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Debate on the Dalai Lama
January 6, 2009
3:03 am
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Here is an interesting and informative rebuttal of the Michael Parenti's article on Tibet.

January 6, 2009
4:18 am
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Guest_guest.

Please read and absorb. Then you might stop playing into the hands of the Chinese Communist Government just to win a stupid debate. Parenti has lost all credibility in regard to the Dalai Lama too.

Joshua Schrei, who, unlike Parenti, has the first hand knowledge and the experience that comes from living and working in Tibet, and who I referenced in the link in my previous post, writes:

"In a series of sweeping generalizations, Parenti then characterizes 'life
under the Dalai Lamas' as static, failing to explore the marked differences between the various Dalai Lamas. No mention is made, for example, of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's social reforms. Demonstrating a total lack of interest in historical fact, Parenti goes on to confuse the fifth and sixth
Dalai Lama for the first and second!

As the article progresses, Parenti's assertions grow even less grounded in reality until, by the time he presents the Chinese occupation of Tibet -- which all legitimate human rights groups in the world brand with terms like 'cultural genocide'-- as a 'liberation,' he has lost all credibility. To back up his points, he cites Chinese government documents replete with quotes from freshly liberated Tibetans whose names are the equivalent of 'Jane Doe.' He repeatedly quotes Tom Grunfeld, whose writings on Tibet draw on the most racist Chinese government depictions of Tibetans as savage cannibals.

If Dr. Parenti is interested in reading an unbiased perspective on the
situation in Tibet shortly after the Chinese 'liberation' perhaps he should
read the Panchen Lama's 70,000 word treatise to Chairman Mao on behalf of
the Tibetan people. Not only is this document considered by serious
historians to be one of the only reliable texts from that time period, it illuminates the extraordinary kow-towing that was necessary in order for even an elevated Chinese official such as the Panchen Lama to speak to Chairman Mao at that time. Apparently, Mao was not interested in listening to the day-to-day problems of the 'serfs' he 'liberated'. The Panchen Lama was sent to prison for suggesting that people in Tibet were starving; the average Tibetan peasant who offered the same criticism to his local Chinese official did not fare nearly as well.

Mao's forced sedentarization of Tibetan nomads was certainly not a
liberation; nor was the government-enforced switch to growing foreign cereal crops which resulted in widespread famine in many regions of Tibet. The assertion that slavery and unpaid labor disappeared under Mao is simply ludicrous. Perhaps Mr. Parenti would like to sit down and have a chat with the relatives of the thousands of Tibetans who were worked to death by Chinese soldiers at the infamous Borax mine in Changthang. I've met them myself, and they are far more deserving of a platform on Tibetan history and cultural issues than Parenti.

It is interesting to note that despite the assertions of a handful of
historians like Mr. Parenti that pre-1959 Tibet was a horribly repressive society, mass migrations of Tibetan refugees to surrounding nations were never seen prior to 1959 (despite the presence of a democratic nation with a large ethnic Tibetan population directly across the border to the south), nor was there any indication of famine on the scale that came shortly after. Yet ever since 1959 refugees have continued to pour out of Tibet at an alarming rate-- every year, thousands of Tibetan men, women, and children
risk life and limb to cross the Himalayas, where an uncertain future awaits them. This begs the question: If the situation in Tibet was so rosy after the 'liberation', why are people still leaving in droves? If it was as horrendous as Parenti presents pre-1959, then why weren't people leaving then?

Tibet pre-1959 was obviously not an ideal society; and if Parenti did a
little research he would quickly discover that there are few in the Tibet world these days who claim it was. Tibetans, like all other peoples, have fought wars and experienced violent periods in their history. Many of the highlands and mountain passes were populated by bandits and brigands; many of the northern tribes were governed by brutal warlords. Similarly, Many
Native American cultures were extremely brutal prior to the U.S. occupation of Native lands. Does that warrant their decimation? Many Native cultures now have higher rates of literacy and better access to allopathic medicine than they did a hundred years ago. Does that mean that the people are better off today? The argument that 'those backward natives were better off being liberated' is used time and time again to justify occupation; it is surprising that Mr. Parenti would resort to using an argument that reeks of the very colonialism that he decries in most of his other writings.

