Saturday, November 25, 2006

PYY News Briefs (And The Usual Opinionated Commentary That Goes With It)

Here are some items that I have found interesting:


Beijing Olympic Organizers Teach Volunteers To Smile

Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn't smiling a natural response. You smile when you are happy, no? It indicates something in your inner being, you cannot teach people to smile (at least not genuinely). What does that tell us about life in China?



Pope To Visit Mosque, during Turkish Visit?

The linked article just says it's "under consideration". My guess is it's being tossed out to gather a response. It's not set in stone, because if too many fundamentalist protestors raise a stink, he may have to back down. Then, those that may have extended the invitation, would have hurt feelings and possibly be angered by what they consider a snub. One thing for sure, it shows he is moving cautiously through this whole thing.



Iraq Moving Into Anarchy?

I have been supportive of our efforts in Iraq. I am one that firmly believes that Saddam had to go. My questions about the effort have always been about the timing so close on the heels of Afghanistan and the miscalculation/poor preparation, for after the fall of Saddam.

It was a good thing that a democratic republic was established, but what we are seeing now is a very weak and ineffective Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Maliki. He isn't stepping up any kind of security effort in the wake of sectarian violence, using Iraqi forces. He wants the U.S. forces to remain in Iraq, but ties their hands. Meanwhile the militias are gaining more and more free reign over Baghdad and other key areas.

Something has to give soon, or it will become an all-out civil war right before our eyes. I never thought I would say this, but if we cannot seek and destroy those responsible, if we cannot convince the Iraqi PM to act now while the fight is still young, and if the Iraqis themselves are not willing to stand up to this kind of thing on their own, we might as well come home.

It all goes back to when he had al-Sadr cornered in that mosque and then let him go. That's where much of this today, could have been avoided.

If we go to war we must go to win, that, or we don't go. And while I assign a certain amount of responsibility to the John Murtha's, John Kerry's and Cindy Sheehan's of this world for helping to embolden the enemy, they alone cannot be held completely responsible. But to their credit, they have manipulated the administration into fighting a "politically correct war" and quite frankly, there is no such thing.

If I were President, the Sunni triangle would be known as the Sunni canyon and al-Sadr would be dead. And damn the bleeding hearts. You can call me cruel if you want, but we'd be closer to being gone by now.


Rwanda Recalls Ambassador To France

The Rwandan Foreign Minister has called the French government "hostile". Meddling, yes, but I can hardly call the French "hostile". I do not understand what makes the French government the moral authority over this area, but I think most of the world can see that crimes were committed. And, I doubt Chirac and company will lose a lot of sleep over this.

24 comments:

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- let me just comment on your first bit. "when to smile" is culturally conditioned. we in the u.s. are conditioned to smile a lot, no matter how we really feel inside, to people we know and strangers alike.

in france and germany alike (i'm less knowledgeable about other countries), you save your smile (and your whole personality in fact) for people you know on a deeper level. for them, smiles are an indication of a relationship, not one's general disposition.

i remember my first day in a french seminar class (one with a handful of students rather than a lecture hall). being raised american, i naturally smiled at the professor as he walked in. he looked at me as if i had just stepped off a ufo...

LASunsett said...

Hi Ms Miami,

I understand this. What I wanted to say more so than anything is, how sad a world it must be where there are no smiles. China is part of that world.

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- well, i wouldn't assume that there are no smiles in china. i've never been there, but i'm a big fan of chinese cinema. their films demonstrate all of the same ups and downs of any human society, including happiness...

are you trying to suggest that humans can only be happy in certain political systems?

exiled cubans i know have always given me the impression that, while still in cuba, they managed to compartmentalize their feelings toward their state, so that life with friends and family goes on like anywhere else.

also, i don't think that it's fair of us to expect a lot of smiling from other societies, just because it's a big part of our culture.

LASunsett said...

Ms Miami,

//are you trying to suggest that humans can only be happy in certain political systems?//

Let's look at China for a second. No elections, they sell organs of executed dissidents, they sell babies, internet access is highly restricted, the press is rigidly controlled. Until they took control of Hong Kong, they had little idea of how to operate a market economy and couldn't feed their people based on a Maoist agrarian economical model.

