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The G20 and economic crisis:

RANGZEN – YES WE CAN.
By Thondup Tsering

It has now been more than 21 years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama first proposed in Washington DC the Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet; 20 years since the Strasbourg Proposal to the Members of European Parliament; and almost 30 years since the “direct contact” between Dharamsala and Beijing was first established. Like most Tibetans, I have been waiting all these years and hoping that something good will come out of all this. So, the other day when His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his lack of confidence in the Chinese leadership because of the absence of any positive response from them, I said to myself, this is what I feared.

One of the fundamental requisites for any successful dialogue is a genuine desire on the part of both parties engaged to find a solution. I, for one, believe that China, from the very onset, never intended to find a resolution. Why would they? China is already in full control of Tibet -the land and its people. This was and continues to be a sinister ploy on the part of China tobuy more time hoping that the issue of Tibet will disintegrate and disappear once His Holiness passes away.

I have always believed in leadership through the power of truth – the truth about Tibet. The truth that Tibet was an independent nation until China invaded in 1949. I have time and again heard His Holiness state that truth was on Tibet’s side and that ultimately truth will prevail. So, around 1979 when His Holiness announced that He was giving up Tibet’s independence in favor of a “Middle-Way” approach, like many other fellow Tibetans, I was overwhelmed with confusion, not knowing what to make of it. As time passed, I realized that this was a compromise to save Tibet and Tibetan culture by a sincere and a well meaning leader who had the best of intentions for the welfare and wellbeing of both the Chinese and Tibetan people.

In 2000, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Anan, emphasized the importance of truth to a gathering of students and faculty members of Hampshire College. I asked him why he was preaching ‘truth’ when one truth is that the organization that he represents passed three resolutions on Tibet, and that even after 40 years, has failed to act on any one of them. His response to me was, “I wish I could say that this world is perfect……that truth always prevails.” This was a very instructive moment for me because what he was really telling me was that in this imperfect world of ours, where policies and decisions are dictated by self and national interests, TRUTH DOES NOT PREVAIL but truth needs to be lived, nurtured and secured. If Tibetans truly believe that Tibet was an independent country and wants to be independent, we have to dream RANGZEN and then live that dream. Or else, as the Chinese say “a thousand lies make it true” and then there is a real danger that Tibet will cease to exist one day.

Whenever one makes an argument for Rangzen, the inevitable counter argument is that Rangzen is not “realistic.” In His Holiness’s Strasbourg Proposal, referring to his idea of Tibet becoming a self-governing political entity in association with the People’s Republic of China, He states, “I believe these thoughts represent the most realistic means by which to re-establish Tibet’s separate identity…..” I believe that the introduction of the word “realistic” in any discussion about a nations’ future, and especially in our ongoing struggle for self determination, is very disenfranchising and disempowering. What is unspoken but clearly communicated is that we should give up the idea of Rangzen because Rangzen is not realistic. The only way to make any crucial and complicated mission “realistic” is to believe and live the dream. Only then will the dream have a chance of becoming a reality.

Imagine if some 47 years ago, President John F. Kennedy believed that it was not “realistic” to dream of going to the moon. The first space walk on the moon never would have happened. Imagine if 61 years ago, the Indian leadership and its people believed that seeking independence from the British Empire was unrealistic because ‘the sun never sets on the British empire.’ India perhaps would not be an independent country today.

Thinking about Rangzen, my memory goes back to my early years as a child at TCV and later as a staff member, when we were all unified in our mission and belief in Rangzen. The students, parents, cooks, teachers, nurses, and office staff – we all knew that whatever each one of us was doing at that time, it was in preparation for that beautiful dream of Rangzen. We were unified and strong in our belief in RANGZEN. We did not know then how and when Tibet would regain its Rangzen. Yet, I know for sure that it gave us all a tremendous sense of pride and purpose. It was this sense of unified belief and purpose that propelled us to be recognized as one of the most successful refugee communities in the world. Today, when I visit the settlements and schools in our community, the loss of that sense of unity and direction is apparent.

November 4, 2008 was one of the most beautiful days in my life. Even though I could not vote, I celebrated the victory of President Elect Obama. His victory was historic and showed once again that it is important to dream big (without letting reality limit your dreams) and to live that dream. Nothing is impossible. Remember, this was a country where about 44 years ago people of African heritage did not even have the right to vote. Back then it was considered unrealistic and inconceivable that one day a black man would become the President. Today Barak Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America. That dream has become a reality. One of the main reasons that this dream became a reality today is because the people of African heritage believed that all human beings are created equal and they lived that dream. Of course all this did not come soon or easy, but there is a lesson that Tibetans can learn from this. Today’s dream can become a reality tomorrow. If we dream Rangzen and live that dream, no matter how hard or how long the road ahead may be, one day, one day Rangzen will become reality! RANGZEN – Yes We Can!

A special meeting will be held later this month to confirm our mission and renew our dreams. As His Holiness said, “When all is said and done it is for the Tibetan people themselves to decide about their collective future.” I thank His Holiness for this opportunity. I call upon all Tibetans to speak out and participate in this historic meeting. Let not your hopes and dreams be limited by reality, but guided by truth. I recognize that it is possible that I may not see Rangzen in my life time or, for that matter, in my children’s lifetime. But I would be proud to have left the Rangzen legacy for future generations of Tibet and will take comfort that one day, Rangzen will become reality. This past spring, Tibetans from inside Tibet have spoken. Now is our time to say loud and clear in a unified and strong voice –RANGZEN! YES WE CAN!

The author is a residence director at the University of Massachusetts and can be reached at thondup@educ.umass.edu

An Open letter written by Alice Walker, to Barack Obama:

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

© 2008, Alice Walker

Barack Obama’s response to a questionairre on Tibet from the International Campaign for Tibet. Senator Obama was the only presidential candidate to respond to the questionnaire.    

International Campaign for Tibet 

Senator Barack Obama Response  Read the rest of this entry »