The Tibet Question: Is Self-Determination, as a Principle, Absolute?

Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

— Spock, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

Progressives are grappling with the Tibet Question and how it is framed. One historical narrative depicts Tibetan people as being liberated by Chinese Communist forces from an oppressive system of feudalism run by the Lamas.1 Another historical narrative disputes this depiction. It argues, compellingly, that history should come from the mouths of the people living that history.2

One writer offered a rationale for a progressivist split on Tibet: “Tibet is a case in which the struggle for basic rights and nationhood is being carried out against a communist government, so it has brought with it a host of questions for the leftist, who naturally leans towards socialism or communism as an ideological example of a system that stands in contrast to the ‘imperialist west’.”2

The historical narrative, however, may not be the most important factor when considering the Tibet Question. In Tibet, there appear two main streams within the Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination. One stream, led by the Dalai Lama, claims to be friendly to China and desires only greater autonomy — not independence. Another stream calls for Tibetan independence. Since progressivism is guided by morally derived principles, how does this approach bode for the people of Tibet’s aspirations for self-determination?

Many progressives, human rights advocates, and opportunistic right-wing ideologues point to the principle of self-determination. In the United Nations Charter, Article 1(2) states:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace …

This principle, as enounced in the UN Charter, leads many people to call for the independence of Tibet. They point to the principle of self-determination as if it were a sacrosanct, inviolable concept. But is the principle of self-determination an absolute? As a guiding concept, self-determination is fine, but as an absolute, inviolable principle, self-determination is flawed.

For example, do the resource rich regions of Bolivia have a right to separate from the rest of the state and horde the wealth?3 Is this what self-determination is about? Given that the Bolivians in the provinces of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija are predominantly of European derivation, it would be akin to according preeminent territorial rights to the descendants of colonialists. Is this what self-determination is about?

As a second example, the predominantly French-speaking province of Québec has long flirted with separation from federation with Canada. However, since the sentiment for separation varies by geographical region within Québec, anti-separatists propose a partitioning of the province should separatism ever carry the day in a referendum. Moreover, thoroughly undermining the self-determination aspirations of Québécois (mainly Francophones) is that it is based on the rejection of the self-determination of the Original Peoples of Québec! Is this what self-determination is about?

China and Tibet

I have never been to Tibet, but I lived one year in China. China is ruled by a Communist party dictatorship. It is certainly no longer a dictatorship of the proletariat. Workers’s rights, wages, and conditions of employment are abysmal.4 The situation is far from optimal, but some people argue that the Chinese are better off than previously.5

Just as Tibetans struggle, so do the bulk of China’s citizens. It is the plight of villagers and most working Chinese. Granted, the struggles differ. The Tibetan struggle is mainly for sovereignty, whereas the daily struggle for most Chinese is primarily economic. Tibetan self-determination, however, might impact upon all of these people. This presents a quandary: can the Tibet Question be legitimately considered in isolation from its impact upon other Chinese?

It must be affirmed that while the right to self-determination might not be sacrosanct, the human rights of Tibetans are inviolable. The Chinese regime must be pressured to uphold human rights, and it must be held to account for violations of human rights. The human rights of Tibetans must be respected, absolutely.

Targeting the Olympics in Support of Tibetan Sovereignty

China will hold the Summer Olympics in Beijing this year, and enormous prestige has been staked to the games. It is no wonder, then, that Tibetan sovereignists have targeted the Olympics.

The Olympics are not sacrosanct. The blood of oppressed humans must not be sacrificed for the sweat of “elite” athletes or for the frivolities of Olympic eminences. In fact, “elitist” games must rank quite low on any list of societal priorities. So the Olympic Games are, indisputably, a legitimate target for protest in support of human rights.

There is talk about western nations boycotting the Beijing Olympics. Because of corporate globalism’s economic investments in China, this boycott is highly unlikely to occur, so instead there is a push for international “leaders” to boycott the opening ceremonies.6 However, if the self-determination of Tibetans is to be advocated, then the same principle should be observed when it comes to the Olympics slated for Canada in 2010. Where are the outcries and threats of an international boycott of the Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympics in 2010? The 2010 Olympics has been awarded to a colonial entity to host games on land unceded by the First Nations?7 No country has hosted the Olympics more than the colonized landmass of the United States, but which US Olympic games did these human rights groups ever boycott? The bias among human rights groups ultimately threatens to undermine their raison d’être.

Tibetan self-determination is predicated on factors such as history, culture, religion, distinctiveness, resistance to outside oppression, and desire to chart its own path. Tibetans do have a history — a long history. But does a long history, whatever that history may be, accord a preeminent right to self-determination? The long history also reveals that, aside from expanding its territorial realm, Tibet has been under foreign suzerainty for many centuries, including British, Chinese, and Mongolian.8 Is there a statute of limitations on aspirations for self-determination? If self-determination is a principle based in morality, then one would argue against such a limitation.

Universality of Self-determination

If Tibetan aspirations for self-determination are still valid after many centuries, one wonders about other regions where self-determination has, much more recently, been suppressed and rejected. Quickly, the Zionist annexation and occupation of historical Palestine springs to mind. Zionist Jews point to “their” Israelite ancestors, Yahweh’s promise, and a 3,000-year history to mask and excuse the undeniable racism toward the indigenous Palestinian people.9

One Israeli researcher notes that Sephardim and Ashkenazim are converts to Judaism; that is, that they are religious Jews and not ethnic Jews.10 Some Jews readily admit that the founding of the Israeli state was enabled by territorial theft.11

Elementary morality decrees that whatever condition you seek to impose upon another being, you must, first and foremost, also impose upon yourself. All nations and all peoples must be accorded equality of rights. If the western world wants to criticize China for suppressing a Tibetan independence/greater autonomy movement, then it must not be guilty of shutting its eyes to the Palestinian struggle to regain their historical land. But it is even worse than a willful blindness to the plight of Palestinians because the western world is complicit in the colonization, forced transfer, and genociding of the people in historical Palestine.

The cases of western complicity in gainsaying the sovereignty of other peoples are, regrettably, myriad. In recent times, there is the British-American expulsion of the people of the Chagos Archipelago, ruled illegal by the British High Court in 2000. The ruling has since been subverted by two Orders-in-Council preventing the Chagossians from returning home.12

The “national interests” of Britain and the US have, obviously, taken precedence over the rights of the Chagossians.

This abrogation of law harkens back to the “war criminal” president Andrew Jackson. Jackson had spearheaded the Indian Removal Act, a genocidal transfer program13 to displace the Original Peoples, leaving the land for the colonialists to settle. The Cherokee (Tsalagi) opposed Jackson. In a landmark 1832 decision, chief justice John Marshall of the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee in Worcester v. Georgia. The Cherokee Nation was ruled sovereign and protected from removal laws. Jackson, in a flippant affront to the law of the United States, dismissed Marshall’s ruling: “He has made his law. Now let him enforce it.”14

The countries of the western hemisphere, by and large, represent an affront to the principle of self-determination. Therefore, if western states, and the citizens of those states, wish to condemn China’s sovereignty over Tibet, then for such criticism to be valid, it must be applied in equal measure to the sovereignty of the US, Canada, Mexico, and to the other countries on down to Tierra del Fuego. Canada and the US exist as colonial states forged on the blood-spilling, destruction, and theft of the territory of people who have lived in Turtle Island since time immemorial.13

Indeed, at this point in history, the US and Britain (abetted by other states) are murderously occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. What is occupation, if not the denial of the self-determination aspirations of the occupied peoples?

