To study Tibet's place in the global consciousness I typed Tibet into the GOOGLE TRENDS to compare global interests and was reassured to find that the term Tibet showed up in various regions, cities and languages of the Google Trends. Similarly, it was comforting to find that the world pays close attention in the Dalai Lama, reaffirming the strong faith displayed by earthquake victims in His Holiness even after fifty years of separation. In short, the international community retains an interest in Tibet (red) and the Dalai Lama (blue) with a particular upsurge in 2008. (See below).
The bad news is that when I typed "Tibetan Movement" in the Google Trends, to my surprise, the answer was BLANK, meaning that not enough people are searching for it, nor is the news covering the Tibetan movement. What about the Tibetan government in exile? Blank. The Tibetan parliament in exile? Blank. Kashag: Blank. Rangzen and Rangzen Alliance: Blank. Self-determination or Satyagraha for Tibet: Blank. But what about the Tibetan news media like the Voice of Tibet, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America (Tibetan section): Blank. Except for the term Middle Way which does appear, as far as Google trends goes the Tibetan movement might as well not exist. (See below)
It is difficult to digest such a humbling realization that both Kashag and Rangzen, although significant factors in the Tibetan world, are not searched for in the world at large.
When Tibet coverage is compared with other movements like Burma and East Turkestan, they all suffer similar fates. Interestingly Palestine as a nation, Mohammad Abbas as a leader, Palestinian Authority as a government, PLO as an organization and Intifada as a movement, pop up like a rich wave with graphs climbing to the Temple Mount and landing in the valleys of Jerusalem. The PLO, despite being a coalition of ten acrimonious factions and despite its violent divorce with Hamas, projects coherence and communicates its aspirations to the global community. How is it that Tibetans have not succeeded in articulating their movement? (See below)
A critical question is: are Tibetans robustly exercising their free speech to articulate in unison the Tibetan movement? Google says no.
Etymological confusion is palpable given different definitions of the Tibetan government in exile, such as Kashag, Central Tibetan Administration, and Bhoeshung. Is the Tibetan parliament in exile, Chitue, Drotsog, or the Tibetan Assembly? Rangzen or Tibetan independence is patriotic and powerful, yet parochial as per Google. Is our movement Free Tibet, Save Tibet, Campaign for Tibet, Lhakar movement or Tibetan Freedom Movement? An obvious lack of consistent terminology to define the movement is causing hindrance towards achieving a globally recognized entity.
The graph could be a mirror image of the movement's lack of coherence, and its many disparate voices. A cursory review of websites, press releases, statements, blogs, and news items, reveals a narrow orientation of personal, organizational and departmental agendas. Such empirical evidence should wake us up to the realization that we are still in the infancy stage in exploring the sea of the 21st century information revolution (emphasis added).
What can be done? The bottom up democratic process is for every Tibetan to wrack their brains for an inclusive proper noun capturing the essence and spirit of the Tibetan movement. Then an encompassing definition ought to be repeated like a Mani mantra in statements, speeches, press releases and publications. Rather than the usual unproductive zero sum blame game and finger pointing, fingers should be aimed squarely at the Chinese government, particularly at the hardliners. The movement would emphasize unity, planning (strategic and tactical) and discipline as its three cardinal principles. Only then will the Tibetan movement reincarnate in a dynamic form and only then will the Google God bestow recognition.
Ultimately, the survivability of the Tibetan government in exile will determine the sustainability of the Tibetan Movement. The latter cannot exist without the former. If Tibetans are not able to attract the interest and support from the rest of the world then the sustainability of the government in exile will be in a precarious position.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama repeatedly advises Tibetans to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. As it stands today, we are nowhere near prepared. Without His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as is clear from the Google trends, we will lose the major profile of the movement. Then Tibetans are left only with one profile: homeland Tibet. Even homeland Tibet is assaulted by the Chinese government as in the case of the Kyegudo and the pressure on foreign governments to define Tibet as "Xizang," or "Tibetan Autonomous Region" and "West China." Already some countries are adopting these formulas.
Given the relentless multi-pronged strategy of the Chinese government to exert pressure at global, regional, and national levels, as well as within Tibet and among Tibetans in exile, so as to fatally marginalize the exile government, there is urgency for a multi-pronged counter-strategy. There is simply neither space for complacency, nor time for finger pointing at each other. We need to buckle up and, in stealth fashion, begin by encapsulating the dynamic spirit of the Tibetan movement, and then capture the imagination of the world. With the collaborative and creative work of Tibetans from all walks of life, I am optimistic that an exciting noun or acronym will encapsulate the unifying soul of our struggle!
It is a miracle that the Tibetan Movement survived for fifty years, mainly due to the hard work of elder Tibetans and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Challenges of Himalayan proportion lie ahead for younger generation if it is to strengthen and sustain the Tibetan Movement for another fifty years. Let us use our free speech vibrantly and express ourselves robustly in a unifying voice. Only then will the world take note and reward us with support. Only then will the Google trends graphs for the Tibetan movement be also like the Tibetan plateau, as they should be: with high peaks and beautiful valleys. Then and only then, Kyegudo will have Kyegu in true sense of the word "nine rebirths" and Tibet will remain Tibet for Tibetans.