From Issue: 473 [Read full issue]

A Question of Dignity

Soon the Olympic Games will be taking place in China. Sports and politics must not be mixed, we are told, as if China’s stance were not political! The Chinese, in fact, have adopted a policy that intertwines and confuses the two. But it is impossible to celebrate a political authority or a government, impossible to participate in “sport”, when an entire people is oppressed, when its existence is denied, when it is humiliated by that same government. Markets and economic interests, the forces that have already purchased such a deafening silence, can no longer justify our cautious calculations as we confront the shameful images that have come to us, for so long, from occupied Tibet.

We cannot allow ourselves to be misled by eminently political and symbolic gestures presented as “purely sporting” or “purely cultural” (is it not striking to see some of those who criticized us for promoting a boycott of Israel—whose government continues to oppress the Palestinians—at the Paris Salon du livre and the Turin Book Fair, using precisely the same arguments in denouncing China?). They are fooling no one. Our duty is one of coherence: no more selective criticism, no more cowardly silence; there can be no culture, no sport devoid of ethics, stripped of their dignity. Boycotting the Olympic Games, as long as the Tibetans are being crushed, is a question of human dignity and intellectual decency.

It is no longer enough to philosophize, to expostulate, in our carpeted offices, our salons, our universities, on the benefits of “non-violence” and the greatness of soul of its spokesmen and leaders while, though our political cowardice and our economically motivated hypocrisy, we seemingly spare no effort to drive to violence resisters who have nothing left to lose, who have already lost everything.

These words are written for the women and men of Tibet, for those who are still standing upright, for my friends in the resistance who have taken the decision to accept no longer the silence of complicity, to countenance no selective denunciations. Whatever the price to be paid.

With you, our world is less ugly, our humanity not so sad.

"The Tibet Boycott: a question of dignity" - Tariq Ramadan