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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

K.D. Lang Has Big Beefs About China in Tibet

May 29, 2008

Artists in a self-obsessed society tend not to speak out, singer says
Patrick Langston, Canwest News Service
Times Colonist (Victoria, Canada))
May 26, 2008

K.D. Lang: China has done an amazing job of making us forget about
its suppression of an ancient culture.

At first, K.D. Lang seems impatient with the line of questioning.

 From her home in Los Angeles, the Alberta-born musician answers --
with barely concealed sighs -- queries about her recent address to
pro-Tibetan demonstrators protesting the Olympic torch relay in Australia.

No, she hasn't had any negative response to her political opinions,
unlike the 1990 uproar among western beef farmers when Lang, a
vegetarian, condemned meat-eating. Yes, she sometimes discusses such
political issues with fellow artists.

No, artists don't have a special responsibility to speak out on
serious public matters.

Her engagement quickens, though, when Lang -- herself a Tibetan
Buddhist -- is asked to explain why the rest of the world needs to
pay attention to the suppression of a remote culture.

"It's an ancient heritage that's based in peace and compassion and
exists as a working model of a society in peace," she says.

"The Chinese have done an amazing job of making us forget all about
it. But when you invite the world into your house [for the upcoming
Olympic Games in Beijing] and you're not ready for people to look in
your closet, then don't invite people into your house."

She knows why artists, even if there's no moral imperative to do so,
are not rallying as they did in the 1960s to protest growing social
and political injustices.

"People are too commercially minded and we're a very cynical
society," Lang says.

"Society in general is more self-obsessed and they worry too much
about the negative repercussions of doing work for other cultures."

Worse yet, that cynicism is now linked to fear, and both are deeply
entrenched in our lives.

"I think that's why we're in this political climate in North America
with this inseparable marriage between church and state now. The last
eight years that we've experienced, they've used fear -- it's the
oldest trick in the book -- to guide the masses."

And yet Lang incorporates none of this in her music.

Over the past 20 years, that music has ranged from country to
smouldering pop, winning her both Juno and Grammy awards in the process.

Her new, critically acclaimed album, Watershed, is an intimate
recording about where she stands in her personal life and
relationships. There's not a whisper of a public issue in it.

Music, she says, transcends political and social battles. She wants
hers to remain accessible to everyone, regardless of political stripe
or other persuasion.

Besides, she says, her music actually does address broad, worldly
issues, but in a "spiritual" way -- by urging us to look inward at
our own relationships and perspectives, music can help in casting off
the personal pain that blinds us to that of others.

Once we've made that leap, we can recognize that the us-and-them
division is artificial. "You're different sides of the coin, but
you're the same coin," as Lang puts it.

The belief in mankind's connectedness keeps Lang optimistic about our
ability to change. That includes improving the lot of Tibetans.

"One of the first things is to have an open dialogue with the Dalai
Lama himself, not representatives that [the Chinese] have chosen to
represent the Dalai Lama," she says. "Allow non-partisan
organizations like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross to go in
and assess the damage of what's been happening.

"If you have a picture of the Dalai Lama, you get thrown in jail.
Coming from a country like Canada where I'm able to practice Buddhism
and I'm a homosexual and I live a free, happy life, [that] doesn't seem fair."
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