We should call out the Dalai Lama's behavior for what it is
Published: Apr 17, 2023 07:14 PM
After decades of channeling funds to the Dalai Lama, a moment of a buyer's remorse for the US? Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

After decades of channeling funds to the Dalai Lama, a moment of a buyer's remorse for the US? Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Days ago, a video apparently months old surfaced on social media that showed the Dalai Lama kissing a boy young, pre-teen boy on the lips and asking him to suck his tongue. This has caused a significant stir in the media, leading to widespread public criticism, and a bit of media ridicule - yet, bizarrely, some defense by outlets such as the BBC.

According to those in his defense, this is all just a cultural misunderstanding because "His Holiness" was just using what is supposedly a standard Tibetan greeting. They say the Dalai Lama has never done this to anyone else publicly, though he has for example, inappropriately touched Lady Gaga's leg in the past in a way that was clearly uncomfortable for her.

I can understand the cognitive dissonance when someone who you respect so much does what is clearly such a terrible thing. My own uncle, who was like a second father to me growing up and always had my back during important moments in my life, was revealed in 2020 to have been leading a double life. DNA provided by an ancestry service used by my grandfather linked my uncle to 37 total crimes in Ohio and Kentucky, including multiple counts of rape, including children. (There may actually be more yet uncovered).

You can probably imagine my shock. Here was a man I knew and deeply respected my whole life. Yet, at the time that I was an adolescent, he was apparently kidnapping and raping women and children. What an absolutely horrible thing. But family loyalties be damned, I told him, in the only way I could, through the media, that he needed to confess outright instead of making the victims relive their suffering. His legal defense, we may assume, would have required him to discredit the victim since DNA evidence linked him to the scenes of these crimes. And confess he eventually did just two months ago.

Regarding the situation with the Dalai Lama, for some people, here is a man who can do no wrong, be it for spiritual or ideological reasons. He is somehow infallible. But I believe that when the crimes are so horrible and so clearly unjust, they require each of us to be brave enough to abandon our loyalties to family, religion or ideology and speak out for the common good: for justice.

The Dalai Lama did no favors with his cheap apologies, saying that sometimes he likes to act playful or silly with strangers and in front of cameras. Anyone with two eyes, a pair of ears and a brain can see that what he did would constitute a crime in any ordinary situation. It also, as I mentioned with the example of Lady Gaga and coupled with his comment about how his successor, - "if female Dalai Lama comes, then that female must be very attractive … otherwise not much use" - reflects a pattern of systematic disregard for women and children. He is, to put it plainly, a creep. 

A cursory glance at the comments on this apology via Twitter shows that at least people on the internet feel the same way. There are, of course, a few apologists who wrongly accuse others of cultural misunderstanding, but the vast majority of people feel this was just a cop-out. And that's because it is. Even if it were common practice for Tibetans to suck each other's tongues (it's not), we may obviously see that such a cultural practice has no place in the 21st century. Some cultural practices are antiquated.

If we went by the same logic that we should strictly follow cultural standards from hundreds of years ago then, for example, sitting politicians in my home country, the US, would still be settling disputes through duels. That's clearly insane. But again, this doesn't even apply because Tibetans - including the Dalai Lama - don't have a history of sucking tongues as an ordinary ritual. He did that because he's a creep.

We must be brave enough to call it as we see it. No one should be above the law, not even the people we care about or idealize the most. The Dalai Lama has a long and extraordinarily well-documented history of misogyny and creepy behavior, this time against a child. I personally believe he should be charged with sexual assault because the video we all saw clearly constitutes that. But, at the minimum, I hope and pray that his friends in Western high society can finally break from this creep for his indefensible behavior.

The author is a Prague-based American journalist, columnist and political commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn