Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A comment was left on my post regarding the Olympic torch protests, and I’d like to respond in a fresh post. Here is the comment.

“And I'm amused that people will protest what happens thousands of miles away while the situation in the Arabic / African ghettoes which surround French cities is a disgusting betrayal of European ideals. So much easier, isn't it, to point the finger at China than at one's self. And the futility of protesting at China - does anyone think they'll listen? - compared to the harsh reality of France's mistreatment of its minorities draws a stark contrast: so much easier to protest that which can't be changed than to fight in your own country for change which actually might occur.”

First, because one’s own grass needs to be mowed does not mean that you can’t complain about the junkyard that has overtaken the neighbor’s property. What ever the problems that are faced by France’s minorities, and they are many and some significant, the minorities and their advocates in the greater community, are granted access to the political system that is responding, however fitfully, to changes in the population and the challenge of integrating different cultures into what is a fairly homogeneous ‘French’ culture.

No one is being arrested for their advocacy and thrown in jail because they are an inconvenience to the government and powerbrokers. No one is being denied the right to peacefully express their religious beliefs and forced to accept religious ‘leaders’ selected by the government. An attempt to equate the conditions of minorities in Europe (and the US) with the situation in China is a pathetic failure in logic. Yes our problems exist, but they are acknowledged, discussed and progress is made.

No, I don’t believe the Chinese regime will listen, nor do I expect China to magically become democratic overnight, but there are other audiences. Sarkozy and Kouchner are considering not attending the opening ceremony and that the White House has stated that President Bush may take similar action. There is Brussels, and the movement of the EU to take a more vigorous position on Tibet and the other Chinese minorities, and of course there are the corporate leaders to impress. There are many Chinese ex-pats in Paris, mostly students and business people, today they are angry as they are proud that China is hosting the Olympics, they are patriotic and love their country. In defending China they have needed to confront some ugly truths about its government and society. This confrontation of ideas will affect them and they will carry that home.

No, the protestors will have no effect on China, but these other entities can.

Finally, your comment shows a smug arrogance that leaves me wondering what you feel is important, or are you so cynical that nothing is?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry if you felt that comment was arrogant, but it's my opinion that:

1. The protests about China are long-distance do-gooderism which amount to nothing. To me, symbolism of this kind is ornament without substance.
2. No country will want to piss off China. Leaders may not attend the opening ceremonies. Wow. They'll do that if they calculate skipping won't cause real problems with China. Want proof? Who takes on China about their support for the mass murdering Sudanese regime? (In the same vein, who takes on Russia for its destruction of much of Chechnya?)
3. Have you been to the Arab / African ghettoes? I've been to a few, outside Paris and around Marseilles. I grew up listening to French voices talking about US racism. Yes, France was accepting of small numbers of black Americans, mostly entertainers and writers - the Josephine Bakers and James Baldwins- but their treatment of the average dark-skinned, non-Christian person is more akin to pre-WWII, Jim Crow America than to the US today. These ghettoes are another society living in dislocated parallel to French France.
4. You are free to protest Tibet. You are a person and have a voice and can freely argue for what you believe.
5. I think the Olympics should be free from political mongering of positions. I disagreed with the US decision to boycott Moscow. I disagreed with the Soviet decision to boycott LA. I disagree with the decisions of various nations that try to exclude others because they hate them. Think about it this way: which approach might actually influence China? Is attacking a totalitarian regime in absolute control of its population head on sensible - or is it mere symbolism? Can't one argue that being inclusive of China might have more impact on their domestic policies, that it wouldn't cost them internally if they relax policies? Protests tell the Chinese government that they need to be firm, so one can argue they are counter-productive, except as symbolism.
6. Are you aware of some basic Tibetan facts? How many Tibetans live in Tibet? This number is in dispute but the Tibetan government in exile says that Han Chinese outnumber native Tibetans. An argument made is that China has "swamped" Tibet demographically but is that really important? Is Tibet only for Tibetans or do the millions of Han Chinese who live there not have rights as human beings? If you believe Tibet is only for Tibet, then how do you feel about the immigrants to France or the millions of Latinos illegally in the US? Should they all be kicked out? If Tibet is for Tibetans, then isn't France only for the French? Until Maastricht, Germany denied citizenship to non-Germans, even if they were 3rd generation born in Germany. Germany was for Germans. I doubt that's what you believe. No offense, but my guess is that most protestors are more interested in basic civil freedoms than in Tibet being for Tibetans. The "Free Tibet" banners in that context mean what? Most Tibetans would likely vote, if they could, to remain part of China; they are ethnically Chinese and they know being part of China will be better for them and for their economy. Should the non-Tibetan Tibetans not have the right to vote? Should the Protestants in Northern Ireland be ignored, though they are a majority, because Ireland is for the Irish, meaning Catholic Irish? Should only the French vote in France?

