Recently, Newsweek (which recently decided to redefine itself as THE magazine for liberals, and wrote off the huge chunk of its would-be readership that had already realized that and left) wrote an article that attempted to drive a stake through one of the foreign policy tenets of the far left: the “free Tibet” movement.
Now, there’s nothing inherently liberal about that notion. I’m personally in favor of it myself. But it’s mainly liberals who want to talk (and talk and talk and talk) about it, but not actually doing anything about it.
Newsweek did the unthinkable: they looked at the reality of things, and came to the conclusion that China’s occupation and repression of Tibet isn’t such a big deal. The stated reason is that it’s been pretty good, materialistically, for the Tibetans. The unstated reason, of course, is that there isn’t jack squat anyone can do about it.
But Newsweek can’t let itself succumb to anything as crass as pragmatism, so they have to find some kind of face to put on it. And the improvements China’s brought to Tibet are as good as any reason.
The wishes of the Tibetans — who aren’t exactly renowned as among the world’s greatest materialists — don’t enter into the question. Their standard of living is improved, by Western standards, so that’s all that matters.
It’s quite a reflection of the liberal mindset: the good of the collective trumps the will of the individual. And in this case, the “good” of the collective — as defined by outsiders — trumps the will of the collective.
That’s one of the major points of the health care reform debate. No one can argue that it’s better for society as a whole for each and every single individual to have health insurance. It’s “settled science.” But there are those individuals who — for whatever reason — simply don’t want to participate. We can debate endlessly the intellectual and pragmatic validity of those reasons, but to even begin that debate is to start from the presumption that their refusal to participate is in any way debatable.
A while ago, I came up with a test for whether or not something qualifies as a “right.” If one can exercise it with no other explanation than “BIFFLI” — “Because I Fucking Felt Like It” — then it’s a right. If one has to come up with some justification for the action, then it’s not a right, but a privilege.
Refusal to buy health insurance, to me, passes the BIFFLI test. One should not have to explain or justify or rationalize one’s decision here. If you don’t want to participate, then so be it.
Here in New Hampshire, we carry that principle of respect for personal choice a bit further than other states. We don’t have mandatory motorcycle helmet or seat belt laws for adults. I, personally, think that anyone who rides a motorcycle without a helmet or in a car without a seat belt is an idiot, but I don’t think it’s the state’s place to insist that people not be idiots.
Mr. Fish’s Newsweek apology for China ends with this paragraph:
It’s true that, so far, all the money has failed to buy Tibetan loyalty. Beijing won’t deal with the Dalai Lama, even though Tibetans revere him, nor will it let his monastic followers build any power or voice any nationalist sympathy. Instead, the government is offering Tibetans the same bargain it has offered the rest of the country: in exchange for an astronomical rise in living standards, the government requires citizens to relinquish the right to free worship and free speech. The Chinese government has kept its end of the deal. Even if Tibetan residents never signed the contract, they have benefited from its enforcement–a fact Obama might keep in mind when he meets the Dalai Lama.
I struggled with a few metaphors to properly express my disgust — the Mafia and their “protection” rackets, Hitler at Munich if he had stopped with the Sudetenland, and so on — but no real analogy holds up.
Instead, I’ll rely on my layman’s understanding of the law and use Mr. Fish’s “contract” analogy to beat him over the head:
The basic definition of a contract relies on two things: offer and acceptance. (There are others, of course, but those are the starting point.) Fish says China made an offer to Tibet, and lived up to its commitments.
But Tibet never accepted the contract. They have no obligation to honor its terms, no matter how well China lived up to the terms it proposed. Under American law, without the acceptance, whatever China has done for Tibet would be considered a gift, free of any obligations or conditions.
Pragmatically, Fish does have a point. Tibet is occupied by China, and will remain a vassal of China for the foreseeable future. Fish is advising them that since the rape is not only inevitable but ongoing, they might as well relax and enjoy it.
I think the Tibetans have the right to oppose the Chinese occupation, just like the average American has the right to say “no” to mandatory health insurance or the average driver to say “no” to wearing a seat belt. That might not be the wisest move, or in their best interests, but that’s their right and their choice.
It’s a little thing called “freedom.”