Whether an imperial system of emperor worship or a communist republic, they have had little reason to smile. They have had no real chance at a free society.

So I guess the answer to your question is, yes.

I suspect that it s combination of political system and the cultural conditioning you cite. But beside that fact, it wouldn't matter which it was.

I still think it's sad that people have to be taught to smile, which is as normal of a human response as crying, frowning, or whatever. You may be able to condition it out of human behavior, but it my firm belief that every human longs to do it.

Mark said...

the less restriction, the more freedom to do as one pleases - resulting in more happiness. yeah, i'd go with that.

with smiling - in america, where politeness and manners are rewarded, it's beneficial to smile and mind the p's and q's. my hypothetical future kids will be taught that being polite and respecting your elders and manners will get them things/places. even when elders are completely undeserving of respect. i use fake smiles all the time...and i'm really really rich....

the chinese are using the same idea - happy people are more warmly welcomed than sullen. it's a personality pr move. too bad they feel they have to do it on a gazillion person scale, though.

*correction* -i meant to say that i'm really really middle class...still. but if i keep flashing the pearls i'll get there.

Green Dreams said...

Hmmmm. I may just be unpopular here...

First, on smiling. These are tourism volunteers. Cmon, Disney teaches its workers to smile! Walmart does! Every 'greeter' or 'hostess' is expected to adopt a cheery disposition no matter what they're actually feeling. Trying to make this about China being a bad place is just silly. We, the USA, and especially Walmart, Nikon, Apple and ALL the Fortune 500 have been the biggest boosters of communist China in history.

As for Saddam. I'm no fan, but I wish we never waded into that quagmire and so do the Iraquis. Consider this:

Under Saddam, terrorism and Islamist fanatics were kept at bay, women could go out in public alone, work and attend school, and were not required to wear the burqa or be stoned to death for infractions of sharia law. The country had an educational system that was the envy of the middle east, the oil was flowing and so was the electricity, the water and sewers. The cafés were lively and filled with people who chatted, ate and drank with no fear of being killed where they sat. An Iraqui citizen is now 58 times more likely to die of violence than under Saddam. Sorry folks, but we failed spectacularly and the citizenry of that devastated nation are not better off.

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- all of the problems you cite (keep in mind that organ and baby trafficking take place on the private level here and throughout the world) don't really have much to do with whether or not the vast majority of people can lead ordinary everyday lives with their family and friends.

besides cuban exiles, i've gotten to know many people here and in germany raised under the soviets (czechs, russians, poles). the good music may have had to been smuggled, but, beyond a few elements, their lives have been remarkably similar to mine.

castro and the former soviet governments only wish that they could have been as totalitarian as they might have liked... (one possible exception may be north korea)

as for smiling, i still maintain that it's a matter of 'when.' the article you link is about the chinese being trained to smile in a situation which is unusual for their culture (at total strangers for marketing purposes). they are not being trained on how to smile...

Anonymous said...

The Iraqi situation, the Pope, teaching how to smile in China, Rwanda severing ties with France... LASunset, I'm afraid there are not enough topics in your daily posts... (gentle irony being intended)
It's always a pleasure to meet the name of ms.Miami among the comments. I know I will always have an opportunity to read a well thought, well argumented, as well constructed as elegantly written piece of intellectual understanding of different cultures.
LASunset, you should be happy to count such a bright blogger among your regulars. (no irony intended here, I'm serious...)

Flocon

LASunsett said...

Flocon,

//LASunset, you should be happy to count such a bright blogger among your regulars. (no irony intended here, I'm serious...)//

This, I have already known from the time she first came here. But thanks for the info anyway. (No irony)

We disagree somewhat often, but it's never a bitter one.

LASunsett said...

Hi Green Dream,

//Hmmmm. I may just be unpopular here...//

Thanks for visiting PYY. But I must tell you that one does not need to agree with me or my posts to be popular here. Most all commenters here have disagreed with me at sometime or another. They are just as popular today, as the day they came.

The only thing I ask, is that we never engage in ad hominem attacks. Attack the idea, not the person. Otherwise, ask anyone here, I give everyone pretty much free reign to say what they want. So come back whenever you want.

