an autodidact meets a dilettante…

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Archive for the ‘fascism’ Category

an interminable conversation 7: East Turkestan and the question of genocide

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the uneasy life…

Canto: So several years ago I was invited, sort of, to take over an English class for NESB students at Wandana Community Community Centre in Gilles Plains, a north-eastern suburb of Adelaide, here in sleepy South Australia. Some of the students had been coming to my class in the city, because they were unhappy with their then teacher at Wandana. My city class had people of all ages, from 16 to 60, Indians, Africans and Europeans. The Wandana group was always women, of Middle Eastern appearance, most but not all wearing hijabs. So I accepted this offer, and found myself in the pleasant company of a lively group of women, many of them young mothers taking advantage of the community centre’s creche facilities. During introductions I asked about their native countries. There were a couple of Iraqis (Kurds in fact), one Afghani, and a large number of women from East Turkestan, a country I’d never heard of. I’d heard a bit about the ‘Stans’, but other than Pakistan and Afghanistan I wasn’t sure of any other names or locations…

Jacinta: East Turkestan is their name for Xinjiang Province in north-west China.

Canto: You’re spoiling my story. I just accepted that there was a country called East Turkestan, and that these women were Muslim, and seemed to know each other well, and liked to ask political questions and engage in argument, and seemed to amusingly dominate their husbands who came to pick them up after class. I became friendly with the centre’s social worker, also from East Turkestan. She it was who ‘recruited’ me to Wandana. She spoke perfect English, and filled me in on the East Turkestan story. The region was, as you know, called Xinjiang Province by the Chinese, and had been part of China for some time, but its inhabitants were clearly not Han Chinese, and saw themselves as completely separate as a people, if not as a nation. So I was intrigued, but just accepted it as one of the anomalies of cultures and nations…

Jacinta: Like the non-existent but presumably real Kurdistan?

Canto: Precisely…

Jacinta: Life is weirdly unfair like that, when you have cultures or language groups that would make sense as properly official nations, with their recognised boundaries, their vote at the UN, their good or bad governments, and then you’ve got made-up nations, created by exterior forces, like Afghanistan, and dozens of African nations decided at the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 or the Balkan and other states at the Other Berlin Conference of 1878, or was it the other way around?

Canto: Yes, nations are often such arbitrary creations and then their inhabitants get all nationalistic and xenophobic and irrational about ‘their’ piece of land. Anyway, my thoughts on East Turkestan took a different turn when the social worker asked me to help write a letter to the Federal Immigration Minister regarding her brother, an Australian citizen who had returned to his native region for a holiday and had ended up in prison in Kazakhstan, across the border from Xinjiang. I was assured that he had done nothing wrong, but I couldn’t get any more details apart from the claim that Uyghurs (she didn’t use this term, which I didn’t know about until after I’d left Wandana) were being arbitrarily imprisoned in the province, and if they fled to Kazakhstan they were also in danger, due to dodgy dealings between that country and China. Anyway, I left for more lucrative pastures shortly afterwards, but I very much doubt that our letter had the required result.

Jacinta: That Adelaide suburb, Gilles Plains, apparently houses the largest Uyghur community in Australia.

Canto: Yes, and since I left Wandana, more than a decade ago, the oppression of the Uyghur people has worsened – or maybe I just know more about it. It seems their region was kind of in the way of the Belt and Road project, and/or some of the population there were getting uppity about autonomy, and certainly not conforming to a one-China ideology, so the Party started getting aggressive, which bred more Uyghur violence, which led to mass disappearances and ‘re-education camps’ and some talk about using them as fields for harvesting organs.

Jacinta: Yes, these claims have been aired for years, and of course strenuously denied by the Party, though a paper was quite recently published in the American Journal of Transplantation(!), entitled ‘Execution by organ procurement: Breaching the dead donor rule in China’, which purports to find evidence of such things, though as far as I can see, no evidence is provided as to specific ‘donors’.

