Hollywood New Agers want to evaluate the role of Tibet's serf-owning
clergy and aristocrats from a transpersonal, Jungian perspective
and absolve them of blame fine. But then they are obligated
to evaluate the role of the communists from the identical perspective
and absolve them too. Instead they want to have it both ways.
They want to apply linear ethical criteria to Beijing even as
they conveniently edit out the moral outrages of the Dalai Lama's
None of them have any apparent problem blanking out the awareness
that this "spiritual" life for a privileged minority
of Tibetan elite was squeezed by brute force out of the involuntary
servitude of masses of miserable Tibetan serfs for whom life was
considerably less than "spiritual." The Beautiful People
(now joined by the religious right, of all people) would have
us believe that pre-1950s Tibet was one big touchy-feely New Age
workshop a Findhorn or Esalen in the Himalayas. Maybe it was
for the wealthy serf- owning Lamas and aristocrats, but why don't
we ask the serfs how it was for them?
When I attend a personal growth workshop and am pampered physically
while I work on my psychological and spiritual evolution, I pay
for this worthwhile and uplifting experience with money earned
by my own honest labor. Similarly, the workshop facilitator supports
his material needs by offering his wisdom and talent as a teacher
on the open market, for which I pay gladly, voluntarily. Neither
he nor I maintain a permanent underclass of abused and mistreated
persons whom we rip off at our whim to support our inner journey.
It strikes me as obscene for "Kundun" director Martin
Scorsese and screenwriter Melissa Mathiessen to hold such an exploitive
system up to the world as ethically and spiritually exalted. How
is that any different from Margaret Mitchell or D.W. Griffiths
holding the Old South up as some sort of "paradise lost?"
It is mind-boggling to watch them rationalize the darkside of
it all away so breezily, even as they spew venom at the commies
for wiping out the entire corrupt mess in sheer disgust. Today's
Tibet is run by former serfs, the poor slobs exploited by the
Dalai Lama and his faction under the old system, just as South
Africa is today run by former political prisoner Nelson Mandela,
and South Korea is run by former political prisoner Kim Dae-jung.
To me that is justice. Why don't Hollywood filmmakers make a movie
COP, BAD COP
During high profile interviews on
Larry King Live the Dalai Lama smiles benevolently, flatly denies
being an agent provocateur for Tibetan independence, and "magnanimously
forgives" Beijing for all the bad things they did to "his
people" (serf-owing aristocrats who exploited the Tibet region's
90 plus % majority of serfs.)
his "Office of Tibet" website and willing proxies (Robert
Thurman, Richard Gere, Jean-Jacques Annaud and Jon Avnet) promote
a relentlessly Mannichean "Good versus Evil" (and decidedly
un-Buddhist) demonization of Beijing, with his official blessing.
This Good Cop/Bad Cop division of labor permits the Dalai Lama
to have his cake and eat it too. He preserves his public image
of Ghandi-esque forbearance even as "Seven Years in Tibet"
(which received script approval and a glowing review from him)
and "Red Corner" (which Richard Gere deliberately moved
up to coincide with Jiang Zemin's state visit) villify Beijing
while sparing the Dalai Lama from the charge of vindictiveness.
THURMAN, FATHER OF UMA
I find it hard to believe that Dalai
shill Robert Thurman is a nationally recognized scholar in Buddhist
studies. He seems utterly oblivious to the central premise of
Buddhism, which is non-attachment to positionality.
His Hollywood metaphors pitting "good against evil"
are embarassingly simplistic, and suggest that he has never broken
out of a rigidly moralistic Zoroastrian/Manichean world view.
His unapologetic yearning for a religious and ecological "Shangri-la"
(that never was) suggest that he has never confronted the energy
of infantile regression underlying utopianism. Add to that a heavy
handed and utterly unconvincing attempt to draw inspirational
parallels between the libertarian values of the American Revolution
and repressive serf-owning pre-1950's Tibet, and I can't help
wondering why he isn't laughed off the public stage. But then
I'm surprised that his idol the Dalai Lama isn't laughed off the
public stage as well.
The Dalai Lama currently insists
he merely wants "autonomy," implying that he never attemped
or even advocated independence. This is disingenuous, to say the
least. He "merely wants autonomy" today only because
having failed miserably to achieve complete independence in 1959,
he knows autonomy is the most he can hope for.
Actually the only reason Tibet's serfdom lasted into the 20th
century in the first place is that the Yuan, Ming, and Ching imperial
courts did in fact grant Tibet the very autonomy the Dalai Lama
is currently demanding. It is far more than they should have granted
from a humanitarian perspective. Otherwise Lhasa's inhumane serfdom,
which did not exist in any other region of China, would have been
abolished centuries ago. Chalk it up to previous emperors' ho-hum
attitude. Out of sight, out of mind.
Ironically, despite their brutality, the commies showed more concern.
In retrospect they probably wish they hadn't, with all the flak
they've taken. If only they had let sleeping dogs lie, Tibet's
serf-owning aristocracy would have felt far less pressure to secede
from China. Chalk that up to the communists' obssessive egalitarianism.
The exploitive inequality of serfdom really stuck in their craw.
The Dalai Lama himself recently admitted that he only began advocating
democracy for Tibet belatedly, in 1964, five years into exile.
He could hardly deny it; the facts are on the record. By then
Tibetan serfdom was already a way of life "gone with the
wind," abolished by Beijing. By then he had nothing to lose,
and plenty to gain propaganda-wise by playing the "democracy"
card. It never ceases to amaze me how his acolytes glide right
past this embarassingly inconvenient fact.
The Dalai Lama has been a realpolitik
opportunist all along, albeit a failed one. The Dalai Lama imagined
he could achieve independence in the wake of the chaos following
Mao's accession to power, and decided to go for it. A debacle
Later, he decided to go for the brass ring again following the
cataclysmic global upheavals of 1989 and 1990. After the fall
of the Berlin Wall and the tragedy at Tienanmen he flatly refused
to deal with Beijing, imagining that what happened to the Soviet
Union would also happen to China. Alas, he misread global events
a second time.
More recently he has been increasingly worried that his prolonged
absence from the Tibetan region has diminished whatever residual
prestige and influence he might still command. Out of sight, out
of mind, as the saying goes. Politicians know they must remain
in the public eye to remain viable. The Dalai Lama knows his constituents
are in the Tibetan region of China, not Hollywood. In the wake
of recent developments he has concluded (correctly) that his game
is up, and is making conciliatory gestures toward Bejing. He's
even jettisoned his erstwhile ally, Lee Teng-hui, the covertly
pro-Taiwan independence president of the ROC.
Personally, I don't object to his
realpolitik opportunism, at least not at this point in time. It
would be better for all if a compromise could be negotiated, and
this entire futile, ersatz "Struggle between Good and Evil"
nonsense over and done with. The Dalai Lama himself negotiating
a settlement with Jiang Zemin is perhaps the only development
which might shut the sanctimonious Tibetan independence busybodies
up once and for all. Won't that be a relief.
Hollywood's New Agers understand perfectly why China's "Last
Emperor" Pu Yi (Bertolluci's "The Last Emperor")
was doomed to irrelevance, but harbor a blind spot where Tibet's
"God-King" Tenzin Gyatso is concerned (Scorsese's "Kundun,"
Annaud's "Seven Years in Tibet"). Pu Yi attempted to
revive the decadent Manchu dynasty to no avail. The Dalai Lama,
like the hapless Pu Yi , is "on the wrong side of history."
He might turn out to be Tibet's "Last Dalai."