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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."

Not a Time to Panic: A Comment on Phurbu Dorjee's Interview

August 1, 2010

Editorial Board
the Tibetan Political Review (TPR)
July 30, 2010

As the 2011 Kalon Tripa election nears, Tibetans
need to seriously evaluate the candidates so that
their decision is well-informed.  As the
Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review,
we have not committed to supporting any
candidate.  In order to further the spirit of
democratic debate, we plan to comment on and
critique the policy platforms of the individuals
nominated as Kalon Tripa candidates, toughly but
fairly.  We do this not as any sort of "experts"
but simply as Tibetans.  In this article, we turn to Mr. Purbu Dorjee.

We have not yet found much on Phurbu-la’s policy
views, but his biography on kalontripa.org points
us to an April 1, 2008 article in the Washington
Post in which he is interviewed by a reporter.  Phurbu-la is quoted as saying:

"The United States says it has been fighting for
human rights and democracy in Iraq and
Afghanistan.  Tibetans are suffering. If the U.S.
doesn't speak out this time, the issue of Tibet
will die, and history will judge America as a hypocrite."

Any Tibetan can sympathize with Phurbu-la's
obvious passion and concern for the situation in
Tibet.  His patriotism and motivation are beyond
question.  Unfortunately, we regret that we must
strongly disagree with Phurbu-la's message that
without U.S. action "the issue of Tibet will die."

We believe that Phurbu-la's statement reflects a
disturbing trend in Tibetan society, where
Tibetans convince themselves that they are
powerless and require a foreign savior.  This is
related to the historical patron-seeking
mentality, but it has gotten worse since coming
into exile and being genuinely dependent on foreign assistance for a while.

Now, there is sometimes a tendency to play for
foreign sympathy by making the situation in Tibet
seem so dire that something must be done
immediately or Tibet will "disappear" or "die."
Perhaps this tendency to seek a foreign savior is
understandable, because all Tibetans surely feel
despair at times.  But this is not beneficial for two reasons.

First, this attitude leads to passivity and
defeatism among the Tibetan people.  If Tibet
will "die", then what is there for Tibetans to do
(except perhaps to pressure foreigners to save
them)?  History shows that it sometimes takes
generations of struggle for a people to free
itself from foreign domination.  An occupied
people must be prepared to take a long-term view
and know that in our world of impermanence, even
the most powerful empire will inevitably fall.

Second, this attitude is exactly the wrong
approach in the real world, which respects
strength and success.  Countries like the U.S.
and Canada might be moved a little by sympathy,
but overwhelmingly countries act based on their
own interests and to "support a winner."  If the
U.S. or India view Tibetans as formidable and
capable of winning their country back, it is
likely Tibetans would get far more support than
by playing the role of the poor, helpless supplicant.

We understand that in the heat of an emotional
protest, it is possible to get carried
away.  That is why we do not want to say too much
more about Phurbu-la's quotation at this time.
Instead, we invite him to elaborate upon his
vision for how Tibetans and their supporters
should work to fight for human rights, democracy, and freedom in Tibet
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