The threat to journalism in the post-truth era


orginally posted at The Gryphon

It wouldn’t be an official Trump announcement without a light hint of outrage. This time it is journalists who had a lot to worry about. In his first press conference since becoming President-Elect – something he appears to have actively avoided until now – Trump blocked certain media groups from speaking. He accused them of cultivating ‘fake news’ and therefore should remain silent.

Trump’s stance is worrying. It shows a willingness to break unsaid rules and expectations regarding political transparency. It is also a direct attack on freedom of speech, that fundamental concept which the US claims to champion so vehemently.

Unfortunately there is popular fuel for his statement. ‘Fake news’ is becoming a norm, not an exception.  A woman in Germany, for example, reported a horrific attack carried out on a teenager by an asylum seeker. It came to light later that it never happened, but not before the fakes news had spread.

On the surface then, it may well look as if the President-Elect would be justified in denouncing fake news. The problem is that, to him, his critics are the creators of fake news. A word against Trump is not a truth. What is not ‘truth’ is now to be censored. If the alarm bells are not ringing yet, they should be.

When the President-Elect, soon to be one of the most powerful people in the world, can decide who can and cannot express their views, there is a distinct threat to freedom of the press. It is essential that all sides of debate are free to question, criticize and praise as they will, because it is fundamental to the transparency of a democracy. The powerful must be held to account and that becomes impossible when critical voices are silenced.

How does this case affect the rest of the world? It spreads. A meeting of the European parliament group ENF (Europe of Nations and Freedom) has already followed suit. The meeting, where right-populist leaders including Frauke Petry, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders attended, likewise denied entry to left-leaning news sources. Trump has set a new precedent.

Transparency is on the way out and with it comes the rise of actual fake news. A new website has opened called ‘hoaxmap’ which plots all recently discovered fake news stories across Germany and Austria (not yet for the UK, but perhaps the website will expand in the future). The map is completely covered. Whatever you think of the media, one of its main roles theoretically is to keep the leaders of the world in check. It cannot enforce, but it can raise awareness and encourage action. If the journalistic sphere becomes inundated with fake news it will become impossible to do so. Journalists will face more false leads and a permanent threat of being blocked from important events. At the same time people will lose total trust in the press.

The protocol governing political transparency exists for a reason. That transparency is necessary for our society to function properly. If any change was ever needed, it would be towards a more transparent system; not change in which the looking glass slowly frosts over.

By Timothy Van Gardingen

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Rogue One and crisis in the Middle East: an Analysis


originally posted in The Gryphon 

The new addition to the Star Wars world, Rogue One, has painted a much darker picture than its predecessors. In doing so it has also accentuated possible existing themes related to conflict in the Middle East. The latest film goes a step further and can be seen as a damning critique not only of current events, but also of the western meddling of over a century.

The Star Wars world pitches the ‘Rebels’ against an evil ‘Empire’. If we look to history for the main causes for conflict in the Middle East, the topic of European colonialism – predominantly British – appears promptly. The empire’s leadership of course has always spoken with a British accent, although the British do seem to traditionally be evil in American films anyway. Their uniforms also without a doubt have a certain 20th century vibe; a time where the British Empire was at its strength.

The Rebel Alliance represents the resulting anger that eventually developed throughout the Middle East. Pressured by an unwelcome power from far away, each rebel is a lost soul fighting for what they or their family once knew.

Cassian Anor epitomises this resentment. A roguish character who has been embroiled in conflict since a child, he knows only war. This is the situation we now face in the Middle East. For some countries the fighting has continued for generations. A child brought up to adulthood through continuous conflict will grow to accept it as normality, no matter how tough or how much suffering and loss it inflicts.

Cassian’s speech to Jyn before the final assault of the film highlights the beliefs such a life creates. Cassian fights the good fight. He may kill and commit atrocities, but as long as he keeps telling himself that those actions are ‘good’, then he is in the right.

Here Cassian appears strikingly similar to the rebel defenders of Aleppo. On social media the defenders against Assad’s soldiers were seen to be fighting for a greater good. As the rebels broadcasted messages across the web, the sound of bullets and bombs echoed in the background. That the rebel forces in Aleppo carried out executions and launched missiles at civilians was forgotten.  The world’s sadness and pity appeared directed at fighters who weren’t as harmless as they appeared online rather than the helpless civilians left within the walls of the city.

