Agam's Gecko
Thursday, September 01, 2005

his morning I happened to check the APTN satellite news feed, looking for the latest on the terrible situation along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf coast. The devastation of New Orleans, the climbing death toll, the absolute chaos of looter gangs armed with automatic weapons -- with every news update or report via the blogosphere, this calamity is just getting worse by the hour. I couldn't help thinking how similar some scenes were to the first views of destroyed towns in Aceh eight months ago, and indeed some of the coastal towns are said to be 90% destroyed. I didn't want to believe it possible when early reports said that about Meulaboh, but it was true -- while Calang and other towns had actually vanished completely.

So it's nice to know that the predictable refrain from certain predictable quarters ("It was Bush's fault for not signing Kyoto!") also has a flipside. Some friendly countries have offered assistance to the US, and while I'm sure they have sufficient manpower and material onhand to deal with the catastrophe, such offers are still good to see. So far I've heard that Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Canada have offered support. Hopefully more will be offered by other friends. Even if they aren't necessarily needed, these are admirable offers of solidarity to the one who was first on the scene when the greatest natural disaster in living memory struck the other side of the world. People affected by the tsunami in Aceh and elsewhere wish they had the means to help.

However all that said, the APTN feed was not showing scenes from New Orleans this morning when I checked. No, the scene was the vast open plaza constructed by the Chinese government upon the ruins of a Tibetan township which once stood there, directly below the imposing form of the Potala Palace. With this massive and ancient monument as backdrop, a large Chinese pagoda-like stage was filled with Chinese officials. For on this day in 1965, the "Tibetan Autonomous Region" was declared by Mao and his imperialist regime. With the stroke of a pen, "Tibet" became about one-third the size of its former self, with Kham and Amdo provinces absorbed into neighbouring Chinese jurisdictions. Six years after putting down the Lhasa uprising with tens of thousands of deaths and the Dalai Lama barely escaping the determined attempt to kill him with the shelling of the Norbulingka Summer Palace, this was thought to be the final solution to China's "Tibet problem." Carve it up beyond all recognition, violate all agreements previously made to respect Tibet's self governance, and announce to the world this new, whittled down "autonomous region." We're still waiting for the "autonomous" part to have any genuine meaning.

Between August 20 and September 10, tourists have not been allowed into Tibet. This even includes Chinese tourists, as this Telegraph article reports. The new bus route from Kathmandu has been suspended for the occasion. There were no foreign guests invited to help celebrate. I can't think of many foreign guests who would be able to stomach the scene while Chinese officials scream out over the blaring sound system, their praise for the People's Liberation Army and its "heroic" work of slaughtering the mainly unarmed Lhasa population, and "completing their mission." AP didn't offer any translation for this "live event" (beamed directly from Chinese State Television, CCTV), but the sad sight of the majestic Potala overlooking this completely Chinese event (the giant red classical Chinese pagoda/stage with huge Chinese characters topping the construction, the shrieking addresses of Chinese officials) said it all. Lest we forget, current Chinese president Hu Jintao served in the 1980's as Party Secretary for the region, and he himself ordered several harsh crackdowns on Tibetan national expression, most notably just prior to the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations.

I want to offer a couple of other readings on China here: firstly, an account I found a few days ago (but published earlier this month) on Radio Free Asia, regarding a former Chinese labour camp chief now hoping to be accepted to live in Canada. He's already been refused once, but his case is on appeal. Han Guangsheng says that the regime he worked for began to sicken him:
"Even though I was a high-ranking official in China...I didn't constitute a complete human being, because I had to live my life wearing a mask and act against my conscience," Han told RFA reporter Xi Hong.
The other reading is by the long time China watcher Jonathan Mirsky, where he outlines the story of one of China's most fearless dissidents, Yu Jie. Following the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, and the subsequent Beijing Massacre, Mr. Yu said:
"From that day onwards I insisted on being an independent and intelligent human being and vowed to fight lies. I became an adult overnight. That night, amid tears, I could see clearly what was good and evil, what was freedom and slavery, what was darkness and light. From then on, no one could lie to me and make a fool of me any more."
Five years ago, after being rejected for a position with the China Writers Association, he observed:
"From this moment on, the one who lives in fear will not be me, it will be those fellows who hide in the dark corners. From this moment on, I will live out in the sunlight. I will live a fuller and happier life."
More, please. A big wai to The Doctor for the Mirsky article.


elmont Club is a regular stop for me, even when I haven't much time for reading (or writing) as presently is the case. Always thought provoking, and always with a new perspective on things, I find that I must always find time to see what Wretchard is writing. In True Believers, he considers the conundrum of what causes "left" folks and "progressive" sorts to be so understanding toward Islamist fascism. Isn't it just another flavour of the type of repression that the "Left" have stood resolutely against since its very inception? He is pointed to the writing of Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism, who looks for answers in the French Left's failure to oppose Hitler. Rationalisations for the anti-war Socialists' decision to participate in the Vichy regime are enumerated, until they found themselves on the other side of the fence altogether:
And, in that very remarkable fashion, a number of the anti-war Socialists of France came full circle. They had begun as defenders of liberal values and human rights, and they evolved into defenders of bigotry, tyranny, superstition, and mass murder. They were democratic leftists who, through the miraculous workings of the slippery slope and a naive faith in the rationalism of all things, ended as fascists. Long ago, you say? Not so long ago.
Echoes, echoes. When Al Sharpton and International ANSWER find themselves worshipping the shrine of Mother Sheehan alongside David Duke and Stormfront, it's odd to think that this is nothing necessarily new. Mark Twain once said something about history; that it doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Victor Davis Hanson has something on this phenomenon too, with a recent essay on The Paranoid Style. Since the awakening of September 11, he has sometimes been referred to as America's "Historian-in-Chief", and has garnered a lot of vitriol as well as praise for his works. In this essay he describes four major sources of attack upon his views, originating from socialist, anarchist, racialist, and paleocon perspectives. It's amazing to me that such supposedly diverse ideologies would find themselves in bed together, or that they would have so much in common. But we certainly live in interesting times. For the record, VDH remains a registered Democrat.

And one more item as a reminder of just how loopy things can get during interesting times. Have you heard the hoax of the young girl whose father was supposedly killed in action in Iraq, and her cute letters to President Bush? "I'm rily mad at you and you make my hart hurt. I don't think your doing a very good job. You keep sending soldiers to Iraq and it's not fair. Do you have a soldier of your own in Irak?" The cast of characters who acted in this play is astounding, grown adults (including a "journalist") who used a young girl to pull off the stunt -- the girl apparently thought she was acting in a movie! In keeping with our theme, this roundup of links on the hoax is entitled, "What A Fool Believes."

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