Tibetans end hunger strike, UN assures probe

After thirty days without food, the UN – maybe out of fear for being responsible for three dead bodies in front of their building – heeds to the demand of the three Tibetan hunger strikers. A representative from Ban Ki-Moon’s office, Parfait Onanga, visits the site, to hand a written assurance to the hunger strikers. Out of the three Tibetans, the oldest member, Dorjee Gyalpo, 59, has been taken to the hospital by the New York police few days ago. All the three hunger strikers lost much weight, over twenty pounds, and they are so weak that they can hardly speak. They need support of two others to stand up on their feet. Their voices are so feeble that others have to get very close to them to hear them properly. There is tear of joy and hope, when the letter from the UN is handed to the hunger strikers. According to the letter, the UN reassures the Tibetans that it will “engage” with China on the human rights violation in Tibet, and that it has asked, “special rapporteurs to investigate what is going inside Tibet… “(NYT, March 23)

Hunger Strike Ends

Though I share the joy of the Tibetans for having received a sympathetic (late, but still important) response from the UN, I am doubtful that anything concrete and substantial will come out of it. According to the article in New York Times, firstly, the letter is said to have been “approved” by the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, but it misses his signature. Secondly, the meanings of certain terms in the letter are left open-ended. What does it mean to “engage” with the Chinese government on the situation inside Tibet? Does it mean that the UN will put pressure – economic sanction – on the Chinese government to resolve Tibet Issue? Or does it mean that the UN will whisper few words across the table, to the Chinese delegates? Anyways, it seems quite meaningless to do anything, as long as China can raise its “veto” card, to any discussions on Tibet Issue in the UN.

Yet, I am grateful that the UN did not let the Tibetans die. We have so much on our plate right now, that it is extremely hard to bear the pain of losing more Tibetans – wave of self immolation, arbitrary arrests, undeclared martial law, firing at civilians and systemic oppression inside Tibet.


Religion in Millennial TV

Though it is again hard to generalize that the millennial generation is less religious than the previous ones, it is somewhat agreeable that youths today question their parents more often than before, when it comes to the topic of  religion. I have met many people from different countries, both in High School, Red Cross Nordic United World College and in College. Out of all the people I met, none described oneself as “religious”. One of my roommates from Sweden in High School, even described herself as neither religious nor agnostic. This  “neither” religious stance, I think is not unique to my Swedish friend. If we or someone cannot convince us with strong evidences, which usually tends to be empirical in nature, we either decide not to engage in the respective sphere or choose to remain ambiguous – or as “neither”.

In the Television series we watched, the questions that we find asking each other on a daily basis, are raised in one way or the other. Specifically, in Supernatural 4.1, there is the conflicting representation of an angel. For instance, when Dean confronts Castiel, who claims to be an angel, he rebuffs, “I thought angels were supposed to be guardians, fluffy wings, halos, you know… Michael Landon, not dicks.” As Line Nylon Petersen states,”basic dichotomies are destroyed”, with the portrayal of Castiel as a violent and unsympathetic angel – if he really is one. Petersen further elaborates, “The good does not exclude the bad, the innocent does not exclude the purposeful evil, nor the other way around”. This complex and hence conflicting representation or visualization of an angel, hinges on the writers’ desire to attract the younger viewers, the millennials, if you will. Like a young mind fights through the contradictory and often hypocritical “religious” practices and preachings in his/her real world, Dean confronts the hypocrisy of his angel – preaches of good intention, but acts in the opposite manner.

Though I would not describe this generation in extremes terms,”…  allergic to divinity and even to heaven” (Stephen Prothero), I would argue that the instinct or natural tendency to question the nature of heaven and divinity – or to look for alternative views – is definitely a defining characteristic of this century.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Visit Middlebury in October

Last night, around midnight, I happened to check my emails. I could not easily believe what I read in an email from the college president. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is coming to Middlebury College in October! This is a very happy news. Though I will be graduated then, the thought of having him coming to Middlebury College makes me so happy. Also, I have already made up my mind. No matter wherever I will be then, I will do my best to come back to Middlebury.


I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

Right from my childhood, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been my idol. Though I did not understand much about who he was and what he did, he had never failed to warm up my heart, every time I saw him. Back when I was in a Tibetan refugee school in India, we used to wait by the road sides and greet him whenever he passes by our school. He always had a very cheerful smile on his face and greeted his well-wishers with much sincerity – looked early through his car window and waved constantly at us.

