When I was in school, ma’ong sontsa rey ta (you are the future seeds) was one of the most frequently used phrases by our teachers when students misbehaved or didn’t study hard. As a result, I often had dreams of big fruits growing out of me some day.
As a grown up now working in the Tibetan community, I realize that my teachers were, perhaps, right at least on this account about us being seeds of future Tibet. Looking around Gangchen Kyishong, seat of the Central Tibetan Administration or popularly the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, I see young people everywhere – young men in smart suits and young women in beautiful chupas. Seeds have sprouted into healthy shoots.
Every time I witness this young crowd, I see power. I observe creativity. I feel energy and restlessness. They are like a gang of wild yaks wanting to climb Mount Everest. They are like a troop of stallions wanting to gallop across the wide expanse of the Tibetan Plateau. They are a nucleus of energy ready to be unleashed.
The average age of the Tibetan civil servants began to grow younger since the early 1990s when a large number of exiles started moving to the West. However, the administration has not been fully able to utilize the potential of its young workforce.
The struggle for freedom is not regular office work. Nor it is a source of livelihood. There is a grave danger of working for the exile government is being seen as a comfortable 9-to-5 exercise. Consequently, there is an urgent need for the young staff to be given a sense of purpose, a clear direction and the freedom to exercise their creativity. In this mission, the senior officials in the administration become essential. Their decades of experience and accumulated knowledge can guide the youth – to make them realize that Tibet is politically undergoing a life-and-death struggle, and that Tibetan language, culture and history are being systematically destroyed in Tibet. The elders who are culturally rooted, spiritually matured and historically aware about the past have the ability to link the younger generation to the struggle and inspire them an urgency in their work.
For inspiration, we do not have to look far. Students for a Free Tibet is an extraordinary driving force both in campaigning for a free Tibet and providing crucial training in activism and communication to emerging leaders. SFT has managed to do so because of its young leadership and their ability to harness youth power by providing platforms which are in tune with changing times, global circumstances and technology. If an NGO such as SFT – with its limited resources – can do such marvellous work, the Tibetan government certainly can.
The exile administration now has a new popularly-elected and highly modern-educated Prime Minister, who has unique historical responsibilities and equally unique opportunities to lead Tibet’s struggle towards freedom. Given the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people working for the exile administration are also young, modern-educated and speak multiple-languages, there are unlimited possibilities to achieve our goal. However, this can and must be achieved with the senior members of the administration providing the necessary bridge between the vision of the new Kashag and the creative power of the young and fresh minds.
At times it appears that the vastly experienced and selflessly dedicated senior administrators operate with strategies inherited from another time and circumstances. Hanging onto obsolete tools and accepted wisdom divorced from today’s reality are useless. This prevents us from taking advantage of new opportunities in the ever-changing global scenario.
Young public servants are motivated, technologically advanced and skilled in communication. Yet, I once heard someone remark, ‘Layjey sar pa detso computer la du tso mang po tro lak tang gi duk‘ (These young people waste so much time on their computers.) The world is increasing getting smaller and wireless with information flowing all the time. A failure to know of an event taking place in Tibet instantly can make a huge difference in our struggle. The world must be on our fingertips. And for a diaspora which is as disparate as ours, staying connected is imperative. A laptop is hence no longer a luxury. It is as essential as our kitchenware.
How nice it would be if the secretary of a department shares SMS jokes with young colleagues or goes out for a cup of tea with them after office to catch up with happenings on the ground.
Knowledge is power. So is communication. Creativity is an asset and youth the strength. The popular people’s revolution in the Middle East this year, which forced out one dictator after the other, took place because knowledge was powered by communication, which was driven by creativity, which in turn was engineered by the youth. Their principle medium was the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. The sheer number of young people and their quest for freedom turned the tide in favour of democracy, rule of law and justice to the oppressed.
India, Brazil and Indonesia are shining bright because their young populations. The exile Tibetan administration, with its overwhelming large number of young people, has a capacity to shine even brighter. Under the dynamic leadership of its young Prime Minister, supported by the experienced senior bureaucrats and the energy of the youthful workforce, there is no doubt that our struggle will be taken to the next level.
When this happens, my dream of big fruits growing out of my head for being one of the ma’ong sontsa will have been realized.