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Will the Dalai Lama reincarnate?
August 28, 2008 5:28 AM   Subscribe

As the health of the Dalai Lama seems uncertain, the question remains: will he be reborn this time? and, if so, where?
posted by twoleftfeet (64 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
No
posted by fatfrank at 5:32 AM on August 28, 2008


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7t2Ztb92mE
posted by Optamystic at 5:37 AM on August 28, 2008


I am Spartacusthe Dalai Lama
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on August 28, 2008


Reborn in a Hollywood manger, purpose built by Richard Gere.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:39 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


This seems a little ghoulish.
posted by orthogonality at 5:43 AM on August 28, 2008


After the Dalai Lama goes, there will be no way China can win credibility with the Tibetan people. It will never be able to say, ‘There wasn’t the time to make a deal with Dalai Lama.’ ”

I think this guy is onto something. Maybe his health will force a deal.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:43 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


p.s. if this post was being snarky about Christianity instead of Buddhism, there would be a huge outcry.

Will Jesus ever return? HURF DURF?

Just sayin'.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:46 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not very sensitive, this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:48 AM on August 28, 2008


Actually, no snarkyness intended here. It's actually a valid question. Read the links.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:55 AM on August 28, 2008


I think y'all are misunderstanding that this is a serious, live question with Tibetan Buddhism, addressed frequently by the Dalai Lama himself, because the traditional procedures for discovering the Dalai Lama's rebirth would be easily manipulated by the Chinese government to gain control of Tibet. But that's an easy misunderstanding for anyone who can't be bothered the read the fucking articles.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:01 AM on August 28, 2008


or, what the poster said.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2008


Why shouldn't he. If the tradition is followed a successor could be found even while he is still alive. Isn't it the spirit of the Lama that lives on? By spirit I mean the wisdom, intellect and that je ne say quas? Who's to say that can't coexist in more than one being?
posted by Gungho at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2008


It's interesting, reading the Dalai Lama's autobiography, that he's pretty cagey on whether he thinks he's actually the reborn previous Lama. It's not clear on what he believes himself. But whatever someone believes, this is still important and interesting as a political question, and it will have far-reaching consequences. I get the impression that the Dalai Lama's just being immensely practical, and trying to come to an arrangement that will benefit the largest number of people. Seems refreshingly undogmatic, even if the implied metaphysics operating behind it are less than robust.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Read the links.

Yes. Cool stuff. He and his administration are up to some pretty interesting political maneuvering.

The answer's still no, though. People don't come back from the dead. No hurfs or durfs required.
posted by pracowity at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did read the links, hence the quote... maybe I just perceived snark where none was intended. You can hardly blame me.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:12 AM on August 28, 2008


if this post was being snarky about Christianity instead of Buddhism, there would be a huge outcry.

Yes, we should treat Buddhism with the same solemn respect and deference that MetaFilter traditionally affords Christianity.
posted by DU at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


Does Stephen Seagal have a child on the way?
posted by longbaugh at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2008


Dawkins was right when he said we have freedom of speech till that time when we discuss religion and then we are abusing someone's freedom of religion etc. Do I think he will be reborn? NO. Where? Nowhere. Now if various religious beliefs take such things with seriousness then that is fine with me. But don't expect me to genuflect becauser tyhey do.
posted by Postroad at 6:24 AM on August 28, 2008


My favorite quote:

"The reincarnation of the living Buddha is a unique way of succession of Tibetan Buddhism and follows relatively complete religious rituals and historical conventions," the Foreign Ministry statement said. "The Dalai Lama's statement is in blatant violation of religious practice and historical procedure."

Get it? "religious practice and historical procedure." They're preparing their amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the Celestial Bureaucracy as we speak!
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:46 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


chuckdarwin: Maybe his health will force a deal.

I doubt it. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that the PRC's strategy is to wait for the H.H. the Dalai Lama to die and then put in a ringer as his successor (as they did so handily with the Panchen Lama).

Postroad: But don't expect me to genuflect becauser tyhey do.

There is of course a big difference between genuflecting and not shitting on a thread. Just sayin'.
posted by aught at 6:47 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tibetan scriptures : The US constitution
Dalai Lama : President
?Possible pre-death successor? : Vice President
High Lamas : Electoral College
Rebirth : Election

It's not perfect, but my point is that any anti-spiritual critique of the DL's position misses his vital role as political leader-in-exile. There's no need to be a genuflecter to respect how important he is for the ground-down Tibetans, inside and outside Tibet.
posted by imperium at 6:51 AM on August 28, 2008


Well, pulling this away from the whole spiritual reincarnation problem, at the end of the day it comes down to the political future of Tibet. Very few people want to roll the clock back 50 years. So there are a wide variety of practical questions. Should there still be a government in exile? Or is the future of Tibetan culture outside of Tibet a diaspora? What kinds of autonomy should Tibet have within China's sphere? An independent republic akin to the former Soviet Block nations? An independent enclave within larger China akin to Catalonia?

The struggle around these questions are going to involve a lot of wrangling around the institution of the Dalai Lama.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:51 AM on August 28, 2008


I guess it is a little inappropriate to hope that the Dalai Lama is healthy and pulls through, since everyone is destined to die. But I feel like he is a good person and a great spokesperson, and the prospect of his passing on saddens me.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:58 AM on August 28, 2008


ISTR Bobby Hill being in contention.
posted by Eideteker at 7:05 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the articles are pretty interesting and do not pose the metaphysical question "will he be reborn?", but the political question "will the present conjunction force the leader of a region to bypass the tradition?". It's not about a person dying and coming back to life, it's about a political leader faced with the problem of having a world power trying to mess with the traditions of his people.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the problem itself is very interesting and the main article presents it in a very interesting way. Great post, twoleftfeet.
posted by micayetoca at 7:07 AM on August 28, 2008


And sorry if I was unclear, by "main article" I meant the "will he be reborn this time"
posted by micayetoca at 7:11 AM on August 28, 2008


imperium: My take on the matter is that H.H. has grown a bit uncomfortable with the marriage of religion and politics that he's stuck in, and he's gently prodding the government in exile towards a reform. Rhetorically he's made some references to the history of Judaism, and few other places in the Buddhist world have the sangha dependent on a single human leader.

But I don't think that large chunks of the community are ready to hear, "hey, I'm just a dharma teacher and scholar, and you don't really need me."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:14 AM on August 28, 2008


micayetoca: I guess it is a little inappropriate to hope that the Dalai Lama is healthy and pulls through, since everyone is destined to die.

Not really. Tibetan Buddhists actually spend a fair amount of time praying and hoping that the Dalai Lama will live as long a life as possible.

Of course from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective death is not an end but a transition -- either to a rebirth in the world or some higher realm, or release into nirvana. An established bodhisattva like His Holiness, who is enlightened but has chosen rebirth many times over the centuries in order to help others, is usually expected to choose human rebirth (as horrific as that might seem compared to going into the bliss of higher realms or nirvana) because of his commitment to the welfare of other humans. But if a bodhisattva like His Holiness can remain in his current human rebirth and continue to help others for many additional years, then that is all for the good as well.

Remember that while most of the world think of The Dalai Lama as a political leader issuing press releases about the PRC's abuses and meeting with various Western government leaders to advocate the Tibetan cause, he actually spends more of his time giving long (usually multi-day) Buddhist teachings to groups of people around the world.
posted by aught at 7:25 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


While I'm sure I'm off point with regard to the interesting political macinations that may ensue, it's worth saying that even if the DL is the nicest freaking guy that ever lived, the means by which he held (holds?) a governmental position are offensive. And the whole idea that some body of "monks" will determine who has recieved his re-incarnated "spirit" to determine the next leader of a nation (even in exile) is also offensive.

