Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who Is The Dalai Lama?

Michael Backman has written an article that covers the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Australia in April.

The article is quite unique in that it poses tough questions about the Dalai Lama, his politics, and his business interests.

Here is some of what Backman says about the Dalai Lama:

"(H)e was the head of Tibet's government when he went into exile in 1959. It was a state apparatus run by aristocratic, nepotistic monks that collected taxes, jailed and tortured dissenters and engaged in all the usual political intrigues. (The Dalai Lama's own father was almost certainly murdered in 1946, the consequence of a coup plot.)

The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US1.7 million a year from the CIA.

The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama's public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA's payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year).

... Like many Asian politicians, the Dalai Lama has been remarkably nepotistic, appointing members of his family to many positions of prominence. In recent years, three of the six members of the Kashag, or cabinet, the highest executive branch of the Tibetan government-in-exile, have been close relatives of the Dalai Lama.

... The Dalai Lama might now be well-known but few really know much about him. For example, contrary to widespread belief, he is not a vegetarian. He eats meat. He has done so (he claims) on a doctor's advice following liver complications from hepatitis. I have checked with several doctors but none agrees that meat consumption is necessary or even desirable for a damaged liver.

... What has the Dalai Lama actually achieved for Tibetans inside Tibet?

If his goal has been independence for Tibet or, more recently, greater autonomy, then he has been a miserable failure.

He has kept Tibet on the front pages around the world, but to what end? The main achievement seems to have been to become a celebrity ... "

My intention here is not to question the Dalai Lama's religious role. His political role is another matter.

Over the years I have been amazed by Americans who fawn over the Dalai Lama without looking beyond what they want to be believe.

Most of these folk will argue passionately that the Dalai Lama is the last, and only, word on the future of Tibet.

He is not, and therefore, we need a more nuanced understanding of what he means inside the demand for independence by occupied Tibetans.

Thanks to the Angryindian for making me aware of the article above.



Eugene said...

Makes me think of Gandhi.

I have always had my reservations about the Dalai Lama since finding out about his CIA payroll, hearing him praise America a few years back when visiting Portland, and when finding out about the severe oppression of women when Tibet was an independent state. This just adds fuel to that fire.

Speaking of Tibet, many folks are protesting China's human rights violations against Tibet, especially here in the U.S. However, if one reads the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, understands the REAL conditions in this nation and has an understanding of the word "complicity," one realizes that the U.S. is indeed the greatest violator of human rights.

No one, of course, is mentioning the violations of indigenous rights by the Canadians with the winter olympics in Whistler BC, nor the human rights violations enacted by Canada against the indigenous peoples of that nation.

Plus, the Olympics is again basically just a multi-national corporation interested mostly in making lots of capital. I wonder if they have stock options on Wall St.?

Ridwan said...

I hear you on the duplicity brother. I cringe when folks get on the box and call for sport and politics to seperated.

Huh? How the hell can the Olympics be made to be apolitical. Its very basis is about getting nations to interact ... that is political.

Trust you are well Eugene.