Saturday, December 28, 2013

"And I only am escaped alone to tell thee"



For a poem about Ama Adhe, see here.

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Ama Adhe is a kindly old woman, dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes. She has large hands in which she holds red prayer beads. Her face and gestures are fabulously expressive. She is devoted to the Dalai Lama, and took up his injunction to speak of her experience. She speaks with compassion even for the Chinese, an achievement to rival that of Nelson Mandela.

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For Adhe(Ama means mother)’s sister was married to a leader of the Tibetan resistance to Chinese conquest in the mid-1950s. He and many others were captured and murdered. To intimidate others, they were hung in front of many people. Or as in the case of Adhe and her brother-in-law, his brains were blown out spattering her...

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The women mainly gathered information and helped with supplies; the men fought.

At 26, she was initially jailed for three years among three hundred women in a remote area of China. and later for another 24 years.

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In her first three years, the prisoners were jammed into narrow cells and fed a glass of corn soup during the day. They were not permitted to go to the bathroom and the stench of feces and urine, from a pot in the cell, surrounded them. They ate the leather off shoes.

They died, “slow, slow.” She looked into their faces, unable any longer to make expressions. She wished to join them herself but somehow didn’t.

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As Ama Adhe speaks of her friends - one by one, they died - she cries.

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She was the last one left "And I only..."

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In her subsequent 24 years in prison, her jailers provided some Tibetan steamed bread. She worked in a prison garden, so there were always some vegetables on which she could survive.

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Following the initial genocide (some hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million Tibetans died in the late '50s and early '60s), the Chinese authorities have adopted a form of more ”ordinary” jailing.

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The Chinese finally released her. She came out of Tibet in 1988. She is not “an educated person.” The Dalai Lama asked her to speak the truth about her experience and she does.

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Mao mobilized a mass peasant guerilla war against Japanese imperialism. The Japanese, according to Chalmers Johnson, Peasant Nationalism in China, murdered some 20 million people in three provinces of North China in the winter of 1940-41. Mao’s guerillas were fish that swim in the sea of the people. The Japanese leadership sought to “drain the water.”

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Apparently, having resisted Japanese aggression and genocide (Chiang Kai-shek, the American-supported “President” also spent much time trying to defeat the Communists), the Communists turned and used the same brutality on minorities. These policies contradicted Mao's "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People" which he himself might better have pondered.

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In Tibet, mirroring the Japanese toward the Chinese, there was also racism toward indigenous people. A Tibetan emperor, a Dalai Lama, had once run China. Tibetans were then led by a warrior class, who, in stereotype, brandished swords. Apparently, the weaponized, occupying army is still instilled with this image, even of "violent" monks. For the resistance, for instance in 2008, is, for the most part, nonviolent noncooperation. See here, here, here and here. The stereotype for all those who fire big guns is defied by the evidence of the eyes...

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That after victory, the Chinese Communists chose to held up the mirror to Japanese invaders toward indigenous people, largely unarmed comparatively speaking, in a bloodletting in Tibet is a particularly sorry comment on this attempt – in some ways noble, the Communists did facilitate, to a considerable extent, the liberation and participation of women in China, the results of which I saw in my class last summer of which women were half, a contrast to India as well as the Tibetan community, as will as the rising up of poor people – to build a better society.

It was natural among Chinese scholars today to ask my wife to give three lectures on American photography of birds and her own, as well as for me to give a course on great power realism and democracy.

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But like that of Nineteenth Century (and earlier) immigrants to the United States, to commit mass murder against ordinary people and then pass it off as “progress” is a bizarre form of deception and self-deception.

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The energy and determination of the Chinese people, I discovered in Liaoning, despite many difficulties, is very hopeful. They have the possibility, which much of the US political establishment fights against, of pioneering green energy along with the Germans. The Chinese government seeks to further this, installing cap and trade as an internal policy this year. See here.

But until the ethnic cleansing is stopped and the words in the Chinese constitution about minorities mean something - the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" offers the Chinese, too, a path - this brutality will be the main reason China is feared and isolated in the world (in important ways, this issue is parallel to that of Israel and the Palestinians).

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To achieve a decent future, however, massive civil disobedience inside and outside Tibet is needed. See here. The Tibetans, whom Ama Adhe is one powerful voice for, are determined. Only this and a new Tibetan spring (the uprising in 2008 is promising) will give life to the Middle Way. One mistake the Dalai Lama makes is to endorse no strategy of action to achieve it, for neither the Middle Way nor independence is possible without Tibetan action.

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If the Chinese leadership does not wake up (they are, for example, comparatively awake about green energy), a Chinese spring may have to accompany this, something very possible over the next decade or so.

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Ama Adhe has published a book with an American co-author recording her tale. She has travelled abroad some. But her body, now at 80, feels the weight of the imprisonment, the torture (she lives, with her husband, nearby the room she spoke to us in).

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The students who are with me are mainly silent, having listened to her story. There is little to be said for her torturers (that communists did this creates a pattern, perhaps as deep as Stalin’s, of fear and revulsion).

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And yet she has the grace and compassion, wanting the restoration of Tibet, to have a decent settlement with the Chinese. Her way of being offers enormous hope - like Mandela’s – see here and here.

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For the Chinese, too, would benefit from accepting the Middle Way (the Chinese regime is widely feared in the world primarily because of its brutality toward the Tibetans – see here).

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At 26, Ama Adhe was a poor, not educated woman. She wrote a book with the aid of a coauthor. See here. In it, she mentions a prayer which has long moved her:

“If I carefully examine all the beings, distinguished and lowly, who lived in the past, I find that now only their names remain. And of all the beings who are living now, every one of them will someday pass away. Since my present status, house, relatives, friends, possessions, and even this body must all pass away without remaining for long, to what am I attached in this dream-like present? A good life that is truly meaningful is always difficult to find, and even when found is impermanent and will quickly be destroyed like a dewdrop that clings to a blade of grass.” – A prayer of the lama Tsongkhapa’s Essence of Nectar (134).

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But it is Adhe's spoken words, her being, which is particularly powerful. May the world, including the Chinese government, listen...


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