Three years ago I had the great privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes look at The Dalai Lama’s visit to Stanford. My good friend and occasional client, Stephen Kent was playing at Stanford, opening for The Dalai Lama at two events; the large gathering for mostly students at Maples Pavillion and the other at a church on campus. Stephen was in great form as he wowed the Maples crowd of 10,000 with subtle and meditative drones, setting the tone for the dharma talk of The Dalai Lama. The “DL” was funny, insightful and clear, all of the things that one would expect from such an enlightened presence.
Later at the church, for a much smaller crowd, he did the same thing, however, the “DL” was more into giving a talk on geo-politics rather than the state of the soul. He openly supported the “spread of democracy” in The Middle East, which I thought was a little strange, given that what was happening in Iraq was in many ways what had taken place in Tibet with his own people. Sovereignty and culture was being compromised and ultimately obliterated in Iraq, just as it had been in Tibet, so I was very surprised and slightly taken aback by his comments.
Then I began to look around and saw how much money and security follows the “DL.” There were enough secret service agents and state department officials there for a president. I have long since wondered, what is the true intent behind the “DL” and our relationship with him.
Fast forward to 2008, Summer Olympics, Beijing and the political back drop of course is all about Tibet and the crime of human rights being waged against The Tibetans in an occupied territory, and yet, very little gets mentioned about how the Chinese treat their own people, dissidents who don’t follow the system, wind up in forced labor camps, where their organs are harvested for sale on the open market. These are fresh organs, from healthy hosts. I won’t go into great detail here, but keep in mind that the use of anesthetics compromises the function of organs and does not allow them to be extracted and transported in an ideal state. Do you get the picture?
So this gets mostly glossed over, while Tibet and the “DL” are on the frontlines of political awareness, soaking up attention, dollars and and did I say attention? Meanwhile there’s other egregious examples of human rights that are being trampled upon, from Gaza to the Gulf Coast, people are displaced, homes and land forcibly taken for aggressors with bigger bank accounts and guns. This facistic brand of imminent domain flies under the radar, generally unnoticed by a media, whose attention is focused elsewhere, like say Tibet and the “DL.”
What am I implying here? Well maybe it’s another cultural meme that distracts us, while giving us a sense caring and a cause to rally around. Let’s face it, China isn’t walking out of Tibet anytime soon. They’ve got missiles on the Himalayan plateau, one of the most ideal launching spots on the planet and they’re simply going to abandon such a prized strategic location? Most favored nation trades status? Hello? Ain’t gonna happen. The West had the perfect opportunity to help The Tibetans and all chinese people during The Tianemen Square revolt and of course we sat back and let the chinese governemt crush the last breath of freedom.
The cultural theorist, William Irwin Thompson has one of the more palatable metaphors that I can think of to explain the viral expansion of powers, be it from The West or The East. He sees such cultural dominators as “social enzymes” that break down tradition and culture that has become to rigid and calcified and as a result causes some other form of cultural dissemenation to take place. In the case of China’s incursion into Tibet, we now have an extremely strong presence of Buddhism in The West, that forms of meditation and spirituality based on compassion and detachment from desire is a more commonly embraced principle, though I am not sure that it is thoroughly applicable to the-western-psyche, but one can see however that the Buddhist diaspora has interpentrated our systems, thoughts and even daily practices. For better or worse, China’s occupation of Tibet has amplified the tone of Buddhism around the globe, and yet it also serves as another layer, perhaps artfully managed, to distract us from other, more salient issues.
Are we ourselves free of suffering? What about neighbors who are six months behind in their mortgage payments? While Tibet is captured and almost thoroughly assimilated, what about other peoples fighting for their rights just to survive? Will the struggles of Tibet and the “DL” merely become an abstraction at some point? An exotic luxury in the face of our own challenges to maintain our sovereignty? Who will come to our aid as the forces of state sponsored corporations like Monsanto, continue to whittle away at our basic rights to grow our own food without the presence of GMOs, or patented crops that cannot be grown without not just consent, but a license?
What about the acquisition and expansion of executive powers that have been accrued over the last eight years? Will the next resident give those back? I seriously doubt it.
Tibet, China and The Dalai Lama all deserve our attention at some level, we just have to understand what that is and why. It may not be for the reasons that are commonly agreed upon and accepted.