The recent tragedies in Gaza have reminded me again the mind-numbing role the sensationalistic use of emotionally charged words can play in international politics.
Recently, Israel railed against the Vatican when Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Vatican, characterized Gaza as a “concentration camp.” According to the NY Times:
Israel on Thursday harshly condemned the cardinal’s use of World War Two imagery. “We are astounded that a spiritual dignitary would have such words, that are so far removed from truth and dignity,” said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
He added that it was “shocking to hear the vocabulary of Hamas propaganda coming from a member of the church.”
Now … the righteous use of emotionally charged words in international politics is not new, but I have always thought such uses – at the very best – obfuscate rather than illuminate and – at the worst – form the basis of insincere and deceitful hypocrisy. The verbal propaganda currently hurled by both sides of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is but one example.
In my personal view, the West has spouted some of the most vehement versions of self righteousness mind-numbing sensational emotional goboddy-gook since WWII.
Take the word “genocide” as an example.
On the heel of the holocaust, the West was initially shocked into taking a deep introspection into why seemingly sane people would be so committed to bringing about existentialistic elimination of an entire people. In WWII Europe, Jews were systematically targeted, hunted down, forced into slavery, and murdered not because they participated in any part of any political struggle – but simply because they were who they were. There was no defense, no compromise – either social, political or cultural – that the Jews could take to spare themselves of elimination. Surely, this must be a crime against humanity.
What began as genuine introspection however quickly devolved in the Cold War that soon followed into an unhealthy development of a cult around which the West saw itself as the sole crusader against an evil world.
In a recent article in the Economist on genocide, the Economist – while bumbling about for a definition of “genocide” – nevertheless riled incoming President Obama to carry on the fight against “genocide” – which, if you read the article, can mean anything including effects of failed states, casualties in any conflict, and terrorism.
By buying into the use of vague, highly emotionally charged words to describe the world, many in the West willingly became hostage to an oligarchy that routinely uses emotionally charged words to justify their pursuit of interests and aggression around the world.
Other words that are often flaunted in mind-numbing and sensationalistic ways “terrorism,” “security,” “democracy,” “human rights,” “self determination,” etc.
When Israel attacked Gaza, Israel was in the right in its fight against “terrorism” and to preserve “national security.” The Palestinian’s plight to exercise liberty, freedom, security, food, water, shelter, self-determination, and even democracy fell on deaf ears.
When Georgia incited a brief war with Russia last year, the Russians were guilty of aggression against Georgian democracy and sovereignty. Of course, South Ossetians’ right to liberate themselves from Georgian domination and to exercise self-determination also fell on deaf ears.
When Kosovo wanted to secede, Kosovans were justified because they were victims of “genocide” and had a right to pursue freedom and self determination separate from Serbia. Lost on the wayside was the fact that the Serbian civilians also were victims of ethnic based killings and that Serbia had a legitimate interest in their exercise of self-determination and sovereignty free from the meddling of the West.
Look: my point here is not to take sides in any of the political conflicts I mentioned above. (The positions above can all be flipped to still make the same point.) It suffices for me to show that the use of simple emotionally charged words to characterize the world order discourages one from truly understanding the multi-dimensional nature of conflicts that lie at the basis of real-world politics. To depict legitimate political conflicts conveniently in normative terms or with provocative and righteous rhetoric is I believe counter-productive.
Many in the West deride Islamic fundamentalists’ alleged backward use of religious lens to view the world. But is the West any better in insisting to characterize themselves as having a monopoly grip on notions of “human rights”, “democracy,” and “freedom” and to view the world through a lens that defines international politics as a fight between good and evil in which the West must win?
People may snicker at George Bush’s frivolous rhetoric involving “axis of evil” or “if you are not with us you are against us.” But the truth is that in the last few decades, the West has grown so used to flaunting and throwing about routinely rhetoric such as democracy, freedom, human rights, fascism, genocide – among others – in pursuit of its private interests that many have come to see the West as deceitful if not hypocritical.
With the advent of the recent financial crisis, there are talks by many of China participating as a co-architect of 21th century “world order.” Hopefully, the West will take this opportunity to shed some of its righteousness and rhetoric – and to approach its dealings with the rest of the world in a fairer and more pragmatic manner.
Interesting piece. I wonder, though, if the idea of righteousness in the West (regarded as a bloc) began with the Cold War. To me it seems that there were basically two camps fighting to be seen as the most righteous – the liberal democratic camp in the West, mostly defined by the US vision, representing “freedom” and the American way of life, and the communist camp in the East, more loosely defined on the ideals of Marx (with intense competition between various countries such as the Soviet Union, China, Albania etc who was the most righteous). Both viewed themselves as the morally right kind of government.
When the communist camp went out of steam (the wall fell, China and Vietnam began experimenting with capitalism), the freedom camp in the West saw themselves as victors, and have continued to pound on countries pursuing more autocratic forms of government. That’s at least the way I see it – the West have continued doing their thing, whereas the countries in the Eastern bloc have either given up and focused on nation building or geopolitics.
As for South Ossetia and Kosovo, it seems like the same thing to me. Not everybody in the West missed this similarity (and I hope not everybody in Russia did, either). That made China’s neutral response quite reassuring.
I’m also a bit curious about this: Allen, when you say that “[t]o depict legitimate political conflicts in normative terms or with provocative and righteous rhetoric is I believe counter-productive if not deceitful and hypocritical”, what kind of description do you advocate instead? If legitimate political conflicts involve killings and other atrocities by any side, how are we to describe it?
Also, there’s this:
“When Israel attacked Garza, Israel was in the right in its fight against “terrorism” and to preserve “national security.” The Palestinian’s plight to exercise liberty, freedom, security, food, water, shelter, self-determination, and even democracy fell of deaf ears.”
This must be the way media in the US reports it. In Europe, it mostly seems pro-Palestine to me, which is the reason I’ve only begun to understand the Israeli position the last couple of years. That complicates these matters.
Btw, does anyone know the position of Australian and New Zealand media on Israel-Palestine? I’m wondering whether they buy into the US description, the European one, or roll their own.
S.K. Cheung says
nice post. I agree that inflammatory language quickly devolves into rhetoric, and can easily obfuscate the subject of a discussion. However, while words like democracy etc may have undergone some desecration and demeaning over the years, I disagree that the underlying concepts have suffered a similarly tragic fate. So to put excessive emphasis on the baggage that some “words” may bear would deny a reasoned and measured assessment of the values upon which such words are engendered, particularly as they may apply to any given situation.
For instance, while a reference to “concentration camps” may have specific and extreme connotations, particularly to Jews, focusing on the phrase alone without examining the motivation for its selection would prevent one from appreciating that the situation is probably “a hell on earth”.
So yes, we should be careful with word-choice. But we should all say what we mean, and mean what we say. And if everyone did that more often, hopefully the right words will not be so hard to find.
As for your other examples, I’ve said before that I support both the South Ossetians and the Kosovars, based on principle. But the way you framed your description does suggest you’re taking sides, despite claims to the contrary. For instance, you’ve not mentioned the criticisms of the Georgian president for inciting the armed conflict in South Ossetia. You’ve also not done justice to the relative degrees of ethnic cleansing suffered by Kosovars as compared to Serbians. So it’s not just words that require care; it’s that a more objective and complete presentation of the specifics of any situation does it more justice than a lesser one.
China will become increasingly prominent on the international stage. No amount of poor word-choice will deny or even delay that. But a fair and pragmatic approach towards China does not mean pussy-footing around her shortcomings; instead, if CHina wants some space in the kitchen, it’s high time she got used to the heat.
Anon FMer says
Yeah, the “concentration camp” remark unfortunately centered itself squarely on the anti-semetic political correctness target.
IMHO a more appropriate anology might be “reservation”. Think about it, the Isralis tookover Palestine (a colonialist legacy) and started shrinking the Palestinian’s 50%, to today, where the host population is confined in small pockets of their own land, and Isralis are forcefully pacifying the population.
Had the Native Americans fought back, US would more or less look the same. But since we are not about to admit our own guilty past and give back land we’ve stolen, “Free Palestine” bumper sticker remains a diminished choice over “Free Tibet” bumper sticker in America.
S.K. Cheung says
Just read some news reports about protests in Spain, Belgium, and Italy today against the Israeli incursions into Gaza. So it looks like at least some Europeans are capable of protesting what they see as disproportionate, excessive, and violent oppressive actions by certain governments, despite western self-righteousness and biased media reporting. In retrospect, I wonder if some Europeans were merely exercising similar capabilities during the torch relays last year.
khan duan says
Gaza, not Garza.
I was in Scotland during Christmas and New Year’s, and saw a demonstration of perhaps some hundred people against Israel. I thought it was just the typical protest, but then I got back to where I stayed and saw a newspaper depicting the onslaught.
It seems to me that the political mainstream in Western Europe is mainly against Israel. I’m not sure what people in Eastern Europe thinks, but if one were to count by number only, the US pro-Israeli position would probably be a minority. “Free Palestine” isn’t the most common slogan, it’s mostly “end Israeli occupation,” and at least in Sweden it’s more common than “Free Tibet.” If you’re pro-Palestine, you even have your own fashionable scarf to go with it. 😉
@khan duan – thanks for the remark about my spelling of Garza … I mean Gaza. 🙂
Sometimes after typing for a while – your sense of spelling gets all jumbled … I just hope the main thrust of the piece was not!
“Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp,” Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Council for Justice and Peace, said in an interview published Wednesday in an online publication.
I think we have to look at the context here. He didn’t say that it is a concentration camp, but it looks more like it. Just look at the conditions there. A blockade which essentially not allowed Palestians to leave Gaza. The controversial weapon white phosphorus was used in an highly dense urban area. The UN and Medics won’t even help because they are being targeted by Israeli army. The dead bodies wasn’t collected for days for fear of being attacked.
I checked out an editorial made by Einstein 60 years ago against the formation of the of the zionist state of Israel and this sorry outcome is its result. It is really sad that Israel’s leaders essentially spit on the mass graves of those 6 million Jews who had died in this attack in gaza.
Think Ming! says
‘The west’ is so terrible!
Wukailong #2: “This must be the way media in the US reports it.”
The coverage of the current conflict in the US Newspapers has been far more balanced than Allen is letting on. Rolond Soong recently linked to several articles about the backlash the Neocons are facing for their no-questions-asked pro-Israel stance over the past 8 years. And the major newspapers (don’t know about TV) have not been as hawkish as they were in the past. The current conflict seems to have triggered a sea change in opinions that is not limited to Western Europe. In my opinion Israel is trying to do as much as possible in the waning moments before Bush is out and Obama takes office.
Regarding a few comments from the post: “In my personal view, the West has spouted an especially vehement version of self righteousness beginning soon after the WWII.” and “By buying into the use of vague, highly emotionally charged words to understand the world, many in the West willingly became hostage to an oligarchy that routinely uses emotionally charged words to justify their pursuit of interests and aggression around the world.”
These comments struck me as no less seminationalistic than anything we hear coming out of the West and I find overuse of the term “the West” just as obfuscatory as the phrases mentioned in the post.
Could you differentiate between nationalistic and seminationalistic? I understand your meaning to be that Nationalistic would be support of my country’s social and economic interests over any other while seminationalistic would be the promotion of my ideals or values over another’s. Is this correct? If so, then without seminationalistic language we devolve into a group of self-interested city-states clawing after anything we can without regard for anyone else. What would you propose as an alternative? How would you characterize the language China uses?
“What began as genuine introspection however quickly devolved in the Cold War that soon followed into an unhealthy development of a cult around which the West saw itself as the sole crusader against an evil world.”
I agree with Wukailong #1. This was a two way street all the way. The same thing occurred in China and Russia. “Long live the Proletariat, Down with the Capitalists.”
My translator’s notes:
1) “The West” = The U.S.A.
2) “righteousness” = language I don’t like
With sentences like this:
Who do you think is going to take you seriously? Are you arguing that “human rights”, “democracy” and “freedom” are things beyond definition? If they are not who then is to define them? Are citizens of democratic societies in which human rights and broad freedom of speech, freedom of property, and freedom of religion are enjoyed not well placed to define these things? If you think the definition of such things accepted in, for example, the Irish Republic, is not applicable at least in the large part to China, where will China get its definition from? The Communist party? Unfortunately anyone else who tries to discuss these things seems to end up in jail on trumped up charges.
Or are you suggesting that ethnic Chinese who have never lived long-term in China and currently reside in countries which they enjoy wide-ranging freedoms somehow better placed than either native Chinese or non-ethnic Chinese to decide these things?
C.S. Lewis said “whatever exists, matters”. We know that genocide, terrorism, oppression, dictatorship and crimes against humanity exist, and from any moral perspective they must matter to us, as they most definitely matter to the people who suffer them. We all know that they are taking place right now, but we also know that there is no way in which on country, or even one whole block of countries, can prevent them happening entirely, but if we cannot prevent them, we at least should not support them, we at least should not enable them, or we as guilty as the people who carry them out.
@Wukailong and Ted,
It was not my point to suggest that the press coverage is not balanced in the U.S. even though they are not.
The more important point I was trying to make is the official response.
Just as an aside, suppose what is happening in Gaza is happening in some regions of Tibet, would the press be reporting the way it is. Would the official response be so cool? Wouldn’t there be mass protests in the street?
My point in essence is to point out how people in the West are mobilized by emotional rhetorics rather than objective understanding / weighing of issues at hand.
I’d be the first to agree with you that there are crimes against humanity and that people the world over should work together for a world without such crimes.
But to think the West has a monopoly on notions what these crimes are – and to have the West advance its interests by cherry picking conflicts where convenient to characterize crusades against such crimes – that’s what I’m against.
@Allen – What then, is the Chinese view on such things? Is there one? To listen to the Chinese government, you would think that genocide, oppression, state-sponsored terrorism were all ‘internal affairs’ (at least they seem to be when they don’t involve ethnic Chinese), but if the Chinese government is not the arbiter of what the ‘Chinese view’ is, then who should we listen to? Anyone who disagrees with the government in this area is putting themselves at risk, but if we listen to what they say, it is not different in any great fashion from what the vast majority of people world-wide (and not simply in ‘the west’) think of these things.
You seem to be complaining that people in ‘the west’ have opinions, and express them, and act upon them.
As for your examples, there are, as I’m sure you know already, counter-examples in European states, and also within North America. For opinion on Gaza, if you switch to Chinese websites you will see those who sympathise with the Israelis as well as the Palestinians – are they swayed by emotional language too? And where, may I ask, were these arguments against emotional talk last April?
You bring up good points. And you are right, the Chinese are as guilty of emotional talk as Westerners – especially when it comes rhetoric that stir the Chinese People to the defense of their country.
I’ll be the first to admit, when Chinese nationalism boils too high, the Chinese themselves can become blind to what needs to be done to make their country stronger in the longer term.
But I am puzzled when you wrote:
Are you arguing that the CCP have committed crimes against humanity against the Chinese people in the form of genocide, oppression, state-sponsored terrorism? Or are you simply complaining again that the CCP has hijacked the voice of the Chinese people by not allow Western style freedom of speech? Are you willing to argue that a lack of Western freedom of speech is a crime against humanity?
I am also puzzled by your comment,
I apologize if I seem to be saying the West is one monolith. That’s not my point. My point is that the use of emotionally charged words in western political discourse has suppressed many Westerners from truly thinking for themselves.
@ Allen & FOARP: You both bring up good points. I don’t want to speak for FOARP, but I understood “To listen to the Chinese government, you would think that genocide, oppression, state-sponsored terrorism were all ‘internal affairs’” to be Chinese non-interference in other countries’ affairs pertaining to places such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, etc. I didn’t take it to mean anything internal to China.
I would think the use of emotionally charged words by governments all over the world, throughout all of history, leads to a suppression of thought in those countries. When I have more time, I’ll try to put together examples from different countries, both west and east, as examples of such behaviour. I’d say that currently in any country with a free press, the ability to go outside that country’s media exists. I can visit Al Jazeera, China Daily, Taipei Times, London Times, The Times of India, etc. without any problem so beating suppression is simply a matter of not being lazy. But let’s face it, the majority of people in any country are lazy when it comes to news. They read the paper, watch local TV and use the net to read media from their own country. They only see the emotionally charged words their own media or politicians use.
So that’s where I disagree with you, Allen. I’d rephrase your sentence as “My point is that the use of emotionally charged words in political discourse has suppressed many people from truly thinking for themselves.”
Oh Allen, I forgot to compliment you on the Header for this thread. It might be the best one so far!! 🙂
Charles Liu says
My translator’s notes:
“form of genocide, oppression, state-sponsored terrorism” = things only others do; when we do it they have different names, like unilatteral military operation, liberation, democracy building.
@Allen – “Are you arguing that the CCP have committed crimes against humanity against the Chinese people in the form of genocide, oppression, state-sponsored terrorism?”
Steve is correct to say that I was referring specifically to the recent vote in the UN on Zimbabwe, however, if you like, the CCP most certainly has sponsored terrorism in the past in the name of ‘revolution’, and is still engaged in oppression.
I fail to see how freedom of speech is ‘western’, the majority of Chinese people most certainly wish to be able to discuss things freely also. All you need do is listen to them and this is what you will hear.
Excessively emotional talk can silence critics at the moment when their advice most needs to be heard, America after 9/11 is one example of this, China last April is another – but one I found less excusable, not at all because it happened in China, but because of the almost total lack of provocation. Did you criticise the excessively emotional rhetoric of Chinese nationalists and the Chinese government which was directed at the ‘west’ then, or did you join in? Is even this article based on what is essentially an emotional response?
There are also times which call for emotion, if the British people in 1940 had taken a logical and measured view of their situation and avoided discussion of “vague, highly emotionally charged” ‘western’ ideas such as freedom and democracy, then at the very least this discussion would be taking place without my involvement in it, and in a different and sadder world. Sometimes an emotional response is exactly what is required – when you see pictures from Gaza of a bloody smear that used to be a child, or of a smashed house that used to be a home, you know there and then that no such behaviour could be excusable unless it were done to prevent an equal or greater wrong. When you see a dead monk face down in a stagnant pool of water in Burma, you know that any government which kills those who are sworn to non-violence can have no legitimacy. When you see a lone man with a shopping bag holding up a column of tanks, you know that what you are seeing is an act of amazing bravery which could not be inspired by pure hot air or wishful thinking, but by determination and clarity of purpose.
Perhaps we should have a separate post on Zimbabwe (as well as Darfur, etc.) … but I explicitly reject casually and selectively describing political conflicts around the world as crimes against humanity – unless we are ready to describe all military conflicts as crimes against humanity.
