[Pretty graphic image in the postscript. Readers may not wish to be eating while they scroll down.]
Interesting study concluding that babies as young as 6 months old already have the rudiments of a conscience, and can tell the difference between right and wrong (in their own fashion). Not sure that I necessarily buy the method behind it, but intuitively the general concept seems valid -- that morality is hardwired in us at birth to some degree or another.
Of course there are always exceptions, whom we generally describe as being sociopaths. Take for example, when the subject of the revolutions taking place in the Middle East came up. Carl Natong, a frequent commenter at Taiwan's pro-Communist China Post, had this to say:
Just think of our own country and family. Never mind about DEMOCRACY, COMMUNIST or other's system of gov't. Never mind what Uncle Sam shouting about DEMOCRACY.
Translation: a pig is a dog is a boy. Mullah Omar = the Dalai Lama = Ayatollah Khomeini = Mahatma Gandhi. And oh yes, all political systems are created equal. Who are WE to judge?
(And when Chiang Kai-shek or the Chinese Communist Party give you the orders to kill unarmed civilian protesters -- be it February 28th or June 4th -- you'd better damn well shoot. You OBEY the bloody orders your Chinese Fuhrer gives you. And you do it for mom, pop and the Fatherland.)
Poor Carl. Now that Taiwan's a democracy, the poor dear must be ever so disappointed that he can't find that plum political prison kapo job he was born and bred to believe was his birthright.
As an antidote to Carl Natong's ravings, I offer a short quote from someone who has just a little more grey matter. Someone who IS able to distinguish the difference between dictatorship and democracy. Someone who was there at Tahrir Square when Egypt's dictator went into forced retirement. A blogger who goes by the nomme-de-guerre Sandmonkey:
Tonight will be the first night where I go to bed and don't have to worry about state security hunting me down, or about government goons sent to kidnap me; or about government sponsored hackers attacking my website. Tonight, for the first time ever, I feel free…and it is awesome!
Postscript: Lot of Sinofascist conspiracy-theorizing at that China Post link, speculating about who are the devious instigators behind the current Middle Eastern demonstrations. (America and the CIA of course being the perennial favorites. Although it is strange that none of the Post's resident whackjobs have yet to mention the Japanese the Nipponese, the Jooos, the Alien Saucer people or hallucinogens in the Nescafe. But just give 'em some time . . .)
Truth be told, the only instigators are the Arab leaders themselves. Hosni Mubarek was pressured for THIRTY FREAKIN' YEARS by FIVE different American administrations to democratize -- or at least liberalize -- and the stupid bastard didn't. (In that sense, he shares a lot in common with another stupid evil bastard, Chiang Kai-shek.)
So eventually the balloon goes up, because people have decided that they didn't want to put up with any of Mubarek's shit anymore. Exactly why this is so hard for the China Post and its tinfoil hat-wearing commenters, I really don't know.
(What's doubly tragic is that the Communist Party of China no doubt believes their own idiotic propaganda that democracy is a Western plot to destabilize their country, and will take all the wrong lessons from Egypt and Libya. So instead of liberalizing and aiming for a soft landing, they'll add to their apparatus of coercion and repression. "Oh, look at us, we are so damn clever." Thereby doing nothing more than postponing the Gotterdammerung that's certain to happen there someday when the population explodes in hateful rage. And when that day happens and Chinese blood is flowing through the streets like a river, it will be the C.C.P.'s own damn fault.)
Again, I quote Sandmonkey, who tells how the benevolent Egyptian regime treated a blogger who was documenting police corruption. It's eerily similar to some of the human rights abuses one hears about in China:
[Khaled Said was] a 28 year old Alexandrian man, who got killed on the hands of two policemen a few days ago [This was back in June of 2010 -- The Foreigner]. And the story is equally disturbing and terrifying in its simplicity: He simply was sitting in a Cyber Cafe, when two policemen walked inside and demanded the ID's of everyone who was sitting there. When he refused to give it to them, they grabbed him, tied him up, dragged him out of the Cafe, took him to a nearby building where for 20 minutes they beat him to death, smashing his head on the handrail of the staircase, while he screamed and begged for his life, and as people around watched helplessly, knowing that if they did something, they would be accused of assaulting a police officer, which would pretty much guarantee them a similar fate. This went on for 20 minutes. Think about that. You are beaten to death, by those who swore to protect you, while the people in your neighborhood watched silently, and as your pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. 28. Not yet married. Still having the rest of your life ahead of you. No More.