Now, to your points:

//Cmon, Disney teaches its workers to smile! Walmart does!//

Teaching someone to smile is different than teaching them HOW to. Wouldn't you say?

//Trying to make this about China being a bad place is just silly.//

China is what it is. The Chinese are great people, I work with several and they are very smart. This isn't about them, but a system that has been in place for centuries. All I am saying is, it would be sad (at least for me it would) where the people were culturally conditioned to smile ever so sparingly.

LASunsett said...

Mark,

//*correction* -i meant to say that i'm really really middle class...still. but if i keep flashing the pearls i'll get there.//

Damn, and I was about to hit you up for a loan. ;)

LASunsett said...

Ms Miami,

I have no doubt that people in this country engage in some of those things, but the government does not sanction them.

Also, you and I would not have the freedom to say much of the things we say on these blogs, if we lived in China either. In fact this blog would have been shut down a long time ago.

Maybe if I never had that opportunity, I wouldn't miss it. But I have, and that makes it all the more valuable to me.

Anonymous said...

LA: "This isn't about them, but a system that has been in place for centuries"

Hmmm... that can't be communism then. I'd rather think of Confucianism and I would think in terms of milleniums...
Of course any system can be questioned but aren't you afraid some Chinese may regard this questioning coming from someone whose civilisation is hardly 2 centuries old (say, 40 times shorter), as another display of American "arrogance" and cultural blindness/insensitivity?
He certainly wouldn't doubt you're well meant but then again...

Flocon

A.C. McCloud said...

...the oil was flowing and so was the electricity, the water and sewers. The cafés were lively and filled with people who chatted, ate and drank with no fear of being killed where they sat.

I suspect the same could have been said about Mussolini's Italy before we swept in. The trains ran on time, ya know. And they didn't even attack us.

But let's keep some strategic perspective here. We did not cause this sectarian violence by ridding them of Saddam. Ask any Iraqi when things began going downhill and they'll say it was when the Golden Mosque was blown up. Zarqawi and former Saddam accolytes were blamed.

Just as in Lebanon, there are forces at work who do not want people to dine safely in cafes, women to walk w/o burqas, or secular education. They are the ones who keep the power off and the country in turmoil. Our attempts to democratize Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan were attempts to combat them.

ms. miami said...

la- us, disagree, never... ;)

p.s. salut tonton!

All_I_Can_Stands said...

LA,

So is George Bush going to say "We've lost LASunsett, we've lost middle America?"

:)

I know what you mean on Iraq. I am not yet ready to say it.

LASunsett said...

Hello Flocon,

//Of course any system can be questioned but aren't you afraid some Chinese may regard this questioning coming from someone whose civilisation is hardly 2 centuries old (say, 40 times shorter), as another display of American "arrogance" and culturalblindness/insensitivity?//

I am not afraid of much of anything. You see, like me you and I have grown up and lived in a society that promotes freedom. We have experienced and tasted many more freedoms than the Chinese, by far. So we know what true liberty is, but they do not.

Before Mao, there was a system that was based on emperor worship. Some of that has carried over to today's system, as is evidenced by China's leaders living long and staying in power while senile. Only recently has this changed.

So, they can call it arrogance if they want. It still doesn't change the fact that regardless of our faults, I cannot see how their system is better. I wouldn't trade what I have here, for what they have there. Would you trade what you have for what they have? I don't know you very well, but I would wager heavily on you saying, no.

LASunsett said...

AICS,

//So is George Bush going to say "We've lost LASunsett, we've lost middle America?"//

Somehow, I do not think he is going to lose much sleep over what I think. He hasn't even called.

;)

LASunsett said...

AC,

//Our attempts to democratize Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan were attempts to combat them.//

They hate democracy because it promotes free will choice.

Fundamentalist Islamists do not like the people haveing a choice, because they do not want to risk having the people choose someone else. Saddam and Co. were the same way, giving choice to the people may have meant they would have chosen someone else.

Dictators and othe forms of totalitarian governments are not risk takers, except when they seize power.

Always On Watch said...

