Wednesday, April 20, 2005
BACK IN THE MANGO AGAIN
es it was a nice, long break for us over Songkran -- a chance to have more than a few days up on the homestead and out of the Big Smokey Mango, the Great City of the Angels, Krung Thep Maha Nakorn... etc. And I'm a little slow at getting back into the swing of things after a week of living on country time. No computers or internet there, but it's nice to be without those sometimes, too. I wasn't isolated from worldly happenings however -- the homestead is equipped with satellite reception, and I do like to monitor C-SPAN (which is available on VOA Worldnet, AsiaSat2, through most of Saturdays and Sundays) for interesting events.
And, was it hot, I can hear you ask? Why yes indeed it was -- Songkran always seems to be the absolutely hottest time of the year, without fail. How hot was it Bruce, I hear you ask again? Well it was bloody hot, but even that isn't descriptive enough. In fact Bruce, it was hot enough to boil a monkey's bum. "That's a strange expression, Bruce." Yes it is, Bruce, and as I was just telling Bruce #3 this morning, I've heard the Prime Minister using it. "It's hot enough in here to boil a monkey's bum, Your Majesty," he said. And she smiled quietly to herself. "She's not a bad sheila, Bruce. And not at all stuck up." [All Bruces stand at the table, each holding a sprig of wattle.] "This here's the wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand. Amen!"
Cheers to the Aussies and Kiwis in advance for ANZAC Day on the 25th, while my Flying Circus seizure passes. I extend my belated condolences for Australia's recent losses a few weeks back, when six members of the Royal Australian Navy and three members of the Royal Australian Air Force (including two service women) were killed when their helicopter crashed while engaged in providing humanitarian aid to Nias Islanders following the major earthquake last month.
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
can't take credit for that headline, as I read the old saying recently in relation to the China - Japan kerfuffle, I forget now just where it was. But it sums up my feelings about the actions of the angry Chinese nationalists these last few weeks. In a country where the authorities tolerate public demonstrations only when they favour them, and stomp down hard on those they do not favour, it seems obvious to me that there is manipulation going on -- most likely related to the possibility of Japan gaining a seat on the UN Security Council. The ruling Party clique ought to be careful playing with this fire, as it may not take much to have all these inflamed passions turned against them at some point in the future.
But the hypocrisy is breathtaking. The few times I noticed a microphone being held up for a demonstrator to vent through, it went something like, "I hate Japanese!" and "Japan get out!" Pretty deep analysis going on there, for sure. Doesn't their "government" tell its people how many millions of dollars worth of assistance and development aid Japan has contributed to China over the years? Not to mention the huge amount of direct investment from Japanese companies, or the fact that both countries are each other's biggest trading partner?
In contrast to the empty headed political convictions of the Chinese patriots, I saw a news piece on Jim Lehrer's News Hour (PBS) last week, looking into the attitudes of Japanese high school students who are supposedly being brainwashed into not knowing Japan's war history. Students were interviewed, and without exception they were well aware of Japan's militaristic aggression against her Asian neighbours, particularly China. They were actually discussing the controversial textbook which apparently "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" (the Chinese government's phrase), which is not being used as a learning source in their class. The report said that very few schools are using it, but due to the current Chinese anger, they were examining and discussing it. The students and teachers were very thoughful and not arrogant about these issues -- the precise opposite of the violent Chinese students who have been making the news every night.
So while the protestors in Beijing and Shanghai were decrying Japan as a racist and aggressive nation, they merely demonstrated those qualities in themselves as they attacked embassies and consulates, as well as Japanese restaurants and businesses (while police mainly watched). Meanwhile back in Lhasa (Tibet) or Urumqi (East Turkestan, or "Xinjiang"), should any single Tibetan or Uyghur in the public square utter so much as an unapproved phrase about their national identity, they would be (and have been many times) pounced on by plainclothes police and whisked off to some windowless torture room before bystanders would even be aware that anything had happened.
While the patriotic Chinese defenders of "truth" are demanding revisions in other people's textbooks, perhaps it's about time for some of them to ask the same of their own. Any guesses what these students are taught about their own history, and its impact on others? If there is any state in this world which indulges in more pathetic revising of history than in the state school system of China, I'd like to hear about it. These angry people are hungry for truth, as long as it isn't truth about the "peaceful" liberation (annexation) of Tibet, or whether the ancient Turkic people, the Uyghurs really have "always been Chinese." What about the wholesale slaughter in "Inner Mongolia"? And let's leave alone the legacy of Mao, the father of their "people's republic", and the tens of millions who died from his experiments -- known as "Great Leap Forward" and "Cultural Revolution". Expecting truth there is perhaps asking too much.
When China attains something closer to an open society, where various views and opinions are tolerated and those expressing dissent do not need to worry about disappearing into re-education camps, then I will take them seriously when they wish to complain about "having their feelings hurt."