We hear occasionally the propaganda cry that conditions in Tibet, prior to communist China’s invasion of 1950, were akin to medieval serfdom. Much energy has been invested over the years by China, and its band of apologists to peddle crude distortions and exaggerated fallacies to support the lie that Tibetans were ‘liberated’ from such supposed oppression, through the tender mercies of communist China’s annexation of Tibet.
A key element of this deception relies upon the concept that Tibet was, prior to Chinese salvation, claimed to be a paradise, which was so we are asked to accept, shockingly exposed as a deceit which concealed an oppressed people, mercilessly exploited, so the disinformation would have it, by an elite and indulgent theocratic elite. This critique, which is based more upon rhetoric and political interest than social or historical fact, is employed as some form of justification of the occupation of Tibet, an imperialist legitimization, in which a supposedly backward and suppressed people were saved by a superior and beneficent colonizer.
The arrogant and racist arguments of Empire surely have no place in these supposedly more enlightened and information-rich times, yet the fiction of China’s so-called liberation of Tibet continues to deceive decent and intelligent people. Some mitigate and condone China’s oppression of Tibetans by balancing claims of economic and social improvements, seemingly now enjoyed by Tibet, against China’s propaganda version of Tibetan history. While unease of human rights abuse and cultural erosion can be rationalized away by drinking from the poisoned chalice that Tibet never was a paradise, and at least Tibetans now enjoy some progress, apparently.
Without a firm understanding of Tibetan history or culture it is easy to be deceived by such claims. It’s understandable too, that presented with what may appear counter-allegations relating to the condition of Tibet, some people try to find a middle-ground of understanding. However, with tyranny and the illegal occupation of a nation, there is no ‘golden mean’ of comprehension or truth. China’s invasion of Tibet, and subsequent destruction of Tibetan culture is not at all justified by imperialistic reasoning.
As for the view that the pre-invasion picture was not necessarily a Buddhist garden-of delights, we have to be clear in knowing that this is a propaganda claim drawn, not from any Tibetan assertion of a perfect society, but upon a romantic and idealized western understanding of Tibet. This paradise was a projection of western popular imagination, Tibet has exerted a curious and magical hold over the West. See https://tibettruth.com/2009/08/18/cultural-vultures/
No culture or nation is beyond imperfection, that said when assessing the misery, death, oppression and injustice generated by communist Chinese ideology with the Buddhist culture of Tibet, it is difficult not to warm towards the Tibetan people. That does not claim any utopian polity but one that cannot, unlike communist China, be held responsible for the deaths and suffering of untold millions.
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