Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Possible Solutions for Resolving This Situation (#5)

It may not be the most simple or comfortable place to start, but I believe that the beginning of finding the solution to such a mess as this may be in seeing from the colonizer's viewpoint. After all, that is the root of the issue and if we do not seek to understand other perspectives, all we're left with is more war, disconnection, hopelessness and embitterment. Even from a somewhat moderate point-of-view, it is difficult to see China as anything but a senselessly tyrannical usurper without any real defense for their injustices. I think it is encoded in our cultural mindset through media that in every story there is a bad guy. He is fundamentally evil; there is nothing underneath that worth finding, and any attempt at sympathy or understanding, even of rehabilitation is misplaced. This demonization may pass unnoticed in the movies, but it is very dangerous to not question our understanding of real world instances of wrong-doing. After all if the "bad guy" is irredeemable, the only answer is for his story to end in a battle, which only in the movies is he guaranteed to lose.
Which brings me to my dismissal of solution one: war. I do not think the solution is for Tibet to remilitarize and to go to war against their long-time oppressor, nor do I believe that the U.S.of A., or any other country for that matter, ought to attack China for great justice. In my shallow pool of experience and my education on these things, war does not end War. I do not believe that China could be possessed with some evil, war-mongering gene that needs to be extinguished, but that the country of the colonizer itself has undergone difficult and complex developments which have left those in power with a sense of needing to recreate the republic and defend the communism state's authority and values -- namely unity -- and the people of China somewhat jaded by the political system and preoccupied with their own survival. I am not attempting to reject the communist ideology, only to honestly consider the experiences of people within this system, from what I know to be true. So here is my impossible solution: I think that the country of China itself is in need of rehabilitation and restoration. Of course that does not answer the question of Tibet and its independence; I have some thoughts on that as well.
Due to unprecedented progress made by the newly-elected Tibetan prime minister in the discussion between Tibet and China, the Dalai Lama who has been in exile for more than half of a century is planning a return to his country and will endeavor "to build confidence and understanding" with China through open discussion. I am assured by his devotion to his government and his faith that any compromises he will make in these dealings will not sacrifice or diminish the lives of the Tibetan people. It is possible that the change and renewal of Tibet that the colonized people have hoped for has already begun.

The Aspects of Colonialism That I Find Most Interesting (#1)

In this blog, I want to examine the ways in which the colonizer develops a mentality that justifies his actions and grants him imagined legitimacy. For clarification's sake, in speaking of the “colonizer,” I am referring to the nation that takes power and privilege from the colonized people while oppressing and exploiting them, and “legitimacy” refers to the colonizer's responsibility to the colonized people (all-be-it self-imposed) and status as a result of colonized's acceptance of his role (dependency complex), as well as his consequential rights to any privilege granted to him by virtue of his powerful position.

Throughout the semester, I have wondered how any nation could possibly get away with the atrocities of colonialism with the whole world watching. During the Holocaust, for example the Nazi regime efficiently and quietly murdered millions. I recently learned that it took almost 12 years for the news and evidence of the many tragedies of the Holocaust to reach America, due in part to the fact that there was no global media. Still, after hearing about what had gone on, many people could not believe it could have happened, and even more could not (and cannot) understand how such a great number of people – more than the nation of Germany in fact – could have believed so strongly in a social-political agenda as to commit such an unprecedented act of genocide.

Today, in the age of global communication and connectedness. it is not nearly as possible as it once was for a nation to make such a move without the whole world knowing, but sometimes for more complex reasons, these situations don't receive the attention they warrant. Last year I took a survey course in human geography and heard a Tibetan man speak about the issues that had torn his country apart from the roots. His story affected me so much that I wanted to tell all the people around me about the bothersome things I'd found out, to let everyone know that what seems in the past is still going on today for Tibet. Life became busy, and I didn't share the things I'd found out with many people, but now for my sake and yours, I'd like to take a closer look at the cultural and colonial history of what I consider to be one of the most valuable places in the world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Terms That Apply to This Situation (#4)

"How can an elite of usurpers, aware of their mediocrity, establish their privileges? By one means only: debasing the colonized to exalt themselves, denying the title of humanity to the natives & defining them as simply absences of qualities – animals, not humans.” (Memmi, xxvi)
The two terms I will apply to the Chinese colonization of Tibet are usurpation and dehumanization. The specific definition of the latter which I will use is the assumption of undeserved profit and privilege on the part of the colonizer and through the denial and destruction of the colonized; this usurpation is often accompanied by a falsified sense of entitlement, also called "legitimacy." The definition I will apply to dehumanization is taken from The Colonizer and the Colonized, by Albert Memmi; dehumanization is the denial of the colonized's humanity, which alienates the colonizer and reduces the colonized to no more than a function of his needs.
The most obvious way in which China has usurped is in the invasion and colonization of an already organized and governed territory whose leadership and people expressed opposition to becoming part of China. From there, Tibet's land was taken and used for commercial and industrial purposes, its natural resources and ecology harmed in irreversible ways, the temples and monasteries either destroyed or turned into tourist destinations that don't offer the former sanctuary and place of devotion to the Buddhist way, and millions of lives taken.
Further damage has been done through the rape and replacement of the Tibetan people by the Han Chinese population, many of whom were given employment or other compensation by the government of the Republic of China to go to Tibet. Not only are the Tibetan people being forcefully bred out through rape and watching their dwindling population be crushed and crowded out by the colonizers, they are no longer considered an ethnic group by Chinese officials and the land which is known as "Tibet" is only a fraction of what the peaceful country used to be. Along with the incidental destruction of their cultural identity and civil liberties such as the practice of Buddhism, many people -- mostly monks and nuns -- are jailed, tortured, humiliated in the most inhumane manner, raped and killed.
For what? Mostly for a political agenda, which is currently a question of legitimacy within China. Just as in Memmi's analysis of the colonial situation, the colonizer no longer believes in the communist agenda that was introduced to 20th century China, but still joins the mission in order to reap its benefits. As a matter of fact, in 2009 a classified cable that was leaked from the Beijing State Department provided strong evidence "that most Chinese youth are not joining the ruling Communist Party out of an ideological commitment but to seek better jobs and positions within the government." ( This is further evidence of the colonizer's illegitimacy and endless usurpation.
There is so much more that I'd like to include here, but I may never stop writing if I do, so instead I'll save something for my final paper.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Background and History of Tibet (#3)

