Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How London Can Surpass Beijing

Already the prejudgment is being bandied about that there is no way that the Summer Olympics in London, in 2012, will be able to compete with the majesty and spectacle that were the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. However, the commonsensical among us know that peoples' memories of the Beijing Olympics will forever be tainted by the smoke and mirrors placed before them, both at the location itself and on television screens around the world. What was gained in Beijing in 2008 was not an accurate picture of what the People's Republic of China is, but a picture of what the Communist rulers of that country want foreigners to think China is. They knew as well as any tourist-targeting con artist that "the West" is fascinated by "the East", and so they showed the world a more palatable, more fantastical China than actually exists. And gullible as we are, the ruse mostly worked.

Needless to say, the defeatist commentaries about the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games are quite premature. The mainstream media hasn't helped matters much; that more and more people are inclined to think that China's Olympics will be the standard by which all others will in the future be judged is not because Beijing's Games deserve such praise, but rather because over the past few years, more and more people have been taken in by the mainstream media's mantra that "China is the future, and you - we - are the past." But underneath the celebration of thousands of years of Chinese culture present at these most recent Games was an unspoken celebration, held by the Chinese Communist rulers, of their authoritarian power. Beijing's 2008 hosting of the Summer Olympics was a victory not for the Chinese people, but their unelected, unrepresentative government.

Unlike those already predicting mediocrity - juxtaposed with Beijing's majesty - for London's moment in 2012, my attitude is different. Though I am an American, and furthermore, an American who has yet to visit London, I've seen enough of the world and read enough of its works to know Western (Westernized) countries don't need a pseudo-fascist spectacle on a Chinese scale to demonstrate the worth or wealth of their cultural, historic contributions to humanity. If, of course, London and the United Kingdom together wish to try to outdo the Chinese in covering up failures and, in general, sugar-coating the reality of life for most Britons, then they probably will fail: The British Government isn't nearly as ruthless as the Chinese Government is, and besides, such deception would be much harder in an English free society than in a Chinese fear society, given the presence of a free press.

Depending on the length of visitors' memories and their attachment to - or detachment from - reality, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics will be a study in contrasts that, in the end, will surely favor London over Beijing in posterity. How can I say this? I do so with the confidence of one who was raised in a free country, and who appreciates the gift of personal liberty he was born with. Whereas a successful Beijing Olympics is a triumph for a Government that owes no allegiance to and feels no responsibility toward the people living under it, the London Olympics will be a triumph of a free people who voluntarily volunteer - as opposed to the Chinese practice of "coercive volunteerism" - to make those Games be as enjoyable and exciting as possible, giving visitors a small taste of what makes Great Britain...great.

What's more, if something goes wrong at the 2012 London Olympics - say, things fall behind schedule, or fireworks don't go off as planned, or if hooligans disrupt events - it would result in a Games which reflected an unpredictable, often chaotic human reality far more than Beijing's controlled, precise, order. Yes, a part of me hopes that London 2012 won't go as smoothly as Beijing 2008, because then free peoples might realize what an anomaly - what a sham - were the Communists' "perfect" Games. And despite the tendency to attempt to separate politics from sport each Olympics, protests - say, against China's continued attempts at ridding Tibet of Tibetan heritage, culture and religion - won't likely be violently (or worse, silently) put down by police who serve their government more than their citizenry (as was - is - the case in China).

Though we are four years away from seeing what will become of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, I'm already optimistic about their success. I predict the 2012 London Games will give a free multicultural society - indeed, all such societies - reason to celebrate, and that the 2008 Games hosted by Communist, monocultural China will be fondly remembered, but as something of a cautionary tale. And I can't really worry my mind with whether China will in London once again win more gold medals than the U.S.A., since I know that America's success in 2012 won't be judged - at least by me - by how well the Government trains athletes, but rather by the individual accomplishments of athletes from all over the Union (and let's not forget, in 2008 the U.S. did have 110 total medals to China's total of 100).

