I’m amazingly ambivalent about those people who feel it’s necessary to go beyond simple protests and actively interfering with the Olympic torch relay.
On one hand, it smacks of the type of “hey look at me” hooliganism that doesn’t actually do anything to address the problem. Greenpeace is the example I point to for this type of behaviour. Greenpeace is the master however, easily surpassing “hey look at me” with “hey look at me masturbate.”
On the other hand, the continual attempts by China and the IOC to whitewash what this is really about is ridiculous and insulting.
IOC vice-president Kevin Gosper said, “We’re very disturbed and disappointed that there are people who want to disrupt the process. We understand peaceful protests. We understand that in many democracies. But we don’t condone people who want to disrupt and be violent and run the risk of injury.” When I read this, I get an undercurrent of “Who? Me? I didn’t do anything!” from his words as if the IOC are a bunch of selfless organizers who are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I believe this like I believe in the Easter bunny.
Then there are those who claim the games aren’t political. The modern games have been used to promote all sorts of ideologies under the cover of sport. I’m no Olympic historian but even I know Hitler planned to use the 1936 games to show the superiority of the Reich and its people. Granted his plans didn’t work out, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Not political? Don’t be naive.
I heard two Canadians who were originally from China interviewed on the CBC. They said these protests are overblown and instead of escalating to violence, the protesters should have their say and then go home. I’d suggest that if the Chinese and Tibetans had the option of speaking their minds, there wouldn’t be such a big problem.
Others say having the Olympics in China will work toward liberalizing human rights and freedoms in the country. I’ve yet to hear the mechanism by which this will occur. Part of China’s agreement with the IOC involves opening up access to the Internet during the games. Some have complained that many sites on the Internet are still censored. The government’s response has been that the games haven’t started. I fully expect they’ll block sites they deem sensitive after the games, and if they’re called on it, they’ll say the games are over.
This said, I do believe freedom will come to China. It will come through the efforts of its own people rather than from an outside agent. The slow fuse is simply knowing freedom exists elsewhere and is possible. Once the general populace learns this, the rest is inevitable. The government can use the whip and propaganda, but it’s just a matter of time.
Take this impassioned speech was by G’Kar, a character in J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 series:
No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by the force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments, and tyrants, and armies can not stand. The Centauri learnt this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.
While it drips with optimism, I also believe it’s largely true. Show people what they might have, and they’ll do their best to get it, even if it takes time.
What I don’t like about the Chinese government could fill volumes. Granted many of these things are common across most governments, but China is different from the many others in one way. Their government somehow manages to appear very childish. They call people names or use cutesy labels. They attempt to restrict the flow of information, despite being doomed to fail. They’ll try to hide an embarrassing fact, even at the risk of their own people’s well being. They’ll try to spin the news, but their efforts come across as hopelessly clumsy. I have no idea why the Chinese government operates this way, but their government acts very much like an insecure child afraid of being embarrassed.