Raghu's Reviews > Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land

Tibet, Tibet by Patrick French
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Apr 13, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

Tibet has long been the Shangri-La in the consciousness of the West. The image is one of a very peace-loving, spiritual people, embracing the best tenets of Buddhism but brutally suppressed and violated by Chinese communism. Patrick French, the author, was a young Tibetophile and also a former head of a 'Free Tibet' organization in Britain. He visits Tibet later in life and undertakes substantial research and questions many of the pre-conceptions about Tibet. This book is the result of more than a decade of effort on this question. The conclusions he comes to are sobering and all Tibetophiles must weigh them carefully before they take up cudgels on behalf of Tibetan independence.

French shows that Tibetans have not been always a non-violent people and that Buddhism does not necessarily confer semi-divinity on its followers. The book shows that neither the Chinese nor the Tibetan exiles have been telling the truth about the real situation in Tibet. While the Chinese lie about the conditions of life and death in Tibet, the Tibetan exiles in India have a vested interest in inflating the number of people who died under Chinese rule in Tibet. It reminds one of the inflated figures the anti-nuke activists and pro-global warming scientists give to push their case. In all these instances, the reason for such inflation is their reluctance to trust the common man with the truth. The author approvingly quotes from V.S. Naipaul's Nobel lecture , "...the powerless lie about themselves, and lie to themselves, since it is their only resource..."

French writes about the Dalai Lama as follows: " ...he is hard to read, opaque, intuitive, wise, flippant, childlike, canny, disarming'. The author hints that the Dalai Lama might have changed under pressures of his western backers to get to today's posture where it is difficult to see what his real strategy for Tibet now is. In contrast, French quotes the Dalai's more idealistic remarks to Dom Moraes, an Indian journalist, in 1959 as:"..there are two great forces in the world today. One is the force of the people with power, with armies to enforce that power, and with land to hire their armies from. The other is the force of the poor and dispossessed. The two are in perpetual conflict and it is certain who will lose.....unless this is changed, the world will perish..."

French also has powerful remarks on Tibetan independence in the words of Namdrup, a Tibetan living in Tibet today, as follows: "... the Chinese are not going to leave Tibet. The Tibetan exiles in india and Nepal who talk about freedom are wasting their time. I say to them, if you want independence for Tibet, why don't you come here and make a protest and see how far it gets you? It may make them feel good, but it makes life worse for us, it makes the Chinese create more controls for us..."

Patrick French writes realistically on the West regarding Tibet. He says that experience has shown that the West does not favor Tibetan independence over trade with China; in the same way, after the Dalai Lama's death, the Tibetan exile group in India would come under more pressure from India which wants to improve relations with an emerging and aggressive China. In the end, the author gives his conclusions as below:
"I knew that the Dalai Lama had lost the battle, and had probably missed the slender chances offered to him for a settlement with China. Caught by circumstance and history, the old Tibet had been undone and would never be recovered. My sense was that the only realistic hope for the future was for Tibetans to work within the Chinese system, to try to get as many of their countrymen as possible into good positions and wait for the day when there was reform in Beijing, in the hope that Tibet would then be permitted genuine autonomy and a reassertion of its own unique identity."

This is a well-researched book and written in the best interests of the people of Tibet even though the exiles and other friends of Tibet may not like the conclusions. The book certainly made me think with open eyes on the subject.
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