Time for civic engagement on our political science

Ugyen Gyalpo

Ugyen Gyalpo

By Ugyen Gyalpo

NEW YORK, US, 26 January 2018

When knowledge and exuberant ignorance collide, when maturity and immature impulsive minds meet, it’s time that we look into the sapling minds of our younger generation. They are supposedly the “future work in progress” beholders of the mantle of our Tibetan cause. They are also in diaspora without coercion, unlike their younger peers in Tibet brought up under the barrel of the gun to change their way of life. They are bred under the infectious air that is heavily assimilated with Western values, soaked in its political ways, ethics and norms which they now know best. Henceforth they are attuned to a singular perspective and view, through that one single-lens telescope, that promises to see only one forest through that only one tree they know. The fault isn’t in their stars and I don’t blame them either. But what I will brave to blame is their self-restricted limitation to think outside of that infectious environment.

Questions arise unwarranted within, and make you wonder what this younger generation actually knows about the workings of the Tibetan political realm, when deliberating the spectrum of Tibetan politics with their elders or anyone, raised in an environment like India, where our government in exile thrives, barring a few passionate Tibetan youths who have their voices heard for Tibet.

I believe that, just like with any nation-building, a grassroots effort is badly needed. Apart from institutions such as schools and community-based organizations, parents and elders have a pivotal role to play in order to fan the sparkling tinders of interest visible amongst their younger children on how Tibetan polity and its myriad system of democracy works. It is unlike the democracy that they are used to seeing here in the West, where different parties with different philosophies and ideological mandates compete to win votes.

They have to be enlightened as to how, in our so-called democratic world, pervasive and impregnated religion comes into occultist play within our governmental functioning. Also how paramount this influence has been for centuries in circumambulating incorporation of all kinds of religious dogmas that some progressive organic pundits would brave to reduce to mere cynicism. I wouldn’t be shy from saying that ours is a theocratic Democracy, evolved not too far from our feudal days. We have multiple individuals running for office, yet everyone is programmed to adhere to a single mandate and policy of the office they would swear to uphold. There is no room for conflict of thoughts and ideologies to take birth, let alone exist, as was testament in our Sikyong elections a few years ago.

A bridge needs to be built between the younger generations of Tibetans and the older, living within two islands with two different world views, when it comes to the understanding of our governance. There is a clear disconnect between what we the elders think, and what the younger people are moulded to think in the environment they grew up in, without any of their fault when it comes to Tibetan polity.

Just a case in point, the termination of Penpa Tsering by Kashag, spearheaded by Lobsang Sangay, was conceived by many in the older generations as an imaginative or real colluded conspiracy, bolted around a society heavily poisoned by regional factionalism and nauseating nepotism. By the older generation, I mean mostly those Tibetans like myself born and raised in India at least up to their brain-functioning capability, to learn firsthand as to how the Tibetan Parliament and its structural democracy in Dasa works. Although I must stress that Tibetan political science was not part of our school curriculum — for that matter, it has never existed.

But for the many younger generations, born or raised at a tender age in the air of Western democracy, the termination of PT by the LS-led Kashag could only be seen from one angle, that of following protocols of termination of a subordinate by an authority above and nothing else.

Firing and hiring is built into their capitalistic corporate cultural mindset. They can’t even fathom in their strongest imagination, the rage and seismic uproar that was caused by the termination in the minds of many Tibetans: Termination of a well-known public servant, a former arch-rival in the hard-fought Presidential election of a government without a country, and termination of a figure who was and still is a beacon of hope for change for many.

A civic engagement is crucial therefore, and study in Tibetan political science is the call of the day. This can help clear the air of confusion and have us deliberate political issues with the younger generations with the confidence of a quiver filled with an all-round knowledge, without becoming confined and black-holed into only one channel of thought. To make it worse, social media with all its real and fake news, and litany of misconstrued information, has formed a obnoxiously frothy bubble over our small already-divided community, and this could explode anytime at our flat faces.

A friend of mine along with a few other people billowed a similar thought over some tea, and I know many concerned Tibetans feel the same way. With the fast-changing world and the wealth of information at our fingertips, younger generations, apart from knowing the history of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, should take this opportunity to learn about the workings of the CTA as well. They should also learn about its unique theocratic system, with much of its old clinging still intact, which plays into chartering policies.

Our CTA should also make a similar effort, publishing literature on Tibetan political science and also moving with the fast-changing times, enhancing their interface on the web, and loading them with information needed to know about our exile government and its functioning. A good idea would also be downloadable App “CTA 101 for Dummies” that could be saved by our younger generation into their smartphones at their discretion. It’s just such simple calibrated steps that could prove a big leap forward in bridging the existential gap between the two generations shaped within two such different environments. It’s disheartening to see when our younger Tibetans are sucked into the black holes of unintentional ignorance and confusion.

About the author

Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.

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