“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton
By Bernie Bell
Mike and I support ‘Free Tibet’, and receive their newsletters, regularly. In one newsletter, there was an item about how callous the Chinese authorities are about Tibetan culture, when it comes to tourism. They’re very keen to use Tibet for tourism (as well as a lot of other, more questionable….uses), but have little sensitivity about how these tourists should behave, often at sacred sites.
There are some photographs within the article. These pictures were actually taken by a tourist, who was appalled at what was happening, otherwise, probably, the pictures wouldn’t have got out of China!
One picture is entitled “Chinese tourists stand on sacred Tibetan prayer flags. The sacred word, should not be touched by the feet.”
Whether a person agrees with the religion, and sacred words in question, or not, they are someone’s sacred words, and should be treated with respect. It could be likened to people standing on a Bible, or….at one time, someone standing on the ‘Little Red Book’ of Chairman Mao.
Everyone has a sacred word, of one kind or another, and those things should be respected.
There are various other images, and the one which got me, most, was one of a young woman on a statue of The Buddha.
The caption reads “A tourist poses on a Buddhist statue.” “Poses on” being a polite way of putting it! She has her legs wrapped round the statues neck – not dignified for her, or The Buddha. And….she don’t look Chinese to me, so, other nations are dis-respecting the Tibetan people and places, as well as the Chinese.
The pictures of a Tibetan woman, shielding her face from the cameras, and of tourists intrusively photographing a Tibetan performing his religious observance, show that the tourists are seeing the Tibetans as ‘things’ rather than people – they not only dis-respect the sites, but also the people. They don’t even appear to see them, as people, just part of their ‘tourist experience’.
And what can we do about it? Support ‘Free Tibet’, and damn the Chinese government, at any opportunity, for what they’re doing there. And discourage folk from going to China for a ‘holiday’, or Tibet for that matter. Holidays in other people’s misery. I do realise that this would mean that the tourists therefore wouldn’t be there to take the photographs, and get information about how the Tibetans are treated, out of the country. It’s a matter of weighing it up – do you go there just for a ‘holiday’ , or with the intention of hoping to make the wider world aware of how the Tibetan people are being treated in their own country? And it’s worth remembering that most of the money from tourism goes to the Chinese government, not the Tibetan people.
I just realised how many echoes there are here with Scotland, past and present, under English rule.
The trouble is….do a lot of people today, have nothing which they hold to be ‘sacred’, and, therefore, don’t understand the concept of reverence?
And there will be those who have reverence for their own, personal, ‘gods’, but who don’t care tuppence, for other people’s, because other people, are, ‘other’.
I originally wrote this piece, and sent it to TON, before all the excitement erupted about the new, convenient flights between China and Scotland. I stand by what I wrote.
It is good that students from China can come to Scotland to study – it will give them an eye-opening view of a different way of life. Equally, it could be useful for Scottish students to go to China and see what life is like there. An exchange of people, whether students or folk looking for work, or wanting to change where they live, in either direction, is fair enough, but I stand by my view of the Chinese government and their general attitude of arrogance and exploitation regarding minorities within their own nation, and for that matter, their attitude to animal welfare and human rights and welfare, generally.
Many folk in China may not be aware of what is happening in Tibet. It’s astounding how little the people of a country may know about what is done ‘in their name’. I have a friend who simply damns the whole Chinese nation, and I ask her not to do so, to re-consider, that the general public, the normal, working person, possibly doesn’t even think about it much. Yes, maybe they should do, but, people, are people, and, sometimes, they don’t do what they should, and they do what they shouldn’t!
There is a book ‘Sky Burial’ by Xinran, which was a revelation to me re. how little the Chinese people know about what the Chinese government are doing, in this case specifically in Tibet, but, if there is such lack of information about Tibet, what else are they not aware of? This book gives a different perspective on how the young soldiers who went there, initially, to ‘liberate’ Tibet, saw what they were doing. They actually thought that they were liberating the country, and bringing improvements.
It reminds me of how people see the Roman occupation of Britain – it’s said that they brought plumbing and straight roads and all that. The fact being, and a fact which is becoming more and more apparent, as new discoveries are made in archaeology – the people living in Britain, at that time, had a very good culture and social set-up in place, of their own. Life most definitely wasn’t grim and filthy, as it’s often portrayed to have been! I think most of the Roman soldiers, were just doing what they were told, many of them were from different parts of the Empire, and weren’t even Roman, as such.
It looks like many of the Chinese soldiers, genuinely thought that they were benefiting the Tibetans, by taking over their country. Their ways were so different, that it could easily have appeared so, when they arrived there, and saw how the Tibetans lived, but…….it was just different, it wasn’t worse, it was different, and it worked for the Tibetans, and had done so, for thousands of years. The Chinese interference, has disrupted the life of these people, immeasurably. ‘Sky Burial’ explores the China/Tibet situation, with insight and understanding. It’s also well written, and has a great understanding of, and compassion for, humanity.
Back to my main subject! As far as I’m concerned, Larung Gar = Clearance.
I’m asking people to think about this, think about the parallels between China/Tibet and England/Scotland. And, for that matter, the Chinese governments disregard for anything other than their own aggrandisement. What ever happened to the ideals of Communism! As Fiona (G) has just said in an article in TON – “Nothing has to be true forever, just for long enough.” [Ed’s Note, Terry Pratchett: The Truth]
I may sound very know-it –all, and I don’t really care if I do, as all the bru-ha-ha about having easier access between China and Scotland, seems to conveniently lose sight of the fact, and it is a fact, that China treats Tibet in a way which should be condemned as completely un-acceptable by the rest of the world, and they should be boycotted, and made to realise that other nations will not want to deal with them in any way until they amend their treatment of Tibet.
Wrong–doing doesn’t only matter if it’s happening to YOU.
Because they have enough money and influence, they get away with it. Does that sound familiar?
Their general tendency, these days, to attempt to buy up the rest of the world, is a whole other subject.
Relativity for Beginners
If East is East
And West is West
Then where, my dear, is here?
It’s North of South
And South of North
And far from nowhere near.
If Then was Now
Then tell me how
Tomorrow never comes?
And some time soon
Today has gone
And the future’s not begun.
If I to You
Am you, not me
Then tell me who are we?
To them, they’re us
And we are they
To us, we’re me and thee.
So Where and When
And who you are
Depends on where you stand
So take another
And join me hand-in-hand.
If you’d like to find out more about Free Tibet, go to…………….Free Tibet