Monday, August 11, 2008

The Olympics...

The XXIX Olympics arrives with a confusing out pour of human rights protests and celebrations of rebirth. The protests, the call for a presidential boycott, “The Genocide Olympics” campaign, the calls for peace by the Dalai Lama, and the continuing human rights violations of the communist government in china over whelm our sense. All as the Olympics stands before us as one of the greatest symbols of the human condition. What are we left to make of all this chaos? What message can we take from this momentous time? We know clearly that we must persevere and raise the whole of or nation against the outrages of China’s human rights record. But we must do so while examining the our selves and the whole of the human struggle. To do any less is to take all the Olympics have to offer and reducing it to a simple television debate dominated by the ethical distinctions of ‘Us and Them.' As Roger Waters and The Pink Floyd did in their ground breaking album the Dark Side of the Moon we are left to ponder, "those fundamental issues of whether or not the human race is capable of being humane."

One must look at least as far back as the Boxer’s rebellion to truly come to terms with China's own struggle to comprehend themselves in relation to the world at large. The Boxer's struggled against the oppression of imperialism and the looming threat of 'them'. During the rebellion thousands of chines fought against the British and many other nations which had began to over run China's cultural heritage through religion, economics, and technological advancement. From the boxer rebellion to the founding of the People's Republic of China the people of china have struggled to find meaning in a world increasingly dominated the advancing scientific out look of the modern world. In this way China has struggled with the sins of the modern world for close to a millennium began the first to pioneer the modern world with the inventions of gunpowder, compasses, paper, and printing.

One may be left to ask why such a struggle emerges with the advancement of the scientific view. Martin Buber explains for us in his book I and Thou, a work similar not only in title but also in content to the Pink Floyd's 'Us and Them.' "Modern science and technology, not to mention philosophy, direct us to see everyone and everything as an object to be understood intellectually and to be used for practical purposes to support our own well being and happiness (Johnston, 2007)." In mush this way we have come to view China in all its complexity as on would relate to a machine which produces certain goods and services. This form of instrumental reason has left us to categorize and sterilize all experiences we have with China leaving us with no understanding beyond the instrumental nature of its people.

As it stands China represents one fifth of the worlds population. Our nation and theirs share a symbiotic relationship beyond any we have seen before. Economically we are bound to a nation which at first seem culturally and politically opposite our own. We must move beyond viewing china in the sense of intellectual, ethical, or political categorization and judgments and view them as human beings. That in essence is what the Olympics are all about. As we watch men and women from all the nations of the world compete we see them struggling with there own humanity. We can watch as they over come cultural stigmas of race and creed. And even more simply as the over come their own mortality coming to grips with pain, heart ache, and spiritual fulfillment and lose which comes with the very highest forms of the human struggle. We are most importantly forced to view other nations like China not as a simple 'them' but as human beings just like our selves who posses the same fear and the same infinite nature granted by the human condition.

When we face the question of boycotting such an event we to often view the situation only in terms of the present state of affairs. China is the regard is a nation which is violating human rights acts, subverting the United Nations in Sudan, and exporting dangerous good to the U.S. We must instead view China as a nation of people struggling to over come themselves. We must only look back to our own Olympic games of 1984. It was China who defied the Russian boycott of our Olympics and reached out to the world in a gesture of good will. In this alone we surely owed China our support in the Beijing Olympics. But with the events in Tienanmen Square in 1989 and the atrocities in Tibet have left some, like those support "The Genocide Olympics" Campaign, to wonder if the Beijing Olympics of 2008 will not be more a kin to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

We must simply stop and realize one simple fact. The Berlin Olympics did not cement the raise of Nazi Germany any more the the rallies at Nuremberg. Instead the Berlin Olympics allowed men such as Jesse Owens to raise above the odds and strike down Nazi Theories of racial dominance. It is here that we must stop and point out one other crucial effect of the Berlin Olympics. Jesse Owens, a man of color, face no racial segregation while in Berlin. He returned to a nation where he could not freely use public transportation, eat at public lunch counters, or even use a whites only restroom as he had in Berlin. The Berlin Olympics pointed out the very hypocritical position the U.S. would often find it self for the years to come. It clear to us the atrocities committed by the Chinese government if in no other way then by Hu Jia's open letter on human rights. But what of our nation? If the Olympics where held today in the United States what sorts of protests would we have seen as the Olympic torch made its way around the globe?

What should be clear above all is the importance the Olympics holds in over coming the struggle between 'Us and Them.' In the end, as Waters put it, "The fundamental question that's facing us all is whether or not we're capable of dealing with the whole question of us and them." The Olympics is one the single greatest ways we have come up with as human beings to deal with that question. Nothing should stand in the way of its progress. But when the dust settles, the fans wonder home, and the world leaders and diplomats depart we must make it our sacred duty to work in every way to ease the suffer of all of humanity not only abroad but here in our own land. In the mean time we must take solace in the fact that all of humanity will struggle forth and over come as it always has.

And everything under the sun is in tune,
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
-Roger Waters

1 comment:

La Redecouverte said...

Insightful and a needed point of view. Thank you.

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