letters to the west: A Plea to Friends and Family

7 August 2007

Dear friends and relations —

I am going to beg you, to take a few minutes of your precious time, and actually read the following. I apologise that it is long. I don't know how to make it any shorter.

At this time (3pm) tomorrow (8 August), while most of you are sleeping comfortably in your beds safely in your own country, thousands of Tibetans will be protesting (peacefully) in New Delhi, for their right to do the same.

By this time tomorrow, perhaps the Indian government will have responded in its usual fickle manner. and proceeded to beat up the peaceful demonstrators and throw them in jail.

You may not know that the country of Tibet has been crushed under the cruel and repressive rule of China for now almost 50 years.

You may not know that traveling in India, and from Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, is nowhere near as easy as us westerners have it. So every single one of the thousands traveling to Delhi had to make a major commitment in time, money, discomfort, and potential imprisonment and beating (at home and in Delhi) in order to get to Delhi to voice their support of their country.

You may not know that Delhi police are nothing like western police — there is no consideration of "human rights", "guilty until proven innocent", or any of those other niceties that we take for granted in the west.

You may not know that Indian jails are nothing like jails in the US. They are filthy, crowded, cesspits. If you want anything decent to eat, you need someone from outside to bring it to you. Access to outsiders, including lawyers, is at the whim (and bribes) of the jail keepers.

You may not know that the reason for people braving these horrendous conditions, is that for nearing 50 years, their country (Tibet) has been undergoing an occupation and a genocide that makes the German holocaust of the 1930s and 40s look like a practice run. (This is not James' emotions talking. This is documented, historical information, that the major governments of the world have been fully aware of the entire time.) That every one of them has family and friends, (just like you, my precious family and friends to whom i am writing now), who have been jailed, tortured, forcibly sterilised, denied schooling and living wages, within Chinese-occupied Tibet.

You may not know these things, because for some reason western governments, from the very beginnings in the 1950s, have deliberately chosen to ignore them. While millions of dollars go to produce lovely movies about exotic Tibet, to attend teachings by His Holiness Dalai Lama, to buy Tibetan books and carpets, to send money to Tibetan refugee organisations, and write articles to oooh and aaah over their cute clothes and sad situation ... the torture and killing continues, with the conscious (documented!) decision by governments of other countries to *ignore* it.

You may not know these things, because for some reason the world media have deliberately chosen to ignore them. When i do a search on google for this, i find very very little about it. I believe that as well as the blood-thirsty preferences of the media, also the hand of China, and the desire to do business with China, is causing this news blackout.

You may not know that for the past 4 weeks, 14 Tibetans are sitting in an indefinite fast at the consultate area of New Delhi. Some of them are pretty old — so within the next week or so, one or two of them will probably die. There are other Tibetans waiting to take their places when they do. And these Tibetans are now taking care of these very people, while waiting to take their places! Could you do that? I couldn't.

But then — you may not care.

There are certainly way too many "causes" in the world to care about, and no way to do anything about them.

I understand, i am the same way! The extent of man's inhumanity to man *is* quite overwhelming.

For me, the extent of people's deliberate *blindness* to this inhumanity, has become even more overwhelming. And less understandable.

So i am only asking you — in fact, i am pleading with you — as someone who is nominally a "friend" or "relation", meaning that we possibly share some of the same ideas or world view — that you take only a few moments to

  1. Go back and reread this missive (that you just scanned over to try to find out what the heck is my point, ... so you could smile indulgently, at that sweet James who is off on a high horse again, and go back to whatever you are doing ...)

    For just a very few seconds — just a few, i promise! — try to understand what i am saying, to realize that this is a *real* thing happening, and it is happening to *real people*, who have been friends of mine for many years now, just as you have been a friend of mine for many years — and so by extension these people are "friends of a friend", and maybe have some connection (if not only because of their essential humanity), to you.
  2. When you are cluck-clucking with others over the evening news about the sad situation in Afghanistan, or Darfur, or Iraq, or other places where violence abounds and the media feeds lustfully upon it, please add just one cluck, one little cluck, for Tibet — whose people have chosen to resist the incredible wrongs being done on them by the greatest power of the 21st century, not with guns and bombs, but with boring (and so non-media-worthy) peaceful means such as commmunication, dialogue, protests, hunger strikes, and ... prayer.
  3. Think — for just a few seconds, that's all i ask! — that there might be something a little more noteworthy, a little more deserving of attention, in the particular world tragedy of Tibet:
    If our struggle through nonviolence with a compassionate feeling succeeds, we will be creating a new way to solve problems and conflicts and thereby serve the interests of the entire human community.
        — His Holiness Dalai Lama

    Think that, if the Tibetan's cause succeeds. King's and Gandhi's and Dalai Lama's "experiments with truth" may eventually become recognised ways of dealing with conflict throughout the world.
    Think — know! — This isn't a Beatles' song to "imagine". This is a real attempt by real people, ordinary people just like my friends and family, to fight unimaginable oppression with peaceful means.
    And think that — if this attempt does not succeed, it may confirm what people have always believed: that only violence will solve complex problems. And set that in stone for hundreds of years to come, for your family's children, and their children, to live with.

I am not asking for words of support, or praise for what a "great job" i am doing. I am not the one hanging by my thumbs in a Tibetan prison. So if you feel the need to send praise, please send it to those who actually deserve it.

I am asking, pleading, only that you just add one tiny spark of awareness of this situation into the world consciousness. Just one time. Just for today. While my friends are undergoing their struggle in New Delhi.

And maybe, some day, Tibetan people will be able to lie comfortably in their beds in their own country.

Just like you.

Sadly, and frustratedly, yours,

— james

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