The DL is cagey about his supernatural origins, and it's intentional. Doesn't offend the West, while leaving the possibilitiy open for the true believers who are essential to his power.

Personally, I find him to be as profound as a Hallmark Card. He's just a guy in funny clothes that doesn't deny it when people call him a Living God. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose. Unless you believe in modern, secular, democratic values, that is.
posted by re6smith at 7:28 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is more interesting thant it seemed at first glance, twoleftfeet. I apologise.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:32 AM on August 28, 2008


I believe that the next Dalai Lama will be found here and will end up here.
posted by unsupervised at 7:50 AM on August 28, 2008


Personally, I find him to be as profound as a Hallmark Card. He's just a guy in funny clothes that doesn't deny it when people call him a Living God. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose. Unless you believe in modern, secular, democratic values, that is.

*shrugs* You may be right. I guess I've just always thought he seems like a pretty nice guy. To me, his fairly consistent position of moderation, conciliation and peace, actually feels quite radical, when you compare it to the rhetorical positions of a lot of other prominent religious and national leaders. Even if, in actuality, he's a horrible guy, as far as I'm concerned it doesn't really affect the value of his message - it stands independently of his motivations and actions.
posted by RokkitNite at 7:51 AM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


In his next life he'll get promoted to Inspector-General of the Norwegian Army.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:04 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


not that it makes any difference, aught, but I didn't say that, it was paisley henosis.
posted by micayetoca at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2008


Oops. Sorry, micayetoca and paisley henosis!
posted by aught at 8:34 AM on August 28, 2008


"Personally, I find him to be as profound as a Hallmark Card."

Which of his works have you read to lead you to this conclusion..

On another note, i found nothing in the article that stated he was in poor health, only that he's a bit fatigued and his medical people have advised him to slow down, he's 75 years old, he has been doing a lot of traveling, hell, most of you would take some time off at this point.

The article seems a bit sensationalist.
posted by HuronBob at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2008


if this post was being snarky about Christianity instead of Buddhism, there would be a huge outcry.

LOLBUDDHISTS!!1!1!!!

happy now?
posted by quonsar at 9:23 AM on August 28, 2008


I think one can simultaneously think that the office of the Dalai Lama, like, say the office of the Pope, is a holdover from a feudal theocratic society AND think that the current office-holder is someone who does a good job, all things considered, in the role.

Now I myself don't think that about the current Pope, but I can point to past Popes that I do think that about. And I do think that the current Dalai Lama has done a very effective job of outreach to the rest of the world and of interesting people with power in the current situation in Tibet.

I do find it odd that people who are members of neither spiritual leader's tradition seem to feel more comfortable about referring to the Dalai Lama than to the Pope as "His Holiness" (since both positions carry the same honorific). And I don't think it's a judgment call on the merits of the current office-holders, either; I think it's something more like Orientalism in many cases. (And that leads me to recommending Prisoners of Shangri-La by Donald Lopez, as I so often do.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


In other news: Tibet’s most famous woman blogger, Woeser, detained by police
posted by homunculus at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2008


What you said, Sidhedevil.
posted by digaman at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2008


Sidhedevil , thanks. You put what I've long been thinking much better than I ever could. Thanks especially your observation about the use of "His Holiness" for the Dalai Lama but not the Pope; it's the same thing with Western non-Muslims putting PBUH (Peace Be Unto Him) after Mohammed's name, another manifestation of the Orientalism you noted.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2008


Prisoners of Shangri-La is an excellent book.
posted by everichon at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2008


I do find it odd that people who are members of neither spiritual leader's tradition seem to feel more comfortable about referring to the Dalai Lama than to the Pope as "His Holiness" (since both positions carry the same honorific).

