How To Free Tibet in 3 Easy Steps

Tibet - from autonomy to independence in 3 easy steps
Suraj Sharma
Could all the antagonisms between the PRC and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile be rephrased as a question of who will win in the ultimate showdown between Buddha and the communists? Now that the high-profile special meeting of the government-in-exile and sympathetic parties is over, the international media is all in accord about the downhill battle that the issue has come to be. There is no escaping the fact that the Chinese adamancy against granting the region sanctions of autonomy  is ready to face all pressure that His Holiness can conjure up with. What’s even more debilitating to the further progress of the issue is the fact that the Chinese are right in denying autonomy to Tibetans, making no qualms whatsoever about the “disguised independence” they see it as.  Meanwhile as the eyes of the international community turn to Dharamshala,  one is forced to question whether the 30 year old policy of  the Middle-Way promoted by the Dalai Lama is really capable of producing a solution  to the problem at hand.

Seeing the Middle-Way doctrine as a sort of compromise between establishing Tibet as a full-fledged democracy and living under the heavy authoritarian hand of the Chinese government, it is obvious that what the Dalai Lama proposes is an idea which is not only hard to swallow by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) but is downright revolting to them and their interpretation of the Chinese constitution. To make matters worse the International response to the plight of the Tibetans has been minimum and diluted except maybe on the fringes of the violations of human rights by China in Tibet. The Chinese have blocked all UN resolutions over the matter and are not likely to entertain any interference into what they consider to be a matter of sovereignty (which no country has so far openly disputed). The situation now is more fragile than it ever was because after the failure of recent talks with China, it is plainly obvious that the Middle-Way doctrine is really a kind of schizophrenic excuse which has run out of all utility and can’t really be used by the government-in-exile to buy any more time for it to re-strategize.

The really surprising thing however, is the exiled government’s inability to accept the fact that the issue exists only because of the charismatic stature of His Holiness himself. In a universe where the Dalai Lama is nonexistent, the Chinese have already captured the area by using blatant forces and justified the violence as a suppression of secessionist uprising. There is no doubt that the delay in resolving the problem is all because of the leverage that Dalai Lama’s stature as a political and spiritual leader allows him. But even more surprising is his own adamancy regarding the Middle-Way approach which he stuck to, even after he was given express permission to deal with the issue using his own discretion after the 1997 referendum. The Chinese on the other hand can’t wait for the whole thing to be over with as few of their very ambitious plans rot in the pipeline because of it- like the railway link between Lhasa and Qinghai or their multipurpose river valley projects in the region (which are also a cause of row  with India but that’s quite a different story).

The only obvious solution now is a very difficult one. Not difficult in execution per se, but difficult in its own tacit acceptance and appreciation. For it is a solution that ruptures the ideological base built by the Government-in-Exile as its support system and calls forward a more radical yet methodical approach to solve the problem once and for all. In all its logistical and theoretical simplicity the solution can be split into three steps  as enumerated and described below:
Step 1Kill the Confusion
The first step is always the hardest. It calls for an understanding of the Chinese mindset as one which is not accustomed to be tamed with sophisticated diplomacy or elaborate play of words. The hard truth is that the demand for an independent Tibet is historically illegitimate but is legitimized only by the pressing need of the hour - regardless of the turn of events that have led to this moment. Secondly, those who aspire to be truly free must shake off the illusion of the Middle-Way doctrine - there is no point in playing a game with rules the enemy refuses to recognize. The Tibetans must face up to the fact that if the middle-way couldn’t solve the issue for 30 odd years, the chances are highly in favor of its failure once again and this time, it could be fatal to their aspirations. This debilitating confusion will beget nothing but defeat.

There is no Middle-Way.

Step 2: Arise-in-Unison!
Any Tibetan who is right now in exile must free his mind of the clutter and mess of dialogues that run back and forth between the exiled government and the Chinese  - s/he must recognize that if it is freedom that the Tibetans truly desire, they must rise themselves and demand it from the Chinese. All excuses of inability to do this must be rebutted - remember that Leonidas of Sparta pushed back Xerxes’ army with only 300 soldiers. Tibetan Expatriates in India and elsewhere are never shy to debate at length the reasons why their country must be freed from the evil clutches of the Chinese regime but will they actually contribute to a mass movement instead of discussing it over bulletin boards? Now is the time to move ahead of your friends and take the stand. The Chinese are surely still bitter about anti-Olympic protests but they cannot risk another human-rights disaster. This isn’t a call for blatant violence but peaceful aggression that shakes the very roots of all Chinese arguments and causes an international stir of a magnitude far greater than adherence to any paralyzing philosophy might provide. Not the kind of aggression that Gandhi or Mandela used though - they weren’t dealing with the Chinese,  what’s needed here is an aggression that disregards all options which deter it from its aim and posits its claim as an all-or-nothing proposition.

