By Tephun Tenzin Shastri
Throughout the human history, nationalism and patriotism is at the root of greatness of a nation, the real foundation on which development of any kind and progress of a nation depends. Small wonder that Japanese are famous for their patriotism and this is reflected in their technological supremacy over the superpowers of the world.
On the other hand, in the case of our country, Tibet, both in the past and in the present day, patriotism was not very important to our leaders and people. It is because, in the past we had shunned every single Tibetan who showed extraordinary patriotism and patriotic fervor that was seen as a threat to the then established power bases and interest groups. Even today, nationalism and patriotism are the two supreme factors that determine the destiny of a nation; yet, neither our government or any of our independent organizations and education institutions in exile have paid any significant attention to this fact.
In the name of patriotism, we have only a few Tibetan songs, even these lack real fire and power and pale in comparison to soul stirring and heart tearing patriotic songs sung by Tibetan singers inside Tibet. Did our parliamentarians ever discuss this serious drawback of our exile community? If not, will you deem it necessary to raise this important issue in the parliament?
For example, even after 60 years of her independence, love for one’s country and patriotism continue to remain one of the most important values in India. The successful Indian movies like Lagaan, Rang de Basanti and Chak De India all had patriotism as their main theme. Not only the youth political outfits of various political parties in India but also the independent educational institutions and religious organizations are initiating and spearheading programmes to awaken patriotism in the people of all walks of life and sections from time to time. The Indian print and electronic media has in recent times an even more powerful role in this national movement and task. The latest in the series is the ‘The Times of India’ newspaper’s ‘Lead India’ Initiative, which has captured the Indian national psyche and emerged as one of the most popular TV serials. What is our government going to do in this regard?
I strongly believe that behind every great national movement and mission lays ‘patriotism’ as its foundation, and its root. A patriotic child, a student will become a successful student and excel in his field of studies. A patriotic artist will also excel in his field of artistic accomplishment. A patriotic educator will also excel in his field of service and mission. If any school, any institution, any organization is not headed by a truly patriotic Tibetan head, their avowed mission and objectives and goals could hardly be realized. The hordes of mediocre schools and low performing but large institutions we have in great numbers is the unmistakable sign of the fact that we lack the spirit of excellence and perfection that are the attributes of a patriotic mind. To be educated is one thing and to be patriotic is another thing.
Like all other human qualities, patriotism also needs to be cultivated, nurtured and inculcated right from childhood and throughout the process of a human life. India celebrated the 60th year of her independence. The popular national slogans, such as, Sare Jahanse Achha Hindustan Hamara, Mera Bharat Mahan, Be Indian Buy India, Hum Honge Kamyab, Vande Mataram, etc., are the strong evidence of the Indian people’s everlasting sense of nationalism and patriotism that is identified with everything positive: development, strength, wealth and success of the nation.
The same kind of spirit of patriotism is powerfully expressed in the lyrics composed by Tibetan singers inside Tibet, for example ‘Akhu Pema’ and songs by Yadong, Riga, Dolma Kyab and Dhartso, etc. That kind of intensity and passion of patriotism is difficult to find in any of the songs composed by Tibetans in the free world. Is it not a reflection of our mentality and our priorities in exile? There is an absence of soul-stirring patriotic songs by exile singers and there is instead an abundance of songs that may appeal to sensual pleasure but will hardly evoke nationalism and patriotism in our youth. What a loss of opportunity for the singers and the lyricists. Songs must relate and reflect contemporary social issues and realities and in our situation, which is very grave, it is the duty of every single Tibetan to develop and cultivate nationalism and patriotism as the mother of all other positive human qualities and senses.
And patriotism must be expressed through daily simple acts, such as, reading Tibetan newspapers and periodicals; listening to Tibetan radio news broadcast, thereby, showing and taking active interest in Tibetan issues in one’s daily life; discussing and debating Tibetan issues and national issues, making friendship with people who have developed these qualities; then of course taking part in Rangzen activities, meetings and becoming active members in the organizations that lead Rangzen movements and activities; paying Chatrel regularly and honestly; and helping people surrounding you, young or old, to imbibe and develop same habits and qualities. This is the way to social transformation.
Our leaders, be they leaders of various organizations at regional and local levels or at the higher national and central level, everyone needs to make conscious and specific efforts to develop patriotism within, by reading biographies and autobiographies of the great patriotic leaders of the world and trying to adopt at least a few of their principles and beliefs and attitudes in one’s life in dealing with situations and problems. I urge our youth to read inspiring writings of India’s great reformer, thinker and teacher Swami Vivekananda to derive powerful inspiration and insight into life’s mission and how to live one’s life meaningfully. It is imperative that to accomplish greater missions and goals, our visions and movements must be guided, motivated, and inspired by higher principles, ideals and moralities. And these higher ideals and principles do not come to us on their own, these needed to be consciously generated, developed and nurtured with sustained efforts supported by strong commitment.
I have always believed that only a patriotic government servant can handle his responsibilities with maximum integrity, truthfulness and commitment. This is why I say that at the root of national progress, success and liberation lies the patriotism of each and every Tibetan. Therefore, until and unless we are able to able to transform all Tibetans into patriots and nationalists, the Andruk Gonpo Tashi, Amdo Gendun Choephel, Professor Dawa Norbu and Dondhup Gyal of our time, there is no hope for our nation to be able to rise from the mountainous rubble of oppression and tyranny and injustices done to us and our fellow Tibetans inside Tibet by the communist Chinese rulers in Tibet.
In ordinary life, patriotism can be expressed in various daily routine activities. Taking interest in Tibetan affairs and current issues; reading Tibetan newspapers and periodicals and keeping oneself abreast of Tibetan issues covered in the international media and countries; discussing these with one’s friends; listening to Tibetan Radio Broadcasts such as Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Norway Tibetan Radio etc.; taking active and sincere part in all the national events and ceremonies and anniversaries observed in one’s location and area; and participating in all the Rangzen-related protest marches, demonstrations, meetings and campaigns with true commitment and patriotism.
Supporting everyone who is working and doing something for our freedom and Rangzen instead of making misleading interpretation of such initiatives and activities is another important way of contributing to our national cause. Discouraging discussion and activities that are detrimental to the unity of our people and national integrity and the success of our Rangzen struggle and freedom movement is also an equally important contribution one can make for our national cause. We have to remain fully conscious of our supreme responsibility to our nation and six million fellow Tibetans as our first and foremost duty in our life and remain fully committed to doing whatever is possible, financially, intellectually, academically, physically and spiritually, throughout one’s life for the liberation of our motherland and the emancipation of our fellow brothers and sisters inside Tibet.
When we talk of patriotism, it does not mean that one is expected to give up all other activities but that all your normal duties and responsibilities must be carried out with the fullest sense of nationalism and patriotism, and with the awakened responsibility of every tsampa eater to make our Freedom Movement successful and that every action and support from every individual Tibetan does have the potential to make a difference in its success rate.
Awakened patriotism and awakened nationalism requires you to take concrete action in realizing the national aspiration and goals through the right means and efforts. It means that you do not need to develop hatred and ill feelings towards your opponents, and you should be constantly guided by the firm conviction in the basic truth that all human beings want happiness and peace and do not want suffering. We do not have to destroy other people’s peace and happiness to attain our freedom and happiness. Therefore, we need to teach awakened patriotism to our younger generation of Tibetans.