I'm not 100 percent sure what to call yesterday's protest timed to coincide with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The predominant theme was "Free Tibet" but there were a lot of advocates of other causes there too, notably from Myanmar.
I kept hunting for an answer to the question "why hold this protest today" (obvious answers being, in order to embarrass Beijing and cash in on the publicity to promote their various causes) but no one seemed willing or able to express that.
I had quite an interesting discussion with a young Tibetan who had come a long, long way from a monastery through torture by Chinese police and a dangerous escape through the Himalayas to freedom in Nepal. He eventually ended up living in Amsterdam _ which might as well be the planet Mars from his perspective.
This was the kind of conversation that was at about 1/1000th of the depth it could have been ... hearing the bare facts of such a tale is like knowing an onion by its husk. My mother died while I was young.
Moments such as his expulsion from the monastery and the pain of leaving home on a treacherous walk with danger behind and total unknown ahead. Ay.
And in the midst of those thoughts I was also thinking how bittersweet it is that his life will always be circumscribed by those experiences. There is no possible future in which _ for instance _ he becomes a stock broker or a concert pianist.
Nor will I be a Tibetan monk. It's all one.
The most interesting comments about reasons TO protest came from a German woman I spoke to. She told me:
"I feel really unhappy that our leaders are now in China because I think human rights are more important than economic interests."
But weren't the Olympics begun in order to give us a respite from political disagreements?
"Everything is politics. When the Olympics started in Greece, the games were held among free countries. If we do not concentrate on human rights, treatment of people and freedom, then we lose the ideals of the Olympics."