My Cowardly Position on the Question of Tibetan Sovereignty

There are a lot of questions being discussed and not being discussed about the whole Tibetan topic. It is one of those issues that seem to be absolutely dominated by strong, unwavering positions. It is also one that never seems to be going anywhere. In that way I find it similar to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which is also very hard to unpack, sore and goes far back in time. In both of these conflicts, I find that each side is always being on the defensive, and very selective in the material that they choose to bring into the debate. As an outsider with no set opinion, I find it very hard to find a place in that debate.

When I was asked for my opinion on the Tibetan sovereignty debate, I honestly did not know what to say. The one who asked, a dear friend whom I respect, obviously presumed that I as a more-or-less educated and engaged member of society would have a ready answer. Problem was, I did not. Of course, I was somewhat familiar with the history and the political and ethical questions being debated, but I had not yet managed to form an opinion. Thus began an increasingly frustrating quest for the answer that I felt was expected of me.

I have found there is a strong pressure in the West to agree with the exiled government. At the same time (perhaps as a reaction to the suffocating political correctness of the “Free Tibet”-stance) there is a will to try to assess things from a more Chinese-friendly perspective. Or should I say less Chinese-hostile. But no matter where I went, whether it was mass media, academic literature or the blogosphere, I always seemed to find this prior partiality. There were bloggers out there who though they were bringing a positive contribution to the debate by plastering an excerpt from sites like tibet.org onto their blog to ’raise awareness’ while next betraying their ignorance. I was getting more and more confused and more and more fed up. It seems often the more people learn about an issue the more rigid their opinions become. I wonder if that has to do with seeing things from a biased viewpoint from the very beginning. But what are you supposed to do if you, like me, don’t want an opinion shoved down your throat?

I find it just amazingly tiring to read or listen to people who have already made up his/her mind. When somebody has a bolted down position it is both very annoying to know that that person is never going to change their mind (‘cause I’m right, dammit!), and very demanding because they are always trying to channel your mind into seeing things their way. I find it hard to talk to such people. Every word they speak seems to be pre-rehearsed and on the defensive. If they ever ask a question it is merely a rhetorical device, not in order to seek an answer. If you ask questions you’ll be accused of being either dense or in cahoots with the wrong side. Even if you’re sporting a neutral or sympathetic stance, you’re wrong as long as you don’t obediently cave in to their views. A discussion like that can never be productive.

On important questions like Tibet and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict I think it’s important to have a colourful and rich debate. I would love to be part of such a debate, but it seems too difficult. It seems like people are only really given two choices to vote and it is either for-or-against China, Palestine-or-nothing. I think these are false dichotomies, where only two opposite choices are propagated when in fact there are many. Guess which you are supposed to pick! Most definitely seem to end up in the “politically-correct” corner. But we don’t have to think in black-and-white.

This is why I am simply not going to make a judgment. It may seem cowardly to not choose a position, but I think it’s more cowardly to just accept what someone else wants me to believe. So I will not position myself in either corner. At least not yet. Whether I am for or against is going to be my choice, and when I am ready. If I’ll ever be ready. There is no real need as far as I can see. Why do we need to search for a villain anyway?

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12 Comments

Filed under East Asia, media, Middle East

12 responses to “My Cowardly Position on the Question of Tibetan Sovereignty

  1. I consider that having an opinion does not have to please any doctrine or concept and might be a very individual view who might include to not know, to search, to try understanding different view, to be paradox, to change even.
    I send you my solidarity to accept yourself in that situation, you call not knowing, during I would call it, allowing yourself the time you need to find out .
    I think, our planet need more people who understand different view points and wait till their own concepts are ripping and include more and more aspects. The world suffers from too many who know better than other, dogmas and doctrine. Bon courage!

