Friday, August 08, 2008

"The world looks on with mixed emotions"

It is 08.08.08 – the eighth day, on the eighth month, of the eight year of this century. The Beijing Olympic Games open at eight minutes past eight Beijing time (just after 10 pm local/Australian Eastern Standard Time). This came in an email this afternoon from online campaign mob
As the Beijing Olympics begin, the world looks on with mixed emotions. It's a moment which should bring us closer together, and Chinese citizens deserve their excitement - but the Chinese government still hasn't opened meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or changed its stance on Burma, Darfur and other pressing issues.
That is pretty much how I feel about the impending opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing tonight.

I am torn about whether I
can keep my distance from the hoopla of the Olympics and resist wanting to immerse myself in the muck. Can I watch the proceedings from a distance as a bystander to the spectacle?

Can I avoid get dragged into the slipstream of nationalist zeal, jingoism, medal tallies, crass commercialism and the most grotesque types of hero worship, even if it is a constant jeremiad at how disgusting it is? If not, surely by day two or three of such criticism, everyone will be sick of it.

Can I retain a healthy critical objectivity about the Chinese government's Olympic celebrations without descending to shouting at the TV over China's orchestrated PR monstrosities to whitewash their terrible human rights record? And the Australian media's failure to notice? Is it possible to remain critical without spoiling everyone else's enjoyment of this spectacle?
I have a seven-year-old at home who is innocent to such things but is in awe at the impending celebration of all things sport. "It's the Olympics, Dad!"

Ask me in about a week.

Either way, today is an auspicious day for the Chinese, for whom symbolism and numerology means a lot, and it is worth celebrating.

I am glad that the sense of ambivalence is shared around the world. Following the Dalai Lama's example of extending a handshake towards China and the Chinese authorities, wants us all to support their campaign to send a virtual handshake across the world to show solidarity with the people of Tibet, Dafur, Burma and China, and with all other peoples of the world, as "one last chance to reclaim the spirit of the Olympics, with the message of friendship and dialogue we share with the Dalai Lama."

Shake hands across the world with and send a message to everyone that we haven't forgotten Tibet, Dafur, Burma, or the people of China.

[Image 'Chinese Red Lanterns' (cc) by

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