The missing “optics of urgency”

Why it’s so hard to keep the world focused on Tibet
In 2011, Beijing further tightened its chokehold on the autonomous region under the leadership of new Tibet Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo (paywall), who implemented a vast array of security measures, including the incarceration and “re-education” of those who had returned from listening to the Dalai Lama’s teachings in India. […]

“To some extent, China has been very successful in dealing with Tibet,” said Tsering Shakya, an academic at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. […]

Draconian restrictions on travel by Tibetans, foreign diplomats and journalists has made getting disseminating information from the region immensely more difficult.

Ever-tightening security has eliminated visible, large-scale displays of protest. The “optics of urgency” spotlighting the Xinjiang situation, such as satellite photos of camps and reporting by journalists on the ground, are missing from the Tibet narrative, wrote Gerald Roche, an anthropologist at La Trobe University in Melbourne. The “slow violence” that characterizes the plight of Tibet today, Roche added, makes it harder to get global attention.

Morbid streaks

Two fascinating documentaries on how we respond to mortality.

To Tibetan Buddhists, sky burials are sacred. To tourists, they’re a morbid curiosity
Filmed in 2011, the US director Russell O Bush’s short documentary Vultures of Tibet offers a small window on to cultural tensions on the Tibetan Plateau. Set in the historically Buddhist town of Taktsang Lhamo, home to two monasteries, the film is centred on the practice of sky burials, in which the bodies of the Tibetan dead are fed to wild griffon vultures. For the town’s Tibetan Buddhist population, it is a sacred means of helping the dead’s spirit transition to the next life – a final earthly offering to creatures believed to have the wisdom of deities. However, for much of the rest of the world, the tradition is a morbid curiosity, and increasingly attracts unwelcome tourists, whose pictures end up in all corners of the internet.

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“If a group of Tibetans were to surround a Chinese funeral and watch, laugh, and take pictures, it wouldn’t be tolerated.”

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From the mountains of Tibet, to the miniatures of the US.

Dieorama
Abigail Goldman spends her work days as an investigator for a public defender’s office in Washington state, helping people who are seriously in trouble—which can mean hours of staring at grisly pictures of crime scenes, visiting morgues, even observing autopsies. By night, she dreams up gruesome events, which she then turns into tiny, precise dioramas. Rife with scenes of imminent death and brutal dismemberment, the fruits of Goldman’s painstaking labor would be adorable … if they weren’t so disturbing.

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