Been a while since I last checked the blog, and I noticed a comment on my Tsai Eng-meng post.
For those unfamiliar with Tsai Eng-meng, Tsai Eng-meng is a Taiwanese food magnate. Got his start in Taiwan, but made it big in China.
Upon returning to Taiwan, Tsai bought up some Taiwanese news media organs. And changed their editorial stances to more Communist-friendly positions.
But around the beginning of 2012, Tsai caused a stir in an interview with the Washington Post, remarking that the Chinese Communists were jolly good fellows who just couldn't possibly have killed very many people at Tiananmen Square. His reason for thinking so? Because the driver of a single tank hesitated to run over the iconic "Tank Man" of Tiananmen Square.
(As I recall, he also expressed scorn for Taiwan's hard-won democratic freedom, which he derided as a poor substitute for a walletful of Chinese redbacks.)
And so, without further ado, I submit my replies to one of Tsai's comradely supporters.
Jon: Not to side with Tsai here...
The Foreigner: Here it comes...
Jon: ...but he was citing the fact that the "Tank Man" lie [sic], which is often perpetuated in western media.
The Foreigner: Can I interrupt to say that it suits you? The whole passive-aggression routine, I mean.
If experience is any guide, I do believe you're fishing for some kind of groveling apology.
Jon: For example a supermajority of Americans believe falsely that the "Tank Man" at Tiananmen was run over by those tanks.
The Foreigner: Bullshit.
A cursory web check of the New York Times, Newsweek and Time reveals nothing of the kind. NONE of them declare that Tank Man was definitely run over by tanks at Tiananmen.
(Image from Filmatica.wordpress.com)
Furthermore, I find it exceedingly difficult to believe anybody wasted good money to poll Americans about "Tank Man". But, assuming for the moment that it IS true, you forgot to mention that the Chinese DID run over at least one man (Fang Zheng) with their tanks. (To this day, the Communist propaganda ministry maintains that Fang Zheng lost his legs in an everyday, run-of-the-mill "traffic accident".)
So perhaps Americans' beliefs are a perfectly understandable result of mistaken identity:
- Tank Man gets photographed in front of limb-crushing tanks.
- Fang Zheng is photographed minus a couple of limbs (compliments of Tsai Eng-meng's Communist benefactors).
- Mental conflation of Tank Man (who was NOT run over by Chinese tanks) with Fang Zheng (who WAS run over by Chinese tanks).
But here's a crazy PR suggestion: if the Chinese don't want Westerners to think they run people over with tanks...MAYBE they should stop running people over with their tanks!
Jon: He is still alive according to most accounts and the "conspiracy theory" sites claim he died months later.
The Foreigner: It is, of course, a red herring to bring up the fate of any one single individual (Tank Man) in the face of a massacre of thousands. Tsai's hasty generalization is that since Tank Man MAY have survived, then "not that many [Chinese demonstrators] could really have died."
And if Anne Frank were to turn up alive tomorrow, would this Communist quisling then argue that the Jewish Holocaust never happened?
Also, it's patently untrue to say Tank Man is still alive according to "most accounts". Wikipedia -- hardly a "conspiracy theory" site -- points out the conflicting stories on that score.
If he IS alive, let him come forward to say so to the media.
Oh, that's right. He can't. Because if he comes forward, the Chinese government will kill him.
Golly. Maybe the Butchers of Beijing really AREN'T the nice, harmless guys Tsai Eng-meng claims they are. Ya think?
(Image from The Independent)
Jon: As for "democracy-hating", there is nobody who truly loves ALL democracy. For example, the Weimar Republic elected Hitler.
The Foreigner: The "Weimar Republic" didn't vote for Hitler. The political system known as "democracy" didn't vote for Hitler.
MEN voted for Hitler. Men who hated democracy, and wanted it abolished.
Men such as Tsai Eng-meng. And yourself.
It was Germany's great misfortune that these men got what they wished for.
Jon: The French Republic massacred women and children (guillotined them).
The Foreigner: Straw man. Democracy, as a term describing a form of government advocated in the modern world, does not include the French revolutionary model lacking constitional safeguards (formal and informal).
But allow me to make a further rebuttal to your line of thinking. Around the time of the French revolution, doctors carried out a host of unproven treatments, some of which were either ineffective or even downright harmful to their patients (blistering of the skin or confinement for psychological problems, bloodletting, enema use, frontal lobotomies, "spermatorrhoea" prevention, homeopathy, and purging).
On the other hand, they also pioneered procedures which have stood the test of time, such as vaccinations, percussion-based diagnosis, and various surgical techniques.
Only an ignoramus would argue that modern doctors should be loathed and present-day medicine rejected out-of-hand simply because doctors of the past once used some questionable practices.
By the same token, only the genuinely infantile reject modern liberal democracy simply because 200 years ago, some long-dead Frenchmen didn't recognize the importance of checks-and-balances, the necessity of constitutionalism, and the limits to the perfectability of man.
(Image from CartoonPictures5.com)
Jon: The US Republic genocided...
The Foreigner: Excuse me while I look that up in the latest edition of the Oxford Chinglish Dictionary.
Jon: ...a million Filipinos in the Philippine-American War, where the US conquered and annexed an independent nation, destroying their Republic, even though the Philippine Republic used the US constitution.
The Foreigner: I believe the number is closer to 250,000...and it's debatable whether it was a deliberate genocide.
But rather than argue about numbers, I'd like to point out that most of the casualties were caused by out-of-control military officers who went far beyond what the civilian leadership ever intended. It's a cause for celebration that modern democracies have matured and figured out that their militaries need to be kept on a much tighter leash.
Why and how did this maturation take place? It occurred because democracies are blessed with a built-in feedback mechanism: the free press. In short, American anti-imperialist papers were free to report atrocities, and thereby helped bring them to an end.
