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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

A Lie Repeated -- The Far Left's Flawed History of Tibet

July 17, 2008

By Joshua Michael Schrei
Students for Free Tibet

"A lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth." --Chairman Mao

As a lifelong activist who has worked on human rights issues around
the globe, I hold the view that the best representatives of a culture
are its people; that people create their own history, and in the case
of the colonized or the oppressed that history is often rewritten by
the oppressor. I do not assume that simply because a country is
communist or socialist or capitalist that its practices toward its
own people or its foreign policies are more or less honorable; beyond
all the rhetoric, the reality of a situation can always be measured
by the affected people themselves.

The Tibet issue is one that the far left has found to be somewhat of
a conundrum, for the simple reason that most other popular human
rights struggles can be easily linked to a larger struggle against
U.S. or European imperialism. Therefore these struggles - be it in
Palestine, or East Timor, or Colombia, fit nicely into the larger --
and often rather myopic -- worldview of the leftist.

However, Tibet is a case in which the struggle for basic rights and
nationhood is being carried out against a communist government, so it
has brought with it a host of questions for the leftist, who
naturally leans towards socialism or communism as an ideological
example of a system that stands in contrast to the 'imperialist west'.

China, the country that invaded Tibet in 1950, has stood as one such
example- though the Chinese government's practices over the last 53
years and its current bent towards totalitarian capitalism would tend
to defy any labeling as a positive example. Nonetheless, China's
history of socialism and revolution remains as something of an
inspiration for the Western left, and therefore certain historians-
predominantly scholars with some form of Marxist or Maoist agenda-
have seen the current popularity of the movement for Tibetan
statehood and have taken it upon themselves to give a glimpse into
the grim reality of 'old Tibet.'

The most recent historian to embrace this view of 'old Tibet' is Dr.
Michael Parenti, a Yale scholar who, in the course of his career, has
written on a variety of populist causes. To be fair, Parenti stops
short -barely- of condoning the Chinese occupation. He does however,
cast a decidedly unflattering view of life in pre-1950 Tibet.

In his writing on Tibet, Parenti shares something in common with all
of his predecessors -Anna Louise Strong, A. Tom Grunfeld, and Roma
and Stuart Gelder among them- in that his writing on Tibet is
essentially argumentative. He is not writing in order to give an
unbiased history of a nation, he is writing in order to prove a
point. In this case, the point he is trying to prove is that the
society of 'old Tibet' was a terrible place, and that the resistance
movement that is so visible today is essentially a movement to
re-establish this despicable regime.

In Parenti's words, old Tibet was "a social order that was little
more than a despotic retrograde theocracy of serfdom and poverty, so
damaging to the human spirit, where vast wealth was accumulated by a
favored few who lived high and mighty off the blood, sweat, and tears
of the many. For most of the Tibetan aristocrats in exile, that is
the world to which they fervently desire to return. It is a long way
from Shangri-La."

I have chosen to dissect this thesis because it houses many of the
common arguments presented by Chinese government propagandists on
Tibet, as well as many of the arguments that modern day Marxists and
Maoists regularly hurl at Tibet activists on Internet chat rooms and
at protests. As we will see, the flawed premise of this thesis
illuminates how the far left has gone woefully off the mark in its
efforts to undermine the legitimate struggle for Tibetan rights and statehood.

Again, I am a firm believer in people's history. And the core problem
with Parenti's position is that it is simply at odds with the
statements, testimony, and shared history of the Tibetan people
themselves - the people Parenti is supposedly defending. The view of
Tibet that Parenti ascribes to has been commonly put forward by
Chinese government officials - particularly the ones in the ministry
of propaganda. Once upon a time it was a view embraced by a handful
of British historians - most of them turn of the century explorers
and colonists in their own right. But it has always been an
outsider's view, completely divorced from the reality of how Tibetans
of all walks of life view their own society and their own history.

In his descriptions of old Tibet, Parenti predominantly draws on the
work of four historians - Anna Louise Strong, A. Tom Grunfeld, and
Roma and Stuart Gelder. The fact that all of these historians had a
romantic predilection towards Maoism and drew mostly on Chinese
government statistics should surely be cause for concern as far as
their legitimacy as source material. One certainly wouldn't trust the
Indonesian government's party line on Aceh or East Timor. Or, for
that matter, the U.S. government's continued assertion that the Iraqi
people welcome the current American occupation. Such manipulations of
public sentiment, in which an occupation is presented as 'the will of
the people,' are – as a rule – only employed to further the agenda of
the occupier.