The decision to reject taking the Zimbabwe issue to the Security Council and preferring instead to allow for African organizations and governments to take a lead is not a crime against humanity (if that’s what you are talking about).
As for condoning the use of emotion rhetoric and imagery to incite the populace to support political decisions – well that’s what my whole post is about. For someone as uncomfortable with nationalism, or totalitarianism, or nondemocracy as you appear to be – you should be even more disturbed about the use of emotional rhetoric and imagery to obfuscate and distort real-world issues at hand.
You are very perceptive and are right that I am biased when it comes to issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, my bias is not based on the typical emotionally charged rhetoric of genocide (i.e. if you wipe Israel into the sea and out of the map, you are essentially committing genocide against the Jews; or equally poignant, the occupation of Palestine by Jews is tantamount to genocide of the Palestinian people).
Unlike most people, I think the only long-term solution is a one state, multi-ethnic, multi-religious solution. We need to build a multi-ethnic state which is free enough to cater to the needs of all religions and peoples who have a connection to the land currently occupied by Israel.
I don’t think rhetoric of genocide, concentration camps, gods, jihad, specially chosen people, liberation, should play a role in this area of the Middle East. Instead of harping on emotionally laden rhetoric, we should work on bringing about peace, harmony, justice, and stability in the region… which is what everyone wants.
Perhaps the first footing of a future “world government” can start here. Under international governance, the people who already live in modern Israel – whether in refugee camps or in settlement communities – will all be given a chance to live in peace and dignity.
If we are to stop bloodshed in this area of the Middle East, we must come up with a new paradigm. Israel is not just a place for a select few chosen people; neither is it just for the Arabs (who only recently moved there, if we are to take a long-term historical perspective). Israel (or whatever we call it) is a special place and belongs to all of humanity who feel a connection to this spiritual land…
Anyways – that’s my personal “bias” about this conflict – which really has no relevance to what we are talking about … but which I’d share with you since you did catch me on it.
@Allen – I’m not usually one to post China Daily pieces verbatim, but this one cried out for it:
This is the character of the people in the CCP, people who make up history as they go and live in a make-believe world which they try to force on everyone else. Saying that this is a grievous wrong is not ‘obfuscating and distorting’, but simply speaking the truth, and when the truth inspires an emotional response this can only be said to be correct. Certainly the Dalai Lama has his own version of what happened, but this does not excuse the acts of a government which at every turn uses history as a justification for its continued rule.
What happened and is happening in Darfur is genocide – this does not make the Chinese government guilty of genocide, but when it refuses censure what can one say? What is happening in Zimbabwe is a grave crime against the Zimbabwean people, refusing to allow the voice of the security council to be added to those of regional critics does nothing for the Chinese government’s name. When the Chinese government says that such issues are merely the internal affairs of the countries involved, all talk of the CCP having a relevant opinion of what human rights, democracy, or freedom actually are goes out of the window, as it obviously has no interest in any of these things.
@FOARP, what is happening in Darfur is not genocide. It is a human tragedy caused by weak governance, civil war, fight for resource, changing climate, and poverty. Of course, there have also been cases where opportunistic local politicians have played ethnic tensions to provoke violence. I promise to write a post on it soon.
As for the China Daily piece you quoted, I truly don’t see a problem with it. Right or wrong, I subscribe to its content wholeheartedly.
As for your frustration of Chinese government’s use of the term “internal affairs” of countries as a sacrosanct word to stop foreign interference – I think I actually do share some of your frustration.
Clearly there are times when states fail and when governments loses their mandate to govern and when functioning governments or international organizations ought to help. Simply calling out for “noninterference” doesn’t help.
But clearly also, there are many times when foreign governments make opportunistic uses of internal turmoil to play geopolitical games for their own private gain.
The West has had years of free reign of Africa for some time – but the state of affairs of the continent has not improved too much until its recent interactions with China. Clearly selective and spotty interference Western style is not doing the trick.
In general, I still say let the Africans govern themselves. If states fail, let African governments and organizations take the lead.
Africa is at a different stage of political and economic development than the West. There are still many issues it needs to sort out. If the West really cares so much for Africa that it cannot stomach the process of the Africans sorting out issues for themselves, then by god – in the name of its duty to humanity – the West must re-colonize Africa and govern Africans as all true human beings ought to be governed…
Sorry if the last bit was written w/ a bit of too much fanfare – but I do mean the gist of what I wrote…
@Allen: “Just as an aside, suppose what is happening in Gaza is happening in some regions of Tibet, would the press be reporting the way it is. Would the official response be so cool? Wouldn’t there be mass protests in the street?”
There were protests in the street even in the quaint place I was staying at for New Year’s, though maybe not “mass protests.” Again, I do think this shows a difference between the US and Europe. When the invasion of Iraq was about to begin (and I think that was even more violent than what’s happening in Gaza), demonstrations in Europe were huge.
Still, I am disappointed by the official responses from European leaders (except the ones who were part of the “coalition of the willing”). The protests against that war should have been much more pronounced, like some of the criticisms against the Vietnam War.
“My point in essence is to point out how people in the West are mobilized by emotional rhetorics rather than objective understanding / weighing of issues at hand.”
Unfortunately I think this is true of most places (what about typical mainland reports about Taiwan or Tibet?), but I guess the difference in most Western countries might be that the interest is fundamentally in other places rather than your own country. The solution to the general problem, as naïve as it might sound, is better information and more voices.
@Ted #12: Try to make better use of the editing function.
I’m having a hard time following this argument back and forth about Gaza. At least here in California, I’ve read news articles condemning both sides, but lately they’ve been harder on Israel than Palestine. There have been demonstrations against that conflict all over the place. Wukailong says he is disappointed by the official response of European leaders and Allen shares some of that frustration with China’s position never to interfere with another country’s internal affairs. If I read an article written by someone from the Jewish side, it is pro-Israeli. If from the Palestinian side, it is pro-Palestine. If someone on neither side, most articles have said that the Palestinians should not shoot missiles into Israel and kill innocent civilians, and that Israel should get out of Gaza and allow food and medical supplies into the area. Most are pushing a third party solution.
My question is: Are there any protests against this Gaza war in China itself? Since the rest of the world seems to be protesting it, I would assume there would be some in China. What are they saying? Which side are they on? I’m just curious.
I do agree that the press coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been more balanced than the Beijing-Dalai Lama conflict …
But the people who do take sides are resorting to inflammatory rhetoric …
Maybe that’s because the conflict is so intractable – but the rhetoric definitely does not help.
But I still think it’s “obvious” that the Israeli have the official support of the U.S. in order to be doing what it is doing.
Even Obama – the supposed candidate of change – has pledged support for Israel – focusing more on Israel’s need for security and Hama’s role in “terrorism” than on the needs of the Palestinian people.
My take of what the Chinese people feel is that we have a legitimate political conflict. It’s not a conflict that should be defined by “human rights” or other normative rights; instead it’s a conflict that need to be settled by grudging give and take of both sides.
To that end – I think the Chinese are neutral. It’s for the parties to work out…
@Allen: “Even Obama – the supposed candidate of change – has pledged support for Israel – focusing more on Israel’s need for security and Hama’s role in “terrorism” than on the needs of the Palestinian people.”
Unfortunately the EU have walked down the same path – when Hamas was elected, the response was to boycott the Palestinians instead of talking to them. When I first heard about the results I believed this was a golden opportunity, a bit like Sinn Fein coming to power in Ireland, but obviously I was wrong.
“My take of what the Chinese people feel is that we have a legitimate political conflict. It’s not a conflict that should be defined by “human rights” or other normative rights; instead it’s a conflict that need to be settled by grudging give and take of both sides.”
Are you referring to Israel-Palestine here? I’m sorry but it’s not completely obvious from the context, at least not for me.
Don’t you even see something even a little bit wrong with this sentence?
Anyway, my point is that the Chinese government’s definition of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, and ‘human rights’ is not one that even the vast majority of Chinese people recognise. When asked, most Chinese people give answers pretty much identical to those that people everywhere else give. Trying to make out that there is a ‘western’ definition of such things which is at odds to a specific Chinese definition is artificial in the extreme.
I do not subscribe to the Peter Hitchens view that Chinese investment in Africa is bringing about a ‘Chinese Empire’, or that Chinese businesses are any more exploitative of Africa than western ones, but I do not even slightly see how you can say that things have improved appreciably as a result of Africa’s interactions with China above and beyond the improvement which results from any country investing there.
As for Darfur, the extermination of one ethnic group by another is genocide. If you do not accept that what is happening in Darfur is genocide, then what about Rwanda? And what was the Chinese government’s position on that? And if African countries are incapable of stopping genocide, then what?
The position of the Chinese government in the Hamas-Israel conflict is not as simple as you have made out. China has diplomatic relations with both the PLO/Fatah-run Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, and has important trade links with Israel. However, they have no meaningful links of any kind with Hamas (apart from the Hamas leadership’s declaration a few years ago that they were visiting China, denied by the Chinese). The EU does maintain aid projects in Gaza, and even contributes money to the Gazan authorities – although they say that they have full assurance that this money is spent entirely on humanitarian projects. China, therefore, cannot be said to have an entirely neutral stance, as it enjoys full relations with both of Hamas’ main enemies – the PLO and Israel, but not with Hamas. Certainly also there are Chinese people who would like to protest against the war, but do not because they are afraid of the consequences.
@Wukailong #30 – yes, I typed too fast in #29. The last part of my comment was meant to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
When I wrote, “Right or wrong, I subscribe to its content wholeheartedly,” I meant the right or wrong to modify “I” or “subscribe” not the “content.” That is, I was only being modest – not blindly deferential
Hopefully that clarifies any potential confusion…
S.K. Cheung says
Lots of tangents here about Gaza, and various parts of Africa. I think China is famous (or notorious) for their “non-interference” policy. And if China wants to stand back and watch, that’s China’s prerogative. But as a Security Council member, I think China has the honour but also the responsibility of acting on a more global scale. So when it comes to Darfur, or Zimbabwe, maybe they can keep watching and doing nothing, but not stand in the way of much of the rest of the world who may want to do something. Of course a similar criticism could probably be leveled at other Security Council members as well.
Think Ming! says
This is the funniest thread ever. . .
@Think Ming!: Do you really find this thread the most amusing one? Generally it depends on what persons are joining. I don’t want to mention any names or monikers here, but in my experience, it only takes a pinch of yeast to make the whole thing ferment into something completely removed from the original topic…
Oh, man….Admin, CLC,…why didn’t you put this up sooner?
On a happy note, FM was nominated for the best Asian blog award
the poll will close in less than [a few hours by now ] 24hours, I want to share the news and to take this opportunity to thank everyone for visiting, commenting, and making this blog a lively place!
And if you like to show your support, vote for us!
Personally, I think this whole best Asian blog award is lopsided. The website which seems to have the most votes is some politically charged website about Myanmar which essentially have no content.
@SK Cheung 34
I would agree with you on this one, that most Security Council members should act on crisis in Darfur and Zimbabwe. They would have to spend money on deploying troops and such and would like some kind of rate in return economically or politically and not for ‘humanitarian’ reasons as most would would perceive. UN Security Council adopted a resolution to fight Somalia piracy although these pirates treat its prisoners humanely. Many of these Security Council Nations have an economic interest that these ships going thru Somalia to make sure that they are not hijacked.
Charles Liu says
pug, if we didn’t fail Darfur over the years, what would we have to blame China with?
I want to follow up with what you wrote:
From my perspective, this is particularly why I want to write this post.
Genocide is such a hot button, historically and politically loaded word that if you say there is genocide, there is a crime against humanity, and you had better (if you are a decent human being) support interference.
But by being so vague about genocide – by vaguely defining genocide as the extermination of one ethnic group by another – without defining what constitutes extermination (is it an attempt to kill another race, an attempt to kill only part of a race, any hate crimes?) and at what level of ethnicity we are looking at (ethnicity is often defined politically) – we basically allow the concept to be conveniently politicized.
As I said earlier, the political conflict in Darfur is not about the extermination of one race by another. It is a political conflict over scarce resources that has pitted certain tribes against each other.
Rwanda is similar … except that in Rwanda we also definitely had a failed state, and had military forces that went amok.
The fact is war is terrible. War has always been terrible. Killing on the basis of race, religion, nationality (of whatever other notions you can think of) are all terrible. Many writers have commented that war itself is a crime against humanity.
But no major states in the West take such a stance. Instead, they merely use politically charged terms such as genocide only to further their own political purpose. Western leaders know the Western populace have an emotional, visceral response to that term in the wake of the Holocaust. But to use the term for convenient political purposes to me is disrespectful of history and amorally opportunistic.
You also commented:
I don’t necessarily disagree with the whole thing.
Of course China has political ties and need not remain neutral. But the point I have been trying to make is that China, unlike the West, does not characterize conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in normative terms, through the lens of right and wrongs, or crimes against humanity. China of course will let her interests dictate her foreign policy, but she isn’t about to pretend as if it’s in a crusade against evil.
@ Allen: As far as I can tell from what you wrote, only the Jewish experience under Hitler would qualify as genocide. Is that correct? Are you saying the term only applies to one specific historical situation and no other? In Rwanda, Hutu tribesmen killed about 800,000+ Tutsi men, women and children, most of whom were unarmed. How is that not genocide? What convenient political purpose does that serve?
Per Wiki: Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that “one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda’s problems would be over.”
I’m just not following your reasoning, but I’m open to further explanation.
Think Ming! says
I’m getting censored!
I’d definitely welcome the opportunity to engage.
Genocide – as a crime against humanity – to me definitely deserves a very high bar. It should not be used casually and conveniently to serve as propaganda fodder to promote one’s private political project.
In Rwanda, perhaps as many as 800,000 people were killed in the space of 100 days. That’s sad. But in history, there have been other equally gruesome periods of violence. When the U.S. dropped the nuclear bombs in Japan, some 110,000+ thousand people (of one ethnicity) died on the very days of the bombings.
The thing so pernicious however about genocide (and not so much about the Japanese atomic bombing) is I think that in genocide, killings occur without recourse. That is people get killed without the opportunity to settle things politically.
In Rwanda, there was a political conflict. However, the peoples involved were not willing to make peace. (OK, you may think the people did not have a choice, that warfare was thrust into their throat, that armed forces were praying on defenseless civilians … we can talk about that … but that’s a totally separate matter having nothing to do with ethnicity.) In my mind, when the parties refuse to settle and choose to fight: it’s their prerogative to voice their version of “give me freedom or give me death.”
The fact that in Rwanda and Darfur, large numbers of people have died, often along ethnic lines, is sad. But it is their political conflicts. The ethnicity component does not per se make the conflict a crime against humanity.
When genuine political conflicts turn into military conflicts – human beings suffer. I will readily agree to that. Whether war is waged in the name of religion, democracy, ethnicity, nationality, or whatever other excuse, it is always sad.
But to selectively single out certain political and military conflicts as crimes against humanity, based on fuzzy easily politicized criteria, that’s what I think a lot of the emotional rhetoric is designed to do. And that’s something I’m against.
@ Allen: Thanks for the explanation. Can you give me another example of genocide besides the Jews during the Third Reich? I think that would help me to better understand your position.
In a previous thread, I said I didn’t like the term “cultural genocide” because to me it seemed to water down the real meaning of genocide, though Jerry had no problem with it. It would seem you’d agree with me, and only want it used in its harshest form.
What other instance of genocide do I think there is in history? I don’t know of any … but I am always willing to consider candidates.
What I think is a more realistic and less politicized way to describe a lot of so-called “genocides” in the 20th century is disproportionate military conflicts – where modern warfare has been waged with terrifying civilian costs. Some also involve failed states where a collapse in governance resulted in fragmentation of societies and fights between petty warlords and tribes, leading to tremendous human sacrifice.
What should we do about this? I don’t know. We should definitely do something systematically and as a whole. But what we do should not be politicized. And what we do should not be to take sides in genuine political conflicts on supposed normative grounds. Those genuine political conflicts still matter… and should be respected.
We went through two World Wars to establish a world order that has some sort of stability. I hope people will soon see that war is not worth fighting. But with that said, we also should not be so conceited as to believe – esp. in preserving our stakes in the current order – that others’ political goals and dreams are not worth fighting for.
@ Allen: I can accept your definition of genocide as being very narrow, but I don’t know if I’d call those other examples “disproportionate military conflicts”. When an armed group deliberately murders unarmed civilians, the minimum term I’d use would be “massacre”. I see “disproportionate military conflicts” as what is going on in Gaza; both sides are armed but one has an overwhelming advantage.
As soon as you “do something” about a massacre type situation, it’s politicized. The UN is politics, negotiations are politics, governments are politics, pretty much everything is politics. If one government does something about it, it will not only become politicized within that country, but will also incur a political reaction outside it. If many countries get together under the auspices of the UN… well, you can’t get any more politicized than that.
@Steve – you wrote:
I don’t know if I’d subscribe a simple “normative” tilt to things as you seem to do here. I’d prefer to look at the bigger picture. Is there a legitimate political grudge? Civilians have always been targeted in political and military conflicts. To simply point to a few incidents and say, “terrorism,” “massacre,” is to take a political side – to at least support the status quo regardless of whether it’s just – and is not so productive in my view.
As for your comments about everything being easily politicized … well I think I agree. It’s so convenient to politicize things when you have power and are in a position to do so.
Hopefully if we do things systematically – consistently – taking the long term view for humanity’s sake and not for our private political gains – stop using emotional rhetoric that blind rather than illuminate – try to work for a more equitable world and thus to dissolve many of the underlying cause of global conflicts – maybe we can truly work on true humanitarian intervention, instead of the political interventions that are masked behind the rhetoric of humanitarian concerns of today.
@ Allen: I truly respect your view of the “big picture” and working in a humanitarian way to promote world peace, eliminate poverty and the political “us vs. them” viewpoint, but we’re going to have to “agree to disagree” about some of these incidents.
I just can’t see the Rape of Nanjing or the Bataan Death March as a “disproportionate military conflict”.
Your point is well taken. But in my mind, among the consequences of unopposed disproportionate power are precisely things like Nanking and Bataan. It doesn’t always happen, but it is within the realm of expected result.
I don’t think the Japanese in WWII were inherently evil – not anymore than say Chinese or Japanese of today. The difference then was that there was no check on their power during WWII in Asia – and Japanese ambition fed on itself to such an extent that they saw themselves as the righteous force – the beacon of liberty for all Asian races – and came to believe force as their passage to their manifest destiny (I’d argue the above in some ways sounds a lot also like the West of today, with its disproportionate military spending, used in defense of its cherished “world order”).