Other countries of the western world fare little better in their respect for the principle of self-determination. Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia were forged from the theft of the territory of Aborigines and Māoris respectively. Elsewhere in the South Pacific, France clings to New Caledonia, Tahiti, and Wallis and Futuna. The US clings to Guam, Northern Marianas … Without turning to Britain, Africa, and the Caribbean, the point should be abundantly clear: western states are in violation of the principle of self-determination, so they are in no unbesmirched position to criticize other violators.

Does this exculpate China from censure from other states that do not violate the self-determination of its peoples? To the extent that these states refrain from criticizing the US, Canada, France, Britain, etc. it would be highly hypocritical.

Let’s suppose that there was a bellwether of states that were pure on the principle of self-determination for their own people and peoples abroad. Would that grant them legitimacy in denouncing Chinese dominion over Tibet? Yes. The same logic also applies to people who uniformly criticize all crimes of state.

Does this mean that China’s stance vis-à-vis Tibet is weakened? No.

Tibet’s Strategic Military Importance to the Defense of China

For China to relinquish Tibet would be to relinquish a key militarily geo-strategic position at the top of the world. The US has China militarily encircled. The US, through the CIA, has been funding the separatism in Tibet.15 Nonetheless, it is quite understandable that Tibetans aspiring to greater autonomy/independence have accepted such money.

Oneness is a core traditional embodiment of the Chinese consciousness. The return of Hong Kong and Macau were epochal events for Chinese nationalists, who still pine for the return of Taiwan to the Chinese fold.16 To lose Tibet, or Xinjiang, would be utterly unacceptable for the Chinese people who lost face during the years of unequal treaties and colonial occupation. Loss of face, however, is not an acceptable reason for continuing to occupy another people’s territory.

The state of Israel constantly, and risibly, cites security concerns to justify its occupation of historical Palestine. But in the case of China, security concerns appear legitimate. Are the territorial integrity and security concerns of 1.3 billion Chinese of lesser importance than the desire for self-determination among 6 million Tibetans?17

The Chinese know they are encircled. Many know of China’s not-so-long-ago history of having lost face to foreign invaders. Many know of their battles with western imperialism.18 many know that when Mikhail Gorbachev lost control of the USSR due to the economic pressures of confronting the West, the USSR fell apart leaving Russia surrounded by former-USSR satellite states. Unfettered western capitalism then precipitated the implosion of the once proud Russia,19 which was forced to fight to preserve its own unity, as separatists battled for independence in Chechnya. Many Chinese know the ages old axiom of “divide and conquer.” Many, also, know that NATO encroached into the states formerly behind the Iron Curtain, further humiliating Russia.

What, then, would Beijing expect to happen if Tibet is loosened from China? How long before separatism would strengthen in appeal to so-inclined Uighurs in Xinjiang? What would the separation of the already autonomous Tibet augur for a mainland reunification with Taiwan? How long would it be before a US military base is perched upon the Tibetan plateau?

The US has been vociferous about the appearance of another military presence in what it claims to be its sphere of influence. Did the US quietly demur to the USSR in stationing nuclear weapons in Cuba? Yet US nuclear weapons were once stationed near China — in Japan and South Korea.

Given the hypocrisy that many world states face on the principle of self-determination, one might criticize the Dalai Lama. How can the Dalai Lama court colonialist entities to support greater autonomy for Tibet? Does this undermine the legitimacy of a movement for Tibetan autonomy/independence?

Since the US is an undeniable proponent of colonialism, militarism, torture, genocide, and economic plunder abroad, and since, as already argued, the US stands guilty of far worse crimes against its Original Peoples (including stealing their territories), its imperialistic machinations in Asia must be seriously evaluated when critically contemplating China’s incorporation of Tibet.

Human rights advocates and supporters of Tibetan self-determination stand on moral quicksand if they fail to accord equivalent rights to all marginalized, expelled, and/or genocided peoples. I submit that if human rights groups want credibility, they ought to focus on the greater evils. It is US imperialism that jeopardizes Chinese security. It is the US that has surrounded China. It is the US which was deeply involved in the political and territorial separation of Taiwan from the mainland.

When US imperialism falls, other imperialisms may well fall, too. There will appear an opening for peoples previously living under the cloud of imperialist intent. Human rights groups and supporters of self-determination for Tibet should target the removal of the military threat to China to achieve the conditions favorable for greater autonomy/independence in Tibet.

A moral paradox exists under the present China-Tibet scenario: one people’s freedom must not be predicated on the denial of another people’s freedom. Vulcan logic calls, in such a case, for the needs of the many to supersede the needs of the few.20

Pax Americana and China

It is the US that menaces political ideologies and movements that its ruling class considers antithetical to it own interests. It is this threat that gives cause for maintaining Chinese control over Tibet.

There is a long history of Tibet as a part of China (including the years China was under Mongolian rule). This lengthy history predates the existence of a United States or Canada on Turtle Island, and it predates European claims on the western hemisphere.

A principled approach to the Tibet Question would be for progressives to carefully weigh the geo-political realities facing Tibetans and the Chinese, as a whole. Tibet is situated in or near China’s backyard. It is of utmost strategic importance to China (compared with Diego Garcia in the Chagos archipelago which is purely of offensive, and not defensive, US geo-strategic design).

China finds itself ringed with US military bases. Given this situation, is it realistic that it should grant further autonomy or independence to Tibet if this poses a risk to the security of the Chinese state?

Geo-politically, given the current state of Pax Americana, in which the Project for the New American Century (PNAC, predominately neoconservatives) identify China as a preeminent threat,21 greater autonomy for Tibet is a dubious proposition.

Even the UN Charter recognizes that self-determination is not an absolute principle devoid of context. Article 55 calls for “the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” conditional upon the UN promoting:

a. higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development;

b. solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational co-operation; and

c. universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

The Tyranny of Statism

Ideologically, I am opposed to statism. Borders are a form of tyranny. Borders delineate property in the name of the state. Borders divide humanity.

In an ideal world, people will be permitted freedom of movement. Human decency will demand that visitors and newcomers must be respectful of the indigenous and legitimately long-settled peoples in a region. Erasing borders should facilitate an end to geo-political conflicts and wars over human demarcations. Furthermore, people must share the resources and bounty of the world. This would go a long way to eliminating classism, racism, poverty, and famine. This would be the revolution. The solution is simple. Finding the massive will and courage to implement the solution is the sine qua non.

The Tibet Question is a straw dog. Acceding to Tibetan self-determination — a principle fraught with dangerous potentialities — does not take into account, sufficiently, the legitimate security concerns of one-fifth of the world’s population. An inordinate focus upon the self-determination desires of Tibetans plays into the hands of the PNAC cabal and their highly militarized schemes for a Pax Americana22 heralding a regressivist future. How long before neoliberalism subverts and trends to social justice in an independent Tibet? How long before US military bases and CIA listening posts are perched on the rooftop of the world?

