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?