This is why for many Chinese, the basis of human rights is national power. Without national power, you are the victim of disproportionate warfare and/or incompetent governance. Both of these – as I mentioned earlier in this thread as well as in other threads – are the real scourge of human suffering…
@Charles Liu: When you say “we”, would you at least be so courteous so as to say “we Americans”? Everybody here is not an American, and everybody does not agree with the US position. Thanks.
@Allen: “I don’t think the Japanese in WWII were inherently evil – not anymore than say Chinese or Japanese of today. The difference then was that there was no check on their power during WWII in Asia – and Japanese ambition fed on itself to such an extent that they saw themselves as the righteous force – the beacon of liberty – for all Asian races and came to believe force as their passage to their manifest destiny (I’d argue the above in some ways sounds a lot also like the West of today, with its disproportionate military spending, used in defense of its cherished “world order”).”
I agree the Japanese were not inherently evil, but a lot of people subscribed to the ideology at the time, which was aggressive militarism and a defense for the right to take over any parts of the world one deemed important for the survival of one’s own people, a bit like the German concept of “lebensraum”. This ideology in itself played a big role in justifying atrocities.
Talking about Darfur, Allen, did you notice one article in FT a couple of days ago – keyword “Heilberg”, “Paulino”, “Jarch” …?
Do you mean this article?
Yes – sorry I read it on paper … just now I run a search and find that the story between Heilberg and Paulino dates back at least to 2006 if not earlier … food for thought maybe …
S.K. Cheung says
like Steve, I am uncomfortable with what you call the “high bar” for “genocide”. For what you characterize as a “high bar”, I would suggest is a “slippery slope”.
For instance, when you suggest that extermination based on ethnicity in the course of a political conflict is not genocide, I would submit that such a political conflict may simply be an excuse for genocide. Furthermore, if political conflict is to serve as a justification (ie. ethnic extermination is being done to hasten resolution of said political conflict), then at what point should it be determined that ethnic extermination is no longer working, beyond which further ethnic-based killing should be characterized as genocide?
And if a political conflict is only resolved after the complete extermination of one ethnicity (ie. conflict’s done cuz we took out the last “enemy” standing, be it man/woman/child/unarmed etc), then might we consider it to have been an act of genocide, in retrospect? And what good would it do at that point?
The other issue is that, whether it is “genocide”, politically-motivated ethnic extermination, disproportionate military conflict, or whatever other euphemism you prefer, does it materially change how the rest of the world would view it, or what they might do about it? If you object to words whose connotations are overblown, I would suggest you should also object to words that dilute and obfuscate the real meaning. Otherwise, you’d be no different than GWB who says that “we don’t torture; we just use enhanced interrogation techniques”.
I wish we as adults should stop sugar coating these situations. These killings in Africa regardless of its classification should be stopped. UN Peacekeepers don’t have the power to do anything. We should not use words political conflicts to justify our own non interferance.
Maybe I am a little too idealistic but any killings on any ethnic group is wrong.
As for the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, I believe UK, and the U.S government enabled this conflict.
They created the Iserali state out of guilt for the Jewish people and kicking its original inhabitants out. This act is not only self serving but it is a mistake. Now we have two religious group of people fighting over who’s beliefs are right and who rightfully own the land. Somehow, I feel, we should stop that.. I just don’t know how…
Just like I fundamentally oppose what is happening in Darfur but there is nothing I can do about it….
I think I understand where you are coming from. But please understand I am not “suger coating” things. War is war – it is terrible on humanity no matter what the motivation is. What I am against is justifying certain wars and vilifying others – especially through distorted normative means – which the use of genocide does.
If I were an all powerful all knowing being, I’d like to end all wars, end all poverty, end all suffering, too. But since I am not, I don’t think we should say some wars (e.g., those that benefit us) are just wars while others (when they don’t benefit us) are conveniently crimes against humanity.
I totally agree with you but I would still use the word Genocide especially of what happened in Africa. Genocide is a systematic killing of a certain cultural and ethnic group.
Of course by this definition we can accuse U.S of that because of the Atomic Bomb, but would you classify that as a systematic killing?
Of course the so called “War on Terror” was wrong and still is wrong.
But it makes me upset when China being on the Security Council does not act on the opportunity of being a major player in this conflict, instead they encourage it by doing business with the Sudanese Government and in an indirect way funding this massacre. Due to their benefit. Oh believe me I am just as upset as the U.S government as well for being hypocritical. We as a global citizen have the responsibility to urge our government to stop these killings… but sadly no one is doing it…
I also think I understand where you are coming from. When you write:
you write with fear. You fear that in the event of all political conflicts in the world, the losing side will have every man, woman, child of an entire family, tribe, nation killed. You fear that the world cannot be trusted – that the world cannot take care of itself.
I however think that is myopic and an incorrect way to view the world. It does not accurately describe the world. As I wrote in #40, the truth is that:
Today, even experts in the West are still divided over what genocide as a crime against humanity really is (even the economist article I cited acknowledges that).
The leaders of the West like its people to think the West is the beacon of good against an evil world.
The leaders of the West like its people to think the World cannot manage itself and need to West to prevent all hell from breaking lose, to keep the rest of the world from devouring each other, to prevent people from exterminating each other.
The leaders of the West, with its outsized military power, then gets away with leveraging such fears to justify interference and meddling across the world.
@ miaka9383 #56: Just to let you know, the creation of the Jewish homeland was a British and later a League of Nations affair. The US had nothing to do with either one; in fact, the US never joined the League of Nations. The partition of Palestine was by UN decree. The US support of Israel started as a counterpoint to Soviet support for the neighboring Arab countries during the cold war. The history of Palestine since the end of the Ottoman Empire is VERY complex and impossible to easily summarize; suffice to say there were grave mistakes and atrocities committed on both sides.
I also share your frustration over the situation there. I don’t believe the two sides can ever come to an agreement. Hamas is very open about its goal; it is not peace with Israel but the eradification of Israel. They see no reason to compromise or negotiate, which is one of many reasons the situation has devolved into war. Israel has factions whose goal is the removal of all Arabs from Israel, which is just as extreme. If a solution is found, it’ll have to be a third party one.
Remember, Jews have been living in Palestine since the time of Christ, and lived there throughout the Ottoman empire. The Jewish “homeland” west of the Jordan River created by the British allowed Jews of the diaspora to have a “right of return” with the British as administrators and not the Arabs, which the Arabs never accepted.
We can definitely disagree about what on the ground is genocide and what is not. Let me ask you this – when you say Africa – do you mean Rwanda or Darfur? And what do you mean by “systematic”? Is it the intention to exterminate entire races? What if the goal is to push race A out of region X but leave race A in region Y alone? How do you define race (I ask because people can always subdivide and divide for political purposes)? Or is it enough we have disproportionate killings along ethnic lines? Why is ethnicity so important – what about religious, national, geographic lines?
Steve had written in an earlier post:
And I had responded,
To me, it is critically important that the parties chose not to make peace.
Just like Hamas and Israel today has not yet made peace, the sufferings today should not be considered crimes against humanity (unless we want to bring rules of civilian engagements in military conflicts into the picture, but that’s a separate issue). Both sides are fighting for their political aspirations. Both sides are willing to die.
When one side has caved in to their political aspirations, and when the other side – being stronger – nonetheless continue to persecute and kill – that is when we cross into the realm of crime against humanity, in my opinion, but not before.
You wrote in response to my comment that I didn’t think the Japanese were inherently evil in WWII that “I agree the Japanese were not inherently evil, but a lot of people subscribed to the ideology at the time.”
I just want to follow up by saying that it’s perfectly fine to use emotionally charged words in domestic politics and during times of war. It is part of politics.
What I don’t like is the use of emotionally charged words in today’s international politics – especially when coated in normative words of righteousness to justify alternative motives.
I think I got a little carried away in #59 and did not address your main concern: that is what should we do about genocide to the extent it really exists in the world?
We obviously need to address that seriously and systematically.
I however don’t think using politically convenient emotional language is going to get us there.
But you are right on when you wrote:
I do mean Darfur and Rwanda,that was my mistake because I was being lazy.
Ethnicity ties closely with Culture issues such as religious views, and national identity. I am an American by nationality, but by ethnicity I am Chinese and by Race I am Asian.
Lets say… U.S gets into a conflict with China and U.S decides to put all of us (as in fellow Chinese Americans) into internment camp and put us in gas chambers..I would call this a genocide. But by your definition, if we resisted the arrest would this become a conflict? This is the part that I don’t understand…
@Allen – I’m not sure I follow your argument. Are you arguing that we should focus on the actual facts of what was done (i.e., the indiscriminate killing of vast numbers unarmed civilians) and that the racial aspect is not important? This is an argument that I might be tempted to make, and was made before the Nuremburg trials when drawing up the charges against the Nazis by British academics. However, ignoring the racial aspect when it was the reason behind the crime (the mens rea if you will) seems artificial, although the Nuremburg trials did not list genocide as a specific crime, but instead concentrated on crimes against humanity, which were defined as:
The 1948 UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide defined it as:
It can therefore be seen how broadly this might be interpreted if even “causing serious mental harm to members of the group” constitutes as a guilty act, and that many acts might be seen as genocide, so long as the mens rea of intent to destroy an ethnic group can be shown. So long as the necessary intent can be shown, the acts in Darfur most certainly fall within this definition, as non-Arabs have been specifically targeted, killed, and ethnically cleansed from regions. The information we have so far would suggest that this is the case.. Rwanda was also a clear example of this, and the trials at the Hague, although unable to confer the death penalty, have dealt justice on those who planned and executed the massacre of a third of all people of Tutsi ethnicity.
The examples of the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, and the nuclear attacks, although terrible acts of war, lacked the necessary mental element – you may still call them war crimes if you like, due to their indiscriminate nature, or crimes against humanity under the Nuremburg definition, but they were not genocide. Something like, for example, the forcible taking of Australian Aboriginal children from their parents and putting them up for adoption by white families may fall within this definition, but I doubt the evidence necessary to show that this was done with the purpose of destroying an ethnicity (although, my personal feeling is that it was).
Despite the many accusations of genocide that have been lodged against the US, PRC, British, and Israeli governments, I cannot think of a historical event when any of these countries has specifically commissioned one of the listed acts with intent to destroy an ethnic group. For the UK, perhaps the highland clearances might count, but that would require a rather contrived view of what was done. Terrible things were done in imperial times, but I cannot recall an instance where the extermination of an ethnic group was sought, even something like the Bengal famine does not fall within this definition. Likewise, the USA may have restricted native Americans to reservations, and may have allowed its citizens to ruthlessly kill American Indians found ‘off reservation’, but I cannot think of an instance in which it sought to destroy an ethnic group. The PRC certainly treated Tibet harshly following 1950, 1959 and 1989, but a crack-down against opponents is not ‘genocide’. Finally, Israel has never sought to exterminate the Palestinians, even if occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip following 1967 has brought the region nothing but worries, and successive invasions of Lebanon have turned that country into the splintered basket-case it is today.
@miaka9383, you wrote:
Your hypothetical is a little tricky because we are talking about domestic U.S. affairs and there are dimensions of the U.S. Constitutions that do not exist in International Politics or Law.
A better example is I think the U.S. conflict with Mexican forces over annexation of Texas and/or California. Let’s say the U.S. wants to annex those territories, and suppose the local population resists. Military conflicts break out. Many Hispanics die.
Is that genocide? No.
Some in the U.S. Congress might even bicker: “the problem is with all those Mexicans. If we can get rid of them, our problems would be solved.” Answer is still No.
No because there is a political conflict. The U.S. wants Texas and/or California; Mexico does not want to give it up; local population is sympathetic to the Mexican gov’t. The two sides are willing to shed blood for their political aspirations. I don’t see any crime against humanity here.
Now suppose Mexico then gives in, and the U.S. won, and the Hispanic population now accepts U.S. sovereignty. If however the U.S. still continues to persecute the Hispanics in Texas and/or California – simply because of their ethnicity (or religion, or whatever) – then yes that would definitely finally start to cross into the area of crime against humanity (killing without recourse).
Basically I feel people everywhere are entitled to voice their version of “give me freedom or give me death.” We should not muddle the issues and denounce political aspirations of other peoples that we don’t like in the name of crimes against humanity.c
Thank you for the thoughtful post. I think I would tend to agree with most of what you wrote.
I agree with your analysis that mens rea (intent) is a necessary component for committing crimes against humanity. I like the UN definition of crime against humanity but note that the tricky part is in defining the “in whole or in part” terms. If interpreted incorrectly, it can easily mean that all violence and wars can be considered crimes against humanity.
I don’t agree with your application to the African situation, because I don’t think the intent to destroy peoples exist; there are ethnic components to legitimate conflicts; but the conflict is not simply about mere destruction of another people. But that’s an issue based on facts we can debate in a thread on Darfur that I plan to write in the future.
The key thing I have been arguing, and I think you’d agree based on your post, is that many so-called “genocide” people so trivially call out are in fact legitimate political conflicts that happen to cause a lot of ethnically based killings (atomic bomb being an example). These should not be considered crimes against humanity (unless, of course, we are ready to accept all wars as crimes against humanity).
As for the Nuremberg Trial – I personally thought it was a good trial – even though I understand that in general Nuremberg type trials (such as that for Saddam) can easily be manipulated to become a political farce.
So unless I am missing something, I think I am in almost complete agreement with you re your post of #65.
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #59 and #63:
“we basically allow the concept to be conveniently politicized.” – I agree we need to be rigorous about the definition, if only so that when a word is used, everyone is clear about what it means. However, the examples listed throughout this thread are not, or at least should not have been, merely subjects for academic discussion. And even if a term is politicized, if the end result of such politicization is to spur action, is that such a bad thing? For example, I don’t think anyone would characterize Israel/Gaza as genocide. But people are trying to put an end to it nonetheless, and I don’t think anyone would object to such a thrust. And if a “word” can shake people out of their doldrums and spur intervention in situations that more closely approximate the standard of “genocide”, then so much the better.
On the one hand, I agree that terminology should not be thrown around just to inflame; on the other hand, I don’t think CHina’s position that “Darfur doesn’t meet our high-bar definition of genocide so we’ll just continue to sit on our hands” is worthy of admiration either.
We’ll simply agree to disagree … yet again … 😉
If only you are right. A lot of people have characterized Israel/Gaza as genocide – it is the undercurrent thinking of the whole conflict: the right to exist of the Jewish people to exist v. right of the Palestinian people to exist. In the U.S., I also still see many people describe the conflict as a “terrorism” issue.
I already told you what I think the solution should be for the Isarealis and Palestinians. But ultimately I also understand that this is just my personal opinion – that there is a genuine political conflict.
The parties involved have to figure out what solution they want. If the parties want to continue to fight for their political aspirations – it is probably their right and prerogative to do so.
I have to be humble enough to admit that … and not so conceited as to think that I am in a better position to help solve the conflict than the people who already are impacted on a day-to-day basis by the conflict .. and make myself alert to not being used as a pawn in the propaganda wars.
You also wrote:
Again I disagree. If we simply have a natural calamity in Africa, and people in Africa are in unison crying out for outside help – yes then we shouldn’t sit idly by and not help. But this is not the situation. If Darfur is truly a legitimate local political conflict, as I believe, we outsiders are not in any position to help by imposing a political solution that we outsiders consider “just.” The people of Sudan … the people of Africa will have to work things out for themselves.
We are in fairytale land if we think we outsiders can simply swoop in and impose a long-term solution…
Can’t believe our resident Jew, Jerry, is not seen in this post. Is he joining IDF or what?
S.K. Cheung says
I think Jerry is vacationing in HK with his daughter.
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #69:
your first sentence once again sums up nicely.
“If the parties want to continue to fight for their political aspirations – it is probably their right and prerogative to do so.” – agreed. But who are the “parties” to the conflict? Just the IDF soldiers and Hamas militants? Or is it every Israeli and Gazan man/woman/child? Is every Tutsi in Darfur a party to the conflict by ethnicity alone, making them fair-game? What if some Tutsi would’ve chosen life over liberty, to borrow from your phrase, but weren’t afforded the choice? I don’t think any political conflict, genuine or otherwise, is a legitimate excuse for ethnic extermination, and I am happy for anyone to step up and offer to draw that line in the sand. I wouldn’t call that conceit; I’d call it a respect for your fellow man. And to abdicate such responsibility is a wanton disregard for same.
Furthermore, stopping ethnic extermination is hardly the same as imposing a political solution. Those who choose to remain combatants can continue to combat away to their hearts’ content. Let them pillage, but let’s take away the rape, if you will. You’re only stepping in to preclude the egregious stuff. And if the people of Sudan can’t seem to work it out short of ethnic extermination, then I’d rather step in and live a dream while you sit on your hands and watch the nightmare.
@SKC – Indeed. Were we to apply Allen’s reasoning Bosnia would now be thoroughly cleansed, and the Bosnains and Bosnian-Croats would now be either dead or living in refugee camps outside Bosnia. It is true that the Serbs fled Krajina following its conquest by the Croats following ‘Operation Storm’, and that Kosovan Serbs fled to the north of Kosovo following the insertion of peacekeeping forces there – but in neither operation had ethnic cleansing as its goal. Darfur is a clear case where people of an ethnic group being faced with a bleak choice: be killed in your home or flee to a foreign refugee camp.
@Allen – Evidence of orders directing the extermination of ethnic groups in Darfur exist, they clearly show what the government’s intent was. Indeed, this evidence as formed the basis of the three charges of genocide sought by the prosecutor against the Sudanese president in the International Criminal Court.
Originally I wasn’t going to delve deeper, but I think it’d be enlightening to do so given your comments in #73.
You wrote in #73,
If this is the basis of your charge of intent, please explain why the dropping of the atomic bomb or the carpet bombing of Dresden did not constitute crimes against humanity under the UN definition you quoted in #65, namely:
That is were the orders to bomb those cities given with the intent to inflict massive casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden? If so, didn’t the casualties not represent destruction “in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”?
Your answer may reveal part of my answer to your question in #73.
@ Allen: I think I see where you’re coming from but I can’t agree with your reasoning. Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden all took place during a major war. None of them were “sneak attacks” but all done within the context of war. Virtually all bombings have an intent to inflict massive casualties, even if they are bombing strategic targets. The definition of “massive” can be relative. Some might call these three “atrocities” but war is in itself an atrocity to a large extent. In the case of the atomic bombings, it can also be argued that by ending the war (which it did), millions of Japanese lives were saved, though the reasoning behind the bombings was strictly to save American lives. In addition, it probably prevented Japan from being split into a Soviet north and an American south, since the USSR had just declared war on Japan.