I have no attachment or aversion to either the Pope or the Dalai Lama, but I would suspect that many in the West are far more familiar with Catholicism than Tibetan Buddhism, whether or not they believe in it, and are aware of the abuses the Catholic Church has propagated. If there is a major sex scandal within Tibetan Buddhism, the American media at least hasn't picked up on it. You've also never heard of the Tibetan Inquisition or the Tibetan Crusades or Tibetan anti-semitism (not accusing current Catholics of any of these - merely pointing at history). The Tibetans haven't ever had the power over millions that Catholicism has wielded. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I believe that's why some people have trouble referring to the Pope as His Holiness.
posted by desjardins at 11:32 AM on August 28, 2008


You've also never heard of the Tibetan Inquisition or the Tibetan Crusades or Tibetan anti-semitism (not accusing current Catholics of any of these - merely pointing at history).

Some see it a little differently.
posted by cmonkey at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil: just to clarify as one of those who has used "His Holiness" in this thread that I have a daily practice based on teachings from the local Tibetan Buddhist monastery -- because of that, I am used to hearing him referred to as "His Holiness" from the time I have spent there. In my experience the Tibetans rarely call him "the Dalai Lama" and whatever Tibetan terms they have for him (Yishin Norbu, Kundun, etc.) don't usually get expressed in English. All that said, I know "His Holiness" does sound a little precious to American ears.
posted by aught at 11:44 AM on August 28, 2008


It's probably worth mentioning that the Dalai Lama has been admitted to the hospital in Mumbai, according to the NY Times (reg req'd).

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-india-dalai.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
posted by aught at 11:54 AM on August 28, 2008


cmonkey - I wasn't saying that Tibetans were as pure and innocent as the driven snow. I was saying that knowledge of their wrongdoings is not as common as the knowledge of Catholic wrongdoing. Certainly every culture and religion has its assholish people and regimes, including Tibetan Buddhism.
posted by desjardins at 12:30 PM on August 28, 2008


desjardins said: You've also never heard of the Tibetan Inquisition or the Tibetan Crusades or Tibetan anti-semitism (not accusing current Catholics of any of these - merely pointing at history).

I think you misspelled "I've never heard of" there, actually.

aught said: Sidhedevil: just to clarify as one of those who has used "His Holiness" in this thread that I have a daily practice based on teachings from the local Tibetan Buddhist monastery

As I say, I'm not surprised when people from his own spiritual tradition use the phrase, any more than I am surprised to hear the Pope referred to as "His Holiness" by practicing Roman Catholics.

I 'm sorry if my comment was interpreted as referring to the spiritual paths of anyone posting on this thread; it wasn't meant as such. I was just musing (inspired by DU's invocation of ChristianitySnarkFilter perhaps) that I have encountered plenty of non-Tibetan Buddhists who use the title for the Dalai Lama while not using analogous titles for Western spiritual leaders.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:55 PM on August 28, 2008


and by "non-Tibetan Buddhists" I mean "people who are not followers of Tibetan Buddhism" not "people who are followers of a non-Tibetan tradition of Buddhism."
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:56 PM on August 28, 2008


Sidhedevil: I was using "you" to refer to the stereotypical Western consumer of mass media. Poor phrasing on my part.
posted by desjardins at 3:01 PM on August 28, 2008


Ah. Sorry, desjardins. My error (and I do mean "my"!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:11 PM on August 28, 2008


The Dalai Lama is very good at seeming like a nice guy, but imagine someone funded by China who wanted the US to give up a third of its lands to create an "autonomous state" that recreated a mythical version of the Incan Empire, and you might understand why the Chinese think the Dalai Lama isn't such a nice guy.
posted by shetterly at 7:37 PM on August 28, 2008


That is a pretty ridiculous strawman, so if that's how the Chinese imagine the Dalai Lama and Tibet, that is indeed quite sad.
posted by homunculus at 9:41 PM on August 28, 2008


The Dalai Lama is very good at seeming like a nice guy, but imagine someone funded by China who wanted the US to give up a third of its lands to create an "autonomous state" that recreated a mythical version of the Incan Empire, and you might understand why the Chinese think the Dalai Lama isn't such a nice guy.

