an autodidact meets a dilettante…

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

Posts Tagged ‘thugocracy

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

17th century perspectives, 21st century slaughter

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Vlady the Thug – returning us all to the glories of centuries-old slaughter

Canto: So much is happening, so much is being learned, so much of my ignorance is being brought home to me, and so much of my good luck is also being brought home, in that I’ve never had to live in or be brought down by a thugocracy. Then again, if you’ve come to this ‘lucky country’ be means of a leaky boat, trying to escape a foreign thugocracy by any means possible, you’ll likely have a very different perspective.

Jacinta: Haha yes it’s Writer’s Week here in Adelaide, and we’ve been sampling, generally by sometimes dodgy internet links, the thoughts of former refugees writers, investigative journalists on even more dodgy pharmaceutical companies, and words of wisdom from our intellectual elders. And of course many of these conversations have been clouded by the invasion of Ukraine by Vlady the Thug, and the consequent carnage.

Canto: Yes, it seems he’s trying to channel Peter the Great, but he’s 300 years behind the times, and hasn’t been told that warlordism just doesn’t fit with 21st century fashion. But Vlady the Thug, that’s good, it would definitely be helpful if all world leaders, including and especially Zelensky, started  addressing him as such. Vlady is extremely small-minded, with a narrow understanding of nationalism and glory, and with a huge sense of his own grandeur. The WEIRD world may not be able to unite to destroy him, given the protection racket around him and the vast nuclear arsenal he and his predecessors have been allowed to assemble, but I think that worldwide mockery, difficult though it might seem at this awful time, might unhinge him just enough for a rethink, or alternatively, might be enough to turn his thug underlings against him.

Jacinta: True, but I don’t think Vlady the Thug is punchy enough…

Canto: It’s a good start, certainly a far cry from Peter the Great (who was a bit of a thug himself of course). And don’t forget, world leaders have never been too good at comedy, they’re generally too full of their Serious Destiny. I doubt if they would come at Vlady the Thug, never mind Vlad the Tame Impala or Mr Pudding.

Jacinta: True, but Zelensky is apparently a former comedian, and he’s absolutely Mister Popularity on the world stage at the moment. If he went with this mockery, and encouraged his new-found fans to follow his example, it might be the best, and certainly the cheapest form of attack available at present. Though it’s true that I can’t imagine Sco-Mo or Scummo, our PM, managing to deliver any comedy line with the requisite aplomb.

Canto: Well, it’s an interesting idea, if only we could get Zelensky’s minders to take it up. Unfortunately he seems to have caught the Man with a Serious Destiny disease recently – for which I don’t blame him at all. And anyway, I have to check the internet on a regular basis currently to see if he’s still alive.

Jacinta: Yes, I thought the imitation of Churchill in his address to the British Parliament was a bit cringeworthy, but I agree that it’s hardly a time to criticise Zelensky when Vlady the Thug is on the loose. Anyway, the WEIRD world is stuck in dealing with little Vlady. I listened to a long-form interview with Julia Ioffe on PBS today – she’s a Russian-born US journalist who has reported from that country for some years, and her depiction of Vlady was spot-on – that’s to say, it chimed exactly with mine. She feels that he will never withdraw or change his mind about Ukraine. He has stated often in communication with other leaders that Ukraine is not a ‘real country’.

Canto: Yes, unlike Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan and all those African countries. Russia on the other hand is a real country thanks to the wars of Ivan , Peter, Catherine and the rest. Thanks to all the slaughter, rape and suppression of alternative languages and cultures. Just like Australia and the USA are real countries thanks to the removal of previous cultures from their land – with associated slaughter, rape, and ‘white man’s disease’.

Jacinta: Yes, few countries – or maybe there are no countries whose national ‘development’ hasn’t involved a fair amount of bloody repression. Ukrainians, as Ioffe pointed out, have made it abundantly clear in recent times that they reject Vlady’s thugocracy, and their resolve has hardened as a result of the 2014 events. But Ioffe’s view is also quite bleak – due to Vlady’s complete inability to back down, in her view. And I’m pretty sure she’s right about that. And, according to her, his ‘inner circle’ has contracted considerably in recent times, and they’re all as crazy as himself, maybe even crazier. So this may mean the invasion will continue, until he becomes master of an almost uninhabited wasteland. Nobody wants to provoke him to take the nuclear option, which he’s quite capable of.

Canto: So the only real option would be to kill him. And he’s no doubt been guarding himself against that option for years.

