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writing for godot

Open Letter RE: Tibetan Self-Immolation

Written by Beth Carter   
Sunday, 24 February 2013 06:51

Secretary of State, John Kerry
United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

RE: Tibetan Self-Immolations

Dear Sirs and Madam:

Tibetans live in perpetual limbo. The majority of Tibetan refugees are kept at arms’ length by host countries. Few become citizens elsewhere. It is a life of uncertainty, vulnerability, sorrow, and loss. That is what it is outside the Tibetan plateau.

What reports come out of Tibet are held in suspicion as these reports cannot be verified, for or against the Chinese communists. I have heard it said that during the Chinese invasion, monks were dressed as soldiers, forced to carry empty rifles, and marched in the very front line with gun barrels in their backs. I’ve also heard it said that police dress as monks and riot to provide justification for further repression. As these tactics have been seen by a few different governments during different times in history, this is not out of the realm of possibility.

Napoleon said that history is written by the conquerors. When the conquerors control all the information, reports from civilians are unverifiable and what evidence exists is destroyed. Such is the case in the invasion of Panama by the U. S. in 1989. The evidence of mass graves, ages of the dead ranging from sixteen to elderly, was refuted by the Pentagon and the State Department, but the experiences of unearthing the bodies was unchanged by the rejection of administrative heads (See The Panama Deception, Academy Award winner 1993). I put it to you in just this way because this is what the Chinese will do. They use American failings, as with the Native Americans, to slough off any attempt at questioning their policies. The American conquest is based out of religious superiority expressed in a guardianship role (See

Mussolini said that Fascism should more properly be called “corporatism” since it represents the merger of state and corporate power. Capitalism is the new face of Fascism with a veneer of democracy as is the case with the U. S., and a veneer of Communism as is the case in China. Fascism loves a fall guy and anyone indigenous will do—the cherry on the top it seems.

I’ve been really reticent to seem to speak for anyone especially the Tibetans; I may express things in ways they would find unpleasant, entertain things they wouldn’t even spend a minute on. (Westerners have been exposed to so much more corruption than they have that I think we disgust them more than they might let on.) I am again speaking only from my experience of being around Tibetans, seeing the personal clash of cultures in an individual, finite setting. I remember seeing a Tibetan man speak to the group of Tibetans (mostly in the Tibetan language, so I have no idea what he said) about a recent situation for him. The heartbreak was so clear in the room that it brought tears to my eyes. The sound of his voice, the heat of his tears--I didn’t really need to have an interpreter tell me what he said because I could see what he meant. We Westerners have become so numb that we are unaware of our callousness because we are unaware of how much we have the potential to feel, what that can mean to our lives. The Tibetans are aware of how much we take for granted and they mourn for us and our blindness even as they mourn for the condition of their loved ones at home.

As I have been to protests of different causes, I refrain from being overly familiar with the Tibetan community as I am still a Westerner. I do not presuppose that everything I say or involve myself with is considered appropriate to the Tibetan community. I am concerned about upsetting Tibetans, yet I must say something for them to you. I need others to hear me when I do. Their actual history is being rewritten by their invaders. The Communist States’ accounting of itself has yet to be verified even by the United Nations. One visit every decade or so with such a consistent record of discord is negligence. Accounts of self-immolations are coming from Nepal and India, too. The terminal refugee status is demoralizing in and of itself, but we must keep in mind that mainland Chinese have not needed a visa for Nepal for quite some time; the repression is spreading.

What is remarkable is that the International Community seems to miss the depth of tragedy happening at the Roof of the World. The Tibetan people value life as physical form is something one earns through an act of clear benefit to another living being without regret or resentment or glorification present. To burn, to take one’s own life in fire (over one hundred reported since 2006, I think, with a sharp rise in events in the last few years), must be an act of great importance (grief, alarm, dedication to other living beings, passion), that something is grandly amiss and requires thorough, unscripted investigation.

Rumors of organ transplants from forced imprisonment, slave labor, starvation, these are worthy of your attention. Attitudes in Asia about organ transplants are more accepting, like a kidney for a Blackberry. However, the Tibetan situation is more dire. The prejudice is based on spiritual bigotry. Mao was said to have been derogatory toward the spiritual context of living and the Tibetans live and breathe that. They blink that. They clip their toenails that. It would be a natural carry-through that the kind of bigotry that would denigrate Tibetan spiritual culture, pull that despised culture closer (call it “family”, “one people”), and then limit information in and out of the area would commit atrocities while the Tibetans use their bodies as a torch message to the rest of the world.

