Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Monday, November 1, 2010



Hey...didja hear about those San Francisco Giants? Yeah...they're about to win their first WORLD SERIES in 55 years? Of course you've heard! Well, it's everywhere in the news. Hey...didja hear about these nasty elections? Yeah...there's been more negative ads and speeches than a Klu Klux Klan meeting? Of course you've heard! It's everywhere in the news. Hey...didja hear about those vicious protests in Tibet? Yeah...the Chinese are at it again, beating up defenseless monks with batons again. Oh you MISSED THAT! Of course you did! It's no where in the news.

Sorry about the rant...this is MONDAY BOB after all...anyhow...here's what's happening in Tibet: The Han government in Beijing recently announced that the Tibetan language will no longer be taught in grammar schools in the 'autonomous' region of Tibet. Instead, all classes will be conducted solely in Mandarin. Currently, most elementary schools are conducted in Tibetan and High Schools are taught in Chinese. This makes sense since both languages are needed for adults to function in the region. Tibetan is the language of the people, while Chinese is the language of the government. But to eliminate the teaching of Tibetan at the age when language skills develop the most is an unsettling development in a long history of strife between China and Tibet. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest.

Did I say LONG HISTORY? Okay, I'll make it a SHORT HISTORY. Since the average elevation of Tibet is 16,000 feet (higher than any place in the 48 contiguous states), it has remained pretty isolated from the rest of the world. The only real colonization of the Tibetan people occurred two thousand years ago, when Buddhist monks first visited. Over time, a unique form of the religion evolved into a theocracy, which would be led by men called the DALLI LAMA. The only nation to ever try to conquer the 'rooftop of the world' was, of course, China. A peace treaty signed in 824 stayed largely in effect until 1900's, when a slow, methodical annexation began to take place. While the US was able to halt, or at least slow, Chinese military aims in Korea and Vietnam, Tibet was not so lucky and became part of the People's Republic.

But the recent action by Beijing has clearly gone too far, and the fragile relationship between the two immense cultures has once again become inflamed. “Language is the foundation of Tibetan culture and this recent attack reveals the Chinese governments’ sinister attempt to assimilate Tibetans into Chinese society,” said Tenzin Choedon, national director of Students for a Free Tibet. Indeed, this recent incursion is much less subtle than the last event, which involved the new, direct train service between Lhasa and the Western metropolises. Tibetans worried it would result in a flood of Chinese people, commerce and culture. Beijing replied that Tibet must be the only place in the world to protest government funded train service. We'll let this one play out some more.

Instead, let's get back to the schools. Tibetan is the language of preference for some eight million people. It's also one of the world's oldest known languages, with it's own unique alphabet, which was loosely borrowed from Sanskrit a couple thousand years ago. It was one of the first languages to employ rules of grammar, which impressed the British when they first arrived here 300 years ago. “It is the inalienable right of every Tibetan to learn in their own language. We call on governments around the world to press the Chinese government to respect Tibetan language rights,” said Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet. But, as usual, only RICHARD GERE and a handful of Berkeley hippies with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers will take notice.

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