I understand that the Dalai Lama wants the people of Tibet to oppose the Chinese through non-violent action…
What I don’t understand is what “action” he wants them to perform.
Passive resistance involves resistance. What should the Tibetans do to resist the Chinese?
After listening to interviews with the Dalai Lama, after perusing his two autobiographies, I still don’t know the answers to these questions.
His Holiness is scheduled to visit my area this week. He will speak at the University of Arkansas.
But though Northwest Arkansas welcomes him…
…in my opinion, he would do better to announce himself at the Chinese border—the same border he crossed in 1959, to begin his exile.
I would like to see him announce himself to the Chinese by saying, “Here I am—now deal with it!”
The 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing, would have been a prime opportunity for such a surprise visit.
Yes, most likely, the Dalai Lama would have been jailed.
But I believe an accepted jail sentence could speak louder than a chosen exile.
Consider Nelson Mandela’s success.
The Dalai Lama has said that the non-violent tactics that Gandhi used in India will not work in Tibet. The Chinese would not be as tolerant as the British.
I’ll concede that point. But even so, I don’t think the British were pussycats—nor were those in the white South African government.
In any case, whatever the Dalai Lama has done so far certainly hasn’t worked for his people.
Moreover, as the world watches the Chinese extend the claw roots of their occupation ever deeper into Tibet…
…non-violent action may come to be seen as a “nice idea” that isn’t effective in the most dire situations—in those situations where it is most needed.
Would true non-violent action result in more Tibetan deaths?
Hundreds of thousands have died since the Chinese invasion. More—perhaps many more—would likely die in a demonstration of non-violence.
Would I be willing to make such a sacrifice? If I wanted my country back, yes. Unless the Tibetan people take direct focused action, I doubt they’ll get their country back—regardless of what the Dalai Lama might say, might hope.
Let me be clear: I’m no expert in regards to non-violent action…
…I don’t always know how to implement this concept—not just in regards to Tibet, but in regards to many other areas of conflict.
Nonetheless, when I consider the state of this world, I know we no choice but to change.
When I see what happens when one group of people tries to dominate another…
…when I see what happens when the dominated group then tries to retaliate in a violent matter…
…when I see this cycle repeated again and again and again, all over the world…in countries, communities, and homes…
…when I see the cost not only in lives lost, but also the psychic costs, the hidden costs that expand exponentially across distance and time….
…then I realize that in such conflict, both sides lose. Everyone loses.
We can not afford to lose as we’ve lost in the past.
The concept of non-violent action must become part of our new mythology.
To believe that we humans can actually change our behavior may sound naive…
…but because our survival depends on finding non-violent solutions to our conflicts, I remain hopeful.
However, before more people will believe in the effectiveness of non-violent action…
…they need to see that it can work even in the most intractable of circumstances—such as the long-standing Chinese occupation of Tibet.
So I’m disappointed that the Dalai Lama hasn’t yet shown us how the concept of non-violence works in action.
Though we’ll benefit from his presence among us this week…
…I’m disappointed that he has not chosen to visit his neighbors in China instead.
© 2011, Michael R. Patton
more thoughts on the Dalai Lama