Michael Palin's Himalaya


One of the side-effects of reading a lot of political blogs and websites is thatyou tend to look for The Agenda whenever you come across some information or a presentation. For instance, the American Heritage Foundation regularly declares Hong Kong to be the "World's most Free Economy" when what they really mean is that it matches some aspects of their ideology and they disregard the rest.

Michael Palin has a new series: Himalaya, wherein he travels around the mountain range which borders on Pakistan, India, Tibet, China, etc.

Last week, the first in the series, he was in the small border town in India where the Dalai Lama lives, and he was granted a personal interview with the man himself.

Now, the Dalai Lama is a pretty important global figure. He represents the historical rulers of the nation of Tibet, which no longer exists., having been annexed by China in the 1950's. The Dalai Lama spends a lot of his time travelling the world, meeting heads of state and generally keeping the flame of an independent, free Tibet alive. He is the kind of figure who would have been lionized by the 'right on' guardian reading crowd in London in the '80s and '90s. Sort of like a non-imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

The interview — which may or may not have been heavily edited — portrayed the Dalai Lama as an inane simpleton, laughing wildly at his own silly remarks and talking about his bowels.

It made me wonder if Palin is trying to portray the Lama as an out of touch leader, the last real link Tibetans will have with their home country? Maybe he was of the school of thought which maintains that the Tibetans were under the yoke of a theocratic state and that maybe they need to lose the religious trimmings of their ancestral yearnings?

One of the points implicitly made in the show was that there is a great deal of money to be made selling Tibetan religious art and souvenirs to Tibetan expats and westerners and maybe, just maybe, the whole thing is some sort of scam. Michael made the point that most of the people calling themselves Tibetans were born outside the country, but was swiftly rebuffed by his guide.

Possibly Michael was just preparing for going into Tibet, China in future episodes, where he could honestly claim to have doubted the claims of the exiled Tibetans to their old country.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on June 2, 2005 12:35 AM.

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