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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Can you hear me now?

February 1, 2008

by Tenzin Dickyi, Harvard University (

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it
make a sound?

These days, there is always someone around with a camera and a Facebook
or YouTube account. Even the Tibetan diaspora, descending from a people
famously technologically wary, seems to be firmly launched online. His
Holiness has a webcast and The administration and
non-profit organizations have their variously updated websites. You and
me, ordinary folks, have Facebook or Hi5. Facebook is basically the
technical equivalent of the Lhasa teahouse, the Dharamsala bus stand or
Jackson Heights' Shereen Mahal: it is an information bazaar that runs on
something like a barter system. You tell me your favorite movies and
I'll tell you mine.

The genius of Facebook and other networking tools online is that you
don't just spread news; you make it. Caitlin is ice-fishing in subzero
temperature, Rich is helping Students for a Free Tibet make history at
Beijing 2008, Steve voted Romney in California, Noryang is writing a
paper etc. As the line between producers and consumers blur (and the
line between gossip and news effectively washes out), everything we do
can be news. The trick is to market it effectively. Already there is a
plethora of Tibetan groups online. There is a Boycott the Beijing
Olympics group, a Kala Will Free Tibet group. A North American
University Students' Conference group that seemed to come up literally
hours after the Tibetan students' conference convened. A touching
Ngatsoe TCV-Our Pride group, and a 2 Much Tenzin…Lol group that actually
has 90 members at last count. And my particular favorite: the I Hate
Stupid Groups that Say "Don't Free Tibet" group.

The internet has already changed the way we plan and organize protests
and demonstrations. Now you can organize a protest or a party, send
invitations online and gauge interest and attendance level before the
day of the even dawns. Communication is instantaneous and accessible to
everyone (well, everyone with internet access).

When the Chinese steadily moved their troops into Kham and Amdo,
strategically placing tens of thousands of armed soldiers in Jyekundo,
Lithang, Chatreng and Golok, then occupying Chamdo; the rest of the
world knew nothing about it. The Tibetans themselves were hard pressed
for information. Gonpo Tashi Andrugtsang, leading the Tibetan Resistance
Movement based in Lhoka into battle against the Chinese, deployed his
soldiers based on intelligence two weeks old brought him by couriers on
horses from Lhasa.

If a people protest and no one is around to see it, did a protest
happen? When everyone has a microphone, this question - whatever its
philosophical validity – is no longer necessary.

I mentioned before that internet has changed the way we plan protests. I
might mention, it has also changed the way foundations award grant money
to non-profit organization. Case Foundation has announced a Giving
Challenge. The foundation is awarding $50,000 through Facebook to
whichever organization garners most public support in the form of online
donations. Students for a Free Tibet has entered this challenge and plan
to use the money during the Beijing Olympics this summer, when every
camera and mike will be turned on China, to protest China's illegal
occupation of Tibet. To help SFT win this most critical award, please go

Navigating your way online has now become an essential skill for an
activist. The last time I went to Wikipedia, I checked the entry for
Tibet. It reads, "In the Tibetan sovereignty debate, the government of
the People's Republic of China and the Government of Tibet in Exile
disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether this
incorporation into China is legitimate according to international law."
The truth of history isn't fully accepted or confirmed yet but, as we
tune the volume louder, our story is slowly being heard.

Turn your mike on.

Can you hear me now?
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