The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dalliances with the Dalai Lama

I'm still not really back to blog, but I'm perplexed by the Dalai Lama Fever that seems to be gripping our politicians - to meet, not to meet, to meet with this hat on or that one.

Maybe I've been watching too much Penn & Teller*, but what's so fabbo about shaking the hand of a man who wants to return Tibet to a repressive theocratic state? I mean sure, some self-determination would be ace, and I'd like to see an end to the Chinese occupation, but I'm not convinced that having the country run by misogynistic priests is really the best alternative.

Am I missing something major here?

* I was going to embed the YouTube clip as a footnote (!!) but it wouldn't work straight off so I gave up.


Rich said...

Does he want to do that?

Tibet might have been undemocratic in 1950, but I don't see that it follows that the Dalai Lama or the Tibetans want to go back to that.

The ideal would be a democratic, tolerant and independant state. Sadly this is unlikely to happen unless and until there is some kind of revolution in China.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Dalai Lama is misogynistic. There is alot of reform of Tibetan buddhism and women's roles.

Also, it's good to consider that women's roles in other cultures can be different than the west without being necessarily more repressed (eg pakeha feminists have often been critical of gender roles within Maoridom that is quite at odds with, and ignorant of, the reality of Maori women).

Basically I see the Dalai Lama as one of the relatively good people on the planet in terms of progressive politics, so I'm intrigued to see such a negative and damning post from you Span.

Nice to have a blogpost from you :-) I'd been missing them.

Terence said...

"some self-determination would be ace"
Independence would be ace; some self-determination is about the best they can hope for.

I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the DL claimed that the Chinese occupation was a product of the bad karma that the tibetans built up whilst they were theocratic. That sounds silly to me, but not really indicative of a yearning to return to theocracy.

Having said all that he's not really my cup of tea (not even my cup of Yak Butter tea). But hey, he's a representative of an occupied nation - I'd like our politicians to be principled enough to meet him.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Span on this one. And I'm even going to stick my neck out, just a little, and say that women's rights are more fundamental than cultural rights. If cultural rights were fundamental, then we wouldn't be concerned about FGM, or honour killings.

Having said that, it's also fairly clear that different cultural practices are not necessarily misogynistic, just because men and women are treated differently. Nevertheless, it's a question that has to be asked every time woemn seem to be treated less well in virtue of being women - is this a case where we need to stand up and condemn the cultural practice? Or is it a case where we can wait and see whether the cultural practice is something that is up to the culture itself to examine, and change, if that's what they want to do.

Judgemental? You bet!!! But to simply say that something is acceptable beucase "it's just their cuture" means that you step away from the responsibility to think.

Craig Ranapia said...

Am I missing something major here?

Indeed, Span. The same day Helen Clark was equating Destiny Church members holding a lawful and legitimate (if nauseatingly distasteful) protest outside to blackshirts at Nuremberg, her photo op with the trade minister of an actual repressive theocracy (Iran) passed with little comment and zero outrage.

And here's something to think about: The Dalai Lama may be a theocratic douche bag with great PR, but I do wish our politicians weren't quite so craven in massaging the 'sensibilities' of mainland China. I'm all for hats coming back in fashion, but this week was just funny, in every sense.

Anonymous said...

The Dalai Lama has said explicitly that he supports a constitutional, democratic system for Tibet with complete equality between men and women. He personally favours left-wing politics and said during his trip to NZ that he was spiritually a member of the Greens.

I don't think you can judge the DL by the system he inherited in Tibet as a child and left when he was 15 years old.

Anonymous said...

And please, Penn & Teller? Span, you of all people should no better than to listen to the selective crap put out by those libertarian charlatans!

Span said...

Thanks for the comments, I'm glad to hear that the DL has come out for democracy and equality. I remain a bit sceptical however - I've been wondering a lot recently about how we often check our critical faculties at the door when it comes to some causes, and I'm hoping to write something brief on that soon. Should we totally write someone off because their are aspects of their politics we don't like, or things they have done in their personal lives we find abhorrent? Sometimes I think yes, sometimes no. Inconsistent, probably; human, definitely.

On the issue of different cultural practices I'm with Deborah, no surprises there. I acknowledge weka's point about Maori though, and it's something I'm acutely aware of when I'm in tangata whenua space (for want of a better term).

Span said...

Oh and saying you are spiritually a member of the Greens is not a free pass that magically makes you never sexist and always progressive.

Insolent Prick said...

I look forward to you advocating the US invasion of Iran on the basis of it being good to get rid of an oppressive theocratic state, provided there is a degree of self-rule.

If any other Nobel Peace laureate had come to New Zealand, Aunty Helen would be the first to meet with them. This is purely about bending over backwards to pander to Chinese sensitivities.

Span said...

So because I am sceptical about the merits of meeting with the Dalai Lama I'm somehow all for pandering to the Chinese Govt?

Yes I can totally see how you would jump to that conclusion IP. (/sarcasm) Yawn.

Anonymous said...

Well, he would say that he's all for democracy and that he's spiritually a green, when he's being entertained by the Green Party, wouldn't he?

What is a spiritual green, anyway?

Rich said...

I think colonialism is generally wrong, even when there is the excuse that the colonised are being misgoverned or oppressed. It's better for people to sort out their own problems than to be taken over by those who think they know best.

That applies to China in Tibet, the USA in Iraq and indeed to John Howard's little coup against the indigenous people of Australia this morning.

LK said...

I thought that Tibet over the last 60 years hasn't been a fully theocratic state. The other ruling part was a government branch of some kind.

And the official wish of the Dalai Lama is not for full independence but of an autonomous status within China, a bit like Hong Kong. They did used to be an independent empire in their own right before China engulfed them and the argument between the two states has always been when did Tibet become part of China and was it even legitimate.

The merits evident in meeting with the Dalai Lama in my mind would be the obvious support of the qualities he (and his followers) so strongly believe in and what he won the Nobel for: peaceful, non-violent and compassionate solutions for a better world.

You may be sceptical about what they really will do in Tibet if they ever are given the chance, but consider that unlike the previous Dalai Lamas, this man has lived and travelled the world for 38 years now and the influence of other cultures on his life cannot be ignored.

When it is said that they wish equal rights for women, I believe them.

And Helen Clark in my opinion was just trying to kiss the underside of China's shoes but that doesn't neccessarily mean that you agree with that either. Unfortunately, world affairs are just not that black and white.

Amanda said...

I think the Dalai Lama is a force for good in the world. He isn't perfect- he is human after all- but he has probably done more to advocate for world peace than any of us. And personally I have found some of his writings very helpful in thinking about how to live my life and view the world in a calm, non crazy making way- as have many, many others.

I think Helen Clark should have met with him. As PM she is our representative on the world stage. Whether you agree with the DL or not he is a world figure who has done no harm to anyone. It was just plain rude to snub him.

Incidentally I went to a breakfast talk thing with Sonia Davies (a now deceased NZ trade unionist and activist for those who don't know) one time and it came out that her and the Dalai Lama had met and had hit it off and were quite good friends. Doesn't sound like he is a theocratic misogynist to me.