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For this Lhalu had him beaten into unconsciousness and left on the ground some distance away where he was found by peasants late at night and brought to his home.

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In gaps between speeches, I looked at the crowd. They seemed far more poverty-stricken than would easily be found in any Western nation. They were people who loved color and ornament. This appeared in a pink cotton shirt, in bright blue, green or red sleeves of under-blouses, in scarlet hair-ribbons, in brassy earrings. Even some of the men displayed a single large "golden" circle as an ear-ring. Many of the women held babies or small children. At high points in an accusation, a man or woman would jump up in the audience and lead off in a shouted slogan. Bend down and confess! If you sincerely repent, the people may be lenient!

Consider your past! Now we have stood up! A crippled man of fifty-seven years named Habu hobbled forward; his back was twisted above the waist. He spoke violently, a violence contrasting with his physical weakness. His charges went back many years to a time when Lhalu built a new mansion on another manorial estate and ordered extra labor duty from his serfs, Lhalu ordered every household to bring him nine hundred big rocks and nine hundred earthen blocks for the building, and he paid them one ping of silver for every hundred blocks. Another man supplemented the testimony of the crippled man and the meeting brought out the statistics of the hamlet in which the exploitation had taken place.

There had been seventy-eight households, and twenty-five were tsaiba, and forty-eight were dui-chun, who, since they paid for land with grain, owed a much smaller labor service. Five families were "freed from labor duty", one of them because a past ancestor had done a signal service to the "King of the Law", and been "freed from labor duty with all his descendants forever", and the other four because their daughters had been taken to give service in song and dance at the feasts of the kashag, and the families had therefore no other labor duty.

It was clear that, even under serfdom, there were supposed to be limits to exploitation, enforced by custom. It was equally clear that when a master chose to demand more from the serf than was his due by custom, there was nothing the serf could do but obey. But the memory of the community kept account of what Lhalu had done as "injustice", and brought it up against him after long years. The memory had no doubt been kept fresh since the compulsion to hire carters had put households in debt from which many had not recovered in subsequent years.

Another source of the ancient debts became clear when a white-haired man came forward. From his manner he seemed very old and feeble but he said that he was sixty-two. He began softly, even a bit timidly: "Do you remember me, Lhalu? I was your tsaiba and I had two kes of land about two-thirds of an acre. One ke was free from labor duty but there was labor duty on the other. You ordered me to take care of a hall for religious services, and then you sent me to other work and when I returned to the hall two silver butter-lamps had disappeared. For this you accused me and demanded that I pay sixty ping of silver for the butter-lamps though such lamps cost only ten ping apiece.

But your steward said these were very fine lamps and I must pay sixty ping.

So when this was not enough I went to borrow from an under-steward and he lent me thirty ping at sixteen percent. Thus I became a beggar without horses and my wife without ornaments and with debt that could never be paid. Then you took me to the religious hall and made me pray before the new butter-lamps, and when I had prayed I lifted my eyes and they were the same butter-lamps that you said I had stolen. And I knew that you had ruined me, not for stealing, but for my two horses and the ornaments of my wife.

My life has been ruined to this day. But now again I live, for I see you a prisoner here. Lhalu seemed to shrink from the old man as he had not shrunk from more violent accusations. He muttered something. I asked: "Does he confess? He does not confess enough. The people are not satisfied.

So many accounts of floggings were given by younger men who had worked for Lhalu as stable grooms that it became difficult to disentangle their stories later and know how many grooms had spoken and which floggings had been given to which man. It was clear that Lhalu, like other serf-owners, had a large number of nantsam, and that those who were house and stable slaves, being in frequent contact with their master, were quickly detected in misdemeanors and at once flogged, and sometimes also cast for periods of various lengths into the "private jail" which all manorial estates maintained in their cellars.