10:46 PM  
Blogger jjjjaded said...

Refreshing to know you are not just a pretty face, that your brains are rather brawny. Anyhow, anonymous just needs a platform to complain because you are an American ex, and you doing well as a minority in France. Funny that he is anonymous yet has such a nasty opinion, guess he fears retribution, unlike the Tibetan monks who have put their lives on the line in a country where human life has so little value. Racism is everywhere, life is not fair and on and on. I find it hard to believe that he is incredibly concerned about this or any major issues, or he would not be posting his gripes on a blog, when there are so many other forums that get more notice. I read your blog religiously, vicariously, but I know that a political forum on an escort's blog has little or no political standing. I admire you, I enjoy reading your blog, but we both know that posting a political rant in a blog is sort of like pissing in the wind, mostly it makes you look stupid. Gena

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S., if you'd prefer fan comments from guys you'll never meet, just post that. I thought your post was intelligent and, since I had a few minutes, I felt like it deserved a note in reply. It doesn't matter to me but I thought I'd offer you the opportunity to engage in a discussion.

P.P.S., I don't normally post on anonymous escort blogs. And some of my escort friends probably recognize my arguing style, so I should shut up anyway.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Kim said...


1. In a global economy, where a little company such as my own has clients that hail from three continents, with a fourth likely to be added, where many of us check our email to find missives from friends on the other side of the globe and you need to think to be sure that they will be awake before you call, your idea seems somewhat provincial. Besides symbolism is powerful, which is why the Chinese government and the IOC is reacting so vigorously to the protests.

2. Countries were more than willing to piss off Bush and the US over Iraq, despite the administrations threats and actual retaliation. China, for all its potential, needs good relations with other nations to achieve its national goals. . It particularly needs good relations with Europe and North America for investment, technical knowledge and markets. Arguably China needs the West more than the West needs China. I’m glad you brought up Sudan, and I will agree that the West has not been aggressive enough in confronting China on this issue.

3. I acknowledged France’s failings earlier, but I dare say that I’ve spent more time in the banlieues than most, having made business investments and among my contractors are the children of immigrants from France’s former colonies, so I have an insight as to what needs to happen. An acquaintance, who grew up in the Green housing projects of Chicago during the 50’s & 60’s, draws the comparison to the condition of African American’s who lived in the north as opposed to Jim Crow. French minorities are not restricted by law but by social discrimination.

4. Thank you for acknowledging my rights.

5. I too wish the Olympics could be free of politics, if for no other reason than for the benefit of the participants and fans, but the Olympics are inherently political. Political recognition is the overarching reason China wanted to host the Olympics; it is their coming out party as a great nation. So to argue that some politics that interferes with the myth is wrong, is to deny the greater reality. That symbolism thing again.

6. Whether the migration of Han Chinese to Tibet or other minority regions of China is for demographic pressures, economic opportunity or part of a grand scheme by the Party to dilute the ethnicity of these regions, it would be irrelevant if all Chinese had input into how they are governed. Even grievously flawed systems like Russia or Iran would be an improvement.

P.S. Between my two blogs I’ve written over 700 posts, all have allowed anonymous comments, they are not moderated and except for spam and at the request of the commenter, I’ve never deleted a comment, so I don’t know where you got the idea that I might prefer “fan comments.”

P.P.S. Well welcome to the demimonde, if you feel soiled, you’ll find wet wipes by the door. Thanks for the opportunity to debate.


