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Wed Jan 25, 2012, 01:35 AM


Why Armchair Revolutionaries (and Conservatives) Hate Tibet


As a political activist, I am familiar with all the adjectives that are dished out against us. When I marched against the Stop and Search laws that were imposed by the British police to intimidate Asians and Blacks; protested against the virginity tests imposed by the British immigration services, I remember being described as a wog and a social security scrounger, and, when marching with the CND, being described as an agent of the Communists. When marching against the Apartheid regime, I remember being told that I did not understand the blacks and had never lived amongst them. So there is nothing new in O’Neill’s criticism. He is part of the privileged class that he is supposed to despise, which fashions cliché as a novel and original insight.

The main point of O’Neill’s piece is to say that the pro-Tibetan protesters are disillusioned romantics and made up of the western middle class. All protest movements in the world have been accused of being romantic and composed of middle class do-gooders. So, there is nothing new in this kind of criticism and O’Neill is merely regurgitating criticism that is most commonly leveled against any protest movement. The environmentalists and animal rights protesters are often accused of being romantic as a result of being brought up watching Bambi and viewing too many National Geographic programs (in South Africa they are now called ‘white bunny huggers’). I guess O’Neill would have described anti-apartheid protesters as romantic middle class being brought up hugging “golliwogs” during childhood. Such attempt to denigrate protesters is a common strategy of oppressors and their allies.

Whatever labels armchair revolutionaries choose to inflict on Tibet protestors - tree huggers, Bambi lovers, woolly-hatted lesbians, romantic hippies - we know we are in a long line of protesters belittled by the powerful. Armchair revolutionaries can be idiots, but they are always useful court jesters to authoritarian regimes.

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