The Dalai Lama knows how to generate publicity for his dubious cause. This time, he is using the 50th anniversary of his failed uprising against the Chinese in Tibet, to tell the world that the years since the events of 1959 have brought “untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet.”
Naturally, the Western media swallows this statement lock, stock and barrel, even though it is simply brazen intellectual and historical dishonesty on the part of the well heeled, formerly CIA funded, Tibetan monk.
The reality of life for Tibetans when the Dalai Lama and his predecessors ruled Tibet was simply ghastly. It was truly “hell on earth”, a phrase the Dalai Lama is using to describe the impact of China’s presence in Tibet today.
In his 1996 book, The Making of Modern Tibet, Tom Grunfeld describes the feudal system that existed in Tibet in the lead up to 1959. Tibetans, he writes, were ruled by a system of feudal theocracy, and the Dalai Lama was at the pinnacle of that structure. It was a society in which land owners and nobles made life as hellish for peasants as was the case in medieval England. Nobles collected taxes, beat their “serfs”, took bribes and ensured that the serfs, who lived in hovels on their estates, starved while their banquet tables heaved with produce grown on the estate.
Serfs, and the vast majority of Tibetans were in this category, had no power. They had to gain permission to attend a monastery or to get married. There was, Grunfeld writes, little class mobility in Tibet. It was a rigid and thoroughly elite driven society in which slavery was tolerated.
Grunfeld’s bleak assessment of living conditions in Tibet up to 1959 is not a maverick one. Another scholar, Michael Parenti from the University of California, has researched and written extensively on the issue of Tibetan society prior to the Chinese intervention in 1959.
Parenti, writing in academic journal New Political Science in 2003, observes that in “the Dalai Lama’s Tibet, torture and mutilation — including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation — were favored punishments inflicted upon runaway serfs and thieves.”
Parenti cites the work of one Western observer who in 1929:
…visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, and breaking off hands.
There were instruments for slicing off kneecaps and heels, or hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling.
Sexual abuse in monasteries was rife, and starvation among the serfs a regular occurrence, despite the plentiful conditions for agriculture that existed in Tibet.
The Tibet that the Dalai Lama presided over, until his exile in 1959, was far from the Shangri-la that dewy eyed supporters of the Free Tibet movement pretend it to be. Unless you were a member of the small elite class, or a monk, life was, in Thomas Hobbes’ memorable phrase, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
The Dalai Lama speaks today of “repressive and violent” campaigns by China over the past 50 years. What he has not told you, and nor has any media outlet that has quoted his gibberish today, is that he and the system he represents made life intolerable for millions of Tibetans over hundreds of years.
The history books record this.