Friday, March 14, 2008

The Future of Tibet (2.27.08)

Our taxi driver who took us to beautiful and frozen Yamdrok Tso the day before picked us up. His kid was along for the one hour ride to the airport to catch a flight to Kathmandu. Driving past the new economic development zones and new buildings constructed on the edge of Lhasa, the Chinese influence is clear. I also looked at the new houses along the way in a different light. Yesterday, I was pretty impressed with quality and size that I had seen. I asked someone about it, and they laughed, saying that the Chinese were trying to improve the look of the rural areas, and were forcing farmers to move to the roads and into new housing. I later heard that the Chinese had passed an edict, stating that all Tibetan houses would have to be rebuilt to Chinese standards within 7 years. Clearly, this is what was happening. Some farmers now had a huge space with nothing to put in it. So, why not give people more space and better quality materials? That is development, right? The developing world. Or the developed world. What?

The Tibetan issue as well as the train is a little too complicated to synthesize in a paragraph or two on a blog, nor did my limited experience and interactions give me a voice to speak knowledgably about the issue. Most Tibetans (or the ones we met and the ones they know in Lhasa) actually work for the Chinese government or a Chinese company, and of course, have to speak Chinese. You will not get hired if you do not speak Chinese. There are very differing opinions about the role China is playing. I met a Chinese guy in Shanghai who was living in Tibet, teaching English. He felt pretty strong that Tibetans needed someone to rule for them because they wouldn’t know how to deal with the rest of the world, since most of what they have been focused on in their own culture and nothing else. However, that did not jibe with the Tibetans I met.

At the end of the day, the train is going to have a massive impact. Sometime this year, there is supposed to be a new luxury train that will have glass ceilings and cost $1000 a day. Most of the people we met seemed to have indifference to it. But, as sort of resigned indifference, a strong opinion, but not worth flauting or talking about because there is nothing to do about it. But, as with everything, they do not express lamentation of frustration. It is a very resigned and steady strength, which rises (and seems to have in the past risen) above any impositions and dominations and subjugations. At the end of they day, the rich faith, spirit, warmth, sincerity, and generosity seems to be flowing as strong and graciously as ever. And I suspect it will continue to do so. Change, change, change. But not really.

I just received this article about demonstrations in Lhasa. I guess some monks feel there is certainly something to do, as they did in 1989.

For some reason, i can't get the link to past. but, check out the new york times for an article on Tibet clashes with police on March 15.

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