Thankfully, our "power" - cultural, political, economic...athletic - isn't as centralized (read: as weak) as China's.

2008's Olympic Games truly sparked the imagination, but they were a triumph of fascism and conformity - cleverly packaged as Communist, with Chinese symbols - over individuality, liberty and self-expression. Except by those who were willfully duped by the Chinese, this can't be denied. Sure, the 2012 Summer Games in London - heck, even the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - might be "boring" compared to Beijing, but at least they will not likely be as nationalistically self-congratulatory as Communist China's 2008 Summer Olympics. That, I think, will come as no small relief to a lot of people. And in 2012, people will be able to be themselves (i.e., freely speak their minds, without fear of imprisonment by the authorities for doing so) in the host country.

By that my mind...London already has surpassed Beijing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Pity and the Shame

I'm even less inclined to watch, listen or read the news from "traditional" sources than I was before the Olympic Games in Beijing. How hypocritical is it, for a network or newspaper to heap praise on a authoritarian nation, while at the very same time heaping scorn upon a democratically-elected politician for not criticizing the very same autocracy the media outlet couldn't portray flatteringly enough? It should make any reasonable fellow or fellette nauseous, or at least, feel shameful. And a failure to acknowledge and condemn this contemptible hypocrisy is just as bad as the President of the United States traveling to China and making barely a peep about Beijing's human rights violations.

How noble, the mainstream media is attempting to seem in the wake of the Games. How blind, how dumb, they hope their viewers and their readers are. Praise and wonder give way to cynicism and criticism, and we're to forget the past. During the Olympic Games, only a few brave commentators - compared with the total number - dared mention the plethora of broken promises of the so-called "People's" Republic's Communist masters. Now, these media hypocrites have donned their white hats and portray themselves as arbiters of justice, Protectors of the Human Way. A pity, though, that their timing wasn't better. A shame, it is, that they sacrificed their morals - or professed values - for continued accreditation.

By and large, China got away with pretending to be one thing in the eyes of the world while actually being something quite different. Sure, as those brave souls whose moral compass never wavered have pointed out, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is largely to blame. President Bush, too, deserved to be called out for not speaking out when he could - when he should - have. But as I myself pointed out in a recent letter to the editor in the International Herald Tribune, and as I reiterate here, the mainstream media, the networks and newspapers, the journalists we turn to for our daily recommended intake of (mostly) bad news, deserve just as much - if not more - of the blame.

Now, Americans are being told to watch out - China's economy is soon to pass ours. We're informed that the era of Olympic dominance by the United States was brought to an end by China's unprecedented gold medal performance, and that this, along with all the other signs, indicates that America's decline is continuing at a steady pace. For years now, magazines the world over, not just in North America, have declared that the future lies with China (even though the vast majority of the country's population lives in some semblance of poverty). A sort of romantic aura now surrounds the People's Republic of China, an undeserving modern heir credited with an ancient civilizations' many accomplishments.

While the media is largely to blame, we the people are also fairly responsible. We choose our news sources based on our individual or familial ideologies, and generally stick with them through thick and thin. We rarely question the mainstream media, as we rely on it much too much to direct the lives we live (usually, by way of our accepting their fear - "info" about "Global Warming" or "Terrorism" or "Big Oil"). We fail to remember that when the New York Times shares with us "All the News That's Fit to Print" for a daily edition's price, it is not we who decide What Is Fit to Print, but unelected editorial staffers and journalists, who are accountable only to their shareholders (if even), and not the public at large.

Only the Chinese people themselves will ever be able to claim credit for future democratic evolution of personal and political liberty in their land now, especially since the media of the West, and the democratically-elected leaders of the Free World, failed not only those in the People's Republic they had a chance to immeasurably help before and during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but their own citizens. As for China's performance in the Games, well...the Chinese people can be proud of their fellow citizens, but their country's victory in the gold medal standings - and 2nd place in amount of total medals won, behind the U.S.A. - belongs not to the Chinese people at large, but their unelected government.

