July 11, 2008
It is fashionable among those on the left to fantasize that they live in a police state, here in the US, and that they virtuously resist by "speaking truth to power". They imagine that they take great risks in doing so as they protest in front of the White House, and feel as if they touch greatness, modern kin of the great leftist revolutionary heroes of lore.
It reminds me of something I read a while back, about Gunter Grass. He grew up in Nazi Germany, back in the day. It was written by Tom Wolfe:
Support [for Wolfe's view that fascism wasn't coming to America] came from a quarter I hadn't counted on. It was Grass, speaking in English.
"For the past hour, I have my eyes fixed on the doors here," he said. "You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow."
Grass was enjoying himself for the first time all evening. He was not simply saying, "You really don't have so much to worry about." He was indulging his sense of the absurd. He was saying: "You American intellectuals â€” you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!"
Exactly so. It's almost like LARPing for them, with the added benefit that they can feel "besieged and persecuted", and feel like they're part of a revolutionary movement, without actually risking anything important. Because what they're doing is about as dangerous as going to a slasher movie.
I started thinking about that when I saw this question someone posted today at ask.metafilter.com:
As an American, can I hand out flyers detailing the Tiananmen Square Massacre during the Beijing Olympics?
I'm really glad to see that the many answers were virtually unanimous that this would be an utterly boneheaded thing to attempt.
China is a real police state, the kind of place where people who "speak truth to power" disappear in the night and are never seen again. It's the kind of place where there are bugs everywhere. It's the kind of place where any phone call can be monitored by the government.
During my lifetime the government of China -- same one it has now -- has liquidated tens of millions of its own people because they were not politically reliable. This is the government which perpetrated the Tianamen Square Massacre less than 20 years ago, the one our hero wants to protest.
These are not the fascists you are looking for, if you're looking for someone to try to protest against. The Chinese government is the real thing. And they don't have any sense of humor about this.
Our hero, likely having earned his stripes protesting against the evil American government, the most repressive in the world (it says here), seems to think that this prepares him for taking on the government of the PRC.
I find myself hoping he tries it. Then we can nominate him for a Darwin award.
UPDATE: J Greely has a pithy response.
UPDATE: James R. Rummel also comments.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at
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