What homunculus said on this. It leaves out quite a lot of relevant facts- if the people living on that third of American lands were of a different ethnicity from the standard American, spoke a different language, mostly didn't want to be part of the USA and were only part of it because the USA invaded and annexed their land, and were treated by the American government as primitive children who needed to be civilized by force- well, I can't speak for other Americans (and sadly I think I know what most of them would think about it), but I would view my government as entirely in the wrong, and I would be completely in favor of the people of those lands gaining their independence, regardless of whether China was supporting them or not. Imperialism and colonialism are wrong, full stop- and I have no doubt from what I've read that this is exactly what's going on in Tibet. And it hasn't been the word of pro-Tibetan independence partisans that's convinced me of that, it's been sources like Human Rights Watch.

Seeing the justifications for the current status quo made by both Chinese government propaganda and Chinese nationalists online has also been quite an eye-opener- they make it quite clear that they don't give a shit what the Tibetans themselves think. In their view the Tibetans have to be Chinese subjects whether they like it or not, because otherwise it would be a great humiliation to China. I have about as much sympathy for that argument as I do for the argument that the US has to stay in Iraq to avenge 9/11, which is to say that I have the exact opposite of sympathy for it. In both cases, they are classic imperialist justifications- the lives and rights of the subject peoples mean nothing, only the ego of the conqueror matters. That this is such a favorite argument among Chinese supporters of their Tibetan policy says a great deal about what's really going on here.

Also, on the "mythical version of the Incan empire" bit, the Dalai Lama has said many times that he does not want to restore feudal Tibet, and does not want to run the country. You can assume he's lying about that, as it seems you do, but seriously, if Tibet was granted independence I don't think it would possible for him to do become the head of a new feudal theocracy even if he wanted to, which I truly don't think he does. I find it pretty much impossible to imagine something like feudal Tibet existing in this day and age, and really, has the Chinese government done anything to make you think they're more trustworthy than he is? Why assume that when the Dalai Lama says he doesn't want to restore feudalism or run the country, he's lying, but when the Chinese government says that's what he really wants, they're telling the truth?
posted by a louis wain cat at 10:03 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Dalai Lama's call for "the whole of Tibet, including the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo" is historical nonsense. The Dalai Lamas didn't rule Kham and Amdo; those provinces had Chinese governors. I won't go through all the silliness in the Dalai Lama's claims.

As for Human Rights Watch, it's a lovely name, but they're another front of the extremely rightwing National Endowment for Democracy. See:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6530

I don't think the Dalai Lama wants to restore feudalism. I think he simply wants power. He's enough of a realist to know the nature of that power has to change. I have a lot more respect for "living Buddhas" like Dorje Phagmo, who chose to stay in Tibet with her people.

As for China's shortcomings, this isn't an either/or situation. When people tell you there are two sides to an issue, look for the third.
posted by shetterly at 11:43 PM on August 28, 2008


That's an interesting point of view, shetterly. But, uh, I disagree with you that the Dalai Lama simply wants power. And not just because I think it's silly. He already has 'power.' If he wanted to he could bust out some serious Feudalist Lux, and would be far from the first religious leader to do so (The Pope rocks a pretty wicked wardrobe amirite?).
posted by From Bklyn at 2:40 AM on August 29, 2008


As for Human Rights Watch, it's a lovely name, but they're another front of the extremely rightwing National Endowment for Democracy.

Oh my, so Human Rights Watch is a right-wing front group now? Wow. It's funny, because usually when I seen HRW attacked, it's American wingnuts going on about how they're a bunch of America-hating commie leftists out to smear our brave soldiers protecting us from the inhuman terrorists in Gitmo.
All I can say about this fascinating claim is that if they're really a right-wing CIA-backed neocon puppet organization, they're doing a really, really piss-poor job of being one. (And the article you refer to does not really support the claim that HRW is a front for the NED- it barely talks about HRW, in fact. Also, I'm not seeing how anything it talks about the NED doing there is going to make things any worse or less democratic for the Tibetans than what they have now.) One would have thought the CIA would have made some attempt to get them more on message.

