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The Noble Savages

by on November 30, 2011

At the top of Dawa la’s blog there is a video about Tibet situated just for my viewing pleasure.  I click on the video, which starts with scenes of kids smiling and looking cute, accompanied by melodic guitar music to really capture the mood.  The next nine minutes of the video show panoramic views of Tibet, pilgrimages, and other Tibetans living out their everyday life on high definition slow motion film.  The narrator starts saying cute Buddhist quotes along with the film, but then things get complicated.  During one clip he states, “I can still smell blood.  That’s from the last 50 years.  Chinese and China’s blood.”   Shortly after, shots of Chinese flags on top of buildings take over the screen.  Then quotes from Tibetan kids saying how wonderful their lives are and how much they love their country (now China) in Chinese.  Then a list of all the wonderful things China has done for Tibet.  Then he says comments along the line of, “when will people see this new era for what is?”  By the time the video is through, I’m confused.  Isn’t China oppressing Tibet?  Isn’t that the reason half of Boulder has a “free Tibet sticker” right next to their Grateful Dead sicker on the back of their cars?  What’s going on here?
As I read further into the blog I realize that the video was created in the bias of the Chinese.  Interestingly enough, the Chinese view Tibetans as noble savages.  Noble savages have been defined in the blog as simple-minded people that are pure and ignorant to the happenings of the modern world.  They also have a deep connection with nature that allows for immense wisdom of life.  When I look at the definition of the “noble savage” in conjunction with the video, the correlation between the two is extremely apparent.  Almost the whole video is stoic clips of Tibetan’s living their simple lives, and smiling while doing it. Examples of China’s improvements to Tibet within the video also make the stark argument that china is helping the Tibetan savages for the better.  That Tibetans don’t know what’s good for them, so China’s current occupation is a good thing.  Although we would argue against the Chinese point of view of Tibet, We come from the same exact position as the Chinese.  To us, Tibet is a society of Noble Savages.  We imagine people living with only the basics, in harmony with nature, and meditating for hours on end.  The only difference between us and China is that we want to preserve that Noble Savage way of life.  So who’s the bad guy now?

 

The Chinese/Tibetan author, Woeser La, makes an interesting comment on the post.  For background purposes, Weoser La is a Tibetan scholar that is virtually on house arrest in China along with her husband because of her potential ideological upset to the standing system.  She comments on a metaphor used in the video.  The narrator of the video states that he is a Tibetan Mastiff.  What?  What Woeser, as well as Dawa la, relate this to is the idea of the ‘noble savage’.  Noble savages are basically human versions of pets; they can’t take care of themselves, they need outside resources, and they can’t connect to the modern world.  Woeser relates this idea to the current political issues between Tibet and China.  She states Tibet and China has had a fickle relationship with each other for sometime; a relationship in which Tibet acts a certain way to seek the approval as the most loved of all the minorities in China.  This relationship is kind of like the relationship between a mastiff, or any other dog, and its owner.  However, the events that took place last March were the equivalent of the mastiff biting its owner.  The fake relationship faded, and now China is trying to beat the dog to death.  The problem is, Tibet is not a pet.  Tibet is a country of people that don’t want to be submissive the way a dog is to an owner.  Tibet wants to be Tibet.  They want to in and of themselves.

 

This post was extremely interesting because of all the subliminal messages that where shoved into out faces in the course of nine minutes.  If I wouldn’t have known better (and I don’t even know if that statements true) I would have believed the message the video was feeding me.  The video was like a present wrapped up with the most beautiful paper with the foofiest bow on top.  Wouldn’t you want to open it?  This made me think about the Giblett and the Lefebve articles we read for class.  How do media sources, such as this video, shape what we know about the world?  How can we so easily be manipulated?

 

Questions:

What were your initial thoughts after the video?  Where you as confused as I was, or did you know better?

 

What were your thoughts of the comments below?  In particular, the user dugdak, that rebuttals the post?  Does she have validation to her argument? (I’m sorry I didn’t talk about her at all)

 

What makes a media source so easy to rely on as the truth?

 

Any other comments…..