Human Rights Are an Absolute

The state of China must be held accountable for its actions … but not in a human rights vacuum! Progressives, people of conscience, and human rights advocates must firmly support human rights for all peoples. China is a violator of human rights. It is not alone in this regard. Advocacy of human rights demands the denunciation of human rights violations everywhere with measures against the human rights abusers commensurate to the level of human rights violations.

Self-determination is not an absolutist principle. The rights of humanity as a whole are preeminent.

China should take the high road and seek dialogue and rapprochement with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama claims that he does not seek separation.23 Insofar as the Dalai Lama is the legitimate spokesperson for a majority of Tibetans, he should be held to his word. Tibetans require respect for their culture, religion, and livelihoods. China requires security guarantees. These must be understood. Confrontation is not in China’s long-term interest, and neither is it in the exile community’s interest. Confrontation serves the interest of outside agitators.

To merely consider the Tibet Question as a struggle between a Tibetan resistance and Chinese imperialism is overly simplistic and dangerous.

In the case of Tibet, progressives, human rights advocates, and people of conscience must unequivocally oppose the totality of geo-political imperialism. As far as self-determination is legitimate, then self-determination must be universally applicable.

Human rights, on the other hand, are non-negotiable. They are the bedrock of humanity. Human rights must be respected by humans everywhere, without exception.

Human rights are a principle upon which progressives cannot waver. China must adhere to international law that protects the human rights of Tibetans. The same applies to the human rights of people in western states and states that suffer under foreign hegemony.

Progressives must oppose imperialism everywhere; they must oppose war everywhere; they must support human rights everywhere.

  1. Michael Parenti, “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth,” Dissident Voice, 27 December 2003. []
  2. Joshua Michael Schrei, “A Lie Repeated: The Far Left’s Flawed History of Tibet,” Dissident Voice, 5 April 2008. [] []
  3. Politics In Depth, “Bolivia at the Brink of Separation,” Angus Reid Global Monitor, 3 April 2008. This secessionist push is with the alleged instigation of the US. See Benjamin Dangl, “Undermining Bolivia: A Landscape of Washington Intervention,” Dissident Voice, 22 February 2008. []
  4. Kim Petersen, Capitalism’s Ugly Head in China: The Counterrevolution, Dissident Voice, 23 June 2005. []
  5. See Kim Petersen, “The Broken Iron Rice Bowl,” Dissident Voice, 18 August 2003. []
  6. SBS/Reuters, “Tutu urges opening ceremony boycott,” World News Australia, 28 April 2008. []
  7. David O’Brien, “Vancouver OL: Our Olympics, our Tibet,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 April 2008. See also Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, “It’s All About The Land: Native resistance to the Olympics,” The Dominion, 1 March 2008. []
  8. For those who distinguish the Mongolian Qing dynasty from the Ming or other Chinese dynasties, the Chinese, generally, do not. A unifying characteristic of the Chinese people is one China. See Won-bok Rhie, Korea Unmasked: In Search of the Country, the Society and the People, (Kimyoungsa: 2002). []
  9. See Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of 3000 Years (Pluto: 1995). []
  10. Ofri Ilani, “Shattering a ‘national mythology’,” Haaretz 21 March 2008. []
  11. Hannah Mermelstein, “This land was theirs,” Jewish Advocate, 24 April 2008. []
  12. The story of the island,” Telegraph, 12 May 2006. []
  13. See David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (Oxford University Press, 1992).” [] []
  14. Ian Frasier, On the Rez (Picador: 2000), 74. []
  15. For reading on CIA involvement and more on imperialistic designs on China and Tibet see “Holy Terror,” The Burbank Digest, 17 April 2008. []
  16. As a simple mind exercise, compare the US reaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (a conquered Polynesian archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometers from the continental US where self-determination is denied to Hawaiians) to how the Chinese might feel about nearby Taiwan? []
  17. about Tibet,” Students for a Free Tibet. []
  18. See Kim Petersen, “Chine et dragons sinophones,” in Atlas Alternatif, (Le Temps des Cerises: 2006), 303-313. []
  19. Alan Woods, “Preface to ‘Russia: from real socialism to real capitalism’,” In Defense of Marxism, 28 July 2006. []
  20. Vulcans are an alien race, from the science fiction series Star Trek who have devoted themselves to the mastery of logic, emotions, and a peaceful existence. []
  21. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century,” A Report of the Project for the New American Century, September 2000, 9, 14, 18, 19. []
  22. See “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century,” A Report of the Project for the New American Century, September 2000. []
  23. Dalai Lama ‘not seeking separation’ from China,” CBC News, 22 April 2004. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.

40 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Eric Metzver said on April 29th, 2008 at 8:46am #

    Enjoyable article Kim. Self-determination contrasts enslavement. No human should forsake their own chosen path as a sacrifice for the good of the many. Like you, I deplore Statism, yet I see that you advocate a lock-step march toward unity for security sake. Like you, I deplore neo-conservatism, as advocated by PNAC, but they too seek ever-more global unity for the sake of security.
    Why do you dislike borders? Borders do not equal impediments. Borders allow for diversity of culture, taste, law, and community expression. Consider how borders enhance liberty! If I like the leniency of laws in an adjacent town I am free to move. Conversely, if I am disgusted by the lack of zoning in my current location I should have the freedom to relocate to a more strict zoning environ.
    You say that you do not like Statism, yet you laud enhanced unification? Explore disunity. Let the small have autonomy.

  2. Don Hawkins said on April 29th, 2008 at 9:21am #

    Kim somehow we mush get China onboard to change the way they produce energy. Nothing else matters. If China doesn’t get on board nothing else matters. I got those words from National Geographic Channel and it is very true. I just heard Bush talk and forget about any change until 09. We mush change first the United States nothing else matters.
    This cannot wait until similar
    restrictions are practical in China and
    India. National responsibilities for climate
    change and per capita emissions
    are an order of magnitude greater in
    the US, Canada, and Australia than in
    India and China, and define moral obligations. James Hansen

    If you go to James Hansen’s web site he just put a new post today, “Tipping Points: perspectives of a climatologist”. If you read this it puts it right there. Bush today talked about food for fuel and the needs of the World in the coming years for oil. He and his people it looks like have decided to send of all into the dark side, trust me on this one. Somehow the word needs to get out nothing else matters. Go to James Hansen’s web site and read his new stuff it is one of the best things ever written about climate change, “Tipping Points: perspectives of a climatologist”.

  3. Kuan Yan said on April 29th, 2008 at 9:41am #

    “Progressives must oppose imperialism everywhere; they must oppose war everywhere; they must support human rights everywhere. ” I personally like this sentence. However, it cannot be made based on self-rightenous.

    You also said “China must adhere to international law that protects the human rights of Tibetans. ” and I am questioning that who is making international law? Most international laws are made based on either British law or American law. Did anyone ask what Chinese people feel about such arrangement? I believe that Koeran was once under the control of Japan, will you feel comfortable under the law made by Japan? As a Chinese, I feel extremely sick when someone ask me to follow the western way.

    As you being a Koeran for just living in China for one year. Do you have any idea what will change in a country after one year. Maybe you should go back to China and see for yourself. Koeran is trying to pretend itself as a great nation by faking all kinds of history, but let’s forget about this for now. I believe the Koeran government-in-exile during WWII was located in China, Shanghai, but let’s forget about this as well. So, how many more are you ready to forget?

