Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Impact of the Interwebs

This is a commercial website that sells advertising by luring students from around the world to search their site for help with their education. Never mind the position it's hiring for, read the comments section at the bottom. Reading these reminds me of my summer in Ghana, where my fellow students were hitting me up, hoping I might be able to sponsor their education. Here in Okinawa I'm hearing similar stories as the PI's in the labs here are on constant hiring duty. But they are being solicited, largely, by folks trying to flee Iraq, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. because their homelands are too unstable to continue to be academics.
It's become fairly old hat to say that the Internet's widespread adoption is as revolutionary as the Gutenberg Press. Americans are also very much aware that China has their Great Firewall, keeping the Chinese people from seeing everything we see on the 'net. I'm going to make a gross generalization and say that most Americans see this as censorship and one more sign that the Chinese are Communist and backwards. But I want you to read the above article and then read this article and kinda chew on it a bit as you think about the Internet in China:
Okay, yes, the Chinese government is monitoring what's available to their citizens through the Internet. Yes, they are very much so doing this....

But there's, like, OVER A BILLION people in China. And they're not all "Chinese." There are as many ethnic groups in China as there are in Europe. And they're not all destitute and starving, like our parents raised us believing. There certainly are destitute people in China, if I had to hazard a guess there are more people living in destitution than the entire population of the United States.

I'm not going to be an apologist for the policies of the PRC, I can't. I'm going to take the Chris Rock's position on the first OJ Simpson Trial, though: I can't condone it, but I can understand.

China's in a horrible position right now, as they develop their capitalist economy they are experiencing unprecedented shifts in population centers and so enormous social strains are occurring simultaneously: disease, crime (not thought crime either), and massive death tolls from naturally-occuring disasters.

There are too many people in the countryside, and to relieve this tension they go to the cities to find work and to support their families back in the sticks. They get there and encounter lifestyles they've never fathomed, they work like slaves (to make the cheap stuff Americans like, not need), they live in close quarters with people that don't necessarily know how to keep themselves from getting sick due to poor hygiene. If I lived in these conditions, I'd be pissed a lot too.

One way you keep the people from going at one another's throats is by promoting a sense that "We are ALL in this TOGETHER," like the British did when they were being bombed everynight of World War II. And this message in Our China has worked remarkably well thus far. But those social tensions are always sitting there, waiting to be let loose.

Yes it's a shame that the people of China are not able to express themselves as freely as Americans should be able to (if they're not being spied on by the U.S. government). But I really don't want to live in the time when all of Asia collapses into chaos because China collapses under its own enormous gravity. What do we do then? Let Japan or South Korea begin administering China? Taiwan? Russia? India? The world itself needs an orderly and predictable China in order for the world to function as it does now.

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