Wednesday, April 09, 2008

San Fran, Over to You

The torture relay managed to survive the Paris hurdle on Monday and has made it to San Francisco, the city that has - since the Vietnam war - embodied contemporary participative democracy.

Over in Beijing, officials are still spouting their propaganda, talking of how people "love China" and blaming the outpouring of disgust, anguish and anger seen in Paris and London on a "handful of Tibetan separatists." And their citizenry who can not access basic information on the Tiannenmen Square massacre from within the nation on is suddenly not only well-informed but apparently able to hit the web to defend the Beijing regime! And they talk of British imperialism and the Opium Wars to defend their government's shameful record on human rights in Tibet and elsewhere. Just for that, this shameful spectacle has to be brought to an end.

However, beyond China's abysmal human rights record and its brutal occupation of Tibet, we who are citizens of democratic nations have a vested interest in bringing this horror-filled theatre of the absurd to an end. Here are just a few of the many reasons why the tor(ch)ture relay must be stopped RIGHT now:

1) There is NO tradition of the Olympic torch being carried about as a symbol of peace, harmony or anything else. The Greeks never had the torch carried down for the Olympics. It a publicity stunt that was created by the Nazis for the Berlin Olympics and revived by the Australians for Sydney 2000. And now the Chinese have mounted a massive spectacle to demonstrate their hegemony over oppressed people.

2) There is no reason why the Chinese government should be allowed to use the taxpayer's money in democratic states to justify its brutality - which is EXACTLY what happens when MY tax pounds are used to mount that horrible spectacle on Sunday in London.

3) The torch relay has broken all norms of representative democracies by allowing a bunch of thugs of the Chinese government to function with impunity in countries that value democracy and freedom of expression. I saw them go after protestors in Trafalgar square - something few of the media followed - using brute force. Would we allow Mugabe's thugs to stifle protestors against his regime? Or the Ayatollah's goons to attack protestors in London, Paris etc?

4) The spectacle of elected governments playing along with China's brutality undermines democracy and sovereignity where the torch is relayed. Why was the Met taking order from the aforementioned goons? Why did the same thugs determine to ignore the Parisian mayor?

This is not an IOC torch. This is Beijing's political PR stunt. This is not sports, its politics pure and simple. And its time to end it.

We in London set the bar. Paris took it a step further - thankfully with the help of its elected representatives. San Fran, its now up to you! Put out the torch! Tell the world leaders that bending over backwards to privilge the greed of big business and Chinese interests over democratic principles is not acceptable.

March tomorrow. In peace, but with vehemence. Stop the torch if you can! Or at least shout loud enough to shatter the glass walls of the towers of hubris where Chinese leaders dwell. Stop this sickening spectacle with which we are being to collaborate.

In Peace. For Tibet and All of US! Bod gyal Lo!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Stand Up and Be Counted: Its NOT just Tibet!

In the tumult of the past two days, reams of newsprint and acres of webspace have been devoted to the protests against the PR spectacle of the Olympic torch going through obstacle courses of protesters.

The most disturbing aspect of the whole saga is of course Chinese blindness and hubris that allows them to pass off London and Paris protests as works of a "minority," while claiming that the majority of the people support its brutal regime. Even more frightening are the news-clips of Chinese people - both in China and abroad - who don't question their regime's propaganda or care to find out why the world is not entirely approving of their government's behaviour. If there is an equivalent of the brain-washing a totalitarian regime such as the Nazis achieved, it must be China.

A few points need to be made, basic ones that have been drowned out by mainstream media looking for sell-able clips and photographs.

1. Most of the protesters are NOT a minority nor some sort of loony fringe, but rather members of democracies who pay their taxes, exercise their franchise, and now express their dissent in ways that are guaranteed by democratic states.

2. The police in London were generally quite controlled and disciplined, as warrants the law enforcement of a democratic state. The Paris police did seem to get a bit more rough but that is part of French gendarmerie tradition. But neither of the two police forces came anywhere close to the limited (by the Met) brutality the blue-clad "pretend athlete" Chinese thugs have engaged in (especially in London).

Finally, given that mainstream journalists get PAID to write reams, why has there been such sloppy analysis of the issues surrounding the torch relay and the pro-Tibet protests? On the other hand, everything I wanted to say regarding necessity and importance of the current protests has been said by one of my favourite bloggers in what counts as the logical expression of a critical, democratic mind (read the article here).

The protests are not just about Tibet, they are about the world we - and our children - will live in after the weakening of the American empire. They are about basic principles of democracy and expression - both of which we need to guard jealously against our own states (hence, London and Paris) but also against the growing brutal hegemony of the Chinese behemoth that crushes all dissent.

This is not just Tibet. It is all of us!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Torture Relay Must be Stopped!

Okay, so Tibet is a cause that is particularly close to my heart - I grew up in a hill town near Dehradun amongst Tibetan exiles. My father worked with the exiles and my first memories are of hot momos, sonorous chants, and apparently boundless affection that distinguishes the community.

I saw His Holiness for the first time when I was three and yet that memory lives in my inner eye with a clarity that is inexplicable. I have seen him since on other occasions, wondering how he carries a burden greater than any leader of any people: the responsiblity not only for the welfare of Tibetans - both in Tibet and abroad - but also the leadership of a struggle against an enemy so implacable and greater that any resistance must appear hopeless. And beyond that he must also protect and care for the soul of his nation. Yet he does all this with grace and infinite compassion, with a laugh as innocent and infectious as that of a baby.

Which is why I went out on possibly the winter's coldest morning to protest the PR spectacle with which the totalitarian Chinese regime hopes to drown the voice of Tibet. And I was not alone: thousands of Londoners turned up, complete with dogs, children, families, to show theirs. For our stretch, the protesters were mostly middle-class professionals (this was Nottinghill after all) but extremely vocal. Perhaps that was a good thing because the police were well outnumbered had there been a real intent for disruption. Naysayers suggest that the scuffles have let down the cause of Tibet. Instead, imagine that only 35 of the thousands of people who lined 31 miles of streets were arrested today. If that doesn't shout out peaceful protest, perhaps the world should listen harder.

Another point that needs to be made: much has been made of how politics and sports shouldn't mix. Well, China began the mixing and today was no different. Chinese "thugs" (for that is EXACTLY what they were) formed the inner most security ring around the torch. They wore the pale blue uniforms of the Olympics, disguising themselves as "athletes." Yet these were steely-eyed trained security men, working with horrific cohesion as they pushed out protesters during scuffles and "protected" the torch with something approaching religious fervour. The spectacle of the generally polite and helpful Met shoulder-to-shoulder with thugs of a totalitarian state can only be described as an extreme theatre of the absurd.

So what was the point? Well - the message was sent out loud and clear from London today: China cannot sweep its brutal oppression and steady annihilation of the Tibetan people under the rug by mounting a PR exercise. Even when the PR exercise is worth 30 billion dollars.

What happens next? Well, the message needs to be repeated again and again until it penetrates the Chinese self-delusion. That means EVERYwhere the torch goes, the scenes from London today must be repeated. Go out on the street, fly the Tibetan flag that is banned in Tibet, shame those celebrities who feel that a minute of TV time is more important that human lives.

Simon Jenkins of the Times called for a "tunnel of shame" for the torch this morning. Lets make sure that the tunnel of shame grows right around the world, until China is forced to listen. This may be last real chance Tibet has - if we look away again, it will be too late. Jai Tibet! Jai Bharat!