The Bataan Death March is different. There are rules of war, the Geneva Conventions, that specify how you treat prisoners. The Japanese, though they had signed that treaty, did not follow their guidelines and exposed themselves to “war crimes”. Killing unarmed prisoners of war has international consequences, especially if you lose said war. It was an atrocity, a war crime, but not genocide. The killing of American and Filipino prisoners of war did not put the American people in danger of extermination.
Personally, I’d put what the Aussies did to the aborigines under the UN definition of crimes against humanity. Regardless of the intent, it clearly and forcibly transferred children from one group to another.
Genocide usually occurs within nations, not imposed from outside. Germans exterminated Jews, Serbs exterminated Muslims in Bosnia, Arabs in Sudan exterminated Tutsi families. Usually the common factor is not just the killing of men, but also the systematic killing of women and children.
The placing of Japanese Americans into internment camps in WWII (my uncle was born in one) was not genocide but if they had all been gassed while in those camps, that would be genocide. If after the war, every Japanese person in Kyushu were put to death and replaced by people from another country, though there were still millions of Japanese alive in the rest of Japan, that would be genocide. The Rape of Nanjing was a massacre, an atrocity, but not genocide. I would think intent plays a big part in definining what qualifies.
However, I agree with you on one thing; there really isn’t a clean cut definition of genocide or crimes against humanity. I guess it’s like the US Supreme Court’s definition of pornography, you know it when you see it. 🙂
Thanks for you comments. You wrote:
You brought up several good points. There are two I want to focus on.
One, are political conflicts just conflicts between the political elite or genuine conflicts between peoples? This is a general question you can ask for ANY conflict – not just those involving ethnicity.
Second, the use of “extermination” or “genocide” are examples of emotional rhetoric that I believe obfuscate rather than illuminate. What is extermination? Any killing? Any murdering? Or must it be 100% killing of entire groups?
What are ethnic groups? Why focus on ethnic groups? Why is the killing of 100,000 from on particular “ethnic group” worse than the killing of 100,000 from three “ethnic groups”?
If my intent in dropping the atomic bomb is to kill (or exterminate, if you prefer) people living in an entire x radius mile region – is that extermination of a “people” or no? If your answer is no, then would my telling your that there are other Hutus and Tutsis in Africa besides just Rwanda change your view on whether genocide occurred in Rwanda?
Ethnicity are often politically made up words used to serve convenient political ends; they rarely are the basis of genuine political conflicts.
Rwanda presents a perfect example where ethnic differences have been manufactured to serve political conflicts and where a focus on ethnicity has caused more confusions than insights.
The issues in Rwanda actually started with a struggle in political power between economic groups. It was a struggle between different classes not unlike those in Thailand today – between the poor and the rich. Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same language, are genetically similar, and share the same culture.
Ethnicity was an issue conjured up – formalized through conduct of politicized census that distinguished people based on some of the most arbitrary and indiscernible of differences – as a means for the majority poor to disenfranchise the minority rich. It really was a case of the concept of democracy carried to an extreme – where the majority came to terrorize the minority.
Rather than regurgitate all the research I did while in law school on the topic, I’ll suggest the following three articles for people to read. They are purposely selected to be short: but I think they will give a more insightful, realistic, and nuanced view than any emotionally charged rhetoric of “genocide” or “crimes against humanity” will ever give.
What happened in Rwanda was definitely a tragedy – but not because it was ethnic (culturally, and genetically the Tutsi and Hutu are basically the same) – but because of the scale of human death involved. Ethnicity has been used by opportunistic politicians for political gain, but we must understand that any of other notions – including religion, nationality, and various types of modern ideologies – can in general be used to divide and subdivide people for similar results.
This is a tragedy in general of war – our narrow sense of identity – the creation of divisions that artificially separate rather than join our common humanity.
You also wrote:
Yes – stopping the fight is to take sides and impose a political solution. The fighting is part of working out a political process. If you are going to be against the use of wars to settle all political disputes – I applaud you. But you shouldn’t be against the use of war only in some dispute but not in other.
I just want to note that the West – through its disproportionate military spending – definitely does not oppose the use of war to accomplish its political ends.
And if your position is that certain low level conflicts are not worth the human consequences but high level conflicts (such as the ones for democracy, liberty, human rights) are – then I still think that notion is conceited.
I definitely agree with many of your points. Crimes against humanity does not just involve “genocide” – but also perhaps engagements of war, role of civilians in times of war, etc.
I do not deny that. But those are separate issues outside of “genocide” as people talk about them.
I however disagree with this statement:
First – if we are going to be talking about “crimes against humanity” – we had better have that crime apply across borders – and not just domestically in one’s own domestic borders.
Second, if you look at the UN definition that FOARP gave – and the central role most people here have given to ethnicity in defining “genocide” – I don’t think you are really talking about genocide…
That is … if I kill men, women, and child based on religion – or perhaps just arbitrarily – that I don’t think will elicit the same response as killing men, women, and child based on – my god – ethnicity!
@ Allen #76: You brought up a GREAT point that I’d like to emphasize.
“Rwanda presents a perfect example where ethnic differences have been manufactured to serve political conflicts and where a focus on ethnicity has caused more confusions than insights.”
The phrase “ethnic differences have been manufactured” is the jet fuel that causes ignition. Hutus and Tutsis lived together for decades without problems, but political leaders were able to create hatred, animosity and a split among the tribes to satisfy their desire for power. Genocide (in my opinion) was carried out for this reason, not for any historical, religious or ethnic one. It was no different in Nazi Germany; Jews were proscribed by Hitler as “enemies of the people” though they had lived together for years with no problems. He used their existence as a political tool to create a zealous ultranationalism/superiority complex among those he ruled.
Most Germans never realized what the Nazis had done to the Jews in the concentration camps until after the war. Part of waging genocide is to hide the truth from your own people.
@ Allen #77: I wasn’t talking about genocide, I was talking about “crimes against humanity” as outlined by the UN definition. I’m with you on this; I don’t see them as one and the same. That’s why I tried to split the meaning between what I felt was genocide and the different definition given by the UN to “crimes against humanity”. I think we’re closer to each other on this than you might suspect.
The evidence before the ICC shows intent as it includes evidence of the intent to exterminate the non-Arabs of the Darfur region, including government communications to that effect. In contrast, the bombing of Germany by the RAF and Japan by the USAAF was directed against targets of strategic value – the targets were the cities, not the people unassociated with the war effort who lived in them. You can, if you like, label these war crimes as they were conducted in a way which did not distinguish between those associated with the war effort and those who weren’t – essentially the bombs dropped, although obviously aim at a target point, could fall anywhere within ten miles of that point, but this is not genocide.
The UN convention is of course implemented into national law and interpreted on a nation-by-nation basis, so I have no way of knowing what ‘in part’ means, but I cannot think that it means that you simply intend a person, or an army to be destroyed. Otherwise all wars would be genocide, which cannot have been the drafter’s intent. I would conclude that from the context (i.e., the immediate post-war era) this was meant to cover the fact that some races may be found in significant numbers in more than one country. The separate populations in each country could be a ‘part’ for the purposes of the convention. Or where someone only plans to destroy the part of a certain population which lives within a certain area, this might also be ‘a part’ for these purposes. No doubt there’s probably a whole body of academic opinion out there on this exact subject which you can look into if you like, I have limited time so I can only tell you the results of a quick search on the Westlaw UK database under “genocide”, “convention” and “intent”:
– (surprise surprise!) There is no case law within EU law or UK law on what is meant by ‘in part’
– The convention has been criticised as focusing on individuals planning genocide, rather than groups or states. Academics worry about individual psychopaths who set out to kill people of a particular race being charged with genocide and thus removing genocide from its true context. (C. Kress, The International Court of Justice and the elements of the crime of genocide, E.J.I.L. 2007, 18(4), 619-629)
– The convention has been criticised on the grounds that it does not put genocide within an international context – something I disagree strongly with, as I don’t think that genocide need be international to be a crime (ibid.)
– This passage from Page 627 of the same article seemed highly relevant:
It would seem that in the Yugoslav trials, ‘in part’ referred to a distinct geographical area. Would area bombing fall within this? I think you would have show that this bombing were done to kill people in those areas regardless of their attachment to the enemy war effort, rather than against the city due to its strategic value. However, the article did also have this to say at P.628:
I think this definition is unlikely to be followed by the ICC for exactly the reasons stated by the author.
– It is important to note that the state of Serbia was found innocent of genocide in Bosnia (this from N. Rajkovic, “bad law” and “good politics”: the politics of the ICJ Genocide case and its interpretation, L.J.I.L. 2008, 21(4), 885-910)
At any rate, the conduct of the allies on entering Germany and Japan also shows conclusively that the allies did not have the destruction of either the Japanese or German races as one of their war aims, no document ever produced shows that the military and political leaders involved in the bombing of German and Japanese cities did so specifically to kill people of the German and Japanese races. Instead, they always spoke about the strategic value of the target city, the concentration of war industries and the workers in those industries within those cities. This does, of course, raise the question of whether workers in war industries are legitimate targets, but this question has no bearing on the issue at hand.
I am not attempting to defend the carpet bombing of cities here, but I do not think they constitute genocide. Please don’t think I am detached from this subject, my grandfather was a warrant officer in RAF Bomber Command during the war, he helped train the technicians who prepared and loaded the bombers which rained death and destruction on Hamburg, Dresden, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dusseldorf and many other German cities. Had Britain lost the war, the Germans would most likely have arranged trials of their own, and his commanding officers would have been in the dock.
I don’t know whether we are in agreement or are not. But I will respectfully disagree on the point that races should play an important role in crimes against humanity. Race is such a nebulous concept. Any medium sized casualty can be politicized to be a crime against humanity.
In general – I think I do understand the point of differentiating (in response to comment #73) between a campaign designed to achieve a political objective that happens to kill human beings versus a political objective designed to kill human beings – perhaps annihilating entire “peoples” (whatever that really means) – for the sake of killing. The latter would appear to be a crime (a la holocaust) whereas the former would appear to be collateral damages of legitimate political fights. But even here we need to be careful: why should intent dictate that some killing be ok and others be crimes? Are we really promoting the concept of the ends justifying the means?
Anyways – for me, crimes against humanity (to the extent they are really crimes) should be defined at a more substantive, deeper level than that – and not be based on concepts that are so ephemeral as to be easily politicized.
Now – maybe we can move on to why I think the use of emotionally charged words such as “democracy” and “freedom” also obfuscate rather illuminate??? 😀
Maybe I am dense. But in which part of the UN definition we were working on relate to killing of women and children?
@ Allen: I put the deliberate, systemic killing of men, women and children under genocide. Under the UN definition of “crimes against humanity”, the definition is looser than for genocide and so it’d still be a crime against humanity and it’d also qualify (at least to me) as genocide.
Maybe a better way to say it is that genocide is always a crime against humanity but a crime against humanity isn’t always genocide.
I’ve probably just further confused the issue. 😉
Problem with this reasoning is that I’ve been trying to pin down what is genocide and why it is a crime against humanity – and when the conceptions you give all lies outside of it – I have to conclude that there is no agreeable definition of genocide. And if that’s so, then to treat genocide still as a crime against humanity is to me … (sorry) dangerous.
I.e. imagine I telling you there is crime A, no one can agrees what it is, but I can still charge you with crime A whenever I feel like it.
@ Allen: If there were a legally agreeable definition of anything, we wouldn’t need lawyers, right? 😉
Seriously, whether you call it genocide or crimes against humanity, in the end it comes down to a political process within the confines of the UN. If enough powerful countries agree and are willing to do something about it, then it gets done. If not, it gets ignored or else condemned in the media only. The Killing Fields in Cambodia are a good example of this. The crisis in Rwanda was also mostly ignored but the situation in Bosnia was too close to the rest of Europe so there was a political will to deal with it.
Like you, I’m ready to move on to other words. 😛
A quick comment on regarding “Had Britain lost the war, the Germans would most likely have arranged trials of their own, and his commanding officers would have been in the dock.” Do you see the dangers of the politically-driven definitions of what is genocide / crimes against humanity and what is not?
I don’t know how I could have missed responding to this question:
@ Allen #87: You are describing total war as the Japanese waged it in WWII. By that, are you saying there is no need to create defined rules of war? That’s one of the reasons a big deal was made of the waterboarding in Iraq. It’s borderline (well, not to me; to me it’s torture) under the current agreed upon conduct allowed in war. Throughout history, the rules of war have changed. Under the Mongols, there were no rules of war except “anything goes”. European wars in the Middle Ages had definite rules and were waged primarily by the aristocracy, etc.
Have you found a way to wage war without killings and atrocities? If so … we need to know! 😐
What I meant by #87 was only that war includes killing and other atrocities.
I of course am not advocating anything and everything goes – mass rape, live burials, shotgun squad and all. How did you get that idea?
When I keep pointing out that there are legitimate political conflicts to many of the conflicts around the world and that we shouldn’t use myopic meaningless emotional language to describing them, I am not saying there’s no rules of engagement whatsoever (although even rules of engagement can be politicized as well though – e.g. terrorism is bad but scud missile and drone attacks are good), I am however saying we can’t criminalize certain wars simply because they are not our conflicts (resorting to false ideology and mumble jumbo legalese) and glorify wars with motto such as “give me freedom or give me death” when they are ours.
On a normative basis, what in mind do you have about rules of engagement that is violated in Darfur or Rwanda but not in WWII or Vietnam War or the Korean War or the Iraqi Occupation?
@Allen – I think everyone understands the danger of purely politically motivated law-making, however, genocide is not a fabricated crime, but a genuine thing which exists in the world at present. You may be tempted to remove the racial element from it, but when a man says “we must kill all of X group of people”, he is proposing to do more than simply kill however many millions of people may belong to that group, he is proposing the extermination of that group and its culture from the earth. I must admit I also have difficulty with this idea, but that this phenomenon exists there can be no doubt, and I can see no error in categorising it as a separate crime deserving of special punishment.
As to what that crime involves, we have the UN definition, we have its interpretation by the ICTR in the Rwanda trials, and by the ICTY and ICJ in the Bosnian trials, and soon we will have the ICC’s interpretation of the UN convention. A body of law is slowly being built up around this subject, and the issues raised here as to where it should and should not apply will be answered. Of course, it would be much better if genocide were never to happen again, but this would require a more interventionist approach by the great powers.
I must say that I do not see the area bombing of cities as serving a political goal, this would be justify all such targeting of political enemies by even the grossest and most dictatorial of governments. The doctrine of proportionality must apply – you must only do as much as is necessary to achieve your military goal within the laws of war, targeting only those enemies of military significance. Essentially it can only be justified in pursuit of a military victory – not a political one. Of course, political leaders may also be involved in work of military significance, but a person cannot simply become a target because of the political views he holds, or because of his political affiliation. Pace Clausevitz, war is not politics.
Talk of ‘legitimate political conflicts’ is not helpful, it is incumbent on all of us to settle our disputes peacefully. The mere existence of a dispute is not an excuse for warfare. Wars of self-defence, or defence of others, or of liberation, or wars fought for other just causes, may be justifiable – but these do not become ‘legitimate political conflicts’. The British government was not taking any view on the nature of the (quasi-fascist) Polish government when they declared war on Germany in 1939, nor was there any specific political dispute with the German leadership as such. The matter was one of defence of international law, and fulfilment of treaty obligations.
One thing in particular jumped out from your comment in #90:
That strikes me as particularly odd because military conflict is always a means to achieve a political objective. Why else would you go through the trouble of pursuing and winning military conflicts?
Another thing that jumped out was:
For a while I was going to applaud you as a bona-fide Pacifist. I have high regards for Pacifists – even though I am not one.
But then you wrote immediately:
So WWII is not a righteous war – a fight for freedom or justice – or a war to curb the menace of fascism. Instead, for the Brits (it’s definitely not true for the Chinese), WWII was merely a war to avoid breach of contract?
So we must settle our disputes peacefully – but the deaths and misery of so many are justified when treaty obligations are broken?
Ok – even if assuming you are right – and looking beyond WWII – which of the wars fought since would, in your opinion, be legal and which illegal? Is your sense of legality really based on some norms we can all agree on?
I personally don’t like masking legitimacy of wars behind legality, UN participation, treaties, etc.
All the difficult questions I posed in our discussion above cannot be explained away simply as international law violation or even human rights violations. Without a more solid real basis behind the international norms – they are simply rules created by victors of WWII to support a world order beneficial to them…
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #76,77, 81,91:
Man, so much to write, and so little time. I apologize for the cherry-picking of statements, but the following literally cut-and-pasted themselves, as though by reflex…:-)
“we had better have that crime apply across borders – and not just domestically in one’s own domestic borders.” – wait a second, is a regime not capable of committing crimes against humanity and/or genocide within its own borders? An internal conflict that meets the bar is as egregious as an international one, as exemplified by the Nazis within Germany, the Serbians (at least while Kosovo was still part of Serbia), and even Darfur. Borders are as arbitrary as any other human construct, and I see no reason to have a border as a distinguishing feature for whether something is genocide or not.
“What is extermination?” – I mean, we could go to the dictionary. Or you could make a long-winded description with multiple specific qualifiers, in order to precisely define one single event; however, such a “phrase” would likely exclude other examples that harbour minor deviations from the initial definition. So are we to then examine every scenario, in retrospection, to strive for precision? And how would that augment our understanding of current or future events? While precision is laudable, and required to some degree, we also need to be concise, so as to allow for comparison of similar past/present/future scenarios. So as Steve says about pornography, I would say likewise for extermination: you know it when you see it.
“Ethnicity are often politically made up words used to serve convenient political ends; they rarely are the basis of genuine political conflicts.”- and that’s fine. But when we talk of genocide, ethnicity is (often) the issue, and no longer just the conduit. And even if ethnic-based killing does not a good genuine political conflict make, it still needs to be condemned whenever and wherever it occurs.
“Rwanda presents a perfect example where ethnic differences have been manufactured to serve political conflicts” – and again, when the end-product is ethnic extermination, the underlying particulars of its manufacture no longer interest me. THe extermination itself is game-day; worrying about the process is for the Monday Morning QB. Dissecting the causes might prevent a future occurrence, but doesn’t do one iota for what’s happening right now.
