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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, September 21, 2020

I am not even sure when Blogspot started using labels for posts. I thought the idea was a bit redundant, since, if you type a word in the search box in the upper left corner, Blogspot will use the Google search engine to search only this blog for blog posts that contain that term. So I passed on it for a long time. But much has changed in the years since I started this blog in December of 2003. Many people use smart phones now to read blogs, and I saw that if you are using a smart phone, it is nice to be able to tap a label at the bottom of the blog post and see all blogposts having that same label. So I have started to use them, and then thought it would be nice if I could create a page where readers could see all the topics listed and then click on the label for the topics they were interested in persuing. It will take me some time to get this done--I guess I will be putting in a few topics a day.

I should also remind you that the permalink for a blog post can be obtained by clicking on the date at the bottom of that blog post.

A World Split Apart
This is the title of Solzhenitsyn's address to the graduating class of Harvard in June of 1978. This topic includes posts referring to that lecture. If you are just interested in the lecture itself, it is also listed in the title section.

Afghanistan
My interest in Central Asia really began with my trip to Kashgar in 2005. But my interest in Afganistan in particular began with the sad realization that so many, many kids in that country have very limited opportunities for education.

American Civil War
The American Civil War is the centerpoint of American history. Everything that happened before it was a cause of it. Everything that happened after it has been caused by it.

American Civil War
The American Civil War is the centerpoint of American history. Everything that happened before it was a cause of it. Everything that happened after it has been caused by it.

American Society
This is a rather large topic right now, because it includes all posts about America society. Since the blog is mostly about China, I think it will be alright for now. I may need to divide it later.

Animals
Posts about animals in China and how people relate to animals.

Apologetics
Apologetics is not about saying you're sorry. It is a term used to define arguments in defense of the Christian faith. So it would be a branch of philosophy, or at least incorporate philosophical ideas. I guess you could say it is the intersection of religion and philosophy, since religion is about what people believe, and apologetics explains why those beliefs are reasonable.

Assassination
Obiously, I hope this topic stays small.

Back to Jerusalem
These posts have to do with a movement in the Christian church in China (particularly the informal church) dedicated to bringing the Christian message "back to Jerusalem" by way of the Muslim countries between China and Israel.

Basic Law
The “Basic Law” is the law establishing the SAR under the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

Beihai
I taught extension courses in the spring semester for three years at Beihai College in Beihai during the years that I was teaching at Beihang University in Beijing. Beihai is a coastal city in the south of Guangxi Province.

Blindness
Sometimes we use the term "blindness" to describe someone who just seems adverse to the truth. Spiritual blindness. But physical blindness has a very different implication. So often blindness is used to emphasize extra sensitivity in some other area. For example, most church people who know who Fanny Crosby (distant cousin to Bing) is would tend to think of her as "gifted" rather than "handicapped."

Capitalism vs Socialism
In today’s China, it is no longer politically correct to voice Marxist ideology. But it is also not politically correct to publicly admit that we no longer believe what Marx teaches. So young people are confused, because they look around them and see capitalism, but they are told that it is socialism.

Censorship
Since the incident with the South China Weekly back in 2013, the Party has tightened its grip on the media in China. Up until that time, individual papers were given a measure of freedom to operate as long as they did not openly contradict the Party line. It should also be noted that every country has some censorship. So there is good censorship and bad censorship. But how do we draw the line between the two?

Chen Guangcheng
Chen Guangcheng is the blind “barefoot lawyer” from Shandong Province who helped poor people in their attempts to obtain redress of grievances. He was arrested, spent four years in prison and was then placed under house arrest in his village. He escaped, went to the US embassy in Beijing, and eventually got to America.

China Inland Mission
The CIM was the mission established by Hudson Taylor in the nineteenth century. After 1949 they changed their name to OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship).

China Missions
For a hundred years—from the first half of the nineteenth century to 1949, western missionaries brought Christianity to China. By the time they were kicked out after 1949, the church had already become quite well established and rooted in Chinese soil. Political events after 1949 forced the church underground, which resulted in an already established institution becoming deeply rooted in Chinese soil. So much so, that China today could not be China without Chinese Christianity.

China Youth University
I taught at CYU from 2011 until CYU merged with the China Academy of Social Sciences in 2017.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
China, as you know, is a one-pasrty state. But what does the Communist Party actually stand for today? The CCP has gone through so many changes. The pivotal year for worldwide Communism was 1989. But in China it did not result in the elimination of the Party as happened in the Soviet Union. Rather, it wass a slow, steady reform.

Chinese Media
This topic addresses issues re: the Chinese Media. You should know that published news stories are not necessarily directed by the party. But all media in Mainland China is under the Party, and thus must not publish something that does not have the Party’s approval. Hong Kong media is not under the Party, but there is talk that they practice a considerable amount of self-censorship to avoid offending Beijing.

Chinese Military
Primary areas of interest here have to do with China’s relationship with close neighbors and the muscle flexing that China sees as a needful part of its diplomacy. I think this saber rattling has often had the opposite of the desired effect.

Christianity
Broad range of issues regarding the history and current practice of Christianity in China.

Cold War
When we hear the term “Cold War,” we generally think of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. But China was within the Soviet sphere until 1962, and long after that in the minds of many Americans who did not appreciate the significance of the split between China and the Soviet Union. We now know that Mao feared Russia far more than he feared America

Communication
This topic addresses communication in a general sense, not just in China, because communication is becoming so global. But there are particular issues with respect to China in particular that also need to be addressed.

