I have just finished reading Kristof’s column in the New York Times. Human rights and balls seems to be a big theme in the NYT recently. Comments about Google’s threat to leave China also had references to balls and whether or not various people have them.
I stopped using my Yahoo account after reading a report that the company had handed over information that led to human rights activist Shi Tao being jailed in 2005. Oh, actually, that’s not true! I remember now, I stopped using it after my password was phished and I was forced to get a different account, then felt smug that I wasn’t using it anymore when I read that report about 2 years after the arrest happened. Anyway, I confess I am wondering if this is all a bunch of hot air, but if Google does actually have the goolies to go through with its threat to stop censoring its searches then I will applaud. Until access to my gmail account is cut, or some such thing. But hey, I’m getting used to the websites I know and love becoming victims of the Great Firewall of China. So I shall sit and wait and wonder… Does Google have goolies? Will they put their money where their motto is? Will they "don’t do evil"? And what is evil anyway?*
The things that are swimming through my head at the moment are comments from some of my students and the words of a good friend (Chinese). The friend, after seeing my reaction to the Google report (ie, an explosive "Wa-kao!" followed by a lot of babbling about human rights, freedom of speech and censorship), responded (in a bewildered "what on earth are you going on about?" tone of voice) by saying he feels like he has human rights. I’m not sure what to think about that except to be thankful that he’s never had anybody powerful do something nasty to him and then had the nerve to try and complain about it. Indeed, I empathise. I never felt much like there was a problem either, until I couldn’t go to midnight mass in Shanghai because the church was bolted up (don’t ask why an atheist wanted to go to midnight mass, it was Christmas and Mum and I just happened to be passing the cathedral, saw a crowd hanging about and it seemed like a good idea, or something), couldn’t access Facebook nearing the start of June after making a glib comment about ZZY’s book, couldn’t call my mother from Xinjiang when I was there in July… Life is a lot freer in China than I ever expected before I came here, which is why it comes as a bit of a shock to the system when you collide face-first with evidence of government control. Or at least that is the way it feels to me.
The comments I mentioned, which came from some of my students, were made in their exam where they had a question about their thoughts on censorship (of any kind, not just news). Most of them thought it was a good idea, necessary for stability and to protect "the people" who aren’t very good at knowing what is and is not good for them. Where anybody else gets off thinking they have the right to decide what is good for us unwashed masses does not seem to be a question that bothers most of my students. Most of them. Not all. Perhaps I should be thankful that my students seem to have an absolute lack of curiousity about politics and individual liberty. They are probably safer that way! But it strikes me as ironic that I am here getting my knickers in a knot over censorship and freedom of speech on behalf of a bunch of kids who mostly don’t give a #$%@
On a lighter note, I just have 6 essays to mark and a report to write, then I am free… Well, other than my inability to access websites that are bad for me, inharmonious and just plain naughty, I will be free. The concept of a winter vacation is a beautiful thing.
*BTW – The answer to the question "What is evil?" is surprisingly simple: baijiu is evil. Not to mention vile and icky.