“I Am the Master of my Own Fate” by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on February 4, 2010 and posted on her blog on February 8, 2010.

In this blogpost, Woeser refers to another Tibetan female poet and blogger called “Drugmo” who is based in Canada. In the week prior to this blogpost, Woeser had posted three poems by Drugmo on her blog in the original English and Chinese translation.

The poems were titled “The Other…”, “For Tibet, Again” and “Booth”. For High Peaks Pure Earth readers who want to keep up with Drugmo’s writings, this is the address of her blog: http://drugmo.wordpress.com/


The photo shows Tibet’s fight against violent repression in March 2008. 
Young Tibetan pupils produce slogans 
“Tibetans stand together in life and death” on a Chinese campus, 
carrying out a sit-in protest.

 

“I Am the Master of my Own Fate”
by Woeser


This morning I was woken up by a phone call from the United States. It was a friend who is currently doing a PhD. Although he is Han Chinese, on Twitter he wrote the following lines: “I cannot possibly choose my descent, but emotionally, I have been Tibetan already for a very long time”. We have been acquainted for many years and after 2008, his humanitarian sympathy for the Tibetan people turned into having the same feeling. On the phone, he was deeply moved by three poems, which I had recently published on my blog. The author of the poems is the young Tibetan woman, Drugmo. I have never actually met her in person, only received her warm greetings on Facebook and she also introduced me to her blog. She has lived in India, Tibet and North America and she uses English to write. Her grasp of the English language and her poetic and literary talent has astounded this Han Chinese friend of mine, he calls her work the utmost enjoyment.

He even quotes some lines from Drugmo’s poems − “I dare them to kill me right there, ?I am the master of my own fate.” − he praises it as being a true national epic, in which the poet uses language to express a spirit, which language is not able to express. Yes, when I glanced over her blog and used Google Translation, I more or less came to understand that as well and that’s why I selected those three poems and asked the Taiwanese “Rosaceae”, who lives in far away UK, and who has already translated many Tibet related articles, to translate them. The verse mentioned above, which is part of “The Other”, clearly indicates that it is written for those friends in Tibet who live a dual life. I am very familiar with the poem’s background, the specific circumstances as well as the emotional repression, for example:

“Buddha lies hidden under a silk scarf, Tucked in a drawer at home in Lhasa, At night I restore it, and say my prayers, ?Prayers to forgive my cowardice, Prayers to relieve me of suffering. I look from afar at the giant monastic doors, The believers walk in with their prayer beads, I have pledged my hands to communism, I can’t go in with my old butter lamp.”

Of course I am not intending to write a commentary about poems. What I really want to express is that a poem written by a Tibetan living in exile can deeply move people living in different parts of the world, for instance a Tibetan living in Beijing, a Chinese or Taiwanese living far away in England or the US. This world really isn’t that big and we can observe communications and exchanges of spirits and ideas between different countries and different nationalities. What I also want to express is similar to what the intellectual Edward Said, who is regarded as the “voice of Palestine”, once said: “wherever the identification with politics is threatened, culture is a way to resist extinction and being wiped out. Culture is a way for ‘remembrance’ to resist ‘oblivion’. In this respect I believe that culture is of the utmost importance … it holds the strength to analyse, it can go beyond hackneyed expressions, it can penetrate and look through the blatant lies of the officialdom, it can question the authority and look for alternative solutions. All this is one part of the arsenal of cultural resistance.”

Authoritarian people always think that they are invincible. Hence, there are members of the Chinese Communist Party, who are always driven by pernicious behaviour such as “spitting on the ground” or they make a great uproar about “themselves having to thoroughly secularise Tibet, competing with the Dalai Lama for the masses”.  Or when facing national and international media, they foolishly ask the Dalai Lama to “clarify calling himself the ‘son of India'”, they preposterously criticise the American President for preparing to meet the Dalai Lama by saying that “first of all, it is unreasonable and second of all, it is unprofitable”. But looking at the so-called “unprofitable” claim, there couldn’t be anything that more vividly sets out how in today’s money-grabbing Chinese society “people recklessly come and leave all for the sake of profit”. Maybe those money-grabbing officials believe that everyone in this world is just like them, blinded by greed, only driven by profit, and completely oblivious to the feelings and treasures of beauty, wisdom, and conscience. To think that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and “money talks” are the only magic formulas that can control the will of the people, this can only be the extremely short-sighted and superficial view of disgraceful and sad materialists.

At least, for example because of the resonance of Drugmo’s poems, the fact that among the people, the delusion with regards to authoritarianism has already been dispelled, proves: culture really is a way to resist extinction and being wiped out.

February 4, 2010, Beijing

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)

1 Comment

  • Well, it doesn't really say that they stand together with Tibetans in life and death. Does it? It says that they share their happiness and sorrow. Or am I being too literal? Anyway, it's all about empathy, and it's a lot easier to receive empathy from people who belong to your own culture, your own home language. That's the simpler version of the message I hear here.

    Thanks for all your translation work. I'm always trying to learn more.