"The truth is in the hands of the few and not the masses..."

Yes, 1.2 billion Chinese CAN be wrong!

...or so sayeth Mr. Zy@aol.com

Not that the protesters at Tienanmen necessarily spoke for all of China...
but the argument speaks for itself.

Freedom FROM government
Freedom TO OBEY government

"The ability as a free human being to walk the earth at will, breath the air, regard the frozen moon or the fiery sun without having to ask permission (or even so much as a "by your leave!") and think whatever thoughts one pleases is an end in of as itself. To be able to speak my mind and entertain a thought as it occurs to me! This is what freedom means. To live with dignity as a free man! For me, there is nothing more important in the whole world... When I read the thoughts of individuals such as Wei Jingsheng or Ding Zilin, they speak to me across cultures and thousands of miles of ocean and I consider them my compatriots. When I read Wei Jingshen and hear him talk about freedom and liberty, I know that even as he is jail his spirit is free. And my bargain with him is that as long as China lives under despotism, this page will stay up on the World Wide Web for everyone to read."

At 07:01 PM 4/28/97 GMT, you wrote:

comments="Democracy is the rule of the easily manipulated mob." This seems to be your favorite phrase, but yet you fail to make distinction between popular democracy which have been proven a failure in ancient Greek and representative democracy in which all the modern democracy are based upon. Popular democracy allow the mass to govern the agenda while representative democracy allow the people to choose those who will be the decision-maker for them. As to stress the wisdom of the mass to govern a nation is an intoxication of liberalism that are common in the irresponsible mass media who is only in favor of its profit margent.

You constantly remind people of Human Rights. But may I ask you what is human rights? Is it GOD or is it just because we are human that we are inherited with some inviolable rights? If so how come million are dying of starvation and malnutrition, where are their rights? Does human even have the rights to live on this planet? Well, at this rate, we won't be. No one is born with his or her rights given, they have to earn their rights.

You also mentioned power struggle. But do you realize that it is a competition not only for power and glory, but also for life and death. Law of the nature says, only under adverse condition and with fierce competition will specie mutate, adapt, and advance quickly. It is natural competition in its rawest form, and is that necessarily evil?

All that said, I'm not in favorite of a dictatorship. There are authoritarian governments which are dictatorship, there are constitutional authoritarian governments like Singapore, there are constitutional libertarian governments that is what we called democracy, and there are also libertarian which I call anarchy. Whether constitutional libertarian government is better than a constitutional authoritarian government, there is no conclusion yet. But as I have said, majority of Chinese favors the Singapore model instead of the US democracy, and that will be a choice of Chinese only. I do recognize that constitution is the most important element in creating a responsible and just society, and what is needed is a powerful and independent judicial system not an election.

As I always believed, the truth is in the hands of the few. You and I may not hold the truth, but there will be people who do, and they are not the majority. The difficulty is to allow those who do have the truth the access to the government, and that is where the western democracy comes from. Unfortunately, with today's high tech media and information age, the contest is no longer between ideas and wisdom, but mere acting skill. Of course there is another system that the West have entirely ignored. That is the examine system of the imperial China (KeJu), where intellectuals are promoted into important governmental posts by excel at the state examine. This is the crucial element that contributed towards more than 2000 years of Chinese imperial rules. Of course the hereditary system of the imperial court prevented competition at the highest level thus the collapse of the system become inevitable. An open system that allow those with the will and wisdom to participate and an open system that allows fierce competition at the highest level will always promote the most capable leader to govern a nation. And that is where the future of China lies.

      Dear Zy@aol.com,

      Finally! A conversation about Chinese politics worth having! I think we are getting closer to the heart of the matter.

      It is true that the democracy of ancient Athens eventually degenerated and failed. Every democratic government - whether it be directly or indirectly governed - must tread a thin line between individual liberty and social cohesion. As founding father John Adams said about democracy at the inception of the United States of America: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." A democracy can fall victim to demagoguery or internecine conflicts between different segments of the population. Perhaps Athens after the death of her ruler Pericles ("popular democracy which have been proven a failure in ancient Greek") is the best example of this, as you mention.

      However, let's not forget that the democracy of Athens in the fifth century BC produced perhaps the most glorious example of an ideal culture devoted to excellence in both mind and body which history has yet produced. The first democracy in history, Athens under the leadership of Pericles was populated by citizens intensely loyal and proud of their city state where the government was renown for justice and the streets adorned with beautiful public buildings and art some of which survives to this day. Perhaps no other city or culture has enjoyed such a fertile period of genius and brilliance in so many different disciplines. In philosophy, Athens produced Socrates, Anaxagoras and Plato; in history, Herodotus and Thucydides; in literature, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. As a culture which prized intelligence and pleasure, Athens boasted a veritable pantheon of exceptional citizens who achieved brilliance in the arts, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy.