    “Human Rights Are an Absolute”, I am pretty sure that you have no knowledge of philosophy and basic science. There is no such thing as absolute but only relative, which is a universal law proven by a German Jewish scientist who regarding creating the A-Bomb. Now the punisher is raising its Nazi flag again, but this time on Chinese.

    I believe someone is going to argue that Tiananme riot and how brutal the Chinese government could be. So maybe we should following your Koeran way to settle the conflict by attacking each other then?

    Let me clarify some facts that most major media around the world are turning their tone by 180 degree. Mostly is because they cannot either fake news or simply find themself making too many mistake. So stop your self-rightenous and so-called “nobel” calling. Even as a normal person, will you listen to a person (of course I mean Dalai Lama) who was awarded a Nobel prize when he was only two-year-old. I find it is just a western joke. A humiliation for themself and the Nobel prize.

  4. Don Hawkins said on April 29th, 2008 at 10:17am #

    “Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.

    After listing to Bush talk today what he said was the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. To do what is needed to slow climate change means that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. To do what is needed makes the World a different place and it’s about time.

  5. Eliza said on April 29th, 2008 at 10:29am #

    Thank you so much for writing this. Finally someone is seeing the bigger picture, and publishing it! Thank you so much. Really.

  6. Dustin Rhodes said on April 29th, 2008 at 11:03am #

    I traveled to Tibet two summers ago, and I know that makes me no expert on Tibet. If anything, I came away from the experience knowing less.

    What I will say is this: the situation is very, very complex. The Chinese takeover has done wonderful things for Tibetans and has committed horrible crimes against them.

    The empirical evidence, to me, suggests, though, that Tibetan culture is in deep, deep trouble. Tibet is turning into a zoo where devout Buddhists are put on display by the Chinese government. Tibetans are not free to practice Buddhism in a completely free way (one can’t even possess a photograph of the Dalai Lama). And the “technological progress” that has been brought by the Chinese, well, it appears that it’s mainly for the Chinese. A visit to Lhasa will not reveal a modernizing Tibetan culture.

    I have no answers. I imagine that many Tibetans wouldn’t want to return to the poverty of pre-Chinese rule because younger Tibetans likely are enamored by the internet and Western trappings like television and designer clothing.

    My month-long visit made me very sad. I felt ashamed, a bit, by even having gone after-the-fact. I felt like a voyeur, in the worst sense. Two years later, I haven’t wrapped my mind around the experience.

  7. Josh said on April 29th, 2008 at 11:18am #

    Hey Kim,

    Great article. I may just have to write a fully detailed response if time allows…:) but in the meantime, a couple of quick comments/questions. You repeatedly refer to human rights as universal, and you say that Tibetans rights must be respected. At the same time you say you are against borders. What happens when a people’s ability to have their rights respected is utterly impossible given the structure of the nation they are a part of? Usually what happens is they demand separation. It is very difficult to separate the human rights question of Tibet from the sovereignty question, as is the case in Palestine. As long as the current PRC leadership is in control, it is difficult to envision a truly autonomous Tibet-as-part-of-China in which Tibetans were allowed freedom of expression, movement, and religious views. That’s what the Dalai Lama has been asking for for 20+ years, with no response. The movement for sovereignty inside Tibet comes as a direct result of the limits on personal freedoms. There is simply no mechanism for human rights to be respected. Say what you will about our domestic policies, there at least exists a concept of individual rights and a system through which grievances can be addressed. In China, if you ask for human rights you get put in prison, like Hu Jia. Up until recently, if you were Tibetan and you took part in any form of nonviolent protest, you were probably treated like Ngawang Sangdrol, a thirteen year old nun who spent years in solitary confinement and was repeatedly tortured. There is no mechanism in the current PRC structure for granting free expression or human rights. So for Tibetans to ask the current Chinese government for ‘human rights’ is a bit like them asking a snake not to be a snake. There is an on-the-ground reality that is impossible to ignore. Many Tibetans have told us since the uprising began in March that the driving force behind the most recent unrest was the completion of the Lhasa railway and the fact that many Tibetans can sense the end of their culture. Simply put, they feel like this is their last chance. They feel they need a border to preserve anything that is left of their culture. Clearly the Palestinians do as well. (And on a side note, I find it extremely ironic that many of those who question the validity of Tibetan sovereignty do so by pointing out the flaws of Tibet’s past, while Palestinians never receive the same scrutiny). I am never in favor of border-for-the-sake-of-national-glory but when borders are the only way to guarantee rights, then they must be there. It may very well be that what eventually happens is somewhere in the middle. Like your article suggests, the right thing for the Chinese government to do is to talk to the Dalai Lama and it may be that the growing threat of the independence movment will light a fire under Beijing to do so. In the meantime, regardless of your or my theories and thoughts on the subject, Tibetans ARE protesting for independence, and that more than anything else will shape how this whole situation turns out.

    I’ll respond to the ‘national security and needs of the many’ thread as well as the ‘hypocrisy of the west’ later on.

    Best,

    Josh

  8. Michael Kenny said on April 29th, 2008 at 11:47am #

    I sometimes think that peoples have a right of self-determination if they successfully assert it! A bit cynical, you may say, but look at Europe. Ireland: the traditionalist view is that the “people” means the whole island, where the desire for independence has always prevailed. The Presbyterians of Ulster, a local majority, said no and “seceeded” with British support. Only six of Ulster’s nine counties were included in Northern Ireland and even in 1920, some of the six had Catholic majorities. Whose self-determination is involved? You could multiply similar examples all over Europe ad infinitum. The whole problem is defining the “people”.

  9. Mikki said on April 29th, 2008 at 11:58am #

    This is a very good article. Regarding the comments here about Tibetan culture being undermined, I think culture is what you hold in your heart and mind. Some Chinese go overseas and learn English and adopt cultures that may be alien to thier own, but does that mean they had completely rejected their own culture? The Dalai Lama wears Gucci shoes and meets politicians. This is not in line with the Buddhist culture that supposedly should be devoted to spiritual purity and separation from material and political affairs. Many Tibetans can speak and write the Tibetan language in China and overseas. Many of them also know English. Yet, just because some of them may need to learn Mandarin to get higher-paying jobs, the government in exile accuse China of ‘cultural genocide’ while ignoring all the efforts the Chinese government had made to help the Tibetans preserve their unique culture and language as well as giving them very favorable policies such as making it easier for Tibetans to attend Chinese universities.

  10. Eric Metzver said on April 29th, 2008 at 12:38pm #

    Michael Kenny’s point is important. People are naturally submissive when faced with strong tyranny. We see it in our own society today. Not until tyranny becomes weak do the enslaved assert themselves.

