Wednesday, December 13, 2006



I am not an expert on China. Far from it. But I know hatred of the body when I see it. And it is just as ugly in China, or Afghanistan, or Iran, as it is in the United States.

This photo will give me nightmares. Because sometimes, I think that we, as a nation, are about 15 minutes away from this type of bullshit ourselves.

SHANGHAI, Dec. 12 - For people who saw the event on television earlier this month, the scene was like a chilling blast from a past that is 30 years distant: social outcasts and supposed criminals - in this case 100 or so prostitutes and a few pimps - paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then driven away to jail without trial.

The police kept watch over the public shaming. Suspects were allowed to partly hide their faces with masks.

The act of public shaming was intended as the first step in a two-month campaign by the authorities in the southern city of Shenzhen to crack down on prostitution.

Imagine. Rounded-up prostitutes--but not their johns--paraded before a crowd in order to be humiliated and shamed. So what? So they'll never be forced to resort to prostitution to put food on their table again?

And where the fuck are the men who solicited them? Are some of them perhaps the government officials who decided that this type of punishment was appropriate?

The good news is that for many people in China, what happened was unacceptable:

But the event has prompted an angry nationwide backlash, with many people making common cause with the prostitutes over the violation of their human rights and expressing outrage in one online forum after another.

And in the type of comment that actually gives me hope that a "right to privacy" really is an inalienable human right--even in a culture such as China's, where not so many years ago, spying on one's neighbors was part of the Cultural Revolution--could it be that same right might be recognized in our own country?

"With the development of human civilization and law, this kind of barbaric punishment with its strong element of vengeance has been abandoned," Yao Jianguo, a Shanghai lawyer, wrote in a public letter addressed to the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

Paraphrasing a famous letter by William Pitt during a debate over the excise tax in Britain in 1763, he wrote: "Wind may come in, rain may come in, but the King may not, which is to say that even a poor person living in a slum has his own inviolable rights."

I contrast the reaction in China against the government's hypocrisy and harsh, barbaric punishment with our own culture war.

Yesterday, for example, Paul Barnes, pastor of one of the mega-churches in Colorado who had condemned gays resigned his position because, well, why else? Because it turns out, he's gay. Such is his shame, his self-hatred, that he now finds himself the victim of his own hate-filled rhetoric. And there appears little chance, as with Ted Haggard, that his church will welcome him  back into the fold with open arms. Jesus, after all, preached that we should hate and revile gays. All that stuff about Jesus telling you to love one another? That's just liberal twaddle, inserted into Bibles at some later date. The real Jesus was a real man. Most definitely not a homosexual.

Then there's Mary Cheney. Regardless of how one feels about Ms. Cheney's decision to continue to support her father's murderous policies in Iraq, the truth remains, she's entitled to privacy. As far as I know, she has not called for the thought police to enter everyone's bedrooms and determine what constitutes Biblical sexual behaviour. (Which, last time I checked, included adultery, bestiality, masturbation, early withdrawal as birth control, oh, and that "virgin birth" hokum.) And yet, it hasn't prevented certain women from getting their granny panty-knickers in a twist. My favourite group of clucking clueless cunctators, the CWFA had this to say:

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."

"It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."

I'm sure that Doctor Crouse would be only to happy to have Mary and her partner do the shaven-head perp walk while angry crowds jeer and throw shit at Mary's pregnant abdomen. Again, I'm sure their Jesus would be right there, aiming that rotten tomato at the fundus.

What I want to know is this. Why do those people who are always trying to use shame as a weapon seem to feel none of it themselves? Do they ever have trouble sleeping at night wondering if their insistence on monitoring the motes in their neighbors' eyes might be harmful in some way to those people? When they see the images of tortured, humiliated prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, do they not think that perhaps, that kind of shame constitutes a form of torture? What goes through their heads? Fuck their heads? What about their hearts? Does what constitutes their shriveled souls not hiccup in recognition that what is done to the least of us is also done "unto me?"

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