7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't be defensive. I asked you an honest question. The few comments I've read have been of the "you go girl" variety. I have no idea if you delete comments or what, but thanks for the explanation.

People can disagree about issues. That is not only part of life but it's a big part of what makes life interesting.

I don't get the last part of your comment, but I'll guess that it refers to my note about not posting on anonymous escort blogs. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear but the key word was meant to be "anonymous." I don't know you. I know a number of current and former escorts, courtesans, whatever and the key word in that sentence is "know," meaning that I know the actual person. I have no issues with the demimonde, just with the "anonymous" part. As you know, the actual demimonde is a little more sweaty than typing on a web page.

My assumption, which I freely admit may be wrong, is that your blog is anonymous for personal reasons. Since you aren't using it as a marketing tool, I assume you write for the usual reasons of working things out, enjoying having an audience, writing for the few people who know your identity, etc. I could have said, "I don't usually comment on anonymous blogs" and then elaborated that I assume an anonymous blog is a personal soapbox. I don't intend to intrude on that and I'm sorry if I have.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Pete from Cal said...

This is good stuff. I thoroughly enjoy these exchange of ideas between Anon and Kim. I think there are merits on both sides and it is definitely not something that can be easily resolved. I can't say I take one side or the other and I'm torn on the issues. Anon made some great points on the relevance of the protests and the real facts about Tibet while Kim wrap it up with the real need for change and public/political pressure is the only way to get us there. Thanks for both of your opinions. :) I enjoyed it.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, perhaps what you and Kim are addressing are two distinct issues: there is an issue of private motivation of the protesters themselves, and their moral make-up, and an issue of taking a political stand by a country/government/financial structures.

You take a view that it is easier for people to show up and scream and shout at a rally than actually help their neighbour, where an investment to make a change is far more involved. But then you should ask: what kind of a person would show up at such rallys and make noise? IMHO, the exact same idealistic, energetic person who most likely is already contributing to improvements in their neighbours' lives. It is not fair to attack the protesters for the ills at home, these are the very people who care and might be making the difference, in small and meaningful ways, at home. Let's give them a hand, instead of blaming them for the indifference, racism and what have you their compatriots are practicing.

Moreover, major social change is not something that happens overnight. The American experience of civil rights movement, of the Indian fight for independence, have proven to us that peaceful and heroic acts of protest can make a huge change. It just takes a while. So again, we can be cynical about the people protesting, but they are putting their bit into what one day will be a huge change. And by the way, Speilberg made a big statement when he so publically begged off the job with the Chinese over Sudan, and that one action will inevitably add to the snowballing effect. After all, the Soviet regime did fall (and that was a good thing) and for many people in the country, the boycott of the Olympics may have been a first glimpse of the reality they were not aware of - what people outside of politics may think of their government, how they judge their rights, what they know that Russians themselves do not know or pretend does not happen. Russians understood that if olympic athletes, who live to compete, passed on the opportunity of their lifetime - that was saying something. Again, the Soviet regime fell apart peacefully and from the inside, which is the best possible outcome.

As Kim wisely pointed out, you should not discount the importance of appearance, and public image, and its power in politics, especially to an Asian country, where they really really care about "saving face". Yes, China is supplying us with most of our stuff - and the politicians and big financial interests profit. However, the public opinion does matter - we can stop buying, and we can start making. We will survive without the stuff, at least long enough to start manufacturing it ourselves. There is already pushback against unrestrained consumption, Chinese goods in general, bad conditions for chinese workers, green movement that encourages people to restrain, reuse, minimalize. China is powerful right now because the world buys, but it does not have to continue. In a global economy we all need/use/exploit each other, it goes all ways, and it is wonderful, because it gives us an opportunity, as global citizens, to exert pressure on governments and financial interests in order to better our world.

You can be cynical, but it is an active choice, and it does speak more about an individual's decision to give up hope and give up trying, than the state of the world. There are examples in history that teach us that idealism, even at a detriment to one's well being, can have a transforming effect on the world with real tangible benefits.

so smile.


3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh jezus. People should be able to protest whatever the hell they want to.

Tiananmen Square, anyone?

- AthenaNY

6:36 AM  

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