  11. bozhidar balkas said on April 29th, 2008 at 2:56pm #

    tibet belongs to tibetans; it was conquered. tibetans cannot gladhand conquest regardless how good chinese are to tibetans. and i speak as a strong socialist.
    i agree that much of the ‘int’l laws’ were written by empires. the same int’l laws have helped an euro-khazaro-semitic people establish by warfare/terrorism a country of their own in expalestine.
    the relationship in expalstine is unlike any other, so we can’t paint all interethnic disputes with the same brush.
    kosovo situation differs significantly from that of palestine. kosovo, being a homogeneous albainian territory belong to albanians. it may have belonged to illyrians for at least 1500 yrs before slavs arrived. albanians are descendants of illyrians. i mentioned this, tho singniority doesn’t matter. so, jewish and serb respective claims to palestine and kosovo is invalid
    so. it seems we need to abandon falsetofact premise or either-or principle.
    one way out in many cases might be assimilations. that’s how magyars and slavs have solved the interethinc problem in former moravia. bulgars hav ebeen assimialted by slavs. croats have croatianized illyrian/roman population of not only costal cities but also wherever they had been. even serbs may have serbianized people who inhabited balkans prior to slav arrival.
    the problem is that zionism is an ideology based on others: supremacism, judaism. and one can’t get worse than that; excluding possibly nazism.
    so as long this Schrekenhit remains unchanged, it portends more violence, conquests; a monster also has to eat.
    u’l see lotsof english people that appear germanic and gaelish, celtic, and who knows what? but english, hungarians, bulgarians, et al have one country and each is one people.
    key is always to treat minorities with same respect u treat majorities.
    if a people is mistreated they have an inaniable right to set up own home even it is 1sq km in size.
    after all abused person has now the right to go. if church and other laws had remained unchanged a man could still own a woman. and in lotsof countries that’s what is happening. thre is no eternal verities. there is no truth. there are no gods. only us. thank u

  12. sk said on April 29th, 2008 at 4:09pm #

    …I find it extremely ironic that many of those who question the validity of Tibetan sovereignty do so by pointing out the flaws of Tibet’s past, while Palestinians never receive the same scrutiny.

    Most of those doing such pointing are Marxists such as Michael Parenti who subscribe to some variant of a teleological ‘modes-of-production’ worldview wherein some peoples are ‘advanced’ and others ‘backward’. In this, they are faithfully following the footsteps of Marx himself who was ambivalent about the struggle for independence of ‘backward’ people such as Indians who revolted against their English overlords–manfully bearing the White Man’s Civilizing Burden–in 1857. It might of interest to listen to an interview (MP3 here, starts around minute 40) recorded in 1981 of probably the most prominent living Marxist, Eric Hobsbawm and count the number of times he manages to refer to non-industrialized societies as ‘backward’ in less than 20 minutes.

    One wonders what ‘flaws’ oppressed people will have to overcome and which hoops of secularism, feminism, veganism, non-violence, enlightenment values, etc. they’ll have to jump through before they’ll be able to earn unqualified ‘support’ from liberals in the metropolitan West.

  13. maryjane said on April 29th, 2008 at 4:20pm #

    why are you westerners sooooo concerned with Tibet? your tax dollars are going to the slaughter of Iraqis and Palestinians. Isn’t that closer to home or is this a rouse, tell me…do you really care?
    once tibet get what they want. the west will move in…its’ a chest game and you’re aiding and abetting.

  14. Kim Petersen said on April 29th, 2008 at 6:45pm #

    Thanks for your comments Eric.
    However, I do not “advocate a lock-step march toward unity for security sake.” I only ask that people consider what self-determination entails not just for Tibetans but also for Chinese and other people in the world.

    “Borders do not equal impediments.”
    Really? Tell that to people on a no-fly list. And what does customs represent, facilitators?
    “Borders allow for diversity of culture, taste, law, and community expression.”
    No, they do not; they, if anything, delimit culture. Culture is carried within the people. It is not a product of borders.

    Don: It is true that what China is doing in the name of gaining energy sufficiency is scary.

    “I am questioning that who is making international law?”
    Kuan Yan, is China not a member of the UNSC?
    “‘Human Rights Are an Absolute’, I am pretty sure that you have no knowledge of philosophy and basic science. There is no such thing as absolute but only relative, which is a universal law proven by a German Jewish scientist who regarding creating the A-Bomb.”
    Kuan, “a universal law proven” sure sounds a whole lot like an “absolute” to me. So you are saying that human rights is pick and choose? As for science and philosophy, if you read Karl Popper, you should be aware that in science nothing is “proven.”

    Thanks Eliza. Good point about defining people Michael Kenny. Excellent comment Mikki.

  15. Kim Petersen said on April 29th, 2008 at 6:48pm #

    Appreciate your cogent points Josh.

    “At the same time you say you are against borders.”
    Josh, my comment on borders is a digressive clarification, noting my ideological antipathy to borders. Now, one has to deal with present geo-political realities.

    “What happens when a people’s ability to have their rights respected is utterly impossible given the structure of the nation they are a part of?”
    This is hypothetical. Anyway, I believed this is answered by Spock.

    “Usually what happens is they demand separation. It is very difficult to separate the human rights question of Tibet from the sovereignty question, as is the case in Palestine.”
    Difficult is not impossible. There are other ways to deal with human rights abuses against Tibetans than imperiling Chinese security; e.g., economic sanctions against China.

    “In China, if you ask for human rights you get put in prison, like Hu Jia.”
    Josh, my article points to the hypocrisy of criticizing only China when our own countries are guilty of similar human rights abuses. Have you not heard of Maher Arar, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal among others?

    “They feel they need a border to preserve anything that is left of their culture.”
    Since when did a border stop the US invasion and destruction of Babylonian culture. Borders give false security to culture.

  16. Max Shields said on April 29th, 2008 at 9:05pm #

    Kim,

    You’ve touched on a lot. Human rights has a universal appeal but it like so much as been coopted.

    There is no simple way to judge the situation in Tibet. On the one hand nation-states are extremely problematic (I said this on another thread on this topic). There’s nothing particularly natural, they’re based on conquest. They consist of the conquering of city states and regions.

    So, take any nation on the planet and you’ll find this legacy. Separatism is a natural compulsion once self-sufficiency (economic and otherwise) has reached a critical mass. The natural breaking away happens when the settlement reaches that mass. This whole nature analogy is undermined when you’re dealing with a nation state that has annexed other settlements or nation-states.

    Then it is rebellion, cessation, North/South, raw power of wills. UN resolution, international law; all powerless. Hence Israel, with the hundreds of UN resolutions against it, has it’s way with the Palestinians until the dynamics change – and they probably will.

    We, Kim, you and me, can’t even end the murderous wars we’re in one after another.

    So, Tibet?

  17. bozhidar balkas said on April 30th, 2008 at 6:20am #

    SK
    glad u pointed the use of word “backward”. i’l just add that thanks to the ‘backward’ people we or some of us are still on this planet.
    please note that the word “backward” i put under single quotes to indicate its false symbolic value.

    Maryjane
    u made a conclusion that tibet, once independent, will become a US protectorate.
    yes, quite possible, sorry to say.

    bozh corrects/emends two statements of his previous comment: we need to abandon either-or, or all-or nothing principles in dealing with many issues.
    thus a mixture of socialism and individualism may offer us moere peace.
    only socialism or only capitalism may forever cause hatred, intolerance, etcetc.

    anent serb and zionist respective claims for kosovo and palestine, i may have not made myself clear.
    their claims are invalid if solely based on signority rights. both of these peope and their supporters affirm their right to other peoles lands because they were there first.
    as i have already said, albanians may have been inhabiting much of balkans long before slav arrival.
    there is no proof that kosovo was not continuously inhabited by albs.

    i have posted in last two days 6 comments on truthdig; none appeared.
    i met the same faith on haaretz. so, i do not read it nor backtalk on it. thank u

  18. Max Shields said on April 30th, 2008 at 6:31am #

    Kim, now that I’ve read your reponse to Josh, I think you’ve captured my basic thoughts on Tibet.

