By Amitabh Pal on February 21, 2013

A heart-wrenching saga continues to unfold in Tibet.

"Two Tibetan teenagers died after they set fire to themselves in protest at Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said, in a rare instance of a double self-immolation in the restive region," Agence France Presse reported Thursday.

Though two people jointly engaging in this action may be rare, the form of protest itself isn't in Tibet. More than 100 Tibetans have engaged in this amazingly brave rebellion in the past few years.

"The wave of self-immolations in Tibet, which began in 2009, has brought into sharp relief the intense frustration and defiance of Tibetans, whose vast homeland came under Communist rule after Chinese troops occupied central Tibet in 1951," the New York Times reports. "At least eighty-two of the 100 self-immolators have died."

And astoundingly, twenty-two of those who have set themselves on fire have been minors.

In spite of all the material progress that China has brought to Tibet, its repression of Tibetan identity and aspirations has made sure that the province continues to simmer. A severe recent eruption of Tibetan anger occurred in 2008, when large-scale rioting and a heavy-handed crackdown caused the deaths of 140 people. Since then, Tibetan discontent has manifested itself differently.

But instead of meeting Tibetan grievances even part way, the Chinese regime is hell-bent on just stopping their public manifestations -- freaking itself out in the process.

"So fearful are Chinese officials of the self-immolations and the message they send that the officials have even put fire extinguishers in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, thousands of miles from where the acts have occurred," the Times reports. "Chinese leaders are sensitive to the fact that protesters across China often try to make their way to the square. Officials in Tibetan regions have also equipped security forces with fire extinguishers and put them in monasteries."

The Tibetan government in exile is not completely blameless for the lack of movement on self-rule in Tibet. It has included the Tibetan-populated regions outside Tibet proper in its definition of Tibet and has let the Western-based Tibet lobby often set the agenda. But the Chinese government has shown scant interest in granting sovereignty to the Tibetans, and the talks it has held in the past with the Tibetan leadership have been little more than a charade.

Instead, the regime seems more intent on waiting for the death of the Dalai Lama in the hope that this will render the Tibetans leaderless. It is spending much of its energy in machinations to choose a more pliable successor to the current Tibetan spiritual guide, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Tibetans will reject such a figure. Meanwhile, the younger generation in Tibet is becoming more and more alienated.

The Tibetan people have long made it clear that they'll be satisfied with nothing short of meaningful autonomy. It is high time their overlords listened.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Departing Pope Has Misrepresented both Islam and Christianity."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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