Falun fad

31 Aug

This Sunday, the dim-sum place was packed. We waited nearly 40 minutes for a table. While standing outside, a woman scurried about thrusting pamphlets into people’s hands. Big bold letters announced to me to the all-too-familiar cause du jour of west-coast activists: “why is this peaceful meditation practice being persecuted?”
 
I was immediately reminded of Jianshuo’s recent post. He doesn’t post about Falun Gong in particular, but laments the black eye that China is being given over SARS. Jianshuo is in MSFT Shanghai office andmaintains some of the best SARS-related news from China available on the web(Adam Morris also has a good SARS-related blog he maintains from Beijing or nearbyTianjin). Now, I am more pessimistic than ever before about SARS. The disease is basically out of control in spreading now, has been mutating rapidly, and now has a 15% death rate. I am convinced that SARS is something we will all have to learn to deal with. But I also would not be too quick to criticize China about the spread of the disease. I have a feeling things will be much worse in the U.S. when SARS catches hold with full force here, if only for the reason that it’s practically impossible in the U.S. to quarantine 1000 people at a time.
 
Anyway, the point is that I have never really understood theFalun activists, and always have this uncomfortable feeling that they are simply serving (at least in the west) as a focal point for attracting anti-China activists — many of the same anti-China activists who populate the “free Tibet” movement. Both issues are rather similar, and puzzling to me for the same reasons. The people attracted to both causes are typically the same people who will fight most strongly against school prayers in the west, but they are supporting religious monarchy (in the case of Tibet) and a massive religious cult (in the case of Falun) over an athiest government.I’m not saying that Tibetan Buddhism or Falun Gong are necessarily bad belief systems; just that I have a bit of trouble understanding the motives of their western supporters. When India funnels money to the “free Tibet” movement, the reasons are obvious –but there seems something deeply incongruous about the stance of the typical birkenstock-clad college kid who claims to be a supporter of Tibet or Falun Gong.
 
Now, I am admittedly ignorant about Falun Gong. But I have formed some impressions:
 
They claim to not have an organization, but their .org is as slick and masterful as any Sun Myung Moon or Church of Scientology site. They have an 800 number and a line of merchandise. Driving around Vancouver, B.C., I see massive Berlin-1933 style posters, and I have seen what appear to be apartment complexes taken over entirely by practitioners. They send blue-eyed Canadian college kids to do stupid things and get arrested in Tiananmen, with newspaper cameramen ready. And they market themselves even more fiercely than Hare Krishnas (when was the last time you had Hare Krishnas soliciting at your restaurant?). They claim they do not have an organization, but I have learned far more than I wanted to about their founder and spiritual leader. Every web page or pamphlet heaps adulation on the founder, and the lack of detractors within Falun Gong would make even the Pope envious. I have formed the impression that if their founder said “jump”, they would all jump. They make me nervous.
 
By the same token, there are plenty of Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and others within China who manage to avoid systematic persecution.Admittedly, it’s not as if China makes life easy for these other religions, but Falun Gong has done a very poor job of maintaining a low profile. Massive public displays of solidarity to non-communist causes and sneaking in offoreign activists to stage protests are textbook examples of how to freak out the communist party. Does the Zhuan Falun require that practitioners deliberately poke a stick in the eye of the communist party? I highly doubt it.
 
So do you have any theories why the Falun Gong insists on being so highly visible and provocative toward the Chinese leadership? My theory is that it’s a two-pronged way to generate membership. In China, being perceived as “everybody is doing it” is a great way to attract more customers. And in the U.S., getting persecuted by the Chinese government is a great way to gain mystique and credibility among the seeker-activists (Richard Gere, Tom Cruise)and patterns the “Free Tibet” movement. And the two trends feed off of one another (Westerners figure it is “authentic” if lots of Chinese people do it; Chinese people figure it must be good since everyone including foreigners is doing it).

text from: http://www.facts.org.cn/puop/201007/t114581.htm

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