      As Thucydides recounts Pericles claiming in a famous speech, "We are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the arts without loss of manliness." It was a happy moment of ancient history when free and prosperous men said things about the human condition which have not been said better since, in my opinion. Never before or afterwards has so much artistic genius and creative imagination been found in one place at the same time.

      Many people have since held up classical Athens as a model to which we should aspire. Many of the most positive strains of Western thought - especially since the Renaissance - can thusly be explained. In my opinion, this all has to do with what men can accomplish working in freedom and allowing the mind to follow any idea no matter where it might take them. It shows the possibility of how self-respecting men living as their own masters can excel in philosophy and the arts and sciences while they cultivate the art of good living as an end in of as itself. In a human history all too full of oppression, destruction, ignorance, injustice, violence, cruelty, aggression, evil, murder both individually and generally, the genius of the Age of Pericles often appears to me like a bright light in the darkness.

      Democratic Athens ended tragically, of course, but that has as much to do with warfare with her enemy Sparta as it does with any inherent weakness in democracy as a form of government. This is particularly interesting, since the government you seem to advocate bears a striking resemblance to that of Sparta: "Law of the nature says, only under adverse condition and with fierce competition will specie mutate, adapt, and advance quickly." You seem to advocate an ideal society which prizes a Darwinian survival of the fittest with the "strong" and "virtuous" surviving and thriving and the weak perishing. A warlike Spartan society, singularly ignorant of culture or the arts, also valued martial valor and iron discipline above all things in a society which deified the strong and denigrated the weak.

      Sparta defined the sole purpose of a good life as to train to fight in war and win glory for the state. According to Plutarch, all young Spartans supposedly were subjected to a communal life with rigorous martial training from early childhood on. Those judged to be sickly and weak were shunted aside to die of exposure while the strong and cruel were held up as exemplary and rewarded. All of this "fierce competition will specie mutate, adapt, and advance quickly" is designed to produce the most effective and strongest society possible which may then thrive in a violent world, as you advocate. Life in Sparta was to be lived in the strict service of their government, an entity which resembled nothing better perhaps than a mute but grim rapacious bird of prey.

      God knows what was the reality of Sparta, but the legend of the place - and especially the "incorruptible" supreme lawgiver Lycurgus - as recounted by Plutarch has perhaps been as potent a force in history as the idea of Athenian freedom. The theory of the strong and single-minded leader who rises to the top through force of will seems to have impressed you as it has many others in history: "It is natural competition in its rawest form, and is that necessarily evil? Sparta has always appealed to those who admire harsh discipline, focused industriousness, straightforward ignorance, unquestionable integrity, martial honor, and inflexibility of will and brute power. Not surprisingly, Sparta and Athens are ancient antagonists today in their theories of government as they were in warfare during the Peloponnesian War.

      I would argue that such a culture and government based on a "natural competition in its rawest form" is worthy of beasts but not of men who desire to live in a just society. Your version of "natural competition" where a pack of jackals devour any other animal which lacks the power or speed to fend them off is not my idea of acceptable behavior for human beings. Many of what I consider the strongest and most noble use their power to protect the weak or vulnerable. Real leaders seek to CONVINCE those less powerful or possessing less insight or education as to the value and wisdom of their ideas and seek to LEAD a fractious humanity to a better place. Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill are all examples of such leaders whose views persevered in open elections and who led countries forward even as they were hotly opposed and even hated by many in their countries.

      They were all leaders of democracies, and yet thrived in warfare if and when it came to their countries. As Pericles claimed of the soldiers of Athenian democracy in contrast to her enemy Sparta: "Our natural bravery springs from our way of life, not from the compulsion of laws." Perhaps this is the best we can expect from human political discourse. All of the aforementioned rulers and their societies would appreciate competition but not in its "rawest form" and only according to certain rules and laws. This is EVERYTHING, and it separates a man from a beast. It is the difference between a lawful man disposed to live at peace with his fellow creature and a predator desirous of fresh conquest.

"Man's special distinction from the other animals is that he alone has perception of good and bad and of the just and the unjust."
To our shame, human history is all too often littered with the examples of men who in their lives were little better than animals. Chinese history, American history, Russian history, Aztec history... no government founded and conducted by homo sapiens is immune from this reality. That is why it is so important to foster a respect for human rights and attempt to guarantee them through force of law.

