Issue 216
Spring 2021


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May 15, 2021

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 216
Spring 2021 (7.8MB)

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The advice was – Run Run Run


TWO YEARS AGO I was asked to go to India to talk to the Dalai Lama about Sir Walter Scott, the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of whose birth is celebrated this year.

Such an expedition may sound absurd until you consider. Tibet and Scotland are both small countries living under the shadow of much larger ones, Scott and the DL are both people who changed the way people viewed their country through their literary work and both were immensely popular.

Scott one of the best selling authors in the known world, the DL once polled as the second most popular politician in the world next to Barack Obama. Discussing how they both achieved such pre-eminence in a world where hard cash and military muscle is usually seen as being the way to power was hardly a waste of time.

The DL was of course charming and after the interview I was asked if I might go and see a local Tibetan poet who was looking for a publisher. I have to admit my heart sank. He was twenty five from a small farming village in Tibet and arrived wearing a grey shawl and he remarked that sometimes Tibetans sleep wrapped in their shawls and of course I remarked that so did Highlanders in Scotland.

Then we talked about how Scott used to insert fictional characters into established historical scenes. He then told me the most loving poem I had heard for years, which I here paraphrase, with a few of the details changed for his safety It was called Run Run Run.

His techniques was the same as Scott's. He described the tensions between China and Tibet and how after, just as after Culloden, the domineering country tried to obliterate the language and culture of Tibet. He talked of how, when he was six, his father used to take him on long adventure walks teaching him the stories and the songs of his people.

One day his father said that they were going on a long adventure walk, and as they walked he told a story of a man who had had a pigeon that he loved so much he had to let it go free. On the first night they slept together beside a river both wrapped together in their shawls.

On the second day they came to a bridge, on one side was Tibet, the other India, there were soldiers on the bridge. His father had tearfully wrapped him in the shawl and whispered in his ear: "You are my pigeon and I love you so much I have to let you go". When I open my arms you are to run run run across that bridge. The Chinese soldiers won't shoot you because you are only six. When you reach the other side look for good people. Now my darling are you ready... run, run, run. Don't look back.

"And so I ran. I did look back, but there was my beloved father with tears running down his face shouting 'Run Run Run', so I did and I met good people and they took me to an orphanage. I have never seen him or any other member of my family since."

The Tibetan plateau is the size of Europe. It's termed the third pole as it has enough ice to feed the rivers that feed one fifth of the population of the world, and it's melting faster than at either pole.

Within the next twenty years we will be seeing hundreds of thousands of people leaving these areas, one of the first major wave of climate change migrants, joining those from Africa, and Bangladesh and so many other places.

People ask me why I won't be voting to build a border with England. Somehow it doesn't seem to be the right time to be building borders.

There will be but one thing in the minds of those refugees: Run run run.

MAXWELL MACLEOD


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