I was on the roof of next door’s ‘wash-house’ early-1960’s when I heard Freda Lister sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow beautifully, it was the first time I had heard the song. There was a bunch of us kids up there on a warm summer’s day during school hols. One of the group shewed me a paperback book and said they had just read it and it was wonderful. That book The Silver Sword, (probably the first ‘serious’ book I ever read after my staple diet of Enid Blyton’s fairy & goblins and Beanos), was about refugees.
Whilst working as a consultant for NASA James Lovelock developed the Gaia Hypothesis in his book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford, 1979). [He also claims to have invented the microwave oven.] Having invested a few paragraphs in rehearsing the improbability behind the assembly of sentient self-replicating life from a chemical soup, in turbulent conditions over immense timescales, Lovelock cheerfully resolves it all by concluding, “Life on Earth was thus an almost utterly improbable event with almost infinite opportunities of happening. So it did.” p.14 (Tim Radford Friday 27 August 2010 Guardian Science) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock
‘Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe.’ (Decca Aitkenhead The Guardian, Saturday 1 March 2008) http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/mar/01/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange
Before 2000 I had read various predictions that the biggest problem awaiting the 21st century would be shifting populations, from a number of causations; war being the primary one, famine and epidemics following rapidly in its wake. Now it has come to pass. War is never a solution, maybe sometimes a stopgap, but the issues rage on. Hitler thought that through war he could build a 3rd Reich Empire to rival those of Britain & France of the 19th century. He was proved wrong but at GREAT cost. My parents’ generation was embroiled in the outcomes at the time. Ted Walker, an 18 year old from Burnley who I came to meet in the 1960s, was taken at Dunkirk and effectively enslaved in a Stalag in Poland for the rest of the war then, like the childers in The Silver Sword, eventually left to walk back to Burnley. I have a postcard to prove it. And after that war there were millions of displaced people.
So we move to the modern day, nothing has changed, the results of war are refugees, migrants, pilgrims whatever you call people desperate to escape enough to leave familiar territories and jump aboard unseaworthy vessels after paying crooks extortionate sums of money, they are in flight, searching for some safe haven and maybe a better future.
So what do they do, the so called ‘Heads of Europe’. They squabble. They bring up all the age old prejudices. They build walls. They place razor wire on fences.
There have been oases of hope, like Germany allowing in a lot very quickly. Germany knows what it’s like to grow out from the ruins of a war which its leader had lost years before he shot himself and stemmed the advance of troops from all sides.
Syria looks like a country devastated by such a war now. I don’t need to tell you, it’s there in all the news. It seems the Head of State in Syria has no compunction about the people who live in the cities his forces bomb. There are many other forces at work there too, like the head of Russia’s ‘special forces’ is ‘advising’ the government side and has been filmed leading Assad’s forces, (purportedly), the result is that millions flee.
If only countries could use money directed for armament in building new towns in lands of plenty there may be a medium term miracle but my 64 years of living this life doesn’t indicate that’s about to occur. Even if it did there would need to be a big turn-around in the way we humans (ubeings I like to call us) treat one another. All this ‘he’s a muslim, he’s a Brit, he’s a Sunni, he’s a Sikh, he’s the other side’ etc needs to be sifted over. It’s called prejudice I think. It’s so hard for ubeings to let bygones be bygones, to shake hands and make up. So many prefer to reek revenge, an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. Often we get pre-emptive revenge, just in case they attack us we attack first. But violence begets violence. When we feel aggressed upon it seems a natural instinct to re-act against the perceived aggressor, the Dalai Lama and his followers walk away from that idea. In Tai Chi too, albeit a martial art from China (a lot of good does hail from China) the idea which seems so counter-intuitive for a novice like me is that you DON’T react, you go with the flow, you give ground or rather you deflect the incoming assault by using your ‘yin’ (negative/nil) force ‘against’ the ‘yang’ of the attack. So the aggressor has nothing to fight as the one he attacks offers no resistance, ‘…the Taoists call T’ai Hsu the Great Nothing‘ Hoff says in his Tao of Pooh and elsewhere he aptly describes the force of T’ai Hsu as like a cork bobbing on water and if you try to hit it it just bobs more and more as you try harder to make contact, eventually the assailant becomes tired and the cork bobs on down the river of life unscathed.
Take a leaf from the Dalai Lama’s book and promote peace. I know it’s hard to just let it go. Our prejudices rule our actions all too often.
But prejudice takes strange forms. South African leaders refused the Dalai Lama permission to attend a Nobel Peace summit because they don’t want to lose Chinese trades. China had invaded un-prepared Tibet in 1950 http://tibetoffice.org/tibet-info/invasion-after and by 1959 thousands of political refugees, including the Dalai Lama, felt the need to flee Tibet because of Chinese repression of their rights in the name of freedom for the common man from what they saw as feudal repression by an upper class dominated by religious ideas which Mao’s boys didn’t consider of any worth. (Ironically there is a regeneration of the main religions in Modern China and in Mongolia Buddhist ideas have undergone a substantial revival since it got out of the Soviet bloc. http://www.brill.com/change-democratic-mongolia )
The lines of refugees that came over the mountains into India then are comparable to those being seen coming out of Syria and Libya today but the West turned a blind eye. It was heavily involved fighting North Korea with its Chinese ‘advisers’. I have met and been very impressed by a number of Chinese people’s intelligence, yet the masses in China can do little to stop the systematic pillaging of Tibet’s resources and the subjugation of its spiritual ideas.
The Chinese leaders need to re-consider their approach to Tibet, but they won’t because [I believe] they see Tibet as a buffer to any move coming into China from the West. They have destroyed the Tibet monasteries, and continue to harass the indigenous population. Tibet had so many monasteries because they had turned their backs on war and chosen paths of peace, quite an accomplishment as they were of Mongol descent and had once conquered China, China never forgets.
Britain is not without guilt, apart from being the first country to invade Tibet (in 1903) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_expedition_to_Tibet when Younghusband slaughtered hundreds of ill-armed Tibetans who had the audacity to not want British sovereignty, now they make pacts with China. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/02/nobel-peace-summit-south-africa-dalai-lama-visa.
‘XXIII. Both sides stand ready to deepen understanding of each other’s development paths and strengthen political trust. Both sides emphasise the importance of promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law and stand ready to strengthen their human rights dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. In line with its longstanding policy, the UK recognises that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China and does not support Tibetan independence. Both sides agreed it is both in China and the UK’s interests to promote the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong in accordance with the “one country, two systems” principle and the basic law.’ https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-from-government-of-the-peoples-republic-of-china-government-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland
George Osborne, Conservative finance minister is in China today, no doubt he won’t mention Tibet. You’re not allowed to mention Tibet, it’s a bit like John Cleese mentioning the war.
Chinese leaders will make a return visit to Britain in October. I am afraid none of them will hear me urge them to alleviate the repressive conditions imposed on indigenous Tibetans nor request them to allow the Dalai Lama and his people freedom to return and control their own actions in Tibet. He has said they wish for Tibetan autonomy now rather than independence.
But I am forever grateful to the peace-loving Tibet people whose work I witnessed this week at a gobsmackingly wonder-full show by the Tashi Lunpho monks in London. Since their monastery/university in Tibet was destroyed under Chinese rule the Tashi Lunpho monks have built a new centre in Sikkim, South India. http://www.tashi-lhunpo.org.uk/monastery_15.html
I’d love to go see the Dalai Lama too but can’t afford the 70-90£ asking prices. I tried to blag my way in by telling them I been aksed to write an article for the Tibet Foundation and some up to date photos would be good, but they didn’t listen or they weren’t impressed.