Rebecca MacKinnon’s Cool Idea

Rebecca MacKinnon describes herself as a blogger, journalist and educator. I’d describe her as a lady with a cool idea.

Rebecca is a journalism teacher at University of Hong Kong, and today her blog observes a curious phenomenon: how the Chinese think Westerners are brainwashed by their media while Westerners are convinced of the same thing about the Chinese. Both sides on the Tibet issue are certain that the other side is wrong.

Rebecca suggests people of East and West listen and chat with each other over the Net in order to expand and harmonize their perspectives. She suggests joining Twitter, finding a group that writes in Chinese, and writing posts there in English. Since many Chinese speak English, she thinks there’d be a response.

I think this is brilliant, an expansion of the freedom-web (see blogs below on that subject). And joining Twitter may not even be necessary to do it. At the bottom of Rebecca’s blog, quite a discussion has already ensued between people from East and West. What better way to learn about something, if you can’t be there, than to talk to the people experiencing it?

I posted this comment:

For me, the bottom line comes out to be: every people should have the right to determine their own form of government. If the Tibetans want Communism, they should have it. If they want theocracy, they should have it. If they want democracy or even anarchy, let it be theirs.

Right now it looks to me like they want China out of there. Is this true, Tibetans? Or are most of you grateful that Communism freed you from the theocracy? All I’m seeing and hearing of Tibetans on the news and on the Net is Tibetans rising up for independence. If that’s what they want, it’s their right to have it, despite the fact that I personally think a return to serfdom and Communism would suck.

It’s not my choice, nor is it a choice for the Chinese to make or the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan people should organize a vote and unanimously decide. Then the rest of the world should respect their decision.

P.S. The people here who say Americans have no right to criticize the Chinese when we have invaded and tyrannized Iraq are absolutely right. Whether it’s Communists doing it or Capitalists, forcing yourself into another country is plain wrong. I believe the people of every culture are pretty much controlled by their governments. It sure was not the majority of Americans who wanted to invade Iraq, but did our government care what we thought? Governments run themselves, and they also run the people. It should be the other way around.

These days it looks to me like anarchy, or small groups of people governing themselves and developing a sustainable economy together, is the best form of government any people could have. The more libertarian we can become, the freer I think we’ll be, and we all should boycott our governments when they violate human rights. No one can be free when they’re being bossed around by big government, be it Communist, Capitalist or any other.

That’s my two cents. Visit’s Rebecca’s site, listen, and speak your mind.

Bronte Baxter

Tibet: Another Side to the Story

An apparently Asian woman who blogs under the name “FactsandTruth” has put up a mind-blowing website which she claims tells the real story of Tibet. The site is full of photos of the Dalai Lama smiling with famous Nazi leaders, and videos and articles on the history of Tibet that turn the Western perspective upside-down.

Before the Communist revolution, these sources allege, Tibetan power was in the hands of the wealthy ruling class, which consisted of the lamas and the landed aristocracy, while 95 % of the people lived as slaves and serfs. Little boys were conscripted into service as monks when volunteers were in short supply, and slaves were executed by owners who would give their dead bodies to lamas in exchange for the Dalai Lama’s blessing. The monks would allegedly strip these bodies of skin, long bones, liver and heart which they used in their rituals. The website further alleges that the story we’re hearing in the West is propaganda spun by our media in partnership with the CIA agenda which has supported the Dalai Lama all along.

So who is lying, and how do we tell? And why, if Bronte Baxter is so smart, did she make a lot of hoopla about the glorious freedom movement in Tibet when there’s serious reason to suspect it may be snickering behind its hand at us along with our favorite bad guys?

The last question first. Yours truly Bronte Baxter spoke from limited knowledge. I based my opinion on a smattering of experience and didn’t look deeply enough into the story before taking a position. Or rather, more charitably, I took a sincere position which now turns out to probably be wrong. There’s something to be learned here.

There’s always another side to every story, and beneath both sides there is usually a third. No one has a corner on truth. Not you, not I, not even those we most respect and admire. Any of us are, at best, thoughtful people observing what’s around us and calling it as we see it in an effort to live freely and honorably. But how tempting it is to defend our initial positions from the onslaught of incoming evidence! To become attached to looking good or to being certain and right. But if we pick certitude and image over our search for the truth, we fail ourselves in the deepest way possible.

I once heard an incredible man named Robert Morning Sky remark that to have integrity we must be willing “to follow the trail of truth wherever it may lead, at whatever the cost to me or my opinions.” It’s one thing to say, “Oh yes, I live that way,” quite another to do it. But if we don’t do it, if we don’t consider the uncomfortable opinion and question our own assumptions, we are ourselves dogmatists, sitting fat and happy inside our sorry fortresses of self-delusion.

We can’t afford to follow people anymore. Look at where it got us. We have to follow the facts, guided by gut instincts. When a trail turns cold, we have to abandon it, then pick up the scent again as quickly as we can. In doing this, we come to trust each other, fellow explorers finding their way through the woods. If someone climbs a tree today and gets a glimpse of the world from the top of the forest, we cheer him for his report. But tomorrow someone else will be in a different tree shouting down different visions.

No one person should ever become “the leader.” We can’t afford to build new hierarchies. That’s what corrupted this world, with a few elite and powerful exploiting the rest of us. Everyone has the Infinite whispering in their hearts. Let us make that our collective leader.

But back to Tibet. Who’s telling the truth? The Chinese Communists or the American media? The monks I heard speak at the Tibetan performance I wrote about, who may have been misled in their innocence? Maybe the short Tibetan man who used to work in the lunchroom near my office, who passionately spoke of genocide in the country he had to leave. But was he a former serf or aristocracy?

I know a German woman with a Ph.D. whose special research interest is the Third Reich. She told me once about Hitler sending a radio as a gift to the Dalai Lama during the Second World War. A Nazi emissary carried it for days over the snow-covered passes to get it to its Lassa destination. I was chillingly reminded of that when I read Dalai Lama’s alleged Nazi connections on FactandTruth’s website.

Is it really possible that a man and a religion that preach compassion and kindness could be pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes? Before the Communists came to Tibet, did lamas really conscript little boys to be monks, torture prisoners, enforce a feudal system that consigned most of the population to poverty, and use human organs in sacrificial rituals? Is the Dalai Lama really in bed with the CIA and were the Nazis his friends?

If these things are not true, Tibetan Buddhism may be the only religion on earth not in the back pocket of trans-dimensional entities who feed off human suffering and worship. Is it likely that Tibetan Buddhism is the noble exception? More likely that we were taken in again, in our wish to believe in something good. Goodness is out there — we weren’t wrong about that. But there’s reason to question it behind the Dalai Lama’s smile.

Bronte Baxter