At war with the utopia of modernity

Tibetans’ rage is directed not at communist rule, but the consumerist threat to their traditions and sacred lands.

Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:

Screenhunter_04_mar_26_1203Last week many western commentators scrambling to interpret the protests in Lhasa found that they did not need to work especially hard. Surely the Tibetans are the latest of many brave peoples to rebel against communist totalitarianism? The rhetorical templates of the cold war are still close at hand, shaping western discussions of Islam or Asia. Dusting off the hoary oppositions between the free and unfree worlds, the Wall Street Journal declared that religious freedom was the main issue. “On the streets of Lhasa, China has again had a vivid demonstration of the power of conscience to move people to action against a soulless, and brittle, state.”

This is stirring stuff. Never mind that the rioters in Lhasa were attacking Han Chinese immigrants rather than the Chinese state, or that the Chinese authorities have been relatively restrained so far, one cautious step behind middle-class public opinion – which I sensed in China last week to be overwhelmingly against the Tibetan ethnic minority.

As for religious freedom, the Tibetans have had more of it in recent years than at any time since the cultural revolution. Eager to draw tourists to Tibet, Chinese authorities have helped to rebuild many of the monasteries destroyed by Red Guards in the 1960s and 70s, turning them into Disneylands of Buddhism. Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism have even inspired a counterculture among Chinese jaded by their new affluence.

More here.