      For argument's sake, I will agree with you that the "truth is in the hands of the few." However, it is immensely dangerous and seductive to assume that those who manage to scrape and claw their way to the pinnacle of power in non-representative countries inherently possess the "truth." You argue that intellectuals able to pass tests (KeJu) will make the most virtuous rulers. Where is the historical evidence which suggests that intellectuals will make the best rulers? History (especially recent history) shows us that the enlightened few "intellectuals" able to fight their way to power are often the biggest villains of all! The best example of such a man is V.I. Lenin who claimed to have mastered the arcane religion of "scientific socialism" and would lead the Russian people (and eventually the world!) to a Paradise on earth, even if that road be littered with the corpses of half of humanity! Is it more often the case that the few who hold the "truth" do not undertake scorched earth campaigns for unlimited political power over others?

      "The truth is in the hands of the few." Can you imagine Socrates, Bhudda, or Jesus Christ shoving their "truths" down the throat of reluctant believers? Sending people to jail or ordering their deaths if they didn't follow them unquestioningly? In reality, armed prophets laying claim to knowing the truth - even if others didn't understand them - have resulted in the reign of Robespierre, and later the German, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese totalitarian governments where mass murder, gulags, executions, genocide, and a sea of bloodshed and suffering have been the common lot of their peoples. Lycurgus and the "enlightened despots" have been the seductive theory of authoritarian government. Yet we see the reality has been all too often different.

      I am unmoved by subtleties of nomenclature between a "constitutional authoritarian democracy" and a "constitutional libertarian democracy"; the defining issue is not the existence of a constitution per se but what the law guarantees and means in real life. Is everyone equal under the law? Can a man think his own thoughts and speak his mind as a free citizen?

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
Abraham Lincoln

The Soviet Union had many constitutions during her lifespan and none of them was worth the paper it was printed on! To be exact, does the law protect individual freedom and is it respected as such?

      In the case of Singapore, what can a constitution mean when all power is concentrated in a select circle of autocrats in government who answer to nobody? Even if the rule be relatively benign, there can be only the appearance of freedom without true freedom in such a power structure. If the economy were to take a turn for the worse or should political problems arise, the people of Singapore would find out just how "free" they are. In the Singapore model, the leaders would like everyone to think that in reality freedom means the right to obey the government and whatever they deem to be correct. Because of course they always know what it is correct. If not, they never would have risen to positions of power. Such freedoms will not keep you out of a concentration camp. In fact, to hear the Confucist mandarins proclaim the wisdom of a government-mandated lifestyle the following comes to mind:

"There is a road to freedom. Its milestones are Obedience, Endeavor, Honesty, Order, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland."

This, of course, comes from a message signed by Adolf Hitler that was posted in concentration camps. The "constitutional authoritarian" is a similar form of sham democracy, if it even makes such a claim in real life. Can anyone take seriously a judicial system in a country where all power is concentrated in a few persons? How possible is it to have a truly independent judiciary and consequent respect for the law for all citizens equally when the leaders are accountable to nobody? What action is taken by judges when the winds of fate blow against the government? Can they order the arrest of high-level - or even low-level! - members of the government with probable cause? Or maybe the Singapore government is immune to corruption and other crime. If so, it would be perhaps the first government in the history of mankind to be so.

      I hear people defend Singapore and the benevolent reign of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and I am not convinced; the form of government does not elude any of the ancient problems with regards to tyranny (or do you think tyranny a "natural" and correct form of government?). As Tomas G. Masaryk said: "Dictators always look good until the last minutes." And China is a very different country than Singapore with a much larger country and population. To be able to keep everyone under constant surveillance would be much harder in mainland China. Yet the principle remains the same at heart.

      From what I have read and the conversations I have had with people from that country, Singapore seems to me a sort of perpetual Catholic school on a large-scale for adult citizens who are expected to shut up, do their work, keep their hair short, wear tasteful clothes, and stay out of trouble. Or else. Yew has used authoritarian government effectively to move his country from the 3rd world to the 2nd. Without liberalizing his country he will never be able to truly break into the leagues of the 1st world. A society needs creativity and innovation to become dynamic; it is not enough to have a society full of automons and engineers who would not recognize an original thought if it bit them in the bum. As J.S. Mill insightfully put it, "Culture without freedom never made a large and liberal mind."

