travels from Tibet to Cyprus
I have mixed feelings about the current spate of protests over Chinese oppression, but for the most part I think that raising awareness about oppressed minorities - not only Tibetans - is more important than the smooth running of an international sportsfest. In fact it seems highly appropriate to raise these issues in the context of an event which is intended to promote international harmony, for reasons that I would hope are obvious. I’ll spell them out though. A harmony that seeks to keep oppression out of sight and out of mind is a harmony not worth having. It should have been obvious to the Olympic Committee that, in granting the games to China, a state renowned internationally for its cruelty to and oppression of its own minorities, they had provided a golden opportunity to those who have suffered from that state’s cruelties to raise issues of hypocrisy and the reality that belies the Olympic ideal.
So I must say I found the remarks made by one Kevan Gosper, an Australian Olympic official, on these events, to be particularly lamentable. On last night's news he made the claim that most people have probably not even heard of the cause being highlighted by the protesters, as if this was some kind of decisive argument against them. That's to say, oppression that people haven't heard of isn't really oppression at all. What his remark really highlights [or would highlight if it were true] is the woeful ignorance of most people about the crimes committed against minority ethnicities or belief systems by large, closed nations such as China, or Indonesia under Suharto. This may be true, though I suspect Gosper is merely generalising from the position of his own woeful ignorance.
I've read further absurd remarks today from Gosper, claiming that the protesters were 'professional spoilers' who 'take their hate out on whatever the issues are at the time'. I know there are professional protesters out there, usually one or two in a hundred at your average demo, but to brand them all in this way is laughable. Gosper apparently knows what makes all these people tick, and he doesn't think the actual issues they're upset about rate a mention, presumably because he's never given them a moment's thought in his life. Such appalling complacency tips me over to the side of the protesters, though I don't think that assaulting torchbearers is acceptable.
On a completely unrelated issue, I read this the other day in Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons, a novel cum political appraisal of Cyprus in the fifties:
... a village like Amiandos made us catch our breath in pain. It lies against the side of a mountain which has been clumsily raped. The houses, factories and shacks are powdered white as if after a heavy snowfall; mounds of white snow rise in every direction, filling the cool still airs of the mountain with the thin dust of asbestos. Men and women walked about in this moon-landscape, powdered into ghoulish insignificance by the dust. A man with a white wig and white moustache shouted 'Hullo' as we passed.Durrell wouldn't have known then what we know now, which only makes the passage all the more ghoulish.
Apparently, as with tobacco, asbestos manufacturers are still aggressively pursuing markets in 'developing' countries. Ghoulish indeed.