Monday, October 29, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

Back to the Dalai Lama. He's in Canada now, meeting with our Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I already discussed my political differences with Mr. Lama, now I'd like to talk about his supporters in the west. Specifically from this article.

Asked about Canada's role in Afghanistan, the Dalai Lama said he believes "non-violence is the best way [to] solve problems."

"Using violence, counter-violence, sometimes it creates more [complications], he said.

Is it just me, or does that sound like something a six year old would say? First of all, non-violence isn't a thing. If he had said non-violent diplomacy is the best way to solve problems, at least that would make sense, but you can't 'do' anything by non-violence alone. It is defined by non-action. Second, that kind of over simplified wishful thinking is usually the realm of kindergarten students and Miss America contestants. The Dalai Lama doesn't know what he's talking about, and he has no solution to offer anyone. He says himself that he's "no expert on diplomatic formalities." So why is he so damn popular?

I figure either people just like hearing simple bite-sized unrealistic niceties that you would tell a toddler, or they genuinely support his claim to Tibet. If it's the former, well, those people are idiots. There isn't much I can say about that. If it's the latter, then it's a little more interesting. Why would anyone support his political claim to Tibet? It is a theocratic monarchy based on reincarnation. To genuinely support the Dalai Lama politically, you must not only accept that he is actually the reincarnation of the last Lama, but also that this is an appropriate way to choose a leader. If these western supporters were challenged on the point, I bet they would say they are in favour of democracy in their own country. So where does that leave you? Isn't there an implicit assumption there that Tibetans are somehow less capable or less intelligent than North Americans? Of course, WE should vote for our leaders, but THEY must have a priest as dictator.

Perhaps they are just taking cultural relativism to an extreme. I don't understand that either, saying that the Dalai Lama should rule Tibet because that's just the way they've always done it. If you go that far with relativism, how can you have any opinion at all? It's a complete resignation of morality - you're saying that anything anyone does is ok with you because... who are you to disagree?

It seems to me that any way you cut it, supporting the Dalai Lama requires some major self-deception and doublethink. I think it would just be too exhausting to hold two contradictory truths at the same time. I don't think I could do it.

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