For the most part, Parenti and the handful of historians who have
adopted the view of old Tibet as a despotic feudal theocracy have had
little if no contact with actual Tibetans either in or outside Tibet.
Therefore, they have no real way of gauging the sentiments of the
Tibetan people. Neither Parenti, Strong, Grunfeld, nor the Gelders
speak Tibetan - or Chinese for that matter- so the body of historical
literature on the Tibet issue that is available to them is extremely
limited. Tom Grunfeld never went to Tibet until after his book was
published. Anna Louise Strong – a diehard Marxist – was given a
tightly monitored Chinese government tour of Lhasa and then went on
to proclaim that "a million Tibetan serfs have stood up! They are
burying the old serfdom and building a new tomorrow!" One might say
that one doesn't need to go to Paris to know the Eiffel tower exists.
However, before dismissing an entire culture's history as
despotically repressive it is perhaps worth speaking to a few of its

Instead, Grunfeld repeatedly draws on the writings of a handful of
British colonial explorers, who - as explorers often do - wrote down
every piece of suspicious folklore and hearsay as fact. Grunfeld's
source material for his depictions of Tibetans as cannibals,
barbarians, and superstitious fanatics is no more credible than are
the testimonials of early European explorers to Africa who spun yarns
of three-headed natives. None of these depictions are corroborated by
traditional Tibetan, Chinese, or Indian histories, which of course
were not available to Grunfeld because of his lack of interest in
learning the local language.

Grunfeld also makes extensive use of the writings of Sir Charles
Bell, who he quotes regularly and with no apparent regard for
context. Bell's stance was actually that Tibetans had been brutalized
by the Chinese army and that Tibet was an independent nation of far
greater 'character' than its neighbor. This seems to elude Grunfeld,
who chops up Bell's sentences in order to isolate the worst and most
sensational aspects of Tibetan society and present them as fact.
Grunfeld also makes cultural blunders that would make freshmen
history students squirm. As award-winning author Jamyang Norbu points
out in his brilliant essay The Acme of Obscenity, Grunfeld even
mistranslates the Tibetan word for 'Tibet'!

Parenti does little better in his treatment of history, erroneously
stating that the first Dalai Lama was installed by 'the Chinese
army'. One would presume that a Yale Ph.D. would know the difference
between Chinese and Mongols. But apparently, in the
Parenti-Grunfeld-Strong school of history, one word is as good as
another and a Chinese is as good as a Mongol, as long as the point gets across.

With such evisceration of history as common practice it quickly
becomes obvious that none these historians' writings on Tibet exist
to illuminate true Tibetan history. In fact, neither Grunfeld, nor
Strong, nor Parenti seem remotely interested in the specifics of the
culture they're discussing.

For example, as Tashi Rapgey points out in her dissection of Tom
Grunfeld's 'Making of Modern Tibet', the three social classes that
Grunfeld and Strong lump Tibetans into - landowners, serfs, and
slaves - have no relation to the actual breakdown of Tibetan society.
It is a completely arbitrary classification that has no basis in
reality-Tibetan society was never classified along these terms.
Certainly a historian writing on the caste system in India would not
reclassify Indian society according to their own liking or invent
names to suit their own vision?

There were indeed indentured farmers in old Tibet. There were also
merchants, nomads, traders, non-indentured farmers, hunters, herders,
warlords, bandits, monks, nuns, musicians, theater actors and
artists. Tibetan society was a vast, multi-faceted affair, as
societies tend to be. To reduce it to three base experiences – and
non-representative experiences at that – is to engage in the worst
form of reductionism.

Not only are Strong and Grunfeld's breakdowns of Tibetan society
grossly miscategorized, their observations and criticisms are
entirely removed from chronological and temporal reality. Folklore
from hundreds of years ago, local myths, explorer's whimsy, and
selective historical incidents are presented all together as static
truth. Every single bad thing, every monstrosity real or imagined
that occurred in Tibet between 1447 and October 6, 1950 is 'how it
was' in 'old Tibet.'  Fundamentally, this is not history. It is the
crudest form of argumentative politics, drawing on selective quotes
from non-native history - quite often the history of the occupiers
themselves  - and presenting it as fact.

In fact the entire notion of 'old Tibet' or Tibet under the Dalai
Lamas as a static is erroneous. Life under the 13th Dalai Lama was
drastically different that life under the 6th or the 5th. By the time
the 13th Dalai Lama came along, for example, the Tibetan government
had banned the death penalty – it was one of the first countries in
the world to do so. But somehow, in the mind of Grunfeld and Parenti
and Strong, Tibetans are to be held accountable for the actions of
their distant predecessors.

That there was an imbalance of wealth in Tibet is quite true (There
still is, only now the Chinese are the wealthy ones). Tibetans waged
war, robbed each other, had strict laws and engaged in corporal
punishment like all societies have done at various points in their
history. But what is insidious about highlighting solely these
aspects of Tibetan society is that these historians -Strong and
Grunfeld particularly; Parenti is somewhat excused from this
particular outrage-seem to be using 'how it was' in 'old Tibet' as a
justification for invasion and occupation, just as the United States
used the 'savagery' of the native populations as an excuse for their
liquidation. This is the politics of the colonist to the core, in
which the native is dehumanized and debased in order to make
occupation more palatable, even necessary, or 'civilizing.' Strong
does not even conceal her glee at the 'smashing' of old Tibet.
Politics aside, its rather frightening to think of celebrating the
demise of a culture that one hasn't had any direct contact with,
whose existence one has only read about in books.

The romanticism that historians like Strong and Grunfeld hold for the
Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet and the smashing of the old
ways is based on an inherently flawed presumption that the invasion
was some kind of people's revolution. The Chinese government line,
which Strong and Grunfeld and even Parenti seem to have bought into
-is that the Tibetan people, and particularly the Tibetan peasantry,
welcomed the occupation and in fact that it was they themselves who
'overthrew the landlords.' Such a supposition has no basis in fact.

The Chinese army rolled into Chamdo in Eastern Tibet in October of
1950 and decimated the 8,000-man Tibetan fighting force that was
assembled to resist them. That there were Tibetans who initially
greeted the arrival of the Chinese is without question; that these
Tibetans were the vast minority is also without question. Legitimate
histories of Tibet, such as Tsering Shakya's 'Dragon in the Land of
Snows' corroborate this fact.

Whatever romantic picture the Chinese government's propaganda
department paints of enslaved peasants casting off the bonds of
feudalism, there is little in the way of factual evidence to support
this. Most of the evidence produced by Beijing comes in the form of
testimonials recorded by party cadres, whose questionable nature as a
source of objective information should not even have to be mentioned,
especially coming from a government that excels in 'extracting
testimonials.' These testimonials are written in such
propaganda-speak that it is nearly impossible to read them with a
straight face; even more impossible to imagine anyone actually
uttering the words.

Oddly enough, in contrast to the Chinese government line that it was
the Tibetan peasantry who readily embraced communism, communism was
in fact much more popular - as it is in this country - among the
educated elite. The Tibetan communist party was a creation of sons of
wealthy aristocrats; the Tibetan peasantry on the other hand were the
ones who eventually formed the brunt of resistance to Chinese government rule.

Whatever the case, Tibetan opinion towards Beijing quickly cooled
after the signing of the 17-point agreement in 1951, and certainly
was not favorable by 1959, when a popular Tibetan uprising threatened
China's very grip on the nation. This resistance was for the most
part carried out by Khampa tribesmen in Eastern Tibet, who had
suffered some of the most brutal treatment at the hands of the
Chinese government. That these fighters were for a time funded by the
CIA does not – as Parenti seems to presume – represent some kind of
trump card that de-legitimizes the aims, aspirations, and existence
of the Tibetan resistance movement. The CIA used the Tibetans just as
it has it used nationalist movements in dozens of countries around
the world; with little thought for the local people and as a means of
waging their own cold war. The Tibetan resistance fighters, who came
from poor frontier villages in Eastern Tibet, were happy to have
anyone on their side. They had no way of knowing the larger political
framework that they had been sucked into. Ironically, it was the
Dalai Lama who put an end to this resistance, by calling on the
fighters to drop their arms and embrace nonviolent means of conflict

As for the reality of the subsequent Chinese occupation, which every
legitimate human rights organization in the world has labeled with
terms like 'cultural genocide', it should hardly need further
exposition. One of the most telling historical documents of the time
is the Panchen Lama's 70,000 word treatise to Chairman Mao on behalf
of the Tibetan people. Not only is this document considered by
serious historians to be one of the only reliable texts from that
time period, it illuminates the extraordinary kow-towing that was
necessary in order for even an elevated Chinese official such as the
Panchen Lama to speak to Chairman Mao at that time. Apparently, Mao
was not interested in listening to the day-to-day problems of the
'serfs' he 'liberated'. The Panchen Lama was sent to prison for
suggesting that people in Tibet were starving; the average Tibetan
peasant who offered the same criticism to his local Chinese official
did not fare nearly as well.

