Burning the Midnight Oil

By DeusExMacintosh

CLIMATE change is a global problem that all humanity has to tackle because “human beings can’t live on the moon”, the Dalai Lama says.

On a one-day visit to Parliament House today, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader appeared unfussed that Julia Gillard had refused to meet with him, at one stage referring to the Prime Minister as a “he” before correcting himself.

The Dalai Lama had a packed schedule in Canberra, including meetings with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his deputy Warren Truss, a lunch with 84 MPs, a meeting with the all-party parliamentary group for Tibet and an interfaith prayer service.

Asked whether he was disappointed Ms Gillard had declined a meeting, the Tibetan spiritual leader was blunt: “No.

“My main interest as I mentioned earlier is promotion of human value, promotion of harmony. So I always believe people make significant contributions, not politicians, even prime ministers,” the Buddhist leader said.

“If your Prime Minister has some kind of spiritual interest then of course my meeting may be useful – otherwise I have nothing to ask him. And, there is no point to seek advice from him.”

One of the Dalai Lama’s aides quietly corrected His Holiness: “Her”.

“Oh, from her,” the 75-year-old said with a laugh.

Ms Gillard later played down her decision not to meet the Dalai Lama, saying he was a frequent visitor to Australia.

“I think he has been here four times in the last five years. On some occasions he has met with the Prime Minister on others he hasn’t,” she told journalists.

“I’ve determined on this occasion I won’t be meeting with the Dalai Lama, he will meet with a member of the government, minister (Peter) Garrett.”

Ms Gillard denied her decision had been influenced by pressure from China.

“No I make my own decisions and the government makes its own decisions about meetings that we hold.”

The Australian

Not the first time a rock star has met the Dalai Lama, admittedly.

[*That chorus continues: “The time has come, the fact’s a fact, it belongs to them, let’s give it back”]

UPDATE 16/6/11: It’s jokes like this one that suggest the Dalai Lama’s grasp of English is probably about as good as this broadcaster’s grasp of Buddhism…


  1. Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    It may be that the DL’s “she/he” slip was a linguistic slip rather than a mistake about Julia Gillard’s gender. For example, the various Malay languages (Bahasa Indonesia etc) do not distinguish between “he” and “she,” and nor do Mandarin or other Chinese dialects, at least when spoken. “He” for “she” and vice versa is a common error in English for native speakers of those languages. This can make any “he said, she said” story very hard to follow indeed.

    A quick scrabble around the interwebs reveals that the “honorific” third-person singular personal pronoun in the “Lhasa dialect” is a homophone between male and female. This could lead to the same error on the part of the DL.

  2. Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I work with quite a few native Chinese speakers, and while I don’t think I’ve heard a he/she slip up they do make other odd grammatical mistakes even though it’s clear what they mean. Although the cynic in me wonders if it was a subtle message to indicate he doesn’t really care that much about the PM. The Dalai Lama certainly doesn’t seem to be one to care about authoritative approval.

    I also wonder whether there’s also an attempt from the PM to avoid focus on her lack of ‘faith’, something that might come up if a meeting was to occur.

  3. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink


    The he/she confusion is a very common error indeed amongst Chinese speakers speaking English and I’m surprised if you’ve worked with quite a few native Chinese speakers that you haven’t encountered it. It’s the first one mentioned here.

  4. Posted June 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    marcellous, I do work in a male dominated workplace (although there are some females), so its possible there just aren’t the circumstances for it to occur. I do recall hearing ‘they’ a lot, so maybe its being used as an all purpose pronoun instead of ‘he’. Maybe I’ve just been missing it and will start to notice it non-stop when I return to work….

  5. kvd
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    desipis good luck with your exams. That’s far more important than a minor “mis-spoke” by HisSelf, even though Marcellous’ explanation is very interesting.

    I do like DEM’s use of the words though. Makes me realise yet again how little significance is usually paid to the words of songs, and makes me remember Robin Williams quoting ‘Sounds of Silence’ to his class as modern poetry.

  6. Mel
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink


    “This can make any “he said, she said” story very hard to follow indeed.”

    Hehe. I’ve got a Chinese mate who keeps mixing the two up. It gets real confusing sometimes.


    “My poor husband *loved* Midnight Oil”.

    Same here. Can’t stand them now.

  7. Posted June 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] said

    Garrett is a prime example of that: what you say you’ll do in principle and what you do in practice are often very different, which is natural enough.

    Yes… but whether it is valid or not depends on the motive for the difference: more information available, or traction on the greasy pole? Both motives are /natural/, one is indecent.

  8. conrad
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    “The he/she confusion is a very common error indeed amongst Chinese speakers speaking English and I’m surprised if you’ve worked with quite a few native Chinese speakers that you haven’t encountered it”

    Me too. My old man always made this error.

  9. Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I left Oz before Garrett went into politics in any big way so I can still shamelessly enjoy my Oils (yes, I have When the Generals Talk on my iPod – sad but true. I can remember a classmate writing the lyrics up on the blackboard at primary school and me wondering what the heck it was!).

  10. Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    On the confusion – just thinking about how a kiwi in france would go will ul, uls, lu and lus (cf il/elle, ils/elles, le/la and les). Anyway, the DL won’t worry too much, grammatical gender issues over the PM should only be a mini-stress.

  11. Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Doughn’t ave a goer liek…

  12. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Dalai Lama meets Australian humour: fail (good joke though, in ENGLISH it makes sense…)


  13. Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    [email protected] – Yeah, but trying it a second time was a fail unless he’d planned something like the response from the pizza person “You’ve got a choice of two – Samadhi or Satcitananda”.

    [email protected] – I remember seeing a review of preferred jokes by nationality. English go for word-play, French go for absurdist, Yanks go for power-play, Russians for pessimist jokes, and the Germans get all of them. Of course, fart jokes are universally funny – it seems even non-human primates get amusement from body-function humor. (I suppose it would make a good intelligence test for a species, but it’d leave squid out in the cold unless you included “ink jokes”)

  14. Patrick
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I find the best humour is having more than one representative of each ethnic group so that each group can chortle at its own jokes about the others…

    And for a group laugh there’s always sex jokes, they work quite well across cultures in my experience (ok obviously wowser is not a culture I socialise with!).

  15. Posted June 19, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    [email protected] – on multiple ethnic groups gathering, yes. One thing about Asians though – those poor folk won’t have the ability to make blonde jokes.

    One thing I found amusing is the “Irish joke” construct, when I found that the Irish tell them, but they are there known as “Kerryman jokes”.

  16. Posted June 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Loved the comic, very clever. Mind if i borrow it???


  17. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Be my guest.

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