Archive for March, 2012

Imagine – John Lennon

March 28, 2012

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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Tibet: Changing the Victim Mentality.

March 24, 2012

In March 2012, a month long hunger strike by three Tibetans in front of UN headquarter in New York was concluded, when the UN officials came to greet the hunger strikers and assured them that UN will raise the issue of Tibet in international forum and investigate the current repressive situations in Tibet. One hunger striker broke down and pleaded the UN officials to please do something about Tibet. I had a hard time watching the whole video on YouTube ‘cos I got this sick feeling that this whole hunger strike incident portrays us Tibetans as victims and we urge UN to support us. Its as if UN is the saviour and our only way to freedom. We are always looking to the west for help. We’ve got to get out of this mentality of victimhood. We’ve to think out of the box.

Recently Lance Armstrong has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He publicly admitted to doping and has been stripped of all the seven of his Tour de France titles. He is also banned from sports, though I think it is bit too late as he took retirement from cycling several years ago. But this scandal shouldn’t take anything away from his heroic struggle against cancer and his tremendous contribution to fight against cancer by raising hundreds of millions of dollars through his very popular foundation Livestrong and their iconic wristbands. I’ve a stock of it, just in case to replace my old ones or lost ones. I’ve to wear one all the time. He is still an inspiration for me.

When Lance Armstrong got diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t let cancer affect him, and refused to see himself as a victim of cancer. Instead, he fought cancer head on and emerged victorious. Similarly, the approach to our cause shouldn’t be that from one of a victim begging to world, rather we should fight with China as equals, and fight accordingly. There are many ways besides violence. Gandhi led a struggle for India’s freedom by demanding independence as their birth right, and in no way did he rely solely on international intervention. He fought on his own with truth as his guiding light. He didn’t had a victim mentality.

Therefore, we also shouldn’t think of ourselves as victims and feel helpless. We shouldn’t think that all we can do is only urge and urge for international intervention. We need a proactive, firm and assertive approach, and we can then look for different ways to fight the cause. One idea I already mentioned in my other blog is, opening a Non Chinese retail store to target China’s economy, no matter how small a dent it is. With a new approach, we can have more ideas. We’ve to think differently as equals, definitely not as a victim. There is no place for poor and the weak victims in today’s world. We’ve to fight our own battle. We’ve to believe in ourselves and realize our full potential. Even one person can make a difference. I know its easy to say all these crap than doing it, but still wanted to let it out.

I now understand the slogans or logo such as “Save Tibet”. We expect the world to save Tibet. Why not Quit Tibet like “Quit India” movement by Gandhi. Having truth on our side isn’t enough, ‘cos our position on the issue of Tibet is still that of a weakling, as we see ourselves as victims. Truth can’t fight on its own.

People may say our situation is different or we’ve to think according to reality, but weakness can never be the answer in any situation. No matter what the situation, having a firm, assertive approach from our side is more important, irrespective of enemy’s situation. China is like a child full of tantrums. We cannot correct the child’s behaviour by fulfilling or appeasing all the demands as it’ll never end. At some point, we’ve to say enough is enough, and refuse to accept the child’s demands. If necessary even scold him or give one slap to show who’s the boss. My point here is that a spoilt child can’t understand any diplomacy. They have to be dealt straightforwardly. Same thing with China. Demand our rights. No more saying to china, “We’ve done everything you want, now is your turn”. Diplomacy won’t work. Diplomacy is weakness. Plus, the world won’t give a damn. They only want trade and oil.

I don’t have many ideas at present. I haven’t really thought much on it, as there are too many things going on in the world and in our personal lives, to focus solely on Tibet. I may get more ideas when I make Tibet my full time focus. Plus, I need to find my own courage and self belief to pursue those ideas. But I shouldn’t be the only one thinking about solutions. We are all on the same boat.

Our movement has become too passive. I think its ‘cos we are laid-back and easy going, including me. There are several reasons. First, we expect world to save us ‘cos we are victims. Second, we are waiting for changes to happen in China, instead of bringing our own changes. Third, for a long time, we have shirked our responsibilities and let Dalai Lama do all the hard work, while we are busy focusing on making our livelihoods and how to go west(me too but indirectly as its my parents). His Holiness may be a better leader, but why can’t we grow up and take responsibilities. Our struggle can’t depend on the single person all the time. As Tibetans, we lack confidence and self belief, including me.

