Georgia on my mind

It’s been 11 days since the South Ossetia war began between Georgia and Russia, and the only thing that Tricycle Blog has to say about this conflict is a snide comment that implies McCain might not know the difference between “Georgia with Tblisi, not Atlanta.” Otherwise, not one word. Indeed, there’s been ethnic cleansing. We have a powerful oppressor weighing down on a small nascent democracy. There are even Buddhists nearby. So what’s stopping the ink?

Oh yes, if only they were Buddhists.

In my last post, I knew I was hitting low when I wrote about Tricycle’s obsession for its Tibet and Burma coverage. Those are not the only two issues you’ll find on the Tricycle Blog. To give them credit, the review’s blog also covered natural disasters in Aceh (tsunami) and Sichuan (earthquake) — and note that these are parts of the world which aren’t exactly where white people go to learn meditation. So props for Tricycle. But a glance at today’s posts gives us a different picture. Clearly, the ethanol capability of grass is more important than ethnic cleansing in the Caucasus.

Tricycle may be the closest thing that the Buddhist community has to a mainstream media publication. But rather than become a beacon for the general community, it’s become a mouthpiece for a minority: liberal Buddhist romanticists, not to mention aficionados of the Orient. That’s not to say that there aren’t interesting posts that I enjoy immensely, but I’m put off by an excessive interest in organic foods, liberal outrage and Oriental affairs. Can we have more Buddhism and less arugala?

When it comes to issues like the conflict in Georgia, I’d like to see a “mainstream” Buddhist review get Buddhist takes on the subject. What are the perspectives of Russian Buddhists? What do Buddhist leaders say about the conflict? What are our Buddhist members of Congress doing and saying about this? (Or if you insist on continuing your China bashing: What is China not saying about this?) These are some interesting questions that I think a lot of Buddhists (both Anglo and Asian Americans) would be interested in.

So that’s my angry Asian rant of the day. If this posts gets any readers, I’m sorry if I offended you with my outright racial comments. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being liberal, white, obsessed with organic foods, or even having a deep enthusiasm for Asian culture. Just don’t confuse these qualities with Buddhism or the Buddhist community.

May all the civilians, refugees, politicians and soldiers in the Caucasus be truly happy, peaceful and free from suffering. May all beings be truly happy, peaceful and free from suffering.

15 Replies to “Georgia on my mind”

  1. Ha! How true. I doubt there are enough Russian Buddhists around to offer an opinion on the subject (finding them is hard enough), but still, you’d think Tricycle or other major publications would at least publish some statement on the subject? Are they not watching the news or something? Haven’t we beaten up China enough?

  2. I love this post, and I love this blog. Thank you thank you thank you. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels it necessary to beat up on Tricycle now and again.

  3. While I agree with this and the previous post, I do have one genuine question:

    Does the world really care about Tibet?

    I know that we hear shrill, loud cries in the Buddhist community, but does that ballyhoo carry on outside?

    Is it possible that the larger world cares very little about suffering from both Buddhists and non-Buddhists?

  4. Sadly (fortunately?) I can’t speak for the world.

    The world may not care, but the mainstream media certainly thinks its viewership does, otherwise they wouldn’t waste money on it.

    What’s important is that we ourselves care, and I think that’s what makes a world of difference. Thanks for your thoughts, John 🙂

    (Sorry for the corny response.)

  5. Is it the job of Buddhist publications to weigh in on any and every war or atrocity in the world as it occurs or are they allowed to pick only some to mention?

    The world is full of shitty things. Pick on the people who don’t care at all rather than complaining about people who don’t care about X one that you do care about? After all, the reverse could be said to be true as well. They could say, “Oh, I see you don’t care about Tibet or the destruction of culture there but want to focus on some random Eastern European nation instead.”

  6. Thank you Al,

    The answer is simple – you act upon what feels most right and vital and meaningful to you. And you leave other campaigns to those who feel the most strongly about those. How could it be otherwise?


  7. Hi Al and Marcus,

    Thanks for you comments! Of course Buddhist publications are free to mention whatever they want, and I certainly don’t expect their editorial perspective to tack just because of one whiny blogger who doesn’t subscribe (like me).

    Tricycle touts itself first and foremost as a Buddhist magazine about Buddhist perspectives: the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist perspectives.

    I believe Tricycle to be hypocritical. Its blog snidely mocks McCain’s knowledge of Georgia, but says nothing about the actual conflict. This type of editorial slander should be an embarrassment for any publication that touts itself as an “unafiliated … unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhist teachings and practices.” And I prefer to speak out about this rather than shut up and take it like a good Asian boy.