Confucius
China without Confucius could not be China He is fundamental to everything that happens in China, and particularly how countryside people respond to every day situations.

Conservatism
What is conservatism? Why is it becoming such an issue today? What is the fundamental difference conservatism and liberalism?

Corona virus 2020
Blog posts dealing with the corona virus that started in Wuhan, either (as it now appears) at a virus lab or at a local wet market.

Corruption
Blog posts in this category address the problem of corruption wherever it may be occurring. This would be primarily government corruption.

Criminal Law
Posts having to do with criminal procedure, and criminal law as compared to other countries.

Cultural Revolution
The Cultural Revolution began in 1966 and lasted for ten years until 1976. I first read about it in my Weekly Reader in the boarding school for missionary children in northern Japan where I grew up. I was in sixth or seventh grade. For a long time, I misunderstood the Cultural Revolution. As a Christian and a child of missionaries, I knew that persecution of Chritians in China began long before 1966, and I was, of course, personally acuquainted with missionaries who had been kicked out of China. So I just assumed that it was more of the same. No. The Cultural Revolution was not primarily about Communists persecuting Christians. It was Mao's attack on the Communist Party regulars, many of whom had lost confidence in him due to the failures of the "Great Leap Forward" (the second five year plan)

Deadly Force
Use of deadly force by law enforcement and by citizens.

Democracy
Americans believe in democracy and tend to think the world would be a better place if everyone followed this path. But the divisiveness in American political life is a direct result of Americans giving credit to democracy for the freedom that God gave them instead of seeing democracy as a gift by God to a free people. In other words, democracy comes from freedom, not the other way around.

Deng Xiaoping
Rarely can the conqueror become the day to day administrator. Genghis Khan was the conqueror. But Kublai Khan was the ruler. In the same way, Mao was a very clever military strategist, but a horrible administrator. He ran the country into the ground. In sharp contrast, Deng’s policies pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

Doublespeak
“Point at a deer and call it a horse.” There is a constant pressure in China to all something one thing while we know it is another. The common expression is “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” But as a professor from Peking University said in a lecture I attended, “Socialism with Chinese characteristics is actually capitalism with Chinese characteristics.”

Dynasties
Blogs having to do with the dynastic history of China.

Education
This is a topic I am starting on the nature of education in China and of students in China. What are their needs and what are their priorities?

Electricity
I have always been fascinated with electricity. Sometimes we we say electricity/electronics to distinguish between the ordinary flow of electricty through a wire, and the technology which involves the behavior of the electron in "souped up conditions," as my ninth grade science teacher put it. For me, it has meant electricity but also radio, and of course, computers.

Espionage
What really is spying? What are spies like? What motivates them and what makes them tick? What should be our attitude toward them?

Expat Life
There are many foreigners living and working in China. In large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they live a sort of alternate lifestyle. In several other cities, such as Kunming and Chengdu, there are also a sizeable number of foreigners.

Family Churches
There are two basic types of Protestant churches in China. There are the Three-Self churches, which are under the Religious Affairs Bureau, and the family churches, most of which are actually just small unregistered churches.

Forced Labor
Forced Labor means labor that is not by the choice of the person doing the work. This would include slavery, but would not include indentured servitude.

Fragrant Hills
I moved to Beijing in the mid-noughties to teach in the Software College of Beihang University. After working there for six years, I was in formed that Beihang University will not sign a contract with anyone who has reached the age of 55. So I left the foreign teacher’s dormitory and moved to the western hills of Beijing, known as “Fragrant Hills.”

Health Care
Blogs about health care issues in China.

Hong Kong
Blog posts about Hong Kong, my travels to Hong Kong, and issues related to Hong Kong, esepecially relations with the mainland.

Hui Muslims
Blogs about the Hui people. So why is the topic titled "Hui Muslims?" Because all Hui people are at least nominally Muslim. That means that they eat in the Muslim cafeteria when they are in university. But it doesn't seem to have much influence over whether or not they decide to join the Communist part--in contrast to Christians.

Hong Kong
Blog posts about Hong Kong, my travels to Hong Kong, and issues related to Hong Kong, esepecially relations with the mainland.

Human Rights
This topic is one of the most hotly debated when it comes to China. Don’t take anything for granted. China often complains that the western media is hypocritical in their treatment of this issue. I partly agree. But that does not mean that there are not human rights violations in China. Don’t swallow stuff whole. Do your own thorough investigation and reach your own conclusions. But be an informed student of China.

Individual Liberty
In my discussion of this issue, I often stress what I believe to be the most significant human rights issue: deprivation of liberty without due process. I tend to resist anything that obscures that issue, including references to “genocide” by western media. But there are other issues in addition to wrongful incarceration, such as freedom of worship to which we need to give attention.

Infrastructure
Infrastructure development in China is not without controversy, especially with respect to the Three Gorges Dam. But there is also a measure of controversy regarding the train system between the mainland and Hong Kong, and there have been very great concerns about the development of the high speed train in China.

International Churches
Basically there are three types of Protestant churches in China: family churches, Three-Self churches, and international churches. The family churches are basically unregistered house churches. The Three-Self churches are most often old mission churches that were taken over by the Party (by means of the Religious Affairs Bureau) after 1949. The international churches, or what I call “cocoon churches,” are run independently by foreigners on the condition that they do not admit Chinese people.

International Law
For five years, I served as assistant coach to the Jessup team at China Youth University. International Law is fraught with difficulties, because there is no central authority that everybody has to bow to. But increased cooperation will make the establishment and enforcement of International Law more workable.

