Freedom More Precious Than Fame and Fortune

I lied. On Ai Weiwei and the Olympics, then.

I must note, though, that I take issue with part of the blurb. It says:

An outspoken critic of the government, he has never forgiven them for sending his father into exile.

I see no basis for the latter part in the article itself. People don’t want change because they’re bitter: they want change because there’s something better.

Problems, injustices, sicknesses

At any rate, Ai left China and returned in 1993. Mind you, China had allegedly been made over under Deng Xiaoping, but these, I think, were largely cosmetic changes. Ai seems to agree:

How do the developers get the land? It’s so political. In 1949 most properties lost their owners. They were either kicked out or killed. The nation owned the property. Since then the state has just sold it to people who can afford it. So property should be [according to the government] for the whole nation, yet the government takes the profit. No political, philosophical or moral aesthetic is involved. It’s just: let’s be rich first. Except that people are finally starting to question: who is getting rich?

People may be ultra-nationalistic to the point of fanaticism fanned by national pride, but in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words, “Patriotism means unqualified and unwavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank assessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them.”

It takes a great deal of work, and hope, and disappointment, and darkness, and faith to persist through that darkness, faith that the light is better and that truth will dispel the unknown, to keep going on this idea. For Sun Yat-sen it took 10 failed revolutions just to topple the Qing Dynasty, years and years more for the Chinese republic to establish itself, then a war with Japan. For this reason, faith requires determination not to be ignorant but to seek and know truth.

Hard to change

Right now, China is a crass place. People suffer, and the regime tries to hide it. People dissent, and the regime tries to repress it. People taste redemption, and the regime tries to put it down, take it apart, disband it, compete with it, harass it, confiscate its Bibles, deceive it, anything it can do with all its weapons and instruments of intimidation. Perhaps it fears love and freedom more than anything else because it believes it cannot survive with these things.

I say it is like a man who defrauds people and makes lots of money and power doing so and becomes so attached to this way that he believes he will not flourish if he stops but instead wither away. Will he not experience a greater life when he lives an honest man’s life? Will he not love life so much the more if he is free of this addiction? Right now, the powerful are addicted, but I hold out hope that God’s more powerful than the strongest party that tries to stop His overpowering plan of salvation.

What did Ai make of the new China? “Friends had told me how it had changed. Yes, there were new roads, more products, cars. But some things had not changed. No freedom, no exchange of ideas. It’s still like that today, and it makes me sad. I don’t mind material change but how people’s minds change is the most precious thing.” Will this ever change? “Eventually.” In his lifetime? He grins. “I will never die when there is not democracy!”

No to these Olympics. Yes to an Olympics in a China more free, more just, more enraptured by the Dao who was and is and is to come, Amen.


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