Monday, July 21, 2008

Olympics, Nazis, and Death's Heads: Oh My

As I like to do every so often, I was checking out the latest missive from Dan Simmons to his readers. His latest message is in regards to the 1936 Nazi Olympics (er, the Olympics held in Nazi Germany), and discusses the many ways in which an otherwise "civilized" world placates tyrannical powers for the sake of the "Spirit of the Games." It's truly a must-read post that I could never do justice in discussion, but as Dan writes,

“The Games must go on” my ass.


Succinct, no?

Still, it was in the course of reading this message that I came across the phrase "Death's head." Why I suffered this particular brain-fart, I don't know, but it was in looking for a photograph of the Totenkopf that I came across this website: Aryanwear.com. There is no comment I can make that won't be surpassed by the sheer hatred involved in such a website. And so I present the jaw-dropping website quote of the day:

Community: Aryan Wear supports our community. We regularly donate to different organizations and work with other Nationalists to help promote their items, magazines and information. We bring more ideas to life like www.eurodatelink.net a site created to help people of European descent meet each other. In an effort to help out White students with the ever rising cost of higher education. Aryan Wear has 2 $500.00 scholarships given out anually. There are many other similar projects planned and with your support they can be a reality.
White students? Aryan community? Aryan scholarships????!!! Are you shitting me? I learn something disturbing every friggin day on the internet. More disturbing: this crap is legal in the United States. These retards make me feel dirty for just looking white myself. But most disturbing, perhaps, is that last sentence: there are many other similar projects planned, and with your support they can be a reality.

So similar, as Dan reminded us, to the words inscribed upon the infamous Nazi Bell:

I summon the youth of the world.

Makes you think about the Olympics in a different light. Because we've changed, as human beings. Haven't we?

26 comments:

Tommy said...

I don't know. The games have always meant you play games with your enemies (in the ancient tradition, even -- or especially -- during times of war). It sems odd to criticize the games for this when that is their purpose. I suppose one could say it makes no sense to play games with your enemies and therefore the Olympics make no sense. But the Nazi games are best rembered for the golds won by Jessie Owens. There could not be a bigger "fuck you" to the Nazis.

Jamie said...

The Olympic Games in ancient times weren't thought of merely as "games," like we think of them today. They were a serious form of competition. As in, "Our country can beat yours in war, AND we can beat you in the Olympics." Impress the Gods of Olympus and your nation would carry their blessings to the battlefield. The Olympic games were a far more important cultural event than anything else--a binding form of nationalism, with a religious quality (often involving ritual sacrifice), to complement warfare capabilities of each nation. Their "purpose" was never meant to make enemies be all touchy-feely for a few weeks.

Besides which, aren't we supposed to learn from the mistakes of history?

Tommy said...

I agree that the ancient games had a religious and cultural context (which is why they were able to stop wars while having them). I don't see why this belies the purpose of the games as playing games with your enemy. Because, after all, they plyed games with thier enemies.

I also agree we have a different context for the modren games but whether one views them as a fuzzy feeling time or beating the brains out of the other guys by winning (both of which go well with the modern games), the games have value either way.

For example, no one has talked -- at the present decible level -- about the deplorable human rights record of China since 1948, that seems like a good result of the games to me.

John said...

What do you mean "since 1948"?

Before the communists you had warlords and gangsters. And before them were a motley crew of absolute monarchs, foreign invaders (including Europeans), and slave owners. The lower class has always had a tough time in China.

Boycotting the Olympic opening ceremony will not change the nature of the beast. It is, in fact, counterproductive and childish. They're not going to change a 5,000 year old political system because (gasp) the Duke and Duchess of Crawford decide to skip a dance number.

Tommy said...

"What do you mean "since 1948"?"

I think its pretty clear what I meant "no one has talked -- at the present decible level -- about the deplorable human rights record of China since 1948."

In case, for some reason, you can't understand what I mean, I will change the words around for you. No one has condemned China for its deplorable human rights record, at this decible level since 1948. Your observations about the Chinese poor through history, are not only obvious - since the poor always have a tough time -- but non-responsive.

Tommy said...

"Boycotting the Olympic opening ceremony will not change the nature of the beast. It is, in fact, counterproductive and childish. They're not going to change a 5,000 year old political system because (gasp) the Duke and Duchess of Crawford decide to skip a dance number."

What? No US President has ever attended the opening ceremony in another country. It would be unprecedented, counter-productive and just plain weird for them to go.