The film would have already been made by the time of the siege of Aleppo, but what is important is the similarity of how events turned out between the Star Wars galaxy and our current reality. The rebels of Aleppo were painted as something close to martyrs and the dark side of their fight has been glazed over in favour of anti-Assad sentiment. Aleppo was no doubt a horrific moment of the conflict in the Middle East, but the reluctance to engage critically towards the rebel force’s story covers up implications that a Star Wars film helps to reveal.

Jyn Erso offers a very diferent and valuable perspective. She is the daughter of a defected Imperial scientist. Her childhood holds memories of the ‘enemy’ as normal life. She learns to hate the Empire, but not before spending years resigned to a life of apathy towards its dominion.

In the modern day, Jyn resembles the western internet community; a land where a million sad smileys are sent and nothing tangible is done. She also represents the colonial era British citizen. She is passively a player and beneficiary of the Empire’s exploitation but only comes to realise its dark side (excuse the pun) after her family becomes dissident. Jyn expresses in the film that if she accepts silently her pseudo-enslavement to the Empire, then a satisfactory existence is possible. This is the life of a citizen under a despotic dictatorship; the life many will have experienced in the countries carved from the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Though true that the film could be seen more generally as a critique of colonialism and imperialism, the more direct link to the Middle East comes from the film’s imagery. The main planet essentially shares its name with the city Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Likewise the architecture and culture of the setting is synonymous with the Middle East, albeit sufficiently Sci-fi-ed.

Perhaps most importantly however is the Empire’s ground for colonising the planet. The empire is there to harvest kyber crystals, a fuel needed to power the Death Star’s planet-shattering capabilities. Fuel was the main point of contention in Middle Eastern colonialism too. The British Empire needed oil, and just like Darth Vader’s Empire, that fuel served first and foremost a military purpose: The British Navy.

British empiricism did however have its contemporary critics. Figures such as T.E Laurence and Gertrude Bell may be romanticised figures now but they were in some ways British dissenters. Galen Erso fills the roll of dissenter in Rogue One, choosing only to re-join the Empire in order to destroy it from within. This may not have been the intention of the above historical figures, but criticism of empirical action has certainly always been part of the conflict in the Middle East.

Finally remains the contentious issue of religion. There is an impossible to avoid link between European colonialism in the Middle East and Central Asia and the rise of radical Islam. In Rogue One, disregard for Jedha’s temple leads to the Monk character Chirrut Îmwe joining the fight against the empire. The message is clear: religion is not radical, but radicalised. A conquering land may claim to be able to bring peace to a people (the British claimed to do so in its justifications for owning India) but to disregard culture and belief can lead to violence.

Whether intentional or not, Rogue One gives a new perspective on the continuing conflicts in the Middle East. The most troubling element arising from a comparison between reality and the Star Wars galaxy is a question of perspective. Until Rogue One, the Star Wars series had a very clear distinction between who was good and who wasn’t. Somehow the blurring of those lines in Rogue One has highlighted the fact that the Empire is a past Europe and the Rebel alliance is a battered and bruised Middle East, tired of decades of exploitation and war. A question of who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’ is fruitless, but there remains a large amount of deficit responsibility in both the Star Wars galaxy and our own.

 

on modern feminism as a man


I’m writing about something rather different today, but it has to be done. I’m afraid some may consider it controversial, but it has to be written.

I have considered myself a feminist for quite a while. There are plenty of male feminists dotted about and in fact, as far as i’m concerned, if you believe in equality between all genders from all backgrounds and walks of life, you are a feminist. I believe in equality, therefore I am a feminist.

Unfortunately I feel it’s not easy to be a male feminist, simply because we are not truly accepted as feminists by many. There are many reasons for this; some of which I want to talk about below.

1. Feminism is a female movement.

Is it? I expect that some readers may be screaming at their screens at that, but really, is it? Given that feminism is a movement for equality between genders, I argue it is not a female-only movement, but a movement for all. Can one really expect equality when groups are excluded? The male population is after all a rather large group – roughly the same size as the female population.