International Trade
The issue of international trade has come to the fore because of the chronic trade imbalance between China and the United States. But the United States and China haveto get along. It’s not an option. They are just too interrelated. And of course Japan comes into the picture also. Millions of people travel from China to Japan to buy Japanese products in the country where they are made to be sure they are not getting something fake.

Islam
What is Islam? What do Muslims actually believe? Is it fair to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few terrorists. All members of the Klan in the United States must be Protestants. But does that mean that all Protestants are Klansmen? People with very different religious beliefs need to be able to dialogue, and that cannot be done if they do not understand each other.

Jews in China
The Jews came to China at three different times in history. They came first to Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century they came to Harbin to help build the little village into a major railroad outpost. And they came to Shanghai to get away from Hitler and the Nazis. They lived in the Shanghai Ghetto, and thought they had it pretty rough. But then the war ended and they found out what had happened to Jews in Germany.

Joint Declaration
The Joint Declaration refers to the treaty signed by China and the UK which became the foundation for the Basic Law and the one country, two kingdoms system. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-British_Joint_Declaration

Kaifeng
Kaifeng is an ancient and important city in Henan Province. It is the first of three places to which the Jews migrated during the diaspora. They came to Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty.

Kashgar
Kashgar is the the most western city in China. It is an old trading post on the Silk Road.

Kazakhs
One of the Muslim people groups in Xinjiang. The Kazakhs in Xinjiang are Chinese citizens, but their family roots go back to Kazakhstan.

Kindness
It's just amazing how a little act of kindness can not only brighten your day, but also completely change your perspective of a person, a people, and a place.

Kyrgyzstan
Blog posts about the country of Kyrgyzstan, the “Switzerland of Asia.” Particularly painful is the disturbing practice of bride kidnapping.

Language Learning
Posts having to do with how to learn language, some or the challenges involved, and how to improve the process of learning language.

Liberalism
There is such a divide now between liberalism and conservatism. But very few people understand what the words mean. What is the reason for an individual’s decision, or perhaps we could say inclination to be a liberal?

Literature
What is literature? What is the status of literature in a civilization in decline such as the United States? How can we make literature more relevant without changing it so much that it loses its meaning? Or should we try to make literature “relevant?”

Magna Carta
The Magna Carta is crucial to our liberty. In particular, I usually address the issue of “deprivation of liberty without due process.

Manchuria
Manchuria means “home of the Manchu.” The Manchu people breached the wall at the end of the Ming Dynasty and created what became the Qing Dynasty, which was the last dynasty in China before the revolution of 1911.

Marriage
Posts having to do with the subject of marriage, especially marriage in different cultures?

Marxism
Does Marxism actually exist? Is there even one true Marxist left in China? These posts explore those questions.

Materialism
This is a critical subject if you want to understand the differences (and similarities) between Communist and non-Communist materialism.

Melissa
Blog posts by my youngest daughter, a joyful, creative writer.

Migrant Workers
"Mingong" they are sometimes called. Migrant workers. Traveling from the countryside to the city to get work. Moving from job to job. Sometimes getting paid, sometimes not getting paid.

Mongolians
Who are the Mongolians? Where is Mongolia? Basically, Mongolia comes in two parts. One part used to be dominated by Russia (Soviet Union), but is now an independent republic. The other part exists as the province of Inner Mongolia in China.

Obfuscation
Simply put, obfuscation means to "muddy the waters." To create doubt or uncertainty regarding corrupt acts that does not prove innocence, covers information that would enable certification of guilt. It can be seen by the clear attempt to cover up information that would normally not be hidden.

Persecution
This is a difficult thing to categorize. The reason is that for the most part, Christians in China are very apolitical. They have discovered that if they stay away from political stuff, they will be largely left alone. I grew up during the Cold War when Christians in China were being persecuted just for being Christians. Christian pastors like Wang Mingdao, Watchman Nee, and Samuel Lamb were put in prison for 20 years. That is not happening today. So when a pastor becomes political and gets arrested, sometimes other Christians may tend to think that he is not being persecuted. But that is not really accurate. Political persecution is still persecution. But western Christians make the mistake of thinking that all persecution is religious persecution. This is because westerners, especially Americans, believe in democracy religiously. So they tend to put suffering for the cause of democracy in the same category as suffering for the cause of Christ.

Qing Dynasty
During the Qing Dynasty, China was ruled by the Manchus, the very people the Great Wall was built to keep out. I lived in a village in Fragrant Hills for ten years, so Qian Long is my neighbor, but his tomb is actually near Tangshan. The Qing Dynasty was ended by the revolution that put Sun Yat-sen in power, but actually created a century of upheaval, and the instability of the change invited many challenges to the new repubic. To this day, the Republic of China (on Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (on the mainland) have not officially resolved who is going to be the ruler to take over from the Qing emperors.

Racism
What is racism? What is a racist? In recent years this word has become a label for anyone or anything you dn't like. That attitude has the effect of trivializing evil. So what, really, is racism?

Refugees
Posts about the plight of misplaced persons who are victims of the endless conflicts among nations.

Russia
Russia is viewed as America's traditional enemy. So any suggestion that Russia my possibly be a country Americans can learn to respect is viewed as hostile to American values.

Second Sino-Japanese War
This is the war between the KMT and the Communists, which is actually still going on. The Nationalists are holed up on an island (Taiwan) now, but they are still refusing to surrender, and still insist (officially) that they are the legitimate government of all of China.

