What has urbanization got to do with a revolution’s chances of success? If Joshua Keating is right, what does it say about Tibet, a least urbanized country in the midst of a revolution against foreign occupation? Read this interesting piece in Foreign Policy Magazine that argues, or rather speculates, that revolutions perhaps have a higher chance of success in cities compared to villages.
“Cities are problems for authoritarian control, the traditional narrative goes, because by concentrating large masses of people, they improve communication networks, allowing anti-establishment sentiment to spread. In physical terms, dense neighborhoods are also ideal centers of resistance, easily blocked by barricades and featuring plenty of hiding places. To counter this, the wide boulevards of capitals like Washington, Paris, and Beijing have a practical as well as aesthetic purpose: allowing easy movement of police or the military in times of civil disturbance.”
Read the full article: “Why Dictators Should Fear Big Cities.”
Time Magazine covers the Lhakar movement, with quotes from Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay and SFT India’s national director Dorjee Tseten. Read the full article here.
Here is the first paragraph of the article:
In recent years, young Tibetans-in-exile have found in Lhakar an alternative to the gruesome and desperate act of self-immolation. Lhakar is a movement inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and noncooperation to rid India of British colonialism. In the 1980s, when Lhasa erupted in violence against Chinese rule and the authorities subsequently clamped down on the region, many in China’s Tibetan areas continued to secretly visit temples on Wednesdays, the day the Dalai Lama is believed to have been born, to pray for him. But in 2008, when the Chinese authorities started cracking down on religious activities associated with the Dalai Lama, Tibetans devised the subtler Lhakar. For the past five years, Tibetans, both in China’s Tibetan regions and in exile, have reasserted their cultural identity through thinking, talking, eating and buying Tibetan once a week.
Below is an article originally published in the Tibetan Political Review. It discusses the philosophy, strategic logic and future potential of Lhakar as a movement.
Beneath the wave of self-immolations that has understandably come to dominate the current discourse on Tibet, a less dramatic undercurrent of resistance is transforming the landscape of Tibetan activism. This new force is the pan-Tibetan, self-reliance grassroots movement known as Lhakar.
The first signs of Lhakar – the name is translated usually as White Wednesday and occasionally as Pure Dedication – appeared in 2008 following the nationwide uprising against Chinese rule. Four years after its birth, Lhakar has produced a paradigm shift in the way Tibetans conceptualize activism, thanks to three key elements: de-collectivization of activism, weaponization of culture, and adoption of noncooperation.
1. De-collectivization of Activism
The core appeal of Lhakar lies in its simplicity. It focuses on the fundamental elements of freedom, the most mundane decisions people make in their daily lives – when to visit the temple, what kind of music to listen to, which restaurant to eat in, which shop to buy groceries from, what language to speak at home – rather than the bigger decisions that carry a higher price tag. Read article…
Listen to this amazing interview (in Tibetan) on RFA about Lhakar. The guests include someone calling in from Tibet, plus organizers of the Boston Lhakar Vigil and the newly born DC Lhakar Vigil. As of today, there are over 16 cities around the world that are observing community vigils and actions every Wednesday.
Yesterday, the website Open Democracy published an indepth article on Lhakar written by Fiona McConnell and Tenzin Tsering. This piece is now among our highly recommended reading for everyone who is interested in Tibetan activism.