One man, for instance, declared that he had been attacked by drunken Tibetan soldiers on one occasion while waiting at night in Lhasa for his master, and later Lhalu had him flogged for "fighting with soldiers". The most Vocal of these grooms was a man apparently in his late twenties, nattily dressed with leather accessories, a big golden circlet in one ear and a wrist watch which he took some pains to display. His name was Dusu and he had been many times flogged and also thrown into jail for as long as forty-nine days. Once it was the affair of the Indian saddle. Lhalu went often to Lhasa to parties held by the kashag.

On " one such occasion he ordered the groom to prepare the fine Indian saddle. But after the horse was ready, Lhalu changed his mind and decided that since the occasion was a religious one, he should have the Tibetan saddle instead. He ordered the saddle changed. I was not ready in time, so they flogged me and jailed me with chains on my legs for a month. On another occasion, when Dusu had to wait in Lhasa late at night for his master, he "warmed himself with a little wine at an inn".

Lhalu quickly observed this and had him beaten with fifty lashes and thrown into jail in handcuffs for forty-nine days.


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When he came from jail, Lhalu made him bring fifty big rocks for building, and construct a wall in five days by himself without any aid. Being exhausted from jail he strained himself with the heavy rocks, because he feared another lashing if he did not finish the work on time. He suffered from this strain for a long time. Dusu was then given strict orders never to go to Lhasa without permission.

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For this, Lhalu put shackles on my feet and made me do service in shackles, climbing the steep stairs to serve. Then he threw me in jail again till he needed me to race his horses. Dusu stated that he himself, in his time of service, had witnessed fifty-seven floggings and also knew of twenty-three people who had been "traded away from their homes or exiled on the roads". He said that household and stable serfs who attended Lhalu personally, were expected to have good clothes, and that most masters furnished such clothes but Lhalu didn't, so the serfs went in debt to buy good clothes.

Dusu also gave data on the food of the nantsam, the house and field serfs who worked full time for the master and had no other source of food. They were supposed to get twenty kes pounds of barley a year, but they did not get this full amount. The ration was given in the form of barley meal, the tsamba which is the staple food of Tibet and this was adulterated and expanded in the grinding so that the final sacks were not the full ration. Moreover, the serfs had to bring it on their backs three sacks in summer, three sacks in winter from Lhalu's manor in Shigatse, which was several days' journey away, and in summer they sweated so that the barley got wet and sticky and spoiled soon.

Of butter they were supposed to get three kes [1] twenty-three pounds , but they never did. In good years they got perhaps ten pounds, but in the past year they got almost no butter because Lhalu gave it to the rebel troops. There was at no time any cross-questioning and little attempt to check the accuracy of the charges.

It was often hard to tell whether Lhalu or his steward had personally done the action of which the complaint was made. Some accusers seemed to blame him in person for all the evils of serfdom, while others made distinction between acts that were "proper" under the customs of serfdom, and other acts that violated what had been considered the serfs' rights. Not all the testimony was of equal value if this had been a court determining Lhalu's personal guilt.

Dusu, among others, was clearly a man who liked to dramatize himself, and who might have been found by any master a rather "intractable slave". What he called "warming himself with a glass of wine" could easily have been held by Lhalu to be "getting drunk on duty". These details, which might have been important in a court, were not important for the purpose of this meeting.

What was important was that serfs give voice to grievances that had piled up in their voiceless souls for years. These grievances were endless. It was impossible to translate all details during the meeting. Two interpreters therefore gave their full time to making notes, which they gave us later at the guesthouse, and from which we corrected and expanded our data. We thus learned of Chutsa, a tsaiba, whose house had been robbed and who asked permission to leave the manor to hunt the robbers.

Lhalu replied, angrily: "Are your affairs more important than mine? Chutsa's daughter had been taken into the manor-house as housemaid. Once when she washed Lhalu's handkerchiefs and hung them out to dry, a handkerchief had been blown away by the wind. For this the girl was flogged. Incidents like this seemed numberless and testified to the bleakness of the ancient Tibetan "way of life". While the former serfs were encouraged to tell their sufferings, and were supported by shouting of slogans, it was clear that there were limits and that these were understood.