Our passivity makes us passive bystanders, even though there are people who are willing to sacrifice their lives going on hunger strikes, and in Tibet, where people are taking extreme measures of burning themselves. But their approach is wrong. They are risking their lives on a weak, timid, and negative approach. Hunger strikers do deserve tremendous credit, but they are wasting their effort in the wrong directions. In the end of strike, there was some pleading by them to UN to do more. That was it. What can we expect from UN and the world? We’ve no oil. Our people in Tibet are ready to goto extreme length of self immolations to fight for our cause. So, the ability or the potential is there. Only the proper direction or the right approach is missing. If people can burn themselves, which is the ultimate sacrifice, then they can do anything. They just need some proper guidance.

I agree something is better than nothing. I say the same thing. Thats why I goto protests out of duty and to make up the numbers. The onus is on me, since I wrote it. But passive movement shouldn’t be the only way. i wish people can divert their time and effort to more proactive approach and be less reliant on passive approach. In the meantime, we can continue with the passive approach. But it shouldn’t be, be all, end all.

Some of the feedbacks I got were about similarities and differences in ours and Gandhian approach. Yes, there are some similarities. Both our movements are non violent, but ours is passive and his isn’t. First, he led active struggle from the front by leading protests and doing hunger strike, but we don’t have anyone yet. Dalai lama, being a religious or spiritual leader, is acting from behind. Can we imagine him leading the protests, or going on hunger strike. He is above all those things. I still don’t know whether that is the right thing or not, hence I can’t criticize. Lets leave the issue at that. Second, Gandhi never changed his stance, but we did. We gave everything on the platter to the spoilt kid China, who can’t understand reciprocity or kindness. That’s not a good parenting skill. Third, our people may not feel depressed, but they definitely feel helpless, which is clearly visible everywhere, including the pleading of hunger strikers to some UN officials. Our helplessness shows our victimization.

About self immolating martyrs, I think they did so ‘cos that was the only way to publicize our cause and also to wake up Tibetans in exile to take the Tibet issue more seriously. They are not afraid of giving up their own life, so had they been inspired by Gandhi’s proactive approach, they would have supported Gandhian approach till the end. Gandhi’s path of truth and showing the other cheek is not easy for everyone to follow who don’t want to risk their lives. Gandhi mentions that in the movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai” as well. The self immolators would have made an ideal supporters as they showed they are not afraid to risk their lives.

The differences about the number of populations is secondary. how many people does it take to make a difference? even one is enough, and we still have millions. There is also differences in non-violent ways. Ours is passive while Gandhi is proactive. Even cowardly act can be called non violent ‘cos cowards just backs down from any issue. So there is no fight. Even passive bystanders are non violent ‘cos though they are not doing anything, they are not using violent means. Gandhi’s approach was to provoke the enemy but respond non-violently and by not backing down. If the enemy hits you, show the other cheek. No eye for an eye. Gandhi’s non violent means was neither cowardly not passive. So, there are more differences than similarities. Gandhi was the one in control, not the Britishers. They just responded to his actions and when he didn’t respond, they were baffled. How do you show aggression to someone who doesn’t respond in the same way . In our case, we’ve let all the balls in China’s court and waiting for response and change of heart from China. Ours isn’t a Gandhi approach by a long shot.

It is a fact that Tibetans are victims at the hand of Chinese murderers. But its also a fact that Lance Armstong got cancer. So, how did he handle it? Did he get depressed and gave up on life. It is also a fact that India was colonized for 300yrs. Did Gandhi acted like a victim or like a fighter? We, Tibetans are victims, but we need to think proactively about how to fight our cause instead of going out on streets and saying we are victims and urge for international interventions.

It is very depressing and demoralizing when our own Gov’t in the past told us not to protest against China as it might jeopardize the meetings between the Tibetan envoys and the Chinese. They are dutifully obeying all the requests made by China. So, isn’t it obvious to see who is stronger and who is weak. Our gov’t is making things easier for china by appeasing China, when its supposed to be the opposite. Dialogues or negotiations must be done from a position of strength, not weakness. It was the same case with general Tibetans. During protests, we were told by some officials to say CCP (chinese communist party) instead of China, just because some Chinese people told them that they didn’t like it. I was furious ‘cos how in the world are people supposed to know what CCP stands for? Do we give the whole world a lesson on what CCP is? Using china is much easier for general public to understand. As long as CCP rules China, we’ll use China. Just how far do we need to go in appeasing others? There is a limit to appeasing and on thinking too much as well.

