Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Free Tibet is Dead" A Reader Responds

blogdai breaks out the blue editor's pen for a response to a well-written comment on our controversial "Free Tibet is Dead" column.  Have a look:  

From Anonymous:  

While I agree the work of organizations such as the ICT fosters a retaliatory stance on the part of China, there may need to be a bit of "Middle Way' thinking in considering those issues can be addressed and assuaged versus those that cannot.

It is no surprise that 25 years of legislative posturing on the part of governments has done little to promote freedom, autonomy or cultural preservation within TIbet, however, I pose to all of you who read this thread, who outside the confines of Tibet and China can reach inside and work to facilitate and foster positive change? 

The last time I checked, China rebuffs anyone and everyone when it comes to human rights, environmental issues, economics, etc. Pick a topic, they do not listen.

What CAN outside organizations do? Is it time to focus on big business, corporate enterprise that seeks to profit from China's cheap labor, lack of environmental policies, and mega-mass production capabilities?

What about those companies that are complicit with the PRC? Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo? What about tech companies such as Cisco that provide resources which are used to repress information and education, or other foreign entities with facial and gait recognition systems? Canadian companies selling the PRC drilling equipment to rob the plateau of natural resources?

I posit the movement has stalled, through no fault of the TSGs. It is a matter of understanding what reach they have, what they've worked toward and can work to change in the future, and working toward that end. To say the external movement has failed to promote change inside Tibet is to assume, wrongly, that any movement outside the TAR has that much reach and power to alter the political and cultural situation. Context, it's all about context.

Only those who live within the turmoil can resolve to change it. All anyone else can do from the sidelines is support as best they are able.

Perhaps we need to re-define what we mean by "inside" Tibet. You're right, we can't get in and can't effect change; China will see to it that any admonishments from the West are rebuffed. One need only read Martin Jacques's When China Rules the World to find support for your "they do not listen" assertion. Unless there's an economic collapse or regime change, China will continue to roll over Tibet and assimilate it into "Greater China."  That's it, period. We're not going to stop it. So when I say that "inside" needs to be re-defined,  we need to work on the very issues that cause Tibetans to lose hope and  perhaps die in flames.  To me, for starters, these issues are:  Lack of self-determination, Statelessness, and cultural destruction.  We should have been working on these all along. 

Three quick strategies for this are as follows, and the good folks at ICT, I'm sure, will pick these up as talking points like all groups who lack imagination and need to pay the rent:

1. The US and the West need a "Tibet Forward" stance. Stop scolding China, start supporting Tibet. This takes the very basic form of not bowing to Chinese pressure on Tibetan issues outside of China. State level visits for the Dalai Lama, Pro-Tibetan, not anti China programs and legislation that enhances Tibet. We don't do this now.  We're scared shitless of jeopardizing access to China's "economic potential" and we're greedy. 

2.  Work the identity issue.  Residency cards in either Nepal or India go a long way in dealing with a Tibetans sense of Statelessness and dependency on the West.

3.  (I'll follow your lead on this one) Create incentives for the private sector to  make Tibet a condition for doing business in China. Tax breaks anyone?  Conversely you can do this passively by increasing incentives for investing in countries like India that actively support Tibet. 

There is a lot more here, but perhaps for another time.  Strategies like enhancement rather than supportive funding; and Tenzin Dorjee's "Lhakar" movement which I've augmented to "Lhakar Plus" with a few ideas.   So yes, there ARE things Westerners can do that are infinitely more effective than what we are doing now and that address Tibetan suffering directly and where it is needed most.

I Absolutely agree that serious debate must begin on what we CAN physically do now.  Our efforts to this point have helped no Tibetans and have boiled down to the West using Tibet as a tool to trumpet some moral superiority over China—a superpower rhetorical pissing contest, if you will.

Your point about business is spot on and may serve to best illustrate my point. The Intercontinental Hotel group is planning a large hotel in Lhasa. Twenty years ago, during the peak of the "Free Tibet" movement, such a thing would not have been considered; yet here we are today witnessing this incredibly tone-deaf business decision.  The fact that Intercontinental did not feel that the Tibetan issue would harm their business speaks volumes on how we've failed to keep the message of Tibet front, center and relevant. 

Combine this  with the fact that only a smattering of Tibet activist groups are considering a boycott of Intercontinental and that none of this seems to have gone beyond Twitter and it further speaks to our failure to construct and maintain an efficient and effective activism structure for the issue.

I take issue with you on your defense of the TSG's however. They have failed, in my opinion, and they may have been doomed to failure from the start.  We approach everything in the West through "business plan" style thinking.  The Tibet movement was no different.  It started with a vibrant, grass roots outreach and grew rapidly.  Instead of pausing right there and directing efforts towards the actual Tibetan issues of immediate relevance, we followed our model and built our institutions instead. The money continued to flow in and we became cautious about seeming "too activist" and jeopardizing some level of donor funding. Introduce, get everyone under the "big tent," become successful, build infrastructure and devolve into defending your territory. It's the Western business arc and totally unsuited for humanitarian efforts.   For me, this decline was best symbolized by Todd Stein of the ICT when he boasted to Foreign Policy that the Tibetan movement was now "institutionalized"—it also represented the final nail in the coffin of the Western Tibet movement, as far as I was concerned. 

I'm extremely pleased with your grasp of the issue. Feel free to submit your extended opinion on this and I'll post it as yours on blogdai.  I do get the feeling you may be Kate Saunders however, so I'll approach this offer with caution. 



At 2:19 PM, August 15, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God B'dai, you actually have some good ideas here.

At 5:48 PM, August 17, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think blog dai comes from a different era. Archives go back to 2005. He(she?) is a throwback to the day when sitting around and talking about doing something (twitter?) was considered doing nothing.

I will guess that there are more blogdai Tibet ideas than we know.

At 7:44 AM, November 21, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a lot of self-deceiving actions the TSG-movement, just recently the avaaz-action on the UN. Everyone who has just a slightest idea of what is going on at the UN knows that there was no way an online petition to whatever magnitude could keep PRC from the Human Rights Council. So what is the result? Yet another waste of time and wasting of resources for what? No word afterwards on the failure. But so much about complaining, I agree with the points made, to a large extent, particularly with the business approach. More dirt will be coming up, just if one digs a little bit. And I am not talking about such silly campaigns of this so called group UNFFT, boycotting products from China and such. Any sympathetic Chinese will tell you, please don't do it.

At 8:46 AM, December 13, 2013, Blogger blogdai said...

Could not agree with you more. I found the avaaz petition to be nothing more than an attempt to use the legitimate sympathies of individuals for data mining purposes.

FYI, the TIBET petition is still counting and still undelivered. I think I'll do a blog post on this.

Thanks for your great comments.



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