High Peaks Pure Earth presents the English translation of an older essay by Tibetan writer and intellectual Shokjang (aka Druklo) titled “Should One Follow the Party’s Instructions?”.
Shokjang is from Amdo and was detained on March 19, 2015 by members of Rebkong County’s Public Security. On February 17, 2016 he was sentenced to three years in prison with two years suspension of political rights. For details of his sentencing and his own appeal against the charges, visit this page. Although Shokjang should have been released from prison today, it is currently unclear whether he has arrived home or not.
The essay “Should One Follow the Party’s Instructions?” was originally featured in Shokjang’s book, “For Liberty, I Have No Regrets”, published in 2013. Over the weekend, Shokjang’s book was launched in German at the Leipzig Book Fair, it is published by Lungta and can be ordered online here.
Thank you to Palden Gyal and Tsewang Norbu for translating this article from Tibetan into English. Read more from and about Shokjang by following this link: http://highpeakspureearth.com/tag/shokjang/
“Should One Follow the Party’s Instructions?”
On June 1, I visited a friend and we had a chat. In between conversations, he was switching back and forth from one program to another on the television. Usually, I do not watch TV, neither news items nor entertainment programs. Nevertheless, on that day a report immediately caught my attention. Maybe because some Tibetan school children, all dressed in clean Tibetan attires, showed up in the report. At any rate, one could observe that they all in turn answered questions of a journalist in Chinese. I could hardly understand them on the TV, probably because the children spoke so softly. But as the subtitles in Chinese appear clearly on the screen, I was able to understand them. They all expressed their deep gratitude to the Party. There is a soldier standing in attentive position behind the children on the stage, whispering Party slogans in their ears. Distracted by our conversation, I could not follow everything. But at the end of the report, a child said that it is his wish to become a soldier like the one next to them in the future. This clearly revealed that it was all stage-managed.
I was pretty shocked and thought why are they not afraid at all to indoctrinate children in such manners at such tender age. My reaction could be so because I dislike the term “soldier.” When an innocent child expresses something like this with a smile, would it not cause every wise and sober person burn with anger? But there is something more frightening than this. It is the eight characters in Chinese on the background curtain: “Follow the Party’s Instructions and Serve the People.” Without a guess, it can be said that the Party slogans uttered by the soldier were very similar to what is on this banner. That is because the Party invariably inculcates us with such directives.
Immediately, the memory of a textbook from middle school came to my mind vividly, it was called the “Enslavement Education” that was carried out by the Japanese in China during the colonial period. The aim of this education policy was to promote and propagate Japanese education to the Chinese right from their childhood. But this education scheme failed completely because the Japanese were defeated a few years later. When the middle school teacher explained point by point with such clarity and conviction, there was no room left for other interpretations. In retrospect, one can say today that neither teachers nor students could be blamed for it, because the teachers were themselves subject to the enslavement education. It is hard to ascertain how many children had been subjected to such indoctrination in the course of decades and who later took up such tasks themselves. Anyway, when I see such measures of suppression have even further intensified in recent years, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Even after several decades of the failed Japanese policy in China, Chinese people still call the Japanese “the devils.” The memory of this history is being infused and imparted to the old and young time and again. In appearance, China promotes international understanding and cooperation among nations, and during the great earthquake in Japan, some Chinese were even sent to the location for the purpose of “Disaster Relief and Aid.” Nevertheless, every effort is being made to instill and deepen the hatred and hostility between these two peoples. It is clearly evident from the movies produced and promoted in China. The reason why I still remember it today is that the nature of the two education policies is identical. Holding the banner of the Party high, singing praise to the Party and promoting the Party’s education policies can never be the job of a government.
It is not a glorious feat of any state that tries to educate children in one single totalitarian system at such a tender age. Children are just children, and in their immaculate and pure minds, there is no distinction between good and evil; also their ability to discern is still immature. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to instruct such innocent ones that this is right and that is wrong. Since freedom is a prerequisite for the intellectual development of a child, curtailing this freedom is absolutely authoritarian. Generally, serving the well-being of the people is the only justification for a Party or a state for its existence. If it is unable to fulfill people’s wishes and satisfy their needs, then people have the right to remove and replace it. The people are entitled to it. But the totalitarian states serve the interests of either an individual or a group of individuals and neglect the interests of the people. This is an exclusive feature of all totalitarian states. The Communist Party, i.e. the organization that owns all means of production, also claims that it serves the well-being of the people. Whatever the term “people” means here, they certainly seem to take it as the general masses. An organization or a government that is truly committed to serving the interests of the general masses does not need to be scared of them. If it serves the interests of the people well, then people are really the cornerstones of the state. But when a Party indoctrinates children at such a tender age, it is very clear that it considers the people as its enemy. The dictum, “stifle the fire in its bud,” is probably a typical attitude of all totalitarian regimes. If it is true that the government is there to serve the people, then the people do not necessarily have to follow the Party. This is the sole obligation of all political parties. When political parties enter the political arena, it is their stated mission to serve the people. But when the people are required to follow Party directives, it is an unmistaken sign that it is not democratic at all.
There is an interesting statement by Yu Jie: “the government that treats its people as immature children is only an immature government,” which is very true. In the bygone days of Fascism and Nazism, people had to follow Party instructions. Those who ran counter to such instructions would undoubtedly fall with their heads blood-stained to the ground. Because of fear of repression no one even after several decades, far or near, ever dares to utter these words today. However, in this glorified “age of civilization,” why are we implanting the seeds of totalitarianism in the minds of our children? Why? One day when these children realize that they have been subjected to such ruthless indoctrination, the fire of vengeance will arise in them and they will undoubtedly hold everyone involved as their enemies. Such predisposition is inherent in every human being. They will one day hold all those Chinese movie actors or the shadows behind them responsible for carrying out Party’s instructions and will certainly harbor the hatred and bitterness of history against them. For that reason, if we want to elucidate our historical memories to future generations, what can we do now and here? The more I think about it, the more sympathetic I feel when I see this ignorant and benighted educational system. It deeply scares me when I lay my eyes on the innocent faces of these kids. Such a system of education has always met with disaster since time immemorial and history shall demonstrate that it will not succeed in the future too. Then, why are they still trying it with such intransigence and obstinacy? One day, when these dear and innocent faces could no longer control the anger and vengeance in their hearts and begin to commit various acts of violence against the lives of others, what do we do then? Oh My God!
Translated from Tibetan by Palden Gyal (New York) and Tsewang Norbu (Berlin)