The protests thinned, then stopped. The stickers wore out. The T-shirts shifted to the bottom of the pile. The Chinese government became our friend, despite their continued slave labour and repression.
Our stores are now filled with cheap Chinese imports, and we cannot get enough of them. This is our new reality, where market forces dictate our ethics, and outrage can be measured on a sliding scale.
The stickers were replaced with new ones: "The Goddess Is Dancing", "Magic Happens", "The Bitch Bites". Today's young radicals wear designer sunglasses and drive professionally restored Kombis, without a scratch on them. Some are even insured.
Meanwhile, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is preparing to bow out:
"Within a few years' time, I will retire completely," the 71-year-old monk and Nobel Peace Prize winner said.The Dalai Lama may choose to retire in 2009, which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of his escape from Tibet. According to tradition, he must then decide when and where he will be reincarnated. He has already said that he will not return on soil ruled by the Chinese government. He may choose never to return.
"The Tibetan nation is passing through its darkest period in 2,000 years," he told the gathering.Calls for Tibetan independence have now been replaced by muted calls for "increased autonomy". John Howard met with the Dalai Lama during a 1996 visit to Australia, but refused meet him again in 2002. Do you see how values can change, grasshopper?
Meanwhile the Panchen Lama, now twelve years old, has been under house arrest with his family (the Chinese government call it "protective custody") for six years. Nobody has been allowed to confirm their well-being. Across China today, many children of the same age are already working in factories, making shoes and other items for rich American businessmen and their customers.