“What happened in Rwanda was definitely a tragedy – but not because it was ethnic (culturally, and genetically the Tutsi and Hutu are basically the same) – but because of the scale of human death involved.” -then if that’s the case, forget the ethnic angle, and just intervene to avert the human tragedy. Again, you seem to disproportionately concern yourself with the words and the language; I’m more concerned about what those words mean in the real world, to real people who are suffering the realities of those words.
“stopping the fight is to take sides and impose a political solution.” – I agree, which is why I wrote this:
“Those who choose to remain combatants can continue to combat away to their hearts’ content.” Let those who want to fight go at’er till the cows come home; but protect those who don’t. That’s the humanitarian solution. If that to you is political, then really, we truly have nothing to talk about in this vein.
“why should intent dictate that some killing be ok and others be crimes?” – wait a second; you’re the lawyer around here. Intent goes towards differentiating the seriousness of many crimes. That’s why murder is more egregious than manslaughter. And why premeditation separates first and second degree of the former. So as you’ve said, if you want to say that all war and killing is wrong, I can certainly respect and live with that. But if you say that there is a “high bar” for genocide, then intent would seem to be a good determinant of whether that bar is being met.
“they are simply rules created by victors of WWII to support a world order beneficial to them…” – to the victor go the spoils. That’s the way it goes, and that’s not about to change. And if China disagrees, as is her prerogative, then she should do something about that. But she can’t unless she gets in the game, and sitting on her hands while genocide or similar atrocities unfold is not going to convince too many people to listen to her perspective. She can lead, or she can follow. And sometimes she should just get the hell outta the way.
You are so attached to CCP with die-hard determination and buy all the craps come out of PD and CD. And thanks to you and your kind of fellow bloggers, your bosses have blocked “Was Mao Really a Monster?” entry and likewise entries with ease without any hesitation because they got cunning people like you who jump for the rescue of their ass if somebody peel it out. You claim to be from Taiwan, if Taiwanese democracy product is people like you, then, however, I would still like to sit under CCP’s throne. Actually run-away KMT won’t produce anything good–fought to near-death for power, and then ran away like dog putting tails between ugly legs, leaving all the loyal followers to the mercy of PLA.
I don’t think I can keep up my volleys with you – but you watch out – once I get my winds back, you will get a run for your money! 🙂
Anyways – here is my shorter response – cherry-picking back your response:
First, I don’t know why you threw tantrum at my writing “we had better have that crime apply across borders – and not just domestically in one’s own domestic borders.” I was making exactly the point you would go on to make – that is whatever we deem “crime against humanity” – it as a crime against humanity should apply across borders as well as within borders.
Second, as for preciseness of terms such as extermination – it’s important. Extermination carries the connotation of “finality” – of “end game” – and is used as a “bait” to make otherwise “normal” killings into “crimes against humanity.” I thought I gave you plenty of explanations and examples above why doing so must be based on something substantive and not simply on saying “hey it’s final” through the rhetoric of “ethnic extermination” – but if we still don’t agree – we will just have to disagree.
Third – as for the role of intent in war crimes versus intent in personal crimes … there is a huge difference. There are many theories about intent in personal criminal law – and I cannot go over them here. For me though, I think one of the most important reasons to subscribe Intent in criminal law is to distinguish between mere negligence act that cause harm and purposeful acts that cause harm. We don’t want to punish mere negligence the way we find moral fault with premeditated acts.
But when it comes to war crimes, the concept of distinguishing negligence and purposefulness no longer hold. Whether you have intent to kill an ethnic group or to incapacitate a population to kill its will to fight or to do whatever it takes to destroy another nation – the result is the same: innocent people are killed.
One might justify the killing based on how nobel their political ends are … but for me judging which political ends are valuable and which are not smell too much of conceitedness to me.
Finally – I’m ok to end our discussion here. But I’d hope you will answer (whether for yourself or to me on this board, it doesn’t matter that much) why killing 100,000 from one ethnic group is more tragic than say 100,000 from three ethnic groups. If you think it’s cultural or genetic preservation, then you should follow that up by also answering why in the case of Rwanda, when the Hutus and Tutsis are basically genetically identical, speak the same language, share the same culture, when ethnicity is merely a politically expediently made up concept of the conflict – why such killing should be elevated to a crime against humanity when other types of killings – which might invoke just as much cruelty, suffering, and human sacrifice – don’t.
@Haiz: There’s no reason to go personal and write stuff like that. I don’t think anyone here is a CCP spy and even if they are, why would they shoot themselves in the foot by blocking the page they’re using for discussion? If you have anything against Allen’s ideas, then refute them in an entry, don’t go on about CCP/PLA etc.
Is the Mao peace censored and blocked in Mainland China?
I wish I were paid by the CCP. But they probably won’t ever do that: I’ve got several relatives who would be too “green” for them! 🙂
“Is the Mao peace censored and blocked in Mainland China?”
You have no idea about that? Come on, you are supposed to be one of the guys who claims to be closest to the ground situation in Mainland, but happened to be unaware of what information we Mainlanders can and not consume on daily basis. But I am glad that instead of shooting me back, you seem to be concerned about the problem. Yeah, it was blocked since couple of days ago, actually since I saw the caption first time. I had to read it via proxy because when something is blocked you want to see it more, isn’t that so? This is not the first case for Fool’s Mountain in Mainland. (I went to the content via proxy because I could not believe that Fool’s Mountain is also carrying out “vulgar” content… Just joking…)
Thanks for your advice! Actually I am more reader than writer these days. I have been visiting this blog for more than half a year now. Every time, Allen is so defensive of the organ, actually without much convincing argument. This guy, sometimes, makes very good point though. My above words are just some “emotionally charged words”, please no offense for that. Around six months ago, I wrote quite large number of comments on this blog, but slowly I learned that reading others’ comments is more effective way of understanding reality than you yourself diving deep in the discussion because involving in discussion gives you lots of limitation and you sometimes tend to ignore important facts in defense of your own argument, which is not that important if we look through larger scope.
S.K. Cheung says
When would you say that someone uses “extermination” to describe “normal” killings? And again, if we get caught up with precise definitions, then what is a “normal” killing? As for finality, “extinction” so provides. Attempts at extermination, if carried out to the fullest and met with resounding success, may result in the finality to which you allude. I’m not sure how much more precise one needs to be before being able to decide whether such attempts should be tolerated, or repelled. To demand complete absolute precision before acting is to excuse inaction. On this point, I can happily agree to disagree.
Incapacitating a population and destroying their will is the reality of war. The intent is to win the war, not necessarily to kill the people. That is much different than, and easily discernible from, when the intent is to kill people based on ethnicity. This is why I asked in # 55: “if political conflict is to serve as a justification (ie. ethnic extermination is being done to hasten resolution of said political conflict), then at what point should it be determined that ethnic extermination is no longer working, beyond which further ethnic-based killing should be characterized as genocide?” It seems ridiculous to say that “we intend to win the war, and we define victory as when every last (insert ethnicity of choice here) is dead”.
Of course it is repulsive that innocent people are killed in wars. But I think there is a big difference when they are “collateral damage” (don’t worry, I don’t like that term either, but can’t think of another off-hand) versus when they are targeted.
I think some ends are more noble than others. I base it on my set of morals. It may not be the best, or “correct”. But to completely remove consideration of the “ends” from the equation is to advocate for an amoral society, or at least one without much of a compass.
“What are ethnic groups? Why focus on ethnic groups? Why is the killing of 100,000 from on particular “ethnic group” worse than the killing of 100,000 from three “ethnic groups”?” – you’re right. I’m not much of a berry-picker. Not sure how I missed this one…it was begging for a response the first time around. My answer would begin with a question. Was that particular ethnic group targeted because of their ethnicity? Were the three ethnic groups targeted because of theirs? If both are yes, then both are equally tragic, and both are genocides (although the former would be of a 3.3X greater scale, assuming the latter groups were targeted in equal proportions). However, if the latter groups were not targeted based on ethnicity, then only the former would qualify as genocide. Doesn’t mean that the latter situation doesn’t merit a response. And again, I’d say deal with both, whereas China would say: let’s ignore them both until they go away. Go figure.
@Haiz: I understand the frustration about the blocking, and I’m happy you can get around it without too much fuss. I’ve been reading up on some more serious ways to get around the firewall the last couple of days, and will put it into practice soon… But I shouldn’t say too much, there might be CCP spies lurking here. 😉
To the extent that the purpose of killing is for killing’s sake – i.e. what I called killing without recourse (killing without political objective) – it is a crime against humanity. I’ve asserted that many, many times. And as I said before, this however rarely ever happens. Holocaust was one of the few times in history that happened. Most the other times – what we might characterize as genocide – they are normal political conflicts that have been distorted and skewed to seem as if they were holocaust type (killing without political objective, killing solely for the sake of killing) crimes.
I suspect in the bottom of your heart – the concern is not genocide – but the fear of destruction of “cultures.” Globalism probably cause more destruction of “culture” than all “genocide” combined however. But that’s another topic – for another thread.
I’m happy to end here … unless you want to drag me back into the ring again…
What name did you comment under before? I’ve been on this blog since the earliest days, originally as a lurker… But I don’t remember anyone called a Haiz.
I know who you are and understand where you are from . I am very happy to see you call yourself a mainlander.
Look, brother, we got to respect all ideals same or different. This is one of the reasons I love this blog.
@ Allen #102: Allen, no one kills without a political objective. Hitler’s political objective for the Holocaust in Nazi Germany was to unite the country against a supposed common enemy who was the cause of their problems, promote the superiority of the Aryan race and confiscate the property of said enemy. There is always a political objective.
I also can’t buy into your claims against bogus ethnicity charges. When Hutus murder unarmed Tutsi, they might both be of the same ethnicity but each believes they are of a different ethnicity, so the perception becomes reality. And you are correct, it was done for political objectives but the fact that it happened for the reason it happened put it into (for me anyway) the genocide category. Those deaths weren’t collateral damage, they were specifically intended to be genocidal.
The Palestinians and all Arabs are Semites; the Jewish people are Semites. Does that mean if everyone in Gaza was wiped out it would not be genocide? Or if Hamas got its way and wiped Israel off the map (it has stated this objective very clearly), killing every Israeli in the process, this would not be genocide because it is a political objective? Or because there are Jewish people living in other countries?
If you notice, I’m only talking about genocide here. What “crimes against humanity” means is beyond me. Any time the UN gets involved in anything, it is usually an entirely political process. I also agree with you that in my mind, killing 300,000 people is killing 300,000 people, dead is dead. Genocide is simply a term used to describe a certain motive for killing. If your position is that genocide is no worse than any other form of killing that might take place because you abhor all killing, I can respect that viewpoint.
Now can we get past the prelims to the good stuff? You originally wanted to talk about emotionally charged words such as democracy, hegemony, human rights, etc. Let’s do it! 😛
About the Holocaust, I am sure if anyone is ever going to clearly understand what lessons to draw from that terrible episode in human history. That’s why I am kind of amused by your comment that the commission of the holocaust, the secret sending of people to concentration camps and gas chambers, were all done to “unite the country against a supposed common enemy who was the cause of their problems, promote the superiority of the Aryan race and confiscate the property of said enemy.”
For now, I’m more inclined to subscribe to the notion that it was really just a crime against a humanity. The goal was extermination of a people for extermination’s sake, not to accomplish any verifiable political objective.
As for your comments about Hutus and Tutsi – that’s fine if you prefer to define genocide as simply ethnic-based killing of any type. I’d ask – would the tragedy in Rwanda have been any less tragic had it been religion-based, ideology-based? If yes, then why should genocide be considered a “crime” but not other types of killings that occur routinely in warfare? If you want to avoid the term of “crime” – then we are not talking about the same thing. For genocide to be an emotionally charged word, I am talking about genocide as a crime.
I am not sure I understand what your questions about Palestinians and Arabs are meant to elicit. But I think your concern is exactly my concern. If I understand you correctly, I’d put it this way: if the Jews and Palestinians were to wipe each other out in the course of their conflict – does it make things less tragic simply because they are all Semites or must the people wiping each other out be of different “ethnicity” to be tragic?
My take is that it is equally tragic regardless of whether or not Jew and Palestinians are of the same ethnicity.
We have a tragic political problem in the Middle East. It’s not about genocide. We have two groups of people going after the same piece of land and refusing to co-exist together as one people.
In this case, it will have to take a political solution to secure long-term peace. Some solutions are:
1.) adopt a 1-state solution and live peacefully with each other as one people;
2.) divide the land up in some sort of equitable manner (equitable being defined, more or less by situation on the ground, military resources, will of populace to stomach further military conflicts, etc.), with two equal states finally then co-existing side by side at relative peace with each other, or
3.) fight until one side is so weak its people ceases to exist as a people, its people simply dissolving and moving on to live among other peoples in other nations.
I’ve always advocated for case 1, but people here don’t seem too enthusiastic.
In any case, none of this is about killing for killing’s sake. It’s about control of scarce resources – and what solution to impose when two peoples are going after the same scarce resources (land, in this case).
Finally: about your comment stating that what “crimes against humanity” means is beyond you, that’s ok. My post is not about defining what crimes against humanity are. My only objective is to help people see how their emotions can trick them into blindly jumping into (politicized) conclusions, preventing them from seeing the world as it really is.
This thread may be winding down. I don’t think I’ll start a discussion on other rhetorical terms unless people press me on it because we are already pass the 100 comments remark – and things often get muddled after that.
Besides, all I mean to say was said in the original post. When you focus on righteous rhetoric, you can easily apply them in a politicized way – to say anything you want – to take sides by selectively applying ideological issues. The examples I gave all support that.
I’ve got other fresh angles I can take on democracy, human rights, and other concepts and promise to pursue them in the future in other threads…
I want to make a quick concluding remark though.
In talking about genocide, I think we can all agree that we are worried about the potential for the “bottomless abyss” – characterized by the the wanton disregard for human life and the wholesale destruction of populations that have occurred in 20th conflicts.
In the 21st century, many are especially worried about Africa, where state governance is weak, and where tribal conflicts have led to such large human tolls.
But to help solve the problem in Africa, it is more helpful we look to the roots of the problem, rather than trying to govern it in a way that might appease the ghosts of our past.
In Africa, the conflicts are almost always a fight to access scarce resources – be it water, mineral rights, oil, arable land, or other natural resources. When available resources are not enough to support the local population, when 5 people are fighting over resources that can support only 3 people, the tragedy of 2 people dieing often occurs.
But we must see that people or leaders in Africa are not MAD or CRIMINALS. Yes, politicians often incite support by flaming ethnic, class, or religious tensions to accomplish political goals, as all developed countries also did during our last great conflicts – WWII.
The way to help solve Africa’s problem is look beyond the superficial politics and see that what Africa needs is to develop its people, technological and and economic resources. Its governments need to become stronger and to better provide for the people, so people do not have to resort to fragmented tribes for protection and access to life-sustaining resources.
How well Africa does in these regards is of course an issue of grave concern for all humanity. I personally think the Africans can chart their own destinies. They do not need to be neo-colonies again. I think we should stand by Africa to help Africans to develop for the long term – and not get so embroiled in temporal politics. That, to me, is the best way to show human concern for our brethren in Africa.
@ Allen #106: I have a feeling if we were all sitting around a table face to face, this discussion would be resolved in about 15 minutes. 🙂
I’ll try to explain my statement about the holocaust chronologically; then maybe it’ll make more sense.
1) Hitler declares Jews are enemy of the people and a cause of most of their problems. (during a horrible depression for political purposes and as a means to achieve power)
2) Storm troopers ravage Jewish shops, make Jews wear specific markings to identify themselves.
3) Jews are rounded up and sent to concentration camps, which soom become full with more Jews coming.
4) Extermination of Jews commences as “final solution”.
Killing off a people for “extermination’s sake” is like saying the exterminators needed people to kill, so they randomly chose the Jews since those gas ovens needed to be fed. That makes no sense to me. If there was no political objective involved, then why were the Jews chosen? Why were they demonized? Why were their stores shattered and their people marked as Jews when in public?
“If yes, then why should genocide be considered a “crime” but not other types of killings that occur routinely in warfare?”
Your words, not mine. There are other killings that can occur in war that are considered crimes but are not genocide. The Bataan Death March is one example. The Rape of Nanjing is another. No military objective was achieved when Japanese officers used their ceremonial swords to chop off the heads of teenaged girls as practice. No military objective was achieved when unarmed, starving prisoners of war were shot and bayoneted if they walked too slow or fell down. That was the purpose of the Geneva Conventions, to address the treatment of prisoners of war.
But I think you believe I disagree with you overall belief that certain terms are used indiscrimantly for emotional purposes. That is not true. I agree with you that certain terms are too easily bandied about for exactly that reason. “Genocide” is a word that is used way too often to describe events that to me are nowhere near being genocide. This drives many Jewish scholars crazy, as they feel their experience loses significance. African Americans also go crazy whent the word “slavery” is used by other groups to politicize their issues. Your point is well taken!
I believe the problem in the Middle East is political, cultural, religious and historical. It is not just purely political. Your advocacy for solution #1, if possible, would be by far the best choice. People aren’t enthusiastic not because they wouldn’t like to see it, but because it is not a realistic solution. Fatah would love to see a one state solution, since it’d have the majority of votes in a very short period of time and control the political process. Once in control, do you really think they’d let bygones be bygones and Muslim and Jew would live side by side in perfect harmony? The Israelis don’t think so. And Hamas has no desire for a one state solution, unless that state excludes Jews. They have been perfectly clear on this point throughout their entire history. Culturally, T.E. Lawrence in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom talks in depth about the character and culture of Semetic peoples, and sees them as black/white and not given to compromise. He attributes this primarily to the geography in which they live.
Solution #2 is the most realistic avenue of change for the region. But the ability of both sides to reach an equitable agreement will need to have a third party to mediate the settlement, and probably a third party military presence to enforce the agreement for the foreeable future. But who can mediate that would be accepted by both sides? And how do you deal with Hamas, whose only acceptable solution is #3? Therein lies the problem. It has stumped diplomats for the last 50 years so I’m not too optimistic about finding a solution.
There is enough land (not in Gaza but in the region) to settle the population side by side. But there isn’t a will on both sides to do so. I have friends in Israel that have the will but there doesn’t seem to be enough of them. From what I’ve read of Jerry’s opinions, he is in their camp.
As I said, I agree with your basic premise, just not with all of your examples. 😀
You are right – if we are discussing face to face – we’ll definitely have it resolved within 15 minutes – or maybe not … since we’d all be eating and drinking also – and wouldn’t want it to last for just 15 minutes!