A common argument for why feminism should be a predominantly female movement is that us men are unable to fully understand the struggle of women. This is probably true, I agree. That doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the movement. Women have an advantage in understanding what is required to reach equality from experience of what is currently lacking in society and unfortunately experience of  the discrimination of women. Can a women’s-only movement however fully understand the end goal (or at least what I understand it to be) of equality? This is, I should quickly add, not to say that men would be any better at understanding  an end goal of equality. We would almost certainly be worse, because men don’t have the advantage of experience I mentioned above. Well, at least men have no personal experience, but I will cover that later.

The point is, a gender equality movement should strive for equality between genders, which requires participation of all genders. In a theatre, do we exclude all but the protagonists, because the minor characters have nothing to offer? No – the minor characters are integral to the play. Does a band consist of a front-man and a backing tape, because the band has less to offer? No, the band completes the music. Men may have less to offer, but they have something to offer, and that should be enough.

2. Men claim to be feminists for personal gain.

This is a difficult point. There are indeed men who exploit the word ‘feminist’ There are numerous stories of guys claiming to be feminists and reeling off rote learned feminist facts to trick women into thinking they are genuinely fighters for equality. I haven’t come across these guys yet (a reason why women have the advantage of experience talked about in .1…) but I’m aware of their sorry existence. These male fake-feminists give actual male feminists a hard time, as we have to be put under scrutiny for actually being reasonable human beings.

I understand why some women would be suspicious of a man who appeared and introduced themselves “Hi! I’m a feminist!”, but extending a few exploitative, horrible, men to representing all male feminists – genuine or not – is the exact same thing as claiming that all people from a particular country are evil or all members of a particular religion are terrorists. The two examples I gave are clearly ridiculous. I think it’s ridiculous to believe all male ‘feminists’ are out to exploit female feminists. Otherwise, my brain deletes the parts of my life where i’m out tricking women into thinking i’m fantastic. After all I know from my experience (and we all know how important experience is) that a. I do not use feminism to pull people, and b. I’m not fantastic.

I am of the belief that most male feminists are feminists for equality, not for getting girls in night clubs. Sorry, all male feminists are, because if they are the latter of the two types, they aren’t feminists. Because they aren’t striving for equality between all genders.

3. Feminism should only have female role models

I have seen on a lot of articles lately that many feminists get annoyed when they see men making a public statement for feminism. I ask, why shouldn’t a man make statements against misogyny or for gender equality? (and that’s not entirely rhetorical – I would love you to comment if you have views)

One reply would seem to be the male lack of experience of being at the wrong end of abuse and misogyny again. We certainly don’t have the most important experience – that of a woman – but to claim that men have no experience of misogyny is pretty narrow-minded. Most men will have had passive experiences of it through observing sexist incidents. To say that men are not allowed to comment on what they see, not allowed to be outraged at how other men treat women, is to say passive experience is worthless. It is to say we must be bystanders. It is to say we may as well accept sexism.

I don’t want that.

Some may say that if a man tries to be a feminist or feminist role model, he is taking his assumed  patriarchal-cultural position of control and in doing so is undermining the feminist movement. Because of societies tendencies to still highlight men more than women, this male role model would be seen more than female role models and drown out the message of the more important women, so some may say.

If a man produces something feminism related, is he realistically going to believe that he, as a man, should be assuming a leadership role? If he believes that, he is delusional. More likely than not he is producing his work because he believes in equality and because he believes he has something to contribute. I, for example, am writing this because I believe in equality and want to contribute something. I don’t think I am any better than a female writer. In fact, so far I feel this article has been written very poorly, but it’s quite late and i’m not in the mood for redrafting.

In my opinion, if a male supporter of feminism gains a lot of publicity, that is either due to the choice of the viewers, or more likely, the publishers. Is it right to say that because current society will push male opinions forward, men shouldn’t express support for feminism? Should a man who speaks out for feminism be criticized by feminists for getting in the way of female advocates of feminism? Perhaps the attack should be directed at the constructs that allow a male speaker to be noticed over a female speaker; not the speaker himself.

4. Men should listen and not push their inexperienced ideas into debate.

I’ve sensationalised this point slightly with my wording, but I’ve seen this kind of opinion all over the web. I have a serious serious serious problem with this idea.