Jamie said...

Why not make a real statement and have the country boycott the entire Olympic games?

Oh, that's right, we're too interdependent upon China's plastic poison wares to care about their slave wages. Forget I even wrote anything.

John said...

(no one has talked -- at the present decible level -- about the deplorable human rights record of China since 1948, that seems like a good result of the games to me)

"Raising the volume" only makes the regime more belligerent and hostile. It certainly doesn't help us win the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. If anything, it has strengthen the regime's hand.

Opinion polls in Hong Kong (relatively free media) shows that the vast majority of the territory's residents believe that the Olympic protests in London, Paris, and San Francisco were "racist." If that's the sentiment in comparatively liberal Hong Kong, we need not speculate much about attitudes on the Mainland.

They don't want white people meddling in their affairs. And I mention the history because it is important to understand why that is.

We might've forgotten about our "deplorable" actions during the Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion, and the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. But they certainly haven't. Our self-serving support for warlords like Chiang Kai-Shek hasn't exactly endeared us to the Chinese peasantry either. For us to whine and bitch about "human rights" now strikes many Chinese as hypocritical and absurd.

Ultimately, the change will have to come from the Chinese themselves.

(It would be unprecedented, counter-productive and just plain weird for them to go.)

Because of the reasons outlined above, I'm going to defend George W. Bush on this one as well. He and Laura were formally invited to attend (along with many other world leaders). And so far, nobody else has announced that they won't go. Sarkozy flirted with the idea, but ultimately decided against a boycott.

Bush don't need to humilate himself further by initiating an ineffective one person protest. He certainly doesn't need to give the CCP more ammunition for domestic propaganda.

John said...

(Why not make a real statement and have the country boycott the entire Olympic games?)

The American athletes would've worked for the last four years to qualify for the 2008 Olympic team won't appreciate that.

And as I've repeatedly pointed out, we might think we're sending them one message (human rights). But the Chinese public will receive another message altogether (racism).

Boycotts simply won't work...

John said...

I just noticed that I've made a lot of comments about the ineffectiveness of boycotts, but I haven't said anything about what I would do.

I would certainly focus less on pontificating about human rights. We need to deal with the economic disparities first.

Our economic dependance on China is unacceptable. We can't simply stop trading with them. However, we can enact measures that would limit their ability to dump defective products into our market. We need to strengthen import standards. We need to reward good labor practices. We need to get Americans off their destructive love of "something for nothing." And we need to repay our national debt (a large portion of which is owed to China), even if it means more hardship in the short-term.

As it stands right now, they're the pusher/dealer and we're the addict. We must change that relationship.

Tommy said...

""Raising the volume" only makes the regime more belligerent and hostile. It certainly doesn't help us win the hearts and minds of the Chinese people."

Oh please, we shouldn't say what a dreadful human rights record they have because it will upset them? That's just stupid, not to metion amoral. As for the racism canard, I guess they didn't see all the Chinese faces protesting in London and San Francisco, because Chinese gruops were the leaders of those protests. I have no doubt though that the Chinese-govenment-run-media portrayed them as racist. Just another human rights abuse of that government. Moreover, it is not a bit suprising the some Chinese (especially in Hong Kong) are sensitive about the racist ways they treat multitudes of various peoples in that benighted country.

Tommy said...

"We might've forgotten about our "deplorable" actions during the Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion, and the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s."

What exactly were the deplorable actions of the United States? The Opium Wars were with Great Britan not the US. The US rightly rescued its diplomatic delegation and a very few US citzens during the boxer rebellion and the US opposed the Japanses invasion of China. So what is your attack on the US actions based on?

John said...

Our involvement during the 19th century and early 20th century is complicated. With enough spin-doctoring, you could probably make a convincing case either way. Obviously, the communists aren't going to present us in a positive light. But there are certainly kernels of truth within the lies.

During the Second Opium War, the British and French invasion of China was tacitly supported by Russia and the United States. Subsequently, the British, Russians, French, and Americans were all parties to the subsequent Treaty of Tianjin (1858) and Convention of Peking (1860). No, we didn't send any troops into China. But we were certainly more than happy to reap the rewards of European imperialism.

The Chinese regard the Boxer Rebellion as a misguided, but "legitimate," anti-Imperialist action. They didn't want those diplomats there in the first place. It was forced upon them through Tianjin. While we can (and do) argue that the rescue was necessary, it is harder to argue that burning down Beijing was necessary as well.

