Tibet or not Tibet?:

George Farley, chairman of the Australia Tibet Council, writes: Re. Nick Shimmin (20 March, comments). I have “read a bit of history” on Tibet; I’ve been there and I am not anti-Chinese just pro-Tibetan. For every Tibetan I’ve met who welcomes the Chinese presence, I’ve met 100 who want to have a say in their own land; not separation from China, merely meaningful autonomy as guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution. Tibet was not perfect under the Dalai Lamas, but the Chinese have had nearly 60 years to win the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and they’ve failed utterly. Not surprising as they treat the Tibetans like sub-humans who are superstitious, dirth, ignorant and ungrateful for being “liberated”. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that what’s happening in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet is anything other than a popular Tibetan movement, brought to flashpoint by the brutal crackdown of peaceful protests held to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in 1959. As for “What exactly would you like or expect the Chinese to do”, I’d like them to reach a long-term workable solution with the Tibetan people by holding serious talks with the Dalai Lama. Why him? Because as much as any person on the planet can be said to represent a People, he represents the Tibetans. Nick appears to think that a continuation of the failed policy of brutal oppression is just fine. I’d like to disguise him as a Tibetan and parachute him into Lhasa to see for himself what’s going on there. The disguise is necessary because every foreign tourist and journalist has been frog marched out of Tibet. A couple of other issues Nick might like to comment on – the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China; China’s policies related to Burma and the Darfur region of Sudan; China’s policies toward Taiwan; the lack of freedoms in China, such as expression, assembly and the press.

Matthew Weston writes: Nick Shimmin, the Tibet you refer to existed prior to the invasion yes, but as we have seen in the similar Bhutan, it’s possible for countries to move beyond the feudal serfdom that existed in pre invasion Tibet. Your remarks deny the idea that Tibetans have the ability to change their circumstance, to develop their own version, and imply that the invasion was a good thing some how. Your rather trite remarks come very close to being an apology for Beijing, something that leaves you very much alone in your opinions, perhaps only in the good company of our well travelled PM and his acolytes. Most people may not have the benefit of your understanding of pre invasion Tibet, but they sure do understand repression when they see it.

Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Why China won’t hold Tibet forever” (20 March, item 17). Charles Richardson’s Thesis – that democracy trumps autocracy, and democracy tires of empire – holds many flaws. When applying this thesis to China, the most egregious error was to ignore mass migration. Mass migration driven by Chinese government policy makes Tibet a modern version of the American west, or 19th century Australia or New Zealand. Han nationals are generally (so far as I have been able to directly observe) firm believers that Han culture is inherently superior, and so are (in general) very comfortable with government policies which – for practical purposes – should be compared to “native policies” and land policies of 19th century Anglo colonialists. The observation that the Chinese have — unlike us — increased life expectancy of their ‘minorities’ – makes more widely read Chinese comfortable with the comparison, and contemptuous of the criticism. The most likely future of Tibetan culture is as a sideshow in a Chinese owned theme park.

Bagging plastic bags:

Brian Shoesmith writes: Re. “Plastic fantastic: Bagging the bag baggers” (20 March, item 5). I’ve been following the discussions over plastic bags with some interest. I live in Dhaka where the Third World pulsates. Remember Henry Kissinger called Bangladesh the basket case of the world. Usually Bangladesh tops the list for political corruption and lack of transparency. Natural disasters devastate the country on a regular basis; the last major cyclone, Sidr, killed over 10,000 people, and the consequences of it can still be seen out in the rural areas. And the state of emergency still exists with many of the more prominent politician in custody or on remand. I sometimes think that Mao was actually thinking of Bangladesh when he said we are blessed to live in interesting times. And we live without plastic bags. Several years ago the government decreed that plastic bags could not be manufactured or used in Bangladesh — the effect on the streetscape for one thing is interesting. There are no plastic bags littering the place, and we manage. We use bags made from jute, or paper and they’re fine, re-usable and biodegradable. Civilisation as we know it doesn’t end with the banishment of plastic bags from the super market. If it can be done here, why not Australia?

Jamie Anderson writes: Congratulations on Michael Pascoe’s story about plastic bag drivel. Our government’s main speciality is trying to stop people from doing things. Why not a more constructive approach, such as this story in the Moscow Times? I think a vending machine that accepts used plastic bottles and then returns a small amount of money is an interesting concept. And the streets of inner Moscow are very clean and tidy.

Lyndon Goddard writes: Do correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we already have biodegradable plastic bags? I have seen (and used) bags that label themselves as “biodegradable” — is this false advertising or would these bags in fact be a better alternative than our current “green” material bags? I am all for environmental preservation, and I do agree that the currently-popular “non-biodegradable” variety of plastic bags should be phased out or at least taxed, but the fact remains that they are still much more practical than the green material variety. With the material bags, you have to remember to take them with you to the shops, guess how many of them you will need, and they can’t be reused like plastic bags can. Obviously they have become more popular over the past few years, but I just don’t see them being “the answer” for our fast-paced, time-short society.

