Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui

This Blog was Invented in Xi'an 5,000 Years Ago

I am not Charlie

Posted by MyLaowai on Thursday, January 15, 2015

150115 I Am Not Charlie
A great many people have recently come out in support of the publication Charlie Hebdo, with the declaration “Je Suis Charlie,” or “I Am Charlie”. That’s fine with me, and I totally understand those sentiments. I share some of them. But MyLaowai is not Charlie; it is MyLaowai.

To put things into sharp focus, it is the policy of Team MyLaowai to support criticism of Islam. And Christianity. And Judaism. And any of the other weird and wonderful ‘beliefs’ people sometimes have.

Also, whenever possible, dictators and elected representatives, the police, the military (including the men and women who serve under arms). Parents are not given a free pass, nor are schoolteachers. Presidents and Kings and Queens and Generals are fair and legitimate targets. In fact, anyone in a position of power or authority can and should be open to criticism.

When you are in a position of power or authority, it is free and open and above all public criticism that helps keep you honest. The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t allow that, nor does Kim Jong-Un, to give a couple of examples. But what about the people who feel offended by criticism, direct or implied? Don’t those people have a right to not be offended?

No. In places where human expression is a value that is valued, if you don’t like what someone is saying, you have a whole slew of options available to you – you can simply not listen, you can make counter-arguments, or you can even try to persuade people to change their minds. And you can certainly harden the fuck up and grow a thicker skin. Hearing things you don’t like is a part of life in any sane society, it can even be educational at times, and the sooner you learn to deal with it in a mature fashion, the better and happier you and your society will be. And if you are in any way a civilised person, you will step in to support the underdog in almost every situation.

Well, what about so-called ‘hate speech’? Should Neo-Nazi’s and Communists and Tea Party spokespeople and anti-abortionists and anti-gay marriage activists and other dribbling idiots be allowed to preach violence at all and sundry? That’s not where we should automatically draw the line, but it is precisely the place where we need to examine where lines might be drawn. You might think that’s an easy one, that preaching violence against a group is clearly wrong, but what about the oppressed peoples of the world who live until the heel of a powerful and dictatorial regime and who have tried unsuccessfully for decades to win their freedom by peaceful dialogue? I wouldn’t draw the line against them, though I’d understand it if you did. A better way to look at it, would be to look at who has power and who does not, and in general terms I think most reasonable folks would say that those without power have a greater right to express themselves against those who do. And what is the difference between saying that you support people who commit violence, and actually committing that violence yourself? A big one. I should very much like Tibet and East Tukestan to be freed, and on this point you may agree or differ. But not many of you would argue that it was morally wrong to free the oppressed peoples of France in 1943, for example. And from this we can see that the exact same lines have been drawn in different places, because they were politically or practically expedient to do so. That is morally wrong, but it is a geopolitical reality that I can’t change.

I wouldn’t want to be the guy who drew up the laws that define precisely where the lines are, though, which is one reason why I’d rather criticise a politician than be one myself. The best I can do is draw my own lines, try to persuade you that they are drawn correctly, and be open to you changing my mind instead. It has happened before.

So what I can, perhaps, change, are my own beliefs, and the beliefs of the people I speak with. I know people who actually believe that the current Emperor of China is a good guy. Wow, I’m as opposed to that point of view as it’s possible to be, but rather than get all hot under the collar, I try to talk them around. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not, but they remain people all the same. I know people who criticise my country. Fine with me – if you say something I disagree with I shall do my best to set you straight, just as I do when someone criticises your country in a manner that I feel is unjustified.

So, my personal line is drawn in a personal position, and that is a position you may share or not. I shan’t burst into tears if yours is different. But I will say this: be very careful when you feel a sense of outrage or wish to support someone out of a sense that is not your own, because that is when you are most likely to overreact and, in so doing, actually reduce the rights of the powerless to free speech.

MyLaowai is not Charlie, because the lines here are drawn differently. We do, however, support Charlie Hebdo’s absolute right to say the things they wish to say, as well as the absolute right of anyone to not agree with them. But not to pick up a gun as a way of winning the argument.

I hope you think about this issue, and think on it long and hard. Not because you should share the view here, but because the better people understand the issues and the more they have thought about their own positions and why they hold them, the less likely they are to pick up that gun themselves, except in extremis.

Thank you. Normal programming will now resume.

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One Response to “I am not Charlie”

  1. Chinese Netizen said

    Cheers!

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