It is not necessary to have views on Tibet’s claims to national independence, to condemn the obscene Chinese Communist occupation of that land, and the consistent policy of the butchers of Beijing to “Sinicize” or de-Tibetanize the conquered territories. Since the Maoist invasion of 1949-51, Tibetans have lived either under a reign of terror, or in exile. They watched the Communists demolish their monasteries, and slaughter their monks, and purposefully desecrate everything of beauty and value in the Tibetan Buddhist heritage. Since, they have watched them appropriate the cultural space with forced Chinese immigration, until by most accounts today the Tibetans are outnumbered in their own country.
We can do even less about that, than the surviving Tibetans. We watch from a great distance while a new generation of young Tibetans, radicalized by the experience of slavery, and boldly demonstrating for the world’s attention, are murdered and imprisoned in their turn by the thugs of the “People’s Liberation Army.”
The Western media, today as ever since the triumph of Mao Zedong, gather news out of Red China at the pleasure of the Communist authorities, and we have no direct way of knowing the extent of carnage over the last fortnight. Historical experience, in Russia and elsewhere, should teach us to take the information that escapes through the international exile groups at close to face value. In their estimation, several hundred have been gunned down, and the Chinese military have now rounded up many thousands. These latter will be caged—and many tortured and killed—to assure relative peace and quiet while the Olympic torch is carried through Tibet.
Like the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Berlin, or the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing have been designed from the beginning as a celebration of the world’s biggest and ugliest totalitarian regime. There was no moral excuse for anyone who participated in bringing the games to Beijing; nor is there an excuse now for anyone assisting in the huge public relations enterprise. It should be realized, however, that the athletes themselves are relatively innocent. They are simply being used in a political stunt.
The exploitation of non-political people to make political statements is disgusting. Whatever the intentions of its idealistic promoters in the 19th century, the modern Olympic Games have become an exhibition of national chauvinism instead of amateur sport; even when they are held in free countries. But by now the Olympic movement has attached so many vested interests to itself, that we cannot hope for its elimination. The masses must have their bread and circuses.
My point here is that we didn’t need current events in Tibet to know that Canada, and other free countries, should not participate in the Beijing Games. For the current massacre in Tibet, like the massacre in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago, teaches us nothing new about the nature of the regime. It merely reminds us what that is. It is unfortunate that we needed reminding.
The demonstrations have already proved as ineffectual as the Tibetan uprising, also of 1989, or the recent uprising in Burma. Unarmed demonstrators are no match for jackboots with guns, when the State functionaries are prepared to use them. Yet their courage is inspiring, and over time, they contribute to the destruction of the regime’s self-confidence. We should thus honour the Tibetans’ painful, Quixotic gesture.
Nobody listens to the Dalai Lama. By this I mean, hardly anyone in the West; in Beijing, I’m sure, his every statement is monitored carefully. In the West, Hollywood narcissists embrace him as a paragon of cool, but what he says seldom registers in the cool imagination. For instance, he is, like the Catholic Pope, among the most unambiguous opponents of contraception, abortion, and the “culture of death”; and has been as eloquent as the late Mother Teresa on the need to replace morally destructive bureaucratic welfare arrangements with direct acts of personal charity.
On the question of sovereign independence for Tibet, it is worth noting that he does not seek it. He has consistently sought, instead, some practical arrangement in which the Chinese State will recognize Tibet’s ancient autonomy, and leave the Tibetan peoples to get on with their own lives, according to their own lights. He has little hope in the efficacy of big power arrangements to achieve real political goods, but focuses the struggle on actual human freedom.
All we can add to this is a refusal to lie, or to accept the Beijing regime as “normal.”