Canto: So all of this Uyghur stuff has been brought back to mind by my reading of the book China Panic, by David Brophy, a historian of Uyghur nationalism and a senior lecturer in modern Chinese history at Sydney University. Chapter 6 of the book is called ‘Human rights and Xinjiang’, and it provides much interesting and sobering background info. It seems that the Uyghurs, and Muslims in general (not all Uyghurs are Muslim), have become the Party’s new villains, replacing the Falon Gong of recent years. Promoting their faith to their fellows can elicit a hefty prison sentence. As with the Party’s treatment of Tibetans, but more so, Uyghurs’ visible and behavioural differences from bog-standard Han-ness are seen as a security threat. They’re also stigmatised as ‘backward’, hence the re-education gimmick, which taps into the standard racism that will be familiar to Australians who know our history of stealing indigenous children and providing them with a proper Christian education. With the USA still under the influence of the post-September 11 ‘war on terror’ it was hard to garner too much sympathy for the Uyghurs from that country and its allies, including Australia, but the lack of response, and worse, from Muslim countries has been disappointing, to say the least. Here’s how Brophy puts it:

In fact, at the most recent meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, they went so far as to ‘commend the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens’ – an appalling stance.

It seems that some of these countries had their own problems with minorities, and felt that crack-downs in the name of ‘national solidarity’ were justified – and of course there’s the question of valuable financial ties with China. And there was also just plain ignorance about Uyghur identity, at least early on.

Jacinta: Well, think of the Palestinians – it seems nobody is on their side, certainly on a national level, outside the Middle East.

Canto: Well, I’ve read at least two books by Palestinians about their history and their plight. And there are pro-Palestinian movements and groups, here in Australia and elsewhere, but the Uyghurs don’t have that profile…

Jacinta: I bet they have some articulate spokespeople and writers…

Canto: They’d have to be outside China. But that’s worth exploring. Anyway, Wikipedia has an article, Uyghur genocide, which says it straight, and makes for sickening reading.

Jacinta: So what is to be done?

Canto: The big question. China under The Party is, unsurprisingly, more than reluctant to sign up to any human rights conventions. As Wikipedia puts it: 

In December 2020, a case brought to the International Criminal Court was dismissed because the crimes alleged appeared to have been “committed solely by nationals of China within the territory of China, a State which is not a party to the [Rome Statute of the ICC]”, meaning the ICC couldn’t investigate them.

The lack of public awareness and sympathy for these people, who could be described as just as in thrall to their religion as many United Staters are to theirs, might also be due to the lingering ‘war on terror’, and the consequent anti-Muslim prejudices evident here in Australia as elsewhere. All we can do here is highlight the plight of these people, and counteract propaganda against them, which is going on here, courtesy of Chinese pamphleteers, young people who I suspect know nothing about the real situation.

Jacinta: That’s an important point. A recent study found that the Chinese have far more faith in their government than, for example, Russians have faith in theirs. I presume that’s because Russians are more connected to the WEIRD world than the Chinese, most of whom have never at any time sniffed the chance of getting out from under paternalistic fascism. Their media has been far more controlled for far longer. Though still, there is hope from expat Chinese, and even temporary residents, students who express love for being in a ‘freedom country’, if only for a few years.

Canto: Well, you may have gotten this idea about China’s faith in their government and its media from the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, episode 893, in which, in its science or fiction section, Steve Novella trumped most of the Rogues with the item – ‘Reported trust in the media in 2021 was highest in China at 80%, and lowest in Russia at 29%, with the US in between at 39%’, which turned out to be ‘science’. As Novella pointed out, this was reported trust. It may well be that the Chinese population, after what they’d been through with Mao and the Tiananmen crack-down, and now with their latest thug, wouldn’t dare to stand up against the ubiquity of state media.

Jacinta: So it’s up to outsiders to speak up, and to encourage Uyghur expats to speak up, to allow them a voice and provide a listening ear and a sense of due outrage at the horrors being inflicted upon them.

References

David Brophy, China panic: Australia’s alternative to paranoia and pandering, 2021

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uyghurs

https://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcasts (ep 893)

Written by stewart henderson

August 29, 2022 at 8:54 pm

feminism in China? Must be too busy holding up half the sky…

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Chinese feminists, happily out there, but sadly not in China

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not just religion that’s providing a brake to the progress of female empowerment. The Chinese ‘Communist’ Party, which seems to be religiously opposed to religions of all kinds, with their popes and patriarchs, hasn’t benefitted from this opposition by promoting any of its female citizens to leadership positions.