    Thanks for a well written and sourced article.

    Max

  19. bozhidar balkas said on April 30th, 2008 at 6:58am #

    kim petersen.
    i agree, borders impede many aspects of panhuman progress. the statement that “in sciense nothing is proven” , needs more scrutiny.
    perhaps on theoretical, ideological, theocratic etc., levels we can’t obtain proof but we can obtain usefulness.
    people seem to be much afraid to use the word “guess” or guessing” .
    instead they like to use the words like theorising, believing.
    guessing means, at least to me, theorising, believing. believing is not seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling, thus, no proof on the level of talking.
    the word “proof” is just a word. it is used with reckless abandon.
    here’s a theory: if u cut self deep enough, u’l bleed. now let’s prove this on experimental level? nobody’ s gonna try it because the’v oft seen the event we’r talking about.
    how abt what al-bushi said,tho tacilty or in my paraphrase: if we come to iraq people will love us.
    unfortunately, there were at least a 1 bn people who put their money where their mouth was. thanx

  20. denk said on April 30th, 2008 at 8:34am #

    why nobody talk about the role of ned, aka cia in pastor’s suit

    from kosovo to burma to the stans in central asia and …………tibet !!

  21. hp said on April 30th, 2008 at 9:18am #

    Coming soon? Sikhistan?

  22. Ricky said on April 30th, 2008 at 5:59pm #

    I live in Canada and I know all about this… The whole separatist thing is totally a thing of the past … you see that was 10 years ago… the people nowadays are canadians more than anything… and if there was a vote it would be at least 65 – 35 for NO.

    Also you might want to know if its as easy to separate if your led to believe…. don’t you think it would just as easy to re-join if they made that mistake 10 years ago… think of what a huge mistake they would of made…

    First of all the most prestigious nhl hockey franshinse [Hockey being a religion up here] is the Montreal Canadiens… Montreal being in Quebec of course. Now these guys date back to December 4, 1909… and they have always been the Montreal Canadiens… there is great pride… they would have to change the name of that franchise and that would take a lot. That franchise is a part of Canada as the New York Yankees is for the US and baseball and as much as Manchester United is for England and soccer. Might sound a little silly but that is a very powerful force.

    Also… do you know if they had their own government do you know how bad it would be over there… they would have insane inflation rates. They would go into a recession… On its own, Quebec would be a weak, second-rate nation, with only one city of economic consequence, Montreal…. and if a problem ever arose… do you think the rest of canada would help them.. I think not… it would destroy years of history and hard work to get where they are to day… But you see it would never happen and once again even if it did 10 years ago… I bet that wouldn’t of lasted for long I guarantee you. People would get big time reality check and see what am I thinking… Today they are more canadian than anything else. It won’t ever happen… I guanantee you. No Canadian province, not even Quebec, has the right unilaterally to declare itself independent.

  23. MJK said on April 30th, 2008 at 6:17pm #

    the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    Did we forget about the billion people to the South?

    India!

    After the invasion of Tibet, the India China War of 1962 came about. Since then, increased build-up of troops along the border. Incursions of Chinese troops into Bhutan, more influence in Nepal.

    The needs of the many were being met when Tibet was an independent nation in 1949. Peace between India, China, and surrounding nations…2 billion plus people.

  24. Shabnam said on May 1st, 2008 at 6:46am #

    “I live in Canada and I know all about this… The whole separatist thing is totally a thing of the past … you see that was 10 years ago… the people nowadays are Canadians more than anything… and if there was a vote it would be at least 65 – 35 for NO.”
    Canada is working hand in hand with the US against other countries to destabilize and divide. I wish I could say the same thing about Iraq. The west with the leadership of the US and Israel are giving military training and financial support to one group within the Islamic countries to use them in “divide and conquer” game which has been played repeatedly in destabilization of other power such as Ottoman empire to create puppet states to rule the world. In Iraq, Israel has military and intelligent cooperation with the Kurdish terrorists for decades and the Kurds were used in destruction and soft partition of Iraq. Today, the “Ottoman” of our time is Iran that your government, Canadian, and other “democratic” west are fully engaged in the game of destabilization through their phony “human rights”, “doctors without borders”, labor, women, youth, “the journalist without borders”, NED and numerous other organizations which have been exposed and have no credibility what so ever. What have you done? If Human rights are universal, then rights to scientific and economic development is also
    Universal and should not be separated because the close relationship between the two. What have you done when your country, Canada, is fully engaged with other “democratic” west to strangulate other nation to submission according to their selfish interests? What have you done when your government in collusion with the “international community” a phony construct consists of rich countries along with the puppet states that have no control over their own interests to destroy other nation to bring them in “the community”? The underlying problems of majorities of these riots is political oppression which is closely related to economic oppression and this can not be separated from the international economic and political arrangement lead by the “democratic” west. Everyone must know that the US along with other countries, including Canada, is engaged in campaign of lies and misinformation to wage another Zionist war and few days ago one of the servant of the Zionist, Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for the near east policy, an Israeli think tank and close cooperation with the “Zionist lobby” post a note at Iranian.com
    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/02/the-irony-of-appeasement/

    to sell another terrorist group, Mojahedin, listed as TERRORIST by the state department to population of the “democratic” west to be used, like Taliban and Al Qaeda, in their assault on Iran and then like previous groups demonized and later to be eliminated from the political scene to cover up their crimes against humanity.
    What are you going to do? Why don’t you let a riot to object to violation of “the international law” and violation of UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS?
    http://www.iranian.com/main/2008/violent-past-and-peaceful-present

  25. denk said on May 1st, 2008 at 7:09am #

    what happened here is basically the same as in kosovo, burma, the stans etc.
    cia rent a mob started a riot but china get a gang bang by the “international communities”. once again uncle sham has screwed china big time , as in tam 1989.

    those who jump on this china bashing bandwagon are unwittingly/wittingly endorsing cia’s “right to subversion”
    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/17209
    and abetting u.s. “great game” to world domination.

  26. Shabnam said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:29am #

    please print my post.

  27. bozhidar balkas said on May 1st, 2008 at 1:40pm #

    to denk
    i’m convinced that whether i and another 5bn people (un)wittingly “endorse” cia’s subversion, cia is under command of US ruling class; thus needs not nor asks our “endorsement”
    and the ruling class will, i deduce, continue to issue orders which country is to cry uncle or be destroyed. we can only cry while US marches on. US can be stopped only with warfare or a counter punch.
    it is not my responsibilty what a people do after it obtains independence.
    at our present ethnic developement, every ethnic group, i know of, wants selfgovernance; that’s good enough for me.
    in millenia or eons, ethnocentrism may weaken or evanecse. until that time kosovo (conquered by serbs) and tibet (conquered by china)
    deserve at least a modern autonomy but if they reject it, they must obtain independence.
    to me, imperialism is antihuman. US, canadain, russian, serb and multitdude of other empires have caused enough bloodshed.
    china too is an empire. if it disolves, it would be a step in the right direction.
    and i speak as strong socialist. unfortunately, ever ism misteaches, spreads hatred, wages war. so, if i am to condenm US, israel’s , canadian
    imperiliasm, i have to condemn chinese imperialism. please, no rationalizing.
    for even hitler, with his rationalizations, has ‘justified’ all his crimes. in another words, for me, no ifs, buts maybes, reasons, etc., regarding the right to self governance or other universal human rights. thank u.