Taiwan
The Taiwan question has plagued China since 1949, when the KMT left China and fled to the island of Taiwan. In fact, there is no country that calls itself "Taiwan." The country that occupies the island of Taiwan calls itself the "Republic of China," and claims sovereignty over all of China (including Tibet and Mongolia) and not just Taiwan. But this, of course, clashes with the Beijing government's claim to be the only legitimate government of all of China. So how to resolve this? This is the eternal question. I believe the best approach for now is to support the status quo and constrain both sides from acting unilaterally to change it.

Technology
Perhaps we should call it, "Applied Science." What is technology, and why is it important. This has been a primiary interest of mine since I was a child, as referenced in my profile. During the late nineties and early noughties, my hobby became my profession. That is not directly the case now, but somehow my life is never far from it.

Transportation
There are several posts in my blog about different modes of transportation. This label concerns mainly the transporting of people, and does not include every article about travel or flying. Blog posts under this label are about various means of getting people from one place to another.

Travel Gansu
Gansu Province blog posts. I mostly traveled to the southern part of the province, called "Gannan, specifically that part of the Tibetan Plateau where Gansu and Sichuan meet."

Travel Guizhou
Guizhou is known in China as the "park province." In the city of Guiyang, monkeys tarzan in from the countryside because the physical borders are invisible.

Travel Hulunbuir
Hulunbuir is the northernmost corner of Inner Mongolia. I spent five weeks in Hulunbuir during the summer of 2013

Travel Sichuan
Travels in Sichuan Province, which includes Chengdu, and used to include Chongqing. Since Chongqing used to be a part of Sichuan Province, I have included it under this topic.

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Atlantic Fiasco 

The headline for the story in the Atlantic reads: "Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’." Controversy has arisen about this statement, and whether Trump actually said it. But my concern in this essay is not so much with the statement itself, but with a disturbing trend in modern journalism: We are now supposed to accept as truth a report based on "anonymous sources." We are assured (of course) that these sources have been "confirmed," presumably by other anonymous sources, or by the journalist who claims to have actually spoken with the sources, and not merely made up the story (and the "sources").

But how are we to know? During the Russia Collusion fiasco, I remember Reince Priebus talking about a story in the New York Times—again, based on "anonymous sources"—saying that members of the Trump team were in daily conversation with the Russians. This was nonsense, of course. Since I do not read the Times, I don't know the details of that story, but during that time I did watch CBS News quite a bit, because they have a 24/7 news site accessible from anywhere in the world. I was dismayed by how much American news agencies had turned into propaganda networks. They were clearly assuming something to be true and desperately trying to prove it. To my knowledge, neither the New York Times nor CBS News has ever been called to account for their chicanery.

Before I go further, let me get right to the principle that I have tried to hold to and that I feel is being compromised by modern "journalists." It is based on a passage in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible:

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Here's how the ESV (English Standard Version) puts it:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
So let me state the principle this way:
No man shall be considered guilty based on testimony which is not subject to cross-examination. Period.
By the way, this is one of the strengths of the American legal system. I remember many years ago having a discussion in Beijing with a lawyer friend of mine. He said that the weakness of the Chinese legal system was the lack of independence of the judiciary. What he meant by that is that in China, judicial decisions can be dictated by the Party. In America, a political leader cannot tell a judge how to decide a case.

I said that what was needed was the right of the accused to be represented by counsel of his choice. A very notable example is the blind lawyer from Shandong, whose personal lawyers were not allowed in the courtroom. The government provided other lawyers for him. Sometimes those other lawyers are really little more than prosecutor's assistants.

After having lived in China for years now, I see that my friend's issue (independence of the judiciary) is important. But I also feel that the right to a lawyer of your choice is one of the strengths of the American system. If you are accused, you have a right to face your accuser and question him. Or you can have a professional lawyer question him for you. This is because sometimes accusations are brought forward by people with ulterior motives. A classic example is the Kavenaugh case brought forward by Christine Blasey Ford

Many people thought she sounded very credible. So why didn't she succeed? The answer, of course, is cross-examination. Her story fell apart. The people she named contradicted her and the friend she said was at the party said she did not know Kavanaugh, did not see anything, and later said that the former FBI agent working with Blasey Ford had put undue pressure on her. It was clear that she did not believe her friend's story.

There is some talk that the FBI did not do a thorough enough job in that case. One guy complained that they should have interviewed him because he was a "corroborating witness." He said he had met Blasey Ford in a coffee bar or something in 2016, and she had told him the same story. That's not a corroborating witness. Listen to me. Here is your free civics lesson for the day: A corroborating witness is someone who was physically present at the alleged event, who saw it happen with his own eyes, and can thus corroborate the testimony of the accuser, by virtue of having been there and having witnessed the crime. But this genius civically challenged product of the American public school system thought he should be regarded as a corroborating witness just because he had heard the same story about an event that took place in 1982, and which he had no knowledge of before 2016, more than 30 years after it happened!

This is the problem, you see. American students are woefully ignorant of basic principles of civics. When I was in middle school in Minnesota, we had to take a civics class. I don't think they even teach it anymore. Over and over I hear Americans saying things that betray their embarrassing ignorance of the most basic principles of justice. I actually heard and saw Senator Coons say that Kavenaugh should have to prove he did not do it. In other words, he should be presumed guilty unless and until he is proven innocent. Anyway, it's all moot now, because we now know that the whole case was a fraud.

Her lawyer has now admitted that they brought the case forward because of Kavenaugh's politics. That's disgusting. In fairness to Blasey Ford, I have never heard her say that. But you can listen to her lawyer Debra Katz say it here.

