Dissing the Dalai Lama

About I month ago I came across Stalin’s Moustache, an eccentric and entertaining blog where professor Roland Boer engages in critical play. In this post on the Dalai Lama, Boer says something that would go over like a lead balloon in Boulder or Berkeley:

The Dalai Lama and Tibetan ‘Independence’. This media tart and charlatan is, of course, another winner of the Nobel imperial gong. Tibet is a cause célèbre among hand-wringing liberals, chardonnay socialists and a USA increasingly worried about their cracking and crumbling influence. But what does it mean to support Tibetan ‘independence’?

It is worth noting that in 1951, Tibet’s political leaders decided to join the P.R. China. They accepted ‘regional national autonomy’ status – as other areas – and agreed to carry out some reforms. In turn the new Chinese communist government agreed not to abolish the powers of Tibet’s religious leaders or to impose reforms by force. Soon enough, however, these leaders found that their traditional forms of rule – in which a gaggle of otiose aristocrats, ‘spiritual’ leaders and exploiters kept the majority in servile and brutal poverty – were being eroded. So in 1959 this feudal rump, under the Dalai Lama, led a revolt, which was quickly put down by Chinese forces. However, the main reason it failed was that the common people simply didn’t want to support this bunch of thugs. So the Dalai Lama took his ragtag bunch of the dispossessed ruling class and skipped across the border to India and pretended to be the Tibetan government ‘in exile’.

But how did the revolt really come about? Back in 1956, the regime in Taiwan was providing significant ‘aid’ – in arms, money and training – to Tibetan rebels. You can guess the source of that ‘aid’. Already in 1949, the USA gave some Tibetan leaders US$75 million to ‘defend’ their country. In 1950, Tibetan ‘goodwill missions’ went to the USA, UK and India to ‘discuss’ Tibetan independence. From then on, a regular flow of ‘aid’ went to Tibet and the feudal pretenders around the Dalai Lama, via India, while the CIA trained Tibetan saboteurs in Colorado. When parachuted back into Tibet, they were spectacularly unsuccessful.

You can bet that such ‘encouragement’ of Tibetan ‘independence’ has not abated today.

I don’t know much about Tibet or its political history so can’t comment on this aspect of Boer’s rant. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if his comments about spiritual-religious politics are on the money or close to the mark. If so, the transformation and re-branding of Tibetan Buddhism (and the Dalai Lama) for purposes of Western consumption are nothing short of genius.

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7 thoughts on “Dissing the Dalai Lama

  1. Seth Michaud

    “It is worth noting that in 1951, Tibet’s political leaders decided to join the P.R. China. ”

    Yes, after they were invaded by the People’s Liberation Army, and the 17-Point Agreement, which, incidentally, was not honored by the PRC, was signed under duress and without permission of the Dalai Lama’s government in Beijing.

    Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama tried to abide by the 17-Point Agreement. He visited Beijing in 1954 to attend a Communist Party congress even, but the PRC increasingly ignored it so yes, a revolt broke out in 1956. So what if it was funded by Taiwan? Does that undermine the legitimacy of Tibetan complaints?

    Roland Boer is a Stalinist and an apologist for the strong-arm tactics of the Maoists and the PRC. He’s hardly a reputable source on the history of the relationship between Tibet and China. Tibet was de facto independent from 1912-1950. Why would anyone recognize the invasion of Tibet as legitimate? Early PRC excuses for the invasion was to eliminate “imperalists” in Tibet. Who would that have been? India was already independent; the US ignored pleas by the Tibetans to the United Nations to come to their aid, and only gave a trickle of funding to the Tibetan rebels much later through the CIA. There was never any serious attempt to foment and support rebellion in Tibet, mainly because the logistics were too formidable. It was simple to annoy the PRC.

  2. Roland

    ‘Roland Boer is a Stalinist and an apologist for the strong-arm tactics of the Maoists and the PRC’. Oh my, what a compliment! I have added to the list of glowing assessments on my about page.

    Keep backing the reactionaries, Seth.

  3. Seth Michaud

    Great job not addressing the issue of the Tibetans’ right to self-determination, Roland. How does it feel to be the lapdog of a pseudo-Communist regime?

  4. Jayarava

    Looking at the whole blog I would say take it all with a grain of salt. He’s obviously fishing for reactions, and seems to have been gratified to get this one.

  5. John

    Is empowering a centuries old theocracy allowing the Tibetan people to really self-determine? It’s not exactly like the Dalai Lama was ever an elected position.

  6. Cris Post author

    John’s question seems pertinent. Or impertinent, depending on the degree of one’s adulation for the Lama.

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