Recent events in Tibet have polarized netizens and journalists, making it hard to get straight dope on a complicated and delicate situation. The coverage in both the Western and Chinese media could have been written before the events unfolded. In the Chinese press, we have the old canard that China freed the slaves living under the oppression of the tyrannical Dalai Lama, which the West fundamentally misunderstands. In the Western press, we have the old canard that Tibet has always been an independent nation that lived harmoniously under the benevolent rule of the Lamas until the violent invasion by the Chinese. Stories appear in news outlets that support these polar views, and while each contain a grain of truth, they both miss the subtleties that underlie the complicated interaction of Tibet and China.
With this in mind, we envision a higher level of discourse about Tibet that requires us to first confront out own prejudices. Here are some ways to start:
1) Read widely. Although the coverage tends to be of the nature described above, the more information the better.
2) Avoid coverage that paints the situation in black-and-white terms.
3) Acknowledge and accept your own nationalism, and then confront it.
4) Disentangle your conceptions of government and people. Allow for the possibility that not everyone speaks with a single voice.
5) Critically assess the myths you hold onto about China, Tibet, and elsewhere.
6) Put aside your preconceived notions about China.