Iran & Tibet or at least Dharamsala are theocracies. But they are very different theocracies.
I am involved & concerned about both countries. There are similarities & differences. Interesting similarities. Both Iran is a theocracy. Tibet was at one time. The Tibetan religious community or at least much of de-camped to Dharamsala in India in the foothills of India, near to Tibet. This was after the Chinese had invaded Tibet in the early 50s & annexed the country which they called a province or a region of China anyway. It was a case of the apologists for the Chinese saying that in fact Tibet had traditionally been part of China anyway. Chinese communism in fact has a lot in common with Islam, though there is much that is different. Under communism men & women were in theory at least equal, In practise I don’t think it worked quite like that.
Aung Sang Suu Kyi gave the Reith lectures earlier on this year on radio4. She seemed in fact, remarkably well informed about what is going on in the World & she does seem to come & go as she pleases. I didn’t hear it all. But to be honest I didn’t think she said anything remarkable. She did refer to Buddhism & she did seem to think change could come quicker than anybody thinks, citing events in the Middle East & the speed with which the iron curtain collapsed, when the Soviet Union imploded & thus we have what we have today. Who knows? But it seems to be that the Arab Spring has achieved very little. Of course I deplore people being locked up & tortured. But will anything better replace it. Aung Sang Suu Kyi herself is the daughter of General Win who gained independence for Burma. We are talking about civil rights. We are talking about poverty. The people of Burma have suffered from repression & poverty for many decades. Indeed Aung San Suu Kyi stressed that the 2008 demos were more about rises in food prices than anything. I like Aung San Suu Kyi. She is modest & intelligent & has charisma. But her reputation is almost certainly higher than it would be because she has not actually ruled the country. Ruling a country requires statecraft. Idealism is not enough. I wish it were. But it isn’t. In many countries, the bad guys hold sway. The problem with idealists in power is that they are so convinced that they have a monopoly of truth that they consider anyone who disagrees with them to be an enemy. An enemy of everything that is. Everything that hold dear. And not just wrong but a bad person to boot. Muslims have as word for those who don’t believe the same as them. It is infidel. It seems that for us non-muslims to be killed just because we are not muslims.
I am involved with both Tibet & Iran. In Iran I am shocked & dismayed by the mediaeval practices carried out there. I am surprised & delighted by the ancient rituals of Tibet
I attended the birthday celebrations for the Dalai Lama last year. It was a significant birthday. It was his 70th birthday. He certainly looks younger. He is a man full of compassion & understanding. Buddhists have some arcane & obscure rituals aimed at driving out demons & stuff like that. But it was all very wonderful. At the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations last year, there were some of these rituals acted out on stage by both secular & monks.
Buddhism is a lovely religion. The antithesis of Islam. The very atmosphere at gatherings of Buddhists, especially Tibetans, is one of peace & harmony. Peace & harmony in bucket loads. I sometimes feel threatened by muslims. I never feel anything but love & harmony from Buddhists.
The Dalai Lama has stepped down from his non-religious role. Which I assume means that in fact Tibet is about to become less of a theocracy (if there can be a half way house that is.) In Iran too the state if it is not withering away now, will in the end. Iran seems to be ruled by mullahs against the wishes of the majority of the country. Iran is mainly ruled by elderly religious males, the inhabitants of the country are mainly young non-religious people. In Dharamsala, people there are Buddhists. Of course, it was one of the reasons that they left Tibet in the first place that they couldn’t really practise their religion. But Tibetan Buddhism, like all Buddhism, is non threatening & leads or at least seems to lead to contentment. One of the tenets of Buddhism is that seeking happiness is an illusion. The belief is that what people should seek is peace of mind.
The question is asked by Maryam Namazie & others whether religion is ever a good thing. Whether a little bit of religion is in fact a good thing. Maryam says not. She in fact thinks that religion is necessarily a bad thing presumably because it isn’t true. But we, as the human race, believe all sorts of things which aren’t true. I have been religious in my time; really quite religious. In the end I had to admit that it wasn’t true. But it has helped me greatly. It has helped me in my dealings with other people. It has made me a better person methinks. Much is made of the fact that the fear of God is put into children, the threat of hell or something. I think this is over stated. It is surely better than for example, hitting children. If children become better people because they believe that God is watching them, what harm is there in that? In Tibetan Buddhist kingdoms like Kanskar & Ladakh the people are or at least used to be before the advent of Westerners, blissfully happy. I don’t think anybody can claim that for any muslim country or come to that any secular or christian country.