December 9, 2008

How to be intellectually (dis)honest about Tibet

David Gosset, director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, in today’s Asia Times:

The expression “cultural genocide”—which has been used by the Dalai Lama himself—is supposed to describe the present conditions in the Tibet Autonomous Region is absurd and carries some baseless accusations which can not be conducive to harmony.

This is probably one of the worst ways to deal with the Tibetan issue, either in logical and in “ethical” sense. Why a struggle for freedom should first and foremost be “conducive to harmony?” In fact, politically speaking, that is apart from religion and philosophy, harmony could be regarded as the outcome of freedom, not as an end in itself—and in his piece David Gosset insists that “as the head of the Tibetan ‘government-in-exile’ in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama is a political figure with a political agenda,” and that “pretending that the Dalai Lama is purely a spiritual leader is deceptive and illusory.”

Tibet is currently changing rapidly but this change does not equate with “cultural genocide”. In fact, the region is going through a process of socio-economic modernization which benefits the majority of the population.

Which “majority of the population” are we talking about? The majority of people of the Han ethnic group—the main ethnic group in China—which has been settled in Tibet making Tibetans themselves a minority in their own land?

This process is far from perfect but does allow the Tibetans within the PRC to reinterpret their tradition and to preserve the best of their culture.

Have Chinese ever asked Tibetans whether and how they want to reinterpret their tradition, and so on?

Siena is over the top

According to a survey by the Italia Oggi daily newspaper Siena is the best Italian city for quality of life. The survey is based on eight factors, which have equal weight:

a) jobs/business life
b) environment / green living
c) crime
d) social problems
e) population
f) services
g) leisure
h) living standards

The Tuscan hill town is known worldwide for its wonderful twelfth-fourteenth century cathedral as well as for its shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, where the Palio is held twice a year.

Unfortunately for the Florentines—Siena has always been a fierce rival of Florence since the days of the Guelphs and Ghibellines and the battle of Montaperti (1260)—the survey held “soccer” in low esteem: Fiorentina has seven points advantage over the rival in the Serie A ranking table, while curiously Siena is seven places ahead of Florence in the quality of life ranking (I suppose this might mean something to someone, somewhere …).