Please go ahead and replace the first word of that heading with ‘women’. Now you have the sort of mad opinion that the suffragette movement fought against. I’m not trying to claim there has been a reversal of roles in society, but that kind of view is scary. It was terrible when it regarded women, its terrible if/when it regards men now.

Some like this idea of men just listening to the debate because men can try to overbear a debate with supposed solutions for all of feminism’s problems. The solution to that kind of problematic person is the same as any debate ever – debate why they’re wrong. Maybe there is something in the debate, maybe there is not. Something will however have been brought to the debate. Is UKIP allowed to make it’s voice heard in politics? Then even if a male feminist is seen as the annoying, even dangerous bit of a debate, it’s they’re right to debate.

I said at the very beginning of this article that I believe feminism is a movement for gender equality. I’ve only talked about a few things here, but I think one thing is clear from it. Feminism risks not being a particularly equal equality movement. Yes, the movement was started by women for women but it will never become an equality movement until all genders are accepted as feminists.

..

..

.Now. Why am I writing this? I spend a fair amount of time reading feminist articles, but I never comment. I just read and think. Recently however I keep finding articles almost but not quite denouncing male feminists. Many are on the edge of saying “you can call yourself a feminist in name, but don’t do anything”. There’s even a list somewhere of the things male feminists shouldn’t do.

I’m not comfortable with that. Equality should be fought for by a movement with space for all. It’s ridiculous to claim that an exclusive group can create an inclusive society. I don’t think it could work. And I’m sorry, but I can’t change my views to suite demand. If I am a man who thinks that women should have equal rights to men, that is what I think. I can’t change that view for a a feminist, anti-feminist or anti-male feminist.

I will finish today with a comment that I won’t explore properly, as i’m tired and want to fall asleep, but still want to press that lovely publish button at the bottom of the screen…

I do wonder if one problem now that feminism as an equality movement faces is its name. ‘Fem’-inism does suggest exclusivity for women. In the early days of the suffragettes and Cady-Stanton, it made sense for the movement to be mainly women and to be called feminism. Now it is in a better position to strive for truer equality, but that may demand the dropping of an exclusive name.

Thank you for reading.

Quick note – I apologise profusely for my lack of acknowledgement of the LGBT community and other gender orientations in this article. I have endeavored at the very least to use ‘all genders’ rather than ‘both genders/men and women’ but I haven’t really done enough. I hope that this can be forgiven. 

Back in the UK but let’s talk about Xinjiang.


And so I have left the middle kingdom and come back to the UK. I may have basically disappeared for a year, other than the occasional ‘I’m still alive!’ post when I could find a VPN, but it certainly didn’t mean i was gone forever. I’ve got a blog to write afterall…

I did consider writing a bit about my personal time in China in this blog, but I changed my mind. I also considered doing what I usually do here – that is have some poetry, about China. But I changed my mind again. Instead, I thought I would share my piece of writing on the province I spent my year in, as there are things happening there that the majority of the world doesn’t get to hear about.

When you think of China, do you think of Bamboo, temples and Pandas? Maybe you imagine the giant skyscraper-dominated metropolises like Shanghai and Chongqing?

My China was rather different, living in the far west desert and camels were slightly more prevalent than the stereotypes!

I won’t give you an introduction to what my little article is about here, i’ll just let you read it instead. If you haven’t seen the very very few news reports from the area, or heard about it somewhere, you may be surprised about Xinjiang…

And on a quick side note before you read, if you decide to follow my blog just on this post, you may be disappointed, as this is not my usual sort of post, so here is an apology beforehand!

                     Xinjiang-multicultural or anti-cultural?

 

Welcome to Chinese central Asia, a place that depending on where you are in its vast expanses could be almost anywhere in the continent. Sometimes you could find yourself in deserts reminiscent of the middle-east, and sometimes on emerald green plains just like those in Mongolia. You could even be mistaken for thinking you had stumbled into Russia in certain places. Although admittedly these countries do indeed all have borders with Xinjiang, the geographical similarities don’t always fit nicely onto those lines.

