Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Torch Goes to India!
India has figured out a way to keep the public from protesting the torch as it travels through the streets of New Delhi.
Don't let them in.
No, seriously, the public is not allowed to be involved in the torch relay at all in New Delhi. Entire streets normally full of vendors, bicycles, and traffic are closed off entirely, as Bollywood's brightest stars carry the torch through the streets.
It makes sense in a way. After all, India has the largest population of displaced Tibetans in the world. And they are not happy.
Because I have a blog, I must have an opinion. And my opinion here is... I'm torn. Are the Olympic torch relay protests an effective tool of public mobilization toward the goal of better human rights for all citizens of the world, and specifically for citizens of Tibet and Darfur? Or are they merely a symbolic gesture toward a politically unimportant symbol?
In essence, the protests are effective overall in increasing awareness of China's human rights abuses. But they are not the best forum to bring these issues to the table.
Part of the reason that the IOC decided to have the Olympics in China was to expand the Olympics' legitimacy as an international organization by including countries that have never hosted the games before. And it was also to encourage China to increase transparency and improve its human rights record. After all, the Olympics brings a level of international scrutiny from both the press and the international community. After all, the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia was an impetus to force Australia to confront its past oppression of Aboriginal people.
But it doesn't seem to be working.
China keeps cracking down. And they are keeping the international media out.
There are better ways to protest. Much better ways. Boycott Chinese products (yes, that does include your cell phone, iPod, and most of the gadgets in your house). Meet the ships coming in from China, and protest the import of their products. Become more concerned about lead paint in toys imported from China. Pressure media outlets to be more aggressive in pursuing news in China, and pressure internet search engines to end censorship of outside websites.
But people are lazy, and Tibet is a happy place. The Free Tibet bumper stickers and flags are pretty and well-designed, very fashionable on cars and adorning walls. Overall, it's much easier to object to a totally symbolic piece of Chinese power: a torch, whose flame can go out.
Oh, by the way? The torch will be going through Tibet and up Mount Everest. That will be interesting.
Image source: torchrelay.beijing2008.cn
Yeah, it's a Chinese website.