Words are very dangerous elements. Not because the vocal vibrations cause any harm, although, if you wake me up with yelling and screaming in my ear, I’m sure that will cause one of us some damage. No, it is not so much the physical nature of the words, but what words are and what words represent in the mind. The danger being in a society so saturated with symbols and superficial understandings of these symbols is that many people can assume one word to mean more than it should. Take for instance the word “democracy”.
To many in the US, the term denotes the highest ideal of civic engagement between a people and its governing leadership. It is assumed to mean the ability to choose one’s leaders via the vote. However, often enough, the pot is so small that only a certain number of candidates from a certain elite backing are allowed to scramble for votes. And those that are allowed to scramble for votes are often only elected to due to the amount of money spent. Or, let’s just say the elected candidate tends to also be the candidate that spent or had to spend the most money. You do your own math there.
A couple of days ago, images from the Occupy Central with Love and Peace, led by law professor Benny Tai, sociology professor Chan Kin-man and church minister Chu Yiu-ming began to surface. These images showed protesters in China holding their hands up, a gesture codified by activists in St. Louis, Mo to reference Mike Brown’s plea for his life to be spared by police officer Darren Wilson(or so we’ve been told that is his name). As I have been consistently watching and retweeting(rebroadcasting) updates from those on the ground in Ferguson, it would not take long for the connection to be solidified. Protesters in China’s Hong Kong being shot with tear gas was sure to resonate with the activist back home who had suffered similar tactics by US “law enforcement”.
In the United States, a country founded while the consecration of a document that had the word “democracy” written it while most of the leadership owned Black slaves, the symbol of arms raised with hands high are a reflection of the police state and its continued atrocities against US Blacks. Specifically, as it relates to protest, the slogan, “hands up, don’t shoot”, references US “law enforcement” and their brutal containment of US Blacks to the socio-psychological lower tiers of the US society’s social stratification. As activists and just plain humane individuals from around the world began to become aware of the movement in St. Louis, Mo. surrounding the incident in Ferguson, Mo, an international expression of solidarity was established, and the symbol of “hands up, don’t shoot” became a rallying cry against state systems. Something about culture always spreads abroad.
However, there are some similarities between the US’ system of national “election” and China’s. In the United States, the “candidates” are selected as a means of their ability to be elected, which means that they first have to have a sizable bank, or be connected to some wealthy elite that does. Whether this occurs by virtue of laws or by a consequence of factors mentioned by Madison in his papers, it happens, and it always happens. It is a custom of United States’ citizens to be ruled by members of its elite class. This is a similar tradition in China and the focal point of the protest occurring there. Unlike what occurs in the US, however, that is, acceptance of government enforced and material condition control, the Chinese have decided that they not only do not want to be limited to candidates connected to the elite class, but also want more than a two-party system. So, in some ways, their ideal of democracy is better than the one practiced in the United States. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged Beijing to allow “a genuine choice of candidates that are representative of the peoples’ and the voters’ will.” And yet, every elected president the US has ever had, and possibly will ever have has to be filtered through several groups of people that are not “the people” and often are too distant from them to ever be a reflection of their “will”.
Furthermore, if we are to discuss and compare China’s protest to the one in the United States, with focus on Ferguson, a few things should be mentioned:
1. State Violence: The focus of the Ferguson Movement in St. Louis, Mo is state violence, mainly against US Blacks. US Blacks are situated as the lower tier of the United States’ social stratification with US “law enforcement” used as the main means to situate them social psychologically. Accordingly, US Blacks are killed by a US “law enforcement” agent every 28 hours. There is not a similar group in China like the US Blacks historically or socially, as well, there is not the level of state violence against the citizens of China. In fact, only three days ago at the time of this writing were Chinese “law enforcement” agents even given guns since a decades long gun ban was lifted after a gruesome rise in attacks on citizens there occurred.
2. Incarceration Rates: As a result of the social position of US Blacks in the United States, they are often criminalized and as a factor of US cultural hegemony, made to appear as the locus of control for US “law enforcement” brutal behavior. The United States leads the entire world in incarceration rates, with those incarcerated at the highest rate being US Blacks despite their only representing fourteen to fifteen percent of the overall United States population. Where the US prison population has been marked at 737 prisoners per 100,000 members of the society, China’s prison population has been marked at 118 prisoners per 100,000 members of that society.
3. Unemployment: China’s unemployment rate has stood at an average of 4.1 over the course of the last twelve to thirteen years. The United States’ unemployment has not been lower than 5.38% anytime this century. It should also be noted that the United States does not count those that have stopped reporting unemployment or who have stopped looking for work as unemployed. The United States Black unemployment rate has never lowered past two times that of its whyte citizenry.
*** “Under the umbrellas: what do Hong Kong’s protesters want from China?”(The Guardian)
***”Hong Kong protests: what demonstrators want from China”(The First Post)
***”U.S. Steps Up China Criticism Amid Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests”(Wall Street Journal) http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-steps-up-china-criticism-amid-hong-kong-pro-democracy-protests-1412027706
***”World Prison Populations”(BBC) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm
***”China Unemployment Rate”(Trading Economics) http://www.tradingeconomics.com/china/unemployment-rate
***”Every 28 Hours”(Operation Ghetto Storm)
***”US Unemployment Rate”(Y Charts)
***”Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites”(Pew Research)