 

It is not surprising then, considering the diversity and size of the landscape, that Xinjiang is just as diverse in its peoples. Completely aside from the Han, the majority group and the stereotype of ‘Chinese’, there are the many minority groups. The most numerous minority groups are perhaps the Uighurs and the Kazakhs, both of Turkish roots, but the region also is home to Mongols, Russians and Tibetans, among others. The Chinese official word on the relationships between all these groups is that every group lives in peace and harmony, learning from each other and contributing to a truly multicultural society.

 

This claim is however not quite as simple as the Han would like the world to believe. In considering how multicultural or not Xinjiang is, one must critically explore a number of different topics such as: the economy and planned economic developments; actual relationships between minority groups and an understanding of regional tensions; the politics of the region (especially that which is concerned with borders and control), and the history of Xinjiang, and indeed China as a whole.

 

Contest and Tension

 

As would be expected with a region aptly named ‘new frontier’, Xinjiang has not always been Chinese. Owing to its historical imperialistic nature and bloody past, Parts of Xinjiang have gone in and out of China’s control for hundreds of years, but numerous empires have had its fair share of the region over history. Areas such as Kashgaria and Ili could have been considered states of their own at times or colonies of other countries. The Ili region for example was at one point contested by Russia and China. Even Britain had its eyes on the green plains in the shadow of the Tian Shan Mountains, for if they had managed to colonize Tibet.

 

Xinjiang’s heavily contested past is important, because it is much the same today. Without understanding that different powers have had their influence on the region, we can’t understand the relationship between the Han Chinese and some of the minority groups. Before China made a decisive move to secure Xinjiang completely for itself (along with Tibet and Guangdong) under Mao’s government, the area was generally known as Turkestan. Some Uighur activist groups claim that Xinjiang should still be Turkestan and want what they consider their country back.

 

Even if China were willing to ‘withdraw’ from Xinjiang, it probably would no longer be possible. Mao’s means to secure Xinjiang was to flood the region with Han Chinese and build new cities until Han were the majority in a place that beforehand had almost only minority groups. This act alone would no doubt have upset the Xinjiang locals, completely excluding the current claims of racism, ethnic tensions and destruction of culture.

 

If we look to Tibet, a region in a similar position, we see risings to make Tibet an independent country but interestingly it remains 93% (as of 2008) Tibetan ethnicity, in contrast to over 50% Han in Xinjiang. Tibet has support from some western pressure groups to stop sinicization, yet Xinjiang is widely ignored.

 

‘Develop the West’

Support for Tibet often attacks the government’s ‘develop the west’ policy – which officially is a scheme to bring the western provinces out of slum-like conditions and poverty – yet this policy is also contributing currently to the slow destruction of Kashgar’s old town, among other locations throughout Xinjiang. In short, the minorities of Xinjiang are in the same, if not worse position, of a province which is the target of international human rights pressure.

 

One must however consider the other side of the ‘develop the west’ scheme. It is true that many traditional houses and buildings have been demolished in the name of development, but health conditions have almost certainly improved and modernization does open new opportunities for the people of Xinjiang. Although it would be a push to talk of clean water in China, running water is readily available now in even the most isolated of towns, even in the desert. Xinjiang is now not only not lacking in electricity, but is actually China’s largest producer and slowly becoming a pioneer in renewable sources. In the Turpan basin, wind turbines stretch for miles, and solar panels exploit the intense sunlight of China’s hottest place. China became the world’s largest producer of wind energy in 2010, with a large proportion of that output coming from Xinjiang.

 

Energy production has also unfortunately created a less favourable side-effect – very high levels of air pollution. In personal experience, I was told by one friend in Kuitun, that she ‘remembered when the snow was white and the sky was sometimes blue’ in winter. The air pollution did indeed get so bad that snow turned grey in a day of settling. Mentioned in the above paragraph was the renewable sources of the region, but of course this air pollution does not stem from wind turbines. Oil and coal burning is also a huge producer of energy in Xinjiang, and the negative environmental effects have developed so quickly that the majority of people in Xinjiang can remember a time where air and skies were clean.

