Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just Out of Curiosity...

Why is our modern civilization so intent on politicizing an event whose original purpose was so totally apolitical? Are we really so much less disciplined and rational than the ancient Greeks?

How many of these Japanese protesters with their "Free Tibet" T-shirts and flags would be willing to give Hokkaido back to the Ainu?

For that matter, how many similarly-accoutered Americans would be willing to acknowledge the treaty made long ago by the U.S. government promising all of North America west of the Mississippi River to the native tribes "for all time"?

In 1997 the chief of the Cherokee Nation, Joe Byrd, after apparently misusing federal funds, declared the U.S.-backed Cherokee Supreme Court inferior to his rule , impeached its justices, created his own personal militia, and removed Cherokee marshals that tried to arrest him under existing constitutional law, in effect mounting a coup against U.S.-backed administration of tribal land and declaring sovereignty. The Federal Government hesitated to take action beyond an FBI investigation, but the State of Oklahoma did not, sending in state troopers and even anti-terrorist units to force Byrd to submit himself to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Byrd was more or less subdued and defrocked but never formally arrested. But would the government have shown similar restraint if Byrd and his followers had started burning white-owned businesses and killing white Americans in Oklahoma City?

Did the rioting Tibetans actually think Beijing wouldn't send in the troops?

Does China really think the Dalai Lama stupid enough to instigate a violent uprising that will only make things worse?

Have either Tibetans screaming for independence or Chinese who claim Tibet has "always" been part of China actually studied history?

Does an appeal for solving problems through reason and communication amount to treason? Is it really grounds for revoking someone's high school diploma, mounting a national smear campaign against them, and forcing their parents into hiding?

Not so long ago there was an Asia Cup championship match between China and Japan played in China. Japan won. The Chinese fans, who had been booing and shouting nationalist slogans throughout the game, reacted by rioting. The Japanese soccer team and its staff had to be hustled out with police escort under a hail of lobbed bottles and debris. The Japanese fans, including some diplomats, were trapped inside the stadium for hours as riot police held off a crowd that was burning Japanese flags and screaming for blood. Roads to the Japanese embassy had to be cordoned off because groups of young Chinese tried to rush it. Tour buses and hotels catering to the Japanese team and its supporters were attacked and damaged even with police protection. Yes, it's true that there's a lot of historical bile between China and Japan, but after seeing mobs of angry, young Chinese blocking Carrefour department stores and screaming anti-French slogans in response to pro-Tibet protests in Paris, one has to wonder what kind of assurances China can give that any non-Chinese athlete winning an Olympic event won't find himself or his country winding up a target of irrational jingoist furor?

Can we expect the Olympics to wind up being something like this? (The video is of clips from an Asia Cup soccer qualifying match between Japan and China in China last February. There were no riots this time, but check out both the sportsmanship and the quality refereeing.)

Nearly all the Chinese I have met, and I have met quite a few, have been very good people. I'd like to believe they still represent the majority. I have not met any Tibetans, so I have no basis to judge them.

I'll be very glad when this Olympics is over...


  • The difference between a "freedom fighter" and a "terrorist" lies in whether the smaller movement has enough military or social power to force their point (and the backing of the world's remaining superpower plays a big role as well).

    Tibetans and their supporters see the Olympics as an opportunity to point that spotlight on China in their direction, so they are doing it.

    Most subnational factions have been "put down" in one way or another and the resulting deaths and mayhem are often used by them to justify later action, whether civil or violent. Whether they reap benefits from later social unrest depends on numbers, strength, and strategy.

    As much as people would like to keep the Olympics "pure" and "for the athletes," it never really has been.

    Just like any place where freedoms are curtailed, you can have 99% nice people and still have a terrible, oppressive government. The Chinese form of government still has too much in common with oppressive states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, or North Korea but its prosperity is driving more positive change.

    For Tibetans, that change is apparently not fast enough. For some Chinese, the glare of the spotlight on the dirtier corners of their legacy is a slight against their pride. Such is human nature.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 12:16 AM  

  • As it's just past my bedtime, all I have time to say for now is: I think awarding the Olympics to China was a biiiig mistake. The IOC was trying to be too (what's the word?) politically correct? Pandering?

