Friday, January 21, 2011

An act of activism: My perspectives

My roommate set the alarm clock, it rang in the early morning, he silenced it, and then, he went back to sleep. However, it woke me up completely even though I am not an early morning person. I never understood the meaning of, "Early to bed, early to rise". May be this saying was valid when there was a time when nothing can be done in the evening. Now, with the overwhelming influence and extraordinary growth of technology, we are glued to this small screen 24x7 where anyone can take a peek at the world by just laying down on your cozy couch. The note I am sharing now is the result of this technology.

Yesterday, on my facebook, I punched this statement as my status, "An act of activism is meaningful only when it helps to provide a significant difference in finding a long-term solution to the struggle of Tibet and its people" - A stateless DY. There were few likes and comments. However, after being pushed to wake up early this morning, I was just reflecting on this statement while still cuddling with my comforter to get back to sleep. Sleep never came by. However, my reflection immediately whispered to my ears to write this short note of elaboration on the statement. I jumped out of my bed, threw my comforter aside, came out to my living room, and started tapping my fingers with the laptop on my lap and the back resting on my cozy couch. 

When I look at this entire act of activism, I always ask the question, "SO WHAT"? President Hu arrived; Tibetan organized a protest; Media loves the hype; Tibetan shouted and performed an impressive Skeleton in the Hu's Closet; Press and media flashed the protest on their page, shared video clips, political analyst did the analysis, and the general public read, heard, and enjoyed. At the end of the Hu's visit, Tibetans are back and busy in their work or study; press and media moves to other hypes; and general public are back on reading and listening something else. At the end, I think it is important to ask ourselves, "SO WHAT" of this act of activism? Here is my take on it by looking at this question as the driving framework.

The first and immediate question that always comes to my mind is the impact of an act of activism. Tibetans have been protesting long time back and we are getting better in making our voices heard. We hardly missed to protest against any of the visiting Chinese politburo members. However, the question that matters the most to me is - does an act of activism contributes towards the long-term resolution of Tibet and its struggle?

Okay. Now let me take a glance at the global perspective of Tibet as a nation. World, including super powers and our immediate neighbors, firmly stood by the One China policy where Tibet is considered as a part of China. Forget about recognizing Tibet as an independent country. These countries are not even recognizing Tibet as a disputed land. The United Nation is not an exception here. I am not a fan of this organization. So, the question now comes is - what does this have to do with an act of activism?

This global perspective of Tibet has a huge role to play. When Tibet is considered as a part of China, no country will be directly involved in resolving any kind of issues or problems related to Tibet. As China has been saying, Tibet is an internal matter. You can compare this with the situation in India's Kashmir. Even though Kashmir is considered as a disputed land, India never welcomes a third party (or country) involvement. This is more so true with China when it comes to Tibet. So What? Does it matters? It does matter a lot.

No matter how press and media helps us to spread the words and no matter how the general public takes a look at the Tibet issue, the final ball of Tibet will always fall in the court of China and ONLY China (Having said that, I am not disregarding the role of Tibetan in this entire struggle). As said, Tibet is an internal matter. So, for me, what matters most is China and not the media/press or the general public. If we need to find a solution to any issues concerning Tibet, it is only China that can help or bring the needed change. So, I believe we need to respect more of this global perspective of or on Tibet. Many of us believe that press and media matters a lot to us. It does in someway to spread the words out. It is same with an act of activism. It has its own advantage. However, as you know by now, the question I am raising is on the long-term impact.

Some of the recent slogans were very direct and personal to President Hu and obviously will be the same to many Chinese fellows. How do we react when someone says anything against His Holiness the Dalai Lama? The level of the feeling between Tibetan and Chinese may not be the same but there is definitely a feeling of anger and hatred for such personally directed protests, slogans, or statements. I consider President Hu as a person who can resolve the problem of Tibet if he wishes to. However, are we not enraging him with these personally directed slogans? As a person, how would you react when someone shouts against you by disrespecting your name and position? Will you work with that person? Will you help to resolve the problem by negotiating with that person or a group of person? Will you care? The list of questions goes on....

The point I want to make here is that China and Chinese people matters the most to us. There is no way we can beat them. So, why not join them? Lets respect them as a Chinese fellow and if the need be, protest against the CCP or its policies. Lets don't enrage them. Lets ENGAGE them.