I say ‘communist’, because  there’s surely no organisation on the planet that’s less communist than the thugocracy that currently rules China, and has done for the last seventy-odd years, since Mao bludgeoned his way to power. If we take communism to mean the dictatorship of the proletariat, clearly it will only happen when ‘prole’ and ‘dictator’ mean the same thing – that’s to say, never. And it’s a sad irony that any nation with any reference to communism in its title has always engaged in the most brutal – and very macho -authoritarianism. So basically I’ve come to consider both communism and fascism as synonymous with thugocracy.

So Mao’s statement that woman hold up half the sky was just patronising claptrap, apparently. Xi Jinping, the unutterably worthless bag of scum that is China’s latest dictator (I’m sorry, but I always get emotional where thugs like Mr Pudding and his Chinese mate – can’t think of a nickname just yet – are concerned. My anti-authoritarianism goes back to earliest childhood and is deeply ingrained), is suppressing the equality of women as part of his corruption campaign. It doesn’t seem to be phasing outspoken women in China, most of whom are destined to outlive the scumbag. Still, for the time being, they’re being muzzled, their Weibo accounts suspended, and their harassment by Party goons adds another layer to the harassment they’ve lately been experiencing on campuses and in workplaces.

These are backward steps for women in China. It was the fascinating Empress Dowager Cixi, one of China’s most under-rated political leaders, who first banned foot-binding back in 1902, a ban that was overturned, probably because it was instituted by a woman, but later reinstated. Even so, China was at the forefront of women’s rights in the early twentieth century. A researcher on women’s rights in China, Emeritus Professor Louise Edwards of the University of NSW, points out that early progress in equality and supportive legislation came from within the system rather than from grassroots activism:

If you were working in the state sector in China, as a woman in the 1950s, you had access to maternity leave, breastfeeding leave — these kinds of protections were way ahead of Australia at the time.

But the Party has become more repressive and ‘anti-western’ since the events of 1989, and especially since the rise of Mr Pingpong (okay this needs a bit of work). Clearly the Party has become more macho (there has never been a woman on the politburo standing committee, in its almost 70-year history), so feminists have had to work from outside that framework, and are more of a threat, and therefore more ‘western’. It’s all rather predictable in its stupidity. So China has dropped down the rankings for gender equality, temporarily. But Mr Pingpong will be dead meat soon enough (actually, not soon enough), and women will rise again, inevitably. The arc of the moral universe may be long, but it bends toward justice, in spite of these pingpongy, Mr Puddingy gremlins in the works. In fact, once Pingpong is out of the way, hopefully without being able to secure another fascist to replace him, feminism will likely burst into the public sphere with a vengeance, as identification with feminism is increasing big-time in China. Lu Pin, the founder of Feminist Voices, an influential media outlet shut down in 2018, remains confident about the future. An ABC article, linked below, quotes her:

Today, more young people than before agree that they are feminists. Today, the debate on feminism in Chinese society is unprecedentedly fierce.

Again, it’s a matter of nature eventually overcoming oppressive cultural artifice, but meanwhile the attitude of the Party towards increasing sexism and male brutality is to downplay the violence and to avoid at all costs any mention of feminist values and aspirations. It’s a very backward move considering that, by the 1970s, Chinese women, who in ancient China often didn’t even have their own names, formed the largest female workforce in the world. The one-child policy, introduced in 1979, led to abortions and abandonment of female infants, and a noticeable gender imbalance problem into the 21st century. Although the policy has since been relaxed, women are reluctant to become ‘baby factories’ for the Party, given the lack of support for child-rearing, and the current patriarchal fashion.

China’s first ever law dealing with domestic violence was enacted in 2016, over 40 years after Australia’s Family Law Act (1975) defined and legislated against domestic violence. However, it appears that the law is largely a well-kept secret. Frida Lindberg, in an article on women’s rights and social media for the Institute for Security and Development Policy (a Swedish NGO), writes this:

Despite the Anti-Domestic Violence Law, domestic violence cases have nevertheless continued. Some argue that the law is ineffective due to low public awareness about the issue and punishments that are too lenient. In addition, the law has been criticized for promoting family harmony and social stability, a principle that stems from Confucianism, as this seems to contradict the law’s principle of preventing domestic violence.

