Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dancing Tibetans Happy Minority?

During the last several visits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the United States and Europe, a new trend of demonstration has been gaining momentum. It is unclear how this trend emerged or acquired the momentum.

Tibet movement has recently shifted from the natural form of protest against China's repressive policies in Tibet to showcasing public support for the Dalai Lama. The need for this support largely stemmed from the protests initiated by Shugden groups such as New Kadampa Tradition. Tibetans felt these protesters need to be challenged and corrected to any possible extent.

Now, whenever the Dalai Lama visits the United States, you will see two noisy groups: one protesting his visits demanding religious freedom and another dancing on the streets to show support for the visit. Three or four years ago, no one could have ever imagined the formation of these two groups on the public streets. How has this happened? Below is my unproven theory.  (Read also: An Audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Hotel Beacon, New York)

Since the early years of occupation, Chinese Communist Party has portrayed Tibetans as a "smiling, singing and dancing ethnic minority" who lives happily under the new regime of China. This portrayal might have earned some success within the mainland China but it never received widespread support in the outside world.

Fast forward to the present - after six decades - China seems to have never abandoned this portrayal of Tibetans. They just changed the target - to exile Tibetans. They tacitly made Tibetans in exile to sing and dance in public. What? How?

By all possible calculations, China might have sensed that there is no such group as Tibetans. It all rest in one person i.e., the Dalai Lama. China therefore softly orchestrated a strategy to tarnish the reputation of this one person by supporting numerous initiatives including Shugden group. From what I see, China seems to be happy with these new initiatives.

The protest (including solidarity) from the Tibetans in the United States has nearly disappeared in the last one or two years. Tibetans are busy now to show their support to the Dalai Lama. They sing and dance despite ongoing self immolations in Tibet. China might be yelling at Tibetans in Tibet, "You are burning yourself here. Tibetans in the West have forgotten your sacrifice. See... These dancing videos".

Though Tibetans understand that the Dalai Lama is a Nobel laureate who needs no public display of supports, they see it as a responsibility to take to the streets to showcase their unwavering affection. However, the question is: are we supporting the Dalai Lama or China via these public displays?

At last, Tibetans in Tibet may not be a singing and dancing minority anymore but Tibetans in diaspora seem to be the one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

9 Ways to Diffuse Westo-philia Among Tibetans in India and Nepal

(The term westo-philia is defined as the love and obsession for lifestyles and cultures of Western countries)

Speak the local language

When you are in India or Nepal, speak the local language.  I recount numerous stories where Tibetans from the West had tried to speak English even to street vendors.  It's not that these Western Tibetans do not speak the local language but it's the wrongful notion of superiority that comes with speaking English.  But remember, Tibetans in India/Nepal speak English a lot better than many from the West.

Dress simple and appropriate

Before they head for vacation in India/Nepal, many from the West go for a shopping spree.  Some of these shopping are meant to make sure you look like, "you are from America or other Western country" - meaning that you need to show through your appearance that you live in an advanced country.  Dress to impress should not be the mantra.  Rather, dressing simple and appropriate should be a norm that everyone from the West should follow.  For instance, dressing respectfully in the monastery or at Buddhist teachings will be well respected by the local communities. 

Act local

When you are in Rome, do as the Roman do.  This is a popular saying that doesn't seem to go well with Tibetans in the West.  Once they head back to India or Nepal, they seems to forget their past.  They act as if India/Nepal is too hot, too humid, too dirty, too unsafe, too unhygienic, too poor and the derogatory list goes on.  They love to show that they are no more the locals who had spent years and years in these dirty and dangerous neighborhoods. 

Share your work life

Many from the West rarely share the work they do to earn their living.  Its primarily because most of the work they do are low paying manual jobs.  It would be great to share the work life so that people know how hard you work to earn the living and money for vacation.

Eat local 

Food is one of the primary reasons for travelers to get sick in India/Nepal. However, it doesn't mean that the food you get at a local restaurant will make you sick.  Many local restaurants serve good and hygienic food at a reasonable price.  It may be wise to eat more at good local restaurant and less at KFC and other high-end restaurants.  This act will support local businesses who will appreciate more of your visits.  

Be less arrogant

I have often heard that people from America are arrogant.  They think they can do anything they like in India/Nepal.  They lavishly spend the money to keep their friends and family members happy.  I have heard stories of people asking arrogant questions such as "do you take dollars"?  Also, do not be upset if friends and family members did not treat you as special.  Living in America and other Western countries should not make one arrogant and demand respect from others. 

Stop bragging

I remember a friend in New York who once said, "if you are in India, you are Shah Rukh Khan".  Moreover, many use social networks such as Facebook to brag about their stay in 5 star hotel in India.  Many also sits in a coffee shop to brag about their latest version of iPhones or other electronic goods.

Spend wisely

Let people in India or Nepal know that you care about your money.  Tell them how hard it is to get a decent job.  Make sure you don't pay their bills all the time.  Let them understand that you worked hard to afford this vacation.  Money is a tool that needs to be spend wisely. 

Do not be ATM machine

Many in the West work for 40 to 80 hours per week to help support their family members and relatives in India/Nepal/Tibet.  However, it is important to check how the money is spend reasonably.  I heard an individual at Jackson Heights saying, "my younger brother in India lives a life more comfortable and luxurious than me.  He spent thousands in a blink".  This is a good example of how the money you sent is not helping them to stand on their own feet.  Rather, you are just feeding the habits of laziness.  Make sure your money goes as an investment and not as a tool to ruin someone lives.

Please remember that these small actions may save many lives in the future.  In our community, there is no short of stories of individuals who borrowed thousands of dollars from others to pay human traffickers with the hope of immigration to the West.  This practice needs to be stopped.  And your action could be the first step. 

P.S. I am not saying that you practice these nine all the time. There are special circumstances which are always an exception.