Anyways – about solution #3 – I think the more likely outcome is the destruction of the Palestinian people not the Jews, the opposite of what you seem to suggest with your focus on Hamas in #108. (The Palestinians will eventually probably just be absorbed by other Arab countries in the surrounding area)
Another small disagreement … but no big deal… 😉
@ Allen: As my wife would say, “15 Chinese minutes; equal to 30 American minutes.” 😉
One more thing. You wrote “I believe the problem in the Middle East is political, cultural, religious and historical. It is not just purely political.”
Do you mean to say that there something fundamentally incompatible between the culture and religion of the Palestinians and Jews that render these two peoples incompatible to live together?
I still think it’s purely a political issue…
@ Allen # 111: There always seems to be one more thing. 😀
“Do you mean to say that there something fundamentally incompatible between the culture and religion of the Palestinians and Jews that render these two peoples incompatible to live together?”
Fundamentally incompatible? Depends on how you look at it. Both sides have fought each other for literally thousands of years. After the Jewish diaspora and subsequent Islamic conquest, the Jews (and Christians) still in Palestine were a small minority and lived relatively peacefully (but without any political power) once the initial invasion and conversions took place. However, a Muslim was not allowed to convert to Judaism under penalty of death. Some times were rougher than others, depending on the specific rulers.
After the fall of the Ottoman empire (I highly recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Ottoman-Centuries-Lord-Kinross/dp/0688080936 if you are interested in the Ottoman Empire), the Arabs had no problem with the Jews in Palestine (who were few in number) but objected to British rule west of the Jordan and the “right of return” granted to non-Palestinian Jews. When England refused and huge numbers of Jews relocated to Palestine, the problem started and has never abated. So after 80 or so years, I’d say that at the current time, there is an historical, cultural and religious incompatibility among enough of the populace as to render these two peoples incompatible to live together.
Yes, it’s a political issue, but so is raising or lowering taxes. This goes far beyond a normal political issue, as politics is just one facet of a very complex issue.
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #102,106, 107:
off to the field to pick some cherries again…
“but the fear of destruction of “cultures.”” – nope, nowhere close to worrying about cultures. You need people to sustain a culture. I’m still stuck on the “preserving people” stage.
“Holocaust was one of the few times in history that happened.” – it seems to me you are using the Holocaust as the definition of genocide. So obviously then, anything not meeting Holocaust standards would not qualify as genocide. But Holocaust is but an example of genocide; it doesn’t define it. So to me, other things like Darfur qualify, and politics has nothing to do with it.
“normal political conflicts that have been distorted and skewed to seem as if they were holocaust type”
“fear of destruction of “cultures.”” – I would challenge you or anyone else to take any situation that could remotely be considered in the realm of “normal”, and somehow make it into Holocaust scale. I suggest that you would sooner find the person making such an attempt become distorted than the situation itself.
“I’d ask – would the tragedy in Rwanda have been any less tragic had it been religion-based, ideology-based? If yes, then why should genocide be considered a “crime” but not other types of killings that occur routinely in warfare? – my answer would be no, if carried out to the same extent and on the same scale as genocide. Again, it goes to intent. If the intent is to win the war, and in so doing, a bazillion people of the same ethnicity/religion/”ideology” (whatever that is) is killed, that’s the cost of the conflict. Disgusting, but not genocide. If the intent is the kill a bazillion people of the same ethnicity/religion etc where doing so serves no strategic purpose, that’s genocide (or religious persecution as the case may be). To me, that’s clear as the light of day. Understandably, in SF, that could be rather foggy. Maybe that’s why you’re not getting my point.
“In any case, none of this(Israeli-Palestinian stuff) is about killing for killing’s sake.” – I agree, which is why I said this in #68 (“I don’t think anyone would characterize Israel/Gaza as genocide.”) But you seemed to disagree with me in #69 (“A lot of people have characterized Israel/Gaza as genocide “) So unless you don’t belong to that group of people you referred to in #69, your statement here in # 106 seems to be contradictory.
“Its governments need to become stronger and to better provide for the people, so people do not have to resort to fragmented tribes for protection and access to life-sustaining resources.”- I agree. And using the late Professor Randy Pausch’s scale, I would say that is important/do-later. But while these larger dreams are yet unmet, ethnic extermination is taking place. I’d suggest that that falls under important/do-soon.
“Do you mean to say that there something fundamentally incompatible between the culture and religion of the Palestinians and Jews that render these two peoples incompatible to live together?” – of course (or at least that’s what I’d say; can’t speak for Steve). The political entity of Israel is some land and a man-made border. If Israel’s land was occupied by Arabs, do you think the same conflict would be festering after 60 years? It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with religion (and perhaps culture as it stems from religion).
You seem to view everything through the prism of “politics”; or at least you attribute a “political motive” to many things. In so doing, you advocate that we should almost be “apolitical”. I’m not sure if that is the framework in which you can reconcile your support for what the CCP does (or more often than not, doesn’t do). I think it is a fallacy to think that all political motivation is categorically “bad” motivation.
Ms Chief says
A couple of points I’d like to add to the discussion.
I agree with Allen that emotionally charged words should not be used lightly as I think it lessens the meaning of the word. Having said that though, languages do evolve. For example, the swear words around when I was young have become quite common and much less offensive now, and new, more offensive swear words have taken their mantle!
However, in every political conflict, there is also a PR war where each side needs to rally support around its cause. War cannot happen without support and support cannot be roused without the tool that is emotionally charged words. Let’s look at the following examples:
Would the first statement have even bat an eyelid? Without the emotionally charged words, how much support would there have been for the war in Gaza, especially if there is emotionally charged rhetoric coming from the other side? How else do parties summon sympathy and support? How do you convince the masses?
I’m afraid that this kind of language, like it or not, is an inherent part of politics. I do see the dangers though, especially if the objective is a heinous one and the people concerned unquestioningly take these statements at face value and follow blindly… History has given us examples and warnings.
Great points, Ms. Chief! I’m still amazed at some of the swear words I hear everyday on the street. When I was a kid, they’d have gotten the person arrested.
The PR war you refer to that takes place during conflicts is right out of Sun Zi Bing Fa, so it has always proven effective in rallying the people to a cause.
S.K. Cheung says
ahh, the Art of War. I should read that at some point…my dad has been referring to it basically my whole life.
PR is a part of life. GWB’s used it a few times in the past 8 years, with varying degrees of success. Some things requiring spin to appear compelling. Some things are compelling all on their own. I’d say genocide belongs in the latter category.
@Ms Chief #114, @Steve #115, @SKC #116,
Thank you Ms Chief … FINALLY – a post in this thread that I can FULLY agree with!
Yes – emotionally charged words work – emotionally charged words are used to mobilize for war – emotionally charged words are tools of war and as such can be used for both noble as well as vile purposes. Tha’ts my precise point.
Emotionally charged words are propaganda; they are rhetoric designed to incite and to mobilize to action. And many of words – used in context of “crimes” against humanity and “human” rights today – are unacceptable because they are mere propaganda used to take sides in political conflicts.
I just want people to recognize that and to try to think independently instead of letting emotionally charged words think for them.
Steve and SKC and Ms Chief … I am not against trying to rally people to causes – or against the use of emotionally charged words in politics … or against being passionate about one’s causes, whatever they may be.
But I am against the obfuscating international political conflicts in terms of absolute right and wrong – in terms of international norms and dubious criteria of “crimes.”
That’s why I have always seen international law as more politics than law.
As long as readers of this post stop to think twice in the future when they hear emotionally charged in international politics instead of instinctively jumping to conclusions – I’d have achieved far more than I had aimed to do in this post.
See Allen? I told you this would get resolved, but it did take longer than 15 minutes. We just needed Ms. Chief to sum it up for all of us in a way that made sense to everyone.
SK, listen to your dad and read the Art of War. It’s actually an easy read; nothing complicated and all common sense but very profound at the same time. Personally, I far prefer it over von Clausewitz who to me seems more a man of his time. The brilliance of TAOW is that it is timeless.
S.K. Cheung says
You can’t say “emotionally charged words…can be used for both noble as well as vile purposes” then in the very next sentence proclaim that “Emotionally charged words are propaganda”. I’d say that your use of “propaganda” is propaganda.
My point in #116 is that sometimes there’s spin, but other times the issue is so “self-evident” that spin is not required. And sometimes words are emotionally-charged because the events to which they refer so justify.
Saying something is right or wrong, and responding accordingly, does not obfuscate the issue. Waffling about what is right or wrong, and worrying about semantics, obfuscates the issue.
Worrying about whether genocide is an issue of law or politics is something into which one can delve deeply in the comforts of an armchair on a Monday morning. But it’s still game-day, baby. I’d suggest worrying about genocide as the main issue for today, and leaving the retrospection for some time later.
Long time no see. Well, as you claimed, I am sure you can locate me with my IP address, which is still the same that I used half a year ago. My intention for not using my past name is not to hide from server there or internet police here as you can clearly see that I am going through normal procedure rather than going through proxy server. What was my intention then for changing my online name? Well, whether you believe me or not, my sheer intention visiting this site for the first time is to express my stand on matters in hand and taking others’ opinion in and then discuss where there is different view. However, most net-friends then tended to look at my comments with scornful eyes, and almost never sincerely listened to what I was saying just because who I am. I just thought that instead of shouting to each other and calling each other liar and killer won’t make any good for solving any problem. I wanted to join the discussion like everybody else, but most guys here held the opinion of “they” and “us” on me. So, I sometimes got frustrated and shot back without much thinking. Later, I realized that it’s was very dangerous that I might be giving a wrong impression to you guys, which is absolutely the opposite of my initial intention for commenting on this blog. I didn’t want to turn away from my believe, my believe in human being’s goodness. So, I quietly decided to leave the commenting stage, yet I kept visiting the site because here I can see some balanced opinions.
Well, you said you are very happy that I call myself a Mainlander. Well, I don’t know what else I can associate myself with, I mean with a larger group. Or maybe you are still not familiar enough or closer enough with the real causes of problem. One can hardly see the reality from media, let it be Western or Chinese. You should not form a story based media stories.
And I want to remain like this, without face and background, so that I can get an unpolluted response for my comments, if you don’t mind.
I fully understand your perspective as I often stated in the past and totally agree with your believe of “human being’s goodness” .
I am not sort of person who easily buy into the stories from media and always try to understand the two side of stories.
Hope you bring in more of your friends to join in the discussion as well.
Ms Chief says
@Steve #115, yet another one to put on my reading list! Which translation did you read?
Ms Chief says
We’re all agreed on the fact that emotionally charged words when used casually are annoying and can be harmful but the type of statements meant to provoke a reaction are here to stay. It’s not the statements per se that are harmful, rather how we deal with these statements.
I blame a combination of the political parties involved for wanting to influence people, the media for wanting to sensationalise stories to sell to (and perhaps influence) an audience, and the audience itself.
Citing Aesop, I’d liken Allen’s position to that of being tired of people hearing ‘Wolf!’ each time there is a rustle of a leaf, and annoyed at those who wage war on the ‘wolf’ without checking out the evidence beforehand. If I am to understand S.K. Cheung’s point, it’s that sometimes there is a wolf and we should be careful about what we dismiss because the consequences of inaction could be terrible.
The important thing is how we decide what do about the cry for ‘Wolf!’, how we form our judgement thus act upon situations, but how do we improve our judgement?
Modern life almost drowns us in endless oceans of information, and picking through the bits of information, reading between an infinite number of lines to make what we feel is an informed decision is so difficult. Everything we read or hear about is written or said by someone who has an opinion on the matter. If we are lazy, whoever shouts loudest using convincing language simply wins. Even if we see something with our own eyes, we may only be witnessing a small part of the whole picture.
I think that people who make it to higher education generally have a healthier dose of scepticism as they are taught to question things. They are more likely to look at several sources of information before forming an opinion they are comfortable with, by averaging out the sources and ignoring those believed to be outliers in the process. Emotionally charged statements are likely to be dismissed as outliers, but they shouldn’t always be dismissed.
Most people however do not make it to higher education and perhaps it’s the education system using methods such as rote learning that makes people believe what they are told as fact rather than engage in independent thinking. The books they use and the things the teachers tell them are considered fact. This makes life easier for teachers but it ends up giving people a false sense of trust in the sources they are exposed to. People who are highly educated can also end up lazily relying on sources they trust, fully believing in them rather than questioning them.
My point is that to prevent the damage this type of language does, it’s the people that need to change to become better equipped to process the information, rather than the use of the language itself.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself sitting on the fence in so many situations simply because I’m never confident about knowing enough about anything to form a sound judgement!
Hi Ms. Chief~
I dug up my copy, which I bought in 1971, and it’s the Samuel B Griffith translation with a forward by B.H. Liddell Hart. However, I believe it’s still in print.
Funny thing about translations… shortly after my wife and I married, I found a translation of the Dao De Jing with Chinese on the left and English on the right. So I open it up to the first page that says, “Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao. Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name., etc.”
I asked her to translate from the Chinese. So she said, “Well, it can mean this, and it can mean this, and it can mean this. Chinese philosophy is very complicated.” That’s when I realized that we can only learn so much through a translation and not always get at the underlying truth behind the translation. There are certainly limitations when reading a translation of philosophical concepts.
I think The Art of War is better suited to translation. It’s pretty straightforward and easy to understand, though very sublime in its implications.
S.K. Cheung says
To Ms. Chief #124:
well said once again. Interesting use of the “crying wolf” fable, but I think you’ve provided a succinct summation. The words may by fluff but the situation need not be. If only we can create a more sophisticated consumer of information on a population scale…
This article is so true. Words can be and are used as deceitful hypocrisy.
The China Beat blog, out of UC Irvine is participating in this deceit! They recently published an article defending the “Float of Shame” (the Beijing float in the 2008 Rose Parade) media-staged protests.
Here is the true story.
Why would UC Irvine publish a defense of this tacky, media-grabbing, staged protest (people in the crowd were asked to turn their heads as the float passed by!) against the Beijing Float? (how can you be “against” a float?)
Ann Lau won the Thony Rose prize for the embarrassment that this float protest became in our city: http://www.pasadenadoodahparade.info/
Why would UC Irvine sponsor and support, a condemnation of China and a not-so-subtle, insult to their Olympic games?
This question really needs asking!
@ Virginia: I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. I read both links and the China Beat was descriptive while the Pasadena New Progressive was an editorial. Neither seemed to have much good to say about FLG or Reporters Without Borders. What part of the China Beat article did you feel supported the protests? I might have missed that part or taken it in a different way.
I think most people in Pasadena looked upon the protest as just a slight annoyance and very few took it seriously.
My guess is that UC Irvine supports many blogs. Freedom of speech would cause them to avoid censorship. Sponsoring a blog isn’t supporting what the blog writes about.
Personally, I thought the protests were stupid and if anything, accomplished the opposite of which they were intended. Most Americans I know treat the Olympics as an apolitical event and thought the games in Beijing were excellent. I’m on your side here, I just didn’t catch what got you so upset. Could you give specifics? I’m curious…
Hong Konger says
Always good to see your name and post here.
This is very true: ” Most Americans I know treat the Olympics as an apolitical event and thought the games in Beijing were excellent. ”
Everytime I go to one particular HK/Shenzhen border, or take the Star ferry in HK, I get really annoyed with the FLG posters and theatrics. Why do people believe in such nonsense? It is clearly a scam. But one that would not die. Well, I guess one could say the same about the Moonies, the JW and some of these name-it-and-claim-it mega-monied-churches.
The Mormons have spectacular temples in HK and their missionaries can be seen everywhere. I think one of the reasons I am bitching here about them is because I have NEVER been approached by any of those beautiful Mormon girls. The Mormon men, yes, a couple of times when I was in my early twenties. But of course I had no interest in what they had to sell. Again, I mean, how could people believe in these nonsense?
S.K. Cheung says
what do the FLG people do at the ferry terminal? It’s been a LONG time since I was there.
I don’t know much about the FLG. But I wouldn’t lump them in with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whether you subscribe to their interpretation of the Bible or not, it’s still clearly to me a legitimate religion. And I don’t find them annoying, even though they come around door to door in Canada to offer to spread the word.
As for the Church of Latter Day Saints, not a strong presence in Canada, though they get a lot of news because some offshoots have this thing for polygamy.
Hong Konger says
The people in HK are rather tolerant and many care and are vigilant against censureship, against the diminution of Human Rights, of the freedom of speech and the freedom for public expressions etc…but still it is a struggle to have to compromise for these precious principles, and thus having to “turn a blind eye” too often to the obvious travesty of these very same lofty principles. Here are a couple of published examples:
From the SCMP write-it column:
“Falun Gong are pests
Falun Gong occupies considerable space at the Star Ferry piers every day, playing videos and uses loudhailers to protest against the central government. This nuisance causes great inconvenience to passengers…” (Edited by poster).
A HK Blogger: As I said in the comments the FLG tendency to use ‘torture porn’ — graphic illustrations of [tortured victims of the sect] is extremely upsetting and should really not be exposed to minors. The only way to prohibit the display of this material would be declare images of tortured and dead humans to be obscene. This would kill the circulation of the local tabloids, and, as that sort of legislation would make some tycoons lose money, it will never happen in this town. […]The FLG are a cult, and they exploit the gullible and weak. In this, they are no better or worse than other cults, like Moonies and Mormons…”.(Edited by poster).
Like I said, I don’t want what they have to sell, nor care that they are cults or some abberational church groups, denominational offshoots or legitimized religious sect. However, it does bother me that some of their teachngs prohibit there members from receiving blood transfusion or even from seeking medical help,
Hi Hong Konger~
Thanks for the kind words; I always enjoy your comments. Speaking of FLG, back in 2002 I had just returned to Taipei from Shanghai and got in a day before my wife returned from San Diego, so I took a walk from our Ximending neighborhood to the Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall, since I hadn’t been inside before. Outside the hall, there were some FLG members doing standing qigong so I went over there to look. To be honest, I don’t know much about them except the comments I’ve read from both sides on this blog, but I’ve been doing standing qigong in my martial art (Xingyiquan) for 15 years.
So I took a look and saw all kinds of postural rules being broken. Whenever you stand or meditate, you need to have the “three locks” in place and I saw most of the meditators making mistakes on all three; weight too far back on the foot, tush sticking out, shoulders raised when their hands were up and head leaning too far back. These are mistakes that any competent qigong instructor would correct but I have a feeling they have grown so quickly that they don’t have many knowledgeable teachers. I’m not much interested in eastern religions, just eastern philosophies so I never got into that part of it. It seems to me that FLG, though they have a few western practitioners, is mostly composed of Chinese people.