 

 

 

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11 Comments
  1. My initial reaction to the video was far from what was actually going on. The tone of the whole movie seemed really positive until I read the statements below the film clip. Something that seemed really interesting to me is when the narrator points out that Vinnie Hu, during the film, was pronouncing all of the names wrong. This brings up a really important discussion. Unfortunately I have never been able to visit Tibet and honestly don’t know that much about their culture. This film clip provided me with a BROAD, insight into their society and landscape. As Simon Schama explained in his book, Landscape and Memory, that there can’t be a concept of nature and wilderness without the presence of a human conception of it. “It seems right to acknowledge”, says Schama, “that it is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape” (10). I automatically began conceptualizing the visuals, shaping my perception of the Landscape in Tibet. After reading the commentary below the clip I realized that these perceptions were totally off base and represented my cultural biases. If the commentary weren’t provided, these perceptions would have been consolidated and held as my truth about the current state in Tibet. This brings up an interesting question on, how many false realities have been created among individuals within various cultures around the world through the misrepresented portrayal of other cultures in films such as these? And more importantly what are the implications to these misperceptions? If I didn’t read more information about the social and political atmosphere in Tibet today, I would have went on to assume that, based on the film, the population was prospering spiritually and educationally, instead of realizing the reality of the situation.

  2. Megan Powell permalink

    Before watching this video, I didn’t realize that the Chinese were actually producing propaganda justifying their occupation in Tibet. This post & blog were interesting for me because I wasn’t really aware of the Tibetans as “noble savages” perception that the Chinese people hold. I couldn’t help but wonder if the majority of Chinese people feel this way and use that belief to not only justify the occupation but also maybe support it.
    I thought that the idea of noble savages being “pets” was a bit extreme, but that it does get at an important aspect of the negativity of the stereotype. A culture that is deemed to be noble savages is inevitably degraded by it; they are seen as helpless as pets. But, as I think many people would agree, interventionism (which I think China’s occupation of Tibet can be compared to) is always ethically questionable no matter if the invading country feels they are doing what’s best for the country being invaded.

  3. I found the video and blog to be very interesting. I am aware of the “Free Tibet” campaign in Boulder ,and in many other parts of the country and world, however I do not have much knowledge of this topic, only the basic facts. The video impressed me because of how strong the message was that the author was attempting to send.
    Coming from a western point of view, this video comes across as immoral and inaccurate. I was truly shocked to discover that China is propagandizing Tibet, creating false and misleading ideas of “Noble Savage”. I was also taken back when I compared this scenario to American culture and how “Noble Savage” ideas are comparably seen in our media (National Geographic). This blog and video also forced me to related earlier discusses in the semester regarding the validity of facts and where your information is coming from and also the intention of the author.

  4. vcowdrey permalink

    Right before I watched the video I read in the blog that it was made by the Chinese, but it didn’t click until I started to notice all the ways that the narrator (and obviously China) were showing clips of China helping Tibet and implying that by this “never ending” aid Tibet was able to exist. With the captions across the bottom of the screen stating the “facts” about China’s aid to Tibet it was as if they are justifying their oppression. That without China Tibet would just be filled with people that can’t fend for themselves. The video was so beautiful and the people shown were seemingly happy. This was a perfect example of superb editing on the video creator’s side. With proper imagery you could probably make a funeral look enticing. It’s just disheartening that a “nice” video can have such an influence over our perceptions. But isn’t that what we have been discussing in class? How perceptions are influenced by images, i.e. expectations of the great American west via the photography of Ansel Adams? I completely agree with Coco’s sentiments on being easily manipulated by a video, I don’t like it.

  5. Summer Rose W permalink

    I first read the blog before watching the video, so I understood that this video was created by a Chinese person, and that the person who wrote the blog has anger towards that video.
    Then, I watched the video; I agree with you, those images were so cute, and everyone looked so happy. I even liked the narrator at first, until I realized that he was talking in a way, like Tibetans should be so grateful that Tibet was taken into China’s care.
    Then, I read the comments made on the blog. It was really interesting the perspective of the commenter. I am now more confused about what the video meant. Because I read the blog before watching the video, my mind was thinking that the film was made from a pro-Chinese occupation standpoint.
    The person who created the video is an 18 year old Chinese student living in the United States. I wonder if there were some issues with his english translation that made his story sound like he was against Tibetan independence. Maybe he was saying exactly what he wanted. It is so difficult to really know without talking to the person who created the video, and hearing directly from him what he was try to show in his film.

