By Tenpa Dhargyal Gapshi
Well, lets get down to it, shall we?
1) Rangzen advocates and the rangzen movement is the cause of the division within the Tibetan society:
That is a huge misconception and unfortunately a common mistake. First of all, I don't really see a divide in our community as the word might usually insinuate and as one would expect from two fundamentally divergent points of views. And the reason why there isn't much animosity other than the usual deprecation of each other's position is the exalted position of Kundun who not only commands the love and respect of all people concerned but also the unquestioning trust that he is doing it with the purest intention. Yet another factor is the general consensus that most people still support the Rangzen movement but owing to their reverence for Kundun, and more importantly, out of faith in Kundun, they dare not disagree publicly. Now coming back to the question of the cause for this 'divide' within our movement, one only needs to go back to declaration of Independence on June 20th, 1959 at the border by the then Kashag overseen by H.H the 14th Dalai lama and the subsequent 30 years of Tibetan government's official stance to throw some light on this dubious claim. Rangzen had been, and rightfully so, the official position of TGIE from the very beginning and there was no 'division' within the Tibetan people at that time, at least not on that front. It was only in 1987 with the introduction of the five-point peace proposal and the subsequent Strasbourg Proposal when the Tibetan movement started having two very divergent approaches. Of course, five-point peace proposal was followed by a slew of equally bizarre sounding terms such as 'Zone of Ahimsa', 'Genuine Autonomy', 'Meaningful Autonomy' and so and so forth as if changing the words around would make the difference. Be that as it may, coming back to the assertion at hand, in a logical sequence of things, Middle-path philosophy is the one which created the 'division' in the Tibetan movement and thereby Rangzen proponents, having never strayed from the original path cannot be guilty of the charge.
2) Rangzen is a fool's dream and Middle-path at least has a shot:
In all honesty, more than anything, I would say Middle-path approach created confusion and total lack of direction, in fact creating total apathy for the movement itself. Its main focus seem to be to appease china at any cost without regard for historical facts, logic, or current reality and instead end up muzzling our own movement, disorienting our youth, blacklisting our intellectuals, and blaming the failure of their policies on Rangzen advocates. If only we hadn't insulted this and that Chinese dignitary and if only we hadn't demonstrated during the Olympics, we would have found a much more receptive audience in China which will somehow translate into more meaningful dialogue and better understanding between the parties. Eight fruitless talks, needless felicitations, embarrassing pronouncements from our exalted offices and we are still in the quagmire that we started from and China has barely moved an inch or rather they have regressed now that TGIE has legitimized their claim over Tibet. It should be quite evident now that they have no reason or the intention to resolve anything in Tibet and they would be just happy to keep up the charade while bidding their sweet time until H.H passes away and then as far as they are concerned, the issue of Tibet is effectively nullified. No amount of obsequiousness and kowtowing will result in them granting us any special status within China because they know as long as the people of Tibet exist as a separate race and entity, the Tibet issue will never be resolved and China will never have legitimacy over Tibet. They will only be satisfied when Tibet becomes like Manchuria, fully occupied by Han nationals and totally dominated in every aspect of life and identity. This dream of having an autonomous Tibetan area with Tibetan majority is just a dream, much like Rangzen might appear to Middle-Pathers. So, if both paths are dreams, why not dream bigger where you wouldn't have to lie, wouldn't have to cringe every time our Prime Minister mentions Tibet as an internal matter of China, and we would at least have dignity and the unity of Tibetan people.
3) Living under China is actually beneficial to us
Now this is a spurious claim which seem to be a natural offshoot of the Middle Path stance where you have already decided Middle-way is the correct course and now are simply engaged in superfluous attempts at trying to spruce up poetic reasons for the merits of the predetermined position and thereby end up making bizarre and illogical claims almost to the point of absurdity. Living under China is beneficial to us? How is that working for us so far? Is this part of the same myth some clever pundits once espoused that once we increase trade relations with China, and the living standards of the Chinese people improve, they will have no choice but to open up the country to democratic ideals. Now, instead of a contained China, we have a more organized dragon with the proverbial tight financial hold on the world's economic balls. Most people who hold this view seems to think it is a revolutionary idea and we would be somehow hoodwinking China into elevating our nation too. Wait, that would not be our nation anymore, it would be the Chinese nation. We would share in the natural might of a world power, have a permanent seat in the exclusive security council, and be a nation to be reckoned with. Not only that, we would be also affixing our chupa sashes on this financial windfall and catapulting ourselves in their meteorite ascent, all the while trying to hold on to our braided hair. They will also point that the world is getting smaller and smaller and it is an interdependent world and no nation is free to make independent decisions without adversely affecting itself. Europe has formed its own union to compete in the world economy and it only makes sense that such amalgamation would be the norm rather than the exception in the future and we would be simply evolving in that direction in a sense. From a distance, it sounds almost inviting, doesn't it? Almost like a Utopian concoction where the benign and brotherly assistance from China would catapult Tibet from the feudalistic nightmare into an egalitarian society of mutual respect and cooperation. Where did I hear this before? Oh, that's right, isn't this what China has been saying for the last 50 years and we are still oppressed in our own nation and slowly edged out to the fringes of the great egalitarian Chinese society, to the quaint corner of our own cities by Chinese migrants fully backed the Chinese government, relocated to bunkers from the our beloved green pastures and open fields. What most of these geniuses fail to observe is the first clause of that argument which is that it is not one of free will but rather of one nation forceful and brutal occupation of another and the continued oppression of the indigenous people with the ruthless abandon of the Nazi. This particular argument is akin to saying as long as you are getting raped why not at least try to enjoy it. Sometimes, we tend to get too carried away in our earnestness to please, to be the best noblest harmless race on the planet, which we unintentionally end up exhibiting Stockholm syndrome of the acute kind.