You don't accuse someone of that kind of crime because you don't like his politics or because you are mad at him for some reason. You accuse him because and only because he has committed a crime and he needs to be brought to justice. But she openly admits that the prosecution was politically motivated. So the whole thing was a fraud.

The Bible teaches (Deuteronomy 19:16-19) that if a person brings forward a false accusation, they should get the same punishment as would have been due to the person they accused if he had been guilty. As a matter of principle, I think Blasey Ford should be given one chance to disavow the statement of her lawyer, since she did deny it in the hearing. But if she supported her lawyer, then they should both go to prison.

And I'm not letting the Republicans off the hook, either. In an earlier case, the Republican Party dropped its support of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama because of accusations of this nature. Leader McConnell said that their claims "sounded credible." What's that supposed to mean? Let me see if I can phrase the new belief that this kind of statement is based on:

If people sound credible, they must be telling the truth, because if they weren't telling the truth, they wouldn't sound credible.
As ridiculous as that sounds, that is literally what modern Americans believe. But if that statement were true, slander would be harmless, because we would always know when someone was lying. The reason slander is so harmful, and why it is illegal, is precisely because slander often sounds credible. Not always, but very often. That's why we can't assume someone is telling the truth just because they sound credible, because that has nothing to do with whether or not they are telling the truth.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, infamous champion of the slaughter of the innocent unborn, has now passed from the scene. The attacks on Amy Coney Barrett (her probable replacement) are going to be mean and vicious. People who have no conscience about killing innocent little unborn children will will be ugly and hateful in their attacks on someone who dares to believe that all children's lives matter. And no one should be surprised if these attacks are based on "unnamed sources." This is the new standard in American journalism. Vicious attacks from unnamed sources who cannot be cross-examined are considered truth. This is immoral, and journalists who expect you to accept this standard are truly enemies of the people.

As a classic example of how short the news cycle is in America, the Trump haters have moved on now to the latest "bombshell." I am speaking of Trump's statements to Woodward about downplaying the corona virus. I think it's much ado about nothing, and it wouldn't really be honest for me to criticize him because I'm a dad. That is exactly the kind of thing I would try to do with my kids. That's what dads are for. We take the worry off our children's shoulders and put it on our own shoulders, and we don't let them see that we're even thinking about it. So I can't really criticize him. But if you want to criticize him, I will listen. But if you're a Democrat, I am going to call you a hypocrite, because it was, in fact, the Democrats who were downplaying it at that point in the history of this virus. After all, it was Trump who closed the border to China and the Democrats who blasted him for it.

But there is something about that news item that does cause me some concern about Trump. Woodward's report presents one more example of Trump's lack of judgment when it comes to dealing with the media. He criticizes them, but he can't resist talking to them. Now, press conferences are one thing--I give him high marks for that. But what in the world was he doing talking to Bob Woodward for hour after hour--eighteen interviews in all? I wouldn't have given Woodward 15 minutes. He built his career on "unnamed sources."

For those of you unfamiliar with Bob Woodward, he has a long-standing reputation for dishonesty. He wrote a book about William Casey, published, conveniently, right after Casey's death, where he claims to have had a deathbed interview with Casey, which the security detail around Casey said could not have happened because Woodword was thrown out when he tried to get to Casey.

The comparison between these two news stories and the two impeachment inquiries is interesting. In both cases, the first was completely bogus—based on unnamed sources, and the second was a matter of interpretation over a conversation, the details of which are not in dispute.

But let's get back to the Atlantic story. What has happened since it was written, is that so many people who were on that trip (where Trump supposedly made disparaging comments about American troops) have come forward to say that they did not hear him say anything of the kind, that there aren't enough people left to be the "unnamed sources." According to Brieitbart, the Ambassador to France has also come out against it. Now, I know many consider Brietbart to be a propaganda paper, but in this instance, Breitbart was the one news entity doing actual journalism. Why? Because they named the source. You can go to him and ask him and verify the report.

Everybody else just seems to think that we are obligated to take their word for it. This includes Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, who claims to have "confirmed" the story. She got a lot of flak for that. Trump demanded that she be fired. Then some of her colleagues at Fox came to her defense. OK, I am willing to accept, based on their character reference, that she did not just make up a story and call it unnamed sources. But I would also have to say that she is unprincipled. Why? Because she also expects us to believe a story based on "unnamed sources." That's just not something a man or woman of integrity would do. Of course she says they are "confirmed." But what does that mean? I'll tell you what it is supposed to mean. It is supposed to mean that the information provided by unnamed sources has now been confirmed by other courses that can be verified. But for these modern "journalists" it means...who knows what it means? Again, here is the principle:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Apparently according to Jennifer Griffin (and other "journalists" who are as unprincipled as she), the word "confirmed" means that unnamed sources have been confirmed by other unnamed sources, so that "proves" that he said it. What nonsense.

So what is the solution to this? It is very simple. Build your life on the time honored principles in the Bible, and DO NOT WAVER FROM THEM no matter how much unscrupulous "journalists" try to convince you that God won' t mind if you throw his principles to the wind just this once. Friends, slander is one of the purest forms of evil. If you pass on slander and someone believes it, you are responsible for that. And if they pass it on, and other people believe it, you are also responsible for that. God is not mocked. You will reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7)

So what will come of this? Well, if the "unnamed sources" come forward, I will eager to hear what they have to say, but I would expect that some of them would have to be the same people who denied that Trump said those things, because, as the Breitbart article points out, there aren't enough people left who haven't already denied that Trump said anything like that. On a trip like that, every contact a president has is a matter of record. He can't just break away from the group and walk down to the store or something. We know exactly who he encountered, and one after another they have come forward to dispute the story.

