Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blogging, Fighting, Eating

OK, so here's the deal -- basically China closes off access to all blogger sites, but not always to the main blogger page, so I can register, I can blog, but I cannot see my posts, I cannot respond to comments, and I cannot see the blog in any way, shape or form.

Had our first mouthpiece today. A woman from the army. We also had our first really heated discussion after I called to question some of her assertions about the United States. I am sure I came across as a real jingoist, which was not the intent. A country that practices stringent censorship probably is not in the best position to be calling other countries out on their own standards, however, and while I know she was just toeing the party line, the party line was wrong (Mao prepared for war in the 1960s and 1970s against American imperialists, the US has no right to judge the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran if we do not do so to Israel and India, who are we to call any nation evil . . ..) A few of my colleagues had issues with America "passing judgment" on other nations, wondering "what right" we have to do so, a question that I do not even understand. We really were not talking about rights per se, but even if we were, countries have rights to determine their own policies. The "double standard" at issue was that the United States seems selective about who we will accept and not accept having nuclear weapons. So I simply asked if there was not a difference between having "double standards" and just plain having standards -- that we do not see Iran as being morally or practically equal to Israel and India. I think we have not only a right but a responsibility to "judge" other nations if those nations are rogue, dangerous, destabilizing or just plain evil. If we are wrong in making those judgments, so be it, but I am not certain when it became a virtue not to make judgments. Cravenness is not a commendable character trait. Nor is a blind moral relativism that refuses to see a difference between, say, Canada and Syria. Plus, even people who maintain that judging other nations make their own judgmnents all the time about a whole host of issues, including human rights practices, so it seems like a convenient dose of hypocrisy for those same folks to pass judgment on America as a nation state making its own judgments.

It was all good fun, in any case. Or at least there are no hard feelings, as we just got back from another stunning meal. The tables at many eateries are outfitted with these enormous glass lazy susans on which they waitresses deliver piles of food. You spin the dolly, scoop from the dishes onto your little plate, eat away, sip beer and tea, and watch as dish after dish follows. Peking duck followed by sweet and sour chicken with mango, alongside some fiery hot soup with indeterminate fleshy bits, alongside the most incredible, piping hot pastries filled with some sweet goo and dipped in custard sauce, plus sticky rice, next to a beef dish with chestnuts. My share came to 40 Remnibi, or $5.

One of my colleagues is sitting behind me and is testing censorship on Google. She managed to pull up an article on the Tiananman Square Massacre because of a spelling error in the text that allowed it to squeeze by the watchful eye of China's guardians of truth.

So that's the latest from Beijing. It's a rare cool night here, we got rain today, which apparently has been pounding South China and perhaps is moving northward. My belly is full. An army officer (and academic -- she is an accomplished scholar) tried to spin me round round like a record, baby, and we have been warned that there will be no water in the building or area from 10:00 pm (fifteen minutes) until 6 tomorrow morning.

No comments: