Politics. Again. Arrgh

8:27 am xkeyboard-config

There are not many technical challenges in xkeyboard-config maintenance process these days. The worst part of that project is politics. Now, it is about Tibetian layouts. Which ISO 3166 country code should it go under?

The worst part of it is that even if tomorrow I totally redesign the structure and make it language-based – things would not change, I’m afraid (except that in addition I’d get a lot of excitement from people disgusted by breaking compatibility).

14 Responses

  1. Alfred East Says:

    I think that the discussion about the Tibetan layout strongly distorted by some Hollywood movies and propaganda, and reflects a point of view about the Tibetan region that only exists in a few Western countries.

    The Tibetan region has been annexed by the Chinese empire in 1721, and has always been an autonomous region in the following centuries. This status has been maintained during all the coups and revolutions that changed the Chinese government (Empire, Republic, and finally People’s Republic). From these facts, there is nothing wrong in associating the “zh” country to the Tibetan layouts — unless a language-based layout is feasible (it would be the best choice anyway).

    If the status of the Tibetan region changes, then the country should be changed accordingly. But it is not going to happen soon, since no real Tibetan independence movement exists among the Tibetan population (and that’s why, even considering the rights of peoples to self-determination, there are no countries that recognize the so-called “Tibetan Government in exile”).

    If the “political debate” is taken into account, then it should be clear that the “Tibetan separatists” are a very small minority of people mostly living outside of Tibet, without international recognition whatsoever, but with a noticeable media impact in some western contries. Furthermore, according to the “Tibetan government in exile”‘s point of view, the Tibet state should extend far beyond the Chinese area of Tibet, and include portions of bordering states (Nepal, India, etc.). Until this plan is realized, or at least becomes realistic, taking into account these minority disputes is indeed a way to put a political (and strongly western-biased) point of view in the keyboard layouts.

    That said, I repeat that language-based keyboard layouts would be the best choice. But if it is not feasible in the short term, then the “zh” country would be the more logical and less political choice.

  2. Sergey Udaltsov Says:

    Alfred, thanks for the insightful comment. I will sure take it into account.

  3. claudio Says:

    Free software should stick to reality and leave nation building wishes to politicians.

    If you follow the “tibetan” road, you’ll have thousands of new “countries”, at least 3 new in mine (Belgium).

    A country is a country when it’s independent. Before that, wishes aside, it’s only a region.

  4. Karellen Says:

    Pick one at random. Announce you’re willing to accept patches.

    If two people or groups of people submit conflicting or back-and-forth revert patches, do what Linus does, stop accepting any of the patches until one of the two parties gives up or they sort it out amongst themselves.

    If one group doesn’t like where it happens to be frozen in the meantime, they can always maintain their own small branch/patchset. This is Free Software, after all. It’s designed to empower them to do that.

  5. daniels Says:

    Well, it depends whether you’re going by region (in which case Tibet definitely qualifies), nation (again, definitely qualifies), or state (does not qualify).

    Anyhow, we do language-based layouts here, and it’s been a bit of a horror. Going by country and disambiguating by language seems to be the most sensible choice, AFAICT.

  6. daniels Says:

    Also, Karellan, that’s not really an option, because if you get it wrong, you’ll end up with a boycott on your hands (cf. flags).

  7. Sergey Udaltsov Says:

    Daniel, “we do language-based layouts here” – where is that “here”? Just out of curiosity, you know…

  8. ken Says:

    I suppose I’m the counterpoint, as usual. :-)

    Perhaps no country recognizes the “Tibetan Government in exile”, but so what? The American government didn’t declare war in Iraq, but I think it’s pretty clear to all that it is a war. Official government recognition is merely politics, as you note, and often not reality.

    Saying that Tibetan separatists live outside of Tibet is practically meaningless. Do you know what the Chinese have done to Tibetan separatists living in Tibet? Maybe it would be more accurate to say there are few Tibetan separatists in Tibet who are still alive!

    My take on the matter: the Dalai Lama said Tibet is not China (though he has become less emphatic on the matter in recent years), and he was born there, and is their spiritual leader. The Chinese and American governments don’t agree with this, but they’re not exactly shining beacons of truth.

    It’s a “political decision” either way; you can’t pretend it’s not. I wouldn’t be so rash as to boycott something because of this, but I would certainly notice who you’re siding with.

  9. Sergey Udaltsov Says:

    The “least political” (though not zero-political, I have to admit) solution would be to adhere to ISO standards. Since ISO is formally politically neutral body (hehe), just following 3166 can be the solution. What do you think about it?

  10. Alfred East Says:

    I’ve seen that the discussion about keyboard layouts is over, but I’d like to respond to Ken.

