33 thoughts on “Because It’s Fun to State the Obvious

  1. Being a SF Bay Area resident I am laughing at the game of cat and mouse with the protesters and the torch runners.
    Comic relief for mid week work day…

  2. See, I was hoping that they’d cancel the whole thing so that we could see a performance art enactment in lieu of. Bonus for giant puppets being involved.

  3. I work three blocks from the ball park. It was fun watching the hordes of cops race back and forth down the streets.

    I want to know what brainiac thought that holding a protest-drawing event in San Francisco was a good idea.

  4. I just heard that the Beijing media is reporting that everything’s going just dandy with the torch. Way to demonstrate what people are up in arms about to begin with.

  5. What them protesters didn’t realize was that the announced route of the torch was actually a winding Free Speech Zone.

  6. I think this is an excellent way to minimize violent protests… faking the protesters out definitely is higher class than tear gas and billy clubs. This is one of those rare real world events that nobody could put into fiction, because nobody would believe that anyone would actually try it or that it would succeed.

    But it does kinda miss the point that the flame’s supposed to be paraded for all the world to see. All the world who happened to be walking or driving by on Van Ness, apparently…

  7. If I remember correctly, the “mother flame” is technically held in pots that accompany the torch. So if the torch is out and “on” it is mostly publicity and symbolism, not the actual carrying of the flame. Of course the protest and attempts to extinguish or capture the torch are also about publicity and symbolism.

    dulcinea47, from what I hear the Chinese (state run) media is spinning the protests (which they see on TV) as yet another attempt by the “West” to keep China down.

  8. I suspect most of the protesters have never been to Tibet, never worked in Tibet, never seen first hand the interaction between native Tibetans and Han Chinese, and are merely parroting, without much research, the party line and anti-China sentiment that has become so popular in the West.

    Not that there aren’t serious problems involving human rights in China, because obviously there are, but the situation is far more complicated than the flat statements of, “CHINA TERRORIZES TIBETANS!” that I’ve been hearing in the media outlets.

    Frankly, there are a lot of terrorized and brutalized people in this world who need the ire of those protesters far more than the Tibetans. And, indeed, protesting in this manner is about the least ineffective way possible of dealing with China’s policies toward Tibet. In fact, it will probably make things worse in the long run.

  9. Marjorie Liu, well Tibet was a sovereign nation that China decided was its 13 Provence by some historical delusion (some other parts of SE Asia are also worried China might also decide to “enforce their ancestral claims” on). China has since embarked on a program to subvert, convert, and dilute Tibetan identity.

    We, here in the West, keep hearing about how engaging China is the best way to deal with issues in China. So far that hasn’t helped. So it might just be that some people are tired of the “soft glove” approach.

    And you’re right that there are other people in the world being oppressed. Those in Darfur for example.

  10. I suspect most of the protesters have never been to Tibet, never worked in Tibet, never seen first hand the interaction between native Tibetans and Han Chinese

    I would hate to see this become the standard for determining who has a legitimate complaint. If I say “This is morally wrong,” the question of whether it is, in fact, morally wrong depends on the facts of the case and the values that are brought to evaluating it. It doesn’t matter who I am, or whether I’ve personally witnessed anything.

    Frankly, there are a lot of terrorized and brutalized people in this world who need the ire of those protesters far more than the Tibetans

    By definition, only one group of people is the most “terrorized and brutalized”. If your reasoning is that you shouldn’t support one group of people if another is suffering more, then it would follow that there’s only one group of people that deserves support at any given time. One could certainly justify directing effort where it’s needed most – but one could also justify directing it wherever it’s needed and can effectively be applied.

    And, indeed, protesting in this manner is about the least ineffective way possible of dealing with China’s policies toward Tibet.

    Assuming this is a typo, and you mean “the least effective way”: China may not change anything because of the protests, but they give the protesters an opportunity to bring their message to a much larger public – and they undoubtedly hope that this will move a much larger number of people to take action.

  11. Interestingly enough, my local paper posted a column tracing the history of the torch back to Nazi Germany, rather than ancient Greece.

    I don’t know how accurate that is, but if so, it’s food for thought.

  12. This is interesting to me because I spent the summer of 1987 in the Soviet Union, and saw the cracks from the inside at that point. I spent only two weeks in China last summer, but am I curious to see how the Communist Party is going to maintain the facade that it’s actually ‘the People’s Party’ with the glaring chasm between the wealthy and poor that I saw in Beijing. China asked for this scrutiny when it lobbied for the Games. So far, the heavy-handed Soviet-style response, with a dash of Keystone Kops, hasn’t played too well.

  13. Marjorie, I don’t know where you live, but you may or may not be aware that issues involving China are very high-profile in San Francisco because we have very large and active Chinese population. The issue of the Beijing Olympics is far more complicated than Yay China!/China Sucks! here. Sorry, I know that’s not as fun as “suspecting” everybody who had an issue with the Chinese government is a doofus.

  14. Canfield: I agree with your statements, but my comment was meant as a very basic opinion regarding a situation that I see as extremely complicated, both historically and politically.

    If your reasoning is that you shouldn’t support one group of people if another is suffering more…

    No, that’s not my reasoning, though I worded it that way (badly, I suppose) to make a point, which is that there are many terrible things happening to large groups of people in this world, and that when one is on the ground around Tibet, or in Mainland China itself…it becomes difficult (for me, anyway) to put the Tibetan situation in the same category as, say, the large-scale human trafficking of women and children as sex slaves throughout the world.

    I know, totally different situations. But that’s a personal call, and everyone comes from a different perspective.

    mythago:

    The issue of the Beijing Olympics is far more complicated than Yay China!/China Sucks!

    Yes, well, that’s rather obvious.

    Sorry, I know that’s not as fun as “suspecting” everybody who had an issue with the Chinese government is a doofus.

    Shucks, too bad. Because that’s totally how I get my kicks.

  15. Marjorie…

    One of my best friends in the world is a cultural interpreter for Tibetan Buddhist Monks in exhile. He and his wife could sit down with you and tell you bone chilling first hand accounts of the abuses Tibetans have endured at the hands of Hahn Chinese. They spent an entire summer with one particular group of exhiled monks, and each one of them had horrific stories of their flight from their native country.

    I will admit that I know shamefully little about the history of this conflict except for the bit I just typed. So my question to you, Marjorie, is what are the historical and political complications? Based on the limited information I have, I can’t help but have the opinion that China should get the hell out of Tibet and pay reparations to the people they subjugated and abused. What considerations would make this wrong?

    I’m not mad at you… I’m just seeing an opportunity to reach out to someone with a different perspective so I can try to gain a more complete understanding. If any of my statements are overly strong, it probably rubbed off from my friends, who have extremely strong opinions about this.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  16. Hello, Marjorie. I actually have been to Tibet recently and I saw for myself the sadness of the situation the Tibetan people are in. Yes, there are horror stories to be told about other places around the world, but that doesn’t excuse the damage the Chinese are doing to the Tibetans.

  17. It never ceases to amaze me that in regards to activism, whatever the issue under discussion, someone invariably implies that the supporters of that cause are somehow supporting the wrong issue and should turn their efforts elsewhere.

  18. Marjorie, there are indeed many oppressed and brutalised people round the world. And no doubt there are complicated politics involved. But I fail to see what relevance any of that has here. Protesters have to take the opportunities they get to protest: here is the Olympic torch parade, a highly visible and symbolic event, perfect for a highly visible and symbolic protest. Do you think people should do nothing with an opportunity like that? Because that’s what you certainly appear to be suggesting. There will be other opportunities at other times for other causes. This one’s moment is right here and now.

  19. Let’s not forget that there are other issues, besides Tibet, with the Chinese government.
    Take for instance their support for the government of Sudan. A government responsible for horrible killings etc. in the province of Darfur. (quite recently, Steven Spielberg stopped his involvement in the opening ceremony because of Darfur, or because of pressure upon him motivated by China’s stance towards Darfur).