 

‘Develop the West’ can also be seen to be rather short-sighted in its plans. Xinjiang may be rich in resources, but one resource this arid, desert region lacks is water and there is a risk that there is simply not enough to support the rapidly increasing population. With less than 5% habitable land in Xinjiang due to water shortages, can it support the continuing migration to the region? Urumqi has in the past always been one of the most habitable places, yet even the capital is now feeling the strain of lack of water. Climate change is reported to be threatening its water sources, yet despite that there are plans to build pipelines across Xinjiang to bring water from the more eastern side of the province to the drier west. Water problems have become and will continue to be one of Xinxiang’s greatest challenges.

The Chinese government’s ‘develop the west’ plans make sense from the most basic understanding of it – to bring wealth to some of the poorest regions of China – but it is currently doing as much damage as it is development. It also seems to contribute more to the Han migrants rather than minority groups, who are losing cultural heritage and their environment.

 

Unrest and violence

 

As previously discussed, Xinjiang has long been a contested region between many groups of peoples. In more recent times this contest has mainly been between Han Chinese and Uighurs. Since 2008 attacks labeled as separatist violence have taken place over Xinjiang. In July 2009 Riots broke out in the capital, Urumqi, claiming 200 lives by official numbers. A source of my own, a policeman with access to police videos believes the fatal casualties to be at least three times that, but he was admittedly not present at the riots. The riots on 5th July began as protests, but became violent part way through. The government issued a statement claiming the riots to had been planned abroad by outlaws.

 

The cause of the protests is said to have been a violent incident at a factory which started due to a serious false accusation against Uighur co-workers. This is easy to believe, considering the high levels of racism towards the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. Although the majority of people will not be openly aggressive towards Uighurs in the streets, many will openly talk of their dislike of them. Some of this dislike is extreme – for example, a Han Chinese in Kuitun suggested genocide of Uighurs to me as a solution for peace in the province.

 

Just this year, violence has once again been on the rise, with major incidents within the province in many towns including Urumqi and Kashgar, as well as terrorist attacks on Kunming and Guangzhou train stations, reportedly instigated by Uighur extremist groups. In response, the Chinese military now has a very strong presence across the province and the government has declared a crackdown on ‘terrorism’.

 

Although trying to stop violence is no doubt the correct thing to do, the Chinese Government’s approaches have been questionable to say the least. A few weeks after a very serious attack on a market in Urumqi, the roads in the centre of the city were closed without warning. A procession of soldiers and tanks then made their way through the city, playing speeches from megaphones of ‘peace and harmony’ as they went. These troops and vehicles are now dispersed across the city in such places as the grand bazaar (predominantly Uighur area) and outside mosques (Uighurs are a Muslim minority group). These of course, are true signs of peace and harmony.

 

These shows of power seem to have made the military and police forces believe it is acceptable to be unnaturally aggressive themselves. The police for example was previously not allowed to carry weaponry, yet now in Xinjiang a large proportion of the force have firearms. Outside of the school where I worked, for the last month there was an armed police guard – armed with automatic rifles and spears. In Fukang, a friend caught on camera the moment where a SWAT van drove up next to a Uighur family, surrounded them with armed police, checked their papers, ripped the papers up and through the family into the back of the van. It has become a common sight in Xinjiang cities to see riot police marching through the streets on patrols. These are just a small number of the signs of increasing aggression in the region from the authorities.

 

Even outside of Xinjiang, Uighurs are being persecuted. A leading Uighur academic working in Beijing was thrown in prison after criticising the way the government was treating Uighurs. He was labeled a separatist by official sources. One must also ask, why should it be a crime to be separatist?

 

Other minority groups of Xinjiang

 

This article has mainly tackled the concerns between Han Chinese and Uighur peoples, but it is important to consider the other minority groups and how they are treated. In Urumqi, there is a Russian quarter separate from Han and Uighur parts of town. One could argue that they don’t seem to fully integrate therefore into the wider community, but it is relatively common across the world to have areas of cities where a minority group almost completely owns it.