Which is something that doesn't ever happen in Tsai Eng-meng's glorious Communist utopia.
Or in Tsai Eng-meng's pro-Communist newspapers, for that matter.
Oh, one last thing before we move on...you neglected to mention that America went to the Philippines with the ultimate goal of granting it its independence. Which it did, in 1946.
Poor Tibet should be so lucky!
Jon [referring to dead Philippinos]: Rather funny. Democracy is a joke.
The Foreigner: Number of Chinese murdered (or, in your parlance, "genocided") by the anti-democratic doctrine within the last 50 years: 36,000,000. Number of Chinese killed by democracy within the last 50 years: 0.
Which of those two numbers is greater than the other, Jon?
I'll allow you to take your time to figure that out. Math is hard.
But since you're fond of jokes, here's a riddle for you:
Q: What do you call an Uncle Com who tries to bamboozle people into thinking the Chinese don't run their citizens over with tanks, when he's fully aware that they DO run their citizens over with tanks?
A: A lying asshole.
But I guess you've probably heard that one before.
Jon: If you go to any of the 200 democratic countries of the world...
The Foreigner: Which "world" are you referring to? Here on planet Earth, there are only 78 democracies.
Jon: ...everyone on the street will say it's a democracy, but ask them if they can be president or a congressman, and the average folk always say "no", and ask why, and they say because they lack money or influence.
Basically democracy only elects the aristocracy (wealth or fame).
The Foreigner: Have you ever heard of a guy named Barack Obama (D)? Or Bill Clinton (D)? Or Ronald Reagan (R)? [Apr 10 / 2013 Update: Or Richard Nixon (R)?]
Word on the street is that they all came from fairly modest beginnings...
But you labor under a misconception. Liberal democracy entails the consent of the demos. It does NOT mean that everyone gets to be president for their fricken' birthday.
Money and influence help in life. If you don't have 'em, you may have to set your immediate sights a little lower. Run for dog catcher. Or the PTA. Or city commissioner.
Bust your ass at it. Do a good job. Don't steal from the public purse. Don't get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.
Do all that, and you just might get further than you ever thought you could.
But even should you fail there's one final thought you may yet still console yourself with: your well-meaning efforts have not landed you in a urine-soaked Communist political prison.
Jon: Aristotle hated democracy for this reason and preferred monarchy.
The Foreigner: Was that the reason? Or was it because he was born an aristocrat, and was quite naturally predisposed towards the form of government under which he was privileged? (Or, along similar lines, was it because he worked for Alexander the Great, and knew which side his bread was buttered?)
Nevertheless, I understand Aristotle also believed that there were some men whose very natures destined them for slavery. Never much cared for the notion, although I'm perfectly willing to admit he may have been right..about individuals such as yourself.
But let's examine your contention that "Aristotle HATED democracy" by allowing the man speak for himself:
Aristotle: "The principle that the multitude ought to be supreme rather than the few best is one that is maintained, and, though not free from difficulty, yet seems to contain an element of truth. For the many, of whom each individual is but an ordinary person, when they meet together may very likely be better than the few good, if regarded not individually but collectively, just as a feast to which many contribute is better than a dinner provided out of a single purse. For each individual among the many has a share of virtue and prudence, and when they meet together, they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses; that is a figure of their mind and disposition. Hence the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry; for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole."
-- Politics, Book 3.11
I'm not sensin' any of that "hate" you were talkin' about. He may have had his druthers, but unlike Tsai Eng-meng, he was at least honest enough to give democracy its due.
(And he certainly deserves credit for his intuition about the Wisdom of Crowds, long before anyone ever coined the phrase.)
Jon: And ALL of the Greek philosophers disagreed with elections, but rather preferred representatives to be chosen at random.
The Foreigner: It should then be a relatively simple matter for you to name at least five of them who held this opinion.
Citations of original sources, please.
"All he had was 50 cents, 50 cents, 50 cents..."
(Shaky camera-work alert. To listen, click PLAY and scroll the video off the screen.)
Update (Nov 8/2012): Tsai Eng-meng finds himself in the fine company of notable ancient Greek philosopher Mahmoud Fraudmadinejad.
Update (Dec 7/2012): What's that, Ari? You'd like to weigh in on the subject of democracy again? Why certainly, be my guest...
"The basis of a democratic state is liberty; which, according to the common opinion of men, can only be enjoyed in such a state; this they affirm to be the great end of every democracy."
--Aristotle, Politics Book 6.2
So, to paraphrase Jon's philosophical hero, Aristotle: "Liberty is the great result of every democracy."
Which just might be why would-be tyrants hate it so.
Update (Jan 9/2013): Jon averred:
"Basically democracy ONLY elects the aristocracy (wealth or fame)." [Emphasis added]
I gave 3 examples disproving this assertion. But this refutes the claim even more convincingly:
(Image from BostonReview.tumblr.com)
The chart plainly shows that half those in the U.S. Congress AREN'T wealthy. That works out to about 267 people (535 members of Congress / 2 = 267.5).
If someone has evidence that these 267 non-wealthy people are all incredibly famous (and yet, for some reason, not millionaires), then I'd be very interested in seeing it.
Update (Mar 11/2013): This just in -- 85 billionaires have seats in Communist China's top political chambers.
Number of billionaires in America's democratically-elected congress?
(To put this into more perspective, there are a total of 95 billionaires in China as of 2012. Which means that 89% of China's billionaires have positions in China's top legislative bodies. By contrast, the U.S. has 425 billionaires, and 0% of them have positions in America's top legislative bodies.)
So it seems that there is a system in which only the rich and famous obtain political power. However, the evidence shows that that system is not democracy, but the one beloved by Tsai Eng-meng: Chinese Communism.