Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Lie Repeated : Whats really going on in Tibet

by Joshua Michael Schrei
Thursday Mar 20th, 2008 1:17 PM

As a lifelong activist who has worked on human rights issues around the globe, I hold the view that the best representatives of a culture are its people; that people create their own history, and in the case of the colonized or the oppressed that history is often rewritten by the oppressor. I do not assume that simply because a country is communist or socialist or capitalist that its practices toward its own people or its foreign policies are more or less honorable; beyond all the rhetoric, the reality of a situation can always be measured by the affected people themselves.

"A lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth."

-Chairman Mao

The Tibet issue is one that the left has found to be somewhat of a conundrum, for the simple reason that most other popular human rights struggles can be easily linked to a larger struggle against U.S. or European imperialism. Therefore these struggles - be it in Palestine, or East Timor, or Colombia, fit nicely into the larger - and often rather myopic - worldview of the leftist.

However, Tibet is a case in which the struggle for basic rights and nationhood is being carried out against a communist government, so it has brought with it a host of questions for the leftist, who naturally leans towards socialism or communism as an ideological example of a system that stands in contrast to the 'imperialist west'.

China, the country that invaded Tibet in 1950, has stood as one such example- though the Chinese government's practices over the last 53 years and its current bent towards totalitarian capitalism would tend to defy any labeling as a positive example. Nonetheless, China's history of socialism and revolution remains as something of an inspiration for the Western left, and therefore certain historians- predominantly scholars with some form of Marxist or Maoist agenda- have seen the current popularity of the movement for Tibetan statehood and have taken it upon themselves to give a glimpse into the grim reality of 'old Tibet.'

The most recent historian to embrace this view of 'old Tibet' is Dr. Michael Parenti, a Yale scholar who, in the course of his career, has written on a variety of populist causes. To be fair, Parenti stops short -barely- of condoning the Chinese occupation. He does however, cast a decidedly unflattering view of life in pre-1950 Tibet...

In Parenti's words, old Tibet was "a social order that was little more than a despotic retrograde theocracy of serfdom and poverty, so damaging to the human spirit, where vast wealth was accumulated by a favored few who lived high and mighty off the blood, sweat, and tears of the many. For most of the Tibetan aristocrats in exile, that is the world to which they fervently desire to return. It is a long way from Shangri-La."

I have chosen to dissect this thesis because it houses many of the common arguments presented by Chinese government propagandists on Tibet, as well as many of the arguments that modern day Marxists and Maoists regularly hurl at Tibet activists on internet chat rooms and at protests. As we will see, the flawed premise of this thesis illuminates how the far left has gone woefully off the mark in its efforts to undermine the legitimate struggle for Tibetan rights and statehood. Full Article Link

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