WW2 is far more clear cut to me. The United States condemned the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the attack on Shanghai in 1935, and the subsequent invasion of China proper in 1937. However, since we were supposedly their ally, our lack of substantive support for the war effort has been portrayed by the communists as a "cowardly betrayal." I strongly disagree with this characterization (as we didn't help Britain and France in 1939 either).

But there's just enough "truth" here for the propagandists to twist into an orgy of ultra-nationalist fervor. I don't approve of these tactics. But given the receptiveness of many Chinese subjects to the anti-Western message, they're obviously very effective. And we need to think very carefully before giving them more ammo to work with.

And quite frankly, we cannot impose a solution on an unwilling populace. If they feel oppressed, they'll overthrow the regime on their own. Besides, we have our own problems to deal with in America (in case you haven't noticed).

Jamie said...

And quite frankly, we cannot impose a solution on an unwilling populace.

That's right. But, as you said before, John, we can discourage unfair labor practices and encourage fair markets and fair wages by weaning Americans of our dollar-store mentalities, that "something for nothing" attitude you mentioned. As someone struggling to make ends meet, myself, that's not going to be easy.

However, to address the other thread intertwined in this, I fail to see how dredging up bad practices on either side, historically, is of any benefit. We can make excuses upon excuses, but unless we find the balls to stand up and say, "No, this is wrong, I will not comply, and here is why . . ." then we are no better than those engaging in child slave labor. SO WHAT if the U.S. Olympic Team gets pissed off? Since when does the human race have an obligation to keep our athletes happy at the expense of our morals?

Oh, wait, that's right. Since 1936.

Tommy said...

Well I don't agree that we should boycott, nonetheless I agree with Jamie that although we can't decide China's fate for them we most certainly can, should, and must continue to call them out on thier abhorant civil rights record. None of that history, as Jamie observes, changes that, one iota.


And I think John discounts too readily what foriegn ridicule can do for a county's bettering its civil rights regime. Take, for example, the US in the 1950s, when Eishenhower felt the foreign heat to do something for "negro" civil rights, because after all as "leader of the free world," something had to be done. So, Federal troops went to Arkansas.

The gross hypocracy and tyranny of the Chinese government can only be prolonged, unless people and nations of good will speak up. If the Chinese government wants to be treated like a modern State, they better start acting like one.

John said...

Of course, the abuses themselves haven't change. I totally agree on that point. However, moral credibility does matter. Our abilities are somewhat limited because we have a credibility problem. If we decide we're in the "business" of human rights, then we must be consistent in our criticism. Otherwise, we end up with this morbid ritual:

Every year our State Department releases a scathing attack on China's human rights record via a lengthy report. And sure as clockwork, every year the UN and EU take this report and promptly toss it into the trash.

Similar State Department reports on the regimes in Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Russia, and Iran receive equally chilly receptions in capitals around the world. Everyone assumes that we're merely using these reports to go after our political enemies. After all, we seem to have human rights amnesia when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, and other "U.S. friendly" dictatorial regimes.

Such self-serving behavior prevents us from being a more effective advocate for freedom and democracy (which is a shame because the criticisms themselves are largely accurate). It allows our enemies to claim that we're just a bunch of whiny, greedy, hypocritical assholes.

Jamie said...

Oh, I completely agree we need to be consistent. We must start somewhere, however, and after November we will see just how much "change" is yet to come.

Tommy said...

Yes Jamie we should be consitant. But once again, John, you or others can attack the messenger all you want, it doesn't change the message and its still non-responsive to the criticism. I understand why, because there is no response justyfying China's gross abuses.

John said...

Tommy, I don't have to "respond" to the criticism because I'm not the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. I haven't tortured anyone. I don't employ slave labor. I haven't threatened to attack Taiwan. I wasn't the one who got into bed with Myanmmar, Sudan, and Zimbabwe because I wanted to sell defective products. Although I'm no fan of Islamic and Christian fanaticism, I don't think suppressing religion is the best way to deal with the situation. The behavior of the China regime is offensive on many, many levels.

However, the integrity of the messenger does matter. There is a "realpolitik" dimension to this problem. And no amount of whining from Tommy will change the fact that Sweden (for example) has a much easier time speaking out against human rights abuses than we do. And that's because they're regarded as "non-abusers" themselves. Welcome to the real world!

Jamie said...

However, the integrity of the messenger does matter.

