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article imageOp-Ed: The staunch refusal of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

By Frank Kaufmann     Jun 1, 2011 in Politics
New York - The pursuit of liberation and democracy in our present time is seen most intensely throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But this is not the only place where such radical acts for democracy are happening.
Democracy in America was good for a while. People who complain about contemporary politics in America frequently are offered a salacious, anecdotal history of vitriol on the campaign trail. But that defense is a red herring. The trouble with contemporary political activity in the West, especially in America that is called “democratic,” is not that politics is dirty, but rather that it is a rarefied form of perpetual marketing. Marketing has replaced campaigning, and marketing has replaced governing.
For a very long time Western and especially American democracy represented a genuine political ideal for the emerging post-colonial societies that were shifting away from political systems that supported absolute monarchs.
Raw, crude colonialism was replaced with the sneakier, but mildly less exploitative, less riddled with rank racism, economic colonialism, which though still abusive is nevertheless a step in the right direction. Monarchies, where they survived at all, tended to shift from absolute to constitutional, generally a very healthy system, providing citizens with a less whimsical government, but still “somebody to love.”
Extreme authoritarianism usually required adding dash of divinity to the monarch to make possible the exercise absolute rule. The exception in our time were Marxist tyrannies, that used instead the zealous faith of atheism and plain old guns and secret police. Against these ugly banes to human dignity, the beauty of American federalism built around inalienable rights endowed by a creator, was rightfully a beacon to a world in change.
Many places in the world embraced this vision of divinely endowed, individual rights, and participatory political structures. The violent and oppressive reach of “Communism” failed, wrecked on the shoals of its own failed philosophies and theories but a great many Middle Eastern, and north African kingdoms or fake-modern forms of political tyranny (like that of Syria's Assad) did not. The sick self-interest of Western powers seeking Middle East resources and route access left many of these archaic, authoritarian governments sans reform.
Despite all the media and liberal naivete involved, the so-called “Arab Spring,” is genuinely a hopeful phenomenon. While it does not address the precarious international enmities in the region, nor the ideological extremism often wed to social and political organizations in the region, it does hack at the roots of tyranny, and this gives the whole world a lightness of heart.
A great complication and challenge when analyzing and reflecting on the protests and rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East is that the tyrannies involved are a hybrid of old Monarchical style tyrannies, and modern Marxist-Communist style tyrannies; a touch of the God-ruler (a shadow in some interpretations of Islam) and a touch of guns and the secret police at your door (or busily assassinating your local, aspiring reporter). The Western powers as they continue to be twisted by the cloud of self-interest are not helping this revolution.
While the flames rage, and innocent civilians throughout the Middle East and North Africa continue to be massacred by their governments, in another part of the world, yet another divinely commissioned, absolute theocrat who “dangerously” combines “Godhead” and unassailable, solitary political authority, also stands firmly against the will and desire of citizens under his rule. The stubbornness of this autocrat is reported in the Hindustan Times:
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Wednesday once again refused to budge from his stand of seeking retirement from political role as head of the exiled Tibetans. He turned down an appeal by the exiles to continue as the "ceremonial head of state". At the address of the grand session of exiled Tibetans in this Himachal Pradesh town where he is running his government-in-exile, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said the decision to shed political authority and hand over powers to an elected political leadership stemmed from his commitment to democracy.
Magically and significantly, with the very same lilting elegance that characterizes each breath of this leader and seeker, His Holiness in a personal decision once again weaves himself into the history of liberation. Some ways off, oppressed subjects risk and lose their lives to realize freedom and democracy, while for citizens of the political entity Tibet in exile, the opposite takes place. His Holiness himself grates against love, appreciation, and devotion, to insist upon the advance of democracy, and liberate and purify from the opportunism of politics the clarity and fortitude of true spiritual leadership.
Confirming his decision, Chimme Choekyappa, private secretary to the Dalai Lama, told IANS that that "His Holiness is sticking to his previous stand. He turned down the plea of the exiles to be the ceremonial head of state".
As many as 418 participants from 20 countries, including India, Nepal, Bhutan and the US, as also from Europe, have been taking part in the grand congregation for the past four days.
They deliberate on draft constitutional amendments in the Tibetan Charter (constitution) for devolution of the spiritual leader's political and administrative powers to the democratically-elected leadership
It is a time now in which two contributors to tyranny are clearly on the run, and in decline. The bad and errant fusing of pure spiritual authority with the complicated, compromising nature of political leadership, and the decline of violent tyrannies inspired by the failed experiment of Marxism-Communism. Reforms are needed, and in many places now they are life threatening.
Not so with the reforms happening now in Tibet in exile. Would that all reformation could be so blessed and transpire in the exemplary way revealed through the progressive application of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism inspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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