Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Himalayas Aflame

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that something is happening in the Himalayas? Three of it's nations are experiencing radical change and some with fiery consequences. What is apparent from these various struggles is that the call of freedom will not be suppressed--although, the jury is out as to the final outcome of each experiment in governance.One of these nations, Nepal, is the home of Mount Everest and other mighty peaks. For over 240 years, it has enshrined a monarchy, which by all accounts is now considered a failure. This will soon change. On April 10th 600 representatives to a constitutional assembly will begin the trek to a democracy controlled by a President and Prime Minister. Under the planned scheme, the King will be left out of the political loop completely.

His has been a troubled reign, to put it mildly. In 2001 the entire royal family, save one, was gunned down by an inebriated crown prince, who then turned the gun on himself. Being out of town, the current King saved his own hide, but not for long. Maoist insurgents were soon at his door and caused havoc until 2005 when the beleaguered king staged a royal coup and ousted or jailed elected officials.
John Whelpton, an author on Nepal's history, said in an understated sort of way: "First of all, he grabbed power and, secondly, he didn't use it properly."

The Maoists were not impressed, either, and continued their guerrilla tactics which fomented a national uprising in April 2006. By November 2006, everyone had enough, and a UN peace accord calling for a new government was reached. The King was done. The people had spoken (WSJ, 3-22/23-08.)

Having seen how it could be, the King in nearby Bhutan insisted that his 700,000 subjects stage free and fair elections yesterday to seat a Parliament and pass a constitution. Bhutanese citizens went along with his request reluctantly. For a nation that adores its beneficent Monarch, this was a step forward into the future--one for which they had no frame of reference. Most expressed fear in losing what happiness they have always known under the King,
who ruled under a Gross National Happiness Index rather than a Gross National Product indicator. How enlightened; what's more, it worked.

The visionary Bhutanese King believed his people were ready for the evolutionary move into democracy and wanted a peaceful transition, even if it meant a transient dip in the National Happiness Index. With the elections on Monday, he got his wish--although the inevitable fighting among parties had already commenced, much to the chagrin of the citizenry.

One young woman in blue jeans and sneakers was quoted as saying: "It frightens me. Democracy is just starting now. We can see the candidates fighting, and it's just the beginning." On 3-21-08, The Los Angeles Times said that the young electorate might like their fashion new and hip, but not their politics.

One wonders why China left these two monarchies alone when marching into Tibet in 1959. Could it be that Tibet just wore them out? Seems that it still is--except now, with a bad PR twist before the nation's coming out party at the Olympics in August. Tibet proves that freedom might stay hidden under a bushel basket for awhile, but coerced peace will not sustain itself--even if that is the wish of the beloved Dalai Lama.

Actually, the High Holy leader of the displaced Tibetan government is in a bit of an unexpected predicament. Youth, who had never known a free Tibet, apparently had enough and were responsible for the uprisings and demonstrations that rocked not only their country but China and India as well. The WSJ revealed: "A new generation of impatient activists is vying to seize control of the Tibetan Freedom Movement from the Dalai Lama." The beef here is the desire by His Holiness for Tibetan autonomy while the protesters want a nation free from Chinese rule. That's quite a gulf.

Characteristically, the Dalai Lama's provided a measured response to the youthful activists: "If you continue in violent uprising, I will step down." The Chinese did not wait to see if this lofty threat would have an impact and deployed mega-troops and armaments to squelch the unrest. Aides to the Dalai Lama acknowledged that "rising anti-Chinese passions are carrying many Tibetans away from positions their spiritual leaders have long advocated. Yet some of these officials see a silver lining. The protests could bring Beijing back to negotiations for Tibet's autonomy, after several rounds of talks failed" (WSJ, 3-20-08.)

With the impending Olympics, anything is possible. But the Chinese blamed His Holiness for the whole debacle; thus, rapprochement is unlikely. Having said that, just this morning, French President Sarkozy threatened to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies and others might follow suit. Outside pressure may have an impact where the Dalai Lama apparently missed a beat. Could it be he lives in a vision of a peaceful future without taking into account the present cries of his people for freedom? Cries that will not be silenced under the proverbial bushel basket any longer?

As the dynamic stories of these three high-mountain nations unfold, we will watch and wait for we know that inevitably as day follows night, enlightenment follows crises. One thing is clear, the Himalayas are aflame. Whether the response is an eight-alarm house fire or a staid bonfire is up to its citizens.

Of Note: Marie's fiery sunsets continue to put the exclamation point on these blogs. She understood early on that the enlightenment we talk about has to do with light and fire. And no better place to find that combination than in a sunset.

Today's Weather Report: Well, this must be March because the duel between Winter and Spring is taking place with no end in sight. Today was cloudy, snowy, rainy and 38 degrees--though the winds from yesterday abated. More slushy snow is predicted in the next week.

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