Tibetans can make some nervous. They have yogis that can do things quantum physics touches. Since quantum physics is a rock in the comfortable shoe for some scientists, there may be some reticence in the scientific community to support increased activity on the Tibetan subject. That does not mean that we should allow the Chinese to snuff out these amazing people. Since there is a strong Christian-based pull in the Western Hemisphere, the kind of insincerity of the Chinese Communists toward the Tibetans may not be totally apparent since Christians generally regard Buddhists with distaste (therefore distrust) and/or bewilderment (maybe fascination). There are exceptions to these extremes and I am counted as one of them. The actions of the Communist/Fascist are as it has been with other genocide cases like Rwanda, Cambodia, Germany, Poland, America--aggressive narcissism: The willingness to count ones’ own needs and status above others so that they become little more than chattel or token. Their own innate human dignity is stripped of them and the opportunity for human rights violations become virulent. The Tibetan people whom I have met I found to be honest, playful, open, genuine, flawed like the rest of us, yet miles above us, literally and figuratively. They are generous and straight forward, but with humor. For me, they are the best of us in the way of other indigenous peoples, each in their own grace. They are unable to defend themselves and are being mistreated. We, as “defenders of the weak”, need to keep the Klingons from slaughtering the Ewoks (no offense to either side).

The Chinese people are not the Chinese government. The Chinese people and the Tibetan people may well get along as they did for centuries in certain dynastic periods. However, the Chinese Communists are still using the Tibetans as patsy in honor of Mao—a kind of loyalty thing, loosing face otherwise.

From what I can see, the invasion of Japan put such a deep tremor through the Chinese heart, that the “ward” in this “guardianship” situation is being sought out and punished by its’ critics. Prior to this modern guardianship, the relations between Tibet’s religio-political dignitaries and China’s dynastic court were as a priest-to-a-parishioner; lamas came from Tibet for special events to grant blessings along with the divine Emperor. The invasion by the Communists would be the equivalent to Romans sacking the Vatican for allowing the Visigoths to take the city of Rome. However, this is being characterized by Communists to be an historical relationship of artist-to-patron, but the backlash when the Communists came to power suggests a very vicious feeling toward the Tibetans, feelings if given carte-blanche will go out of control easily. Who are the Tibetan’s critics? Since China became capitalistic, can we really call it Communism? I don’t think so. I think the definition stops long before capitalism comes into the picture. Is China really stretching out a helping hand, or a knife in the side?

Please hear me clearly that I have high regard for the rural Chinese just as I have Tibetans. I believe the rural Chinese were betrayed by the very governmental structure which is now destroying Tibet in the name of Chinese progress (See Pure History Specials: Mao’s Great Famine). Americans, just like the Chinese, are having problems with micromanaged media. I do not think regular Americans would have problems with regular Chinese if met on an even keel. There is a cultural divide, but it is surmountable. I know that Chinese and Tibetan relations can be good, but the Chinese government is engaging in questionable acts even against their own people; Mao intentionally starved peasants to pay off Moscow debt.

There is still another reason to discuss Tibet with China, climate change. At the Roof of the World, everything else below one’s feet catches the fall out of whatever impact is made. From the highest regional winds to the deepest pipes of underground rivers, it all comes after what happens up there. Alpine forests are clear cut, so then landslides, so then dams . . . rotting bushes, grassland, increasing erosion . . . that high in the atmosphere with all the snow, hail, the extreme temperatures, the stripping of the top soil, it is going to have its’ effect. Everything that happens up there, in the rarified air, happens slowly except for rain, hail, and avalanche. Only one other thing happens fast up there, but that is another case of a yogi blowing a scientist’s mind. Never the less, ecological changes on a vast scale at a quick pace will affect all the other ecological systems dramatically, each in their own nature. If we want to level out climate change in a somewhat efficacious way, we must deal with Tibet: as a people, as a nation, as a unique ecological center, as a unique democracy. It is important to redeem our own nobility in this cause of protection of human dignity. We have missed other opportunities to catch a problem before it got bad and we failed. The issue of the Tibetan condition must be met and well done. By bringing relief and support in holistic and healthy manner, other atrocities worldwide can be redressed and new occurrences will be identified and deflected. I can name too many instances of genocide in the last seventy years for me to have any conviction that we are working effectively to stop genocide. We need to be effective in order to keep kind focus. I think maintaining that, a kind focus (trying to do good/improve the lives of constituents/improving humanity’s lot), is every bit a part of the political process. Talking about Human Rights blows the thing about proprietorship out of the water. A guardian who abuses his charge, either by physical aggression or by psychological attack, must be put in check as the vulnerable are the best in us, in humanity. Kids learn to be cruel by what adults do to others by and large, yet we must not ignore the exception here either for that child may be the next Hitler, Pol Pot, or Idi Amin. In that we are talking about a collective rather than an individual, we are still going to have to face this subject as climate change is the fate of the world. It would be a disservice to dismiss the Tibetan people as children however. They are more mature than that by far. Lack of education leaves untouched mature wisdom which is missing in literature and only acquired by experience. The Tibetans lack of corruption marks their unique state. It does not indicate their servitude or their need to become modern. They have no need other than to return to their homeland and live as they have lived for centuries—with the planet, not against it, supporting other living things even as they move through the cycles of life in their finite existence. The grace with which they live life is what we need to learn from them.