    • I think you eloquently pin down the essence there. It may sometimes be healthier to leave questions unanswered, if you hurry you may not notice when you take a bad turn. If you stay calm and try not to exclude views, maybe your understanding will deepen.
      Thank you so much=)

      • Having a passionate engaged point of view can be valuable, necessary sometimes and accepted in the own diversity of possible reactions, but I would join the ability to admit mistakes to it.
        I guess they are two kind of human who impact this world.
        Those who accept their own nature and feel naturally compassion for other, means an inclusive view on humanity and environment, and those who struggle with inner discomfort and project their issues on us all in form of a need for attention through acting out , better than those over there, disastrous divisive power and pride games.
        Caring for oneself and caring for the world is connected. Merci for your kind support of my own trust in life and other 😉

      • John Fitzpatrick

        I think it is a good position to take. Personally, I believe that Tibet was, is etc part of China and I also can’t see how this will ever change in the real world.The Potala Palace,Lhasa, is on one side of the 1 Yuan note and Mao is on the other side. I think you will find that most Chinese believe that Tibet is a province of China…even many Taipei Chinese believe this to be an indisputable fact. So, this is my view, but then I am very pro China, and pro China Government. The China Govt, even if it wished to, could not change the status of Tibet as a province to be even more autonomous or independent because the people of China would never allow them to. China is changing at a rate faster than any civilisation ever has. The rate and scale is astounding. At the same time the method of Government wont change because it is working so well & the People of China will not accept losing a province.I am reminded of The Life of Brian with the Israeli clandestine groups always complaining “Yes but what has Rome ever done for us!” Roads, plumbing, jobs, schools, reduction of poverty, interesting entertainment, health care, law, lower infant mortality, etc etc…’Yes but what have they really done for us?’

        • John, thank you for your comment=) It is rare to encounter someone so positive about the CCP, and I must say I am far from as enthusiastic as you but I do love to hear someone not wholly negative to the CCP for a change.

          I am starting to think that what’s important in this debate is not so much to establish whether or not Tibet should be a part of China. As you say, we all know how hard it would be to make that happen anyway. The conflict has dragged on long enough so I think that being stubborn and refusing to compromise is not a good option anymore, and never was. I don’t have all the answers but – instead of looking for answers in the past, might it be better to have a close look at the situation on the ground and move forward from there?

  2. To Tibet, I must say that I don’t consider it a free choice to choose between a feudal pious system( who might change) and a pseudo communist abusive system (who will have to change). Different versions of oversized paternalism. May citizen truly be free to choose how they would want society.

  3. I definitely agree with you that having to choose between these two options that you mention is not a positive choice. I think that many Tibetans in reality are more moderate than the Western media tries to pretend. Those Tibetans who voice a moderate standpoint are wrongly being ignored by both sides in this locked debate. However, I think that China IS changing – and the CCP as well. This is why I am optimistic that things will get better slowly.

    • I think, the fear of those in power in China these days from similar revolts like in the Arab world, visible through the increased repression, tells that some citizen expect more from life than a corrupt hypocrite form of capitalism. But I would say, that this sparkle might jump back to us, as we are still living in lobby systems neglecting our real human needs for the privilege of a class of go betweens pleasing few reality disconnected greedy wealthy, what makes the need for direct democracy even more evident .
      In the hope that fear does not encourage violent backlash reactions, I expect and welcome great necessary change through our engagement.

  4. A V L'entir

    Hi, Love your post and be great if you can email, as you may be interested in my views/experience on issue of Tibet

  5. Obviously people see films from their point of view. I hardly assume that this kind of good humour is supporting the arguments of imperialist pretend benevolence.
    Reducing China to some kind of eternal existing monolithic myth seems historically a bit hazardous , considering the different territorial cultures involved and the power struggles over the century’s.
    When confronted with informations about China, I am always aware how a certain propaganda is working and even speculative hypes of Confucian bon mots will not prevent me to notice the unfolding ironical tao impacting a vanishing power structure.
    I definitely support the courageous citizen who fights for human rights in China.
    I remain as much careful about a certain Buddhist vision of information .
    Hard to ask the people themselves who fear repression .

  6. I make a difference between a cultural tradition in China who includes even in the past a critical view on abusive elites, who is a great inspiration to me , and a corrupt regime willing to do everything to remain in power, who sends out masses of apparatchiks to flatter the system and neglect any critic during the repression gets more violent.

  7. John Fitzpatrick

    I think one thing to remember when considering the rise of China over the past 25 years is that no matter whether one agrees or disagrees with the system of governance there, the actual reality is that this system has enabled the most massive transformation from poverty to working-middle class that the world has ever witnessed. It has done more in 25 years to lessen poverty and misery than the most dedicated nice likeable systems/regimes/empires have ever done in human history. The scale of that lessening of poverty and misery is astounding and continues quite relentlessly at the pace of circa 20-30 million people every year…25 years of doing that exactly, and continuing at speed.It’s a human achievement on a massive scale. To think that China will change its system of government to suit our preferences is a silly thought really.

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