From Tibet to Wall Street: Cries for Justice


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?


Related Stories:

Tibetan Monk Sets Himself on Fire in China

Dalai Lama Forced To Cancel Trip To South Africa

In Solidarity: Two Months of Chaos for Tibet’s Kirti Monks


Photo from Wonderlane via flickr


Angelina F.
Angelina F2 years ago

Are there no more recent posts/petitions with regards to Tibet?? :(

Heidi Minx
Heidi Minx6 years ago

@ Will R -- Will, I'm perplexed by your comments. You seem to be posting events that happened 60 years ago as a justifiable means for torture, mass resettlement, and genocide today? Please no rhetoric....
The fact it Tibetans want their homeland back, and Tibetans have chosen to revere the Dalai Lama - is this grounds for their current torture in your eyes?

Colum N.
Colum N6 years ago

This is very sad indeed.
Why is our the supposed 'democratic?' world governments and china letting this happen?
it's totally unacceptable and completely inhumane the oppression these peaceful people are under...
We all need to speak up about this shit state of affairs!

patricia m lasek
patricia lasek7 years ago

Judging by the votes in the US Senate yesterday, I would say that the protesters voices are falling on deaf ears here in the USA.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers7 years ago

Cont... ...Though I do know he has met Mandela at least once at the nobel peace prize ceremony. Though why he was getting a prize is beyond me as all he does is talk mysteriously which sounds alright at first but under scrutiny are just meaningless platitudes, but then again some people are a bit simple and are easily satisfied and placated. They really should change that phrase; There's a sucker born every minute, to there's a sucker born every second'.
Get real people this is the age of information, look for yourself, we don't need gurus when there's facts. And so I end this piece with the closing words of what Mao Tse Dong said to the Dalai lama at their last meeting. "Religion is poison".

Will Rogers
Will Rogers7 years ago

Lillithe m. Why are you trying to justify this slavemaster? Tibet was a slave society. And a monastery is not a school. Did you know that Mao tse dong destroyed 6000 temples in Tibet. Nearly half. There were only 1.2 million people living there at that time, which means that they had at least 1 temple for every hundred people who they exploited ruthlessly for their own good, and what do you think these temples taught? Mathematics and building and engineering? No. Theology and religious devotion. It is not disengenious to say they were no proper schools or universities. It is a fact. And what about Debt bondage, and the fact that it was your duty to always give one of your children into the service of the temple, and punitive taxation and chopping off people's hands. Are you trying to say this didn't happen? What? You think this was some kind of benevolent religious society where the people were happy? Those people were in rags living under Buddhist fundamentalists. All this romanticism about poverty is frankly disgusting. 
The inter Buddhist fighting I knew nothing about. What were they fighting for? Control of the people? The land? You're so selective. The point is; he was an untypical despot who if he cared for the Tibetan people would have abolished slavery. And the other point I made about supporting the fascist leader Pinochet and his refusal to condone the evils of the apartheid regime, which I suspect is behind the ANCs  boycott of him. Though I do know he h

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance7 years ago

This is the year for the human spring. Whether, Arab, Tibetan, American, Australian, European, Japanese --- all are searching for and demanding justice. In Tibet it is about freedom from Chinese oppression, in the US it is about the inequalities between rich and poor, in various Arab countries it is about oppression by rulers and social inequalities.

Be the change you want to see in the world. --- Mahatma Gandhi

Lilithe Magdalene

Will, you have some of it right - Tibet had incredible sectarian fighting amongst the different schools of Buddhism - including assassinations.

To say that had "no" schools is disingenuous - they had schools and universities aplenty - but they are based on Buddhism, so do not look much like what we think of as school - the focus is on Buddhist studies and practice, but they are also schooled in regular subjects. Most of the students are ordained.

I know for a fact that the Dalai Lama would agree that there were many changes that were seriously needed for Tibet. He was ready to make these changes when he was ousted - he never even got a chance to. He was too young, but was aware, willing and ready.

I highly recommend the movie "Kundun" for a sense (yes, it is still Hollywood) of the Tibet the Dalai Lama grew up into and what his goals and aspirations for Tibet had been.

None of that makes it OK what the Chinese are doing and have done. Hospitals are only so great IMHO, but good to have around. Good to eliminate serfdom for sure. But China has brought pollution and noise and illness and death and a loss of culture (Tibetan culture is still one of the most deep and serene in aspiration and intention). No doubt it needed change - but not the kind of change China has wrought.

Lilithe Magdalene

This is a crossover from another thread about Africa and "conflict minerals", but the strange and terrible irony that it is cell phones and computers built with conflict minerals that are allowing us to know of these atrocities of slavery.

May we find the peace, and the balance, and the truth and the humanity of it all - really, really really soon. Like - today. Right now.