When I was in China, I was asked about what I thought of them. Since I don’t really think of them at all, I asked the people what they thought of them. The answers I got were all negative. What I kept hearing was about some people setting themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. That seemed to have turned most people off.
Regardless of what they believe, I think their methods are very ineffective with the general public. Even on this blog, every time a FLG person comments, it’s nothing but slogans read out of a book. No wonder they are called a “cult”. I have no idea whether they are or not and don’t really care, but they come across that way so if I were them, I’d change my PR methods.
Oh, after I looked at them meditating, I went inside to look at the photos and exhibits and a bunch of people were filing into the theatre so I also went inside, thinking it was some show about the life of Dr. Sun. Instead, I saw a terrific (and free) flamenco performance whose dancers were visiting from Spain. It was one of the best shows I saw while in Taiwan, so luck was with me that day! 😀
S.K. Cheung says
“However, it does bother me that some of their teachngs prohibit there members from receiving blood transfusion or even from seeking medical help” – if it’s an adult, then I don’t mind. They should be free to choose. But it certainly bothers me as well when it comes to the kids.
Hong Konger says
Steve, “I’ve been doing standing qigong in my martial art (Xingyiquan) for 15 years.”
That is so cool. It is incredible how the ancients had so much knowledge in things that still puzzle the hell out of today’s scientists. Master the fundamentals, the rest will follow. You know what? I am so tired of folks throwing terms like “critical thinking” around to spike the myth of the bad-for-critical-thinking Chinese rote system. Prof. Randy Pausch which SKC mentioned in another thread, talked about how his “Old school” football coach couldn’t stress enough about mastering the fundementals, without which all the spectacular fancy moves are moot. Hendrix did jazz and could read music, Picasso was a master at classical painting, and Bruce Lee was Southern Shaolin Wingchun’s Grandmaster Yip Man’s student.
SKC also mentioned the basic crawl-walk-run concept. There’s just no getting away from that. “Do what is right and the rest will follow,” was also Prof Pausch’s message which like he said, was basically for his kids. Didn’t we all wanted to grow up, and the stupidest mistakes made were often the outcome?
There was once a cult which called themselves “The Children of God,” in HK. As a teenager I so wanted to join this cult because rumor had it that they practiced free sex, and female members were required to prostitute for god. The HK Royal (British) Police stamped it out. Freedom of religion, freedom of choice, democracy, no censorship ? HK men used to take the ferry to Macau to watch harmless soft porn such as DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover, The Last Tango in Paris, etc. because the British HK censorship board literally turned every blue flick into what might as well be documentaries on farming husbandry – making an Ox out of every bull that ever entered HK territory. Nowadays, porn magazines and prostitution guide books are everywhere from convenient stores to street newspsper vendors. Anyway, I digress. What I really wanted to say was, good call, Steve, on the bogus FLG qigong. And if you listen to their teachings on Buddhism or the brief bio of the founder, even for just 2 minutes, you’d know – there are just universal rules to things. There’s the golden ratio/section to balance and beauty in nature and creativity. Like you, Steve, I often ponder on Dao De Jin’s opening statement, “The way that is knowable is not the way” and so on.
@ Hong Konger: You are so right about going back to the basics. When I was a kid, I learned how to drum and was very good at it. I gave it up after college as a drum kit is not an easy thing to lug around and it makes a lot of noise. But when I started learning wushu, I understood how to practice from drum training; don’t run before you can walk, work on the basics and most importantly, do everything with intensity and focus. It doesn’t matter what discipline you take up, the means to achieve proficiency are always the same.
I think you have to have a combination of the rote system but also need to understand what is behind the moves. There’s an old expression in the martial arts: “Know application, know form; no application, no form.” What that means is until you know the application, your form will never be correct. You have to understand the meaning behind the moves. I have seen numerous taiji demonstrations with people doing the postures very slowly but in virtually all of them, the postures were done incorrectly and the reason was that application was never taught. When you try an application on a partner and it doesn’t work, your shrfu will show you the slight correction and then it works. Now you can incorporate that into your form. Many would say, “Well, I’m only doing this for health reasons so I don’t care about hurting someone”, etc. but if you do the form incorrectly, you don’t get the same health advantages as you would if done properly. It is said that standing meditation builds strength of mind while sitting meditation builds depth of mind. They are both important and in fact, meditation is considered to be 50% of the internal arts.
I found that meditation changed my outlook on certain aspects of life. A bunch of advanced students were chatting one day with my shrfu in a meditation class and he was telling stories about Taiwan and some of the meditations they did. He said there was one that you do in a graveyard at midnight. We all thought that was cool and asked him how it felt. He said he had no desire to meditate in a graveyard but told us how to do it. Well, I was the ringleader and four of us went a few nights later to a graveyard to try it out.
It’s a 15 minute mediation that you do barefoot, not on the graves or anything but just off to the side. Now, I had always felt that once you die you’re dead, and there’s nothing left over except a bunch of bones and ash. But the energy was VERY strong! So I had to change my ideas about death from that experience. Modern science is limited when it comes to energy; I can do things that make no sense under modern science but they work, and that’s all I care about. The Chinese systems are very practical in that respect.
Bruce Lee… isn’t he the guy that was born in San Francisco? 😛
Hong Konger says
“Modern science is limited when it comes to energy; I can do things that make no sense under modern science but they work, and that’s all I care about.”
I love the ‘Myth buster’ tv program. I also know that some myths aren’t myths at all, and like you said, Modern Science are just not advanced enough to discover a lot of them. Hell, History is written by the victors, so the “truth” gets buried and whitewashed until, and despite the quantum leap in recent science & technology, the ancients in the big picture, that is the whole scheme of things, are IMHO, smarter than modern man.
Steve, have you heard of the works of alternative historian, Michael Tsarion? I am intriqued by his explanation of historical events which most by-the-book person would simply dismiss and close their minds to. He has written quite a few books, and is very popular with certain crowd. One of his more recent books is entitled, “The architect of Control Program.” If you dig the message behind Star Wars, Matrix, and other art forms – such as in music and literatures, you might find it interesting too.
Bruce Lee indeed was born in San Francisco. However, his formative years were in Hong Kong. He was a HK movie child actor, where he always played the tough kid who was unbeatable. Interestingly, he was also a great dancer. Infact, in 1958, Bruce Lee won the Crown Colony Cha cha dance championship.
TonyP4 is gonna love this clip — what we call in HK, “Yue Yu Chan Pin,” (Old delapidated Cantonese films)…SKC however may be too young to remember though. Anyway, it’s a record of a teenage Bruce in action.
@ Hong Konger: I like Mythbusters too. One of the most interesting ones was when they tested the car without A/C with the windows open against the one with A/C with the windows closed. The myth is that you get better mileage with the windows closed and the A/C on, but it was proven false at 50 MPH. In fact, it wasn’t even close. I had heard the opposite for so long and just assumed it was true. It’s a great show!
When westerners went to China and learned about Chinese medicinal herbal cures, they looked at the cures for scurvy and found herbs with high Vitamin C content, which is what they expected. But they also found a couple of cures that didn’t have a high Vitamin C content, so by western scientific methods they should not have worked. When they asked the Chinese doctors how they worked, the doctors looked at them like they were crazy and said, “They work, who cares why?” That’s the difference in attitude at that time.
Western doctors learned about the body by studying cadavers, which have no energy. Chinese studied living people, who have energy. That is why their understanding of qi is so developed. I think eastern medicine is better at some things and not as good in others. I think it’s great to have both available.
I never heard of Michael Tsarion before, so I looked him up. Seemed like New Age on top of mythology scholarship. The message behind Star Wars was actually from a book that Professor Joseph Campbell wrote called The Hero with 1000 Faces. In it he talks about the “Theory of the Monomyth”. A girl I dated in high school later went to Sarah Lawrence University where he taught and took classes with him. She said he was fantastic!
George Lucas actually hired Joseph Campbell as an advisor so the story of Luke Skywalker would reflect the classic mythological story that has been told in many cultures. Campbell wasn’t New Age, he was probably the most respected mythology professor in the world. He passed away a few years ago but you can still buy his books. The Hero with 1000 Faces is more for the general public but I’d strongly recommend his tetralogy which you can get in paperback, called the Masks of God. The first is called Primitive Mythology, the second Occidental Mythology and the third, Oriental Mythology. When you read these you’re going to the source, without the added mumbo jumbo of some of the New Age pop writers. The Harry Potter series also used Campbell’s Monomyth.
The Matrix was based on Campbell’s Monomyth and Gnosticism, which has its roots in neo-Platonic thought. I studied that in depth many years ago since I liked philosophy and did a course in Greek philosophy. Then I read more about it over the years. I can’t say I believe in Gnosticism, and most of the religious stuff in the Da Vinci Code was fictional nonsense. But it was sure a fun read! 🙂
For an explanation of the Monomyth as it applied to The Matrix, go here.
You might find this short except from Campbell’s interview with Bill Moyers interesting.
I’ve seen photos of Bruce Lee dancing the cha cha but never a film clip. That was great! Martial arts is a kind of dance in a way. I remember seeing him in a scene when he was just a few years old and even back then, he had great expressions! Sorry, we’re still claiming him as overseas American while he lived in HK, ha ha.
S.K. Cheung says
To Steve and HKer:
loved your last couple of posts.
I still remember as a kid in HK, learning the 12X12 times tables by rote, then having to stand in front of the class and recite it. Then when I came to Canada, kids the same age were doing single digit addition. I didn’t know what their problem was; but then I couldn’t speak a word of English, so they probably thought I was similarly retarded. But I certainly agree that in any field, there are certain basics you need to learn first, by rote if necessary, before you can take the next step.
I think Mythbusters is a great show as well. In fact, I think Discovery Channel is great in general. I saw an episode not long ago where they debunked the myth of ninjas walking on water. It was hilarious.
Star Wars, The Matrix, and Da Vinci Code…you’re talking the holy trilogy to me. Though I still wonder who did Tom Hanks’ hair in the movie. But the Code is my personal bible 🙂 If I ever go to the Louvre, I’m bringing a sledgehammer.
Dig the Bruce Lee clip. Been a while since I saw one of those B/W Chinese films. But I think I prefer him in a yellow track suit like in the Game of Death.
Hong Konger says
“I never heard of Michael Tsarion before, so I looked him up. Seemed like New Age on top of mythology scholarship. ”
Steve, Thanks for making the effort to find out about M.Tsarion. Conspiracy theories are everywhere these days. And, man, there’s a lot of debunking going on. Even those who fight the CT people have their own elaborate Comspracy Theories about other people’s CTs. Everyone is debunking everybody. Here’s what I stumbled upon following your above comment:
– Alan Watt – A Course in Deprogramming
And then in another link, both names are mentioned…
“The Harry Potter series also used Campbell’s Monomyth.”
JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis were peers and they both seem to come from there, albeit with some hidden Christian message. Just as all these writers are great fiction authors, so is Dan Brown, though not as good a writer. But, why the drama with Da Vinci Code at the time?
It is all very confusing. Well, I guess their (whoever they are) mission is accomplished. We are swamped with misinformation from every aspect of life. I am sure I read somewhere something like, “Chaos’ the catalyst for order and survival, where Contradiction is the constant where the truth lies in crystal clear paradox beyond human comprehension ( What???????) 🙂
Hong Konger says
Is there a way out of it? Education is not the answer. Religion is often the source of conflict and politics? That’s where all the confusion get exploited.
Hong Konger says
Ah, The wonder of Youtube….
I asked a question, a few clicks and I get something:
What do you guys think? Is it something?
@ Hong Konger & S.K. Cheung:
S.K., you reminded me of… flash cards! That’s how we memorized addition, subtraction and multiplication tables when I was a kid. Do you think that Asian cultures have an advantage in terms of memorization because they must memorize characters to learn how to read, while we use phonetics? My wife’s memory is so much better than mine.
Ha ha, I also saw that one about ninjas walking on water. Most of what people think about ninjas is nonsense. Ninjas were simply spies and assassins, coming from one family, considered very low class and they weren’t great hand to hand fighters. Their methods were stealth and poison. They were taught to sneak into places, become “invisible” to others but their killing methods were simple and crude. Probably the most famous episode was the ninja that snuck into the enemy’s castle, hid amongst the muck in the latrine, then stabbed the lord as he squatted. Not a very romantic image. 😛
The Code was a great read. When Dan Brown was being sued by some clown for plagiarism (which he won), he actually described how he writes a book. He said all the action takes place in 24 hours (if you notice, no one ever sleeps), he uses some historical organization (Opus Dei, the Illuminati, the Assassins, etc.) and the plot revolves around a grand conspiracy theory. After the book came out, I heard pretty intelligent friends talk about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, her being in Da Vinci’s Last Supper, etc. I hated to burst their bubbles, ha ha. The Last Supper was funny, since there are 12 apostles represented and if Mary was in there, they’d be 13 in all. John was always protrayed as young and girlish, not just by Da Vinci. Women’s status in the early church was higher than after it became the official Roman religion, but not to the extent that Brown writes about. To get a better idea of religion in the early church (the big difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Catholics know church history better and Protestants have memorized more of the Bible) read Karen Armstrong (former nun) and Elaine Pagels. They are both good writers and though you might not agree with their conclusions, they bring in a lot of theological data. But for me, the best one to read at first is Campbell. He gives you the background better than anyone else and then you can get into the more specific religious eras.
I was in the Louvre and took a peek; it’s not where Brown said it was (he made a slight mistake in his calculations) but it’s still there! I’m sure the guy you need to interrogate to get the information you seek is I.M. Pei, who engineered the whole thing. I had to torture him for three days to find out myself, but didn’t take it since I couldn’t get it past customs and would have had to spend the rest of my life in France. I’m not partial to horse meat so I figured I’d just let it be. 😀
I think my favourite Bruce Lee movie was The Way of the Dragon, the one filmed in Rome.
Hong Konger, I’m not big on conspiracy theories. People have big mouths and nothing stays secret for long. Political conspiracy theories are the funniest; politicians are the biggest leakers of all. I remember an interview with Walter Cronkite after he retired. He said that after the Warren Commission said Oswald had acted alone, CBS figured if they could prove there were others involved in the Kennedy assassination, it would be the story of the century. They spent an enormous amount of money for those days to research it, and the final conclusion was exactly the same as the Warren Commission.
Sorry Mr. Cruise, I don’t believe life on our planet was seeded from other galaxies. I don’t care about the alignment of the planets or astrology, the doctor who delivered you had a greater gravitational effect on your than any planetary alignment and the effects of gravity are proportional to distance. One of those videos you linked to talked about the alignment of heavenly bodies on December 25th, yet Jesus wasn’t born on that date; it was used because at the time, the Romans had a winter solstice feast dedicated to Janus, the two headed god (January) and it got pretty wild. The Christians morphed the pagan holiday into a Christian one, nothing more. The best anyone can figure is that Jesus was born somewhere around April (I’ve also heard August, so it’s all anyone’s guess), and probably a few years earlier than 1 AD (or C.E., which is the politically correct term these days).
I liked the Harry Potter series for the details of the world Rowlings created, but the further along it went, the worse it got. It was so easy to predict what was going to happen since it was right out of Star Wars:
Harry Potter = Luke Skywalker
Hermoine Granger = Princess Leia
Ron Weasley = Han Solo
Hagrid = Chewbacca
Albus Dumbledore = Obiwan Kenobi
Lord Voldemort = Darth Vader
etc. etc. etc.
I read the Tolkein and Lewis books when I was a kid. Frodo Baggins definitely fits into the monomyth but in my mind, the Narnia are more blatantly religious and are just a Christian allegory. When I read Tolkein, it seemed most of the books were about a group of intrepid travellers singing songs as they walked through the forests and spending a lot of time eating. Most of the action takes place in the background. But the movies were mostly about the action sequences, so different in that way.
The Da Vinci Code was made into a big deal because it claimed Jesus was married and had kids whose progeny still survived. When I last looked, it was in the FICTION section, not non-fiction so I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about but religious people can get very defensive, though not as bad as Muslims putting out fatwahs. Catholics are the easiest to pick on since they are the largest branch of Christianity and they have a central authority rather than each church being on its own like the evangelicals. The Last Templar was on TV last week, and there were more holes in the plot than a hunk of swiss cheese. Who cares? It’s just fiction. 🙂
I think the way out of it is to read the classic scholars and the great books of antiquity. Along with Campbell I’d read the Daodejing, the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads from Hinduism, the Buddhist sutras, the Epic of Gilgamesh, ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, the Christian New Testament and a general knowledge of philosophy. A good introduction to that is Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. I’d ignore the New Age stuff; for me it’s a field of weeds with a few good plants growing in the mess; too difficult to separate the good from the nonsense. The key thing to remember is that back then, people wrote using allegory and metaphor. No one wrote literally. These days, ancient writings are interpreted literally, so the meanings get twisted. Religion should be profound, not dogmatic. But unfortunately, all religions eventually turn into dogma and lose their magic and meaning.
The Follow Your Bliss video for the most part was saying what Jimmy Buffett said far more concisely many years ago in his song Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.
If you change your attitude, you change your life. 😛
The China Beat “New Yorker-tized” (i.e. soft-punch) the Beijing Float Media Spectacle.
This is not surprising considering Peter Hessler, who writes China articles for the New Yorker, is a Team Member of China Beat.
But let me be more specific.
Here in the introduction they name 3 issues they will address in the article:
“(1) the controversy, largely provoked by FLG practitioners and other human rights groups, attracted huge media attention and the Pasadena city government and its human relations commission held several meetings to consider its position”
The truth here is that the controversy was provoked by ONE human rights group with significant funding and even more worrisome, deep access to Pasadena’s press: Reporters Without Borders
(2) some analogies can be drawn between the controversy and the protests against the overseas leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay;
The truth here is… “some” analogies”? Reporters Without Borders was photographed wearing their logo tee shirts chasing the torch and openly admitted orchestrating these torch rally protests (let me know if you need links).
(3) the controversy also indicates the challenges that Beijing faces in general when it attempts to engage the American public in specific and the Western publics in general.
The truth here is the ONLY challenge Beijing faces when planning something like a float in a parade, is the extremely well-funded “human rights groups” are literally media-manipulation machines, and are going to create controversy – doing whatever it takes (if the Rose Parade is any example) to turn people’s attention towards “China’s Human Rights Abuses”.