      Past a certain stage of development a society absolutely needs great minds. A culture full of engineers, businessmen, and computer programmers is not sufficient. Human beings need the liberal arts, free thoughts, and the free flow of information and ideas. In fact, I bet even many Singaporean businessmen would like more openness to grow and expand their businesses with imagination in order to remain highly competitive in a global economy. Yet I suspect all this to be anathema to the sclerotic Mr. Yew. "Be a good citizens and do your work dutifully!" he might say. That is not enough for adults. At least it shouldn't be enough. Mr. Yew is merely another of the dour bureaucrats of the stifling commissar culture. As Pericles claimed, "Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it."

      Let me ask you a question Zy@aol.com: Would you send a person to jail for giving speech to a thought or writing down an idea? Do you see such a thing as conceivably a criminal act? Would you advocate sending someone to a laojiao ("reeducation through labor" camp) to have their incorrect thought rectified through hard labor? I am not referring to speech like yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater, but something more ephemeral.

"It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word."
Fyodor Dostoyevski

      You ask me: "What is human rights? Is it GOD or is it just because we are human that we are inherited with some inviolable rights?" The answer to that question all depends on where one lives. If you are born in Rwanda, North Korea, Iran, Zaire, Cuba, Albania, Algeria, or mainland China, you have few or even NO rights at all depending on the actual circumstances in that country. It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the reality on the ground. Life in such circumstances can be cruel and short with poverty and/or terror looming overhead at all moments like the sword of Damocles. For example, a follower of the Dalai Lama up in arms about the destruction of temples and monasteries in Tibet or a pro-democracy activist lives a life in China that only heroes dare venture due to a angry government which brooks no dissent. A peasant starving in North Korea or villager facing genocide in Rwanda is too terrified about the immediate circumstances of survival to care about anything else. Such has unfortunately been the reality for the vast majority of mankind both in the past and the present. Talk about rights is mere talk, since political or economic circumstances has made such places barren soil for any kind of political freedom.

      However, if a person is born into a country where certain inviolable rights and freedoms are protected by law, he/she can perhaps live life with a modicum of security from the cruel vagaries of fate and fortune. The law can put in place various mechanisms which will work to protect the rights of minority interests and seek to promote empathy among all members of the polis. This is maybe the best we can do to try and check the perhaps inevitable slide of government into oppressor. Hopefully, such rights and liberties can enable a person to go to sleep not fearing that the police are going to kick down the door in the middle of the night without a warrant and take them away never to be seen or heard from again!

      Having your human rights respected does not mean that happiness is guaranteed. A person can still contract terminal cancer, endure poverty, be victimized by a private citizen, and suffer any of a thousand other misfortunes that can befall a person in life. And even the government can violate those rights they are sworn to respect!

      Yet in a free society, an individual by and large can effectively choose the "kind of society, political system and individual lifestyle that is compatible with human dignity." (to quote a demand by pro-democracy activist Ding Zilin) Free citizens can have their say in the affairs of their own country and can hold their head up with pride when greeting one another in public. The ability as a free human being to walk the earth at will, breath the air, regard the frozen moon or the fiery sun without having to ask permission (or even so much as a "by your leave!") and think whatever thoughts one pleases is an end in of as itself. To be able to speak one's mind and entertain a thought as it occurs! This is what freedom means. To live with dignity as a free man! For me, there is nothing more important in the whole world. I sometimes wonder about the many people who have enjoyed this kind of freedom all their lives and knowing nothing else take it entirely for granted. Until it suddenly be taken away, of course.

      I hold it to be a great tragedy that so many persons today live in environments of utter poverty and political tyranny which conspire to enslave perhaps the greater part of humanity. I hope one day we as a species will advance to such a point where ALL of us can live without degrading need and in personal political freedom. This desire for a better human future and vision for it, I repeat, is what separates an animal from a man. It is what distinguishes a follower of Pericles and Athens from a patriot of Lycurgus and Sparta. It is for this reason why I would spend so much time, money, and effort creating a "Democracy in China" website. When I read the thoughts of individuals such as Wei Jingsheng or Ding Zilin, they speak to me across cultures and thousands of miles of ocean and I consider them my compatriots. When I read Wei Jingshen and hear him talk about freedom and liberty, I know that even as he is jail or in poor health his spirit is free. And my bargain with him is that as long as China lives under despotism, this page will stay up on the World Wide Web for everyone to read.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

P.S. Maybe all this is an "intoxication of liberalism." That sits OK with me. This all too often dreary and callous world of making money, trying to get ahead, and struggling to survive could use a little more "intoxication" - especially when it revolves around the positive themes of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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