From early on, I've been concerned that taking out Saddam might open a can of worms, especially with the balance in that region. Saddam, for all of his evil deeds, did keep Iran at bay to a certain extent.

One reason I voted for GWB in 2000 was his stand against nation-building. As I see it, nation-building works only when the intervening force beats the hell out of the enemy first. We didn't do that in Iraq, and now we see the results. The tribal warfare there is indeed a civil war, as the various factions jockey for power. Now we hear talk of the entire Middle East being destabilized. That may or may not be exaggeration.

I hate to say this, but bringing democracy to Iraq has been a fantasy from the get-go.

Anonymous said...

LA: "I cannot see how their system is better.

It's not a matter of being "better" but different. Each culture/civilisation has been pretending to be better than the other for the last 5000 years...

You select "freedom" (true liberty) as the only criterium that is supposed to make your culture "better" than another. The freedom you refer to is called "formal" freedom but it's used to conceal many other forms of alienation. You may say you're satisfied with this form of freedom simply because you're the product of a given set of values. Billions of people around the earth are the products of other sets of values that they think are "better", "superior" to the values of their neighbors.
Little circles think they're better than little squares...

"I wouldn't trade what I have here, for what they have there
Who asks you to? Conversely, most Chinese would think alike.

Basically you oppose the Greco-Roman civilisation and Confucianism, not America vs. China. But such an opposition simply is meaningless LA... Mutatis mutandis, it is tantamout to compare peaches and oranges.

Flocon

LASunsett said...

Hi Flocon,

//Mutatis mutandis, it is tantamout to compare peaches and oranges//

I understand what you are saying, really, I do. But, I happen to like oranges much better than peaches.

Let's put it another way.

I think that Le Petit Ecoliers are the best cookies in the world. I am sure that there very well could be better cookies, in France or in other places. But I haven't tasted them.

Likewise, China is in much the same situation here. All they know is what they have had politically. They have had little freedom, when you compare it with freedom in other countries. In some instances, they have more freedom than others, but overall, they are not nearly the free society that Europe, Japan, Australia, and the US offers, just to name a few. They may not know it, but they don't.

Therein is where I place the crux of my value judgement. I can say that from my experience, I consider my system better than theirs. I can do this without having lived under that system, because I have lived under this one and have an intellectual understanding of what theirs is like.

This system is better, in my view, because I have the freedom of speech that they do not. I can have a blog that criticizes whatever I want, they cannot. That, to me, is sad. Freedom to make my own choices, be it speech or other things, is most valuable to me.

So, if you think that is arrogant, then so be it. I disagree, but you are certainly entitled to your opinion.

LASunsett said...

AOW,

//As I see it, nation-building works only when the intervening force beats the hell out of the enemy first.//

You are right, it doesn't. That's where I have been most critical of this administration, especially of late.

In WWII, the axis powers all surrendered unconditionally. No one has surrendered here.

When we had al-Sadr surrounded, we brokered a deal to let him go. At that time, he had a few hundred in his militia, it is now estimated that it has now grown to over 20,000. It's not going to shrink on its own, but it is only going to grow larger as time passes. That is, unless we help it shrink, by blasting the hell out of them.

superfrenchie said...

I have to agree with Flocon here. It's all cultural. Sometimes when people who work 12-hour days plus a 2-hour commute and barely 1 week vacation a year tell me how great they have it here in the US, I look at them like they must be from another planet. That's because I am used to people saying how great they have it when they enjoy constant vacations, work barely half days, and spend most weekends skiing or mountain-biking, not on their blackberries.

Freedom is also relative. Most Europeans would not accept not being able to drink a glass of wine in their front yards or in a bar at the age of 18, or not being able to choose the color of their own drapes. Yet Americans have to cope with those freedom restrictions their entire lives, yet most would say without hesitation that they live in the freest country in the world. So it's not about "freedom", but about the freedoms you are used to and expect. Those freedoms that you have never had, you don't miss them.

I will add to that that the happiest people I have personally met lived in mud huts without electricity, cars, computers, elections, decent health care or even life expectancy, in Casamance, a poor area of Senegal in West Africa. You certainly would never beat their smile for authenticity!