Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sympathy for rebels

I wonder if Tibet isn't achieving a certain subversive chic in China, even as it is the subject of intense fury from young, nationalist bloggers.

My evidence is anecdotal: Cui Jian's use of Tibetan music during his allegedly anti-Olympics concert (though why, exactly, the concert was "anti-Olympics" beyond that some German reporter said so, I don't know) and Zheng Jun's new comic book about a heavy metal "Tibetan Rock Dog" playing the underground Beijing music scene.

So... this "trend" might not be a trend.

But, if it is a trend, it might be meaningful. Think of the U.S. counterculture's embrace of the Zapatistas in Mexico or, decades ago, the FMLN in El Salvador and Sandinistas in Nicaragua (or those Che Guevara T-shirts that adorn many backs, including that of this writer).

Chinese interest in Tibetan culture can often be filed in the "noble savage" category of admiration, just like sympathy for Native Americans in the U.S. But if resistance, too, gets respect, even a little bit, then things are different.

That was true in the United States, as well, when supporters for Native Americans lashed out against settler atrocities over a century ago--to the point that some citizens grumbled that Indian atrocities weren't getting enough attention--or, more recently, backed up the American Indian Movement's quest for greater autonomy.


chicanohek said...

Interesting parallel. Do you see the same acceptance by the international community of the Chinese version of the Zapatistas?


Old Tales Retold said...

Yes, I would say there is even stronger sympathy for the Tibetan movement(s) internationally than for the Zapatistas, as sympathy for Tibetans tends to encompass the Liberal/Left, Liberals and Conservatives.

That said, the traditional Left of socialists and communists has been less-than-sympathetic to Tibetans. These progressives zero in on the PRC's unbalanced capitalism and leave questions of nationalities, religion and even freedom of speech to the Freedom House / RFA / human rights group crowd.

Which is a pity, I think.