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12/11/10
A QUESTION OF NON-VIOLENCE, OR NON-EXISTENCE
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:47 am

As I was working on the third revision of my little book for the
picture-poems.com project, THE THEATER OF THE NEW,
I had a chance to watch, The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s
Struggle for Freedom. (Ritu Sarin / Tenzing Sonam 2010)

The central fact of the film, it seems to me, is the
brutal two-step, clearly illegal, occupation of Tibet
in 1951 and 1959 by the then old-style communist regime
of China.

There are many possible responses to this central fact.

There is the path of violent resistance to the Chinese occupiers, an
approach being increasingly favored by young Tibetans,
both in- and outside the country. (This is understandable.
Since 1959, the situation has only gotten very much worse.)

And then there is the path of non-violence, which comes
naturally out of Buddhist culture generally, and in a
remarkably gentle yet steadfast way has been
embodied powerfully by the Dalai Lama.

The latter is called by His Holiness himself, “the middle
way.” Because, politically, it takes bitter compromise
as its point of departure. It is bitter because it is, in
my view, self-evidently unjust. Ethically, without a
doubt, the Chinese regime’s (not the Chinese people,
but the current regime) use of force in Tibet cannot
be justified. If their were truly worldwide rule of law,
it would not be tolerated. But this is not so. So the
Dalai Lama has no alternative but to “bargain with
the devil,” so to speak. This is because the conscience
of the world has failed him. At least up to now.

The question which instantly comes to mind is, why
did satyagraha, the way of ‘obstinate truth,’ of
Gandhi NOT fail? Or twenty years later on a different
continent, why did the militant non-violence of
Dr. King not fail?

This is the question that makes this documentary
so relevant given the current world situation.

In my view, the path of the Dalai Lama is in the
most fundamental sense NOT a middle way; it
does not — and this is crucially important — it
does not compromise on its commitment to
non-violence.

The Dalai Lama has not failed. It is we, as a world
community, who have failed.

Gandhi, embodying truth, took his stance squarely
on the ruthless tracks of British Empire, and the
whole world said, “Stop!” King, embodying truth
in his own way, and facing a similar divisive urge
to violent protest in his own racial justice movement,
stood his ground, and the whole world said, “This
must stop!”

The Dalai Lama has not failed. It is we, as a world
community, have failed. Both him, and ourselves.

So The Sun Behind the Clouds is a film to
meditate upon.

In metaphysical terms, I feel that there is a great and
tragic lack of clarity when it comes to the idea of using
what is seen as justifiable violence to come
to order and peace. This is unfortunate. And
especially true in North America, where in contrast
to Japan and Europe and increasingly in South
America, war & the use of force is, in diplomatic
terms, not seen as an option.

The key question of philosophy is necessity,
the things of the world that ‘cannot be otherwise.’
Is non-violence absolute necessity? I think it is.
That means there is no other way, middle or other-
wise.

This is was the key insight of Dr. King, uttered
in a remarkable address to the world just hours
before he was to be assassinated:

“Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars …
Men for years now have been talking about War and Peace,
but now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer
the choice between violence and non-violence in this world;
it’s non-violence or non-existence.”

This has become, I think, the central and most profound
truth of our time.

from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last major address,
April 3rd, 1968, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top.”

MORE at:
http://picture-poems.com/photoweek/earthrise.html

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