The final point I want to make is - If ever CCP breaks down (I think it will sooner or later) and if we ask for independence at that particular moment, what matters the most is the will and support of the Chinese people. If they agree, no one can deny independence to Tibet. Are you hearing me?

Finally, this note is in no way to disrespect my fellow Tibetans who are very involved and dedicated in this entire act of activism. However, I hope, as my writing always does, this note will make you THINK and DISCUSS.

To conclude, I dedicate this note to my roommate and his alarm clock without which this note would have never existed. :-)

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

In Conversation with a Lady from Lhasa

Yesterday, I went to Yak restaurant for a night out with my two friends. I joined about two hours late to the table. A table, on the top, it was filled with menu, beers, waters, long island ice teas, chicken lollipops, plates, forks, and napkins; and on the three sides, me and my two friends were discussing everything Tibet, Tibetan, and recent politics.

At the time when I joined the table, my two friends were deeply involved in sharing the video in which one of them shared his understanding on the Tibetan spirits. We agreed that Tibetan spirits are stronger and harder than the Jews. I will not elaborate more on it. Here is the link to the youtube video if you are interested

We talked about love, women, and then, the irresistible Kalon Tripa election. While talking, I sensed that the lady sitting next to our table was keenly interested in lending her ears to hear our conversations. She is slim, attractive, well dressed, untangled hair, few wrinkles, and purely Tibetan. After she munched her dinner, she politely asked us if she can throw a question. Without any hesitation, we welcomed her to join our table and fire questions to us.

Her question was something most Tibetan, interested in Kalon Tripa election, would ask. She asked our views on who is the best candidate to vote for Kalon Tripa. Though it seems like an easy question, I was dumb struck. This question weighs much higher than the Empire State building and more complicated than finding a good women. My friend immediately jumped in to share that we are not in a position to answer her question since we both writes for general Tibetan public and so, we have the responsibility "as writers" to remain neutral. I am sure that may be a disappointing answer to the lady.

However, I shared the importance of analyzing the candidates based on facts before any Tibetan goes to vote on the Election Day. Through our conversation, it was clear that the lady did her homework on Kalon Tripa candidates though confused with the entire debate and campaign processes. I believe this is true with many lay Tibetans who do not own the skill to analyze and interpret meanings of the meaning.

My friend then asked who did you vote for during the preliminary election. She said Tenzin Namgyal Tethong. My friend then asked again, did you vote for him after carrying out some research? She said she did listened to peoples and read about Kalon Tripa candidates. She has her own reason to vote for TNT. My friend then asked, are you confused with your choice for the Election Day? She responded with a head nod. I felt she is indeed a smart lady who believes in knowing the candidates well by any means. One mean she found was us, a group of three friends. Though not helpful, I am sure the discussion itself made her to think wider and deeper. I realized she is a person who is willing to change her preliminary choice of TNT if other candidates have better reasons to provide her to vote for the Election Day. I believe we need more of her in our society. Though not well-educated, she believes in listening, debating, discussing, analyzing, and most importantly, not sticking with one Kalon Tripa candidate. I am sure she will continue to lend her ears to many more avenues in the days to come. Good luck lady.

Since she seems to be so much interested in knowing something on the three Kalon Tripa candidates, I shared two weaknesses of each candidate. Lobsang Sangay la is definitely inexperienced in public administration and young in the field of Tibetan politics. Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la lacks the skill to connect to common people and his experience of CTA has a gap, then and now. Tashi Wangi la - If he can do, he should have done it by now in the CTA and change may be hard to come by from him. I hope these few things helped the lady to do more of her analysis on Kalon Tripa candidates. And I hope you will too.

Finally, we talked about the importance of Tibetan identity in the United States. Identity that comprises of culture, tradition, language, and religion. I asked the lady how young Tibetans in Lhasa are in terms of preserving their Tibetanness? To my surprise, she replied Tibetans in Lhasa are very Tibetan. They have the spirit. They have the culture. They have the tradition. They have the belief. They have the faith. It was a surprise because I have been hearing a lot about the loss of Tibetan identity in Lhasa with the influx of Chinese immigrants. It seems as my friend said earlier, "Tibetan spirits are strong and unshakable".

As in Bollyhood movies, this story has a happy ending too. That is - the lady paid our bills despite our request not to. Thank you Lady. I don't know how much you learned from us but we learned a lot from you. It was a great conversation with a lady from Lhasa whose name I still don't know. The whole experience was like meeting a stranger in heaven.