19th century British colonialists held two strikingly different views of
Tibet; the country was either presented as a mythical, idyllic Shangri-La or as a land of feudal 'lamaists' presiding over cowering peasants from their dark dingy monasteries. Neither of these views, of course, were accurate, as
they came from the perspective of outsiders, and quite often outsiders with a colonial agenda. As Tsering Shakya illuminates in his brilliant essay 'Blood in the Snows' in the New Left Review, this colonialist worldview has nothing to do with on-the-ground reality and is empowering for the colonist
because it 'essentially deprives the native of agency.' It paints the
average Tibetan as a superstitious, hapless victim, blind to his own
oppression. This is a classic Orientalist view and it is shocking that a modern historian such as Parenti would succumb to it.

Presenting the worst aspects of a culture as the full spectrum is not sound practice and Parenti should know it; as a historian, relying on government propaganda from a government that is notorious for its lack of press freedoms and concerted manipulations of public opinion is totally inexcusable. The use of state-controlled information as a prime source calls into question not only the credibility of the article but also Parenti's credibility as a historian. Surely in presenting the history of an occupied nation Parenti understands that sources outside of those provided by the occupier must be utilized? Would Parenti rely solely on the Indonesian
governments assertions about East Timor and Aceh? Or the U.S. Government's statements about Iraq for that matter? Yet in his article every piece of Chinese government-sourced data is presented as fact, whereas every counter-argument is treated as rumor or hearsay, even down to the existence of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, an entity whose existence can be easily verified with a quick trip to the New York City Yellow pages!

In the end, Parenti makes the classic academic's mistake of being completely
removed from the people he's supposedly trying to represent.
Were he to spend some time with the 'serfs' of Tibet both past or present he would hear an entirely different story than the one he has presented in this article as the truth. The farmers in rural Tibet who showed me scars from beatings they
endured in Chinese struggle sessions were not former aristocrats; the nomads who are losing their grazing lands to toxic Chinese infrastructure projects are certainly not better off today than they were 50 years ago. Nor are the ordinary citizens who risked arrest and torture to hand me notes pleading for UN intervention and for information on their imprisoned relatives. These
stories are not few and far between -- they make up a vast majority of the
Tibetan experience, both inside and outside Tibet. This is absolutely
indisputable.

The studies on Tibet are clear: Tibetan children are dangerously
malnourished; prisoners are routinely tortured; rape of female prisoners is
endemic in the Chinese prison system; alcoholism and gambling are rampant;
and Lhasa now has one of the highest prostitution rates in Asia. If this is
liberation then I've seen it before - on Pine Ridge reservation in South
Dakota. Don't try to tell me that 90% of Tibetans are better off now than
they were pre-1959; that's a f***ing pipe dream.

As well meaning as Michael Parenti may be in his efforts to shed light on
colonialism, violence, and oppression, in this case he is completely off the mark. He has sacrificed historical fact and historical context in the interest of forwarding an agenda and in the process has completely butchered
his subject matter.
His attitude towards Tibet is typified by his response to a Tibetan man who took issue with his article... Telling a Tibetan to go read their own history is simply arrogant, and it exemplifies Parenti's complete disregard for an issue that he has chosen, for no clear reason, to
write about. The fanbase that Parenti seems to increasingly pander to might
find this article illuminating; I'd find it humorous if it weren't so bloody dangerous."

Joshua Schrei
Board of Directors
Students for a Free Tibet
108 St. Mark's Pl. #3
Brooklyn, NY 11217
646.327.6687

January 6, 2009
4:31 am
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Speaking about Parenti and his article on Tibet Schrei writes:

"Presenting the worst aspects of a culture as the full spectrum is not sound practice and Parenti should know it;"

Joshua Schrei
Board of Directors
Students for a Free Tibet 108 St. Mark's Pl.
#3 Brooklyn, NY
11217 646.327.6687

To borrow from Schrei's eloquent writings above, this is what Parenti did to Mother Theresa of Calcutta. In his infamous article, he "presented the worst aspects" in the life of Mother Theresa "as the full spectrum" of her life. This "is not sound practice and Parenti should know it;"

Parenti is devoid of all credibility, period.

