March 22, 2008

The Difficult "Middle" Way

The Occupiers' Burden
Thu, 20 Mar 2008 15:02:09 -0500
Josh Schrei
Is the Dalai Lama's pacifist stance helping or hurting the Tibetan cause?

[...] For if anything over the last two decades has kept the Tibetan population from doing exactly what they did this week, it has been the Dalai Lama’s steadfast devotion to nonviolence and his insistence that his people maintain a similar moral high ground. If, for all these years, the Dalai Lama had been fomenting a violent uprising, Tibet – for better or worse – would be a very different place.
[...] Right now in Tibet, Chinese tanks patrol the streets and loudspeakers blare Orwellian slogans urging Tibetans to ‘know friends from enemies’ and – in true Spanish-inquisition-style justice — to turn themselves in for ‘mercy’. In a clear violation of everything the Geneva Convention has to say about the treatment of prisoners, FOX News and the Times (UK) are reporting truckloads of Tibetan prisoners paraded through Lhasa with their heads forcibly bowed as a warning to other potential troublemakers to show restraint.
[...] But the burden of restraint should not be on Tibetans, who have acted with restraint for over 50 years. Tibetans have, except for the very rare times when passions and frustrations flare, followed His Holiness’s lead, bit their tongues, and suffered the humiliation of colonization with nobility and grace. These Tibetans, who finally, after years of brutal occupation, are acting violently, are no mindless hooligans. It takes a lot to make a Tibetan pick up a stone and throw it at another person. A Tibetan, raised steeped in Buddhist morality and with a sense of absolute obedience to the wishes and words of the Dalai Lama, has to go through a pretty deep moral struggle in order to pick up that rock, as it represents not only rising up against their occupier, but rising up against their own cultural fabric of Buddhist nonviolence as well. They do not do this lightly.
[...] The only question that remains is if Beijing will finally be sensible and take a constructive approach to solving a situation that won’t go away, or if they will continue to act like the neighborhood bully, in which case they can probably expect a lot more stones.
GNN contributor Josh Schrei is a producer, writer, and nonprofit strategist living in New York City. Josh has closely followed the situation on the ground in Tibet for 19 years, writing numerous articles on the subject that have been widely published. Josh served as Campaigns Coordinator for the Milarepa Fund from 1996 – 2001 and on the Board of Students for a Free Tibet from 1999 – 2004.

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