As I grew older, I learned more about our country, its history, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s role in our society and why he came into exile – to India in 1959. Knowing more about him instilled in me, a much greater respect and admiration for him. His undying courage to live up to his moral principles, and to truly shoulder the responsibilities of a global citizen, garnered him profound respect and love, from all over the world. His words on the importance of upholding the universal moral values: love, nonviolence, understanding, compassion and kindness, are translated into numerous languages and quoted most frequently. He has traveled all over the world and his messages reached millions around the globe. He was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, for his decades-long commitment to nonviolence, in resolving the Tibetan People’s struggle for Independence. As the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people for many decades, he has taught his people to be resilient during the times of immense difficulties, and to never give up on their hope to restore justice in Tibet.

On a more personal level, I had the luck to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama before. When I was in High School, I was elected as the “Girl Captain” of the school. During one of our School Anniversaries, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited our school. On behalf of the students, I had the honor to offer a KHATAK (white silk scarf) to His Holiness. It is a Tibetan tradition to offer KHATAK to greet someone. His Holiness accepted my KHATAK with such kindness that I could not hold back my tears. He patted on my cheeks and said cheerfully, “Thank you. And always be strong and happy.” Those words still echo in my heart. When the days are hard, I think of him and his words, and I feel tremendous courage.

Becoming a refugee at the age of eleven and never seeing my family again, there are times when I am heavily consumed by sadness and lose the strength to be look further than my own problems. I would ask, “Why cannot I go home once in a while? Why cannot see my family once in a while? Why this and why that?” But afterwards, when I regain my sense of reasoning, I would remind myself that I am not alone. From His Holiness the Dalai Lama to millions of us, we all share the same fate – being separated from the loved ones and unsure about the day of return to a free Tibet. Despite all the struggles, his happiness is invincible. His true concern for others shines through him. His words sooth my heart as I know his compassion for others is genuine.

May you live a long life, His Holiness. I am so much looking forwarding to seeing you in October.

Morality Tales of Technologies & Social Media

Nicholas Sheltrown’s article, “Harry Potter’s World as a Morality Tale of Technology and Media” convinced me to revisit Harry Potter in a different light. Besides all the fun of entering a world of fantasies and magics, Sheltrown’s article draws our focus towards delving deeper into the world of Harry Potter to uncover and dissect the meanings of its embedded moral codes.
He quotes from the book, Half-Blood Prince, “If taken in excess, [Felix Felicis] causes giddiness, recklessness, and dangerous overconfidence … too much of a good thing, you know … highly toxic in large quantities.” (p.187) It is the utmost important that we know when and how to control our desire, if fails to do so, there is a grave danger that one might misuse the means – the technologies in the world of Muggles and magics in the world of wizard and witches – to serve one’s selfish and often short-sighted goals. In the world of wizards and witches, therefore, the teachers teach their students not to use magic, unless and until one really needs to use it – to defend oneself. Taking this moral lesson from the Harry Potter world and applying it to our muggle world, we are taught to be cautious and responsible, when employing the “tech-magics” to serve our needs. Though there are millions of things the technologies can do for us to make our lives easier and more convenient, there are yet even more troubling things they (or we can do with them) can do to pose threats to human existence. The author does not go to the extent of raising the issues on the Nuclear and Cyber wars ensued among the opposing countries around the world. But if we take it little further, we are to be warned that technologies have the potential to terminate the human races. 
                                       The World Hinges on The Press Button & The Enter Key
Another very important point Sheltrown raised in his article is how those at the tip of the social hierarchy pyramid can manipulated and cripple the wonders of the technologies – mostly to serve their vested interests. For instance, in Harry Potter, the department of ministry controls the content and publication of the Hogwarts’ news papers. By twisting and turning around the facts, the ministry recognizes the potential of the media, “to limit how consumers think about their government (ministry in the case of Harry Potter), economy, society, and fellow citizens.” (Sheltrown, 62)
Watkins, on the other hand, paints a rather positive picture of the fruits of the advancement in technologies. In particular, he equates an an upward graph of social media literacy among the younger generations to an indirect empowerment of the citizens – power to keep the government accountable, power and the means to question its authority, power to choose the candidates of their choice and in the extreme cases, the power to topple the power structure, if it fails to serve its purpose.
In a nutshell, both the articles cover on the potential of the technologies and social media to change the world in two different ways – for better or for worse.

