Like so many famous rhetorical flourishes that come to be regarded as self-evident truths, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ringing declaration that ‘man is born free, and is everywhere in chains’ is, on careful consideration, ridiculous.
In fact the reality is entirely the opposite. We are all born in chains – chains of genetic inheritance, of infantile ignorance and impotence, and of the familial, physical, cultural, political and other environmental circumstances in which we find ourselves – and can either submit to being constrained by such chains or struggle against them to try and set ourselves as free as possible.
And this state of affairs seems to me to be nowhere more evident than in China, or what I prefer to think of as Chaina on the grounds that its people have been enchained throughout history by an endless series of dismal dictatorships.
Mostly imperial dictatorships, of course, but currently by a Communist Party as dictatorial as any emperor could possibly be, and into the bargain so deceptive as to try and pass itself off as the ‘People’s’ Republic of China.
When the people protest, however, it quickly reverts to the Party’s Republic of Chaina, as it did on the occasion of the notorious massacre of protesting students and workers in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and again following the publication of Charter 08 on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Liu Xiaobo, a hero of Tiananmen Square who had subsequently sought and found sanctuary in the U.S. before courageously returning to China/Chaina to co-author Charter 08, was sentenced in 2009 by the regime to 11 years’ imprisonment for ‘inciting subversion of state power.’
And today, as I write this, it has been reported that Liu has died in prison of cancer after being refused permission to seek treatment overseas for his illness.
Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, in honoured memory of Liu Xiaobo and in support of his fellow activists against the Communist-Party overlords of the Anti-People’s Republic of Chaina, is the first paragraph of Charter 08, followed by a list of its demands of the regime:
‘This year is the 100th year of China’s Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognizing that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity. Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a “modernization” under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided.’
- Amending the Constitution.
- Separation of powers.
- Legislative democracy.
- An independent judiciary.
- Public control of public servants.
- Guarantee of human rights.
- Election of public officials.
- Abolition of Hukou system.
- Freedom of association.
- Freedom of assembly.
- Freedom of expression.
- Freedom of religion.
- Civic education.
- Free marketsand protection of private property, including privatizing state enterprises and land.
- Financial and tax reform.
- Social security.
- Protection of the environment.
- A federated republic.
- Truth in reconciliation.
Of course China’s by no means alone in the world in urgently needing many if not all of these reforms for the sake of good government and honest governance on behalf of its citizens.
Malaysia, for example, enchained as it has been for almost 60 years by its corrupt and otherwise criminal Umno/BN regime, has a crying need for items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 19.
And great many other nations, from Russia, Pakistan and all the other –stans to a great many more similarly freedom-impaired countries in Asia, Africa and South America could do with many if not most of them.
My own country, Australia, could perform much better, in my opinion, on points 6, 11, 13 and 15. And of course the U.S., as the self-proclaimed world leader in government of the people, by the people, for the people, could well do itself and the rest of the free world a favour by electing a president capable of thinking coherently and telling or at least tweeting the truth.
But to end on a personal level, it’s worth making the point that we’re all of us part of the problem and thus capable of making ourselves part of the solution.
In other words, whether Chinese or whatever other nationality or ethnicity we happen to be, we are all chainees of various false ‘faiths’, ‘beliefs’, ‘customs’, prejudices and other mental bonds and restrictions that prevent our living to our full human potential.
And thus we owe it to ourselves and our fellows to progressively throw off the chains we’re born with, or into, or shackled with by ‘authorities’ hell-bent on ruling or controlling us for their own benefit, and seize our freedom to become the truest and best versions of ourselves that we possibly can.