4) Tibetans can't compete in the global economy
This is yet another tickle-down logic which directly stems from the belief that we would be much better off under China due to its economic might and moreover Tibetans are not educated enough, not savvy enough, and not mature enough to handle trade and commerce. If you wait long enough, you will come to realize this is the same arguments used for not granting full democracy to the exile populace. Interesting, isn't it? First question is why? Why do we have to compete at all? And even if we did compete, why do we have to measure ourselves with mighty nations like China, US, Europe and India? Why can't we consider ourselves successful for at least having a nation to live in freely, practice whatever religion one desires, pray to any god or gods you wish, and not have to languish in prisons for having the audacity to ask for one's basic fundamental rights as a people and as a nation. Bhutan is enjoying its gross domestic happiness. Small Tiny nations all enjoy corresponding and resplendent economy based on its natural resources. Tibet has a vast amount of natural resources that is much more than a little country like us needs; we have a huge tourism capacity that alone could more than fill the national coffers. Now add to that, if we declare our country as a zone of peace, conservation, and harmony, we not only have created a sustainable future for our people but for all of humanity. And that is not too hard to do because we have been doing that well way before it became trendy in the 20th century. But the main issue isn't really that, now, is it? The issue is that we don't have any confidence or faith in our own abilities and in that of our own people. We are so battered down, been harangued all our lives about what we cannot achieve, been told that we do not deserve the same rights as other people due to the famous and invisible red R in the middle of our foreheads, that we naturally assume it must be true for all Tibetans. Tibetans are natural businessmen and we have a pretty good record of trading with our neighbors like India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China and in any case we wouldn't have survived without trade. What I am saying is this, we will learn what needs to be learnt and we will become successful in business and trade too. We don't have to be the best, we just need to hold our own and of that I am very confident of our people.
5) We have a democratic Government
No, we don't. We have something that resembles a democracy but is not really one in actuality. We cannot have a democracy without a party system. This partyless democracy is really a guise of one party controlling the major decisions and letting people fetter around in a pretend democracy. In such a system, there is nobody to take the initiative on major issues nor another to keep it honest. That would explain why there is such disconnect with the leadership and the populace and most of time all we can do is just throw our hands in the air in bewilderment. We still have some people with two votes and that in itself is a mockery of democratic ideals. It is very basic. That is probably the reason why I can't seem to be able to make up my mind about the Kalon Tripa election. I don't deny that what we have right now is much better than what we used to have and is a major step up. But Jamyang Norbu has already written an extensive piece on exile democracy and I don't have anything extra to add onto that and direct people to peruse his excellent articles on his blog. Although, I must say that on this front, most do agree that we do not have a full functioning democracy at this stage, BUT, here comes caveat, we are not ready for it. It would create discord and disunity in exile that is not going to help our cause. I don't see how that would be any more damaging than giving up our rightful case for an independent country. There is nothing we can do at this point that is going to screw it up any worse. And who decides when we are ready for democracy? If history has taught us anything, it is that once an institution or a group is in power, they are very, very reluctant to let it go. Moreover, wouldn't the exile society be the perfect place to really experiment with real democracy? We don't have to worry about a real state with its various headaches such as military, public safety, national economy, infrastructures etc. and can safely experiment with this 'new' system in incubation? This would actually be a perfect place to test it out while Kundun is still alive and he will be there to do a reset if need be. Moreover, I believe, with respect to provincial representation, party system will systematically allow people to group according to ideas rather their locality and although that won't guarantee an amicable relationship, it would at least take us away from our age-old rivalry and that would be an improvement.