Step 3: It’s a Trap!
Sun-Tzu said in The Art Of War : “One is strong if he initiates the rival to act in response to him; One is feeble if he must act in response to the rival”. A mass uprising is exactly the kind of initiative the situation demands because not only would it be unpredictable at this moment (with the Dalai Lama being on a world-tour) it could also catapult the exiled government into a stronger position. The Central Tibetan Administration should not only support but endorse and solicit this uprising thereby putting even more pressure on the Chinese administration. The idea is to make it an essentially human rights issue and corner China into a dead-end, one it avoids the most. China’s recent economic rise is not without its antagonisms, the pomp of  Olympics has left many with green eyes and the international community would love nothing more than to have something to leash China with. A human rights flashpoint over Tibet could be that exact leash. India, however should watch the whole scene unfold passively as its interference would give the push  needed for this human-rights flashpoint to turn into a full blown war.

But all said and done, the question is not whether or not this three step process is a remotely feasible solution to the situation in Tibet today. The real question is, when push comes to shove - will the Central Tibetan Administration let go of the failed Middle-Way strategy and adopt a more radical approach to resolve the conflicting claims? Which all comes down to their commitment for a free, democratic Tibet where people are free to chose and live the lives they want.

We Really Ought To Just Complicate Philosophy

We Really Ought To Just Complicate Philosophy
Suraj Sharma

Alluding to a famous scene from the Matrix trilogy of movies, the International Philosophy magazine Philosophy Now held an essay competition for college students some time ago. The topic of the essay being - Which pill would you choose? Why? To those unfamiliar with the movie, the protagonist in that particular scene is forced to face an existential dilemma when he has to make the choice between reality and illusion - symbolized here by the choice between taking the red pill (and thereby seeing reality as it truly is) or the blue pill (seeing reality as an illusion constructed by machines). This scene has since become the epitome of pop-culture references to the dichotomy between painful truth (reality, red pill) and blissful ignorance (illusion, blue pill).

Philosophy today, both as an academic pursuit and as evolutionary vocation lies in shambles because of such attempts at the simplification of dichotomies which appear to be binary opposites but in fact are adjacent factors in a complex dialectical. Chaos and order, Yin and Yang,  sanity and insanity, atheism and religion, peace and violence are all perfect examples of these dialectical duals which present themselves as complicated noumenon  - but due to the attempts to simplify philosophy have been de-centered and relegated to the margins of everyday intellectual pursuit. The fallacy which lies at the heart of every attempt to simplify philosophy is that the dialectical process is vacuous, infinite and recursive and therefore should be halted at any intellectual cost.

But the cost is tremendous because the resulting solution is unable to stand in the face of historical processes (which are intrinsically dialectical themselves, by the way). What we need instead, is a “third pill”, a tool which will help us see the illusion within reality itself. This is opposed to seeing the illusion behind reality (as being something apart from reality), which only facilitates a fast-food religious/spiritual experience of there being more to life than what appears but can never actually prove the reality of the illusion it claims exists.  So what is this illusion that structures reality itself and how can we get an access to it? The answer is simply by not trying to simplify philosophy but realizing the true aim and objective of philosophy as being essentially a hermeneutic discipline which concerns itself with not the answers about reality and the world but the questions. In other words the philosopher’s job today is not to simplify (i.e. justify) the ways of the world and lay back and enjoy it as it unfolds but to question the very essence of the answers that are so commonly taken for granted.

Illusion is not some kind of phantasmal construction of the human psyche which provides a handle to reality as a sort of mechanism that gauges progress towards an perfectly ideal state (utopia) or regression towards dystopia; Illusion is that characteristic of reality which provides the framework for progress or regression by supporting reality from within. Illusion is what fills up the empty space (quite literally even in the Quantum physics sense) left by reality and creates a sense of innermost urgency within reality to manifest itself. This is perhaps a truer definition of utopia - something that arises out of true, innermost urgency rather than with a synthetic push of reality or illusion. The kind of urgency referred to here is no different from the urgency which one feels from holding back one’s urine for a long time. Utopia, then, could be equated with the feeling of release of long-repressed scatological urges. Philosophy therefore, should act as a laxative in this sense.