Well, since HRW are apparently imperialist running-dog CIA stooges, here's Amnesty International, too- there were a bunch of other articles from them I could have posted, but as an example of egregiously cruel and indefensible behavior towards the Tibetans on the PRC's part, that one really stood out. I suspect I'm about to learn that Amnesty are "really" right-wing American puppets as well, but there it is. And anyway, does any of this make what human rights groups report from Tibet somehow less true? Are there any factual arguments against what HRW claims is taking place in Tibet?

On the CIA/NED thing in general, I don't doubt the US would like to see Tibet independent from China. That has nothing to do with whether or not the cause of Tibetan independence is, itself, just. I know about all the horrible things the CIA did and does and I hold them in as low esteem as I think you do, but that does not mean that therefore every group they ever supported was therefore in the wrong- was the cause of Poland's Solidarity movement illegitimate and wrong? They got a bunch of aid from the CIA also, after all. And hey, Nelson Mandela and the ANC received support from the Soviet bloc, and since the Soviet bloc did lots of horrible things as well, I guess that would discredit the ANC and by extension the entire anti-apartheid cause as well. But I suspect you would find that last argument as repellant as I do.


I don't think the Dalai Lama wants to restore feudalism. I think he simply wants power. He's enough of a realist to know the nature of that power has to change.

What sort of power would he have, anyway? You agree that he doesn't want to restore feudalism, and since he's said he doesn't want to run Tibet, I assume he wouldn't be standing for election. In fact, he's said he's not even seeking full independence, just greater autonomy. Greater spiritual authority within the context of a relatively autonomous region still ultimately controlled by Beijing? As far as power-hungry ambition goes, you have to admit that leaves something to be desired. Seems to me that he could get that sort of power a lot more easily just by agreeing to become a PRC puppet. And even if you imagine an American client state with him at the head of it, for all the bad things that might come with such a government, that still seems like a much better deal for the Tibetans than China's naked, brutal imperialism.


As for China's shortcomings, this isn't an either/or situation. When people tell you there are two sides to an issue, look for the third.

Certainly- and yet, it's possible to look at all sides of an issue, and still make judgments on the issue as a whole, and on the conduct and general rightness of the various parties involved in it. The current status of Iraq is an extremely complicated issue, with many sides to it- do we thus feel that we can't pass judgment on Bush, the neocons, and the American occupation because of the complexity of it all? With regards to Tibet, seeing the pro-PRC side of it made me all the more a supporter of Tibetan independence/autonomy- as I say, the arguments for the PRC's position mostly strike me as the standard justifications used by imperialists everywhere. Things may rarely be black and white, but often one shade of gray is a lot darker than the other(s)- so it is here, I feel.
posted by a louis wain cat at 3:14 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


From Bklyn, having some power rarely keeps people from wanting more.

a louis wain cat, the CIA got subtle when it created the NED. It lets the iron fist pummel while the velvet glove strokes. If you want a clearer example of how false divisions work, just watch the Democrats and the Republicans: the Republicans say, "The war in Iraq is a good war, so we'll keep fighting until we've won." The Democrats say, "The war in Iraq is a bad war, so we'll keep fighting until we've won."

In the 1959 revolution, the Tibetan ruling class was fighting to restore feudalism. The Dalai Lama didn't tell them to stop fighting until the early '70s, after the CIA stopped funding the fighters.

I'm still researching the Solidarity movement because I know one thing about the CIA: everything it does is to serve US corporate interests.

You notice that in the letter to Human Rights Watch, the writer is careful to praise Uribe for fighting the left. That's not insignificant.

And in the AI account, where are the sources? By journalistic standards, the AI account you linked to is nothing but hearsay. Many of the stories about bad things happening in Tibet can be traced back to NED-funded groups who still report thoroughly discredited lies, like "1.2 million killed by China." Once liars have been exposed, it's hard to trust them.

