Max Sawicky sawicky at epinet.org
Thu Jul 2 08:08:29 PDT 1998

> . . . I was surprised to hear this fellow
> getting so exercised about any political issue, which made me wonder once
> again - what is it about Tibet and the Dalai Lama? Why are it and he such
> obsessions among otherwise nonpolitical types? And is he really the abused
> innocent that Richard Gere and Patti Smith would have us believe? Can
> anyone elighten me?

Yes, Grasshopper. Tibet has its own unique, vivid indigenous culture and mystical religion, each for assorted reasons very appealing to middle-class and upscale westerners. As you said yourself a while ago, it's far enough away, geographically and otherwise, to be a safe cause. Plus the big bad villain is the Chicoms. Very safe cause. This is all pretty obvious.

What I find curious, though you didn't ask, is that this is a perfect model of the oppression/destruction of an indigenous culture by an imperial power. The culture is based on hierarchy, patriarchy, and all the other archies of which we disapprove. As such, it fits the same pattern as many victims of capitalist colonialism.

One noteworthy feature is that the economic dimension of the oppression is not founded on private capital ownership, but on simple acquisitiveness and/or national chauvinism (e.g., Tibet has always been captive to China, so there is no reason to change that after the revolution). These are evidently common to both capitalist and socialist societies.

So why aren't we as exercised about Tibet as, say, the Yanomani Indians? What happened to "self-determination"? Is denial of national sovereignty to Tibet, a truly distinct national enclave, dare I say it, racist?



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