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Comment: Tibetans tired of wait and see

March 16, 2009


Last Updated: 14th March 2009, 4:02am

It is great to hear the Dalai Lama criticize the Chinese government for
its occupation of Tibet.

After describing the occupation as "hell on earth", he made a call for
meaningful autonomy for the region from the Beijing government.

Many were surprised over the intensity of the Dalai Lama's words. The
pacifist leader -- who heads a government-in-exile from India -- is
embroiled in a struggle with younger Tibetans who believe the road to
independence has not been advanced by the path of pacifism preached by
the religious leader.

While non-violent resistance works in some contexts and would be ideal
morally, it is evident that this does not work in most contexts. In the
American South, non-violent protest worked for American blacks as they
were able to receive sympathy from non-black Americans because of their
harsh treatment by police and other public institutions. As a democracy,
state governments were responsive to the public. Moreover, the presence
of an independent media in the United States allowed human rights
violations to be broadcast to the country and the world.

In developing countries, this does not exist. In China, the state can
hide how it is treating Tibetans on the ground. Out of sight, out of mind.

The whole approach to dealing with oppression came to me in a powerful
way through the movie Defiance. I encourage everyone to see this picture.

This Second World War film looks at the formation and actions of a group
of Polish Jews who take up arms against the Germans who are trying to
liquidate them. Never have I seen such a powerful rendition of the
Holocaust. When one thinks of this time, images of cattle trucks and
people being led to ovens comes to mind. Because it was during war, the
Nazi military apparatus was able to gather civilians together to kill
without resistance.

It was very powerful to see common Jewish peasants pick up rifles and
shoot back at those who were killing them. Of course, the characters in
the movie have their moral issues, as some argue that they must not
become like the Germans. Obviously, there is great pain when one of the
main characters kills the man who killed his family and there is the
whole issue of what to do with those who collaborate with the Nazis. So,
issues of guilt and revenge play into this.

I hope the Dalai Lama views Defiance. There is something very liberating
seeing victims become masters of their own destiny, amidst oppression.
At one point, one of the characters says it is better to die in the
woods living free. In my mind, it may be time for Tibetans to start
rethinking how they can resist their oppression.

It is easy to say that from the comforts of peaceful Canada, but it is
apparent to me that Tibetans are growing tired of the wait and see
approach adopted by the Dalai Lama.

What is happening in Tibet is not the Jewish Holocaust but Tibetans are
learning that power is never given up voluntarily by the oppressor and
they may have to push history in their own direction.
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