Sunday, 6 April 2008

In support of Tibet

I notice that the blogosphere has been strangely quiet on the Olympics this week, with only Aswas & Kezia Dugdale alluding to their feelings on the matter. I guess that would indicate the same sentiments that have been professed by athletes, celebrities and politicians on the matter - that politics and sport should not mix.

On that, they could not be more wrong. As Aswas has written - as, indeed, have I in the past week - everything that occurs in this international and inter-relating world interacts with everything else. The Olympics do not exist in this athlete-only vacuum where their opportunity to be the best in the world at their chosen activity once every four years is the only thing that matters. Don't get me wrong, I admire the motivation that drives athletes to achieve that, the focus that it takes to achieve their place at the Olympics never mind a medal, whatever colour. But to suggest that exists outwith other global conditions, that achieving a medal trumps all else, is not only wrong, it is on the verge of moral bankruptcy.

I know the reasons for not boycotting the Olympics - the Dalai Lama hasn't even called for it. (As an aside, Gordon Brown has suggested that is his prime reason for not calling on it. Question for me is, if the Dalai Lama now called for a boycott, would the PM join him?) Boycotts have not achieved anything in the past - Olympic boycotts that is. But in 1980, when Thatcher called for a boycott, the world was a very different place. The USSR was a fully-fledged superpower. Telling it to do something or setting conditions upon it was always going to have little or no impact. But China today is not the USSR of 1980. True, it is on the verge of becoming an economic superpower. But in the international society of the 2000s with that level of power comes responsibility. China's record in human rights is appalling. Its treatment of Taiwan and Tibet is nothing short of despicable. But the world turns a blind eye.

It turns a blind eye because it does not want to offend a burgeoning economic superpower. It turns a blind eye because China has the largest army in the world. It turns a blind eye because China has massive reserves of US currency that, if it were inclined, it could instantaneously dump, crippling the US economy and with it the global market. No nation, not even the US with its military might, has the ability to cope. Even the EU, seen in many quarters as a future economic rival to China, has been surprisingly quiet on the issue (surprising given its Copenhagen Criteria and its refusal to allow Turkey entry based on similar human rights abuses).

So today when I watched the protests in London at the Olympic torch relay I found myself sympathising with those protesting, maybe even with those who disrupted it a little. Of course their efforts will make no difference. The Olympics will go ahead as planned, the torch will proceed through Tibet as planned and Gordon Brown will not discover a backbone prior to the opening ceremony of the Olympics in which he is scheduled to play a part. And, most disappointingly, the human rights abuses that China continues to perpetrate - against people it claims as its own - will not stop.

So why then, was I pleased to see the protests? Well, it made me realise that, although our politicians (except, for once, Lib Dems!), our athletes and even some of our celebrities were unwilling to speak out against China's actions, there were plenty members of the public who were willing to stand up, to speak out and even, in some extreme cases, be arrested for an issue which they believe in strongly.

And that, for an ageing cynic like me, allowed me to rebuild some of my confidence in people. Just a little.


Ideas of Civilisation 7 April 2008 at 12:53  

Interesting post.

I was in the process of writing my own when I came across yours, so thought you may be interested in some of my thoughts on this.

Not that different from yours. I'd just thought I'd show you that some other people agree!

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