Monday, April 5, 2010

Issue of Tibet: A post modern perspective!

Tenzin Nyinjey

There was a time when reality was considered absolute, not just in physical sciences but even in social sciences as well. The evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin in natural sciences, and that of Karl Marx in sociology in the way societies develop in linear fashion from stages of primitive, to feudal, to capitalist, to socialist and finally to communist states are the two prime examples. Such a predominant and single conception of an ultimate reality created its own share of human tragedies on our earth, as is evidenced by the massive destruction of World Wars I and II and more so in its aftermath in so-called communist states.

Then came Albert Einstein, who changed the dynamics of scientific reality - the way we look at and perceive it with his theory of relativity. According to him, even physical reality can be multiple depending on the observer’s physical context.

Einstein’s conclusion about reality is similar to the one propounded by post-modernist writers in literature and the arts. According to them there is no fixed reality, but multiple realities depending upon each individual’s perspective, and all these realities are valid and it can’t be scientifically proved that one conception of reality is better or worse than that of others.

This concept of multiple realities, all of which are valid, is extremely relevant in the kind of society we live in. Ours is a democratic society with different religious, cultural, social and political views. One group of people embraces a reality of interests, which is different from and at times contradictory to that of another group.

Such a post-modernist approach is also helpful in our efforts to resolve the issue of Tibet’s status. As we all know, Tibet is currently under the military occupation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and among the exile Tibetans there are basically two theories or realities in resolving the issue. The grand theory, as propounded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and majority of exile Tibetans, is that Tibet must seek autonomy within the constitutional framework of the PRC. The other competent theory, as advocated by some of the intellectuals and young Tibetan exiles, is that Tibet should strive for independence. Both the proponents of these theories appear to be in conflict against each other, thinking as if one has the best solution/reality in solving Tibet’s issue. In other words, both sides reflect the classical view that reality is one, rather than the post modernist or Einsteinian view that realities could be different depending upon the observer’s physical context and that all these different perspectives of realities are valid scientifically.

In addition to this post-modernist perspective, we can add another strategy of what political scientists refer to as ‘cognitive dissonance’. And this cognitive dissonance can be added by bringing up another perspective, which is Tibet’s status quo. Indeed there are some Tibetans, both in and outside of Tibet, who are benefitting from the status quo.

Such a notion can be helpful, for at least, it will help the two seemingly conflicting sides to live in harmony and engage in lively debates rather than always ending up in acrimony whenever they meet and engage in conversation over the question of Tibet’s future status.

Furthermore, a single point perspective or reality concerning the ‘best’ solution regarding Tibet’s struggle, be it independence or autonomy, is reassuring, but it obstructs further discussion, debates and thinking, where as multiple perspectives of reality (independence, autonomy, status quo) will always leave room for us to have creative debates, perhaps resulting in a new and fresh perspective on Tibet!

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