I have extreme empathy for those experiencing the devastating effects of natural disaster.
I was in the huge earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994. I was also in a typhoon in Hong Kong, and I was evacuated twice and badly injured during the Boulder floods in 2013.
I believe I have an understanding of the devastating nature of extreme natural disasters, and the effect on the individuals and communities that are experiencing those disasters.
I have community in Kathmandu. My friend’s brother, who is a doctor, has just flown over to offer aid to the victims. A gentleman that I met recently, and liked immensely, left to climb Mount Everest several days before the earthquake. We’ve had no word as to his condition.
My hopes and prayers go out to all those injured and affected by this disaster. It has claimed thousands of lives, ravaged the cultural infrastructure, and has deeply affected the climbing community at Mt. Everest.
While watching the situation evolve, something odd occurred to me, and that is the contradiction in the levels of concern. It is true that I have been in other natural disasters, but one of the organic conditions of those natural disasters was the condition of the places I was in before the natural disaster occurred. In other words those places were basically reasonably safe in terms of infrastructure, politics, culture, etc. But Kathmandu has had major political issues and instability for years, and the region of Tibet has been under Chinese occupation for 50 years!
During those 50 years an entire culture has been dismantled and occupied. Thousands of people have been imprisoned and tortured, more have died. The current political regime occupying Tibet substituted their belief systems, in terms of sociopolitical economic standards and spiritual beliefs, for what had been a thriving community for hundreds of years. The Tibetan people were displaced and their leader sent into exile, and the world remains silent.
The United States has remained conspicuously silent because they don’t want to offend one of our biggest economic supporters, China. We rushed into Iraq because we believed Saddam Hussein posed a reasonable threat to the stable security of the Middle East, (as the belief at that time was that Saddam had weapons of mass instruction, which would be used against neighbors and destroy the stability of the region). China annexed a politically autonomous region with a long and rich history of cultural and spiritual integrity, and the world remained essentially silent.
In the current news cycle a tragedy can spark action. A call to action arises when human tragedy can be reported and experienced in its immediacy. Filmed in the moment of panic or disorientation. The world has now been galvanized to take action to support the thousands of people who’ve been devastated by the earthquake, and yet the greater question of political autonomy of the region is almost completely ignored..
Tibet has just as much right to be free, to express their religious and spiritual identity, as any other group of individuals on the planet, and yet the world is apathetic in defending that right because of the political and economic agendas that need to be maintained. The acquisition and redistribution of material wealth to the powers that be, and a real fear of economic consequences for speaking out against that.
I have absolutely nothing against the Chinese government nor the people of China, per se, but I do think it’s a little odd that so much attention is being driven to galvanize action to support the people that are in the region, when the world has remained silent for 50 years, during a slow and steady cataclysmic disruption and destruction of an entire culture.
Probably just as much destruction has occurred, in terms of physical damage, as well as the dismantling of an entire spiritual culture from the political and social point of view, as has occurred in just this brief moment of tragedy. Where is the difference? Is it only the fact that it happened over a much longer period of time that we remain apathetic to the cause? It seems to me that this would be an incredibly good opportunity for the world to look more closely at the situation in the region and take a stand for the people of Tibet and say no more destruction will be allowed to occur on any level and we will help you regain your autonomy! (I am obviously an idealist.)
I hope, with all my heart, that those affected by the earthquake and in need, and those suffering in the region, will be helped as quickly as possible.
May all beings be free from the root causes of suffering.
Author: John March
Editor: Travis May