Jacinta: It would most likely have to be an inside job. I’m sure there are negotiations under way, but Putin is very much a survivor. At the moment he’s cracking down on dissent like never before. But the world is seeing it, and this will ultimately be a victory for democracy. In the short term though, it’s a terrible tragedy.

Canto: If there is a silver lining, it’s the winning of the propaganda war, the worldwide condemnation will give the CCP thugocracy something to think about vis-a-vis Taiwan. At the moment they’re trying to blame NATO for the invasion, and of course they have blanket control over the media there, but people have ways of getting reliable information, for example from the massive Chinese diaspora.

Jacinta: So I’ve been listening to Julia Ioffe, Masha Gessen, Fiona Hill and others, but of course no amount of analysis is going to improve the situation, and even our concern seems more debilitating than anything. I imagine holding Vlady prisoner and then pointing out some home truths…

Canto: Very useful. But here’s a few arguments. As you say, he’s been fond of claimng over the years that Ukraine isn’t a real country. But what makes Russia a real country? What make Australia a real country? What make the USA a real country?  Presumably Vlady thinks that Russia’s a real country because the slaughter, rape and suppression of ‘minority’ languages and cultures occurred earlier.

Jacinta: Well, we don’t know what he would say. What if we didn’t tell him why he’s wrong, but allowed him to explain why he’s right? What would he say?

Canto: Well, we know that he’s a very ardent nationalist, so to suggest to him that all nations are artificial in an important sense would just incense him. But once he calms down (and we’ve got him all tied up and hanging upside-down so he can’t escape, and we’ve promised him that if he provides really cogent arguments according to a panel of independent experts, he’ll be given his freedom, with his thugocracy completely returned to him), what will be his arguments?

Jacinta: Well, we don’t have his views on the legitimacy of Russia as a nation, and I suspect he would scoff at the very idea of having to justify Russian nationhood, because I’m sure he believes that if Russia didn’t exist his life would have no meaning – which is about as far from our understanding of our humanity as one could possibly get – but we do have his essay from last year about why Ukraine isn’t and can never be a legitimate nation.

Canto: Yes, he harps on about Ukrainians and Russians being ‘a single people’, who shouldn’t have a border between them, but the very idea of any nations being a ‘single people’ is a fantasy. It’s of course where the terms ‘unAustralian’ and ‘unAmerican’ get their supposed bite from – the fantasy of individuals being united by their ‘nationhood’.

Jacinta: More importantly, he seems completely unaware, or prefers to be unaware, of the extremely repressive state he’s created, and that few people in their right minds, whether Ukrainian, Russian or Icelandic, would want to live under a jackboot when they have the opportunity to choose and criticise their own government.

Canto: Yes, he talks in the vaguest, most soporific terms of Ukrainians and Russians occupying ‘the same historical and spiritual space’, and  being ‘a single people’, and with ‘affinities’ created by Vladimir the Great, the ruler of Kievan Rus over a thousand years ago. As if.

Jacinta: Yes, the fact is that Ukrainian pro-European and anti-Russian sentiment has obviously grown since Vlady’s bloody adventurism in 2014. Ukrainians are wanting to survive and thrive in the here and now. I mean, it’s good, sort of, that Vlady takes an interest in history, as we do, but from a vastly different perspective. His potted history, like many, is about rulers – earthly or spiritual, and territories won and lost between the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Russians and so on. But these battles for territories from centuries ago bear little relation to the lives and thoughts of individual people today, people whom Vlady is completely disconnected from, just as Xi Jinping  and his fellow thugs are completely disconnected from the everyday freedoms of Hong Kongers.

Canto: The point to make here is that no amount of tendentious historical description will conceal the fact that Ukrainians, like Hong-Kongers, see that their best future lies in the arms of the WEIRD world, with all its messiness. Here’s a banner epigram – fuck our history, what abut our future?

Jacinta: Good one. Yes, Vlady doesn’t like that not-so top-down messiness. He prefers stasis and control, especially by himself. And if it means wholesale slaughter to obtain it, so be it. Mind you, I strongly suspect he was misguided in his perception of Ukrainian sentiment, for whatever reason. And the people who are paying for this misguidedness, by and large, (and horrifically) are the Ukrainians.

References

Putin’s new Ukraine essay reveals imperial ambitions

 

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66181

 

Written by stewart henderson

March 12, 2022 at 7:59 pm