As for China, honest, I agree with Michael Parenti: the country has a long, long way to go.

But I'll also note that I'm writing this in a country where protesters are being silenced while the next millionaires are being chosen to rule us. I think we would do better to fix things at home before we worry about whether NED sources are accurately telling us what's happening elsewhere.
posted by shetterly at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2008


P.S., regarding Solidarity, there are many people who say that it, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, happened independently, and Reagan's people simply grabbed the credit in the US.
posted by shetterly at 9:32 AM on August 29, 2008


a louis wain cat, the CIA got subtle when it created the NED. It lets the iron fist pummel while the velvet glove strokes. If you want a clearer example of how false divisions work, just watch the Democrats and the Republicans: the Republicans say, "The war in Iraq is a good war, so we'll keep fighting until we've won." The Democrats say, "The war in Iraq is a bad war, so we'll keep fighting until we've won."

I don't disagree on the nature of our two party system at all, but frankly I think the "HRW = CIA front" claim is complete nonsense. First of all, the claim that HRW is an NED front is very far from proven indeed, (that article you referred to barely mentioned them, and I would note also tried to imply in passing that Aung San Suu Kyi is some sort of CIA puppet. I guess we need to start viewing her as worse than the Burmese junta now. It's the true progressive, leftist view!) and second, how many front groups play a major role in revealing things that their backers would certainly prefer didn't come out at all, and then directly criticize those backers for doing those things and demand they stop, as HRW attacks the CIA's use of torture in those articles I linked? I think the analogy with the Democrats is tenuous anyway, but that's more like if the Democrats were saying not only that it's a bad war, but openly discussing all the atrocities it has brought about, condemning the American government for it and then saying it needed to end immediately.

On the Colombia bit, I've read about what the FARC is like, and what they do, and how they finance themselves. Suffice it to say that if HRW wasn't condemning them along with the paramilitaries (who I do think are even worse), they would be failing quite spectacularly in their stated mission. I'd agree the letter reflects a Western liberal outlook, and as such takes rather too positive a view of the Colombian government in a way- but getting "CIA puppet" from that is an enormous leap to say the least. I mean, I used that letter as an example because it criticizes the Washington Post for going too easy on "death squads with ties to the U.S. government." Those are the exact words they use. Does that sound like something a CIA front would say? I can't imagine they'd even admit such things existed, certainly not in those terms.

There are probably fair criticisms to be made that the major human rights groups tend to reflect a Western liberal perspective which can bias them in various ways, and at times stand in the way of their stated mission. But you're using the mere existence of that bias to simply dismiss and deny everything they say, at least as long as it's about Tibet, and that just makes no sense. Is any of this that hard to believe? Is there any reason to believe that the PRC doesn't imprison and "re-educate" Tibetans simply for saying they want independence? I mean, even their own propaganda doesn't deny it.


And in the AI account, where are the sources? By journalistic standards, the AI account you linked to is nothing but hearsay. Many of the stories about bad things happening in Tibet can be traced back to NED-funded groups who still report thoroughly discredited lies, like "1.2 million killed by China." Once liars have been exposed, it's hard to trust them.


*sigh* You attack the report for not being well-sourced enough, and then without a shred of evidence imply it must ultimately be from the CIA/NED. Given the apparent depth of your attachment to the idea that the PRC is a kind master to their Tibetan subjects, I'm probably wasting my time, but with a lot of the Tibetan reports, how could they meet journalistic standards, exactly? The PRC government doesn't exactly make it easy to verify these things or even to go there. (Almost as if they have something to hide...) Also, when it comes to this kind of reporting, I suspect that a lot of the time revealing the source would put them in grave danger. You can use this argument to deny almost any report of human rights abuses anywhere- one could probably dismiss the vast majority of Amnesty International reports this way, including many of those about Gitmo and the US secret prisons.

