New Internationalist

Hello Dalai!

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Issue 414

Regular NI contributor Anna Chen casts the second Stone.

HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images
HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images

How lucky we are to be born in the enlightened West where we eschew cults of personality in favour of merit. Not for us those mindless automata praying at the altar of Stalin, Mao or Simon Cowell. No, we sophisticates know when we’re being shimmied up the garden path. After all, we got rid of our troublesome clergy in the 16th century. Hey, we even decapitated one of our kings – only one, but it’s the thought that counts.

So what exactly is the lure of the satsuma in specs that is His Holiness, the Dalai Lama? In contrast to China’s trigger-happy capital punishment system he’s certainly seductive.

Celebrities and politicians – two cheeks of the same overfed bottom – flock to Dolly for enlightenment and the chance to soak up a bit of the transcendency transmitted by His Happiness without doing any of the work. Fame, glamour and power? Yum!

Caught with a rodent gnawing away at your fundament and in need of redemption and a bit of nifty PR? Hello Dolly! Owned a few human beings in your time like Dolly’s beloved mother? Forgiveness is yours.

But Sharon Stone, reincarnated as a moron, said the recent devastating earthquake in China was karma for Tibet. Seventy thousand people died as some sort of divine retribution for politics. What kind of a religion is that? Funny how when anything happens to other people it’s karma, or bad stuff they’ve earned through their own actions. Yet whenever bad stuff happens to the Tibetan ruling élite it’s so unfair.

Just a suggestion: maybe what’s happening to them is divine karma coz in their medieval feudal theocracy one tiny group of Tibetans used to own all the other Tibetans. Maybe it’s divine karma because those peace-loving Buddhists used the death penalty until 1920 and torture well into the 1950s. Dolly was overseeing CIA-funded guerrilla warfare from exile in the 1960s – even while he was publicly renouncing violence. What is that, anyhow? Extra backup just in case the divinity’s asleep on the job? It’s okay, God, move along. Nuthin’ to see, we got it covered.

Ooh! There I go being all Chinese and oppressive again. ‘Leave him alone, he’s mastered the art of being happy.’ Know what would make me happy? $180,000 dollars a year paid into my personal bank account by the CIA(1). I reckon I’d never be in a bad mood again.

On the other hand, look what China’s had in one year: freak snowstorms, earthquakes, flooding. One plague of boils and I will be hedging my bets.

  1. In 1998 the LA Times reported declassified documents showing $1.7 million a year paid by the CIA to the Tibetan independence movement in the 1960s, with $180,000 paid to the Dalai Lama personally until Nixon stopped US support in the 1970s. The Tibetan government-in-exile acknowledges the $1.7m but denies any went directly to the Dalai Lama.

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