The Folly of Force

Its not working. Never has, never will.

No amount of preaching and moralizing will force things to happen. Nor will the use of force when your preaching and “you shouldings” or even “let’s all” (Confucianism/communism) fails.

People, especially the rugged, open-air Tibetan nomads, don’t respond to the group-mind of the hypnotized.

Societies like the Chinese have functioned for centuries because of the power of its ability to socialize its members. By successfully promoting the idea that each individual is a separate creature with outwardly focused needs and functions, it makes the individual incapable of seeing that life is more than struggling for material needs and social rules. In this kind of society people do as they are told and force is sanctioned if people don’t. (Read Franz Kafta’s The Great Wall of China and for good measure, how about Alan Watts’ The Book – On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are)

This kind of mental outlook is incapable of understanding the worldview of people who are still connected to the spiritual side of life; who are better balanced between their left-brain and right-brain; who see through the hallucination of separation (the divide and conquer mentality); who cultivate compassion as the highest value.

No wonder, then, that Chinese leadership – and the propagandized public – is having such a hard time comprehending what the Dalai Lama and hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns and ordinary people in Tibet really want. Fifty years of preaching and force have not changed the nature of the people who live surrounded by a landscape that inspires the soul to be in awe of the grandeur of life.

Mt. Yarla - the \"Kailash\" of Kham, eastern Tibet

For more background of the Chinese view of Tibet read Asia Times Online: Tibet a defining issue for China
by Francesco Sisci in Beijing.

Reflecting on what’s happening in Tibet

I recently returned from another trip to Kham, the eastern Tibetan plateau – now Gansi Prefecture in Sichuan Province, China. I’ve been taking groups of high school students up there each March since 2004. Our trip this year was 2 weeks earlier than usual and we were back in Hong Kong on March 8, 2 days before protests began in Lhasa. Ours was the last group of foreign tourists in the area. Since then Kangding and all points West of there have been closed to foreigners. 

The calm before the storm . . .

It is difficult to say when things will settle down but this has been a confrontation waiting to happen. Now it has happened and has forced an issue that must be resolved. For a thorough report on what’s happening read the article in AsiaTimes online: Tibet, China and the West: Back to Stereotypes by Kent Ewing.

Historically China has been built up by a series of conquests. Powers have attacked and conquered the fertile plains and river valleys of China but stayed on to become part of a new mix of peoples. Tibet at its height of empire was one of these conquering powers.  Tibet’s conquest of China had a unique twist: instead of assimilation, an interesting relationship developed in which the Dalai Lamas become spiritual mentors to Mongol and Chinese rulers. This relationship started with the Mongols and continued throughout the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Tibet, for the most part, has always managed its own affairs and pursued its own culture due, to a great extent, to its geographic isolation. (Read China-German relations cool over Dalai Lama, by Manik Mehta in Taiwan Journal for more historical background.)

With the appearance of communism – a Western idea, by the way – Chinese rulers refused Tibetan spiritual authority over them, of course, and laid claim to Tibet as part of “the motherland”.  Modern technologies breached the geographic barriers and Tibet’s isolation ended.

In my opinion, the way forward for both Tibet and China is to re-establish the special pre-communist relationship they once enjoyed.

Tibet, and especially the Tibetan community in exile, has preserved an inestimable body of spiritual wisdom that the people of China have already begun to appreciate. Thousands of Chinese are turning to Tibetan Buddhism to quench their spiritual thirst. Well educated people from Beijing and Shanghai have begun to visit monasteries and lamas in all parts of the Tibetan areas in search of spiritual practices, understanding and reconciliation. 

Let Tibet be autonomous rather than independent. Fine. It can be argued that that’s how things have historically been. After all, Hong Kong is part of China but continues to enjoy an open society and an open market. One country, two systems. Give Tibetans the same opportunity to have their own local government while remaining part of the larger China. I don’t think the Dalai Lama would be opposed to this proposal.

Let Tibetans flourish in their own way. Let the Han Chinese stay. Open Tibet up to the rest of the world. I think we’ll all be amazed what could develop. And the Chinese people, with access to Tibetan spiritual teachers, will likewise benefit.

This is all very wishful thinking unless the current Chinese leadership drastically changes its stance and can welcome frank, open dialog with the Dalai Lama.