  28. hp said on May 1st, 2008 at 8:04pm #

    But is it really ‘independence’ when the existence of the new self determined so-called nations are dependent on and directed by the US or Russia or China and are independent and self determined in name only?
    You know what i mean. Meet the new boss…

  29. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 9:20pm #

    So, what the writer is saying, oppressed people should learn to get on with their lives and quit kvetching, as long as their oppressors are more numerous and derive some benefit from this arrangement.

    Why did we abolish slavery, when the majority (white people) benefited, from, e.g., lower ag prices, while a minority was “inconvenienced”? And what about the slaughter of the native population, that was OK because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (and fewer, and fewer….).

    Sometime in the future, we’ll unceremoniously dispose of the old people, when their needs become too much of a drag on the needs of the majority. And let’s do the same to the babies, there are too many people on this planet already, the quality of life of the majority will suffer.

    “Spock” was a fictional character, not a god, who spoke the words of a writer, a fallible human being. And in any case, he was in this instance talking about himself making a VOLUNTARY decision for HIMSELF, which may have been logical. Maybe if you have a highly contagious, terminal disease, prolonging your own suffering won’t do you any good and it will kill many other people. So, you jettison from the ship. He was not talking about suffering silently in oppression, just because that’s convenient for the oppressors. He was not talking about making this decision for his children, or other people’s children, or other people. Or whole nations, races, etc.

  30. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 9:27pm #

    The acid test for the writer: will you suffer in silence, and let your family suffer in silence, while your culture is being trampled on and suffocated and erased, while you’re being dispossessed, while the natural bounty is being taken to a foreign country, for free, while your kids have no future and have to learn a foreign langauage– because the oppressor is more secure that way?

    There cannot be an equal arrangement, when one people comes onto the territory of another and occupies it. Take what they need and discard the rest. Of course they will not treat the others as equals, because there cannot be mutual trust in this arrangement.

  31. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 9:37pm #

    And the writer himself points to logical snafus in his argument. Why should the Palestinians suffer, after their land and property have been stolen? So, we’re for Palestinian rights (rightly), but ONLY because America, Israel, etc. are AGAINST them.

    But now that the western powers — for their own reasons, and yes they’re hypocritical, when they say they are for self-determination of Tibet, of Kosovo, etc. you CANNOT bring yourself to agree, because that kills your sacred cow, your reason for being — the opposition to America.

    So, your opposition to America blinds you to everything else, makes you forget principles, and makes you say it’s OK that somewhere people live in darkness. Because they are oppressed by the counterweight to America, which you love.

    The Chinese, the Jews, etc., used to be the oppressed, now they are the oppressors. No nation is good or bad, both states are part of the human condition.

    You rail against America, because you feel that you’re oppressed here — your opinions don’t count. By your logic, you should just learn to live with it, the majority likes it the way it is, and you’re injuring majority’s rights by wanting things to be your way.

  32. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 9:48pm #

    If America occupied Tibet, there’s no doubt whatsoever what the position of the left would be.

    If America bombed Kosovo into submission on Serbia’s behalf, there’s no doubt whatsoever what the position of the left would be.

    There are principles, and then there are “other” more convenient considerations. Appealing to your base. Being in lockstep with certain mantras and certain taboos. Not risking the wrath of the blind ones. Having the right thoughts and the right publications on your resume.

    So, there’s really no diff btw the left and the right — same motivation pretty much.

  33. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:05pm #

    This thing with security is a red herring. So, it was OK for USSR to occupy Easter European countries, for its security? And yes, they had legitimate security concerns (many past invasions), much more than China vis a vis Tibet (who’s going to invade China through Tibet — Nepal? Or India’s army will cross the Himalayas and then move through vastness of Tibet to invade China?). Ask those eastern europeans how they liked it, how it was to be held back for 45 years, not seeing the light of day, not having the basic necessities or any future for 45 long, dark, endless years, waiting in endless lines, having their lives ruined — to ensure security of a foreign country, which they were not themselves threatening?

    Is the Great Wall of China facing south? No invasion has ever come that way. If security were the issue, they’d invade Mongolia, the Russians, their arch-enemy are on the other side. Not that that’s a valid concern anyway — why should one people suffer and be dispossessed because other people have a problem they don’t know how to deal with? Maybe the US should invade Mexico and the Carribean islands, to keep secure from Latin revolutionaries, would that be OK by this argument?

  34. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:22pm #

    the other thing that’s totally forgotten — what this does to the occupier, i.e., the oppressor. how they lose their humanity. i’ve seen it in my own people. that’s a cost that nothing, no “benefit”, can possibly counterbalance. yes, you get benefits, but you can’t look yourself in the mirror (if you’ve got any decency left, which is doubtful). in this case, there’s no diff btw the govt and the people — they both approve of the oppression of the other people, and they both lose themselves. i’ve seen ordinary people turned into monsters, because of something they themselves really have no benefit from, but they’ve been brainwashed by the elites as to what is “patriotic”.

  35. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:29pm #

    as for the borders — you can dislike them all you want, but they protect — as much as they could, a culture from foreign invasions.

  36. Kim Petersen said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:29pm #

    Thanks Max. You seemed to have caught what the article was about.

    bozhidar balkas, please check on the scientific method. In science, scientists seek to “disprove” the null hypothesis. Scientists report their results as probabilities.

    Ricky, a referendum result reflects only the sentiment of a people at a particular moment in time. The name “Canadien” was coined by francophones and spread countrywide. Therefore, Les Habitants would not have to give up their name. Besides none of this has relevance to the topic of the article.

    MJK, as it looks now, China and India are no longer at loggerheads over Tibet.

    Shaham, yes, Canada is definitely firmly ensconced in US Empire.

    John Wilkinson wrote: “So, what the writer is saying, oppressed people should learn to get on with their lives and quit kvetching, as long as their oppressors are more numerous and derive some benefit from this arrangement.”

    John, I appreciate your taking the time to comment. However, please don’t twist the article’s meaning. This writer wrote that human rights are an absolute — affirmed throughout the article. It never stated that China had a right to oppress anyone. It stated the opposite. In fact, it stated that no state has the right to oppress anyone. Not China nor the US nor Canada nor Israel may abuse human rights. So your interpretation was incorrect. It also invalidates what followed after in support of your wrongful interpretation.

    Nonetheless, you later present a hypothetical. It is in incomplete form to be taken seriously. So, if I fill in some of the gaps: if the US and China completely reverse positions — e.g., if China were the sole military superpower and it was aggressing countries around the world, and the Chinese were foreign invaders who stole a land based on a genocide and supported a genocide in Israel against the indigenous Palestinian population, etc. — then of course, my position would hold in reverse regarding the changed role of the states. That is elementary morality John. That is what the article pointed at.

    Also, the position of the Great Wall has zero to do with the article and proves nothing about current geo-political reality. Also, if you know the history, there were invasions from the south northwards. In my article, there is no hypothesizing of an invasion through the Himalayas as you fantasize about. The article pointed at what really happened: how NATO moved into the ex-Warsaw Pact states. This is an example of what could be expected to happen in Tibet. Then the US military would be perched above China — an advantages military location. Have you read PNAC’s Rebuilding Defenses? If not, with all due respect, read it and your confusion will abate.