Illusion is what gives reality a sense of meaning and purpose, so much so in-fact that if we take illusion away from reality, reality in itself shall disintegrate. Lets go back to The Matrix for an example of how this happens:  the reality for those who chose the red pill is a completely dystopian world waiting to be reorganized and reordered except that the only means left for reorganization is to return to the illusion (the virtual world of machines) and destroy it from within and without. What happens when this arduous task is finally achieved is beyond the purview of the movie but its not that hard to imagine that once mankind is freed from the clutches of an evil, deceiving demon (the machines), it would need another illusion (demon) to support its reality, which in this case might as well be the illusion of the capitalist utopia where more and more perverse desires to own “stuff” are not only endorsed but even required for progress.

In this sense, illusion is much like authority. Or, one is even forced to say that the only illusion ever is the illusion of authority (forced or consented). For they share a common defining bond which is that they both (illusion and authority) appear to be stronger when they are not explicitly expressed or immediately perceived as being themselves. For example, a parent who beats and physically abuses his/her children has less authority than the parent who just looks threateningly at their children to force them into submission. Likewise, an illusion that explicitly expresses itself as an illusion (like the utopian society all human progress seems to be chasing) is weaker than the illusion that actually presents itself forcefully as reality (the virtual world of machines which only a few get out of). The point is, the more repressed an illusion is, the stronger the reality it structures and to actually repress an illusion we need to complicate our philosophy of it as opposed to simplify it.

Much of today’s problems- terrorism, poverty, hunger, economic recession can be said to arise because of a simplification of our philosophy (or the gradual neglect of its complicated core objective) about ourselves. The blame could lie  with liberal capitalism and its presumably “natural” appearance or it just might be the forces of the dialectical shaping history as such but the fact is, any more effort towards a simplified philosophy of anything would end up in the kind of paralyzing mess Physics is facing today. Where on the forefront of theoretical physics we have reached a point where describing the behaviors of physical systems by extracting out all the “illusion” that creates them has left us with many mathematical equations that work in theory but fail to correspond with reality. Therefore, it is my humble request to budding philosophers everywhere to let go of this hypnotic charm of simplicity that breeds intellectual inaction and delve head-first into the very core of philosophy itself, which was never meant to be a way to simplify the human condition but make it worse by asking insanely simple yet fundamental questions that have and will force us to evolve.

This is a response to an article published in the Times of India (dated: 26/november/2008) under "The Speaking Tree" section on the op-ed page entitled : We really Ought To Just Simplify Philosophy by Yaron Barzilay.

Hopefully Yours

As the faithless freeze in fury
Fireflies flirt up a frosty night
Painted love has but dissolved
Repentance but a cold delight

Alas! Falsely convicted heart,
Why do you only beat when beaten?
You fitfully resonate and echo in the residue
Of sadness that suddenly seems to sweeten

Memories of that someone who twice upon a time
Resisted and insisted you turned to debris
Still you’re hopefully hers innocent heart-
Forever or until the devil runs free.

When we understand

When push comes to shove and the shit
Hits the fan
Tumultuous clouds announce
The Almighty's plan
In the cannon fodder's Kodak moment
Muhammad sees his land
When Jesus was denied and
Jehovah has been banned.

When the story of supply greets
the glory of demand
When the road to Damascus erases
Footprints of time on sand
Or your elisions sliding over
My poetry bland
Hits home, it hits hard as it
Crashes just to land

When hell bent, you bend hell
But heaven's humor stands
When impatience is hollowed out
I have my patient hands
It is then, that light with
7 colors in one strand
Looms the teeming millions of us
Doomed to understand.

Honk - Honk

Buried under sands from an hour-glass and separated
by hours and hours of desert in between
we feel as if the moon runs parallel
to a horizon we chase but cannot see

its the night that honks like a drunken taxi-driver,
who knows the serpentine road chases tales left behind
by all those running against the tide of time-
following signs left by long lost lonely lovers

oh the trail is long and twisted,
convoluted and the signs are only disguised among and as stars
few and far in between; 
just as intermittent is the sound,
indistinct from the nightly noise

indifferent to the terror and joy it brings to our hearts-
the sound of the drunken taxi-driver honking
as if to remind us that the journey's just begun

its the sound of the night singing
honk-honk honk honk-honk honk-honk honk - honk

bellowing out just for the two of us.


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