A pity, isn't it, that the mainstream media - domestic and international - doesn't point that out as much as it could?

A shame, isn't it, that we don't care enough that this is the case?

Monday, August 11, 2008

If Not Now, When?

Perhaps the President of Georgia miscalculated in his decision to launch an assault on breakaway regions at the time and in the manner he did. But President Saakashvili has just as much a right to attempt to - by military action - reclaim for Georgia the regions of South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) as past Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin possessed to reclaim rebellious Chechnya, by force, for the Russian Federation. Russia, however, has no similar rights in South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the situation was different. Nowadays, when Russia meddles in the Caucasus, it does so as a foreign entity.

In granting to some residents of Georgia's separatist regions citizenship and/or de facto recognition, Russia violated the sovereignty of the republic of Georgia, and should Moscow continue its military campaign against the Georgians - who, again, have every right to exert their governmental authority over the lands in question - this would represent a further unacceptable violation of Georgian sovereignty.

Have we even begun to contemplate the consequences of the West doing nothing? The United States, amongst other countries and organizations - including NATO - have declared their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. Will such proclamations, in time, be shown to have been nothing more than a retread of similar statements prior to the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s? No, I am not saying that Russia today is as evil as Nazi Germany once was. I am, however, noting that despite the differences between the two polities, one modern, the other extinct, they share a trait in that their vision of the world stands in stark contrast to the vision of those who wish for democratic order and peaceful relationships between nations.

Nazi Germany once was, and the Russian Federation today appears to be, an agent of controlled chaos.

Shall Russia's aggression remain unchecked? It should be obvious to us, now, that tiny Georgia cannot hold off the Bear on its own. And, we should keep things in a moral perspective: However mistaken President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia might have been in trying to fulfill one of his campaign promises (imagine that, a politician trying to keep promises to the electorate!) - the reconquest of rebel regions - it has not been Georgian planes bombing the Russian capital...but Russian planes have bombed Tblisi, the Georgian capital. And to what end? For what purpose? Georgia wasn't trying to reclaim Russian soil for Georgia. Georgia was trying to reclaim Georgian soil for Georgia.

What would it say to our allies, if we, the United States, did nothing more for Georgia than help fly Georgian troops home from Iraq, so they might participate in the defense of their homeland?

Whatever might be done by the West, what nevertheless should be done is that the Russians should be reminded that the Free World, armed and ready, views with intense dismay any attempts to forcibly reunite former Soviet republics once more under the iron fist of Moscow, either by swallowing them up whole or simply by toppling their governments and installing friendly puppet ones. Let us not forget, Russia's envoy at the United Nations in New York City, regarding the situation in the Caucasus, stated that there are occasions when popularly, democratically elected leaders (in reference to Georgia's Saakashvili) "become an obstacle".

Forgive me for taking offense, for becoming alarmed, at such a statement, as in my view, such words are hardly conducive to international stability, or constructive of positive ends.

Like it or not, believe it or not, there are still governments in existence on the face of this planet committed to sowing disorder and reaping the benefits, at the expense of the personal liberties and national sovereignty of free peoples. While I don't mean to sound alarmist, Russia's blatant disrespect for Georgian sovereignty represents a threat to American sovereignty; indeed, it represents a threat to the very principle and idea of sovereignty and the right of a democratic government to exercise it over the lands the vast majority of the international community recognizes as being under that government's domain.

Should Moscow have its way militarily in Georgia, of all times during an Olympic Games being held in an authoritarian country, we stand to lose much more than just face amongst our friends. We'll lose it against our foes, those agents of controlled chaos. And we'll pay a high price. Maybe not now. But mark my words, we will. The dominoes are stacked up again. If Georgia falls, Ukraine could be next. Are we really willing to wait to sit around and watch that happen? I hope not.

God, I hope not.