Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Olympics 2 Cents

I debated whether or not I should open my mouth on this issue, as it is overplayed on both sides of the world, but I'm sitting somewhere in the middle, watching what is going on in the U.S., thinking that it couldn't be more foolish. It is actually painful to watch the popular opinion against the Olympics, led by individuals, celebrities, and politicians.

First: Bad things are happening all over the world. Drawing up boycotts against a sports event or publicly held companies is just pointless. Why cause harm to all those people and organizations also? Attack the source, not just easy targets that typically serve as others' enjoyment.

Second: The U.S. is special. We have freedom of speech. One person, not from the government, can have an idea and influence others. Example: Half of this Darfur business started with Mia Farrow...just a celebrity that had some money and a soap box. But she has waged a war against an entire Chinese population that has no freedom like she does to influence their peers and government. Even if they wanted to side with her and promote change, they couldn't. So is it fair to ruin all the good things they had to look forward to in 2008?

Third: Even if the Chinese government is doing something wrong in that situation, aren't we a little hypocritical to think we never did something like that for natural resources? I know it doesn't make it right, but my point is we're not exactly a shining example for the rest of the world, and look awfully fake on top of that soap box.

Fourth: China is a developing country. Developing. That means coming out of poverty. Here you have the world's largest population, finally emerging into the world, but still far from the level of wealth or comfort of the average American. There are serious growing pains, but from their perspective they feel they have the same right to the pursuit of happiness, as Americans like to say. It is easy to stand on a soap box when you already have everything you need, isn't it? You have enough to eat, and the only complaint is that your personal car is costing more to drive these days.

Fifth: This is individualism vs. collectivism. Attacking one's own government in the U.S. is expected. If you are educated, you should have an opinion and be able to critique with the best of them. This is the same and even more intense in Europe. It is expected, people are separate from the government, and you certainly don't hurt to many feelings in the process. If you look at a country like China, however, the government is the people. There is little separation and certainly no open or permitted critique. Thinking and ideology have been fused together over the centuries, so not only can those that are "trouble-makers" not get that far anyway with their individualistic ideas, but the majority that aren't looking for trouble are being slapped in the face every time the country is humiliated in the global scene. My friends and coworkers just look disappointed and defeated sometimes. Every time an Olympic torch issue occurs, or something public like Steven Spielberg stepping out of his Olympic role, it is like every hopeful and excited person in the country is getting another slap in the already swollen face. I've never seen anything like it. So much emotion, expectation, dreams for the future, desires to be a host to the world, and for the first time to prove that they aren't the poor farmers everyone thinks they are. It's moving, really.

I'm not saying either government is right or wrong, it's far too complicated and there are a lot of parties at fault. But before individuals start screaming their opinions and finding their soap boxes, I just hope that we can look at A) How much of that opinion was influenced by for-profit media companies, B) How does that opinion affect other people, and C) Do I hold expectations because I'm from a certain political/economic status, and am holding other people to that standard even though they are not nearly as blessed as me? Am I being fair or just taking the easiest opinion route?


Anonymous said...

Hey Steph, Thanks for your thoughts on the whole Olympics thing...I agree that it isn't right that some Chinese people, not affiliated or able to influence the actions of their government in any way, feel upset and embarassed by the torch protests. In everything that I've read in the media about these protests, the true target is the policies of the government itself; policies that include continuing to sell arms, for profit, that have been used to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Sudan. And against policies that result in the oppression and systematic extermination of the Tibetans, who are powerless to defend themselves. These things are wrong, and it would be wrong to not speak out against them. At this moment, the government of China is on the world stage, and maybe, just maybe, words of protest may have more of an effect now. The companies supporting the Olympics may be more sensitive to protest than China, and they too may also be able to exert influence on China. Maybe not. This doesn't in any way suggest that our own government is blameless in its actions internationally either, and we should also speak out against oppression and injustice that our own country perpetrates as well. And no, it isn't fair to ruin the experience of the Olympics for the average Chinese person, who, as you so accurately point out, has *no freedom* to resist, or change anything, again because of the policies of the government. But, by the same token, it also isn't fair to be murdered because a country a half a world away from you is selling arms to the local thugs who want your farm.
As far as this being some media hype, not even China disputes that they sells arms to Sudan or that they have claimed Tibet as their own country. Their response, far from denial, is that this is not anybody's business but theirs. This isn't an issue of spoiled westerners vs. blameless Chinese citizens. It's just human decency, to speak up for what's right when we can, especially because the smart and sensitive and good people of China cannot.
Love, Katbob

Jay said...

Steph, I remember when Carter boycotted the Olympics and a friend of mine could not compete. Very few people remember the boycott let alone why he did it. However Darrell does. It is easy for someone who has not prepared for many years to run, to say don't go. Even easier when a camera is giving them a little more free publicity. If we cancel our tickets to China how can we really get to know the real china, the people.