By the way, Reporters Without Borders are currently embroiled in a couple of scandals:
Also, if China Beat is interested in Free Speech, why won’t they publish my comment?
What could they be afraid of? An alternative point of view??
S.K. Cheung says
if the intro says the article will “address” those 3 issues, then were those 3 issues actually addressed in a fair and equitable manner in said article? Or are you complaining about a book because of its cover?
Anytime I hear someone extolling on their grasp of the gospel “truth”, it makes me wonder…
I must say though, at least you don’t seem to be inventing a grand western media conspiracy; you seem to say that they are being manipulated. That’s already a huge improvement over some of your brethren.
As for publishing of your comment, if you think China Beat must publish it, then you have a very high opinion of yourself.
Of course they must publish all comments that adhere to their guidelines!!
Are you saying that China Beat does not have to publish comments that offer opinions different than their own, or the ones presented by an article? that offer new information?
What would the Wall Street Journal think of this? (they who have made China Beat one of their “best of” blogs).
And no, as I believe I made clear, the 3 issues were NOT actually addressed in a “fair and equitable” manner.
While were on this subject, from the article I was noticing the article lists these “human rights” organizations that supported this “Float of Shame” protest:
“The Caltech FLG Club, Reporters Without Borders, the Visual Arts Guild, Amnesty International, the Conscience Foundation, the China Ministries international, the LA Friends of Tibet, Human Rights Watch, Justice for American Victims in China, New York Coalition for Darfur and the Burma human rights groups.”
Now tell me, what were the Save Darfur people (and not just ANY Darfur-people, the New York Coalition) doing involved with a float protest??
S.K. Cheung says
To Virginia #146:
“Of course they must publish all comments that adhere to their guidelines!!” – I’ve never read China Beat. I don’t know their guidelines. But if they have guidelines for comments, and your’s got nixed, then the first thing I’d wonder is if you contravened their guidelines. If the guidelines restrict content or the nature of one’s opinion, that would truly be unfortunate. But if it restricts the tone of comments, and your’s was particularly saucy, then I think that’s their prerogative. And that’s why FM is great: all POV’s welcome, even mine for god’s sake. And ultimately, if CHina Beat rubs you the wrong way, then I’d suggest taking your blogging elsewhere…as you’ve done here. Charles has suggested that he’s banned from PKD. I think that’s silly for a blog to do that, but ultimately, it’s their blog, and they can do with it how they please.
“from the article I was noticing the article lists these “human rights” organizations that supported this “Float of Shame” protest…” – this seems to directly contradict your “truth” from #143 (“The truth here is that the controversy was provoked by ONE human rights group). So while the truth may be out there, as I said in #145, those who claim to have it in their sole possession raise red flags for me.
Hmmm, I wonder why, if you’ve never read China Beat, you seem so concerned about their “right” to refuse a comment! (??)
Why is this issue bothering you at all, actually?
And no, they do not have the right to not print a comment because they don’t like the information it contains. Especially as a University-sponsored blog, a University with many, many ties to China, by the way.
Also, I believe I said this was what the article said which I have questioned. My truth still holds. Again they have brought up strange and questionable new issues, which need to be called out.
And can’t be, with their comment barricade.
While we are on the subject of the “Float of Shame”, let me fill you in on a bit more of the gory details (literally!). Here are the actions of “activist” Ann Lau, who won our city’s Thorny Rose prize for her obnoxiousness.
“The 9th Order of the Thorny Rose has spoken once again…Each year the Thorny Rose is awarded to Pasadena’s most controversial citizen… Ann Lau, a leading critic of last years China float in the Rose Parade, is the 8th recipient in 9 years….Lau is certainly best known for her political theater in front of the Tournament House portraying the harvesting of human organs from unsuspecting corpses, fake blood and all. She was promptly removed by the Pasadena Police Department.”
I saw Reporters Without Borders perform this same “theater” in front of the Santa Monica pier. They were implying that China does some strange, “unnatural” medical experiments (or something). They had their large handcuff/Olympic rings banner, displayed on the grass.
@Virginia: Do you still have the comment that wasn’t published on China Beat? Is it the one in #143 above? Otherwise, could you please paste it here so others could have a look and compare it with the China Beat guidelines for comments? Thanks.
S.K. Cheung says
“they do not have the right to not print a comment because they don’t like the information it contains” – actually, since it’s their blog, they have the right to do with it as they please. That it is university-based, and may or may not have ties with China, does not impact on their editorial discretion. You may disagree with their editorial guidelines, and you would be equally within your rights to harbour such an opinion.
I have never read China Blog, and don’t plan to. But since you brought it up, I just wanted to get a better understanding of what your beef was.
Which “truth” still holds? This one from #143 (“The truth here is that the controversy was provoked by ONE human rights group”) or this one from #146 (“I was noticing the article lists these “human rights” organizations that supported this “Float of Shame” protest: “The Caltech FLG Club, Reporters Without Borders, the Visual Arts Guild, Amnesty International, the Conscience Foundation, the China Ministries international, the LA Friends of Tibet, Human Rights Watch, Justice for American Victims in China, New York Coalition for Darfur and the Burma human rights groups.”)? Either you have a different definition of “truth” than I, or perhaps a different definition of “ONE”.
By your description, I don’t agree with Ms. Lau’s methods. But in our society, she is simply availing herself to her right of free speech (much as you and I are doing here, I might add). If it was as distasteful as you suggest, then she is simply making a mockery of herself and her cause. If she wants to undermine her cause in this way, I thought you’d be cheering her on, rather than complaining about it. I should point out, however, that “portraying” harvesting of organs from unsuspecting corpses (I would like to see a suspecting corpse, but I digress)is not all that gory; to actually do such a thing for real, if it does in fact occur, would be.
S.K. Cheung says
To WKL #149:
dang, why didn’t I think of that? 🙂
@SKC: “I would like to see a suspecting corpse, but I digress”
I’ve fought corpses (probably suspecting) in RPG:s back in the good old days, but I digress too. 😉
S.K. Cheung says
do you mean the “bad” guys (I’m assuming you’re one of the good guys, but correct me if I’m wrong) stuffed corpses into their RPG’s? That would require very big RPG’s, or very small corpses. 🙁 Either way, not a pretty sight, or thought.
I’ve been pwned.
????RPG’s??? Role Playing Games??? What is an RPG?
Forgive my nerdy ignorance…
@ miaka9383: An RPG is a rocket propelled grenade.
you’ve got a lot of Trolls here.
Looks like on Fools Mountain, the Trolls, have come up from the underground!
Well, there is ONE way only to handle trolls…
Bullies hate to be bullied – you’ve got to bully them back!
(the appearance of these Trolls, however, is evidence enough isn’t it? That something is WAY wrong with China Beat!!)
Trolls, by the way, are yet more media manipulation!
who is doing this?
we really need to know.
But I think that WKL was talking about D&D . . .
Wukailong: I don’t think I saved my comment, I should know better by now!
It was close to:
My friend told me about this post.
This story is not the Truth, to read the truth, go here:
– My friend alerted me to the China Beat story, they won’t publish her comment either.
There are parts to this issue I don’t understand at all.
Why would a University blog, a university with ties to China,
publish an article on the most tacky “leg” of the Reporters Without Border’s anti-Olympics world-wide campaign, the “Float of Shame” campaign?
look at this excerpt:
“Generally speaking, China’s dim international images, particularly the perception of China’s human rights records, can pose tremendous challenges for China when it engages with the international community.”
This is senseless to say when campaigns like the “Float of Shame” campaign, existed TO dim China’s “international image”!
They get lots and lots of “information” out, describing China’s human rights abuses (on t.v., radio, blogs, newspapers etc. etc.).
China Beat leaving out the most important point here!
I understand where you are coming from. The West views things through ideological lens that have little to do with reality. The good thing is that we are living in a changing world.
Chinese immigrants were looked down upon in Europe and U.S. for most of last century, but look how far the status Chinese immigrants all around the world are rising these days. So things do change…
The West will need time to work through and adjust its ideological lens. In the mean time, those of us whose care about truth and human welfare can simply try to point out the problems and biases.
We can still work – in our own personal small ways – to help build a more equitable, fairer world for the vast amount of humanity.
Well put, Allen!
Virginia, you bring up some very good points but there are also a few reasons for optimism. There’s a good chance that RSF’s money will dry up under a new administration. America’s policy towards Cuba is driven by Cuban Americans and their voting block, which is normally Republican. To be honest, until you mentioned it I had never heard of RSF.
Another reason is that it seems their protest didn’t inspire very many normal people to side with them. I wouldn’t worry too much about local “rags”, as we usually call them. Every major city has one; they are usually ultra-liberal and into “causes”. We have one here in San Diego that I pick up to check out the concert listings. I never read the articles; they are poorly written about subjects I have no interest in. Sounds like the same thing is going on in Pasadena.
I wasn’t familiar with China Beat but I can see what they wrote upset you. I would think that same university would also allow another blog that is more objective concerning China. The dividing line between objectivity and censorship is tough to control, so I wouldn’t condemn the university so much. Can you start your own blog with university sponsorship? I know China Beat didn’t publish your comments. Did you bring this to the attention of the university itself? If so, what did they say? Hopefully the more intellectually curious China Beat readers will visit FM and read your comments here.
To add to what Allen said very aptly, I’ve found pretty much all countries (including China) view the world through their own ideological lens and tend to be naive about other countries. I was always correcting false perceptions about the States while I was in China and elsewhere. Now at least a few people over there have a better understanding of my country, and I a better understanding of theirs.
I think the key is for each of us to be openminded and listen to what others have to say. Then we can make up our own minds and better yet, visit said country to get a firsthand look at the true reality.
Yeh … I conveniently forgot to mention the ideologies of China because in some ways it is less ideological than in the past (less emphasis on communism, tiredness of cultural revolution) … although it does still view the world through its history (e.g., century of humiliation) as well as through its geopolitical interests – which together in a way does make up for a kind of ideology, I suppose….
Tu Quoque says
” Religion should be profound, not dogmatic. ”
Yes, Yes, Yes, and Amen to that. I am listening to JImmy Buffett as I write
“If we weren’t crazy we’d go insane,” Yeah!
“But unfortunately, all religions eventually turn into dogma and lose their magic and meaning. ”
I thought religion was man’s way to find “god.” But why? Religion(s), which in essence are the same everywhere, whatever has been said are all speculations, which then begets more speculations. It all boils down to “Do unto others as you’d others you.”
I love the movie with Clint Eastwood lookalike, Hugh Jackman as “Drover,” the Oscar winner with the most classic-Hollywood star quality today, Nicole Kidman, playing Lady Ashley and Brandon Walters as the courageous goodlooking half-Aborigine small boy, Nullah in, AUSTRALIA.
If you want spirituality, go Walk-about in the outback, get to know nature, learn to talk to the animals and death vis-a-vis, I guess. Churches and temples offer bedtime stories and boyscout excursions mostly.
Hong Konger says
I really dig Lao Zi, Mark Twain, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and Einstein. Whether I understand them fully is of course another matter. As for religion, one way I see it being problematic is that 99.99% of its followers and mouthpieces are talking about the supernatural as if those who have the audacity to speak of nature from reading tons of National Geographic magazines, or describing birds’ in flight by visiting an Aviary, or giving lectures on marine lives by frequenting sea creatures aquariums. I have no spiritual tendencies. I need great minds to help me think.
You know, I’d never heard of Jimmy Buffett until I met this young handsome American in his late 20s from Georgia a few years ago. He is also a huge fan of Sinatra, which seems really odd to me. So much for stereotyping, huh?
THANK YOU for answering my question: I truly deeply appreciate it, Steve.
“I think the way out of it is to read the classic scholars and the great books of antiquity. Along with Campbell I’d read the Daodejing, the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads from Hinduism, the Buddhist sutras, the Epic of Gilgamesh, ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, the Christian New Testament and a general knowledge of philosophy. A good introduction to that is Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. I’d ignore the New Age stuff; for me it’s a field of weeds with a few good plants growing in the mess; too difficult to separate the good from the nonsense. The key thing to remember is that back then, people wrote using allegory and metaphor. No one wrote literally. These days, ancient writings are interpreted literally, so the meanings get twisted. Religion should be profound, not dogmatic. But unfortunately, all religions eventually turn into dogma and lose their magic and meaning. “
@Virginia: If that’s what you wrote, and I had a blog, I wouldn’t delete the comment. I’m not sure why they did. Maybe it has something to do with “previously published materials,” but that seems a bit strict to me.
I’ve been around the blogosphere for some while, and there are a lot of moderators out there who remove everything that doesn’t agree with their viewpoint, usually arguing that criticism is personal attack.
Personally, after trying to read a couple of entries, I decided I wouldn’t hang out too much at the China Beat. Incredible how they can make it so uninspiring.
@ TQ #165: Wow, a double Jimmy Buffett whammy! Here’s a clip of him doing Cheeseburger in Paradise live. 🙂
I think true religion, or maybe I should say spirituality, is all about “eureka” moments. Those are the times when everything becomes crystal clear and you just feel like spinning 180 degrees and shouting for joy. You get a glimpse into the cosmic soul but shortly thereafter, it disappears. Some spend their entire lives trying to relive that moment and turn to all sorts of esoteric practices. I’m with you; I get more insight on a mountaintop than any church. The answers are all inside us anyway, it’s just hard to seek them out.
An ant looks at a person with his little ant brain and speculates among his ant friends what the person represents, comes up with all kinds of theories but his little ant brain is incapable of understanding what he perceives. When it comes to the universe, the meaning of life, what happens after you die, etc., I feel I have an ant brain but at least I’m willing to admit it. I’m always amazed when people tell me with total certainly about the nature of the world, the nature of God, the nature of the universe. Last time I looked, something like 96% of the universe was supposedly composed of “dark matter” which no one can find, a nice way of saying that mankind only understands 4% of the universe and doesn’t have a clue as to the rest of it. 😛
To me, religion in churches is religion for kids. It’s very simplified and dogmatic with a literal quality about everything. God is an old man with a white beard who looks like… Zeus!! 😀
@ Hong Konger #166: It seems we both have ant brains, congratulations! Actually, by asking the questions you ask, you ARE spiritual, just not religious. We can’t begin to learn anything spiritual until we realize we have no idea about such matters, then our minds open up and we can maybe experience a few things. To me, spirituality isn’t about knowing, it’s about experiencing, feeling, sudden realizations, emotional contentment. People meditate to empty their “monkey minds”, not to fill them with mind/brain chatter. You can’t really learn anything from “lectures” about spirituality, you can only hope to get some guidance, a step in the right direction. The rest of the journey is self-discovery and unique for every individual.
Sinatra is big these days among the younger crowd. Since I am an Italian American guy and originally from New Jersey, Sinatra is easy to identify with. After all, how can anyone dislike Fly Me To The Moon ?? 🙂
Hong Konger, I didn’t see any comments from you or TonyP4 on the Taiwan Indie Music post. I even put that Teresa Teng video in there for you, ha ha. But I found something really nice on Andy Best’s China music blog, and I think Jed Yoong would also really dig this. It’s from Neocha and called Indie Top. There are thirteen songs on here, all new stuff and all from China. He and I particularly like the song King which is #13. Check it out…
S.K. Cheung says
To Virginia #160 and 161:
If that was your post, and it was disallowed, then it does not reflect well on China Beat.
But you still need to begin to understand that they can do whatever they want, since it’s their blog. And if you really want to know why they publish what they do, or why they don’t publish what they don’t, it’s better to ask them, and not us.
““Generally speaking, China’s dim international images, particularly the perception of China’s human rights records, can pose tremendous challenges for China when it engages with the international community.”
This is senseless to say when campaigns like the “Float of Shame” campaign, existed TO dim China’s “international image”!” – the first point stands on its own, and need not reference any campaign. I don’t see how it’s senseless to say it. As for the second point, it looks like the campaigners did more to harm their own image than that of China.
S.K. Cheung says
To Steve #163:
well said. Particularly liked the last 2 paragraphs- you said it in such a nice way.
Some clarification about my usage of the word RPG above: role-playing game. I was never a serious gamer, just played around with computer games (though I was quite serious in that area) back in the early 90s – Bard’s Tale, Might and Magic II, Phantasie III and Ultima V. After that, I’ve never played a single computer game seriously again.
S.K. Cheung says
my mistake about the “RPG”. I guess these days it means something much different, at least based on what’s in the news. I was never into your kind of games; I was more for the first-person shooters, and the driving sims. Better suited for my short attention span.
are the Trolls gone?
they’ll be back! but another “Troll Rule” is,
never let them make you give up!
I am going to, therefore, attempt to post a NEW comment on China Beat, a comment that reflects their bizarre Comments Policy of not allowing links to other articles in a Comment (Come on! they are a University, what about research? investigative journalism? etc. etc.)
Just in case they decide to keep playing censorship games, I am reposting it below, Virgina.
My comment submitted Feb 23, 2009 to China Beat concerning their article “Human Rights and China’s Public Diplomacy”:
I disagree with the article in part.
This is of the not-reported central role of Reporters Without Borders played in this organized, international media campaign. The campaign was organized to expose human rights abuses in China using the Beijing Olympics as a media vehicle.
Since China Beat writes about the Media, this is very relevant to them.
The writer downplays this, and assigns a group of human rights organizations to this backers of the protest, but I believe, having investigated the matter (an investigation that China Beat does not mention)
that they (Reporters Without Borders) were central players.
Since China Beat does not allow links to other articles in their Comments Policy – which is bizarre to me, for they are, afterall, a University( ??) but whatever,
I ask readers to look up the excellent investigative journalism of Diana Barahona and Michael Barker on Reporters Without Borders…
investigative work the author does not chose to divulge
Here is a slightly different take on the topic of sensationalist, mind-numbing words in political discourse (in a domestic U.S. context).
I think this subsequent comment of mine is relevant to this discussion should anyone be interested.
Western Democracies are ultimately “moralistic” value based, which tend to make them very culturally paranoid and racist, because their own measurement of their superiority is almost entirely cultural and racial.
Even when Secular, the moral core of Western Democracies are heavily influenced by Western European Judeo-Christian traditions.
When confronted with new emerging cultural values that seems “alien”, the Democratic systems find it hard to swallow, through their usual “assimilation” process.
Islam is a threat, Eastern Cultures are threats, and even the “poor immigrant” can be deemed as a separate cultural threat.
*Unfortunately, the world is becoming too small for the West to shut out the rising influence of outsiders, in their own backyards.
Continuing to preach “moral” superiority simply won’t cut it much longer.