Thursday, July 3, 2008

Attack of the slime and rants about the Olympics and politics

This summer's upcoming Olympics have been marred by a myriad of problems and concerns, it seems like every time I check the news there is some new story about the pollution or politics in China and how it is going to affect the games. Now it looks like there might be some trouble with the sailing events in the Olympics this summer.

I know my blog was M.I.A. back when all the riots were taking place in Tibet and while the protests were taking place throughout the torch relay but I figured while I'm on the topic I'd comment on that a little and see what others have to say as well. I feel like I could go in a million different directions here and talk about this for ages, but I'll try to be brief.

Now I know my observations here aren't a reflection of every Chinese person, the same way my actions and beliefs aren't a reflection of every American, but there are my general observations.

I've come to realize that young Chinese people are typically the exact opposite of young westerners in terms of political feelings. I'd say in America young adults are the ones most likely to be questioning the government, asking questions, trying to stir things up and hoping to make some sort of difference. In China the young are the most obedient to the communist party and it isn't until they are 30 or maybe even 40 that they even consider questioning the government, if they do so at all.

As an American, I've learned to be able to separate myself from my country and my government. My students have an unbelievably difficult time doing this. When the riots in Tibet started and the protests took place along the torch relay route their response was to start hating everyone who had something bad to say about China. One class had my watch an eight minute video trashing western media (CNN in particular) and talking about how no one tells what is really going on in China and they are all too biased and they only like Tibet and don't tell the real story (meaning the censored story that they get from their government-controlled media) and when the video was over all eyes were on me.

Me, who believes in free speech and free press more than I believe in almost anything else. Me, who studied journalism for years and hopes to become one of those reporters who writes about what is going on in the world. Me, who reads CNN everyday for my news fix. Me, who is also a teacher in communist China. Me, who truly loves all of those kids who were staring at me. So, what to say?

First I had to close my mouth and wipe away the shocked look on my face. Then I told my students that they had a right to show that video (because let's remember that I love free speech) but that it wasn't enough and that they had to tell me what they themselves were thinking. That they couldn't just give into the video and let it do the talking for them, that they needed to be able to express their own opinions and have their own ideas. Apparently this was a bit too much free speech for them to handle because most of the class was silent.

I tried to explain to my class that they have the ability to separate themselves from their government. I think this is a lot easier for us to do in America ... when people say they don't like America or Bush I don't take it personally. I try to be a better person to prove to others that what they think of our government isn't indicative of all people back home. My students can't wrap their minds around this and take everything that is said about their government as though it was being said about them personally. I tried my best to persuade them otherwise and get them to know they can prove people otherwise, but I didn't have too much luck with that.

OK, enough ranting for now ...

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