  37. John Wilkinson said on May 1st, 2008 at 10:56pm #

    what this does to the occupier, i.e., the oppressor. how they lose their humanity. i’ve seen it in my own people.

    and this loss of humanity also clearly shows even in relationships within that country — even while they’re united in their disdain and hatred for the other (occupied) people, they show the same disdain and hatred to each other in their own interpersonal, economic, social, etc. relationships among themselves. my actual observations from experience.

    and of course, there are other accumulated costs of empire building, whether the “empire” is small or big.

  38. bozhidar balkas said on May 2nd, 2008 at 6:06am #

    hp.
    independence, ‘independence’ ? which of the two entities symbolized by above symbols shall we we study?
    in modern era no people, seems to me, can obtain independence.
    a people can obtain ‘independence’, i. e., a protectorate of myriad kinds and degrees of support or tender ‘care’.
    but to me, the best is to be interdepended. a political independence is an illusion since politics, music, wars, economy, laws, religion, etc. are aspects of one and the only reality or nature we have. these aspects are inseparable from one another.
    thus we can’t talk abt music or music making w.o. having economy in mind. to write songs or play instruments one has to have money and time.
    in nepal onemayhave one musician per, let’s say, 10,000 people. in US we may have one musician per 1,000 people.
    it appears to me that every land is interdependent to an unknown degree, which is ok with me.
    alack, fears/supremacism/greed/hatred are also part of the reality.
    and we are not dealing with these aspects. if we do not or can’t soften these feelings, we can expect more bestiality.
    and generally speaking, the richer a person or country is the more severe these feelings become. thanx

  39. Gary Corseri said on May 9th, 2008 at 10:20pm #

    I come late to this discussion, but this article I’ve just read is a keeper I’ll add to my Favorites, and I believe the important points raised will be discussed for a long time.

    Petersen has taken a very complex issue and found the fulcrum for a balanced approach: the fulcrum lies between the natural aspirations for self-determination and the necessity of human rights. Petersen makes a cogent argument for tipping the scale towards human rights.

    Self-determination is a worthy goal for all of us, but the West has a tawdry record of it. Colonialism, imperialism and self-determination have not mixed well in the cauldron of Western history these past 500 years or so, and we find the goal, as Hamlet’s custom, “more honored in the breach than the observance.” When neocons and their chicklets chirp about self-determination for Tibet, we may justly wonder from what stink they are trying to divert us.

    Human rights is a far better truncheon for Leftists and other humans to beat down the iniquitous. For one thing, it is easier to grasp and better understood. Does every village, every household, every individual have the right to self-determination? In addition to the hypocritical ways self-determination has been preached and practiced in the West, we have some philosophical fine points, such as Rousseau’s social contract, bearing some consideration. To what extent and how often must the principle of self-determination trump other principles?

    Petersen intrepidly affirms that it cannot trump human rights. We know this in our guts and on our heads. If a cop beats me on the head, and I have done no wrong, I know with some immediacy that my human rights have been violated. On the other hand, if I am denied the right of self-determination in my District of Columbia, I am less inclined to protest (provided I am well-fed and sheltered, have access to good healthcare, and my children are safe and well-educated–i.e., that I enjoy basic human rights).

    Petersen raises another interesting point about larger geopolitical issues. In our crazed celebrity culture these are often overlooked in favor of the cause celebre (pardon the pun) that Oprah, Brad or Angelina have focussed upon that day or hour. So, the cry goes up, “Save Darfur” or “Free Tibet,” and lost in the shell game is the peanut military base or listening post the US empire inserts amidst the distraction. Petersen bids us all be careful: watch the gamester, look up his sleeve. Hidden motives, bad intentions, yea even conspiracies, have been afoot since Jesus walked with Judas. Caveat emptor!

    That Petersen has trodden this difficult ground, striving for “a principled approach” in the thicket of “geopolitical realities” is an act of disciplined thought and moral steadfastness.

  40. Raja G said on July 11th, 2008 at 12:44am #

    Though the author has given an indept analysis of the Tibetan Question.
    There one area which need to viewed more clearly.
    that is Nationhood – here I wish to state that when a cild is born its nationality is establishes even before someone Namees the child.
    In othere words Nationality is from Birth.
    The Spirit of Nationhood is an undying flame – No supre Power has the right to put it off.
    Take the case of erstwhile Jugoslavia – now that country has become many small nations – because the original conglomaration of different Nations into one unit by force could not sustained.
    If rulers of the erstwhile Jugoslavia held tight control over the different Nationalitis by sheer force -. But once the power weakens thecountry disintegrated inti various Nations. these are not like Isreal – imposed by the West and US. these are the original Nations.

    Similarly – what ever Historical reasons and events the Chinese may quote or show Tibet has bee a free Nation for centuries – enjoying all the benefits of a Sovereign Nation. they had their own culture tradition Laws and Religion. Tibet had its own Currency without anymark of China on it. They had their own Postage Stamps and .
    The Communists Forces in China realized that there is weak nation without a fighting regular army nearby with vast potential – and they marched into the peaceful nation andoccupied it –
    The entire world watched this blatant colonisation without raisinga ny voic e. – Barring ofcourse some small Nations like El Salvadore and ireland etc.
    The Chinese forced lead My Mao were fully aware of the state of the Western world Tired after the World War and also the US in its notorious ideas for keeping the USSR under Check did not bother to interfere Maos taking over Tibet.
    chinese occupation of Tibet has been tacitly approved by the US in other words.
    Let Compare this with the case of East Timore – the entire western World and Australia came on the scene to See that that country became free.
    Now coming to the point of Human Rights and National Aspirations
    Tibetans are different Race compared to Han chinese – they have different langusge and religion – But they have subjected to continued oppressiona d suppression by communist Chine for the past 6o years.
    Compare this with that of Erithrea. A part of a country called Ehiopia which was supposed to have been ruled by a king from the time of the Pharoas. But the UN and the western countries worked hard to forma new nationa Eritrea.
    So the double standard of the West is clearly evident.
    Now coming to the question of Human Rights Violations – There west is making loud noise about the Human rights violations in Burma – they have imposed sanctions too.
    but there is no such hue and cry about the platant Violations of Human Rights in tibet, whre tibetans are subjected to inhuman treat maent – not allowed to practice own religion – their language and their way of life.
    the double standard of the West is blatant –
    Take the case of Olympic Boycott in 1980 – the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics – reason – USSR invaded Afghanistan.
    Now UK is trying to keep Zimbabway from the forthcoming World Cricket – reason robert Mugabe has suppressed Human Rights there.
    Where as all these countries are shamelessly taking part in Beijing Olympics – in the country Human Rights have meaning and Place.
    Thousnads of Chinese ar in prison just for raising their Voice against HR.
    Many countries includin India are quick to retort by saying Games and Politics cannot be mixed.
    I ask all these Nationas Are human beings playing games or just Robots are playing.
    It is shame on the entire socalled free Nations if this Olympics is allowed to proceede.
    The entire humanity of this period in history will be held to blame if Tibet as a nationad and as a people are allowed to vanish.
    IT IS A SHAME ON HUMANITY TO ALLOW CHINA TO HOLD TIBET ANY LONGER