February 15, 2007
The People's Daily Online reports that the rail link to Lhasa allowed many more Buddhist pilgrims to attend the December 27th Sera Bengqin Festival at Sera Monastery than in previous years. As the People's Daily put it, "Tibet ended its history without a railway in July 2006," but the railroad has brought more concern than jubilation for Tibetans, who understandably would rather diminish than strengthen their ties with "mainland" China. When the railway first opened I read about the Tibetan plateau's fragile ecosystem, home to several unique species, and rather like an island in biological terms. Any conduit from the outside that allows for easier invasion by other species, or that allows for species to be poached and smuggled out is obviously a threat. This struck me at the time as closely describing the situation with Tibetan culture itself, like a rare and threatened animal.
But it will be difficult for the West to exert any leverage (let alone moral authority) in an attempt to stop China from doing anything we don't approve of, as the economies of all the Western countries depend on China's system of cheap slave labor. So get used to reading about what the world's premier totalitarian nation -- a dictatorship containing the world's most rapacious, unrestrained, and exploitative capitalist system -- is doing, and it won't be pretty. And just shake your head and turn the page because nothing will be done about it.
(I know many of us in the West, specifically the U.S., don't think of ourselves these days as having much moral authority to accuse other countries of wrongdoing, but as we've often heard in the last six years, maybe it's true that people in other countries still look to the U.S. and the West as being in a position to help, or point out abuses of human rights and so on. There are still nations where the everyday rights we really do take for granted are unheard of and citizens live in fear of arbitrary arrest and expressing their opinions can get them imprisoned. But with every day that goes by we seem to slide further down the slope from the city on the hill... but so it was in the Vietnam era, and many other dark times in our history. As long as our fundamental liberties are kept intact and there is open dissent and unafraid criticism of official policy, there will always be hope. And even without freedom, under the most terrible repression, still there will always be hope. Isn't it pretty to think so?)
Philip Ryan, Webmaster