    @Jeri: The olympic flame actually debuted at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928, though that did not include a torch march. The march with the torch was indeed a first in Berlin (see also wikipedia)

  20. There’s been a bit of comment here in UK, since our own shambolic Olympic torch relay, about the blue track-suited ‘smurfs’ accompanying the torch in their sinister phalanx. Apparently these guys are drawn from an elite detachment of the Chinese security forces that is itself implicated in the violent suppression of protest. And they can run around our streets wrestling to the ground anybody whom they imagine might imperil their ludicrous flame?

    It seems at least possible that if it were any other nation than China that was involved, i.e. a country whose rapid economic expansion currently didn’t underwrite large chunks of the US and European economies, you might see rather less pusilanimity on the part of our respective governments.

  21. re: the Olympic Torch and Nazism: not exactly. The article gets it right, but there’s a subtle distinction that eludes a lot of people, there. Someone mentioned the same factoid to me yesterday, and they mixed it up, as well.

    Specifically, the TORCH has no Nazi connections. It’s been in use since the modern Olympics resumed. The Torch RELAY is what Joseph Goebbels invented as a propaganda tool. Of course, the 1936 Olympics were supposed to have been a showcase for the Nazis…but they didn’t count on this:

    Now, while the idea may have come from an odious source, clearly the IOC and the rest of the world, even after WWII, still thought the idea had symbolic merit. I would argue it does…and that perhaps that’s why the protests are so strong. Not because the idea was suggested by an evil man hoping to pervert an ideal, but because the idea which the evil man failed to pervert still held merit and the current host country’s human rights policies themselves run counter to that ideal.

  22. Sorry, THIS: refers to a picture of Jesse Owens.

    The irony, of course, is that Owens got better treatment by the Germans in the street than he did in many places in the US after the Olympics. If the fact that he had to ride a freight elevator to his own award dinner in a NYC hotel wasn’t an indicator of the pressure that was building for the civil rights movement, I don’t know what was.

  23. #18 Espana

    It never ceases to amaze me that in regards to activism, whatever the issue under discussion, someone invariably implies that the supporters of that cause are somehow supporting the wrong issue and should turn their efforts elsewhere.

    I don’t think Marjorie meant to say these statements quite in the way you interpreted. She probably saw a bit more than you or I on her recent trip to China that made her think about the issue differently from us. The protesting against the Olympics being ineffective is understandable to me. Being Chinese (but not from China), I do know how the Chinese will deal with “losing face,” especially in the international arena. It’s not going to help the Tibetans after the Olympics is over.

  24. This strikes me as a very embarrassing case of “be careful what you wish for, for you may get it.” Perceiving the Tibetans as the source of their shame is going to be a further error on the part of China.

  25. There were torch relays in Ancient Greece, though not specifically in connection with the Olympics. There is a reference to a torch relay on horseback in the opening section of Plato’s Republic – its being on horseback is seen as an innovation, but not the torch relay itself. It is also used as a metaphor in a famous passage of Lucretius (from which comes the phrase ‘Vitai Lampada’, the lamps of life).

    It strikes me, though, that the nature of the modern torch relay seems to have changed since it was first introduced. To start with, as I understand it, the flame was actually carried in a relay all the way from Olympia to the Games site. Now, it seems mostly to be carried from place to place by air, with the actual relay only happening at staged events in selected cities. Does anyone know when the change took place?

  26. You know, if the Olympics returned to their true, original purpose of glorifying the Olympian Gods, none of this would happen. Mess with Zeus’ torch- that’s a lightning zap!

  27. Marjorie Liu: Thank you for the clarification – I appreciate it.

    When I saw your original post, it seemed to me to be a combination of two rhetorical approaches that combine like this:

    On all topics except one: “How can you talk about X when women are oppressed in Saudi Arabia?”
    On the topic of women in Saudi Arabia: “How can you talk about women’s oppression in Saudi Arabia when you’ve never been there/weren’t there for long/don’t live there now/et cetera?”