Indefinite Hunger Strike Hits Day 17

 Indefinite Hunger Strike Hits Day 17

On February 22, the Tibetans around the world celebrated the arrival of year 2139. But unlike in the past, the Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet have unanimously yet implicitly agreed not to celebrate the new year, in a grand fashion. Since many Tibetans in the recent years have lost their lives, fighting for the freedom of the Tibetan people, the rest have opted out of celebrating the new year. They have chosen instead to observe it as the “Day of National Mourning”, for the lives lost in the struggle. Thousands of Tibetans from various exiled communities around the world observed the day by taking to the street, their peaceful protests against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. They are seen wearing their national costumes and heard chanting prayers for World Peace, and particularly for the Tibetans who died in the recent chain of self-immolations.
A group of Tibetans carrying Tibetan National flags, protests against the Chinese occupation of Tibet
Amid the worldwide peaceful protests against the Chinese government’s inhuman treatment of the Tibetans inside Tibet, three Tibetan refugees in New York City, NY: one monk and two laymen made a self-sacrificial decision that would forever change their lives. Right in front of the world’s most powerful international organization, the United  Nations, these three Tibetans announced their decisions to go on an Indefinite Hunger Strike.
 They had written down the reasons behind their decisions in a letter addressed to the UN. The letter appeals to the UN and the world leaders to take concrete actions against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. They  have decided not to eat until the UN passes a  resolution to intervene in China’s illegal occupation of Tibet. They have pleaded that the UN sends its mission to uncover truth on the dire and deteriorating  situation inside Tibet. They have expressed their disappointment in the lack of  fair and comprehensive media coverages on the recent self-immolations, and other forms of protests occurring inside Tibet. They expressed their concerns over the Chinese government’s treatment of the protestors, who either have ended up in the Chinese prisons or disappeared…  And today marks the 17th day since they started the hunger strike.
China has systematically cut off Tibet from the rest of the world. They fear that the world would witness their harsh crackdown on the Tibetan protestors – otherwise, why not allow journalists to Tibet? Both BBC and CNN have tried entering Tibet to report on the recent self-immolations, which numbers to more than 25 as of today. But the Chinese government stopped them from covering the stories and were forced to return even before getting near to the main sites of the protests.
Alas, who knows what the UN will do? Will they gather enough courage to take a concrete action against the Chinese government? Will they pay heed to the plight of the six million Tibetans on the Roof of the World? Will they stop the three Tibetans from dying of hunger? Yes, who knows? Maybe only China knows.
 For the time being, lets pray and hope that the world will change for better.

Degrassi vs Glee

Degrassi vs. Glee

As it is mentioned in “Defining Teen Culture: The N Network”, the character casting in Degrassi is visibly different from Glee. They all look much younger than the characters in Glee. Most importantly, as the creator of the show emphasized, the selection of the kid actors in Degrassi is diverse and they are indeed carefully chosen to represent the larger millennial teen generation. Most of the characters have the look of a boy or a girl next door. They do not fall under the category of cliché casting that usually happens on the screen. They are in other words average looking kids… They wear clothes that we would see people wearing on a daily basis. They are not portrayed either as spoiled rich brats or glamorized upper class fashion icons. It is because of this unglamorized portrayal of the teens that the representation of the millennial in Degrassi is accessible to a wide range of demographics. In other words many of the kids from diverse socioeconomic background can connect with the representation of their generation in the show.

Whereas in Glee, most of the characters pretty much fit the image of a typical on-screen teen idol. They are stylish, fashionable, glamorous and attractive. They all possess a sense of a personal fashion, meaning that they dress and behave in the way that they believe reflect who they are inside.

But the question then arises, “Why is Degrassi less successful (at least from the class discussion, only few people seem to know about the show) as a teen TV show than Glee?”My guess would  be that Degrassi’s representation of the teens is maybe perceived as too plain or too raw or too shabby or too real. Maybe the teens want to see a more glamorized/stylized version of themselves on screen. Maybe they want to see themselves growing up to be “the one”. The one who is stylish, attractive, confident and talented. Maybe they do not want to see, “the messiness of life in an adult world.” (Ross, 66)

Visioning Tibet (2005)

What would you choose if you were to choose either one of the two: your vision or your hearing? For me, I would choose my vision. I would rather see my world than hear it. I cannot imagine a world without seeing my family members and friends. If I could see and not hear, I would be of course so sad. But I would be much sadder if I suddenly lose the ability to see my loved ones.

It is unfortunately true that so many of the Tibetans still live in an environment where there is lack of medical assistance for the poor nomads or farmers. They have to travel days and nights to get to the town where they might be able to see a doctor. But in so many cases it is either so difficult to carry out the journey or it is too late by the time the patient reaches the hospital.

The film, Visioning Tibet (2005) depicts one of the most common problems the elderly and also the young Tibetans encounter on the Tibetan Plateau – developing cataracts. The director follows the journey of two American eye doctors who travel to Tibet to train the Tibetan doctors in eye surgical procedures, so that the Tibetans themselves can help each other in the long run. I am truly moved by the powerful documentary film. It touched my heart to see those helpless and familiar-looking faces in the film. I wish that I could go back to my country once in a while to contribute back to my society. I wish I were a part of the project. I am also very grateful to the American doctors who helped so many Tibetans. It is indeed a good way of expressing one’s compassion.