Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't believe the heap

This just in! mountain made from molehill, film at 11
Kathmandu, Nepal

We have enough mountains here in the Himalayan Former Kingdom. In fact, with no petrol, no money, no roads, limited diesel and propane, no electricity, no schoolbooks and no real government or rule of law it's about all we've got.

I can't help but notice that some writers have lately added to the surplus, marking "Mountain" on our cultural and political maps where mere "Molehills" once stood.

One easy way to create a mountain is to heap up the hype of "news" where there is none.

Case in point: (jumping over to the western Himalayas for a moment):
Nicolas D. Kristof's
assertion a couple weeks ago that HH Dalai Lama's acceptance of Communist Party Rule in Tibet marked a "major turning point" (or some such nonsense) in the so-called dialogue between the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Chinese.

"An Olive Branch from the Dalai Lama"? What was he doing before, hurling invective?

Breathless with exci
tement, the double-Pulitzer winner Kristof rings what he clearly believes to be a clarion call:

One signal is this: For the first time, the Dalai Lama is willing to state that he can accept the Socialist system in Tibet under Communist Party rule. This is something that Beijing has always demanded, and, after long discussion, the Dalai Lama has agreed to do so.

News Flash to Nicky!: The Dalai Lama has always said this. He's been saying it for years (HHDL always says he's a socialist anyway, even calling himself a Marxist) and besides, it will hardly be seen as some major concession - the Chinese never considered it up for discussion.

Before I could muster my disdain for this silliness,
Manyank Chhaya beat me to it in this very lucid article which explains the non-event.

Indeed, the entire (widely republished, including in the International Herald Tribune) article appears to have been written in order for Kristof to reiterate, "I met the Dalai Lama personally. That's right, I got to sit and talk with him. The BIG D.L.! and ME!"

It's just like last year's reports that claimed the Dalai Lama was going to "resign." The Dalai Lama's been saying for literal years that the minute he's not needed politically, he will devote himself entirely to delivering Buddhist teachings and spiritual matters. This is nothing at all new.
Every writer just wants to be the first to break some new angle on a Dalai Lama story so they try to put old Chhang in new bottles. dot dot.....

By the way, in case you were wondering what the so-called "dialogue" or "talks" between HHDL's special envoys and the Hu Jintao sound like, our special Siren On the Scene had her ear to a tea-glass against the wall at the most recent Round of Talks in Beijing. She swears it went something like this:

HH: We give in! You run the government, just let us run our own religion. That's all we want.


HH: Not really, actually you can stay in political and military power....we just want to run our monasteries and rituals according to our own traditions.


HH: Uh, no...

China (sticks fingers in collective ears): LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA LA........

(Lather, rinse, and repeat - for the past six years.)

The "di" in dialogue means "two." The Sino-Tibetan DI-scussion is more of a monologue, going only one way.

And in other non-news....

On the other side of the Himalayas, scandal-mongering secularists attempt to create child abuse stories where there are none. The way to create a mountain, in this case, is to accrete creative imagery and selective exaggeration atop a religious custom you clearly don't understand.

There is plenty of child abuse in Nepal. Bonded labour, child trafficking, and so on. But these folks aren't concerned with that.

Witness today's "news" by AFP's Sam Taylor:

KATHMANDU (AFP) - A Nepali tradition of locking a young virgin girl in a palace and worshipping her as a "living goddess" has been dealt a blow with the country's Supreme Court ruling she has the right to go to school.

"LOCKING a YOUNG VIRGIN" (as opposed to a wrinkly, OLD virgin) "in a PALACE! " Now there's real objective journalism - visuals courtesy The Brothers Grimm.

It's sort of like saying that child monks are locked in a monastery, or that kids in a Catholic boarding school are prisoners. They are kids. Their parents decided where they would go, like most kids. In those places, there are rules. No kid has a "right" to go just anywhere he or she wants to...that's part of what it means to be a kid.