My prediction: I don't believe they will ever come forward. Jeffrey Goldberg, the journalist propagandist who wrote the original piece for the Atlantic, says they are afraid to come forward because they might be teased on Twitter. Really? So it's perfectly fine to trash Trump on Twitter about statements he has denied and which are based on "unnamed sources," but it is not appropriate for those “unnamed sources” to face criticism (examination) for their statements? Have you ever known Trump to hold back from speaking the truth because he was afraid of being bullied on Twitter? Trump says what he thinks even if he knows he is going to be ciriticized for it. Some people hate him for that. Are you one of them? So you would rather put your faith in those pathetic souls who hide behind unscrupulous "journalists" like Jennifer Griffin and Jeffrey Goldberg so they can pour out their vile without having to answer for it because they haven't got the manhood to be held to their convictions? I pity you.

Again, I cannot say this with enough emphasis. Expecting a man to be regarded as guilty without allowing him to face his accusers is unspeakably dishonorable. One more time, here is the principle:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Journalists who throw this principle to the wind and expect you to regard gossip as truth are not nice people. But this is the new normal now, you guys. We are supposed to accept unnamed sources as truth. It's partly the fault of the gullible America public, who swallows this stuff far too easily. And it's also partly the fault of unprincipled "journalists" like Jennifer Griffin and Jeffrey Goldberg, who ask us to believe vicious accusations without a shred of evidence. And no, unnamed sources are not evidence. The legal term is "hearsay." Hearsay is not admissible as evidence in a court of law. I think this is going to backfire on the Atlantic. I am old enough to remember when the Atlantic was a respectable periodical. Now it has been shown to be a rich person's propaganda rag, trading on the light of its former reputation, which is fading fast.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A World Split Apart 


Click to see Solzhenitsyn's reflections on his Harvard commencement speech in June of 1978

I graduated from college (Oregon College of Education) in June of 1978. The commencement address was given by a Congressman, who lectured us about the evils of inflation. I was left feeling empty by such a morally vacuous speech. A few days later, I opened the Portland Oregonian and saw the text of Solzhenitsyn's address to the graduating class at Harvard. The reaction to his speech is a study in itself, but rather than discuss that right now, I will let you read the speech and then, if you like, you can read his own reflections by clicking on the photo above.

A World Split Apart
An Address by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Harvard College
June 1978

I AM SINCERELY HAPPY to be here with you on this occasion and to become personally acquainted with this old and most prestigious university. My congratulations and very best wishes to all of today's graduates.

Harvard's motto is Veritas. Many of us have already found out, and others will find out in the course of their lives, that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the delusion still lingers of knowing it, and that leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth seldom is pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. There is some bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend.

Three years ago in the United States I said certain things which at that time appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I then said . . .

The split in today's world is perceptible even at a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries can readily identify two world powers, each of them already capable of entirely destroying the other. However, understanding of the split often is limited to this political conception, to the illusion that danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is a much profounder and more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance. This deep, manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that Kingdom---in this case, our Earth--- divided against itself cannot stand.

Then there is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Any ancient, deeply rooted, autonomous culture, especially if it is spread over a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking. At a minimum, we must include in this category China, India, the Muslim world, and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as compact units. For one thousand years Russia belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it, just as today the West does not understand Russia in Communist captivity. It may be that Japan has increasingly become a distant part of the West, I am no judge here; but as to Israel, for instance, it seems to me that it stands apart from the Western world in that its state system is fundamentally linked to religion.

How short a time ago, relatively, the small new European world was easily seizing colonies everywhere, not only without anticipating any real resistance but also usually despising the conquered peoples and denying any possible value in their approach to life. On the face of it, it was an overwhelming success. There were no geographic frontiers to it; Western society expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. Then all of a sudden, in the twentieth century, came the discovery of its fragility and friability. We now see that the conquests were short-lived and precarious, and this in turn points to defects in the Western view of the world which led to these conquests. Relations with the former colonial world now have turned to the opposite pole, and the Western world often goes to extremes of obsequiousness, but it is difficult yet to estimate the total size of the bill which former colonial countries will present to the West, and it is difficult to predict whether the surrender, not only of its last colonies, but of everything it owns will cover the bill.

But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and supports the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present-day Western systems, which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the basis of their progress in this direction. However, this is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development is quite different.

Anguish about our divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity; neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence.Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.

If I were today addressing an audience in my country, examining the overall pattern of the world's rifts, I would have concentrated on the East's calamities. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest here to concentrate on certain aspects of the West in our days, as I see them. A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression that the loss of courage extends to the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions, in their statements, and most of all in their theoretical reflections intended to explain how realistic and reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. The decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of those same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries that are not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

When the modern Western states were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free and to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration of Independence.)

Now at last, during recent decades, technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life, and the struggle to obtain them, imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to this ideal, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money, and leisure-to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this? Why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases as when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purpose, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting, and manipulating law, even though the laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law, and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required; nobody may mention that one could still be not entirely right, and urge self restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice, and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of the legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention for a new type of energy order to prevent its use. A food-product, manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his product to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on letter of the law and never reaches higher is scarcely taking advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to survive the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.

