Dalai Lama

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Wed Apr 14 10:32:01 PDT 1999

Tavia wrote:

>Thanks Doug for thought-provoking historical background on Tibet, which I
>read with interest. But it doesn't seem to answer my question: where can I
>find quotes from the present-day Dalai Lama going around upholding feudal
>or antidemocratic or imperialist or pro-slavery views?

Why do they have to come from his mouth? Bill Clinton's never stood up and said "As the leader of a government that kills and exploits...." No, he always represents himself as a paragon of humane enlightenment. Unmasking may lead to cynicism, as Sloterdijk says, but I can't resist the urge to unmask the Tibet cult. Michael Stipe, Richard Gere, and Uma Thurman's father are no doubt repelled by the Christian Right in the United States, but they effectively do PR work for an extremely unattractive society.

>There something vulgar in the
>position that forced modernization

I'd thought it was more brutal than vulgar.

>is grand because it 'liberates' peasant
>societies from their backwardness. That doesn't characterize the views of
>anyone on this list, I trust.

Certainly not me, though I can't speak for anyone else. I suspect that Chinese hostility helps reinforce Tibetan traditionalists; that's often the way nationalisms work, no? They come to life when a nation is under outside attack.

>I don't pretend to know whether Tibet is
>legitimately part of China or not. Regardless, could one say that Chinese
>conduct in Tibet post-1959 fits a loose definition of cultural genocide?
>Like the Indonesian in East Timor? Or do we say the 'Free Tibet' movement
>in the US is mistaken, and the Free Tibeters are like the exiled Cuban
>elites driving around Miami with bumper stickers "Next Christmas in Havana"?

There's a difference between opposing Chinese control of Tibet and defending Tibetan society. I think Iraq and Yugoslavia are pretty horrible regimes, but that doesn't stop me from opposing the U.S. making war on them.

>Since I think the secularization hypothesis (people are steadily growing
>less religious) is probably mistaken, I think atheists like myself are
>stuck trying to cooperate with religionists, and have to find as much
>common ground as possible. Calling the powerless, exiled, and ascetic Dalai
>Lama names and laying the blame for feudalism at his feat seems like the
>wrong strategy for building solidarity with American Buddhists. Am I
>missing something?

Does that mean we can't criticize the Vatican for its horrible sexual morality and gender politics? If the condition of building solidarity with American Buddhists is overlooking a social structure in which 80% of the impoverished population pays tribute to a useless 20%, then that's an alliance I'm not interested in making.

As for the secularization hypothesis, well, how much influence does religion really have in Western Europe? Japan? Even American religion is a funny thing - we have a lot of public piety here, but how much does it really influence private behavior? Alan Wolfe's awful book on the American middle class shows their religion to be pretty weak tea - a little of this, a little of that, nothing demanding or divisive please! Most American profess to believe in heaven (more than believe in hell, of course), and most of those think they're going there. That's not religion, that's just an extended retirement plan.


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