11 November 2013

Motes and beams

Hansen Ding at Perfect Payload has a few choice words for first-world liberal leftists:
The first time I ever saw photos of death was when I was 5.

It was a war memorial opposite my grandparents’ house in Harbin, dedicated to the anti-Japanese WW2 partisans in Manchuria. There were stories of the utmost brutality, hopelessness and heroism - as well as an assortment of photos of massacres, rape victims and beheadings, all ready to be gawked at for a weekend family fun-time. One photo that stuck with me is the dissection of a partisan commander’s body - he and his unit were surrounded in the mountains, cut off, outnumbered and slowly cleaned out, men by men. By the time they dissected his body they found his stomach full of barks and roots - it’s what they had to eat to stave off hunger in their last days.

I was reminded of this Mao Ze Dong quote earlier today referring to Americans (regardless of what you think of Mao, and I don’t think that much of him, he was a rhetorical genius): “You grew up eating honey, and thus far you have never known suffering. In the future, if you do not become a rightist, but rather a centrist, I shall be satisfied. You have never suffered—how can you be a leftist?”

Now, this is not to say I have known true suffering. Yes, my parents came to Australia dirt poor - my entire family lived in a single bedroom in a rat infested terrace house in Redfern - but I was too young to have anything but a happy childhood, and by the time I really knew about poverty we were already middle class. But, there is something to be said of coming from a background where you knew about colonialism and poverty – true poverty. It comes from the stories you were told growing up, of family members from old photos and family trees who aren’t around, it came from growing up amongst the sites and memorials to desperate battles, public massacres and immortal martyrs. Call it a collective consciousness if you want.

I find increasingly that on issues of foreign policy and geopolitics, there is a huge disconnect between first world liberals/leftists and liberals/leftists from non-first world backgrounds. It’s about an issue of recognizing self-determination - true self determination – even if said self-determination came from the end of a Kalashnikov and a river of blood. A developed nation is rarely the product of a peaceful and dignified history. Western liberals & leftists do not seem to understand the mind of winter which occupies the people of most developing nations past and present. They are willing to erase all their achievements to point out the stains on their country, ignoring the fact that almost every country of note is incredibly stained – even Sweden had that psycho phase where they killed like 30% of the population of Germany in a war they had no business being in.

Too many leftists I know are all too happy call out liberals on all their BS at home but then afraid to deviate from the mainstream liberal view abroad – we should condemn the coup in Egypt, we should support the Tibetan resistance, Putin’s Russia is bad and of course the latest in the ceaseless opining of the paragon of morality that is the western liberal/leftist – “something something Lee Rhiannon something Sri Lanka bad something boycott CHOGM”.

So I am pleading with my comrades from western backgrounds:


Not another thing for you to intervene on with the endless criticisms and Avaaz letter writing campaigns and flashy youtube videos. Just stop.

No, you don’t even need to go “educate yourself”, you just need to stop with the opining and moralizing - it’s literally that easy. I mean, educate yourself by all means and be aware, and spread that awareness if you want, but do not, I repeat, do not, go into yet another country and lecture yet another people to literally no effect aside from a lot of brown people feeling insulted. And definitely don’t do it at an event which is meant to be a moment of pride for a people and to celebrate whatever progresses made.
Hansen is quite worth reading any day, not least because he brings to the table the experience of growing up in the Anglosphere as the child of Chinese émigrés, and thus manages to speak about both cultures with both sense and good humour. We don’t always agree, of course; he’s much more of a social liberal than I am - to the point where, on Facebook, he even questioned in jest whether I even count as white! - but I have rarely met another commentator on these issues who manages to navigate them with his level of graciousness. (Certainly I don’t come anywhere close!) So do please read the whole thing, and keep a weather eye on Hansen’s blogging!

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