I'm actually starting to be against all suicide protests in general. I'm starting to group hunger strikes, self immolation, and suicide bombings together. While of course I think suicide protests which intend to harm others are objectively worse, no one talks about how many of the Tibetans have been minors, or the emotional manipulation that goes into recruiting them.
All it would take, for instance, is the Dali Lama saying 'if your going to burn yourself to death... don't do so as a minor....' and Tibetan children would stop burning themselves. He knows he has that power over his subjects, and he uses it to do FAR less noble things like haveing Tibetans in exile in India antagonize those who worship Dorje Shugden, even to the point of denying them medical attention. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5sOm-uQH9Y
I think most of the time suicide protests are far from noble, and are just another form of social manipulation. I'm of the opinion that it's likely many of the Tibetans are looking for a way to make their suicide 'holy'. I certainly feel they could make greater contributions to the world then just being kindling.
One notable example right now is the hunger strike happening at Guantanamo Bay. I agree with them, and I agree with their right to self determination ESPECIALLY when it comes to not eating to raise awareness of their plight. Although, it's a much different situation when you've been tortured for a decade because you happened to have the wrong brand watch (seriously, look it up) and have been cleared for release for years and are still locked up. At that point stopping eating is the ONLY degree of control they have left over their lives. Why exactly can't these Tibetans figure out more effective ways to use their resolve?
I have a hard time stomaching Tibetan children being assured they will just be reincarnated, and that they will be heroes, and their families will be taken care of etc. They might as well start giving a number value to how many virgins they will get in the after life.
I guess its emotional manipulation techniques are evident here... "How fucked up that the world doesn't care enough about these self immolation protests." I am kinda of the opinion that it's fucked up to expect the whole world to stop just because you kill yourself. It's tragic, no doubt. It makes a compelling photograph, but I think human beings are worth more then just a photo-op. I guess the equation changes if you are certain of your immortality, and think of it as just one of your many lives. I hope for their sake they are correct.
Burning yourself to death obviously isn't changing Chinese policy, and the Dali Lama won't even tell his subjects to stop because he likes the pressure he perceives it puts on Beijing.
All in all I think it's just a sad ineffective technique. To me its growing ineffectiveness doesn't say something bad about humanity, but rather something bad about a culture that continues to encourage people to do so even when it doesn't create meaningful change.
Eventually the shock value fades.