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Freedom in China in the 13th Century and Today

Tuesday, 19 November 2002 12:00 AM

My Comment on a Channel 13 TV Program

On Nov. 3, I saw on educational Channel 13 a program called "Globe Trekker" that took place in China. While Iraq is represented in the media as an evil global superpower about to destroy the United States and the rest of the world (presumably with mustard gas, as used in 1915), China was pictured by Channel 13 as an American health resort like Antibes or the Bahamas, only more exotic and full of antiquities.

The "globe trekker," an innocent young girl (in her late teens?), seemed as confident as a coed on her campus. She was eating Beijing duck like a child of 5 eating his or her favorite dainty.

That China was as peaceful as Antibes or the Bahamas was taken for granted. That innocent "globe trekker" will be unpleasantly surprised only on the day of doom when it becomes clear that China is a giant in terms not only of its population but also of its development of post-nuclear superweapons, which in the United States is next to nil, for none are needed to bomb Iraq to smithereens by ordinary bombs dropped by conventional bombers.

While the United States is preparing for a war with tiny Iraq – giant China is preparing for the destruction of the United States, including its means of retaliation, in order to prevent mutual assured destruction.

But there was another aspect of China that "Globe Trekker” featured: freedom in China – for example, American rock flourishes in China as much as it does in the United States!

No society can do without freedom; a social system in which anyone can be watched around the clock and ordered what to do has not yet been found, though George Orwell tried to describe it in his "1984." Hence, some freedom existed in Stalin’s Russia, in Hitler's Germany, and in China in the 13th century and today. This freedom differed in these societies depending on their socio-cultural history.

For example, inhabitants of Stalin’s Russia were amazed by this freedom in Nazi Germany: A former member of the Communist Party could join the Nazi Party – no one blamed him for his past. A Soviet official of Stalin’s time who went to Mao’s China to attend a "festive demonstration of working people" in Beijing told me about an astonishing event.

As columns marched past the tribune in Stalin’s Moscow and Mao’s Beijing, the announcer kept shouting, "Here comes the column of our glorious textile workers!" Suddenly the guests from Stalin's Russia could not believe their ears – the announcer shouted: "Here comes the column of our illustrious businessmen!"

But why not? Surely the "illustrious businessmen" supported Hitler’s regime more loyally than military men who attempted to assassinate Hitler. By the same token, they would support Mao perhaps more loyally than any other group.

One of the first European visitors to China was Marco Polo in the 13th century. Recall Europe at that time: religious wars and religious persecution. Why, even at the end of the 15th century, Christopher Columbus praised the king and queen of Spain for the banishment of Jews. The European persecution of Jews culminated in the 20th century – in Germany, which is part of Europe.

And here Polo came to China in the 13th century, and what did he see? Synagogues functioning next to Christian churches, and both tax-exempt! He had come to a country of freedom that Europe could not even imagine.

Describing the exemplary law and order, which Polo also admired, he mentioned one detail: The Chinese carried poison wherever they went. What for?

In 13th-century England, the power of the king was restricted by the Magna Carta. In China any attempt by word or deed to restrict the ruler’s power was the crime of crimes. If arrested, the evildoer took the poison he carried about for this emergency, for no one could contemplate the forthcoming torture (infinitely more sophisticated than European torture) and wish to stay alive.

However, according to Polo, the police made those arrested vomit the poison out.

The Chinese freedom and the Chinese poison that struck Polo as against European religious wars and religious persecutions was rooted in the socio-cultural history of both civilizations.

Christianity is based on the notion of the soul (compare it with the psyche of Western psychology) determining human behavior. Therefore, the power-holders in Christendom have been trying to make all souls loyal to themselves by filling all souls with the "correct” faith only. Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany rejected Christianity, but based their power on the same principle of filling all souls with the "correct" faith or "ideology."

None of this should be connected with the true Christianity of Christ and his disciples in the New Testament because they denied earthly power (and wealth). The European power-holders were obsessed with their earthly power and wealth, and they wanted to make use of Christianity and its concept of the soul.

Now, the Chinese power-holders never believed in souls that will, if they are virtuous, go to heaven to join God. In the last millennium before Christ and at the beginning of the first millennium A.D., the Chinese philosophers sound as atheistic as the European thinkers in the past two centuries.

Their view of human behavior is close to that of today’s Western behaviorism, denying the psyche. Hence the Chinese power-holders did not try to convert Jews or Christians to a certain uniform faith or ideology to make their souls loyal.

According to the millennia of Chinese political experience in absolutism, loyalty depends not on how "correct” a person’s soul is, but on (1) how a person can pursue what he regards as happiness (and hence everyone should be allowed to go to the synagogue or listen to American rock if that is his or her happiness) and on (2) how a person fears the punishment for his or her attempt by word or deed to restrict absolutism, as was done in England in the 13th century.

No, China is not an American health resort, and its freedom to listen to American rock is rooted in the millennia of Chinese absolutism. Different from the European absolutism (including its Soviet and Nazi versions), but more experienced, ruthless and omnipotent.

This piece is a variation on one of the themes of my book in progress: "Out of Moscow and Into New York: A Life in the Geostrategically Lobotomized West in the Age of Terrorism and Post-Nuclear Superweapons.” Publishers: The 27-page Proposal and the first 130-page part of the book can be mailed to you if you apply to me (

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My Comment on a Channel 13 TV Program On Nov. 3, I saw on educational Channel 13 a program called "Globe Trekker" that took place in China. While Iraq is represented in the media as an evil global superpower about to destroy the United States and the rest of the world...
Tuesday, 19 November 2002 12:00 AM
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