Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Protesting the Torch?

We all know that China has been the center of much controversy over the last number of years, from the oppression of Tibet, to the Chinese involvement in Sudan. I have personally been guilty of pointing the finger with some of my shark finning research and journalism over the last few years. Although I'm not entirely sure that China was the best choice for the location of the upcoming Olympic Games there are a number of important factors that need to be considered before we stand in the way of the Olympic torch.

First and foremost, we should think about what the Olympics are, without the location that they are taking place being a factor. The Olympics are the only venue that the world currently has that can bring together nations from around the world and celebrate our individuality in the spirit of competition. Where else can so many cultures and nations come together under one figurative roof? This is not to say that all of the contestants and observers will abandon their prejudices. It is however an opportunity to bypass them, even if only for a short while.

Throwing the Javelin, running the fastest or the furthest, and wrestling are not just pointless exercises to determine the strongest contestant, but are designed to push people to develop their skills in arts applicable to warfare. In ancient Greece, these were more than just metaphorical challenges, they were highly specialized skill sets. Although the games now include sports that really don't apply to warfare, the basic tenants are the same. Even seemingly unrelated sports like the bobsled race still develop skills like teamwork, and communication.

When Beijing was chosen, it wasn't because China was the most logical place on the planet to hold the games. It also wasn't to bring China needed income that the games would doubtlessly bring from the attendees. It was an acknowledgment that China now stands as a key nation relative to the rest of the world. It was also a statement about the future of China, they stand now at a crossroads, and the choices that they make in the years leading up to 2012 will establish their world role in the near future. In my travels to China over the last year, I saw first hand the mass gentrification that was within eyesight of every major roadway and railway that foreigners regularly travel. As soon as we passed beyond the road well traveled, the long history of China seemed to unfold before our eyes. China isn't just the strict, industrial age competitor that most Westerners see it as. In the mountains of Guanzou, ancient peoples still live lives governed by tradition and necessity. The Yao peoples still only cut their hair 3 times in their lives, and will work in terraced rice paddies that have been susstaining them since before the United States was even a thought, and in Yuangshou people ride bamboo rafts down the Li river, just as they did thousands of years ago. Some have adapted their rafts to incorperate gas powered motors, but the lifestyle remains inherently the same.

At first glance, it seems like China has invested all it has in the social progress and status that it will gain from the hosting the Olympic Games, but a deeper assesment will reveal a Country that is thousands of years old, and has not merely survived civil wars, genocides, colapsed empires and social spurning. If all of Chinas efforts are in vain, they have 6000 years of experiance in surviving to fall back on. Were the world to abandon China, and the economy collapes, the Yao will still be working in their rice paddies.

To impede the progress of the olympic torch is not just showing our disaproval for the way that China has handled its domination of Tibet. It is to stand in the way of what progress China stands to make on the world scene. Would not China be easier to negotiate with once it stands to lose something it has already gained? Not only do those protesting stand against China, they stand before an ancient tradition that has recognized our differences and has allowed us to put them asside, although not in all cases, in many.

Even so, what better way to make a stand right now for the atrocity that is Chinas rule of Tibet. The whole world is watching and this may be one of the few instances where protesting can make a difference. I bring it up, because I just want to make sure that those who protest are doing it fully aware of what they are doing, and why. They will certainly hurt the pockets of the political figures, and perhaps Tibet will gain something from the world being made aware of its plight. We also need to consider the other people who are befitting from the gentrification of China. Perhaps the gentrification that is taking place in China, the empty office buildings that are being built in hopes that they will be filled as their country makes the necessary changes to host the Olympics, will soon hold people who not long ago were working in sweat shops making cigarettes or sneakers.


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Orion said...

Think your comments are well thought out, but it's important to remember that much of the world will soon feel like Tibet because we'll all be using the same currency, Yensos.

I really hope China and Mexico never have the foresight to form any sort of alliance like the European Union, because if they do we are truly screwed.

Back to Tibet, I feel for the Tibetan people and I can understand why so many people worldwide feel that the Olympics being held in China are the only chance to get worldwide publicity about the bad things happening in Tibet.

It's truly a shame this has to affect any of the athletes, but even athletes are now starting to protest. I think the protests are actually acceptable and important as long as they remain peaceful.

The games do help bring the world together and the games really must go on.