Sometimes it is impossible within the issue of Tibet to avoid treading upon sacred eggshells, no more so than when offering views on political comments made by the Dalai Lama. It invites an inevitable and inflamed response from some Tibetans, who see with their hearts, rather than through an objectively analyzing lens. It’s entirely understandable of course, hard to attain a sufficient detachment when the very fabric of your culture is woven with a devotion to a leader regarded as a living embodiment of a Buddhist deity.
Yet on the long and tortuous journey to democratic values, a quest indeed encouraged of his people by the Dalai Lama, a vital element in realizing that goal is a tolerance towards, and indeed respect for a dissenting view. Sadly, too often Tibetans who hold an alternative position on the subject of Tibet’s cause are fearful to express their opinion. Due to the troubling reality that to do so incurs hostility and social exclusion from the thought-police who are ever ready to spread a deadly nerve agent known as ‘ADL’ (anti-Dalai Lama). Far more effective than either ricin or anthrax it spreads through the Tibetan community with a lightening speed, highly contagious its potency increases as it passes from one uncritical believer to the next.
Thankfully there are some immune to such toxins and who value the principles of free-speech and the right to dissent, in that spirit we offer the following response to key elements of an address given by the Dalai Lama (Salugara, West Bengal, March 29, 2013) which we note has lead some members of regional chapters of the TYC in Southern India to suggest a change of stance away from independence to the so-called Middle Way Approach (MWA) promoted by the Central Tibetan Administration. An initiative launched originally by the Dalai Lama and a central theme at the aforementioned speech.
We have discussed here many times, the abject failure of the MWA in terms of progressing negotiations with China’s regime, a fact acknowledged by the Dalai Lama during an ABC interview https://tibettruth.com/2012/04/11/dalai-lama-declared-autonomy-proposals-a-failure/. Despite its obvious failings proponents of this stagnant and vacuous strategy still argue for it by claiming that it’s being welcomed by sections of Chinese society, in exile or within China itself. How that benefits Tibetans in occupied Tibet, who are actively resisting China’s tyranny for their independence, is not entirely clear. Meanwhile those who advocate the MWA choose to overlook the fact that any proposal which surrenders Tibet and its vast resources to China would be applauded by the majority of Chinese, including dissidents. It’s an equation drafted in an asylum, where a moral advantage is conferred upon Tibet’s people, in being politically pragmatic and astute, yet in practice they and their their land remain under the yoke of Chinese rule.
Such efforts to measure as a success the MWA are a despairing reaction to an uncomfortable reality, that despite years of appeasement and compromise, efforts to seek reason and agreement with China’s regime has singularly failed. In that barren landscape there is only misplaced hope and delusion, unless of course you choose to submit entirely to China’s demands. That step at this stage is too much, even for those who are willing to accept an improved autonomy under Chinese rule. So we are left in a stasis, lacking the political vision and courage to abandon the doomed proposals the exiled Tibetan Administration repeats the mantra, ignores the struggle for independence of Tibetans in Tibet, while citing the support of Chinese dissidents. It’s a self-serving justification, a splintered pole holding barely aloft a threadbare tent. These views shall be attracting the charge of heresy from the unthinking supporters of the MWA, yet their concern is not based on any reasonable critique of the arguments for or against but a visceral reaction, forged entirely from a personal and societal dedication towards the Dalai Lama, who continues to promote the Middle Way policy.
At this stage it’s instructive to feature some key parts of his recent statement on the subject:
“Our mutually beneficial Middle Way policy continues to attract widespread support among the Chinese people, particularly from intellectuals like Liu Xiao Bo in China. It is also admired and supported by many Chinese intellectuals and democracy activists in the US. And most importantly, my fellow Tibetans in Tibet, intellectuals, writers, artists, teachers, etc: I have met hundreds of them. They say that all Tibetans may want independence in their heart, but we need to see what is achievable and what can resolve the current problem. Therefore, the mutually beneficial Middle Way Approach is rational that can be explained to Chinese and that can be discussed. I have met many Tibetan intellectuals from inside Tibet and none among them has suggested that we proceed on the path of independence Therefore, rather than living poorly in independence (which we cannot achieve), if Tibetans get good economic development by living within the People’s Republic of China”. http://tibet.net/2013/04/10/translation-of-his-holiness-the-dalai-lamas-remarks-to-tibetans-at-salugara/
Now reading these words a number of points are raised. Firstly is not the cause of Tibet the birthright of Tibet’s people? Should not the six million Tibetans be the ultimate and sole legitimate authority on determining the status of a future Tibet? Rather than advocating the surrender of Tibet’s nationhood on the basis of an endorsement from supposed intellectuals (as if such people have any greater or truthful insight anyway) any proposal to address the Tibetan issue must have at its very core the political aspirations and rights of the 6 million Tibetan people, nearly all of whom are surviving under Chinese tyranny. Now where have we heard such comments previously?
“I have always stated that the central issue is that the Tibetan people must ultimately choose their own destiny. It is not for the Dalai Lama, and certainly not for the Chinese to make that decision. It should ultimately be the wishes of the Tibetan people that should prevail” (The Dalai Lama, Yale University, 9th October 1991)
That rightful recognition now appears to have been discarded by an exiled Tibetan Administration that tramples over the political hopes and struggle of its own people , in the hope of encouraging the communist Chinese regime. Yet are the words offered then by the Dalai Lama no longer true? It is a very sorry affair and provides a wake-up call for Tibetans to regain ownership over their cause by insisting their leadership work towards a common unified goal of Tibetan independence.