Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Finger Pointing

We're all good at it aren't we. You only need to go on the BBS and IRC to see the screaming, shouting and finger pointing going on. I guess it all comes down to binary thinking. Stuff like 'Four legs good two, legs bad' which is from an allegorical tale called Animal Farm, that intelligent people from around the world should have access to read (that and Down and out in Paris and London). I can appreciate some of my Chinese American friends who were raised with pluralism of opinion and free access to any countries' media including China, feel that the picture below and doing the rounds on the net, is the sort of managed message that makes them feel uncomfortable.

One sent this to me: "In the streets of the March 14th event, the government is using these signs to promote 'unity' again in the country by saying, "Tibetans and Han Chinese are daughters of one mother. Our mother is called China."

Here is the poster with that slogan on being posted in Lhasa and on the Net

I couldn't help looking at it in a simple semiotics kind of way. Why is it illustration? Are those national costumes? Is there room for only one flag on the poster? Is there even a flag for Tibet? I did a quick search to find out and this is what I found?

It's quite distinct isn't it?

The British are famously reluctant to haul out a flag and wave it because we've seen how symbolism gets people fired up in the wrong way in tense situations. Nazi Germany springs to mind, and particularly memories of the ugliest people gathering round symbolism as if it were worth more than life itself which it most certainly isn't.

Just for reference here is Hong Kong's flag which is unquestionably part of China and has returned back to the fold under the good guidance of Chris Patten who was vilified at the time by Beijing as "sinner for a thousand generations" and is now broadly welcomed by the PRC as having managed a tricky job quite even handedly.

I wrote back here that what happened in 1949 is history and the riots on March 14 2008 were news. Separating history from news is important for constructive dialogue because the news in this instance was that the ethnic Tibetans rioted in Lhasa and attacked the ethnic Han Chinese. If we're going to be brutally honest, history discussions aren't embraced in China because pluralism of opinion isn't accepted, in much the same way that discussion of the Rape of Nanking isn't debated in Japan or Extraordinary Renditon, the loss of Habeas Corpus and the ugly stain of Guantanemo Bay for the 'Enemy Combatants/Bin Laden Clique that the Neo Conservatives and their unholy alliance with the Christian Fundamentalists have to smash and crush isn't accepted.

Look at that finger pointing in one direction and notice the other three pointing back at you.


  1. i dont get it. what is your point exactly?

    the poster is a desperate, unsubtle and crude attempt at justifying their actions against tibet. the propaganda is shameless and completely insentive to the people of tibet. its pathetic, to the point that its actually quite amusing. it doesnt make us feel uncomfortable. its funny but its also worrying because, first, to think that the Chinese government think that they can win over people with this kind of obvious propaganda, and second to think that people might actually be affected by something like this.

    bad grammar also makes your post more confusing.

  2. Well said.
    I think its downright hypocritical of us to insult Chinese actions when Guantanamo bay is still open, and we are trying to agree to detain suspects for world beating times without charge.

    If we free Tibet should we free America back to the natives and Mexico, Australia to the Aborigines, the Falklands to Argentina, Iraq to the Iraqis, Palestine to the Palestinians, and so on until the dawn of time.

    To draw on Christianity, let he whose country is without embarrassment cast the first cruise missile.

  3. Hello Jang Ho

    The point of the post is in the picture. The one with the pointing finger if you are struggling to get the point.

    Bad manners diminishes your comment.

  4. It's sad to see so many of my compatriots employ the holier than thou persona they often castigate when China and the Olympics are in the media crosshairs.

    As you and Famous Rob both point out, there are very few, if any countries that can take the moral high ground when it comes to subjugation of others. The shameless opportunism they're showing is quite sad - but then maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

    And Big C, you're too gentle on the rudeness, tell 'em to eat the love muscle. Boom.

  5. I would do Sam. But the mouth in this instance looks more than a little bitter ;)