In his article Parenti again quotes Tom Grunfeld - whose idealism of
the cultural revolution should automatically remove him from use as
an unbiased source of historical data on the Chinese occupation of
Tibet - and asserts that 'slavery and unpaid labor disappeared under
Mao'. This sentence simply has no place in any legitimate historical
writing. Perhaps Parenti would like to sit down and have a chat with
the relatives of the thousands of Tibetans who were worked to death
by Chinese soldiers at the infamous Borax mine in Changthang. I've
met them myself, and they are far more deserving of a platform on
Tibetan history and cultural issues than Parenti. Mao's forced
sedentarization of Tibetan nomads was certainly not a liberation; nor
was the government-enforced switch to growing foreign cereal crops
which resulted in widespread famine in many regions of Tibet.

But again, the true testament to the fact that Tibetans have been far
from content under Chinese rule lie in the actions of the people
themselves. Ever since the Chinese invasion and occupation there has
been substantial popular resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet. This
resistance has taken many forms over the years -- leafleting, public
demonstration, mass non-cooperation, economic boycott, and armed
uprising are all forms of protest have been practiced by Tibetans
inside Tibet, at the risk of their own lives.

The Chinese government has faced phenomenal opposition from the
Tibetan people, certainly far more opposition than the Lhasa
government ever faced from its own population, which does not do much
to further the argument that 'old Tibet' was a terribly repressive
society. Nor does the fact that Tibetan refugees continue pour out of
Tibet at a rate never seen prior to 1959. In a classic case of
uninformed conjecture, Parenti supposes that Tibetan refugees never
left prior to 1959 because the 'systems of control' were so deep and
that Tibetans were 'afraid of amputation'. Any quick glance at a map
of Tibet, with its vast, unpatrolable borders, or any basic knowledge
of the structure of Tibetan society would quickly reveal that
Tibetans - should they have wanted to escape their 'feudal masters' -
would have had little problem doing so.

But perhaps there is no more telling testament to the Tibetan
people's sentiment towards their own culture than the fact that in
the early 1980's- when the Chinese government finally relaxed some of
its draconian policies towards Tibet- the first thing Tibetans set
about doing is rebuilding and repopulating monasteries - the very
symbols of 'old Tibet.'  The next thing they did was take to the
streets and protest for freedom and for the Dalai Lama's return. This
is not the behavior of a people who are trying to cast off their old
ways. It sounds more like a people who are trying to get their culture back.

This brings up again the essential flaw in Parenti's reasoning-it is
not based on the experience of Tibetans. The actuality is that there
is now and always has been a people's movement of Tibetans- in fact
the vast majority of Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet- who
overwhelmingly support the Dalai Lama and more specifically are in
favor of Tibetan statehood. This movement cannot simply be dismissed
as incidental, or foreign-backed, or primarily aristocratic in
nature. The argument that the Tibetan resistance is driven by
aristocrats is fairly essential for Parenti et al because without it
they would be forced to recognize the existence of this movement-and
the existence of such a movement would suggest that perhaps the
Tibetan people themselves are more enamored of the Dalai Lama than
they ever were of Mao.

The Tibetan resistance, both historically and currently, has been
made up of Tibetans from across the social spectrum. The Khampa
fighters in the late 50s and early 60s were certainly not
aristocrats, nor was Thrinley Chodron, a nun who led a bloody
resistance battle against Chinese forces in 1969. The Tibetans who
took to the streets and were gunned down in the late 80s were not
former aristocrats. Nor are the hundreds of Tibetans currently
languishing in Drapchi prison for expressing their desire for statehood.

Currently, there are over 150,000 Tibetans living in exile around the
world. There are nomads-in-exile, farmers-in-exile, truck
drivers-in-exile. To characterize this entire group as aristocrats or
former aristocrats is ludicrous. In New York City alone, there are
nearly 5,000 Tibetan refugees. I'm quite certain that Ngawang Rabgyal
at the Office of Tibet, who is charged with helping this refugee
community find jobs in the outer reaches of Queens, would raise an
eyebrow at the description of Tibetan refugees as 'aristocrats.'

The notion that the Tibetan community in exile longs to return to a
'Shangri-la' and re-establish their aristocracy is a banal and
uninformed argument that has nothing to do with the real and stated
aspirations of the Tibetan freedom movement. First of all, Tibetans
never called their country Shangri-La; it was an outsider, James
Hilton, who first did that. They never saw their country as a
paradise and the Tibetan community is certainly not seeking to
reestablish the same political system that existed in pre-1959 Tibet
(nor would it be possible). The Dalai Lama has all but abdicated his
position as future leader of Tibet – despite the fact that 98% of
Tibetans both in and outside Tibet would elect him in a heartbeat –
saying that he would rather attend to his religious duties than be a
political leader. The Tibetan Kashag is now made up of democratically
elected officials and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile –- which,
whether Parenti cares to acknowledge their existence or not, is a
legitimate entity charged with the welfare of 150,000 refugees – has
already outlined a democratic structure for the future government of Tibet.

The movement for Tibetan statehood permeates all segments of Tibetan
society. Nomads in western Tibet, herders in Changtang, farmers in
Amdo, merchants in Lhasa– the vast majority of Tibetans are vocal –
as much as they can be – about their nationalist aspirations. Anyone
who has spent time around Tibetans inside or outside Tibet knows this
as fact. This fact does not have to be footnoted; it is experiential history.

By way of personal testimony, before I ever became involved in the
Tibetan political struggle I went to Tibet myself.  I was there
during a period of martial law and at certain sensitive locations I
had to be escorted by Chinese guides, who made a half-hearted attempt
to show me the 'feudal torture chambers' of old Tibet and a statue of
a liberated serf 'breaking the chains of bondage'; the guides barely
seemed to believe it themselves. But even they could not produce
Tibetan citizens who would rail against the Dalai Lama or speak of
how they had 'cast off the bonds of
feudalism'. I know of no traveler to Tibet who has heard this type of
testimony. There are Tibetans in government positions in Lhasa who
will give you this line; and there are probably some Tibetans in
Tibet who believe it. But again, for the vast majority of Tibetans,
this is simply not part of the their experience. Get any Tibetan
nomad, farmer, peasant, or monk a few hundred yards away from their
local party cadre and the first thing they'll do is ask for a picture
of the Dalai Lama; the second thing they'll do is ask you to help
them free their country.

And there's the core of the matter: 'old Tibet', the Tibet that
existed pre-1959, simply does not represent to the average Tibetan
what it does to Michael Parenti, Tom Grunfeld, and Anna Louise
Strong. Scholars like Parenti and Grunfeld and Strong, with limited
source material and no firsthand experience, see old Tibet as a
horrible place; but the bottom line is they're not Tibetan. And if
Tibetans themselves don't see their past as a past of feudal lords
and merciless repression, then do they really need scholars like
Parenti to tell them what their past is all about?

Saying debasing things about a culture is certainly not
extraordinarily difficult; seen through the lens that Parenti and
Grunfeld apply to Tibet, most if not all societies would come up
short, as would many resistance movements. The real story then, is
not what these historians have to say, but why they have chosen to
say it in the way they say it.

Many Tibetans do welcome commentary and criticism on aspects of their
society; I have certainly been privy to many heated arguments on old
Tibet and on the future direction of Tibetan politics. But that is
because I have taken the time to really get to know Tibetan society.
Perhaps what is most striking about the history that Parenti and
Grunfeld and Strong present is the tone with which they speak of
Tibetan culture, without ever having experienced it. The facts they
deliver are clearly not being presented in order to help Tibetan
people. They are fairly serious charges, and as objective as the
authors pretend to be, these charges are delivered with venom.

