President Obama and the Dalai Lama Hold a 'Religious Meeting'
this religion, which is somewhat reminiscent of Zoroastrianism, good confronts
evil, the world is divided into dictatorships and democracies, and the battle
against dictatorship is conducted by living symbols, embodiments of goodness
The Dalai Lama: The activities of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and renowned champion of non-violence continue to provoke histrionics on the part of Beijing that most people in the West find nearly inexplicable.
The meeting between the U.S. President
Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama - confirmed time and again for Feb. 18- isn't politics. It's religion. And not the Lamaist one, but the
one without which those who we call "the West" couldn’t fathom
their existence. It's the one that stands above any mosaic of American
Protestant churches, above Catholicism, Judaism and all other religions.
In this religion, which is
somewhat reminiscent of Zoroastrianism,
good confronts evil, the world is divided into dictatorships and democracies,
and the battle against dictatorship is conducted by living symbols, embodiments
of goodness and light. For example, take Presidents Yushchenko [Ukraine]
and Saakashvili [Georgia]:
why is it that their images are so different at home than in the West? Because
for some, this is a pair that have personalities ill-suited for presidential
work. But for the average American or European, these two turned out to be the
very symbols of goodness. We've seen so many of these symbols already,
including the “early” Boris Yeltsin in Russia …
But the Dalai Lama - and
don't compare him to Yushchenko - take it up a notch, since the age of two, the
74-year-old has been a living god, the earthly incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. So, becoming a repository of holiness for
yet another religion is more than normal for him. In addition, the Dalai Lama
(who is, by the way, a sweet, charming man) doesn't make political mistakes,
because he doesn't govern. He preaches nonviolence. He's a moral leader.
Barack Obama’s White House meeting with the
Dalai Lama is of course received by most people as an element of international
diplomacy - an indicator of relations between the U.S. and China, respectively the
first and second world powers (as one element of all aspects of their
influence). Will there be a scandal, a rift, or a break in the birth process of
the new Washington-Beijing relationship? If so, it will happen soon. And more likely then not, it'll only be a pause - and it won’t be due to the Dalai
Lama. It will be because Obama is slowing down, sensing unwillingness
on the part of American society
to alter its conception of the world and its role in it too radically.
By all indications, U.S.
society feels a certain pull toward the past - not toward the era of Bush the
younger when it saw everything go wrong. But more likely toward the era of Bill
Clinton, the time of illusions about the coming American century. Crises
generally encourage people to look not so much to the unknown future, but to a restoration
of a beautiful past. Hence the decreasing popularity of Obama, who not only
promises but implements reforms, hence the past and possibly future losses of
the Democratic Party in the fight for Congressional seats. And in this
situation - would they turn the Dalai Lama away from the White House? Of
course, Beijing understands all this and won't raise hell too seriously over this
ritual meeting with the Dalai Lama.
This is a
ritual, among other things, because Barack Obama is unlikely to discuss with the Dalai Lama questions
regarding the use of the Tibetan government in exile to undermine China's
internal situation. It's unlikely that even the most radical American
politicians today see any chance of weakening China from within. But the issue
here is the Tibetan exiles themselves. This is a phenomenon.
The Dalai Lama and several
his peers are the last generation that remembers Tibet as it was in 1959. Then,
on the eve of the rebellion of the lamas and the entry of Chinese troops into
the Tibetan autonomous region (from which the founders of the current Tibetan Diaspora
fled to India), their homeland was a feudal theocracy, stuck somewhere
between the 14th and 15th centuries in terms of education, health care, the
judiciary and slavery. Today, the Tibetan exile is very much one of the 21st
These are people who very actively
travel the globe and are busy with serious business. Not only in India (where,
by the way, frictions often arise between Tibetans and the locals because of land
purchases by the Tibetans, etc). But try and find serious research or even
detective novels about this worldwide Tibetan network: you’ll have a hard time.
It's a closed field. Even the number of people involved is unclear: in Tibet
itself there are 5.5 million people. But outside - how many are there today,
from the headquarters in Dharamsala (India) to a mission somewhere in Iowa?
Seventy thousand? A hundred forty thousand? More … ?
These are people who, in this
age of globalization, have a pass: their access code to capital and connections has
been, and remains, the slogan, “Freedom for Tibet.” The Tibetan Diaspora has learned
to mix business and politics. In particular, they have an excellent understanding
of modern information technology. Try to search for a multilingual Internet source
on Tibetan issues and you'll find little more than crude anti-China propaganda.
And most importantly - this Diaspora will not go away - it will be a
reality for decades to come.
The Chinese authorities are unlikely
to expect the U.S. president to issue an order cutting the oxygen off for the Tibetan
exiles. America has had enough of al-Qaeda, which the U.S. gave birth to and
then abandoned. And according to available information, there were tentative
contacts between Americans and Chinese about the possibility of similar
problems with the Tibetans. But that is, shall we say, still very much at a
working level. Not the one above which hover the two high priests - the
president of the United States and the Dalai Lama.
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