I’m amazed that with all the countries represented in my view stats that the country with probably the second largest group of Net users is not represented, China. Perhaps it’s that I write in English but in my visits to China, at least among the technology types doing work on a global basis English is mandatory. So is it really possible that no one in China has ever looked at this blog?
I was sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Beijing not so long ago. I had just scored the first “dashpoint” (a Net game to find random points all over the world) in China. It was a strange quest. I had to press my colleague there into service to help me. I know that it’s generally true that Asian cultures can’t say no, esp. to an older person, and in China esp. to someone who has influence over your contract. So knowing this I selfishly asked for assistance and thus probably interrupted my colleague’s Saturday plans. But getting outside the city in a taxi, with nothing but approximate maps and a handheld device pointing the direction would be impossible for a foreigner with zero knowledge of the language. So my work colleague spent a few hours on a strange adventure to find a random spot in the back of a random house is a random exburb of Beijing. For me it was a thrill, for him it was, well, Martin, if you ever read this, you can comment on how you felt.
Anyway, that preface leads me to my point. Once back at the hotel I really wanted to “post” my find. The website I go to to record finds is simple, an HTML form with some basic data and a text box to enter the report. Nobody at the geodashing dash talks politics. Despite having a good WiFi connection my laptop just couldn’t get this site to work, strange, since I use it all the time. Then it dawned on me, this is China – home of the great firewall, home of the Net censorship. Now there are multiple ways to file geodashing reports and I tried them all, all blocked. Eventually geek curious why something so innocuous as an Internet game would be blocked I started trying other sites I’d normally used. All blocked. Now I didn’t do an exhaustive study but frankly I believe any site with an HTML form that does POST is blocked in China unless it is somehow an approved site. And that shocked me after all the other things I had experienced in this country.
Since WordPress.com clearly encourages discussion and does so technically through HTML forms I suspect it is blocked in China. Or perhaps just any English language blog is blocked. I don’t know. I sent my colleague Martin an email about this but haven’t heard back yet. I asked him to try to access my blog and see if he can. So we’ll see, but given the statistics of clicks on this blog, by country, I find it highly improbable that I have no clicks from China, not a single one. All sorts of countries one might not expect show up in my stats, but not the one with huge numbers of Net users.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved China. It is a neat geographical place, it has some fantastic history, all the people I met were great, it’s a fun place to be a tourist, it’s really cheap for what you get, amazingly so, and so I’d go there even on vacation not just business. I’ve told people here, much to their shock and disbelief, it’s the most “capitalist” country I’ve ever been in. Most people have an old and outdated image of China and I say go there, walk up and down the streets and be amazed about what rapid economic growth looks like, with almost every person trying to be an entrepreneur.
But it’s not a free country. As a foreigner you don’t feel that very much; it just seems like a foreign country and interesting and mysterious but nobody is controlling you. But scratch a little deeper and the frenetic activity and in-your-face capitalism give way to people who are just resigned to having freedom only in a limited way. One of the older guys we worked with, one was bold and thoughtful, challenged us (both U.S. and Canadians and a Brit) whether we really had freedom. Most Chinese I met duck any discussion of politics, but this fellow was willing to engage. He claimed “big men” ran China and the same kind of big men ran the U.S. and voting and free speech and free press and uncensored Internet was an illusion, that the U.S. was no more free than China. Naturally we all protested vigorously how free we are, at least in terms of free speech, but in fact we had a hard time even trying to convince him that mattered (and since that visit, several years ago, I keep thinking back on that conversation and looking at world here, and sadly, he was probably right. “free” speech is nothing in contrast to bought-and-paid-for speech of the Kochs and their spinmeisters))
In terms of politics he might be right. This 2012 election will be won by whoever spends the most money on the gut wrenching and lying ads to get undecideds to vote. Both sides will send out dog whistles to their base (the Repugs to racists and otherists, the Dems to women and gays afraid of repression by religion) but in final analysis 42 of the 50 states won’t matter (their vote is already in the can) and in the 8 swing states it will be determined by who is most scared and who is most offended and who is most willing to get off their ass and vote (if they can, given the voter suppression the Repugs so racistly have reinstated in Ohio and Pennsylvania, shades of the south and firehoses and downs and George Wallace). So that’s democracy in action, a handful of us dumb-ass nobodies voting to pick the “big men” who will actually run the place. So I hate to admit it, my Chinese colleague, Jay, was right. Us nobodies have no more influence over running the U.S. than the Chinese nobodies have over running China.
I’m still happy I can write this post. I’m happy that anyone in the U.S. and most of the world could read it, if somehow it caught their attention and they liked it. In China I suspect no one will see it and that is a difference, even if the “big men” run both countries.
So if I’m wrong, you folks in China, click on this post or any other and show me I’m wrong but I suspect you won’t even see this. And perhaps that will be just fine with you, not knowing about the rest of the world. But frankly, if you think you’re going to take over economically I think you will have to wake up.
In this blog I denounce those in the U.S. who deny information to others, in particular, the religious right for home-schooling their kids so no facts penetrate those young innocent brains and the Repugs for denying science and pushing their fans into watching fact-free FauxNews. Frankly, it’s amusing that the Repugs are the ones who follow the commie tactics of denying information and free discourse and imposing RushBot mind control. So when I see a country doing this deliberately and openly, a country whose citizens have sold their freedoms for economic prosperity, even if it’s true that a single voter makes no difference, I will call them out. The Repugs haven’t destroyed freedom in this country yet! (give them time), despite their attempts on evolution, women’s health and rights, climate change, and voodoo economics so fortunately the U.S. is a tough old gal, where a wanna-be Repug dictatorship hasn’t yet taken over, completely, yet. But it’s seeing China, a great country full of great people who have given up any notion of freedom, whatever little it is worth in any other country, it’s very sad. I really really hope that someday I won’t be saying about the U.S. what Jay said. That freedom would disappear by the people who try to claim freedom as their mantra is particularly insulting. No one who believes in freedom can ever support the Repug party and no Repug can ever, accurately, denounce China or any other place for lack of freedom when the Repugs are just envious of the censorship and control those dictatorial countries have that the Repugs haven’t yet imposed here.
And I hope someday Martin gets to read my blog in China. If he thinks it is boring or uninteresting, so be it. If he disagrees, then let him write a comment and tell me how wrong I am. Maybe that doesn’t have anything to do with “big men” but for me it is freedom. In the last days before the Repugs shut down dissent and freedom let’s all celebrate how lucky we were to have lived in the U.S. and not China, for the brief time in the U.S. where freedom reigned before theocracy and plutocracy took over with a death grip on the Constitution.