    The “Tibetan Government in exile” is not recognized by any coutry because it lacks all the qualities to be a government in exile. It is an unelected cast of monks that left the Tibetan region some decades ago, after refusing to renegotiate their theocratic ruling with the People’s Republic of China (while in the past centuries they had enough autonomy to keep the whole region in the middle ages).

    The Government in Exile’s authority is not recognized by the vast majority of the Tibetan population. It is true that Tibetan separatist movements are repressed by the Chinese government, but it does not mean that they have considerable support (except from Western media, that emphasize every single action they perform). These movements are mostly composed by monks still loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama. But the Tibetan people have always had a different view: they gave no resistence to the so-called “chinese invasion of Tibet” in 1950 (that outlawed serfdom and slavery) and gave no support to the CIA-backed anti-chinese guerrilla that appeared shortly after in the Tibetan mountains. For a Tibetan-friendly account of these facts, see http://www.friendsoftibet.org/databank/usdefence/usd7.html

    You write that USA does not support the Dalai Lama, but the truth is that Western governments would be definitely simpathetic with an “independent” Tibet taken back under the ruling of the Dalai Lama, because it would destabilize and reduce the frightening economic power of the People’s Republic of China. But today there is no basis nor Tibetan people’s support to politically maintain this plan, and everything is reduced to some media propaganda and a few Hollywood movies.

    Given that it’s impossibile to choose a name for a Tibetan keyboard layout without creating some political dissatisfaction, it would be quite difficult to break ISO standards just because a part of the population of some Western countries supports the so-called “Tibetan Government in exile”. Anyway, since it’s free software, that part of population may always decide to create a fork ;-)

  11. Rich Felker Says:

    Alfred East’s comment is not the least bit insightful; it’s contrary both to historical fact and to the beliefs and attitudes of most Tibetan people.

    The Manchu (not the same as the Chinese) took nominal control of Tibet in the 18th century, and had varying degrees of control in the centuries that followed. The nature of this control is much a matter of political and academic debate; see the works of Elliott Sperling for a balanced account. However for nearly the first half of the 20th century Tibet operated as a fully independent nation, after kicking out the remaining Manchu as soon as the Qing dynasty fell in 1911. So the claim that “This status has been maintained during all the coups and revolutions that changed the Chinese government” is blatently false.

    As for Tibetan’s attitudes, I speak Tibetan (whereas I am quite confident that Alfred East does not), and after spending the past 3 months in Tibet I can assure you that the view of Tibet as an independent country and of Chinese as foreign occupiers is not a “minority viewpoint” held by people outside Tibet. If I could I would cite sources that would be very shocking, but keeping these people out of danger is a lot more important than convincing a bunch of blog readers.

    I don’t know if all this is ignorance on Alfred East’s part or if he has a pro-PRC agenda, but it’s irresponsible nonetheless. Try getting some better information sources before you post offensive nonsense like this and misinform people who don’t know about the situation.

    FYI, I am the author of the XKB Tibetan keyboard layout as well as a long-term supporter of restoring Tibetan independence. I feel it’s important for everyone to be honest where they’re coming from in matters like this.

  12. Rich Felker Says:

    By the way, regarding the original blog post: it’s “TibetAN”, not “TibetIAN”. Mistakes like these show a real lack of concern for the whole issue of respecting other peoples and cultures which is what all i18n and m17n efforts should be about. If this respect were present I think the dreaded “political” issues wouldn’t be so common.

  13. Sergey Udaltsov Says:

    Rich, thanks for expressing your opinion. As you may understand, it is difficult for me to judge between you and Alfred – and I am not going to. I just approved his comments because they provide some information which I did not have (same as I did with yours).

    Sorry for wrong spelling – I did not mean any kind of offence. I have all respect to Tibetan people (despite the fact that I know so little about them).

  14. Chris Fynn Says:

    In this case why not just leave out the country code and use the iso language code or script code?

    iso language code “bo:
    iso script code “tibt”

    That would at least be neutral.

    There are very many Tibetans and other users of Tibetan script (Lhadakhis, Sherpas, Bhutanese, Baltis etc.) living outside Tibet – presumably these groups will also be users of the Tibetan keyboard.

    So why should it be tied to a country in the first place?

    CLDR locale data has bo, bo-IN, and bo-CN. bo is for common data and bo-IN and bo-CN is for when there are differences between locale data for Tibetan used in India and China.

    Similarly if the keyboard layout is common it should simply be “bo”

    If xkeyboard-config cannot handle using only a language or script code without country code then it should be fixed.

    – Chris