Thursday, March 26, 2009

(( The Chinese Wall ))


It was my original intention to write a short piece about a Chinese movie that changed my life, but just as I sat down to write it I heard the news that China has once again taken the decision to put a total block on the Youtube video sharing site. This means that no one on the mainland of China can watch any of the videos which have been posted there, including my own English teaching videos. This is a sad event for me, but more-so for those living in that country who wish to set their horizons much higher than they have been told they can. There is an old saying in English; 'Cut off your nose to spite your face'. This means that you do harm to yourself as a way of making a small point. This is very true now in the PRC.  The problem with Chinese leaders is that there is rarely any compromise made. A decision can only be made in black or white: there are no colours.!

The words compassion and understanding are rarely used by people in power in any country, but in China's case those words have long since gathered dust and faded from sight. I know this from my own experience. After all I did live in China for four years and I came to know many things and found that life in China is a very complex one, where what sits openly in the light is much more sinister that what lurks unseen (and unheard) in the shadows.

Imagine if we all behaved in this way. What would this world be like? Humanity would have never developed into what it is today. Striving for perfection means that we must endure that which may seem unpalatable. Without darkness we would not be able to stand the light for very long. There has to be a balance between the unspeakable truth and the deceptive lie. It is not about the right to speak. It is about the right to progress and learn. I know that there are evil people in this world, does this make me evil? Of course not.

The blocking of Youtube is more about fear. Fear that those who have little will want more. And there are many people who are in that position. Technology has brought the world to the fingertips of those who need knowledge, for knowledge is the key to moving forwards. It unlocks many doors and allows a person to see the world for what it really is, a fascinating place of wonder where black and white sit at either end of a spectrum of many shades and hues. Closing the window may prevent the flies from coming in, but it also stops the air! This is not the first time that China has done this. It normally happens around the time of the annual Communist party meeting,when freedom of information suddenly becomes a bigger swear word than it normally is.

I clearly remember in 2006, while still in China, I said to a group of my adult student that the most significant year for china would not be 2008, when the Olympics would be staged in Beijing. Instead I said that the most significant year would be 2009, after all the foreigners had returned to their countries and the Olympics had become a mere flickering ember in the minds of most Western people. This would be the time when those who had been promised change and development would be taking stock of the situation and asking themselves- 'Did anything change for me?'. Many-many millions have been asking this question and the answer appears to be a resounding 'No!'.

Let us not forget the fact that 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square riots, which still stains the memories of many Chinese people, but is never openly spoken about in the Chinese media. However it is discussed on Youtube...openly and at great length.

It is a good example of how little has changed at the top in China. The total distrust of Western ideals still exists strongly, but the real irony is that those who follow this tend to be the ones with wealth and a position in the Communist party. The millions of voices have not been silenced, for they never had any say in the first place. The big change here is that for a few brief moments the door of opportunity was open and a shard of light had touched many who had not been able to feel its warmth. That door has been firmly closed again. For how long?. We will see. 

Don't get me wrong. I love China and its people. There is never a day that goes by where I do not think about my students and the many happy moments spent there with them. I do not regret any of it. It made me a better person and even though I'm back here in the UK, my mission has not changed in any way.  Using English is a great way to open doors and build bridges between different countries and cultures. My passion for English goes much deeper than just teaching. I still like to believe that the majority of people on this planet are good and virtuous. Communication breaks down barriers and helps to build  understanding. Sadly for some this is a dangerous practice and one which must occasionally be locked away until it can serve a useful purpose for those who withhold it.

So for the second time I too have fallen victim to a few small minded people, who's goal it is to give to the few in favour, while holding back the majority...and believe me, in this situation, that is a very big majority and not one which should be treated with utter contempt. That course of action will only be tolerated for so long. You cannot give something useful to someone and then just take it back when you risk being exposed for what you really are. That situation will only end in tears and a great opportunity will be lost forever.

(Misterduncan) ............................................................................... 


UPDATE -- 10th APRIL 2009
YOUTUBE IS STILL BLOCKED IN CHINA.

2 comments:

Irina said...

Hello,James!
I understand that the news from China upset you. You have a lot of friends there and it’s a pity that they won’t be able to watch your lessons on Youtube. But who knows, may be the decision to put a block on Youtube video will be changed or withdrawn.
When the Tiananmen Square Protest happened in 1989, I was 10 years old. But I did remember that it had a deep resonance in our family. My grandmother was a communist (in good sense of this word) all her life. And she believed that China would be able to change for the better: to keep the Bid Good Idea of Communism (Socialism) and to avoid of freedom’s restriction(as it was in Soviet Union) in the future. But maybe her dreem will never come true :(
Irina

Anonymous said...

hey,im from shanghai

dont worry ,eventhough youtube was blocked in mainland china , we still could watch your vids through this website http://www.proxyie.cn/

btw, i love all your lessons