 

In the majority of cities, Kazakhs live happily integrated with the Han. However, talking to some Kazakhs, I found out that some are concerned about if some of the laws used against Uighurs (Xinjiang has a number of derogatory laws that only affect Uighurs) will effect them in the future. As Kazakhs, like Uighurs, are generally Muslim, some could well suffer from laws slowly coming into place that appear targeted at Muslim groups – two examples being a move to ban religious Muslim clothes and beards in Karamay, and a ban on Ramadan fasting. In general however, it does appear the other minorities of Xinjiang do not feel anywhere near as oppressed as the Uighurs. Part of this could be that Kazakhs, Russians, Tajiks and Mongolians all have their own countries bordering the region and so they don’t find their way of life threatened in the same way as the Uighurs do – the Uighurs do not have their own country, and if their culture is lost in China, it will be gone forever.

 

Is Xinjiang ‘multicultural’?

 

Returning finally to the rather sensationalist title of this article, it is time to address the original question using the prior information. In order for a country to be multicultural, one would expect the people, in general, to live contently together, regardless of ethnicity. The tensions between the different ethnic groups say otherwise, and hence it’s advised not to listen to the recording when you fly into Urumqi for the first time speaking of harmony and respect between all peoples of Xinjiang. Multiculturalism requires an acceptance of all cultures, not a drive to wipe out all cultures but one.

 

The government’s complete misunderstanding (or choice to ignore) of the reasons for violence highlights the ‘Han culture is best’ attitude that leads to sinification. Each time there is an attack, Uighur groups from abroad will voice that the cause is oppression and destruction of culture, and the government will ignore the claims and declare the acts as mindless terrorism and accept no blame of their own. This ignorance, on purpose or not, is not the sign of a multicultural region.

 

Then there is the military and government response. The sad irony of marching the military through a capital city whilst playing slogans of unity and peace is impossible not to see, and the concentration of troops in minority areas accentuates that the authorities don’t believe their own words.

 

Kazakh and Uighur culture is used as a tourist attraction rather than actually respecting it and this is the Chinese way. If you visit Yunnan province, the region famous for its diversity of minority groups, you will find that new ‘old’ towns built in order to make minority culture into money, and also make it appear more Han Chinese. From a very cynical point of view, it is interesting that the Yunnan old towns keep on burning down and being rebuilt in a more Han style, filled with tourist shops rather than homes and small businesses. One must also consider Inner Mongolia, which now has very little Mongolian culture in it. Hohhot is now infamously a generic concrete Han city, with all things Mongolian stripped out of it. Most Ethnic Mongolians have even forgotten their language.

 

For me, it is clear to see the ultimate goal of the authorities in Xinjiang. They do not want a multicultural region, but instead another Inner Mongolia – a region where minority culture has been suppressed to the point that it can be used as part of tourism, but has no place as living, breathing culture. The current year long ‘terrorism’ crackdown is the perfect opportunity for them to really begin to do serious damage to the cultures of Xinjiang, through fear-mongering and targeted further ‘develop the west’ development. Although terrorism and violence is never justified, there is no doubt that the Xinjiang unrest is, and as a result the province cannot be called the multicultural region that the government would like you to believe.

 

institution


I haven’t written in ages…I do have the excuse of being on holiday but nevertheless I do feel bad about neglecting you guys.  And a prior apology to ‘pouringmyartout’ for still not writing a happy piece. Sorry!

Institution

Teach them lies

Infect their minds

Come inside

It’s warm inside

We are the institution

We are your one solution

Your death leads to salvation

Your life to fuel a burning nation

You can blank our nation’s strife

We taught them lies

Infected their minds

with teachings of a different kind

Its warm inside…

 

 

please note i have nothing at all against religion, only the institution and structures behind many religions. I have no intention to offend.

Your Gold Coin Fuelled Regime.


Across the grim cobbled streets you stride

Seeming unaware of your obnoxious pride,

Your coat with purple velvet lined

With the money of the cheque you signed.

And yet you know that your gold was made

With the sweat and blood of those afraid

Of, your gold coin fuelled regime.

 

Perhaps you just don’t understand?

The man you fined owns not one inch of land

And by grasping way his last slither of gold,

His head bows and his corpse grows old

For he knows his end lies on the horizon

With no coin for dry bread to survive on

In your gold coin fuelled regime.

 

You turn to me as if you have done no wrong?!

The man you fined will die before too long!!

And how many others have you stolen from?

You think that they are those who are in the wrong…

He took your fruit, riches let you accuse,

You take his life, Poverty makes him used

By, your gold coin fuelled regime.