Not only had the youth who tried to strike Lhalu been pulled back by the other peasants, but none of the shouted slogans demanded Lhalu's death. Even those peasants who claimed that Lhalu had "murdered" their nearest and dearest, were not asking death in return. The usual demand was: "Confess! They cried: "Destroy the documents of the old power! Destroy the instruments of torture! Destroy the cheating measures and the deeds of debt!

At times some response was forced from Lhalu. On some charges he admitted that he had been "too harsh", had "a touchy temper", had "made mistakes" or "gone to excess". The meeting grew restless, expectant. Suddenly a loud shout rose like a war cry from the audience: "Burn the debts!

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Burn the debts! He was in his shirt-sleeves, dragging a huge basket full of papers, with which he was at once helped by many willing hands. Lhalu's steward, was bringing in the "titles of debts". He dragged the basket to the rear part of the courtyard which was open to the sky. Several more boxes of papers followed. The accusations stopped and the people all turned in their seats and began to face not Lhalu and the "tribunal" but the steward and the boxes and baskets of debts. Implements of torture and great whips were also brought in and heaped near the basket. The steward began to read the titles of papers and drop the papers on the stone flags of the court, where they rapidly grew into a large pile.

Some of these debts went back for generations. A seed loan been made to a grandfather or even to a remote ancestor, and had grown with heavy interest to an amount which could never be paid. Possibly there were debts included here which had begun not even with a seed loan, but with a false charge of theft, like that which had brought the old man of sixty-two to beggary or debts incurred for clothes which the master expected, or in ula labor which the master demanded or in any of ways in which a master who was responsible to no one might impose debt on serfs who had no way of redress.

All "feudal debts" had been outlawed by the resolution passed July 17 by the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region. The people of this manor would now enforce the law. There seemed no doubt in anyone's mind what was meant by "feudal debts". The pile of papers had grown as high as a man's waist.

A light wind began to lift and scatter the lighter papers. The nearer peasants lifted the great whips and dropped them on the pile, to hold the papers in order and to be themselves consumed. Matches were put to the pile but the heavy papers burned slowly, raising thick clouds of smoke. Presently, amid shouts from the crowd, the pile burst into a sheet of flame. There was no lack of willing hands to turn the fuel and to raise the blaze. Lhalu looked on for a moment. He had straightened his back and raised his head as soon as the accusation was over when the people had turned from him to the papers.

He gazed without expression at the fire which was burning away the documents of his feudal power. Then a few of the guards came to take him away. He went without handcuffs. Tragically, college educated or not, the underyear-olds are a fast-growing segment in bankruptcy statistics in the United States. They have been conditioned to be the biggest debtors in history in a nation of debtors. The average American household is in debt worth percent of its annual income.

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All English-speaking nations are in the same boat of comparable personal debt—and sinking deeper. Born into a century of unimaginable prosperity, in the richest country in the world, those of us between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five have somehow been cheated out of our inheritance. It acts like a drug pushed by powerful drug lords of debt, with the complicity of a system full of unethical players. You may think I use hyperbole to make the writing more interesting.

Unfortunately, this is the language insightful young Americans use in describing their feelings. Consider a scene repeated thousands of times over. In tribute to the ultimate annual festival to debt, this sad but true tale here in Portland, Oregon, occurred a few days before Christmas A something shopper handed the cashier her Visa credit card for the mound of Christmas gifts she brought to the counter of an upscale department store in the lavish Washington Square Mall.

The clerk smoothly broke the embarrassing moment. The shopper shook her head no. Just get [our credit] card.

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It is so easy. It will take just a minute. Millions of such transactions multiply across the wealthy English-speaking world. Debt slavery is not pleasant, but it does condition the younger generation to increasing bondage. It begins to disrupt our lives and personal relationships. It sucks the joy and pleasure out of our days… We come to feel defeated and hopeless. We grow depressed. Many psychologists connect the dots between increasing debt and the state of emotional instability that both leads it and feeds it.

It is bondage, says Khalfani. How did this happen across the affluent world?