Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Art of Activism

Last Saturday, September 19, I went to listen to “The Art of Activism”- talks by Lhadon and Tsundue and Q&A, in Astoria, NY. It was Tibetan time central. The talk was to start at 2pm. We got to Diki Daycare on Steinway St. about 15 minutes before 2. Thupten Nyima and Losel were setting up the tech- oh yes, there was to be livestreaming. Since, you know, SFT’s very technically advanced and all that, esp. for an activist organization headquartered above a Chinese Laundromat. At 2pm there were five people there. Maybe. This was worrying. What if people didn’t show? It was Saturday afternoon, after all. A significant population of the younger Tibetan crowd would be nursing hangovers picked up from the Irish Bar. But actually, people started filing in, and although only half the seats were filled when the talk started, eventually all seats were taken.

The actual talk and Q&A went from 2:30-4:30PM. It went off really really well. Tsundue and Lhadon are of course two of our most eloquent speakers. The audience was really engaged too. There was an online audience too, as Tendor kept reminding us. He was clearly delighted about the livestreaming, and the fact that there was an online audience. 

Lhadon talked about how we need to know ‘how to organize, how to be strategic, how to understand history’. She said, “So much of the art of resistance is studying, looking at other movements.” She also said that this is not new, what we are going through and we need to remember it: so many other people and nations in history have gone through colonialism, gone through oppression and torture and death, and finally gained freedom. “It’s acute pain, but it’s not new.”

Lhadon mentioned Estonia- their freedom struggle, how all sorts of different people came together, performed their own role etc- the freedom fighters, the ordinary brave people, the collaborators who weren’t really etc etc. I realize that I don’t know much about the whole of Eastern Europe. An entire swath of earth which recently came out from under Soviet occupation. Probably worth it to learn a bit about those countries and their struggles. Yep.

Tsundue talked about the “indignity of exile”, the indignity of being out of one’s country. The struggle gives him dignity, he said. I understand this- I mean, the indignity of exile. All Tibetans understand this- we face it in so many small ways as we live in and out of our communities, but nothing brings this home -like a slap in the face- than travel. Of course, being invested in anything worthwhile gives one dignity, but resistance and the struggle to return as counter to the indignity of exile is neatly appropriate, poetic even. 

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