Lindberg’s article shines a light on current obstacles to female participation and progress in the Chinese workforce, obstacles that many WEIRD women now in their sixties and seventies (my generation) experienced regularly four or more decades ago. But of course the social media issue is new. Weibo and other social media sites became a vital outlet for women after the treatment of the so-called feminist five were muzzled, at least partially, after street protests in 2015 over domestic violence and the lack of public facilities for women. Unsurprisingly there was a backlash against feminist posts, which many in the movement saw as a good thing – any publicity being good publicity –  but the Party decided to put a stop to the argy-bargy, removing many social media accounts of prominent feminists in 2021. It also appears to be lending support to anti-feminist nationalists, who have been trolling outspoken women for anything they can find, including sympathy for Hong Kong and for oppressed minorities. The Party has used the excuse of ‘disrupting social order’ to harass and shut down whistleblowers who’ve posted about sexual harassment, but the number of views these posts garnered argues for a groundswell of concern about the issue, one way or the other. Feminists have fought back by coding their messages to avoid censorship, but this obviously has its limitations for attracting public attention, and is usually identified and reported by the ‘nationalists’.

So, it’s a ‘watch this space’ situation, or rather, watch this region. Having taught scores of Chinese women over the years, I know all about their intellect, their passion and their power. In his book Asia’s reckoning, the Australian journalist Richard McGregor described the irony of how conformist Japan has become a liberal democratic country of sorts, while the more liberal and individualist Chinese are saddled with the Party and its goons. It’s surely a temporary situation, but just how temporary is temporary?

References

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-08/feminism-in-china-internet-crackdown-erase-womens-voices/100165360

Click to access Lindberg.-2021.-Womens-Rights-in-China-and-Feminism-on-Chinese-Social-Media.-1.pdf

Richard McGregor, Asia’s reckoning, 2017

 

 

Written by stewart henderson

July 23, 2022 at 6:43 pm

some thoughts on fascism and American exceptionalism

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Fascism isn’t compatible with democracy, that’s the common view. Yet we know that fascism can utilise democracy to get started, and then toss it aside, when it, fascism, gets itself sufficiently established. It happened in Germany, of course, and in modern Russia Putin has trampled upon the seeds of democracy that were just starting to take root after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now his brand of fascism has managed to prevail for the foreseeable.

Also, fascism, though somewhat limited, can occur between democratic elections, if the elected person or party is given too much power, or leeway to increase his power, by a particular political system.

Fascism is a particular type of popularism, generally based on the leadership rhetoric of particular, highly egotistical individuals, almost always male. Other current examples include Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duterte in the Phillippines, Erdogan in Turkey, Kadyrov in Chechnya, Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and Orban in Hungary. There are certain features of this political brand. Ultra-nationalism, militarism, ‘law and order’, control of the media and persecution of opposition are all essential elements.

I note that historians would mostly disagree with the ‘fascist’ moniker being used today – they like to restrict it to the early-to-mid 20th century, generally being quashed as a ‘coherent’ political movement by the second world war. Even the term ‘neo-fascist’ is generally grumbled about. I think this is false and ridiculously so. The elements of fascism described above have been used by states not only in the 21st century but since the origins of the state thousands of years ago, though of course no two fascist states are identical, any more than their leaders have been.

Every state, even the most democratic, is susceptible to fascism. The USA’s susceptibility is worth noting. To me, its ‘soft underbelly’ is its obsession with the individual. Perhaps also an obsession with worship, saviours and superheroes. Of course, Americans like to describe themselves as the most democratic people on earth, and the world’s greatest democracy. In fact, having listened to more US cable news shows since 2016 than is good for my health, I find this declaration of America’s top-class status by news anchors, political pundits, lawyers and public intellectuals to be both nauseating and alarming. It betokens a lack of a self-critical attitude towards the USA’s political system, which lends itself to populist fascism more than most other democratic systems. Few other such nations directly elect their leaders, pitching one heroic individual against another in a kind of gladiatorial contest, two Don Quixotes accompanied by their Sancho Panzas. Their parliament, too – which they refuse to call a parliament – has become very much a two-sided partisan affair, unlike many European parliaments, which feature a variety of parties jostling for popularity, leading to coalitions and compromise – which to be fair also has its problems, such as centrist stagnation and half-arsed mediocrity. There are no perfect or even ‘best’ political systems, IMHO – they change with the personnel at the controls.

