ON THE WEB, 9 May 2012
The enemy most often lurks within us. Ordinary Tibetans seem to hate our intellectuals for expressing their purported independence, for not falling in line with the populist ideas. The intellectuals, unable to convince the masses of their “grand” ideas, are living sort of self-imposed, alienated, and frustrated lives — not able to make any substantial connection with the larger society.
The politicians are no better. They are bent on continuing the status quo, avoiding the truth that freedom is all about resistance, not about adapting to the oppression inflicted by the enemy. They are content to live a life of diplomacy, not rocking the boat, not being controversial — in short, making themselves believe that the Middle-Way policy is an end in itself, rather than a means that was designed to secure freedom for Tibet — which, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself publicly acknowledged, it has failed to do.
Those on the side of Rangzen are not faring well either. Isolated, mocked, and even treated as an obstacle to negotiations between the Tibetan leadership and Chinese government during the decades-long-rule of Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan Youth Congress was made to look like an organization that should be avoided and shunned — like that of Hamas, which was considered as a stumbling block for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. A proof of this was an official guideline issued to the civil servants of the Tibetan government in exile by Samdhong Rinpoche’s administration, banning them from having any contact whatsoever with TYC — even forbidding them to donate money to the organization’s innocuous campaigns such as candlelight vigils for Tibetans killed inside Tibet.
Of course Rinpoche’s motivation, kunlong, was sincere. He wanted to create a “positive atmosphere” for the Sino-Tibetan negotiations. He felt that if the Tibetan administration made it absolutely clear that it totally gave up on the struggle for independence, (like one loyalist who said “even if all Tibetans went out for Rangzen, I would still stick with the Middle-Way”), the Chinese government would somehow be convinced and begin serious talks for autonomy. Of course Rinpoche’s dreams were never realized. On the contrary it resulted in a deep polarization of the small exile Tibetan society — those claiming for Rangzen bearing the brunt of this policy, namely TYC and a few individuals.
After having been pushed back against the wall and remaining in limbo for a decade during Samdhong Rinpoche’s reign, facing a deep existential crisis, TYC has finally struck back — and with what a vengeance. It recently organized a press conference concerning a Tibetan family who gave up everything here in exile and decided to march all the way home. TYC is denouncing this family for the simple reason that they carry the Chinese red flag together with the Tibetan and Indian national flags. TYC is furious, saying that carrying such a flag is a “blotch in Tibetan history”, meaning they are undermining the Tibetan freedom struggle — not giving an inch of consideration to the fact that the Chinese flag was meant (naively of course) to send out a message to Han Chinese that the family do not hate them. Ironically, last year TYC, in solidarity with the self-immolations inside Tibet, brought out a press release asking Tibetans in exile not to celebrate the Tibetan New Year, and urged them instead to donate the money they would otherwise spent on celebrations to the exile Tibetan government — which is seeking autonomy rather than independence!
A serious pursuit of freedom is not the cup of tea for a majority of people. Only a few courageous individuals, who have self-consciousness and belief in the certainty of their own selves, would seriously walk the path to freedom. The family members on their march to Tibet are such courageous individuals who are seeking real freedom. But the universal truth, as always, is that whenever a potential pioneer emerges in a society — be it a writer, inventor, or a freedom fighter — the majority of us are shocked and outraged, because they shake us out of our complacency and normalized way of things.
Is it then a surprise that often our reactions, like that of TYC, are so self-damaging?