And sure, some stuff that's either exaggerated or plain false has come out of the pro-Tibet independence camp (which apparently now includes both the world's major human rights organizations)- not to defend that in itself at all, but if that's enough to discredit them completely for you, that should also be enough to discredit all political movements everywhere for you. I mean, do you seriously believe the Chinese government doesn't lie about things?


As for China, honest, I agree with Michael Parenti: the country has a long, long way to go.

Ah, Michael Parenti again. My impression is that his main problem with China now is that they aren't doing things like they used to back in the good old days when Mao was running things. He may present himself as an anti-imperialist, but in fact his anti-imperialism is extremely selective- among many other examples I could use, this mention of him from RAWA was quite an illustration of that. And though I think I already brought it up in the last Tibet thread, don't even get me started on his view of Milosevic as some sort of benevolent progressive socialist. He's an apologist for imperialism and ethnic cleansing, just as long as they're carried out by "leftists" (I don't quite get how Milosevic fits that definition, but Parenti seems to think he did), and as such he has no credibility with me at all. Incidentally, though you'll probably dismiss it because of the source, here's a response to Parenti's Tibet article which does seem to be quite well-argued, and certainly seems to be coming from a more informed position than Parenti.

But I'll also note that I'm writing this in a country where protesters are being silenced while the next millionaires are being chosen to rule us. I think we would do better to fix things at home before we worry about whether NED sources are accurately telling us what's happening elsewhere.


Leaving the highly dubious assertion about "NED sources" aside, I do agree that our focus should be in our own backyard first- but this issue does touch on our own country's policy. From my standpoint, the US has basically given China a free ride on just about everything because of economic interests, and to the extent that it's possible to do so without economic catastrophe, I would like to see that change. I certainly am NOT saying that the US should actively intervene somehow- I'm basically an anarchist of sorts (another reason why I have no patience for apologists for Leninism like Parenti- I know quite well what Leninists/Stalinists/Maoists do to anarchists and non-authoritarian leftists as soon as they take power) and feel that by and large, the less the US intervenes anywhere, the better. But at the moment, in many ways we are pretty much actively rewarding the PRC for what they do (in the name of "free trade"), and I would like to see that stop- whether we're committing imperialism ourselves or propping it up elsewhere, I want to see the end of all of it. So in that respect, this is indeed an American issue. All the same, the chances that the US will change its policy in this are probably hardly better than those of China just one day deciding to end its occupation of Tibet, so I guess this is all pretty much moot.
posted by a louis wain cat at 11:07 PM on August 30, 2008


The Fear in Lhasa (A poem by Woeser)
posted by homunculus at 12:18 AM on August 31, 2008


Busted in Beijing: The Chinese government was ruthlessly effective in quashing dissent during the Summer Olympics, but few noticed until a group of scruffy American activists were arrested, jailed, and deported for flying the Tibetan flag outside the Bird’s Nest stadium. In an exclusive interview, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells describe their ordeal at the hands of a repressive regime.
posted by homunculus at 1:34 PM on August 31, 2008


a louis wain cat, I'm not saying the NED does nothing but lie. They're much subtler than that: they tell the truth nine times so people will accept the tenth lie.

Parenti's claims are backed by sources as conservative as Time magazine. Facts stay facts, no matter the opinion of the person presenting them.

And there's no question that Students for a Free Tibet are a NED front. Follow the money.

As for the article you cite, it's very short on citations and long on ad hominem. Parenti understands footnotes, so Schrei simply mocks footnotes. To the true believer, truth is irrelevant.

By the way, you and I probably have more in common than Parenti and I do. I don't like hierarchists of any stripe.
posted by shetterly at 10:44 PM on August 31, 2008


For anyone interested in the original topic, Reuters is reporting that the Dalai Lama has left the hospital with "a smile and a wave."
posted by paisley henosis at 11:24 PM on August 31, 2008


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