Thursday, 14 February 2008

Hi! China!

So the Olympics have become political again, and there is once again an opportunity for Westerners to feel self-righteous and point their fingers at another country, this time China. How we love an opportunity to duck our own responsibilities and foist the blame on somebody else. We in the West have singularly failed to do anything of worth to help the Darfur situation, despite being the best placed to do so, and rather than stand up and admit it we pass the buck to China; could anything be more childish and pathetic? And that's exactly how it looks to people in East Asia, I can personally confirm.

What especially annoys me is the hypocrisy. The Olympics after these will be held in London; how many countries in the world will listen to the invective being directed in China and think to themselves, "Why not boycott the London Olympics because of what happened in Iraq?" But no, different strokes for different folks: when the London Olympics come around, all the talk will be about the spirit of sport and apolitical competition - you can pretty well guarantee it. You can straight away bet your house on Stephen Spielberg not having much to say.

In any case, the point of the Olympics is that it is the world's chance, once every four years, to put aside politics and compete as equals. That never works in practice, but we should at least be working towards that goal; Darfur and Iraq are to be discussed at the negotiating table at the UN - all I want to hear about at Beijing 2008 is fat women hammer throwers from Belarus, British rowers and sailors getting gold (our only medals), Japanese getting a clean sweep at the judo (their only medals), some US sprinter or other breaking a world record, and beautiful Eastern European pole vaulters.


zero_zero_one said...

Hmmm... I don't deny that there are things "the West" could be doing, but is this really a case of "the West's" hypocrisy? From what I'd read, Spielberg is acting off the back of a group of people (Nobel laureates etc) raising the profile of the Sudan/Darfur situation and the fact that China has a lot invested in the region (in terms of oil purchase and weapons sales).

Is this really taking something away from the Olympics? I don't think so. Even if you think it is (in some sense) hypocritical it do you disagree with the sentiment behind it?

Bilbo said...

I'll meet you halfway on this one: yes, we in the West can be hypocritical in these things. But so can the Chinese. And the Japanese. And everyone else. People in Darfur are dying...too bad...maybe if they all die, there'll be fewer people to have to relocate so we can drill for the oil. That's my cynical broadside for the day.

noisms said...

zero_zero_one: Of course it's hypocrisy. Those 'nobel laureates' (together with Mia Farrow or Stephen Spielberg or whichever celebrity feels like jumping on a bandwagon that particular day) should be lobbying their own governments to do more before they go pointing fingers at China. The only countries in the world that are in a position to do anything concrete in the Sudan are the US, the UK, and France; they haven't particularly bothered, so I'm not about to say that China should. (The fact that they buy a lot of Sudanese oil notwithstanding; how many countries in the world buy oil from nasty governments and do nothing to try to change them?)

This takes something away from the Olympics by turning it into a political issue when it should be anything but. It's a detraction from what should be an apolitical event.

As far as the sentiment goes, I don't disagree but nor do I agree. To be frank, I'm sick of all the hand-wringing that goes on about these situations. Either we care about the people in Darfur or we don't; either we do something serious to try to help them, or we do nothing at all. The Chinese have chosen the latter option and at least that's ethically consistent - and really, all our soapboxing and grandstanding amounts to about the same thing. It certainly isn't helping anybody in the Sudan.

bilbo: You're right. But I think our hypocrisy is worse - because at least the Chinese and Japanese don't go around lecturing the rest of the world on how to behave ON TOP of being hypocrites.

zero_zero_one said...

bilbo - that's one heck of a cynical broadside!

zero_zero_one said...

noisms: You say "we" a lot in your comment, "we should" do this or "we are" that: who is "we"?

If actions in the UN by Western governments and others fail to resolve or even hint at change in Sudan, why shouldn't celebrities/Nobel laureates/regular people speak out to a country that actually has strong ties with Sudan?

Good point on the "how many countries buy oil..."