Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Bumpersticker Politics 

Lately while running errands and doing the shopping I keep seeing a car with a bumpersticker that reads "Free Tibet." Based on my life experience and the physical appearance of the driver, I would guess that the driver of the car (who is presumably the person responsible for applying the bumpersticker) is probably someone who objects to the Iraq war in particular and is against war in general. Thus the aforementioned bumpersticker gives rise to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance on my part.

I wonder if the person who expresses such concern for the Tibetans realizes that the only practical method of achieving their freedom is to conduct a war against China. It is possible, although unlikely based on history, that China might during our lifetime succumb to the social pressure generated by such bumperstickers and restore Tibet's independence. But I, for one, believe that Tibet will not be free of Chinese oppression anytime soon, because neither the US nor anyone else is going to conduct a war against China for the sake of Tibet. Nor do I believe it likely that any country will apply any other kind of pressure, be it economic, cultural or diplomatic, on behalf of Tibet if doing so would jeopardize that country's relationship with China.

My point is that however meritorious it might be to desire freedom for Tibet and to express one's solidarity with the oppressed Tibetans by displaying a bumpersticker, the real-world effect of such desire and such expression is zero. Things don't usually happen unless one is willing to exert effort, take risks and pay a price to achieve the desired result. Sadly, in the case of Tibet, the risks and price are high relative to the value (to anyone other than Tibetans) of the result, and it just isn't going to happen in the absence of a huge change of heart by the Chinese.

That said, if it makes the person with the bumpersticker feel good to display it, fine with me. But if he thinks that he's actually going to accomplish anything by it, he's living in a fool's paradise.

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