Wayne Robinson writes: Of course, if the 4 billion plastic bags were British instead of American billions, then each bag would weigh a more reasonable 5.5 grams (although the average Australian would have to be using 200,000 plastic bags per year).

The real butchers of Iraq:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Sheridan, Bolt and Co: the real butchers of Iraq” (20 March, item 3). Jeff Sparrow proclaims the foresight of those who opposed the Iraq war without enlightening us about the alternative. Perhaps he could therefore apply this prescience by sketching out how today’s world would look if Iraq’s people were still imprisoned by Saddam, the oil-for-food scandal were left metastasizing throughout the UN and international sanctions continued to impoverish Iraq’s people. Only then should he lament that the people of Iraq weren’t left to “sail serenely on” with the situation they were in prior to 2003.

Niall Clugston writes: According to Jeff Sparrow, “these days, Bolt spends most of his time talking climate change, seeking, it seems, to do to the ozone layer what he and his friends did to Iraq”. While his remarks on Iraq are warranted, Sparrow is ignorant of environmental issues. The depletion of the ozone layer is not the same as the greenhouse effect.

Ocean acidity:

Bob Ross writes: Re. “Ocean acidity: another reason for cutting carbon” (20 March, item 6). I was hoping that when Christian Kerr left, Crikey might start getting some more insightful articles on issues like global warming, alternative energy, salinisation, drought and the Murray-Darling, etc. Instead, during the past week we have received in our daily Crikey edition seven lead articles on Rudd and AustChina. It is an interesting subject, but is it really that important? However on Thursday you did include Stephen Luntz’s article on ocean acidity – a report on the AIMS forum held last week in Townsville. Stephen made the point that he was probably the only journalist in attendance. So congratulations to Crikey for including his report. It may not be as much fun to write about ocean pH levels as to pen articles on trips overseas by shadow ministers. But in the long run the health of our planet is definitely the most important issue.

Toohey’s Walkley dummy spit:

Margaretta Pos, former MEAA Tasmania Branch president, writes: Re. “Toohey’s Walkley dummy spit: a stunt” (yesterday, item 19). Yes Margaret Simons. There are grave issues of journalistic principle at stake. How can you try to trivialise Paul Toohey’s stand as a dummy spit or political posturing? There are two serious issues. First, that MEAA federal secretary Chris Warren could think of muzzling members with a code that calls on journalists to report to police and councils when they arrive in Aboriginal lands and inform them of what they intend doing, even if a handful of NT-based journos had approved it. Second, that it took journalists two weeks to realise that this Stalinist code was in the offing, and then only after it was aired by a Walkley-winning journalist who isn’t a member of the Alliance. The first issue is surely self-evident to self-respecting journalists. The second highlights our apathy. The new code was published by MEAA online on March 7th. On March 14th, reference was made to it in Warren’s weekly E-Bulletin. Did anyone read it? The story broke on March 20th, when Toohey’s justifiable anger was splashed on the front page of The Australian.

News and comedy:

Daniel Lewis writes: Deborah Hurst (20 March, comments) believes “the growing popularity of programs such as The Chaser in Australia and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report in the US clearly demonstrate that news and current affairs programs should be presented intelligently and fearlessly.” Huh? Does she realise that all three shows are comedies? Here’s a hint – the two American programs are produced by “Comedy Central” and appear locally on “The Comedy Channel”. Not say, CNN, Fox News or Sky Channel. One might draw a similar conclusion from the success of The Naked News and suggest Sandra Sully get her kit off. However, whilst I’m sure it would rate its socks off, I doubt it would achieve the desired increase in the quality of reporting. My biggest beef with so much of the media is how little of its reporting bears close resemblance to what actually happened. Once upon a time reporters had 12-24 hours to file a report before deadline. The advent of 24hr news means there’s no space for time-wasters like “fact checking” in the rush to get to air or online. When something happens, television news is often forced to fill air time by bringing on a conga-line of “experts” who seldom know more than anyone else watching the program at the same time. Next time there’s a terrorist attack, tune to cable news and see my point. This is before you factor in institutionalised bias within prominent news organisations.

Ray, the revenge:

Nick Jewlachow writes: The SMH reported on 21 March that “Ray leaps onto boat, stabs and kills woman“. Now there’s a man who’s not taking retirement well. Nine must think they’re better off without him.


Rebecca Le May writes: Re. “And the almost Wankley goes to … Beavers!” (20 March, item 21). Apparently, the Canadians once dumped a tourism promo entitled “Welcome to Beaver Country”.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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