Last night while watching CCTV, a documentary about Tibet came on. It started with the narrator asking the question that’s on everyone’s mind right now: “Why do Tibetans have such a strong sense of happiness?” It then cut to a professor who said, “We should explore why Tibetans are so happy. Where does this happiness come from?”
A farmer who’d just bought his 8th car, which he parked in his 400 square meter house, was shown. Then an old shop keeper came on to exclaim, “I can’t even recognize Lhasa with all the new roads! Society has become so beautiful and harmonious.” Then the original question was implicitly answered when the woman said,”Thanks to the government we have healthy and safe houses.” It went on to show how the government basically throws sacks of money at Tibetans with free or highly-subsidized public transportation, college scholarships and housing.
Last week I read something that painted a very a different picture. Here’s an excerpt from a November 1st piece by Tom Lasseter in McClatchy: “The young man’s hands began to shake, and he tugged at his fingers to keep them still. The 20-year-old ethnic Tibetan was terrified of the police finding out that he’d spoken about the Buddhist monks who’ve been burning themselves alive. ‘They’re doing it because they want freedom,’ said the man, a livestock trader who asked that his name not be used because of safety concerns.”
I’ve never been to Tibet personally. I was planning to go in 2008, and again earlier this year, but foreigners were abruptly barred from entering both times (perhaps because all the spontaneous happiness going on at the time would make us ashamed of our own countries). So I can’t honestly say I know which of these two depictions comes closer to the actual outlook of an average Tibetan. But if I put my critical thinking cap on, I reckon I could make a pretty good guess. What do you think?