Lessons from Tibet

The violent crackdown on pro-Tibet demonstrations has shed some light in the closet of China’s economic miracle, revealing an authoritarian regime and unfettered capitalism. Staring at the closet is a hypocritical West that hails the cheap industrial and free trade zones, but turns a blind eye to the oppressive practices, the environmental disaster and the violation of so-called universal human rights. In our materialistic world, the case of Tibet, a struggle of David against Goliath, is a reminder of some forgotten, monastic communities where spirituality, metaphysics, respect for all species, tradition and the slow passage of time have real meaning and functional value. Perhaps Tibet’s Buddhist values are unsustainable outside the limits of this closed community. But why should this community not be left in peace? Take a look at Mount Athos, that cradle of spirituality, free from secular claims. It’s a helping hand for many people and a living monument for us all. The resistance of the weak Tibetans against the Chinese giant brings to mind the modern tradition of peaceful resistance, from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, and more recently the Burmese monks who clashed with the dictatorial generals. This spiritual, non-violent form of action has come to be known as soft power. The soft power of Gandhi, Mandela and the Dalai Lama is a response to the hypocrisy of raw violence and the world that uses theories about ecumenical rights to justify humanitarian bombings, pre-emptive strikes and the formation of protectorate states. The state of monasteries, the gateway to the world, may not gain its independence now but time is surely on its side and in favor of the soft power. And this clash is teaching everybody a lesson.

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