Friday, November 16, 2007

Encounters with the Great Firewall of China

Encounters with the Great Firewall of China

During my second year of graduate school I learned a great deal from my lab mentor who was born, raised, and attended University in Beijing. He loved to talk about Chinese culture and I enjoyed listening. During our discussions we inevitably reached the subject of Tibet. On this topic we vehemently disagreed about the reasons and effects of Chinese occupation. He consistently claimed that the people of Tibet were wholly better off because of the occupation and that Chinese rule had made the more barbaric practices of “lamaism” (as he called Tibetan Buddhism) illegal. He went so far as to claim that the lamas (the high priests that surround the Dali Lama) had practiced human sacrifice up until the 1950’s.

The argument between he and I remained civil but lasted for 3 months. After he had sent me an e-mail with the claims of human sacrifice backed by scholarly references I inter-library loaned these references. Some came from obscure private libraries at Harvard. The only evidence I could find in all my research was reference to ancient Tibetan texts describing human sacrifice in the 1300s. I found no modern evidence for human sacrifice in Tibetan Buddhism anytime close to 1950. My mentor stuck to his ideas though and we agreed to disagree, but I did learn that Tibet was not the Shangri-La that it is normally portrayed as in western media.

This encounter was a clash of ideals and resulted in a discussion that left both parties more informed about the facts. My second encounter was far more real and ultimately one-sided.

My friend Philip Razem is currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Chongqing, China where he teaches English and American culture to college students. I received an interesting reply e-mail from him the other day.

I recently began to write a blog and wanted to share it with my friends and family. I had sent the link to Phil and he replied saying he would enjoy reading this, but had to do so through proxy servers from his host home in Chongqing, because the “Great Firewall of China” had successfully blocked access to my blog from servers in mainland China.

These first hand encounters with governmentally approved censorship renewed my appreciation for my U.S. citizenship. These cases mark a key contrast between democracy and socialism. It also points out that free press and free speech transcend the quibbling of Republicans vs. Democrats into the realm of universal human rights. So, why does the Ministry of Public security of the People’s Republic of China care what I have to say?

There were several reasons for me to start writing a blog this past October, but my involvement in the public opinion hearing held by the BSC was the last straw in pushing me into the blogosphere. On September 27th I was contacted by Kristen Sullivan the news coordinator at Google News. My name had shown up in enough news articles that day to elicit a response from “Big Brother.” She had asked me to write a comment on the news stories I was quoted in. At first I was hesitant to respond but then realized that Google was providing a public forum for debate and the faster I responded the more likely people reading the news would read what I had to say. So I used this opportunity to challenge the biased coverage of the BSC hearing among the Denver News affiliates and express my opposition to the war in Iraq and provide detailed reasons for opposition. I specifically stressed that the barbaric profanity of pre-emptive war is supremely more offensive than a four letter word.

Google News kept my comments attached to stories relating to F-bush editorial for 30 days after publication. From this experience I do believe that corporate media can and must play a crucial role in a healthy democracy. From these comments evolved my blog.

An unfettered press was the inspiration for the American Revolution and will be the key to fair cultural globalization. People in general are compassionate and when exposed to the truth behind genocide and general injustice will come to the aide of afflicted peoples.

The right to a free press is at the core of American Democracy. Ideas cost nothing to export and have the ability to change minds, markets and eventually governments themselves. The global information age has brought with it unprecedented cross cultural communication and with this raised global consciousness. I do not think it too much to ask that these ideals be upheld in the nation of their birth.

As Ben Franklin said…

“Any society that would give up liberty to gain security will deserve neither and lose both.”

-Kristopher Hite

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fort Collins For Iraq Withdrawal

The following links you to the non-binding resolution for Iraq withdrawal which has been presented to the Fort Collins City Council for the past several months.

Please show your support for this resolution by showing up to Fort Collins City Council meetings which are held at city hall at 300 Laporte Ave. on the first and third Tuesday of each month. at 6:00 PM there is 1/2 hour dedicated to public comment there is no requirement to stay for the entire meeting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Poem worth a five minute read

Poetry by Jeff Poniewaz

Why Young Men Wore Their
Hair Long in the Sixties

Because they could feel the deforestation of the Amazon
breathing down their necks even then,
Because half of the world's trees have been cut down
since 1950,
Because even as kids in the '50s they could feel
the wilds dwindling, and were given crewcuts
soon as school let out for the summer,
Because they didn't care if some bigot
thought they looked like girls--
they were unmistakable male to themselves
and weren't afraid to accept the female
half of their soul and love the Mother Earth,
rejecting the macho Earth-rape of civilization,
Because they had to become long-haired Indians
to expiate the genocide of the Indians
by their European-invasion
boatpeople greatgrandparents,
Because even their European Paleolithic granddaddies
all had long hair before they cut down
the forests to make room for cities
with barbershops right next to butchershops,
Because they had to make up for all the baldheaded skeletons
the Nazis kept as deathcamp slaves,
Because though they dug Buddha's bald head
they liked getting high
in other ways besides meditation,
Because Jesus was crucified for having long hair
by crewcut fundamentalists who went back
in a time machine to make sure he'd be
the Only hippie on their holycards
Because Einstein's hair burst from his skull in protest
of radiation sickness making people's hair fall out,
Because Eisenhower's bald head was succeeded
by Kennedy's boyish shock of hair,
which got blown off his head the year
before the Beatles came to America,
Because Elvis's duck's-ass outraged the '50s
as much as the Beatle-cut outraged the '60s,
Because Stokowski let his mane fly illuminated
on album covers decades before Billy Idol,
And long-hair music has been letting its own long hair down
much longer than "Roll Over Beethoven,"
Because even short-haired hepcats like Charlie Parker
let down the long hair of their souls in their jazz,
Because James Dean's pre-Elvis noncrewcut rebel
is a nobler symbol of the '50s than Happy Days,
Because haircut conformity's a sellout to getting a job,
Because Whitman shook his white locks at the runaway sun
while loafing on a hill of summer grass,
"And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves,"
he wrote observing the flowing grass,
Because Industrial Revolution lobotomizes our mammal brain,
Because military-industrialism barbers the heart
with bayonets,
Because "patriots" yearned to razor the throats
of bearded longhairs during the Vietnam War,
and yearned to shave off their balls as well
to make perfect eunuch robots of war
albeit Bob Hope pimping Ann-Margret
to the about-to-die: "Remember, boys,
this is what you're fighting for,"
Because Moloch lusts to blow their balls off in battle,
Because Jim Morrison flashing his phallus
in the face of the Vietnam War
got busted for obscenity,
Because Rock'n'Roll pit its ecstasy
against the nightmare madness of war
(tho rock promoters scalp rock fans
as much as ticket scalpers do),
Because hair longs to be long,
Because even when we die our hair wants
to keep on growing forever,
Because every wild horse loves its flowing mane,
Because long hair means a wilderness
and short hair means a lawn,
Because John Muir said the first thing they do
is cut down the trees and the second thing
they do is graze sheep amid the stubble,
Because the first thing they do in
a prison an insane asylum or the Marines
is shear off all your hair exactly like sheep...