We all have potentials and we seek to use our potentials to full. I also want to do many things but gets flustered by obstacles in life. I get trapped in my own mindset and there are many times when I feel down. I then come across pics, like the one I saw of a Tibetan woman crying for help, and it gives me a jolt as I don’t feel helpless regarding Tibet yet I haven’t been able to do much. I’ve got countless wake up call moments like this, but it’s difficult to sustain it. I also feel helplessness in some ways, but I feel mainly for myself not for Tibet, ‘cos as I said, I’ve many ideas that I want to do regarding Tibet and the world. So, I feel helplessness in my ability to come out of my mess, though I’m trying. Otherwise I see lot of potentials in things we can do for Tibet. We all have our own ideas of what to do for Tibet, but we keep it to ourselves for fear of being ridiculed. Its time to let out those ideas and pursue it and not let it rust somewhere in your head. I wish all Tibetans and people around the world could realize their full potential.

In my current state of mind, I do feel like one of the passive bystanders, doing nothing much except writing blogs, which isn’t enough as I seek the ability to walk the talk. Life is sufferings, indeed, according to Buddha. Fear is deep seated in me. I don’t know why Tibetans cry out of helplessness? If you believe in yourself, then there is no time to cry or waste, only to work on what you believe in. My guess is they don’t realize their full potential. We can do anything if we set our mind to do something. Yes we can. Yes we can.

A leader is needed to guide our people inside Tibet in their struggle for a nation, as they are willing to goto extreme lengths of protests, and not afraid of dying. A leader, who can make a proper use of our comrades who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. A leader, who can properly channel the 50 yr long raging patriotism burning inside the Tibetans in Tibet as they continue to face oppressions, day in, day out. We need a Gandhi like leader who can lead from the front, who can bring the change, not wait for it. If there isn’t any, people will keep on resorting to immolations as the ultimate symbol of protests inside tibet. No point in opposing their actions if you can’t propose anything worthwhile. So, don’t oppose, if you can’t propose. Begging attitude has to stop. If you want something, you’ve to initiate, or strive for it. Just go for it. We can’t expect others to give us everything on a platter. We can’t depend on the generosity or kindness of others. Living on charity of others is not the right way to live. Our’s is not an ideal world yet. I’m not saying I’ve it in me as a leader, but I do feel the guilt of not being able to do anything substantial, and this guilty feeling will continue as long as I don’t clear out my own mess first, and that is another equally hard struggle.

Some die hard followers are already there who are prepared to follow the leader to any lengths. Only the leader is missing. So, the reverse has happened. We’ve the followers but the Gandhi like leader is missing. I’m saying this ‘cos following on Gandhi’s path of truth and nonviolence isn’t easy, yet our followers have already demonstrated their tremendous commitment. They are not afraid of sacrificing themselves for the sake of others and won’t harm the others. They would make the ideal followers of Gandhi. Tremendous opportunity awaits.

I’ve posted a video of hunger strikers being called of after assurance by UN officials to call for investigation in Tibet. It was the pleading or begging by Tibetan hunger strikers to some UN officials that compelled me to write this blog, as I found it hard to watch.

I’ve posted a link to the movie “Gandhi” from Youtube. Enjoy and learn.

Water is Life. Boycotting Water Corporations, Especially Bottled Water and Soft Drinks.

March 5, 2012

I realized this morning again that its high time I wrote my views on boycotting bottled water, as the major Tibetan Uprising day event is coming up, and as usual, organizers will buy large packs of bottled water for all the people gathered, to rest their vocals for protesting out loud, in the name of convenience. I request organizers to buy minimum of bottled water, and encourage people to bring their own water bottles, for the sake of environment and the world.

I’m taking an introductory international development course At York university, and as a part of course readings, we had to buy a book on water, “Blue Covenant, The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water”, authored by a prominent Canadian water activist, Maude Barlow, who also wrote the book, Blue Gold. The course book gave me a lot of insight about the business of water, and exposes all of the wrong doings of water corporations, which was heartbreaking. It was then I resolved to boycott water related products, and also write a blog on it, to raise awareness on this issue, but I kept postponing it. I’ll be using my course book as a source of information for this article.

Boycotting bottled water and soft drinks suddenly might seem to be a drastic measure, and I also found it hard and extreme. You need some drinks at home occasionally for yourself and for the guest also, as we can’t offer them only water, and then explain the whole reason behind boycotting drinks, which might scare them. So, I request people people to buy a minimum of soft drinks or juices, but bottled water can definitely be boycotted.

Water is the source of life. Without water, life cannot exist. Therefore, it means that water belongs to everybody, to the whole world. It also means that having access to clean drinking water is our fundamental right, our human right. No one should be denied or excluded from having access to water, and neither does anyone have the right to deny access to water to anyone. Those in breach of this fundamental human right should be tried under crimes against humanity and given the most severe punishment possible, even life imprisonment.