    Unless they’re combined with further commentary – “You’ve said X is unprecedented oppression, but that’s not considering …” “The people closest to the issue characterize it differently …” – it can become a way to shut down discussion. And, as far as I can tell, that’s usually the poster’s intent.

    From your follow-up, it sounds as though you’re saying “I’ve seen the facts on the ground, and they don’t support the protesters’ case”; a counterpoint, not a shutdown.

  28. Gennita @25

    I was referring to the “other-brutalized-folks-need-the protester’s-ire-more” and “sex-trafficking-is-worse” comments. Rather than to the point that protests may be ineffective or damaging, which is certainly a reasonable enough point to make whether I agree or not.

    Since Marjorie has already said she didn’t mean it as an actual comparison I’ll take that at face value.

  29. [This gets long. Sorry]

    #8 Marjorie Liu

    I suspect most of the protesters have never been to Tibet, never worked in Tibet, never seen first hand the interaction between native Tibetans and Han Chinese, and are merely parroting, without much research, the party line and anti-China sentiment that has become so popular in the West.

    Getting in to Tibet these days is tricky because of the part time ban on tourism, and the communist officials who’re rove around and prevent you from actually talking to anyone unsupervised.

    How do you propose anyone get the whole story on Tibet if the PRC restricts access, jails dissidents, and tortures them?

    Not that there aren’t serious problems involving human rights in China, because obviously there are, but the situation is far more complicated than the flat statements of, “CHINA TERRORIZES TIBETANS!” that I’ve been hearing in the media outlets.

    China’s government terrorizes it’s own citizens if they’re uppity. It would jail and torture people worldwide, and wishes the rest of the world would do it for them. They’re not blowing people up, but they don’t have to. they have an entire population under military threat, and routinely use violence to quash dissent.

    Why am I even needing to tell you this? It’s public record.

    Frankly, there are a lot of terrorized and brutalized people in this world who need the ire of those protesters far more than the Tibetans.

    Frankly, China aids and abets regimes like Sudan. So frankly, you’re defending the wrong group of genocidal madmen. Some of us here have read the history of The Great Leap Forward.

    And, indeed, protesting in this manner is about the least ineffective way possible of dealing with China’s policies toward Tibet. In fact, it will probably make things worse in the long run.

    It’s our choice to make that decision, but if we were living in China, we’d be jailed for voicing our opinion, while you’d be given brownie points with the local party officials.

    BTW, my family has, since 1990, supported a family in Dharamsala, and visited (I didn’t make it myself, sadly) there as well. I have met representatives of the Tibetan spiritual community, and hosted them. We’re in pretty close contact with them.

    After Tibetans get out of Chinese dominated Tibet, they tell a whole different story than the ones in Tibet, who’ll get ‘re-educated’ if they speak out of turn.

    I’m certainly not “anti-chinese”. I’m anti-PRC leadership, and I’m opposed to the policies of the government of China. I spent around half my life living among non-mainland Chinese. I wasn’t anti-them, and I’m till not.

    I love Chinese culture, mythology, art, literature, and history. It’s deeply fascinating to me. I think most Americans would share that, heck, even most protesters would share that feeling. But the PRC government is worth protesting, and doing so now, when they’re in the world’s spotlight is the best time to do so.

    At least that’s what I think. I’m thankful I’m still in a country where I’m free to voice that opinion.

    Despite your desire to somehow drag child sex slavery into this debate (for no reason other than that it’s an abomination) I wonder if you might not take a moment and ponder what it’s like living in a country where what you write can get you jailed and tortured if it’s something that the government finds threatening? Have you? I’ve come close. Singapore jails dissidents some times. They restrict political speech. They censor homosexuality, and have jailed homosexuals, though not often. I’m not proud of them for doing so, but I love the country.

    I managed to finagle an ARC of this book Writers under Seige

    Anyone who makes their living putting words to paper in a free country should read this book. Heck, anyone living in a free country who enjoys words put to paper should read this book.

    Thank you, Marjorie, for reminding me that taking the freedom to write for granted is something I do far too often. There are brave people out there who risk their lives to write.

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