NEW YORK, US, 2 May 2017
On the door of a pharmacy in Brooklyn, my gaze fell upon a dazzling poster advertising a Classical Chinese Programme called the Shen Yun. The programme promotes and showcases cultural harmony against the backdrop of unity within the different ethnic traditions in China.
There were pictures of performers decked in colorful Chinese ethnic dresses. But it churned my stomach to see, in the group on the far right, two women with their happiest camera face, glorified in silky Tibetan Chupa with colorful apron and long flowing white sleeves, like the necks of the white crane, ready to soar up in the air.
China it seems is doing their best to build their global image, behind their well-known notorious infamy for the worst human rights records and disrespect for humanitarian values. The Chinese government had been funneling millions of dollars to immerse their soft power, in ways as small as sponsoring troupes like the one above and as large as buying into Hollywood movie production companies and countless other entities of influence. Not to mention their targeted institutionalized audiences in Western universities, where through their maliciously-bred Confucius Institutes, with partnership with Chinese liaisons, impose themselves to promote cultural exchanges, but with deeper sinister motive, to muster a politicized positive perspective on China, hoping to give a facelift to their rather tarnished world image.
The other day at an electronics store in Queens, as I watched two teenagers battle out on a demo PS4, I was transported instantly to a fantasy imaginative world, where I wished I could wage an all-out war with China like in the Battlefield, firing from all cylinders and obliterating their empire into rubble. But this short-lived daydream was disrupted by my own seasonal long sneeze — to be blessed by people far and near!
But in reality, not even the United States I think, could win a decisive war with China, given China’s mammoth military might and as of late collection of thermonuclear arsenal that are at par and at some level better than the US.
Sometimes in retrospect, I feel not even Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence that Tibetans implement to this day can bring China to a bargaining halt, if that is all our CTA will forever aspire to. If truth be told, Gandhi was just one of many factors that I believe were responsible for liberating India from the colonial shackles. Economic, geographical, and world political landscape, reshaped coming just off the cusp of the Second World War, compounded by Gandhi’s consistent movement, made it possible for the sun to ultimately set on the British empire.
To dismantle China one brick at a time might be akin to poking a monstrous giant with a needle. But to poke consistently and give the behemoth a slow bothersome death, like the death with a thousands needles, would be worth living and dreaming for.
It will all start like any swift waves that arise after small ripples. Having said that, I think taking initiative on a personal level, to educate first, and direct lost ones in the sea of misconstrued truth into the right path, is our obligatory call.
To give you an example, at my workplace a few months ago I met a Chinese colleague, and over lunch at the cafeteria, his curiosity soon paved the way for us to exchange our backgrounds. I found out that he was born and raised in mainland China and that he was a Han Chinese. This was enough to stir my inquisitive mind to dig deeper into his — I know for granted — compromised conscientious soul.
At first he was little uncomfortable when we spoke about Tibet. His worldly views about Tibet and its people were totally opposite from mine, and as he spoke with that humorous Jackie Chan accent, I felt like he was a moving “bluetooth loudspeaker” connected to the greater propaganda of the Communist State.
He is a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, brainwashed as hell and blindly patriotic. Long story short, after an extended conversation, I knew that he was after all a human with bendable feelings and not a robot. He was at first adamant about not accepting Tibet as a separate country from China. But our conversation grew with brewed sentiments, within a free environment unlike the closed censored world he grew up in. I think I was able to precisely explain our distinct heritage and civilisation, and make him accountable for the oppressive government that he pledges allegiance to. And also showed him, through historical facts, that we were once a powerful military neighbouring nation, far from their Middle Kingdom walled by their Great Wall, before Tibetans found refuge in Buddhism, non-violence, and freedom from man-made barriers.
I also helped him to realise how closed and illiberal his country was, and how for decades the Communist government with iron-clad rule has destroyed Tibet, and that it was the most oppressed nation in the world right after North Korea. This was I thought appalling and revealing to him. Our conversation ended with our lunch break and as he left the room with the remorseful look of a dog with the tail between his legs, I was able to at least whisper to myself that I might have impacted his indoctrinated mindset. I could hope that perhaps I ignited a fire of anger in him against the ignorance coerced by his evil government hitherto unknown to him.
As China is trying to build their global image, we should try our best to tarnish them by educating the world to the truth. We can encourage Tibetan organisations to reach out to the media, community-based organizations, city and town officials, schools and colleges to organize seminars, showcase our cultures like I know a Tibetan Sunday/summer schools here in New York do, that will ignite interest and have the people delve deeper into the history and wherewithal of Tibet.
We already have a few respected activists who take the initiative to speak at universities to bring about awareness about self-immolations, and I applaud their efforts. I also would love to encourage our IT minds to come up with creative ways in this digital world to spread awareness about Tibet. We can encourage the current students and the alumni of the Ivy League universities, where thousands of foreign Chinese students are lured, to foster conversation and educate them about Tibet. We can embrace Tibet’s cause as an obligation, a call of duty, a national calling, and not get lost and soak in the endeavor of capitalist greed and pursuit of professions.
It would be great if both aspirations could swim parallel, where our national call is met, and at the same time our personal goals can be followed.
About the author
Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.
More articles by Ugyen Gyalpo on Tibet Sun.