After the police discovered he died, they took the dead body to the Police station, where the Police [Chief] ordered them to throw it back on the street and call an ambulance, in order not to be held responsible for him. When his brother- who had American citizenship- found out, he went and confronted the head of the Police in his neighborhood, who told him that the story isn't true, and that his brother was a known drug offender and that he died from asphyxiation, for swallowing a bag of drugs when the police caught him with it.
This is Khaled before the "Asphyxiation":
This is Khaled after his "Asphyxiation":
Sandmonkey sardonically remarks:
"Amazing what Asphyxiation does to you these days, no?"
It's worth noting that under the former military dictatorship of the Chinese Nationalist Party, Taiwan too had its own share of 'accidental' deaths. Which thankfully, are now mercifully rare -- since the advent of democracy. And oh, what a bitter pill that must be to Carl and the rest of his fellow KMT die-hards!
One thing I DO wonder though: did Khaled here take Carl Natong's Peter-Pan advice and "just think of his own family and country" while the cops of Mubarek's dictatorship were beating him into an unrecognizable pulp?
And if he DID follow Carl Natong's perfectly marvelous suggestion, did "just thinking of his own family and country" during his last few horrific minutes on this earth make his journey into the next world one iota easier?
The story does have an epilogue, though, which Sandmonkey doesn't elaborate on. Only 7 months after this atrocity, one of the chief communication centers for the opposition rallies was an Egyptian Facebook page. A page titled, coincidentally, "We are Khalid Said".
It's a page which currently has 464,000 friends.
Correction: Make that 464,000 -- and counting . . .
UPDATE: Way heavy post. For a little levity, see SatireWire's latest: Charlie Sheen to help Arabs take freedom to 'Next Level'
UPDATE #2: A generally positive LONG-TERM view, by Anne Applebaum.
I met one shopkeeper who opened right up when he and I found ourselves alone in his store.
“Do Americans know much about Libya?” he said.
“No,” I said. “Not really.”
He wanted to teach me something about his country, but he didn’t know where to start. So he recited encyclopedia factoids.
[ . . . ]
“And Qaddafi is our president,” he said. “About him, no comment.” He laughed, but I don’t think he thought it was funny.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “Comment away. I don’t live here.”
He thought about that. For a long drawn-out moment, he calculated the odds and weighed the consequences. Then the dam burst.
“We hate that fucking bastard, we have nothing to do with him. Nothing. We keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We do our jobs, we go home. If I talk, they will take me out of my house in the night and put me in prison.
“Qaddafi steals,” he told me. “He steals from us.” He spoke rapidly now, twice as fast as before, as though he had been holding back all his life. He wiped sweat off his forehead with trembling hands. “The oil money goes to his friends. Tunisians next door are richer and they don’t even have any oil.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“We get three or four hundred dinars each month to live on. Our families are huge, we have five or six children . . ."
Hmm. "Keep your heads down and your mouths shut." To a Sinofascist of Carl Natong's ilk, there's a rosy vision of Taiwan's Paradise Lost.
UPDATE #4: Very cool ABC news report yesterday about the subterfuge Libyans used to bypass Gaddafi's blocking of Facebook. Facebook gets blocked? No problemo. Just use dating sites to communicate with each other, instead!
When Mahmoudi created his pretend profile on Mawada, he figured 50,000 supporters would be enough to take to the streets. But using various aliases on the dating site, he said he ended up with 171,323 "admirers" by the time Libya's Internet crashed last Saturday.
Pity that I can't locate the video clip for y'all.
UPDATE #5: Never knew two thirds of the people living in oil-rich Libya only earn $2 a day. Might be someone's been skimmin' from the kitty.
Also some very hopeful stuff there on the emergence of civil society in Libya based on the tribes. Of course, tribalism is a dirty word at Taiwan's China Post -- but it should be remembered that it was the tribes of Iraq which prevented Al Qaeda from seizing power there.