It’s unarguable that the current administration which supposedly governs the USA is extremely corrupt, venal and incompetent. It is headed by a pre-teen spoilt brat with an abysmal family history, who has managed to succeed in a 50-odd year life of white-collar crime, due to extraordinarily lax laws pertaining to such crime (the USA is far from being alone amongst first-world nations in that regard), and to be rewarded for that life, and for the mountain of lies he has told about it, by becoming the president of the world’s most economically and militarily powerful country. Unfortunately for him, the extremely high-profile status he now has, and which he revels in, being a lifelong, obsessional attention-seeker, has resulted in detailed scrutiny and exposure. Now, it may be that, even with the laying bare of all the criminality he has dealt in – and no doubt more will be laid bare in the future – the USA’s justice system will still fail the simple test of bringing this crime machine to book after he is thrown out of office. Then again, maybe it will be successful, albeit partially. And the crime machine is well aware of this. And time is running out.

The USA is in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, and suffering terribly. On this day, July 24 2020, the country suffered over a thousand Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours. The USA has approximately 14 times the population of Australia, where I live, but has suffered more than 1000 times the number of Covid-19 deaths. It is a monumental tragedy, with hubris, indifference, blame-shifting and deceit at the highest government level, and heroism, frustration, exhaustion and determination at many state levels and especially at the level of critical and general healthcare. And there’s a presidential election in the offing, an election that the current incumbent is bound to lose. He hates losing and will never admit to losing, but there is more at stake for him now than for any other previous loss, and he knows this well.

Which brings us back to fascism. It has recently been tested, on a small scale, in Portland, and it’s being threatened elsewhere, but to be fair to the people of the USA, their civil disobedience, so disastrous for getting on top of Covid-19, is a very powerful weapon against fascism. It remains to be seen whether it will be powerful enough. The next few months will certainly absorb my attention, happily from a far-away place. I’m sure it’s going to be very very messy, but I’m also interested in 2021 in that country. How will it ensure that this never happens again? Serious reform needs to occur. Greater restrictions on presidential candidature must be applied. Not financial restrictions – wealth being apparently the only vetting criterion Americans seem to recognise. How is it that a person is allowed to become the leader of such a powerful and dominant country on the world stage without any of the kind of vetting that would be the sine qua non for the position of any mid-level CEO? Without any knowledge of the country’s history, its alliances, its laws, its domestic infrastructure and so forth? To rely entirely on the popular mandate for the filling of such a position is disastrous. This sounds like an anti-democratic statement, and to some extent it is. We don’t decide on our science by popular mandate, nor our judiciary, nor our fourth estate. We have different ways of assessing the value of these essential elements of our society, and necessarily so. The USA now suffers, via this presidency, for many failures. It fails to vet candidates for the highest office. It fails to provide any system of accountability for criminality while in office. It fails to ensure that the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins office. It fails to ensure its electoral system is secure from foreign and/or criminal interference. It permits its elected leader to select a swathe of unelected cronies without relevant experience to positions of high domestic and international significance. It permits its leader to engage in extreme nepotism. It fails in dealing with presidential emoluments. The current incumbent in the ‘white palace’ may not be able to spell fascism, but his instincts are fascist, as shown by his absolutist language, not necessarily the language of an adult, but neither is the language of most fascist leaders, who share the same brattish love of insult, thin-skinned intolerance of opposition, and lack of common humanity. These are precisely the psychological types who need to be vetted out of all political systems. This isn’t 20-20 hindsight. Vast numbers of people, in the USA and around the world, saw Trump as the mentally deficient liar and con-man he’s always been. It’s up to the USA to ensure that such a type can never rise to anything like this position of power and influence again. It requires far more than soul-searching.

Written by stewart henderson

July 25, 2020 at 11:53 am