At what point do we gain the credibility, then, to have our criticisms taken seriously? Can we not concurrently call for changes at home and deeper, more far-reaching changes abroad? I agree, John, that many of our complaints will amount to just pissing in the wind, because there are a lot of us that are, as you wrote, "whiny, greedy, hypocritical assholes." But not the majority of us, and certainly not all of us.

At some point, someone has to stand up and have the balls to say the emperor has no clothes, e.g., that we know what's going on and it is wrong.

Does that mean imposing sanctions? I don't know. But we need to make a national commitment to bring about changes in many countries, not just China. The only way we're going to accomplish that is by communication and bonding between our peoples, not by leaving it up to our governments. Real changes will be brought about from within these long-suffering countries, and we need national policies that encourage the growth of democratic principles--espousing real individual liberties, real wages, safe working conditions, quality food and products, medical care, education, the list goes on . . .

Perhaps the Olympics can end up being an aid to real progress, but it will only be through communication with the Chinese people themselves, not through reliance upon the Chinese government to fix everything for them.

If any of that makes sense at all. . .

John said...

(At what point do we gain the credibility, then, to have our criticisms taken seriously?)

This is a good question. I don't think there's any single answer to it. This is not a "50% + 1" scenario where everything is dependent on more nations liking us than hating us. For me, I think it has more to do with the company we keep. If we're consistently on the side of countries that have good human rights records, I'd say that's a clear sign of growing credibility. Conversely, when we vote with Iran and China against the International War Crimes Tribunal (or to preserve the use of landmines), it damages our credibility.

(Can we not concurrently call for changes at home and deeper, more far-reaching changes abroad?)

This is also an excellent question. And if you're asking my personal opinion, I think human rights must necessarily start at home. There should be an "internal consistency" between the domestic and foreign spheres. Thus, I'm not simply talking about addressing the latent racism, sexism, and homophobia within our own communities. I'm also advocating a set of policies that espouses human rights at all levels of civil society. Right here, right now.

That means we should reward (rather than punish) businesses that employ "fair trade" practices. We need to treat our "mentally ill" with the same compassion we afford to those with physical disabilities. We have to overhaul our cumbersome asylum procedures, so that persecuted minorities - including gays and lesbians in the Middle East - can enter this country without fear of being sent back to certain Hell. We must insist on the highest standards for goods and services. And pay those who provide them accordingly. We should propose a new convention on torture that goes beyond the standards in Geneva. Even if only the United States and European countries end up ratifying such a convention, it will make it crystal clear that we're willing to put our money where our mouth is.

We can do a lot more than complain about human rights in places we have no influence over. We can actually lead by example.

Tommy said...

"Tommy, I don't have to "respond" to the criticism"

No, John?

Quite obviously you have responded to the citicism of China, over and over again, in comment after comment, by criticizing the United States. Its not only a weak argument but 'blaming the messenger' is an offensive argument. Its absurd that you belatedly claim that China's regime is "offensive" but you would muzzle the United States and its citzens from saying so and you would do so in the most obviously irrelevant manner by saying the United States has its own problems.

As to your other point, I don't think you know what realpolitik is if you think Sweden can be more effective than the United States. And your description of Sweden's authority is like saying an unmarried priest is an authority on what it takes to make a successful marraige -- its easy to talk when you have no expereince. Welcome to the real world.

John said...

Honestly, just how disingenuous can you get? If you can find a single instance in which I actually defended China's human rights record, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

As for the Sweden comment, you've basically said the intellectual equilvalent of: "Only countries that torture have the authority to recognize and condemn torture."

How ridiculous.

Tommy said...

Honestly, how is it you are unable to read?

I said you responded to the criticism of China by rationalizing and blaming the messenger.

For example, when I approved the citicism of China, you responded:

"Before the communists you had warlords and gangsters. And before them were a motley crew of absolute monarchs, foreign invaders (including Europeans), and slave owners. The lower class has always had a tough time in China."

As if that somehow in your mind excuses the Chinese government's tyranny, today.

When that irrelvancy didn't work, you went on a blame the US for a host of "deplorable" acts it didn't commit: "We might've forgotten about our "deplorable" actions during the Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion, and the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. But they certainly haven't."

As if that somehow means we shouldn't criticize China for its terrible human rights record because of some mythic past.

Your feigned offense is ridiculous, indeed.

Jamie said...

This is timely.

John said...

So is this:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-07-22-China_N.htm?csp=34