Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Happy Anniversary

The path of non-violent resistance breeds some rare and reluctant heroes.

This year, and particularly today, we celebrate two of them - Gandhi and 'Tank Man' [Tienanmen Square]

Our hearts go out to you with love and gratitude for the inspiration and hope you continue to offer the world.

Mahatma Gandhi's life [and death] have been written about so much - and i do not intend to add my third-rate tuppence worth here.

Images play a great part in our culture - especially moving images. And the strongest evocation of Gandhi-ji i can recall is a few scenes from that movie Gandhi which you may have seen yourself.
These widescreen, cast-of-thousands, epic moments have been etched on our collective consciousness.
When i close my eyes i can still see Gandhi... in order to defy the absurd English colonial law which attempted to tax salt [a substance which can be gathered for free at the water's edge in India]... he lead a peaceful protest of people walking through the countryside, gathering numbers exponentially as they went, to reach the ocean where they broke the law of the occupying English might, by simply collecting some salt.

Another image i will carry with me in my mind's eye is the simple snapshot of Gandhi sitting on the veranda of his rural ashram, legs crossed, and spinning cotton to make his own shawl. He urged all Indians to burn their imported clothes and wear a simple 'home-spun' garment in the hope of making a financial impact on England's export trade and to instill a simple yet profound pride in the down-trodden locals.

On that veranda, he would spin cotton, listen to the radio, read, receive guests and dignitaries, and write letters.

His humility and determination to achieve independence by peaceful means still shine.

HH Dalai Lama holds Gandhi as his true hero and that is good enough for me!

A pacifist, revolutionary, vegetarian who didn't mind what people thought of him, achieved so much for humanity against all odds, and died in the attempt.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of his assassination.

The second visionary i wish to celebrate today simply acted, in the moment, for the benefit of others.

Today is the anniversary of the dreadful Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, 1989.

On the surface, China is a fascist regime which hides its atrocities and mistakes and which keeps its population in the dark. At the heart of China, however, is a noble people who have seen regimes and dynasties come and go. When motivated, they can mobilise and move mountains.

In 1989, Beijing was in the grip of social unrest sparked by protests mainly lead by students and fueled by a population who just had enough of their leaders.
These protests focused on Tiananmen Square, outside the Forbidden City, where the crowd eventually made a stand against the troops who had been ordered to massacre them as an example to others in the future.

They were beaten, massacred, imprisoned, tortured and shamed

Here is a homage to them on YOUTUBE

Nationally, the people were so traumatised by events that they never tried anything like it again.

The 'Government' were so shocked that anyone would ever dare stand up to them, they have made sure it could never happen again through fear and speeches about a glorious future for the common man.

The world stood by and did nothing - as usual.

This has all lead to the present situation whereby the students and disgruntled in China will probably never rise up again and their leaders are routinely rounded up, 'disappeared', and imprisoned. The latest news is they are 'sectioned' in the most brutal and archaic mental institutions. This by-passes the legal necessity for a trial [albeit fake].
The majority of the Chinese population live in isolated rural areas where they simply get on with life and are ignorant of what their leaders do in their names.
Meanwhile, the tiny minority in the cities who are doing well now are becoming obese, shopping for western luxuries, and looking forward to the Olympics [if the Tibetans - whoever they are - would just disappear and 'let the games begin!']

On this day, 19 years ago, we watched our TVs in disbelief and with profound respect as - in the face of young Chinese soldiers, just following orders, driving tanks through Tiananmen Square - a lone man stood in their way.
Known as 'Tank Man' - his identity was never revealed - he was obviously walking home to his family for dinner, carrying some shopping bags, and just couldn't allow what he was witnessing to unfold any further.
So, Tank Man stood out in front of a row of tanks and forced them to stop in their tracks. He gave them a piece of his mind... a good telling-off... and shamed them so much by whatever he said that they turned the engines off. He even jumped up on top of the tanks daring them to get out and face him man-to-man to discuss matters.

There was an incredible moment where you didn't know if he was going to be killed right before your very eyes, live on TV, or if the soldiers were going to desert en masse giving the victory to the people. Either way, frozen in time, that simple act of spontaneous selflessness triumphed over the whole affair.

Tank Man was eventually ushered out of the way by someone - we don't know who.
Maybe he was brought to safety and anonymity by a caring onlooker or maybe he too was disappeared, never to be identified or seen or heard from again.

Whoever he was, we remember Tank Man and his heroic few seconds that forced the whole world to fall silent and observe the power of one.

I pray we may all become so skillful and dignified in our reactions to life's traumas.

Here is the famous clip of Tank Man on YOUTUBE

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