Monday, March 17, 2008

Tibet: a confession

When I was younger - say, 15 years ago - I was deeply dismissive of the Free Tibet campaign. It was not that I was against the rights of the Tibetan people; I just didn't care that strongly for them.

Partly, as a pretentiously iconoclastic radical secularist, I was suspicious of a national liberation movement led by the Dalai Lama, who I saw as basically a huckster (I also hated Mother Theresa, Archibishop Desmond Tutu and Gandhi. I'm no longer sure which ones of those I was right about), and suspicious of the filthy rich Buddhists who led the campaign from the West, such as Richard Gere. That was, to me, sufficient cause to differentiate myself from it.

Probably more significantly, I saw the support given to the movement (which was very fashionable then, probably second to the anti-apartheid movement in being generally accepted as right-on) as an easy option, because it fit in so well to the anti-Communist Cold War ideology that was dominant in the Thatcher/Reagan era.

I now diagnose this dismissiveness as part of the Stalinophilia that afflicts much of the left, even in its ostensibly anti-Stalinist varieties. By Stalinophilia, I mean the worldview that sees the Peking and Moscow families of state socialist regimes as bulwarks against the "real" enemy, Western capitalist/imperialism, and therefore, despite their evident evil, worth supporting (albeit "critically").

I am ashamed of that.

On Tibet, meanwhile, read this great post at Flesh is Grass. And a slightly different view from the Jura Watchmaker.

P.S. Today's version of this Stalinophilia, of course, is Islamophilia, the idea that political Islam should be supported ("critically" or not) because it is the enemy of the "real" enemy, Western capitalist/imperialism.


Anonymous said...


About the only one of the five "icons" you listed that hasn't been attacked by Christopher Hitchens is Des Tutu, but that's probably because he's flown a lot lower below the radar than the rest... ...despite Tutu's efforts to the contrary (i.e. his little campaign against Israel)

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Now, now, Bob, don't torture yourself for that sin of youth. I have noticed that beer in quantities makes this specific pain go away.

BTW, there were many more of them (sins) where this one comes from, and of more thrilling variety, so feel free...


Nestor M said...

Reminds me of an old Gerry Sadowitz routine, the purpose of which was to ensure that there was no-one left in the audience he hadn't offended: "Nelson Mandela, what a cunt."

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Anonymous said...

last week at the stop the war march lots of 'Left newspapers'. Today at the tibet protest none.

Courtney Hamilton said...

I just hate the way that Free Tibet campaigners have hijacked the 2008 Olympic games - such campaigns remind me just why we should separate politics from sport.

I often wonder if any of those protesters today even care or watch the Olympics? And all this hallow talk of boycotting the Games is just that, hollow and pathetic. Imagine athlete's who had trained for 4 year turning around and saying 'I'm going to boycott the Games because of what China is doing in Tibet? Then no-one would turn up to the 2012 Games in London because of Iraq, Northern Ireland, or Afghanistan would they?