Monday, April 7, 2008

The Ka-Ching! Dynasty

It's been a decade since people laughed at Richard Gere for his "Free Tibet!" outburst, and now we're economically beholden to this authoritarian state for our beloved cheap junk. We haven't heard much since Tiananmen Square; Frontline did a great piece about who the man was who stopped the tank, and what may have happened to him. Yes, like most of us who saw that famous photo, I assumed he got squashed, but there's footage of the tanks stopping. He climbs on one and chides them emotionally. It's a very heartening image and since you can watch Frontline episodes for free on PBS's website, I suggest you take a moment from looking at goofy youtube videos and watch The Tank Man. You can't watch that in China. You can now get Wikipedia, but that Tiananmen Square page is blocked of course.

So many people climb Everest now that we only hear when they die, or when people walk over their freezing corpse. Sir Edmund Hilary found that amoral, but I wonder what he would think of tour guide companies demanding silence from guides and climbers who see Chinese soldiers murder a nun. The story broke in Men's Journal, so when I read it on the toilet I was rather shocked. You think of mountaineers as heroic, but some are just in it for a buck, just like anything else. Luis Benitez is a real hero for risking his life and livelihood to get this story out.

This is video of NYPD cops beating on pro-Tibet protesters trying to march to the U.N. a few weeks ago. The dummies did move the sawhorses, and for that some should have been arrested, but the behavior seen here is rather crazy for what you expect from a police officer. Especially in NYC, where I've seen cops forced to protect the 9/11 Truther jackasses at Ground Zero shouting that the planes were empty and it was all a conspiracy. They manage to keep their temper. I've seen cops protecting protesters in Muslim dress picketing that we were murderers for attacking Afghanistan, shortly after 9/11. They kept their cool.

What is it about a bunch of old hippies that made them want to beat their heads in? You can see them swinging batons in the video. They didn't even go for the taser! I know how they feel. When I was walking through Times Square with a tourist relative of Firecracker's, we passed some old hippies chanting "Hare Krishna," and with a pitcher of beer in my belly I just had to chant, "fucking hippies, fat old hippies," back at them. Then again I taunt the Scientologists with their "stress test" cult induction with the soup cans and the happy clams. That's how I roll. Mr. Bad Example, baby. But even I can respect standing up for peaceful monks enslaved by a totalitarian government, forced to pretend everything is fine when tourists and journalists are around.

Of course it's a complicated issue, and we may not have a lot of room to talk with how we treated Hawaii a century ago. They're still a bit miffed about that. But I'm tired of the Olympics being treated like some sort of sacred ceremony. Hackysacking is nearly an Olympic sport. I was on the track team in high school as a shotputter, and I like the original track and field events. Gymnastics and other competitive sports seem to fit with the original spirit. Bicycling, water polo, and other sports are now part of it. There's no way to watch it all. And there are more scandals than ever. Heck, there have been huge bribery scandals involved with picking the city it's in, no wonder Salt Lake City hosted them once.

If we can boycott them when they were held in Soviet countries, China is not far from it. Their human rights record has not kept pace with their economic boom, and their government needs to learn that we need more than lead-free toys if they are going to join the League of Superpowerfriends. The new "dynasty" is the Ka-Ching dynasty, based on the enormous amounts of money to be made by underfed rural peasants whose farms are being bulldozed for progress, forcing their daughters to work in dangerous sweatshops so we can buy a pair of gloves at Wal-Mart for 50 cents or throw tons of Mardi Gras beads around. Do I expect them to modernize overnight and avoid all the problems of industrializing? Of course not, but they can do better. We had our own problems with labor; the Pinkertons took care of that for us.

Hopefully if we leave China a dignified way to do the right thing, they will learn that you crush dissent by making Free Speech Zones and requiring difficult permits for political speech, and keep the workers working by sending them a $600 check paid for by their grandchildren every few years.

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