Apr 7, 2008 1:38 pm


As America mourns the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, a religious leader who stirred her conscience over 40 years ago, the democratic world is focused on the attempt of another religious leader, Dalai Lama's effort to stir it's conscience now. Why does he not try to stir the conscience of China? Because as, Mahatma Gandhi taught, only democracies, imperfect as they may be, are truly susceptible to moral suasion. Tyrannies are not.

In democracy power flows to the most persuasive as the ongoing American primaries are demonstrating. Cynical pundits not withstanding, plentiful funds do not a winner make. Had they done so, Mitt Romney, not John McCain would have emerged as the Republican presidential candidate. Moreover, democracies are comfortable with the notion that they are imperfect. After all, it is the role of the loyal opposition to point out the government's failings and advocate desirable ways to improve the system. It is this inherent openness to change that convinced Mahatma Gandhi and his disciple Martin Luther King in the efficacy of non violence reform.

The same cannot be said about tyrannies. They rely on fear elicited by a brute force augmented by a creed which attributes perfection to the ruler and the system. Indeed, as the Soviet treatment of Andrei Sakharov demonstrates, the surest sign that of a upcoming democratic transition is a change in it's treatment of those who appeal to it's conscience. No one studied the demise of the Soviet Communist rule more thoroughly than the Chinese Communist Mandarins not has anyone been more determined to avoid a similar fate than they are.

The recent 3 and a half year sentencing of Hu Jia for daring to write articles criticizing the regime is designed to convince those hoping that hosting of the Olympics will make the Chinese authorities less brutal that they have deceived themselves most pitifully.

The Dalai Lama understands as much and has, therefore, directed his efforts at moral persuasion not at China but at her democratic rivals. For realist protestations not withstanding, there is an inherent rivalry between tyrannies and democracies. Had the global democratic wave George W. Bush tried to engender succeeded, democracies would have been in a position of much greater influence. Unfortunately, an unholy anti-American alliance has effectively forestalled that wave and now, Chinese and Tibetans are amongst those paying the price.

Martin Luther King may have been the Moses of Black America but Dalai Lama is most unlikely to follow in his footsteps and be the Tibetan or the Chinese Moses. Their slavery is destined to continue for quite some time regardless of the best efforts of Elie Wiesel and his fellow Nobel laureates.

comments powered by Disqus