6) Religion and politic mixture is unique and good
If it was so unique and good, what are we doing in exile? Nobody wants to ask this question. It is the confluence of religion and politics that naturally made us vulnerable in the first place. It resulted in closing our society to the outside world and putting it in suspended growth and then having to wake up to the rude realities of the modern world. There is a reason why all democracies are adamantly against the involvement of the church in the political arena. Look at the history of Europe and the involvement of the church in the Middle Ages if you desire to get a glimpse of it and look at the current states with religious heads in power like Iran to understand what it does to a society. Our own history with Buddhism, although not as gory and tyrannical as was practiced in some other faith, hasn't been pretty either, with suppression of Bon, inter-faith scuffles settled with the use of foreign powers, effete governments which rely on the God to make the decisions, opportunistic regents and the political stagnation resulting from the demise of one head to the discovery of the next reincarnation and the subsequent grooming needed to be deemed ready to head the nation. Many unfortunate accidents have happened even to Dalai lamas who drew the ire of incumbent warlords or who just happened to put a damper on the ambitions of power to be. The wheels of monastic power were so absolute even the great 13th couldn't do much to improve it during his time and as soon as he passed away, everything reverted to the same old ways. We already have two Panchen Lamas and we are heading toward a future with two Dalai Lamas. With the Chinese propaganda machinery at work and the willingness of the western nations to suspend their beliefs for trade and our own inherent weakness for not making a scene, that future is almost a foregone conclusion. The only way to effectively nullify the two prong Chinese attack is to remove the target altogether. If Kundun completely separates the Church from the secular activities while he is alive and effectively passes the torch to the secular government, China would no longer have the political punch behind the appointment of the next Dalai Lama. That is not to say Kundun would not be a mainstay in Tibetan way of life as that would be impossible and ultimately I believe it would prove to be spiritually beneficial too as it would no longer have to be dragged into the dirty streets of politics. I am not saying the introduction of Buddhism was bad or that it didn't do anything useful for our nation. Nothing of the kind. I honestly think Tibet provided the perfect place for the complete teaching of lord Buddha to be preserved and the natural harshness and desolateness of the plateau provided the cocoon that it desperately needed. But the degree to which it consumed the whole nation and the resultant shunning of the material world, be it in scientific endeavors, research and keeping abreast of the political development, scientific breakthroughs, military strategy, etc, led the Tibetan nation to the state that it is in today. Religion must be separated from politics to save both the nation and the peerless teachings of the Buddha.
7) Ngabo is a patriot
If Ngabo is a patriot, then Hitler is a misunderstood bully. I know this topic has been beaten to death, resurrected, and then beaten to death again, but I needed one more point to make it seven and in any case, I just can't let this go. I know most people, across the board, whatever their political affiliation, don't really believe that he is a patriot. Although, some of the creative ones once again try to muddy the water by appealing to the sensible side of you and wonder if we really know everything about Ngabo. There might be some things he might have secretly done which only the highest of the highest officials in TGIE are privy to and we shouldn't rush to label somebody this or that. In any case, he is shoved aside as a pathetic person of no importance and we are better of not talking about him. I would be fine to do just that if not for the proclamation from the highest office of TGIE that he is a bona fide patriot. That rightfully drew scorns from many intellectuals, both Tibetan and long time non-Tibetan Tibet advocates, that it wasn't a pretty picture on the blogs and Internet. What education is supposed to do at first is teach you how to think, analyze the evidence, and come to an informed position. Most of the time, you do not have all the facts nor do you need it as it would be just redundant. Some people seem to be struck playing the devil's advocate in perpetuity and although it is useful in the beginning, it becomes a vicious logical loop in itself and does not lead to independent thinking and the objective ends up not about determining the truth anymore but to create an alternate position to everything. And moreover, having formed an opinion, you should be willing to consider other pertinent facts and evidence that haven't been divulged yet. I don't need to go into details as to why I think he is a traitor as there have been extensive write-up on this subject and as of now, there have been no official explanations as to why he is considered a patriot against such overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That should be a big tell tale sign. It is clear to everyone, such bizarre declaration from TGIE, is yet another obsequious gesture, yet another medieval tongue-out head-scratching routine, which as usual, gets no acknowledgment or kudos from the Chinese government.
These are some of the thoughts running through my head and are deliberately brief and by no means attempt to suggest a scholarly presentation. Any criticisms, affirmations, or other overlooked ideas will be most welcomed and appreciated. I also wanted to squash two other ancillary misrepresentations that couldn't fit with the other Seven. One is that Chinese media will use such essays (I highly doubt mine will fit the bill but they have been using Jamyang Norbu quite a bit) and point out that Exile community is fractured and not democratic. I say their communist thuggery type of governance is a total joke and is similar to a blind criticizing someone who only has nearsightedness. Besides, the very fact that we can openly write about our disagreements show that we are far more progressed than they can ever dream of. Another one is the annoying proclamation that if you are against Middle Way then you are automatically against Kundun. That is a vicious statement and a hurtful one. Just because we disagree on some of the points doesn't make Rangzen supporters against Kundun. There are many bright and energetic young Tibetans, especially in various NGOs, who love and respect his holiness but still support the Rangzen movement. I would like to think of it more like a disagreement between parents and offspring where love, respect, and gratitude for Kundun shall never diminish. Bod Gyalo!
The writer is a Tibetan resident of Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.