Oddly, Parenti - like Grunfeld - seems taken aback at the emotional
response that his writing has evoked among Tibetans and their
supporters. It would seem fairly obvious to anyone with any common
sense that dismissing an entire culture - particularly one in dire
peril -and making statements that run completely contrary to
everything the vast majority of its people know from firsthand
experience would illicit an emotional response. Perhaps these
scholars are surprised because they have forgotten that words carry
weight, and that their actions actually have tangible results in the
real world. In the Tibet movement, the results have been clearly
measurable - Tibetan activists, who should be focused on returning
basic rights to a people whose lack of freedoms is documented by
every major human rights organization in the world, instead find
themselves in the position of having to defend the actions of a
bygone society. Former torture victims are accosted by nineteen year
old American college students who have never been to Tibet, never met
a Tibetan, and surely never had anyone in their family tortured with
electric cattle prods. This, for a people who are in a very real
struggle for rights, is not only extremely upsetting, it serves to
forward the agenda of their oppressor.

It is no secret that the Chinese government views propaganda as a key
weapon in its efforts to undermine the movement for Tibetan rights
and statehood. Chinese state run media - whose use of manufactured
and manipulated history is indisputable - regularly debases and
assails Tibetan culture and specifically the Dalai Lama, who is
dismissed with regularity - and relish. The Tibetan refugee
population is treated with equal disdain, the Tibetan
government-in-exile, which, again serves the very real function of
looking after the welfare of 150,000 refugees and lobbying
international institutions for rights and recognition, is dismissed
entirely. Luckily for Tibetans, Beijing's Orwellian rants about Tibet
- labeling the Dalai Lama a "serpent" and "the chief villain" - have
bordered on the hilarious. That is, until recently. Now the war of
words has spilled over into more legitimate circles.

Recognizing that Tibetans and the Tibetan struggle are generally
well-perceived in the west, and seeking to win the war of perception,
Beijing's propaganda strategy has now grown, with regular meetings on
external and internal Tibet-related propaganda.  One key element of
the new propaganda strategy is to make greater use of Tibet scholars,
both Chinese and Western. In 2001 a leaked Chinese Government memo
from the Chinese Communist Party's Ninth Meeting on Tibet-Related
External Propaganda stated "Effective use of Tibetologists and
specialists is the core of our external propaganda struggle for
public opinion on Tibet..."

With this as the political backdrop, levying ill-researched and
unsubstantiated charges at Tibetan culture - in fact the very charges
often employed by their Chinese occupiers to delegitimize their
entire society - is a dangerous game indeed. It is one thing to offer
criticisms of a culture or religion that is not fighting for its very
survival. It is quite another to rewrite the history of a people who
are already the victims of a propaganda war at the hands of one of
the largest propaganda machines in the world.

What surprises me most about the far left's flawed take on Tibet is
how quickly a piece of propaganda turns into 'scholarship,' how a
piece of hearsay becomes fact if given a footnote. Mao said 'a lie
told a hundred times becomes the truth.' Sadly, in the case of the
new Tibet 'scholarship', a lie footnoted once has already become
truth. A pool of bad information now exists, ready for any scholar
with an agenda to draw from and appear legitimate. Few will bother to
look beneath the surface, at the highly questionable source of this
information-colonists, oppressors, and outsiders, writing a history
that they have no place writing. And what gets lost in the mix, as
always, is the voice of the Tibetan people themselves.

There is one statement in Parenti's thesis that summarizes how
completely disconnected he is from any kind of Tibetan reality. In
his thesis, he states that old Tibet was a society that was 'damaging
to the human spirit.' Any person who has spent any time with the
Tibetan people would laugh at the irony. Being with Tibetans of all
walks of life, inside and outside of Tibet, one is always struck by
the incredible, contagious spirit of Tibetan culture. From the Khampa
drinking songs to the picnics that are the preferred activity of all
Tibetans, Tibetan society is known for its passion and exuberance.
This spirit is something that grows directly from the culture that
Parenti is so intent on debasing. This spirit is what the Chinese
government has tried so desperately to crush – making the singing of
freedom songs illegal and prohibiting traditional Tibetan festivals.
The struggle against totalitarianism is precisely a struggle for
spirit, and I'm willing to wager that a populist like Mr. Parenti
would find far more joy drinking chang and singing songs with a party
of exiled Tibetans than he ever would at a Chinese cadre meeting;
sadly, he won't ever get to find out. He's chosen his bedfellows, and
more power to him. In the end it is the Tibetan people who will be
the arbiters of their own fate. By the time that fate is decided
Parenti will be long gone, onto some other issue, and Tibetans will
be no worse off because of it.
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