The grim news from Tibet in the past month has escalated. I’ve been quietly reading each update on young monks who have set themselves on fire, hoping the world is watching, and will come to rescue them from their oppression. As I sat to write this, I received another update from International Campaign for Tibet:
Self-immolations continue in Tibet; 8th young Tibetan man sets fire to himself in Ngaba A former Kirti monk set fire to himself in a protest on the main street in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) county town just before noon on October 15. Norbu Damdrul, a 19-year old former monk at Kirti monastery in Ngaba, shouted “We need freedom and independence for Tibet,” and called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet as his body was burning, according to the same sources.
Norbu’s body was badly burned, but according to sources he was still alive when police stationed on the street extinguished the flames and kicked Norbu before taking him away. According to at least one source in the area, the vehicle transporting Norbu Damdrul left the scene headed in the opposite direction of the local hospital, Norbu Damdrul’s current whereabouts and well-being are unknown. A large crowd of Tibetans who had gathered at the scene was dispersed at gunpoint by security personnel.
I find myself thinking about the parallels, and differences, between these young men in illegally-occupied Tibet, and the groundswell of support for Occupy Wall Street, voicing discontent for broken systems, unbalanced power, and injustices.
The other evening I watched a video of Columbia University professor and Buddhist scholar, Robert Thurman, as he spoke at Liberty Plaza.
Robert frequently lectures on the Buddhist principle of interdependence, which in short, describes that no man is an island, that we do nor achieve anything independently; in his talk he weaves together the spiderweb of the the ‘corporatocracy’, of unions, health care, scientists, jobs, media, pollution, happiness (or lack thereof), and greed.
Robert addressed our relation to the young monks crying for justice:
“So this is the task before us, it is huge, and it is global. Because believe me, every Tibetan monk of 18 years of age, who doesn’t really know Buddhism yet even, and yet feels so oppressed by the Chinese dictatorship that he burns himself to death like a human torch. His only hope which he speaks of, to his mates in the dorm before he did that was “America still is free, America will not back these kind of dictators.” You can find it in the biographies of politicians in Russia, and China in the past. Actually Russia in the past, China in the present. And when Nixon went to China for example, so Kissinger could gribble to Mao. The prison guards in those prison camps, within one day, they went and poked the prisoners with their bayonets, “Now see what the United States is going to do for you, the land of the free, home of the brave,” cow-towing to a communist dictator. So that’s just a small example, that your voice here today doing your human microphone is heard world wide.”
(Note: shortened version, quote comes from original transcript of full speech.)
At the same park, many of my union friends from the New York Hardcore scene have descended as well; bound by their common love of street music, and a desire not to accept the status quo. As they are experiencing reaction from the police, and feeling their rights for free speech and to peacefully assemble pushed about, I wonder to myself, what effect will this have on our generation? They are voicing their discontent for their own experiences, will it carry across map lines? Will this experience lead them to continue to use their voices, louder and louder, for global injustices? I hope so.
I’m inspired by my friend the Street Dogs, a working class band that supports unions and human rights, and have made the correlation between Tibet and certain issues within our own country. They have worked with me to educate youth about ‘Made in China,’ the injustices of its forced prison labor and the ways we can use our voices for change.
Is it too much to ask that as our eyes open and our voices combine, that both ‘corporatocracy’ and fascist communism will both fall, and give way to democracy in its intended form?
Photo from Wonderlane via flickr