Friday, 3 March 2006

Freedom isn't free

Today I've decided to offend the Chinese.
Now I truly hope I am not a racist. I am not about to say things along the lines a removalist once said to me, "I am not a racist, but those Chinese people can't drive". It's just that there's this thing I find problematic which has something to do with people coming from totalitarian countries, and the Chinese represent the biggest totalitarian country I am familiar with (at least if we look at the population figures). So yes, in this regard, they are easy prey, but I'm only using them to make a rather humanitarian point rather than being plain nasty.
I would also like to point out that one of the great pleasures of living in Australia is that one is actually exposed to people coming from cultures such as the Chinese culture. When we visited Europe some six months ago I couldn't help missing the sight of people from the Far East; you see them, but you don't see many of them, and their "shortage" felt strange, as if something is wrong. And, by the way, in case you were wondering about any impressions I may have from my encounters with the people of the Far East, my pretty much sole impression is that they are just like everybody else.
But disclaimers aside, there is one major thing that bothers me about the Chinese I've had contact with: You never hear a hint of a word of criticism from them about the regime they left behind.
With all the commotion taking place lately because of the Microsoft - Yahoo - Google stabbing of Western freedom and democracy related ideals in the back in order to make a Chinese buck, I never got to hear or read anything coming out of the mouth of a person of Chinese origins. All the protests I did hear came from people similar to me, mainly people in the USA.
I find this silence to defy basic logic. Israel, for example, has its own set of problems to do with the Arab Israeli conflict, and one only needs to spend 5 minutes with an Israeli to hear that particular Israeli's very vocal opinion on the subject, regardless of whether it's something like "we need to kill them all" or "we need to give it back to them". Read this blog and you will find plenty of criticism thrown at Israel.
Things don't stop there. Read this blog and you will also find plenty of complaints about Australia, yet I also keep on saying that Australia is one of the better if not the best places to live in and one of the most trouble free places on this planet. So what? Healthy criticism never hurt anyone, it only helps improve stuff and it only shows that I care about this place. So why don't the Chinese make themselves heard?
It's not only Google's crimes that they are silent about. I never got to hear any of them talk about the situation in Tibet. I never heard anyone coming from Hong Kong expressing any lack of comfort with the fact that this place, once enjoying free speech, is now a dictatorship. If anything, I heard several saying that they think of going back to Hong Kong to pursue career opportunities. I can't imagine myself ever agreeing to live in a dictatorship, especially given the fact I utilize my right for free speech quite a lot; how can they live with it? I even have a problem visiting China and Hong Kong as a tourist, because I don't want to seem supportive of local policies (still, 99% of the commodities I buy are made in China; what can one do?).
The Team America film mocked Bush's rhetoric about the good fighting the evil when they said that freedom isn't free. But jokes aside, freedom is one of our basic rights, yet it is still denied from billions of people on this planet. I find it surprising that those deprived of it can accept it so silently, almost willingly. I hope it's just because I don't know how to listen.


ek said...

Can't really call myself Chinese-Chinese can can't really comment on your entry... :)

Though a bit unrelated, up until recently I knew little about China's history and decided to read up on a bit. Interesting...and I do agree with you, I do not agree with some of their local policies either. It sure is very different here.

Moshe Reuveni said...

EK, don't take it personally, but you're the most Australian person I know.

ek said...

Ha ha, thanks, I take it as a compliment :-)