In today's Western society, the equality has been revealed between freedom to do good and the freedom to do evil. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and press keep rebufling him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that each single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually, an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, traps will be set out all around him. Thus mediocrity triumphs, with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power, which, in fact, has been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. This is considered to be part of freedom, and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent in human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality, and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauperized and lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of prisoners in our camps who are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state, resorting to means outside of a legal framework.)

The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media.) But what sort of use does it make of this Freedom?

Here again, the main concern n is to avoid infringing the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If he has misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases where the same journalist or the same newspaper has publicly recognized and rectified such mistakes? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.

Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be rectified, they will stay on in the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification? The press can both stimulate public opinion and mis-educate it. Thus we may see terrorists turned into heroes, or secret matters pertaining to one's nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusions on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "Everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the twentieth century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.

Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: By what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the East, where the press is rigorously unified: one gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment and there may be common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Enormous freedom exists for the press --- but not for the readership, because newspapers mostly give stress and emphasis to those opinions which do not too sharply contradict their own, or the general trend.

Without any censorship, fashionable trends of thought and ideas in the West are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally, your researches are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevents independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.

I have mentioned a few traits of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world. The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a review, to look into the influence of these Western characteristics on important aspects of a nation's life, such as elementary education, and advanced education in the humanities and in art.

It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system in order to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced applied socialism in a country where that alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind unto death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago, and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the United States.

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West, while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western, experience. Life's complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger deeper, and more interesting characters than those generated by standardized Western well-being. Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After suffering decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, exemplified by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

All this is visible to observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.

There are various meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society --- the decadence of art, for instance, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then; the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight, physical and spiritual, for our planet, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future: it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Very well-known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: We cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong, and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against Communism's well-planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events.

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is. There have been naive predictions by some American experts who believed that Angola would become the Soviet Union's Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in Africa would best be stopped by special U.S. courtesy to Cuba. Kennan's advice to his own country ---- to begin unilateral disarmament --- belongs to the same category. If you only knew how the youngest of the Moscow Old Square officials laugh at your political wizards! As to Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States, sending his troops to distant adventures from his country right next to yours.

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam War. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or Communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. antiwar movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide, and in the suffering today imposed on thirty million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or do they prefer not to hear? The American intelligentsia lost its nerve, and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing space; however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation's courage. But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small Communist half country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future?

I have had occasion already to say that in the twentieth century Western democracy has not won any major war without help and protection from a powerful Continental ally whose philosophy arid ideology it did not question. In World War II against Hitler, instead of winning that war with its own forces which would certainly have been sufficient, Western democracy cultivated another enemy who would prove worse and more powerful yet: Hitler never had so many resources and so many people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas, or have such a large number of supporters in the West --- a potential fifth column --- as the Soviet Union does. At present, some Western voices already have spoken of obtaining protection from a third power against aggression in the next world conflict, if there is one; in this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish this on any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the one perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.

And yet ---- no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of will-power. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time, and betrayal. Thus, at the shameful Belgrade conference, free Western diplomats in their weakness surrendered the line where enslaved members of Helsinki Watch groups are sacrificing their lives.

Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that the oceans no longer belong to the West, while the land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by no means on a world scale, not yet) meant the internal self-destruction of the small progressive West, which has thus prepared its own end. In the next war (which does not have to be an atomic one, and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression starting in the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend toward worshiping man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the range of attention of the state and the social system, as if human life did not have any higher meaning. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. But freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life, and it even adds a number of new ones.

At that, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, on the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred years ago --- even fifty years ago --- it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries, with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. Meanwhile, state systems were becoming increasingly materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past few decades, the legalistic, selfish aspect of Western thinking has reached its apogee, and the world is now in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could imagine even as late as in the nineteenth century.

As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation, at first by socialism and then by Communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say in 1844 that "Communism is naturalized humanism."

This statement turned out to be not entirely meaningless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under Communist regimes reaches the stage of anti-religious dictatorship; concentration on social structures, with a seemingly scientific approach (this is typical of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century and of Marxism). Not by coincidence, all of Communism's meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is farthest Left always ends up being stronger, more attractive, and finally, victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process over the past centuries and, especially in the past decades, on a world scale, as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism, and socialism could never resist Communism. The Communist regime in the East could stand and grow, thanks to the enthusiastic support of an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship with Communism and refused to see its crimes. When they could no longer ignore them, they tried to justify them. 'In our Eastern countries, Communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.

I am not examining here the disastrous case of a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the fact that the same disease is plaguing its two main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty, so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible to reduce the assessment of the President's performance to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntarily inspired self-restraint can raise man above the stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless before the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Higher Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern Era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any way left but --- upward.

(From National Review, July 7, 1978; pages 836-855)

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Friday, September 04, 2020

China Undercover : Xinjiang Revisited 


Technical Note: I have gotten feedback that this video may be blocked in some places in America due to copyright issues. I live in China, so it is very hard to verify that. Please let me know if there are any issues.

Very informative documentary on Xinjiang. Their estimate for the number of Uyghurs interned in concentration camps is two million. I think that number is high, but I think it is safe to say that there have been several hundred thousand. We have been hearing reports that the camps have now been closed (the documentary also mentions this), but I am skeptical, because many of those who had disappeared have still not been heard from. It could be that they have been sent to work camps. I have several times heard reports that some Uyghurs have been transfered to other provinces to be used for labor. Whatever the case may be, there is no question that a massive, horrifying abuse of human rights has gotten the world's attention. I don't think China expected this. I think they thought they were going to get away with it. The world largely ignored the removal of crosses in Wenzhou in the summer of 2014.

But this is very different. This involves locking up many, many innocent people because of their ethnicity. These people have committed no crimes, and most of them have no political involvement. But they either have relatives abroad, or have expressed too much interest in Islam or some such thing.

In my opinion, it was a colossal error in judgment on the part of the Communist Party. There is no question that has been a public relations disaster. When I first came to China, there was some kind of television program or movie where all the bad guys had Henan accents. Lots of people in Henan complained, but it brought up discussion about Henan's reputation. I was intrigued, because I had never heard about this before, and it turns out that I had quite number of friends from Henan province, perhaps mainly because the house church movement is especially strong there. So I asked one of my Henan friends, "What's this about Henan? Why do people think that people from Henan are bad?

She said, "Henan is to China what China is to the rest of the world." That was a signitficant statement about Henan (whether or not it's true), but an equally significant statement about China. There are times when it seems for all the world like the boys at Zhongnanhai want to make sure China doesn't lose that reputation as the "bad boy" of Asia. So China has come under significant criticism for this great injustice toward innocent people.

But I also see a problem with their critics. They often use the term "genocide" when referring to what China is doing to the Uyghur people. I don't like this, because it isn't honest. Words have meanings. Genocide means mass killing. The Communists are putting the Uyghurs in concentration camps. They are not putting them in gas chambers. The problem with using emotionally loaded terms like "genocide," is that you turn the perpetrators of the injustice you are fighting into victims, because you're saying something about them that is not true, so that creates an opportunity for them to deny everything you're saying about them. Then, suddenly, people are saying, "I guess it's not so bad for them to be putting people in concentration camps as long as they are not executing them," and this becomes the new normal.

No. As I have said previously, deprivation of liberty without due process is a violation of human rights. If you house me in a palatial mansion, give me servants who wait on me hand and foot, and server me sumptuous meals on solid gold dinner ware, you are still violating my human rights if you are keeping me there against my will. We must not back down from this. I suspect that the reason the "supporters" of the Uyghurs use emotionally loaded terms like genocide, is because in their heart of hearts they don't really believe that deprivation of liberty is that bad. So how, then, are they any better than the Communists, who are putting people in concentration camps labeled as training centers because they also do not believe deprivation of liberty is that bad as long as you can convince yourself that you are doing it in the best interest of the people?

What about cultural genocide? Yes, that is a legitimate issue, but a lot more research needs to be done about this. I have heard information in the years since the summer of 2005 when I was in Kashgar about destruction of traditional Uyghur communities. And there is some talk that traditional Uyghur activity is being replaced by fake displays. More recently, the government is scaling back the teaching of the Mongolian language in Inner Mongolia. Reports like this are deeply troubling, and if focus is placed on this issue and held there, I am all for that. But too often what happens is that they start out talking about cultural genocide, and then gradually, quietly drop the "cultural" off the term and we're back to genocide. That's wrong both because it takes the focus off cultural genocide, which is a real issue, and puts it on genocide (such as Hitler putting six million Jews in gas chambers) which is a phony issue with respect to Xinjiang, but also because, again, it puts deprivation of liberty on the back burner so to speak, with the implication that it is not really sufficiently unjust to stand alone as a singularly eggregious violation of human rights. We need to go back to the Magna Carta.

The other problem I have with those who claim to be defending the Uyghurs is that they talk about Xinjiang being an independent country as the ideal. I do not agree. The country name that I see mentioned on Twitter is "East Turkestan." But I'm quite certain most of the people who support the idea of Xinjiang as an independent country do not know where that name came from. It was not a name created by Uyghurs to identify their own country. It was invented by the Russians as an attempt to replace the British name, which was "Chinese Turkestan." The British name was no doubt frustrating to the Russians, because in using that name, the Brits were giving it to China to keep it from Russia.

Back in 2005, I traveled to Xinjiang. I flew to Urumqi and took the train 24 hours across the burning hot Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. In Kashgar, I stayed at a place called the "Seman Binguan." Behind the Seman Binguan was the old Russian Conuslate, looking exactly like it did in 1890. Across town, behind the Chinibagh hotel was the old British Consulate. The Brits and the Russians were in competition for India--what Rudyard Kipling called "The Great Game." It was the "Cold War" of the nineteenth century, and Kashgar was considered "neutral territory." It was clearly in the interest of the Brits for Xinjiang to belong to China. The Brits never had any designs on Xinjiang. Not so with Russia.

Here's the bottom line: Historically, Xinjiang was either going to be part of Cnina or part of Russia. Which would you prefer? Those who advocate independence for that area seem to believe that the world would be a safer place if we just had one more Islamic Repubic. I rather think not. So you see, the solution to the problem is not to make Xinjiang independent. Who's army would defend its independence?

But that having been said, it must be admitted that China's administration of Xinjiang has been clumsy at best. I have always felt that the people of Xinjiang would have been so much better served if the Chinese government had attempted to hear from the Uyghur people about what their concerns were. But the powers that be in China seemed to be determined to forget about the needs of the people and focus on controlling them. And in 2016 they began to move from control to abject cruelty.

The government policy toward Uyghurs is essentially racist. A couple years ago one of my students told me her family was going to take a trip to Xinjiang. I told her to be careful. She assured me that they had nothing to worry about because they were Han people. She said that without batting an eye. This is not to say that all Han people are hostile toward Uyghurs. Not at all. There are many Han people who are very friendly toward Uyghurs. But they don't seem to feel that Uyghurs should enjoy the same rights that they, as the majority people group in China, take for granted.

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