The Tibetan people are said to have been warlike and greedy once upon a time, but have since then embraced the peaceful ways of Buddhism and beaten their swords into plowshares. An unfortunate result of this – probably the only one – is the lack of an army that could have opposed Chinese invasion. This is not to say there is no opposition within Tibet, in fact there have been recent uprisings and many public protests in the half-century since China's invasion, but the nation is currently under the administration of the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which is based in the Republic of China and oftentimes violent. Many Tibetans have fled their homeland and gone into exile in other nations; from those places they have been able to give the world a firsthand account of the brutal history of Chinese colonization.

Of the fifteen publications on Tibet that I was able to find on the shelves in our school library, twelve were published in the States, two in the UK, and one in Hong Kong. Maybe there aren't many printing presses in Tibet, still I wanted to take notice of where the written history that I am getting my information from originated. Since it does not apply to the specific situation I am analyzing, I have excluded the little bit of information I've gathered about Tibet's early history (including the first kingdoms, annexations, territorial unities and so on). It is, however, worth mentioning that there have been a million "usurpers" in the history of Tibet, even before it became a nation. First, there were small scale usurpations, then a push-and-pull of power between the ancestors of Tibet and the Mongol people, then the same with India, and a dozen other conflicts and micro-colonizers. This fact has challenged my assumptions about colonialism. Ive had to stop and ask myself, "Is the process of colonization merely something that's inevitable, collecting like dryer lint or a snowball rolling downhill?" After all, if there were no collective actions made by humans (such as the formation of a state), we wouldn't have established religion, or neighborhoods, or marriage and family, or systems of trade. Furthermore, even in a relationship between two people, there is often a more powerful personality, and a more submissive one. So, isn't some form of domination simply what happens when one person's life collides with another? Everything must have an impact.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Colonial Situation that I Propose to Analyze (#2)

After some waffling over the topic of my paper and presentation – specifically feeling indecisive about whether I ought to restrict my menu of colonial situations to those inside of the Mahgreb – I've decided to research the colonial history of Tibet. I initially thought of discussing the entire colonial history of this nation, which would have included Mongol and Indian occupation, that of Russian emissaries for a stint, shortly followed by roughly a decade of British colonization and finally over 40 years of usurpation. I was advised to save myself some sanity and narrow my scope, so I will look solely at the Chinese colonization of Tibet.

According to the website run by the Official Agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Administration to the Americas,

"The present Chinese policy, a combination of demographic and economic manipulation, and discrimination, aims to suppress the Tibetan issue by changing the very character and the identity of Tibet and its people."

The oppressive actions of the Communist government of China (which, being entirely opposed to religion, is very much at odds with the Buddhist government of Tibet, headed by the Dalai Lama) have forced more than 100,000 Tibetans into exile, but even more have perished. According to the Office of Tibet located in New York,

1.2 million Tibetans, one-fifth of the country’s population, died as a result of China’s policies; many more languished in prisons & labor camps; & more than 6,000 monasteries, temples & other cultural & historic buildings were destroyed & their contents pillaged.

The article does not even mention the other methods of genocide, such as forced sterilizations and abortions, rape of Tibetan women by Chinese men (meaning that after several generations, there will be a race that has very little of Tibet in its genetic make-up), and the mass amounts of Han Chinese being offered employment and paid to move to Tibet by the Chinese government.

Another part of this situation that I find both interesting and upsetting about this situation is our part in it. Unfortunately, I believe that our consumerism is feeding a monster, and that those in power are for now turning a blind eye to the atrocities. China is such a major player in the world market, that no nation that depends on its production would dare challenge the Chinese government's dealings. China's economy, on the other hand, would not have nearly as much to lose from a falling out with the U.S. since, as an article from U.S.-China Today about the Southern California port which handles most of the trade between our two nations explains,

"At the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports alone, the Los Angeles Customs District trade deficit was $83.5 billion in 2006. U.S. imports from China were valued at $104.7 billion and U.S. exports to China were valued at $21.3 billion."

It is as dismal and delicate of a situation as every one that we've talked about so far, but I will later explore possible solutions to the problems I've presented here. As we've talked about before in class, I still believe it is possible to realize anything that we can believe in, and I'm seeing that same hope and strength in the Tibetan struggle.