I once thought that Americans and other amenable countries should just give all the Tibetans amnesty, but realized that there is only one way. Let the Tibetans run their homeland as they see fit because they are the ones who know how to live up there sustainably, responsibly, and do thereby suggest that the United Nations grant the Tibetan people special environmental accolades and financial grants, especially the nomads, as true guardian/rangers of this very rare, unique, splendid ecological nexus on the planet, a distinction that science itself should enforce as climate change action. It would be an excellent idea to give that very same status to the Amazon indigenous in Brazil since the Amazon holds the largest freshwater source in the world.

Historically, most Chinese stayed in the mainland, even when things were warm in political relations. However, the 1913 Declaration of Tibetan Independence was never ceded. Tibet is enduring an occupation. It will continue to strive. The beauty of the Tibetan people has moved many of us and they are not alone. I think that is why Nixon pulled the plug. Vice-president Alben W. Barkley may have been sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, but Nixon shut down the CIA involvement as some of the agents and translators were going “native” if you will. That is how beautiful the Tibetan heart is—it turned CIA agents. That is a reason to fear for some, but I find it beautiful since our veterans of foreign wars are coming back all tweeked out from perma-readiness (read: government sanctioned speed dose), guilt ridden, and confused. If we look at CIA characters from movies, they’re all neurotic and have no means to unplug, to give back their vows, debrief and be a civi (civilian) again, ever. They’re depicted as scarred for life with no hope of anything else except the seedy, spooky life.

Do not think that the Tibetans are beaten down, or slow somehow. Do not mistake patience for ineptitude. That would be a big mistake. The Tibetans are more genuine in their everyday life than most of us—even their con men are more genuine. We Westerners are constantly shape-shifting, trying to get the better deal, see what is behind the curtain, predict the market, get the inside scoop, etc. They are more emotionally mature than we are. We have done many things around sea level that they are unwilling or incapable of doing up there. They do so much more with so much less than we do while we look down our noses at their misguided musings. They are our walking example. In the resource glut we have been allowing since the Industrial Revolution, we have so much stuff we could recycle, but we put it in a huge, eye-sore pile and let time deal with the runoff. We “civilized” societies have selectively ignored how our mismanagement of resources, also known as commerce and industry, will bring cities down to cesspits only to become antiquity. This is the reality of climate change.

We as human societies come under the United Nations’ charter, and those who sit on its’ bodies and commissions must make a stand about certain things. That is what the Declaration of Human Rights is about. A number of things are coming to boil in a number of countries. Women’s Rights. LGBT Rights. These are important things, but without a supportive climate for human life (which includes all other species since we are on top of the food chain), none of us do well. Tibet must come first, and not for climate change alone. Democracy has been taking a beating, from within as well as without. That is what the United States must face each and every time Tibet comes up. What the Communists have done, however, is to put themselves in center stage after getting other countries indebted to them. Communist officials will exploit this as ruthlessly as they do with the Tibetans. The ecosystems of the planet are incapable of standing the Communist onslaught for much longer without having dramatic responses from other parts of the connected ecological systems. Get the Chinese to the table with the Tibetans. It is my understanding that this has yet to happen since the unsavory sideshow that was the Fourteen Point Agreement.

We must collectively pull back on the Chinese government. Putin still wants Russia to be a big player and he’s more than willing to throw his weight around to prove the point, but the Tibetan issue is still dominant. If we have no supportive system for life, none of us do well. Not Assad. Not Israel. Not Iran. Not China. Not France. Not Canada. Not the Caribbean. Not the Cayman Islands. Whatever. Tibet’s time has come. Do well for them for there is a lot more than just Buddhists on the line.


Beth Carter
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