    It's too early. Too complicated. Or thinking ahead to its evolving position in the future I almost wonder if it would ever be possible...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 9:04 AM  

  • I guess the rightness or wrongness of stealing people's land and culture comes down to timing I guess.

    then and now

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 12:24 PM  

  • Hmmmm.... complicated.... yeah, so complicated.

    8 is the lucky number for Chinese thus this year olympic will be held in China (08-08-2008).

    A lot of people are against it.

    Look... since last year, people are trying very hard to jeopardize the event (or should I say "China"). It started with the Mattel toy products (made in China) were being recalls then all candies/food made in China and everything bad stuff being spread around. Now, with the politic situation between China and Tibet.

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:39 PM  

  • It's the spotlight thing. Some call it abuse of event, some call it practical. Win some, lose some. I have no knowledge to comment either way.

    By Blogger agus, at 5:52 PM  

  • To be able to take place the Olympic in Beijing, it is a pride of Chinese.
    Hopefully it will be completed smoothly in a peaceful atmosphere.

    As for the independence of Tibetans issue which is a long term problem. Who is wrong or right, we must trace back the source of the incident. Which country was originally involved in it and raised the issue? Now, what they are reacting, would it be a pawn of being used by some countries?

    By Anonymous Popcorn_Queen, at 7:01 PM  

  • For the record, I was happy when China was first awarded the 2008 Olympics because I felt that it showed in no uncertain terms that the PRC had completed the transition from a shadowy, virtual pariah state to a very significant and active participant in world events. I've been hoping to see China take a bigger role in all kinds of things, from space development (which they're already doing) and scientific research (which they're already doing) to humanitarian aid and development (which they're already doing...though with more than a little controversy).

    It's not a matter of being politically correct. It's simply a matter of recognizing the immense potential that has always existed in that country.

    I feel the same way about other rapidly-developing countries such as India, as well.

    As for the toy and food product scandals, they are apparently a problem within the PRC as well. The government there has been hard pressed to crack down on rampant corruption that has exploded along with the wave of economic development. History shows that this is to be expected in times of rapid industrial growth; the U.S. went through something similar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The question is whether China's government will tackle the corruption or drown in it...or simply say "fuggit" and try to reinstate a planned economy.

    Whatever. My enthusiasm for the Beijing Olympics drowned in the flood of propaganda coming from all sides.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:15 PM  

  • phew, i haven't been keeping up w/ this at all. i listened, about 3 wks ago, to a Tibetan woman monk speaking about being held captive by the Chinese in their prisons and such, and how many were tortured... it was very interesting... but that's all i really know on the subject... other than some of the things that you've mentioned here.

    as far as the indians... well... me and this topic go back. i didn't know about the things you speak about here. i think it's just sad really.

    i was just reading an article in "O Magazine" about religion and violence. how the "us" vs. "them" creates violence.... interesting that your post is along these same lines.

    i like this post... very interesting.

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 10:20 PM  

  • Um Naief
    Welcome back!!!!!!

    I only wish it were a comment thread for a more pleasant post...

    It's human nature not to trust the "outsider". It's a protective instinct. Unfortunately, it can also make things very complicated.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:49 PM  

  • Free Puerto Rico!

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:31 PM  

  • I too was pleased when China was awarded the Olympics because we have always rightly assumed that the Olympics transcend political and humanitarian issues. Also, I like the Chinese traditions and celebratory style, and I saw it as China making another step towards taking its place on the global stage, but we could not foresee these extremely disruptive farces. Who knows what is yet to come?

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:51 AM  

  • (During the first sentence, forgot to mention, I was thinking of Berlin 1936.)

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:53 AM  

  • Bad equations these:

    -- Religion + Politics
    -- Sports + Politics

    But people don't learn.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 11:55 PM  

  • Interesting.

    The other day someone told me that the Japanese are REALLY racist. Obviously it's a generalization and stereotyping, but... Is it true in general?

    By Blogger shlemazl, at 11:44 AM  

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