Unfortunately, under the UN convention of Rights, thanks to intense lobbying and bribing by water corporations in the past, water has been removed as the basic right, with the only exception of food. Water is now regarded as a commodity, something to be traded in the market. It has become a means of making maximum profit, something to be exploited, just like any other natural resources.

Today, water is the fastest growing market in the world, with the current value of it in the trillions. With the growing shortage of freshwater in world, the value of water can only only rise up and up, and at a rapid rate. Water will be come the new gold in future, and wars will be fought over it, not oil. Therefore, the corporations, sees an immense opportunity to exploit this water shortages for their own benefit, ie for the unchecked growth of their corporations, just like they are doing with oil. If the particular resources is abundant and freely available, then there is not much opportunities for corporations to exploit. When the resource is scarce, the price gets high, which entices the corporations to seize the resources and sell it to the highest bidder, thus stuffing up their insatiable and bottomless pocket of greed with all the money of the world.

I’ll use some of the paragraphs from this book to illustrate my points and try to simplify them. The book, Blue Covenant, was published in 2007, so there maybe some changes in the figures and estimates stated in the book compared to 2012, but I don’t expect much differences.

The bottled water industry is one of the most polluting industries on earth, and one of the least regulated. Most bottled water comes in plastic made of some chemicals derived from crude oil, and they can leach from bottle into the water and into the ground. Exporting millions of bottled water worldwide produces tons of CO2 into the environment. Billions of kgs of plastics are used to bottle water every year, creating mountains of garbage and fouling waterways. Fewer than 5 percent pf plastic bottles around the world are recycled. Most are either incinerated (burned), which produces toxic by-products such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals, or buried, where they take a thousand years to biodegrade. Of those plastic water bottles from western countries that are recycled, almost half go to china for processing, where they are fouling china’s already strained waterways and adding to the energy costs of this product.

The water extraction for bottled water is concentrated near already-stressed water systems such as The Great Lakes in North America, from which almost four trillion litres of water are already taken from the basin every day, according to the Detroit News. In rural India, the existence of many coca cola plants led to a sudden drop in water levels, which devasted the watersheds and livelihoods of those who live there. Some plants were even forced to shut down due to massive protests from the locals. Water bottlers pay almost nothing for water they extract and in most countries, pay little or no royalties or taxes on this common heritage from which they earn such huge profits. Further, large amounts of water are wasted in the production of Pepsi and Coke bottled water, which is essentially filtered tap water. It takes 2.6 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of their bottle water due to the complicated and wasteful filtering process. Also, it takes 250 litres of water to produce the sugar for any of its flavored waters or soft drinks.

Nor is bottled water any safer than tap water on the whole. Studies have found that because it is largely unregulated, some bottled water is, in fact, less safe than more highly regulated tap water. In the 1999 survey by US based natural resources defence council, 103 brands of bottled water were tested and the process took four years. 2004 studies found that 68 brands of mineral water, contained high levels of bacterial contamination, including traces of legioenella bacteria and mold penicillium, in the bottled water. A 2006 report called have you bottled it, by the brush environmental group Sustain, recommends tap water over bottled water for personal heath and planet. Coca Cola was forced to recall all its Dasani bottled water from the United Kingdom in 2004 when it was discovered to have high levels of bromate, a chemical compound that can cause abdominal pain, hearing impairment, kidney failure and even death at high-enough doses. yet companies such as Coca Cola aggressively market their water as some kind of miracle beverage in schools and universities around the world and finding new markets as people buy the myth that only bottled water is safe to drink. The worst thing about bottled water is that it allows people to view water as a commodity and sets the stage, one bottle at a time, for acceptance of the complete corporate takeover of water.

I’ll begin my points from here. Jotting down sentences from the book was a real pain, as i prefer to write my own thoughts. A word of caution to people in poor countries. The testing of tap water mentioned here is mainly from rich, developed countries where the testing of water is more stringent. So, the quality of tap water in poor countries can’t be assumed to be just as safe. The bottled water may be safer but thats the not the right way in the long run. The real solution is to pressure the local gov’t to stop the corporate takeover of water utilities and enforce stricter regulations regarding the quality of tap water, and to buy and install small, portable, filtering equipment at home.

There has been an increasing trend to privatize water in all the poor countries, which formed a basis concept of capitalism called neo-liberalism, which advocates for minimal role of gov’t in economic activity, even for the provision of basic utilities such as water. This Neoliberalsim and Neo-colonialism goes hand in hand, as privatization opens the door for the giant corporations to take control of all the resources in poor countries, thus colonizing them indirectly through economic means. In her recent talk at york university, a prominent environmental activist, Vandana Shiva, rightly said that, just like European countries exploited the Native Indians of Americas, the modern corporations are set to make Indians out of all of us, unless we stop them.

