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Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth

Swans Commentary: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth, by Michael Parenti - mparen01

But many present-day Buddhists in the United States would argue that none of this applies to the Dalai Lama and the Tibet he presided over before the Chinese crackdown in 1959. The Dalai Lama's Tibet, they believe, was a spiritually oriented kingdom, free from the egotistical lifestyles, empty materialism, pointless pursuits, and corrupting vices that beset modern industrialized society. Western news media, and a slew of travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La and the Dalai Lama as a wise saint, "the greatest living human," as actor Richard Gere gushed. (4)

The Dalai Lama himself lent support to this idealized image of Tibet with statements such as: "Tibetan civilization has a long and rich history. The pervasive influence of Buddhism and the rigors of life amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment." (5) In fact, Tibet's history reads a little differently. In the thirteenth century, Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man, who then gave himself the title of Dalai (Ocean) Lama, ruler of all Tibet. Here is a historical irony: the first Dalai Lama was installed by a Chinese army.

To elevate his authority beyond worldly challenge, the first Dalai Lama seized monasteries that did not belong to his sect, and is believed to have destroyed Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim to divinity. (6) The Dalai Lama who succeeded him pursued a sybaritic life, enjoying many mistresses, partying with friends, writing erotic poetry, and acting in other ways that might seem unfitting for an incarnate deity. For this he was "disappeared" by his priests. Within 170 years, despite their recognized status as gods, five Dalai Lamas were murdered by their enlightened nonviolent Buddhist courtiers.

. . .

Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their families and brought into the monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there, they became bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk, reports that it was common practice for peasant children to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He himself was a victim of repeated childhood rape not long after he was taken into the monastery at age nine. (12) The monastic estates also conscripted peasant children for lifelong servitude as domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.

Iran shutting down barber shops that offer Western styles

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran shuts 'Western' barber shops

Iranian police have closed more than 20 barbers' shops in the capital Tehran.

The authorities say the barbers were encouraging un-Islamic behaviour by offering Western hairstyles, tattooing and also eyebrow-plucking for men.

Police say they have inspected more than 700 shops during a two-week crackdown in the city.

Floods, more than any other natural event, seem like a betrayal of nature

BBC NEWS | In Pictures | In pictures: Deadly US floods

Private fire fighting firm only protects the houses of clients

Times-News: Magicvalley.com, Twin Falls, ID

What's next, a privat epolice department that only investigates crimes that happen to subscribers?

A private fire crew dispatched by a national insurance company that caters to wealthy clients is guarding 22 high-end homes threatened by the Castle Rock Fire, a blaze that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of million-dollar homes west of Ketchum.

The crew will protect only homes insured by AIG Private Client Group, an insurance company that offers "loss-prevention services" to its wealthiest customers. A truck and two-man crew sent by AIG from Montana arrived in Ketchum about 2 p.m. Wednesday to start dousing properties with Phos-Chek, the same fire retardant dropped from U.S. Forest Service aircraft.

"We're not going out there to fight the fire," said Dorothy Sarna, vice president and national director of risk-management services and loss prevention for the New York-based company. "We're out there to protect our clients."

Veteran fire managers now working the Castle Rock fire say they've never heard of a private fire crew protecting individual homes in the midst of a wildfire, said Dave Olson, a spokesman for the Forest Service.

August 22, 2007

Bridge collapse linked to pigeon shit

Experts Tie Pigeon Dung, Bridge Collapse

Pounded and strained by heavy traffic and weakened by missing bolts and cracking steel, the failed Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River also faced a less obvious enemy: pigeons.

Inspectors began documenting the buildup of pigeon dung on the span near downtown Minneapolis two decades ago. Experts say the corrosive guano deposited all over the span's framework helped the steel beams rust faster.

Although investigators have yet to identify the cause of the bridge's Aug. 1 collapse, which killed at least 13 people and injured about 100, the pigeon problem is one of many factors that dogged the structure.

"There is a coating of pigeon dung on steel with nest and heavy buildup on the inside hollow box sections," inspectors wrote in a 1987-1989 report.