January 6, 2009
10:21 am
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Ok, lets see:

Demonstrating a total lack of interest in historical fact, Parenti goes on to confuse the fifth and sixth Dalai Lama for the first and second!

This is the only attempt in the article that tries to discredit Parenti and I'm surprised you didnt highlight that but rather highlighted subjective "he's a liar and he's wrong" kind of statements. That itself shows your approach to this whole thing. There were 14 Dalai Lamas. Maybe he got a few mixed up, maybe he didnt. I will write to him and ask.

To back up his points, he cites Chinese government documents replete with quotes from freshly liberated Tibetans whose names are the equivalent of 'Jane Doe.'

And the evidence for them being Jane Doe's, is? Is this guy a "Jane Doe" too?: One-time Tibetan serf now frontman for China - Reuters.com

Parenti's assertions grow even less grounded in reality until, by the time he presents the Chinese occupation of Tibet -- which all legitimate human rights groups in the world brand with terms like 'cultural genocide'-- as a 'liberation,' he has lost all credibility.

Nothing at Wikipedia talks about this 'cultural genocide', nor does he cite any real human rights groups that use that term.

It is interesting to note that despite the assertions of a handful of historians like Mr. Parenti that pre-1959 Tibet was a horribly repressive society, mass migrations of Tibetan refugees to surrounding nations were never seen prior to 1959 (despite the presence of a democratic nation with a large ethnic Tibetan population directly across the border to the south), nor was there any indication of famine on the scale that came shortly after. Yet ever since 1959 refugees have continued to pour out of Tibet at an alarming rate-- every year, thousands of Tibetan men, women, and children risk life and limb to cross the Himalayas, where an uncertain future awaits them. This begs the question: If the situation in Tibet was so rosy after the 'liberation', why are people still leaving in droves? If it was as horrendous as Parenti presents pre-1959, then why weren't people leaving then?

Note that the writer does not attempt to dispute the handcuffs and eye gouging instruments that I have talked about before. This is the kind of stuff that multiple historians, journalists and tourists have reported such as that Anna L. lady I talked about before.

In the end, Parenti makes the classic academic's mistake of being completely removed from the people he's supposedly trying to represent. Were he to spend some time with the 'serfs' of Tibet both past or present he would hear an entirely different story than the one he has presented in this article as the truth.

The serfs are not "serfs". There is a whole ARTICLE written on Wikipedia on the topic: Serfdom in Tibet controversy

The studies on Tibet are clear: Tibetan children are dangerously malnourished; prisoners are routinely tortured; rape of female prisoners is endemic in the Chinese prison system; alcoholism and gambling are rampant; and Lhasa now has one of the highest prostitution rates in Asia. If this is liberation then I've seen it before - on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Don't try to tell me that 90% of Tibetans are better off now than they were pre-1959; that's a f***ing pipe dream.

As well meaning as Michael Parenti may be in his efforts to shed light on colonialism, violence, and oppression, in this case he is completely off the mark. He has sacrificed historical fact and historical context in the interest of forwarding an agenda and in the process has completely butchered his subject matter. His attitude towards Tibet is typified by his response to a Tibetan man who took issue with his article... Telling a Tibetan to go read their own history is simply arrogant, and it exemplifies Parenti's complete disregard for an issue that he has chosen, for no clear reason, to write about. The fanbase that Parenti seems to increasingly pander to might find this article illuminating; I'd find it humorous if it weren't so bloody dangerous."

If thats the kind of language he uses, this is hardly a scholarly rebuttal. All the rest of it is as I said "he's a mofo and he knows nothing" kind of statements, which only reflect that this guy has a temper and hates Parenti for writing the article but offers practiaclly nothing as a rebuttal.

Joshua Schrei, Board of Directors, Students for a Free Tibet

That above in bold explains his agenda and if a person with that title uses the words above, thats not good.

"Presenting the worst aspects of a culture as the full spectrum is not sound practice and Parenti should know it;"

Once again, statements like these have no truth in them. These are as good as saying "the guy is a mofo". If you're trying to discredit him, you have to prove that he's wrong about the facts he has brought up.

You wrote: "Parenti is devoid of all credibility, period."

Once again, this is not how its done. Credibility is lost when someone proves that the person is wrong. Just saying that they are wrong, doesnt do anything.

I will try to contact Parenti to clear the confusion about the Dalai Lama's and I'll also send him the link to your article. If only I can get to him though, but I will try.

January 6, 2009
10:37 am
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Tez,
Ok, I'm moving the debate here as you asked.

I believe that your personal problems are very relevant because your mental processing is directly affected by them. See my last post on your Diary Thread. I agree their 'personal problems' are very relevant to their points of view and would influence what they say and do in some way.

Well then, lets talk about your problems and that of the Dalai Lama. Lets not just keep me on the operating table and witness stand.

I don't know if some lama at some point in time did what you wrote is true or not! It is not of much interest to me if he did; it is his karma not mine. Of course I condemn such behavior.

Does it not matter to you whether they did this or not?

What I do know is that the Buddha would find such behavior an anathema. Nothing could be farther from Buddhism. The Buddha deplored the barbarous practices involved in animal sacrifice and condemned the whole practice. How much more would the Buddha have condemned the behavior of any Lama who did or supported what you wrote. If you do not know this then you know nothing of the Buddha or his teachings. Harming even earthworms in digging building foundations is of great concern to Tibetan Buddhist Lamas when supervising workmen.

The Dalai Lamas are separate from the Buddha. Nowwhere did I say that the Buddha was involved in eye gouging.

Did the present 14th Dalai Lama do any of these things? Did he?

Maybe the 13th Dalai Lama did these things. That matters, right? The 14th comes from the same line of the Dalai Lamas. Maybe he couldnt have done it because of the presense of human rights groups and more global awareness.

I ask this question because 14th Dalai Lama is the author of the insights that I present here.

Whether any of the 14th Dalai Lama's predecessors did or did not behave in accordance with the Buddha's teachings is really irrelevant to the level of wisdom and compassion in his insightful words.

The words are of the Dalai Lamas, arent they? Also do you have any evidence that these words exclusively were written by the 14th Dalai Lama only? Maybe he copied stuff from the previous Lamas, who knows? Isnt the book for the general 'Dalai Lama'? In any case: its relevant to talk about Tibet and how it was run under the Dalai Lamas because he was the 14th. Its interesting how this is of no interest to you at all. Thats like "Hitler killed 6 million jews. So what? He did say 'be good to your neighbour' "

If Albert Einstein's early professors and lecturers behaved badly in exerting their academic powers should I question the veracity of the theory of relativity on that basis? Of course not.

Once again, the Buddha is separate from the Dalai Lamas. Nowwhere have I said that the Buddha was a bad guy. I'm talking about the Dalai Lamas.

You rightly set up a thread with the theme of debating your issues. Why not have the decency to post your concerns on that thread where they belong?

If you want to keep it in a separate thread, fine, but I will want to continue keep giving the "newsflashes" there on the insights thread so people know about the alternate views on the 'wisdom' and 'compassion' of the Dalai Lamas.

The bottomline for this post is: how or why does it not matter to you how the Dalai Lamas treated people in Tibet? Keep in mind once again that multiple people have reported the injustices and mistreatments of the Tibetan people.

January 6, 2009
11:02 am
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Ok I'm gonna suspect those newsflashes until I find out more about the alleged 'confusion' about the Dalai Lamas that Parenti had.

January 6, 2009
5:29 pm
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Now that you are on the proper thread for debating this issue I am happy.

However, I didn't agree to debate this topic with you ever and I never will.

I have no desire to spend the immense amount of time and effort on something that is so futile and non-productive as this.

Proving points and gloating over your imagined 'victories' might give you an ego trip and lift your flagging self-esteem temporarily but my winning this silly debate does absolutely nothing for me at all. Can you understand that?

January 7, 2009
12:18 am
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Its not about perceived victory in this case. Its what is right. I wouldnt have become an athiest, if I didnt care about finding out the truth and what made sense. I feel strongly about that.

I know debates dont do anything. No one is ever convinced. I dont expect you to be convinced.

I got no energy today. I will write to him later. Also I need to think about what I'm gonna write. He's a busy person.

Today was my 2nd workout day and my 16th try at working out, so dang. I hope I keep up my promise to continue this time.

January 7, 2009
10:49 pm
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Academics argue with each other on a daily basis about "what is right". There are only shades of grey - nothing is 'black' or 'white' when it comes to history. History is ususlly written by the 'victors', in this case the Chinese.

Stop wasting your time 'proving' to yourself whether some corrupt dalai lamas ignored the Buddha's teachings and were self-serving powermongers. It is irrelevant to both you and the veracity of Buddha's sutras.

You have far more serious personal issues that would be best served by having your undivided attention.

January 9, 2009
7:55 pm
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I have gone through what you had to say and filtered it through endlessly.

What I do know is that truth will prevail. We may think we can fool others yet we all know we cannot fool ourselves.

Thanks Friends

January 10, 2009
7:15 pm
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Hi Little spirit, what do you mean? Whats your analysis of this whole Dalai Lama thing?

January 10, 2009
7:16 pm
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Tez, I found it. Parenti has already responded to the article you write, which is by the way widely circulated (oh noo, here we go again!).

link

He responds to the article and says:

To the Editor:

In his passion for old feudal Tibet, Schrei repeatedly resorts to misrepresentations and slurs.

I never said the situation in Tibet was "so rosy" after the overthrow of the feudal system, and even pointed to abuses by the Chinese.

Schrei writes that my "use of state-controlled information as a prime source calls into question not only the credibility of the article but also Parenti's credibility as a historian." But throughout my article I used Western sources almost exclusively, and I also used reports by the Free Tibet people regarding Chinese mistreatment of Tibetans. Schrei's misrepresentation of my sources calls into question his credibility as a critic.

I did not confuse the 5th and 6th DL's with the 1st and 2nd. It depends on how you want to count them. The High Lama who first declared himself the Dalai Lama was the fifth High Lama. If you want to retroactively declare the earlier four High Lamas as Dalai Lamas also, that's okay with me. Some people do and some don't.

The peasants did not migrate from feudal Tibet for the same reason they could hardly move from one village to another. They were often taxed, beaten, intimidated, hunted down by the landlord's thugs when they did flee, then hamstrung, mutilated, etc.

Too bad, a spiritual fellow like Schrei must repeatedly stoop to ad hominem snideness and personal attacks such as "The fanbase that Parenti seems to increasingly pander to ..." I never pander to any fan base on any issue. Taking on the religious true believers of old Tibet is hardly the work of someone pandering for favor, as witnessed by the torrent of fulminations that pour forth from people like Schrei.

All the letters that have come to Swans complaining about my article on Tibet, including Schrei's, have four things in common:

(1) They give proof that the romanticized belief in Shangri-La is alive and well.

(2) They never explain the immense accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few lords and lamas in old Tibet, an otherwise simple and poor agricultural land.

(3) They accuse me of supporting the Chinese occupation of Tibet when in fact what I do is criticize the earlier feudal theocratic rule -- while actually offering criticisms of the Chinese occupation.

(4) They have not a word to say about the active alliance of the Tibetan ruling class with international reactionary elements including the CIA.

Michael Parenti
Oakland, California, USA - July 23, 2003

Its a good response. Note that the critic of Parenti resorted to personal attacks and bad terms like "f***ing pipe dream" and "bloody dangerous". No serious critic uses words like this.

January 10, 2009
7:21 pm
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oops, typo: has already responded to the article you linked*.

January 10, 2009
7:22 pm
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I should add that ofcourse, the bold was mine.

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