WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Party Mottoes, 1984
Some days I feel like I am living in Orwell's nightmare.
Today is an important anniversary of a solemn event, or maybe it is a day like any other, it all depends on who you ask, or who you don't ask. As many of you may know, twenty years ago today an infamous student protest in China drew the wrath of the government and their tanks, and many people were killed. Pardon me for using cryptic language, but I do not want to attract the attention of the powers that be in the country I reside in.
There has been a huge crackdown in the buildup to this day. A few months ago YouTube was banned, and blogger is currently banned (I am posting this via a proxy), while Wordpress has been banned since I arrived in August. The most recent additions to this were Twitter, Flickr, and Hotmail which went down on Tuesday (eerily as I type the rough draft for this post). Interestingly, the on-again-off-again bans on sites like BBC, Wikipedia, and Google are not in effect. In essence websites that allow regular people like me to communicate with the outside world (through posting videos or blogs) are not allowed. Somebody is worried that something is going to happen.
Also, the popular messaging system Skype, is very difficult to download in this country, instead it diverts you to a program called TOM-Skype, which restricts some of the messages that you send. For example, if you try to send the F word the message will not go through. I read reports (not going to link, too dangerous at this time) of it tracking the use of certain hotbed words that the people in charge would not like.
But the internet is not alone in it's censoring. Apparently there has been some grassroots movement to get people to wear white (the colour of mourning in Asia) on the day. There is a rumour persisting that newscasters are not to wear white for the next several weeks (which appears to be adhered to by turning on the television). A few weeks ago, an interesting bit of news came out that 300,000 newspapers had to be recalled because it had an incredibly subversive photo in it. Just in case you didn't see it when it made the rounds a few weeks ago, check it out.
Do you get why it was somehow subversive? I'll give you a hint, look at the pants of people in the front row. Now divide the picture in two and count the people on either side. Now think of today's date.
There are six people on the right side and four people on the left side, translate that into a date and you have today. Look at the four digit number on the little boy's pants in the bottom left and you have the year that the event took place.
Think about this for a second or two. If this was something that someone caught after the fact, what more obvious things are being caught before publication? I imagine someone refusing to publish an image because it bears a picture of someone who resembles a certain spiritual leader or not taking an ad for the classified because every 5th word spelled out the National Anthem for the island that China claims to be its own. I'm probably wrong, but maybe not too far off. If this picture is deemed subversive, what else gets to be in the same category?
All of this is done with one simple mission in mind: to restrict the flow of information. In other words, the government wants to keep people ignorant in order to keep the nation strong. Ignorance is strength.
What I find the saddest about all of this is how most of the concern comes from outside of the country. In the two decades that have passed since this event China has undergone a tremendous economic boom. Naturally in times of economic fortune people tend to not focus on problems with the government, and demands for change lessen. This coupled with the party's crackdown has made many of the demands of the original dissenters disappear.
Most people in this country seem to be living in a bit of a fool's paradise, similar to how I imagine America being in the 1950s, and even the 1990s. There were certainly bad things happening in the country then, but people mostly kept quiet because things were going well and they did not want to rock the boat. Flash forward a decade in either case, and the economy starts to fall and people start to protest more about the “corrupt government” and “illegal wars” which were going on before, but nobody ever cared when they were making money.
The party seems to have found the right mix of 1984 and Brave New World. Oppress people and control information while giving them all sorts of distractions that they have never imagined. Either way, it is keeping people in this country from the one thing that they truly need for development, the truth.
Until next time,