Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Does the Dalai Lama still matter?"

Dalai Lama MeditatingHot on the heels of the Dalai Lama's Congressional Gold Medal, Time magazine asked the above question of His Holiness. In the article the writer says:

Given the changes that are unfolding in Tibet now, it's worth wondering whether the Dalai Lama really matters any more. Beijing announced earlier this year that it will have the final say on the naming of his reincarnation, and the idea of an atheist, authoritarian government holding final say in a religious matter elicited condemnation in the West. Meetings in July between his representatives and Chinese authorities aimed at improving dialogue between the two sides produced no concrete results. State-run Chinese news organs have given heavy play in recent days to stories claiming that the Dalai Lama is a supporter of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo and a betrayer of Buddhism. (source)

It is interesting to observe how the piece attacks the Dalai Lama (because that godless bastard has it coming!) and also raises its eyebrow toward Bush. The author glances at Bush, then at China then back to Bush again, and wonders why he would gamble with China as a business partner and regional carrot who acts as a counterweight to America's "big stick" for a meeting with a jolly little monk who doesn't even matter. As for Bush's motivations, I will leave that up to you. The article's intentions, however, are unambiguous.

The modernization of Tibet does not excuse the occupation of the country. And despite the Chinese government's best efforts to minimize the Dalai Lama's influence in Tibet the people still revere him, teaching their children about his involvement in their decades-long struggle and hiding illegal pictures of their spiritual leader in their homes. What is at work in the words of this writer is corporate-friendly gobbledegook. The government might be endangering international business making the Dalai Lama the business community's enemy of the day.

What the Dalai Lama represents, and the reason why he is still relevant, is the ability for the Tibetan people to consolidate their collective power and withstand the authority of China through nonviolent resistance and public demonstrations. China should fear the Dalai Lama, but Time shouldn't de-emphasize the liberating effects of compassion to maximize their bottom line.

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