    It’s important for us to be open to criticisms, even potshots. They help keep us on an even keel.

    So thank you 🙂

  8. Hello again,

    I’ve just re-read this post and the comments and two things strike me….

    (1) This now reads to me like nothing more than a flimsy attack upon Tricycle. If you don’t like the articles in the magazine, don’t read it. If you want to see something different in the magazine, write it. If you want to campaign over Georgia, just do so.

    Where here are your links to campaigning groups? What’s your analysis of the situation? How do you personally move from having Georgia on your mind to actually doing something about the situation (other than just by attacking a Buddhist magazine)?

    (2) Gerald (a blogger I very very much admire) says “Haven’t we beaten up China enough?”

    I’m at a loss here. Are you really saying that it’s time for a few Internet western Buddhists to stop bullying poor old China?! Perhaps you think China has stopped beating up on Tibet? Perhaps you think China has put down its torture weapons and stopped the beating and imprisonment of Tibetans and others? I wish you were right. I wish it were time to stop criticizing China.

    Some people might be bored of the old campaigns and wish to move on to new ones – well, good luck to them, really – but please don’t think the old campaigns are no longer necessary just because they are falling out of fashion for you.


  9. …stepping tentatively back into this debate….

    Even if this is a flimsy attack on Tricycle, and even if we don’t like what Tricycle publishes, I don’t think that we should stop being critical of Tricycle’s editorial stance. Why? Because they fancy themselves the premiere mouthpiece for Buddhism in the West. So it’s Western Buddhist’s responsibility to hold this publication accountable to our perspectives. Why? Let me answer that one with two simple words:

    Fox News.

    I do NOT think Tricycle is as bad as Fox News. But I do think that if the media has a corner on the market, then people will not know that there are other alternatives, other perspectives out there. If Tricycle’s slogan was NOT the “independent voice of Buddhism,” if Tricycle’s slogan WAS “the hegemonic white Zen New Yorker’s voice for Buddhism,” I wouldn’t care. At least they’d be honest.

    Moving right along. I think Gerald Ford’s point (or at least how I took his comment) was that in the West’s rush to condemn the Chinese Communist Government for all of its misdeeds (which we should rightly do), often we end up condemning China. The CPC and “the Chinese” are two different things. It seems to me that often people equate them and this is a sure-fire way to lead from legitimate political critique to “China bashing.”

    China bashing is pointless. It’s not going to change anything. And, frankly, all it is is xenophobic hate dressed up as something else. We can critique the CPC. We can lobby and protest for change. We can blog about and report their abuses of power. But hate, as the Buddha himself reminds us, never solved anything.

    It’s a subtle point, but an important one, I think.

  10. Marcus,

    Hello again! Thanks again for your comments — I want you to know that while I may sometimes not agree with your comments, I still appreciate them, even the harshly critical ones.

    I don’t mean to criticize Tricycle ad hominem, although that’s how it came together. In all your comments, I have not once heard read a rebuttal to my central point — I understand if it was not easy to tease out — that Tricycle engages in hypocrisy by claiming to speak to the entire community, but in fact only addressing the concerns of a liberal minority.

    But neither Tricycle, nor any other magazine, will ever truly represent the community it stands for. I don’t expect it (or its blog) to, and it may also just be that Tricycle can only make money by writing for liberal white Buddhist romanticists with a thing for Asia. But as both Scott and I have said, then why not just change the mission statement?


    Thanks. We should write an article for Tricycle about how much we feel they ignore the Buddhist community’s silent majority 😉

  11. Thank you both,

    Nice debate and I’ll leave it at that, except to say…

    ….there are other magazines available if you don’t like Tricycle. And if there weren’t, then you are free to start one.

    And, finally, I’ve personally seen no evidence of “xenophobic hate dressed up as something else” in any of this. Are you really saying that the western movement for Tibet is full of xenophobic hate for the Chinese?

    If so, you have met very very different people in those campaigns than I have!

    All the best and wishing you peace and happiness,


  12. Thank you Marcus. I’ll echo A’s comment to say that I always appreciate your comments!

    That said, I never claimed that the Western movement for a free Tibet is full of xenophobic hate for the Chinese. I said that China bashing is xenophobic hate dressed up as something else.

    The Western movement for a free Tibet may be many things; but a ruse for hate it is not.

    I have seen several blogs since shortly before the olympics that walked that very fine line between constructive (and sorely needed) protest and debate against the actions of a totalitarian government and China bashing. My comment was meant to draw attention to the difference between those two very, well, different things.

    Thanks for making me clarify!

    A said: “We should write an article for Tricycle about how much we feel they ignore the Buddhist community’s silent majority.”

    Love it! I’m in! 😉

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