the prism of what “should” happen in the liberal sense. See us as a rational group of people making rational decisions. When some of the hard decisions we make hurts your liberal feeling. Do excuse us because that’s all you’ll gonna get, cuz everyone has their little black book and we’re not counting scores so should you.”

“Do you think US or Israel get to occupy the land they occupy today by being nice to others? Major powers will do what major power do: acquire more power, more wealth, more resources, more influence.”

In this thread, Steve and Centralian display thinking that is disturbingly Machiavellian. For Machiavelli, a ruler cannot stay in power if he constantly remains a good person. From a Machiavellian perspective, rulers should act ethically when it is useful for them to do so, but must be willing to behave unethically when necessary. Machiavelli encourages conquest, urging rulers to take brutal steps to frighten conquered peoples into submission. The perspective of Steve and Centralian parallels that of Machiavelli because it claims that politicians must be willing to take unethical actions in order to stay in power and provide adequate resources to their people. From this perspective, adding offenses to a nation’s “little black book” is justifiable if it increases that nation’s affluence and power. In a similar vein to Machiavelli, Steve and Centralian see conquest as simply a part of modern political reality that we must accept.

One can imagine an advocate of enhanced interrogation making a similar Machiavellian argument, saying: “It is certainly unethical to use tactics such as waterboarding, but sometimes you have to do the dirty jobs that no one else wants to do. If I we want to make the nation a safer place, we must at times be willing to put morality aside in order to do so. If our nation is constantly worried about being ethical, it cannot survive in today’s brutal political landscape.”

May 30, 2016 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

When I used the term “justifiable,” I did not mean ethically justifiable, but justifiable (according to Steve and Centralian’s Machiavellian thinking) from the point view of rationality.

May 30, 2016 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

And one of the commenters I was referring to was ‘Steven’ and not ‘Steve.’ Sorry about that.

May 30, 2016 @ 4:45 pm | Comment

“Self-immolation is undeniably an act of suicide and it is not justifiable in the name of any cause.”

@ FOARP: Can you explain why this is so?

What if, under certain deeply oppressive conditions, the only way to give oneself a voice is to embrace the silent caress of the void? I’m not saying this is necessarily the case, but it is worth pondering. There is a valor to enduring the agony of flame in order to help others, since it goes against our (perhaps biological) inclination to survive and avoid pain. Self-immolation provides a powerful contrast with the Party, which is willing to take drastic measures to perpetuate its survival.

May 31, 2016 @ 8:16 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment