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(The New York Times)   The burning question: Is self-immolation worth it?   (nytimes.com) divider line 16
    More: Sad, Tibetan Buddhism, Lobsang Sangay, Dharamsala  
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8334 clicks; posted to Main » on 03 Feb 2013 at 3:14 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-02-03 05:08:46 AM
4 votes:

Seth'n'Spectrum: Peaceful protest (this counts, right?) really only works when your target audience can be shamed into sympathizing with you. Right now, the Han majority is largely utterly shameless (I have definitely met exceptions, but they are rarer than in most societies).

At best, they are apathetic. At worst, they are nationalistic, Darwinistic assholes -- true relics from the nineteenth century.


I wouldn't necessarily go that far. There's a stew of things at work in the Han Chinese mind.

On the one hand, throughout their entire schooling they're taught a version of Tibetan life/culture that's basically equivalent to our vision of Indians sitting around campfires in front of teepees in feather headdresses, smoking peace pipes and saying "How". This is regularly reinforced by insipid "harmonious society" crap on Chinese TV showing smiling ethnic minorities doing cartoon versions of their traditional dances. For most people in China this is as close as they will come to ever meeting an actual Tibetan person in real life.

On the other hand, they're taught that before the Communist Party came along,Tibet was a violent, backward, utterly impoverished place (which is not entirely untrue). News of self-immolations is heavily censored in China, but of the few people that do hear about it, a lot of them are genuinely baffled why Tibetans would be upset when, in their eyes, modern China has brought so much development and progress to them.

On the third hand, there is a deep-rooted sense that "these people aren't Han Chinese like us anyway, so meh." And unlike less-Communist, more religious countries in Asia,Tibetan monks hold no special place in Chinese society - most would regard them with curiosity the way we might regard an Eskimo shaman.

So basically, all these self-immolations are doing is a.) getting a rise out of Westerners who are largely powerless to change the situation in Tibet, b.) causing the Chinese government to crack down even more, and c.) between censorship and indifference, having little to no impact among ordinary Chinese. Sad really.
2013-02-03 03:40:44 AM
4 votes:
Peaceful protest (this counts, right?) really only works when your target audience can be shamed into sympathizing with you. Right now, the Han majority is largely utterly shameless (I have definitely met exceptions, but they are rarer than in most societies).

At best, they are apathetic. At worst, they are nationalistic, Darwinistic assholes -- true relics from the nineteenth century.

The Tibetans (and the Urghyurs) need to hit them where it hurts. The 21st century Communist Chinese state has survived by enlarging the cage within which its people live. They know they're still in a cage, but the walls are farther away than in their parents' time. If the minorities try to break out, the state will have to tighten its grip, leading to economic slow-downs and popular resentment.
2013-02-03 04:13:27 AM
3 votes:
Self-immolation as a form of protest works IF your audience truly reveres the kind of person who would commit such an act of total self-abnegation. Like highly militant Buddhist cultures, for instance, which is why it worked in Vietnam and Cambodia, and why the Chinese crack down on it so hard in Tibet. Since Buddhist monks are not supposed to commit acts of violence, they will protest in this fashion; however, their followers (who revere monks for just that reason) are not so constrained and could be inspired by the act to rise up against the government.

That's my understanding of such actions; I could be wrong, as I often am; but I doubt such an act by such a person in such a location is mere "attention whoring".
2013-02-03 12:04:33 AM
3 votes:
Better that than suicide bombers, I guess.
2013-02-03 04:58:47 AM
2 votes:
Using suicide to draw attention to an oppressive political situation is a tricky business. The suicide itself needs to be shocking, horrific, poignant, and novel, or else it won't get press. The original Buddhist monk who committed self-immolation, that was all four. Tank Man in Tienanmen Square was the same, even though he didn't get run over by the tank. Sometimes just the act itself is enough to move people to tears, regardless of the outcome.

As more and more people self-immolate, it becomes less newsworthy. It's the same theory that makes people gloss over stories were less than thirty people were murdered in a mass shooting. Were a child to interrupt a press conference, explain why Tibet should be free, then slit his own throat, I can guarantee it would get international coverage, and reinvigorate the debate. Hell, if every time a Tibetan stood up against China, then slit their own throat, we would see a backlash the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. So long as each suicide was more shocking and unexpected than the previous ones (a doctor with five children or an expectant mother) the world would be forced to take notice.
2013-02-03 04:34:24 AM
2 votes:
The Buddhists have a long tradition of ritual suicide.

It's really the end result of the practices. Eventually, no matter how close to a Bodhisattva you become, your human body wears out and must be discarded. You can only help people for so long. When you can no longer pull your weight as a monk, you can simply start meditating and never stop. An ultimate final test of your abilities.

There was a practice in Japan where they'd have themselves buried alive. In Southeast Asia, they like fire for some reason. It's like how Christian Saints will usually get executed somehow, but more predictable.

The use of a act as a political protest is really just a two-fer.
2013-02-03 03:18:40 AM
2 votes:
It's only worth it if people are listening; as indicated in the article, no one is outside the Chinese government (which has prosecuted people for encouraging it).

Just can't shake the feeling that humanity is on its way out. It might take a thousand years (relatively short period of our evolution), but I feel like the end is coming.
2013-02-03 12:15:00 AM
2 votes:
At this point it seems they're just making ashes of themselves
2013-02-03 05:58:15 AM
1 votes:
Is it worth it? If you get press, maybe. It's a powerful political message which draws a lot of notice and a lot of support... if people are paying attention. The issue is, I've only heard of like 2 of the 99 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire. They need better PR.
2013-02-03 05:49:40 AM
1 votes:

Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: Tank Man in Tienanmen Square was the same, even though he didn't get run over by the tank.


I will go to my grave worshiping that guy. Yeah, perhaps it was a stunt. But it's it's been decades and I still want to shake that man's hand.

A full year of TF for any man with the nerve to step in front of a line of tanks. Sometimes our stupid stunts are worth it.

Badass MF. That is all.
2013-02-03 05:40:29 AM
1 votes:
I sympathize, but I don't think setting fire to yourself is the best way to raise awareness. When you do that, most people think "damn those people are crazy". They need to have an effective communication campaign, build relationships, and create allies. They should probably partner up with the Jews in some way actually.
2013-02-03 04:29:45 AM
1 votes:

Gyrfalcon: Self-immolation as a form of protest works IF your audience truly reveres the kind of person who would commit such an act of total self-abnegation. Like highly militant Buddhist cultures, for instance, which is why it worked in Vietnam and Cambodia, and why the Chinese crack down on it so hard in Tibet. Since Buddhist monks are not supposed to commit acts of violence, they will protest in this fashion; however, their followers (who revere monks for just that reason) are not so constrained and could be inspired by the act to rise up against the government.

That's my understanding of such actions; I could be wrong, as I often am; but I doubt such an act by such a person in such a location is mere "attention whoring".


That's an interesting point that I hadn't thought of, no really. I mean the non-violet protest thing I sorta got but the rest well...
And yea doing that seems way more than attention whoring and really I'm beginning to hate those words.
2013-02-03 03:42:34 AM
1 votes:
self-immolation would only be worth it if your oppressors value human life. setting yourself alight to protest the Chinese? probably an empty gesture.
2013-02-03 03:42:06 AM
1 votes:
the arab spring began with a self immolation didnt it? the end result was that most of the arab world is now free or fighting for freedom. pretty successful if you ask me.
2013-02-03 03:36:12 AM
1 votes:
but this is ok:

armchairspasm.files.wordpress.com
2013-02-03 03:18:09 AM
1 votes:
It is an attention grabber, but it only works once....
 
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