  6. morganspyker permalink

    China is famous for their propaganda! I am not the least bit surprised by this “ad” and the extremes that it went in order to fill the void in the minds of people who haven’t thought about the Tibet/China relationship.
    In response to the first comment (Taylor?) on this blog: “This brings up an interesting question on, how many false realities have been created among individuals within various cultures around the world through the misrepresented portrayal of other cultures in films such as these? And more importantly what are the implications to these misconceptions?,” our midterms came to mind. Just because this wasn’t a full length feature film, it is almost as accurate as the movies Hollywood is putting out for our entertainment. A lot of our (the class) misconceptions about the Amazon, the Mediterranean or Western U.S. were based on movies that we didn’t think twice about questioning. The phrase “Question Everything” comes to mind, in that just because it is a video/film doesn’t mean that the framing isn’t going to an extreme. Even a simple tourism commercial for Hawaii or California or Wyoming doesn’t show the whole story. Though I feel that this is a horrible, sad and inaccurate portrayal, these types of images are out there for nearly every type of community.

    P.S. High five to Morgan Mitchell for throwing in a Grateful Dead plug.

  7. This video is just another example of China’s paternalistic style of governing. This piece of propaganda is just a example of the many kinds of propaganda the Chinese government uses to stifle to voices of the people within their borders. The Chinese government believes that people do not know best, that they need to be told how to live their lives in order to bring the most prosperity to their country. In the video you see the people saying how much the government has done for them in Chinese, which is not their native language. They value the portrayal of Tibetans acting assimilated because it reaffirms their power over the people, reminding all other minorities that they too will be assimilated and part of Chinese culture because the Chinese way should be the only way. Total control of the population has long been a goal of the Chinese government, which in some ways makes sense in their culture which is heavily based upon submission to authority figures whether it is an emperor or a governmental structure. However, modernization in China has presented problems in terms of the suppression of the Tibetan voices putting a wedge between their desire to be the world hegemon through globalization and modern forms of communication and keeping their population in submission.

  8. amygraceaustin permalink

    I think it is really interesting how universal the concept of a noble savage is. For something that is so derogatory it really is widely universal across dominating cultures. I have become very familiar with how the concept of the “noble savage” has been used to colonize and maintain control over indigenous populations in the Americas, but it was my first time seeing how this is manifested in very similar ways in an entirely different cultural context. Another interesting thing about this was the fact that a video made me look at it from an entirely different perspective. Reading about the concept through a theoretical lens allows you to view the phenomenon at a distance, watching this video, on the other hand showed how this ideology is culturally ingrained and often subliminally practiced.

  9. punam123 permalink

    This video is very interesting for me and your blog post too. Chinese government propagandizing Tibetan people has been happening for a over long time because in china the media is controlled by the government. The government always block the features if it is against and hampers the chinese government. I feel very sad how Tibet and the people living there are shown in the media. I think media should only publicize the truth events and should not rely on the false.

  10. I was initially surprised by the video because I didn’t realize right away that it was from a Chinese perspective. I knew that i knew nothing about the situation in Tibet and I figured that what I was seeing was the perspective I was supposed to be seeing. But it didn’t sit right. I too found myself wondering why Tibetan children were claiming to be thankful for Chinese influence. This video is another step toward my understanding of the situation in Tibet.

  11. I think that the Tibetans are completely misunderstood, especially by Boulder residents and other hippies (and yes, I’m one of them). Even though the video demonstrates the bias of the Chinese, the Tibetans are not simply a culture of people who want independence achieved peacefully. They are violent. They fight. Even though it appears to go against their traditions, they have to fight for their families and for food and basic survival else they be wiped out. The Tibetans, with the help of figures like the Dalai Lama have set up a marketing campaign, making themselves appear absolutely peaceful so that they are supported by the first world nations who hear that message. This does not mean that they deserve any less, but rather that American’s views are warped in more than one way (not simply by the Chinese).

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