The book has many points, which I find it hard to mention all of them here as I try to keep things simple. There are many menaces of water corporations, but the bottled water is the most obvious one and which people can easily relate to. I also heard that because not all wastes are recycled, they are drained out into the ocean, and that there is a huge area of garbage, about the size of Texas, somewhere in the ocean. There are also many dead zones in the ocean, in which the chemical pollutants from industrial waste lead to growth of algae, which uses up all the oxygen in water, and results in the death of large number of fishes.

Studies have proven that tap water is safer in western counties than bottled water. Studies also show that most of the bottled water are just a tap water, packaged and sold in bottles. So, the corporations are merely filling the bottle with tap water, and then selling it as mineral water with miraculous benefits. The claims of bottled water coming from natural springs are not entirely true. Even when some of their claims are true, it is a deadly news to the environment as that means the ruthless exploitation of natural springs, which benefits only corporations, while leaving out all the other parts of ecosystem in lurch, which dies of thirst and drought. The very basis of capitalism is to exploit nature, and only think of their self interest, which is profit, which is in stark contrast to traditional way of worshipping nature and living in harmony with nature.

Water is life. Water serves many purposes in maintaining ecosystem. It plays a role in rain cycle, replenishes soil to make them fertile, helps in growth of biodiversity, ie many species of tree and plants, quenches the thirst of animals in wild. Water is crucial for agriculture, and more crucial for survival of mankind. I mentioned the uses of water from my limited knowledge. Experts may know more uses of water, but my purpose is to lay out the basic uses of water, which everyone can understand. So, in the poor countries where water supply infrastructure is not available, people in rural areas depend on natural springs for their source of water. Therefore, when the water corporations swoop into those poor regions and pump out all the water they can to make profits, the water levels drop drastically, as the rate of water being pumped out mercilessly is faster than the natural springs can provide, and it is the local people and the local ecosystem that suffers, while the corporations will just pack their bags and leave when there is nothing more to extract and go in serach of some other places to exploit.

And most of time, the exploitation is so severe that the regeneration of nature will take a very long time, and in some cases, the area will be dead, a total wasteland. This capitalist exploitation is the brutal rape of nature indeed, carried out by greedy, psychotic, zero conscience corporations, who don’t feel any remorse over their actions.

After the poor countries were forced to adopt privatization measures, the giant water corporations were awarded the contract to supply water in those countries. but the way private companies work is with full cost recovery and profit making, and resulted in the huge increases in the water charges for local residents and the supply was cut to those who couldn’t pay it. According to contract, the companies were responsible for all the repairs, but they ignored the poor neighbourhoods due to low incentive for profit making, which was clearly a breach of contract. So, people all over were outraged by such a large increase in bill and demanded the withdrawal of companies. There was a famous Bolivia water wars in the 1990’s in which the locals were successful in pressuring the gov’t to cancel the contract with companies and expelled them from the country. The companies themselves were found guilty of tax evasion stuffs. and there are many fights going all over the world.

After attending Vandana Shiva talk at York University last week, I realize that there are too many problems in the world and equal number of causes. So, we feel overwhelmed by all these problems and get confused about which causes to join.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama rightly said that as long as there are humans on earth, there will be problems. More people, more problem and more causes. All these causes address particular issues, which is like treating many symptoms of same disease, while the root cause is still intact. The real disease is inside of us, in our mind. The problems occur due to the wrong use of our superior human intelligence. So, the real struggle should target the mind, and make sure the human intelligence is used for right purpose. Only then, World Peace will come, a place where people can truly understand one another, which is the aspiration of Naruto and Jiraiya Sensei also, from the wildly popular Japanese manga or anime, Naruto. Its just an idea for now, as I’m still looking for a concrete way to attain that goal.

As long as there are human made problems, there will a resistance to it by the people themselves in the form of activism. The scenarios might look bleak, but this corporate greed to privatize water is one of the biggest issues of the world, as this is an assault on life and nature itself.

Hence, there is a need to seriously address this growing problem and one way is to make a firm commitment to boycott bottled water. we should also insist on reinstating water as a basic human right not just in UN Convention of rights, but in constitution of all the countries of the world. So, lets reclaim our rights to water back from corporations. Water for all.

I posted a short video here titled “Bolivia water wars”. This was the public protest in Bolivia in the town of Cochabamba in the 1990s, against the privatization of water. Even rainwater was privatized, and deemed illegal as it would constitute a loss for the water corporations.