Tibet and the attraction of Buddhism

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Mon Jul 6 08:40:53 PDT 1998

At 04:42 PM 7/2/98 -0400, Max Sawicky wrote:
>In "Prizzi's Honor," my favorite line is from
>Kathleen Turner, who has astonished her beau
>Jack Nicholson with the knowledge that she,
>like him, is a professional assassin with a
>work output in the double-digits. To his
>disbelief she says, "Well, it's not that
>many as a percentage of the population."

Actually, I believe that even a single assassination is one too many, regardless of its share of the population. But the point I tried to make was not to exonerate the practice itself, but to discredit some of its critics who seem to follow the "our thugs - good, their thugs - bad" line.

>Now you may not have been around when Brad at
>one point gave a long, ecumenical list of cases
>of mass murder.

I admit I missed that.

But I must say I am generally suspicious of any enumeration of 'mass murder.' With few exceptions (such as the Holocaust) it is nearly impossible to tell whether a person was a victim of the policy of extermination, or what in military terminology is referred to as "collateral damage."

Yet, various ideologues try to summarily blame as many deaths as they can on political regimes they disapprove of, and by so doing they usually disreagard all sound accounting practices. Thus I am genrally suspicious of American acadmicians counting victims on the other side of the iron curtain.

Any reliable count of the victims of, say, state socialism would have to account for:

1. the net effect on the death rates attributable to the implementation of the said policy; that would require deterimining the number of victims under the 'ceteris paribus' condition with the state socialism absent (e.g. deaths resulting from overall political instability, backwardness, pre-existing conflicts, etc.); and

2. the death toll due to more or less articulated policies of extermination, as opposed to deaths resulting from harsh living conditions, accidents, etc.; for example, the death of an innocent person in a concentration camp is different from the death of convicted criminal sent to a labor camp resulting from harsh living conditions. The latter is not necessarily a 'victim of the system' in the sense the former is.

>Secondly, we were talking about whether Tibet
>was or would be better off without the yoke of
>the Chinese, either under the old regimes (both
>communist and prior) or the current one. So
>the reference to China did not reflect bias,
>or at least that particular bias.

Not necessarily. A similar relationship exists between East Timor and Indonesia. There is one important difference, however. The leaders of the Tibetan struggle for indpendence are prieslty intellectuals esposusing exotic religious beliefs, whereas the leaders of the Timorean struggle are, well... working class "thugs." That, I suppose, explains the difference in attitudes of many American intellectuals, as I do not know of many intellectuals (except Noam Chomsky) rallying to free East Timor.

Best regards,


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