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:
Yeah, it's a Chinese website.


Emily said...

Man, I was totally prepared to say that my iPod was from Japan, but I looked on the back, and you're right, it was assembled in China. Designed in California, though, which I guess makes it better...(?)

Now, was the Indian torch procession off limits because of angry Tibetans, or because of Rabid Bollywood Fangirls? 'Cause I can see that going either way?

I'm so psyched for the torch to climb Everest. What happens if there's not enough oxygen for it up there?

Lex said...

Oh man, I TOTALLY know the answer to that one.

The scientists specifically designed a special "Go Up Mount Everest" torch. It's in a miner's lantern of some sort and is specially designed to stay lit.

You see, the "torch" is actually a huge series of torches. The runners each get to keep the torch they ran with as a... souvenir?

Also, they'll have an Emergency Backup Torch that will stay lit at the bottom of the mountain... just in case.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Damn. See, here’s what I was thinking would happen:

So things keep getting hotter in Tibet, right. Europe’s getting uppity and declaring they’ll boycott, the US is feeling very awkward about it, and China’s about to lose a helluva lot of face. These are people who didn’t boycott HITLER, mind.

But as everybody knows, you can’t have the Olympics with no Olympic Flame. And you clearly can’t have an Olympic Flame if the Olympic Torch hasn’t made it to the stadium. And should, for example, the Olympic Torch have gone missing somewhere on the highest mountain in the world, because it’s a freaking mountain and people die and get lost up there all the time, what are you going to do about it? And it wouldn’t be fair to blame the host country, everyone knows that accidents happen on Everest. So it turns out that we can’t have the Olympics this year anyway, and it’s Mount Everest’s fault, instead of being China’s human rights record.

And everybody is happy. Except the athletes. But probably if the IOC fed them dumplings, they’d get over it. It worked with the Tibetans.