These girls' parents accepted the title of Kumari for the girl. They could have refused. The girl receives home-schooling, which is quite a luxury in a country where many children get no education at all. Her health care needs are met. There is no "labour" to speak of and even if there were, why are the plaintiffs not equally concerned with the thousands of bonded child labourers across the region?Above: Sajani during, and below after, Kumarihood. Photos by me

What if the girl doesn't want to be a Kumari? What if she doesn't want to enter a beauty pageant, be a child spokesmodel on TV, or take piano lessons? Do kids ever really get to say no?

Sure, she could be non-cooperative. She could sulk and be rebellious (I definitely tried it). The parents could still force her to do any of these, non-abusive, activities.

Those claiming to be so concerned for the various Kumaris' "rights" should review the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ones they keep harping on but haven't actually read. It seems none of them are violated by the Kumari tradition.

...the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

I would submit that the meaning of participating fully in cultural and social life varies from culture to culture. In a typical Nepali household, "full participation" of girl children in family life means doing a full day of chores after school, if they do indeed attend school. Carrying water from the well, chopping vegetables, sweeping, cleaning, laundry and so on are all "full participation." Female literacy overall in Nepal stands below an appalling 27%.

The Kumari is exempt from all these things, and as such is quite privileged, rather than deprived. There isn't a whole lot of hanging out giggling at the mall involved in the average Nepali girlhood. All the Kumaris are able to receive visitors and play with children their own age - they are hardly sequestered in the locked palatial towers Taylor suggests.

Some interested parties made much ado about the Bhaktapur Ekanta Kumari's being "forbidden" to travel overseas last year to promote the documentary Living Goddess. In fact, Sajani Sakya herself was never forbidden to do anything. The seated KUMARI, however, traditionally does not travel in such a way. Sajani was free to go, but that would mean surrendering the title of Kumari. It was her (and her parents') decision.

Every title and position has its rules. Miss America, Eagle Scout, Class President and other titles can also be rescinded if protocol is not followed. The person is free to do as they like; but in order to retain the title, they must follow the rules. It's not a rights issue, it's an issue of whether or not you want to keep the job.

And that's about all the non-news that's fit to print.

1 comment:

veracity said...

Great thoughts!

It is time for international intervention on the Tibet issue.
Politicians, form every country, for five decades, have rung their hands in public over the atrocity of the illegal Chinese occupation, but never shown the least bit if courage to make a tangible impact.
Time is fast running out for Tibet under the perverse policies of the occupying Han Chinese.
Now time has come for righteous politicians from the so called civilized nations to bring this issue to the UN, and as a first step force the Han Chinese regime to accept at least some semblance of accepted international human rights standards, all of which they’re signatories to.

Every self respecting nation calling itself civilized should immediately:

• Declare Tibet an occupied nation.
• Recognize the Tibetan Government in exile.
• Force China to cease its illegal occupation through intense, coordinated international pressure.
• Postulate the issue before the UN and bring about resolutions to the same effect.

The Dalai Lama’s good intentions are being exploited to the full by the CCP and made a mockery of, by their resorting to puerile berating of his HH, and questioning his legitimacy.
The legitimacy question is China’s alone.

What’s preventing these ‘righteous’ politicians around the world to exert a coordinated and concerted effort, and get China to accept their responsibilities under all the treaties signed by them.
Is everybody cravenly petrified of what the ‘implications’ might be if they ‘offended’ this dissolute cabal?

‘China’ is a perverse construct by the Han Chinese; they’ve invented the grotesque fantasy of the ‘nation family of 56 ethnic groups’ to masquerade their illegal occupation, annexation and settlement of these ethnic minorities’ lands.

This anachronistic, colonial and thoroughly racist empire is doomed to failure; they rose by, and just manage to hold onto power by the barrel of the gun.
Remove the gun, and with it evaporates their raison d'être, and their perceived ‘legitimacy’ arising from it.