Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paying Homage Where It's Due

That great good man of peaceful intent, an inspiration to the rest of the spirit-impoverished world, the Dalai Lama, is on a bit of a roll of late. Despite being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, heads of state hesitated to officially welcome him until fairly lately. Certainly our previously-unesteemed Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, refused to meet with him at all, fearful of incurring China's wrath.

And wise that was, since Mr. Chretien had the ability to think ahead. To his future, post-prime ministership, where he would hire himself out as a high-priced legal mind and lobbyist for the oil industry, flying off to China to work on behalf of corporate oil interests. And welcomed as a conspiratorially familiar figure. China recognizes scruples and personalities with whom they can do business.

His successor, Prime Minister Paul Martin, was made of sterner ethic, and agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama, but privately. So as not to incur the pique of a great country with whom Canada's business enterprise is so closely aligned. True, Canada was aware, always has been, of the sensitive issue of China's poor human-rights record, but as even earlier Canadian administrations averred it was better to keep channels open.

Why? Obviously, because trade could commence unobstructed by the inconvenience of our getting on our high horse of indignation. And also because it is politically expedient to state that an open business relationship would not entirely relieve Canada's obligation to gently remind China from time to time that people would like her more if she treated her subjects more humanely.

The thing of it is, a country which espouses mild left-of-centre values cannot come down too dreadfully hard on another country whose political and social mandate is built upon the (extreme) left-of-centre, even if it is that of a dictatorship with a well-earned reputation for brutality toward its own. Something about diplomatic relations. Something about relativism.

Still, with the responsibility to govern such an unwieldy population on such an incredibly huge geographic base representing a wide diversity of ethnics, tribes, languages and customs, it's not the easiest job in the world. Sometimes a little bit of knuckle-dusting is required to keep everyone in line. Right? Yup.

Question here: How is it that the right-of-centre goes out of its way to embrace the Dalai Lama, not fearing the anticipated back-lash of the leaders of a powerful country whose economic clout is now so fearsome that other countries spring to attention when she roars? Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had Canada confer citizenship upon the spiritual leader of Tibet.

And now Mr. Harper plans also to meet and greet publicly. In the wake of U.S. President George W. Bush's public display of unity with the Dalai Lama, and the conferring of the Congressional Medal of Honour upon him. China fairly trembled with incoherent rage, terming the Dalai Lama a secessionist and the U.S. an enabler who would pay the price of assisting treason.

And of course German Chancellor Angela Merkel also met with the Dalai Lama. And just to grind China's nose further into the hell's fire of its deep dudgeon, another anathema-laden meet-and-greet was arranged with Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, just itching to declare independence from an "indivisible" China.

China is unequivocal in its denunciation of these encouragements extended toward the titular and spiritual head of a country it has invaded and terrorized and swamped with Chinese settlers: "We are against the provision of venues by foreign countries to the Dalai Lama's secessionist activities and also against the foreign dignitaries meeting with him."

At the risk of insulting and enraging China's leaders, world leaders are recognizing it's past time to do the right thing. At least by Tibet. Perhaps Sudan will be next in line. Then Burma?

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