An exchange of e-mails aboutTien Mien:
freedom in China.
"I dispise you..."
"Freedom cannot be bought for nothing. If you hold her precious, you must hold all else of little value."
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
At 07:45 PM 3/1/97 -0500, Tien Mien wrote:
>I dispise you...
You spell that "despise" and not dispise.
>I agree that democracy is a very good govermental system, yet different societies require different goverments. China *needed* a communistic gov't inorder to bring the nation back to its feet. As for your phuked up homepage, Deng once said:
"The United States has blamed us for suppressing the students. But didn't the U.S. itself call out police and troops to deal with student strikes and disturbances, and didn't that lead to arrests and bloodshed? It suppressed the students and the people, while we put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion. What right has it to criticize us?"True. But the American government did not kill hundreds and even thousands of students in a few grim days as happened in China in 1989. Moreover, many of the student demands in the United States were addressed and the system adapted to the new stresses and the protests ended. In China, the students revolts were put down brutally and any hint of dissent has been dealt with in the most severe way. The students revolts in America during the 1960's and in China in 1989 are two very different beasts with very different legacies.
>Think about this and then re-consider *your* views about his death and the state of China. Don't tell me about it's not right killing all those students, I was in DC protesting it, where were you?? Yet I still support the communistic system!
I was in college at UCLA glued to the TV screen and wishing the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square all the luck in the world - much the same as I am doing now almost ten years later. On the first night of the massacre, I walked over to the lawns of the Westwood Federal Building near UCLA and mixed with the thousands of Chinese students who were holding a candlelight memorial in the darkness as their comarades were being shot down systematically in Beijing. I will never forget that powerful experience.
The Chinese government under Deng Xiao Ping has tried to open up their economic system to capitalistic reform without any corresponding opening up of political life. Since its rise in the beginning of the 19th century, capitalism (and its Siamese twin, democracy) has vanquished every enemy it has faced: European feudalism and aristocracy, the totalitarianism of the fascist and communist varieties. Capitalism has given rise to an aspiring middle-class which is the true power in a dynamic and increasingly global culture. China seeks to reap the benefits of economic capitalism without opening its political system to the ideas of Enlightenment liberalism which have historically been its indivisible partner. We shall see if they succeed - if it is possible to reform a country economically and not politically. Let's see if the emerging Chinese middle-class cannot begin to flex its muscles as they chafe against the corruption and oppression of the Party. Let's see if with increasing material wealth and education Chinese people will not demand that the government give them the necessary space to pursue a lifestyle and political and social arrangement that is compatible with human dignity.
I am not proposing an American-style solution for a very different China. China will find its own way in its own time, but I doubt the sclerotic system of present China will be the one which endures in the long-run. The many many e-mails I have gotten in support of this webpage from Chinese people around the world telling me that they would like more freedom back me on this. Along with me, they also hope for a China in the future which is more tolerant, representative, and liberal in the classical sense. The abuses that occur in China today are endemic and widespread, and it seems to be business as usual in a country with an authoritarian past going back centuries: yet another generation in China with so many suffering in jail for having offended the modern-day mandarins. In China today, a person cannot think his or her own thoughts or write down their opinions without threat of jail or worse; thinking the wrong thoughts or - God forbid! - speaking them out loud or writing them down in present day China can land you in trouble up to your armpits real quick. People with "incorrect thinking" will find themselves in "re-education camps" where they can learn to think what other men think.
I believe a man holds nothing more important to himself than the integrity of his own thought, and anyone who fears to address certain "forbidden" topics or ideas for fear of a government feels himself imprisoned in some dark place deep in his soul. And a man imprisoned can only hate his jailer.
Freedom can be very heady stuff, and once people get a taste of it a return to being a slave proves hard to do - to become again a simple sheep accepting what your leaders tell you. Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Taiwan, Nicaragua, South Korea, Chile, the Soviet Union, and recently Serbia... and the many other countries have switched to democracy or are making their way towards it recently. If the great political changes in the last decade tell us anything, they tell us that the tidal wave force of the people telling their governments to give them some space to live and think as sovereign human beings is a force not to be trifled with. After Tienanmen Square, the Communist Party lost credibility with the people and now people just mouth the slogans of the "socialist" state without believing them, thinking other things in their hearts. None of this bodes well for the current regime in Beijing.
China will find its own route and path in the future, and I dare to hope that it will not be one in which dissenting students perform slave labor in prisons. I, along with many other people, hope to see a prosperous and free China in the future with a government which is very much both more representative and less authoritarian. If such a government be a variant of the "communistic" system you support, so be it. If not, may it fall into the same abyss of contempt and ignominious ruin that other authoritarian regimes have disappeared into during the last twenty years! And may that fall come at the hands of the Chinese people themselves!
Freedom is a force that is patient and bides its time in the thoughts and convictions of everyday people at the grass-roots level. It is a force which lives on hidden in the minds of people of good conscience in China today who await a more propitious age. The Chinese people will not suffer oppression forever, and it is in the many e-mails that I have read from so many Chinese outlining to me their desire to live in an improved and "open" China that I place my hopes. As Edmond Burke stated some 200 years ago: "Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will be free!"
The purpose of these pages in not to cram my opinions down anyone's throat, but to attempt to foster discussion and to persuade others to possibly see a different view. This is where the true power of free thought (and the Internet and World Wide Web) comes into play - in the ability to convince and influence each other through conversation.
Although you "dispise" me, I do not despise you. I simply put my thoughts on this issue on the World Wide Web where people are free to agree or disagree (as you do with me). That is more than you and I would have been granted in China at the present time.
Very Truly Yours,
"Proletariat coercion, in all its forms, from executions to forced labor, is, paradoxical as it may sound, the method of molding humanity out of the human material of the capitalist period."
"It is not true, as Lenin contemptously asserted, that "freedom is a bourgeois prejudice." Freedom is a good which any rational man knows how to value, whatever his social origins, occupation or economic prospects. Throughout history, the attachment of even the humblest people to their freedom, above all their freedom to earn their livings how and where they please, has come as an unpleasant shock to condescending ideologues. We need not suppose that the exercise of freedom is bought at the expense of any deserving class or interest - only of those with the itch to tyrannize."
Enemies of Society
To the Ash Heap!
"It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history.... [It is] the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people."
President Ronald Reagan
speech to Britain's Parliament, 1982
"Ideas are indeed the most dangerous weapon in the world. Our ideas of freedom are the most powerful political weapons man has ever forged. If we remember that, we will never have much to fear from Communism."
William O. Douglas
U.S. Supreme Court Justice
An Almanac of Liberty, 1954