Guitars & Politics

Part 2
I should point out that I do not consider myself to be an expert on China, but I have visited the country more than a dozen times, typically for periods between 10 days and 2 weeks. I have traveled with Chinese friends a fair amount, mostly within eastern China, and I have been off the beaten path there on many occasions.

I have had amazing experiences in China and I have found good friends there, but I have strong and uncomfortable feelings about some of the disturbing things I have witnessed.

I presently avoid spending time in China. The main reasons I have lost interest in entering the country is that I am fearful of the staggering pollution levels and I don’t enjoy the food poisoning I frequently experience when there.

It is also not so pleasant for me moving through a society where the government is so obviously ‘out’ about its role as the enemy of its people. Government intimidation is deeply embedded in the culture and it is tedious how often it is encountered in day to day life.

Chinese Guitars Part 1 introduces this topic and covers broader issues. It is recommended that you read Part 1 first if you have interest in this topic.

In Defense of Complacency
How bold would you be if generations of your family grew up in a country like China?
Would you stand up and risk your life to fight that which seems normal?

Your father and his father accepted the oppression.
You watched them accept it as you matured and became an adult.
You may have a family of your own now that you care about more than anything.
Would you risk the abandonment of your family to fight the oppression?

The oppression in China largely exists because those in power who oversee and control your life want to maintain their own comforts and maintain the status quo that benefited them and their families for so much of China’s recent history. It is easy for them to convince themselves that staying the course is the best course for everyone. These manipulators in positions of authority are not evil. They are simply chimpanzees looking out for their personal banana supply (as we all are to varying degrees).

As infantile as the reason is for the oppression that denies you the simple freedom to speak and read about whatever you want, the power that backs up the oppression in China is real and the will to use that power to vanquish disobedience is evident all around you.

Would you be willing to choose to die or accept life in a concrete cage as a likely reward for fighting or simply speaking out against this oppression?

If you had a family to take care, would you be bold enough to stand up against the manipulators in power. It becomes a more difficult question to answer when you factor in that most Chinese are able to survive and feed their families under the authority of their present overseers.

The Chinese choose to adhere to a system that generally defines them as beasts of burden, not human beings. I do not condemn individuals who accept their role as managed livestock or nearly worthless and expendable creatures. Though they are choosing their fate by choosing to follow their masters, many Chinese are not able to see the choice they are making. Some do not see the villainy of the system and persons that manage their lives because it is the world they grew up in. It is all they know.

Many or even most Chinese people are fully aware that their governmental system at all levels is a quagmire of corruption and full of bad people with bad intentions. Most interestingly though, many believe all governments of the world are as corrupt or more corrupt than their own. A lifetime of propaganda and media control can be incredibly effective in shaping the minds of human beings, even when it is being spewed from a source that is known to be a perpetual and committed deceiver.

For the Chinese, it is normal to be counted by their government as less than human, or at least less than what the free world defines as human. I am sympathetic to their plight and forgiving of their complacency, even if I also hope more of them somehow find the courage to reject the confines of intellectual and artistic tyranny.

In fairness to the ‘bad guys’, the leadership class in China, there is a kind of forced stability in society that can be maintained when people are not allowed to object to human rights violations within their own country and not allowed to share and pursue knowledge or cultural progress. Even if the people of China one day find freedom before the sun expires or evolution puts something else in our place, it is unlikely to be a pretty site politically. There may be incredible and never resolved turmoil as a result. I am sure some of the intellectuals within the leadership class of China use that thought to console themselves as they continue to support policies that define the Chinese people as creatures to be herded and manipulated.

So, will my first guitar be made in China?
Possibly, but I really would prefer that my guitar songwriting efforts not be connected to a ‘Made in Tyranny’ product. It would soil the experience for me if I had to look at a ‘Made in China’ stamp every time I picked up my instrument to tinker with a song idea.

If my first guitar ends up coming from China as so many lower priced guitars do, I will be a hypocrite, but it will definitely be serious motivation for me to save my pennies and get better in a hurry to upgrade to a guitar made outside of a tyrannical regime’s borders.

I sincerely hope I can find a guitar that I can afford that was not made in China.

-Kin’en

Chinese Guitars – Part 1

We wear Chinese-made clothing.
We use Chinese-made phones.
We eat Chinese-grown food.

Are we also willing to play guitars made in China?
For a long while, China was the country outside of the US where I had spent the most amount of time in my life. My frequent 3 month trips to Japan in recent years have now put Japan in the #1 spot for ‘foreign country I have spent the most time in’.

Mostly because I know China a little, I do avoid buying a few things made there, but it is extremely difficult to do and I cannot claim to be an activist on this subject.

I mostly just try to avoid food products grown and processed in China for safety reasons. Though in Japan, even that option is out the window because so much of Japan’s food comes from China. And people do sometimes get very sick from Chinese food here.

Dangerous cheaper ingredients are sometimes added to food products by unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers who then ship the food to Japan and other countries, and within China as well. Some of the toxins are found, especially when the toxins create immediate health issues instead of long term health issues and a connection to the Chinese source is easier to make.

When a ‘fast acting’ toxin is found to have come from a Chinese food source, stories appear in the Japanese media as you would expect, but Japanese companies continue importing food from China and the Japanese people eventually stop complaining. They keep buying the cheaper food and the contamination and poisoning cycle continues.

Eating food sourced from China is one of the nearly unavoidable and unpleasant risks I take during the lengthy periods I spend in Japan.

I know boycotting Chinese products in general is not practical for most people, including myself, with such a huge percentage of our lives being supported by Chinese manufacturing as we support their criminal political system as part of the bargain. (Though I do REALLY wish our memories would be longer when China ships dangerous food products outside their borders, so there would be more pressure internally for Chinese food producers to behave responsibly.)

China’s role as a supplier to the world has become so embedded in world culture that the world no longer seems to give much thought to how our financial support of the country is a significant facilitator for the ongoing corruption and criminal behavior of China towards its citizens. We have been complicit in China’s crimes for so long that we don’t even pause to consider our own immorality in the relationship.

Incidentally, though I was born in the US, I am not ‘pro-American’ in my distaste for communist China. Patriotism is often a disguise for bigotry and ignorance and could be legitimately classified as evil if there was such a thing as that silly fairytale concept in the universe.

Show me someone who blithely proclaims themselves to be a patriot and I will show you someone who is very likely an idiot (or at least someone who is incapable of introspection).

I am actually ‘pro-Chinese’ as in pro-people. Some of the strongest personal connections in my life have been with Chinese born persons. You and I are diminished when our brothers and sisters (technically cousins) are forced to live as heavily manipulated creatures as they are in China.

For those who say that the Chinese are content and happy to embrace the limitations and injustice that is imposed upon them by their government in exchange for a measure of economic prosperity in this moment, I promise you the people who have been extinguished by force and who are presently locked in prison for expressing views that differ from their government, did not and do not feel that way.

I hope China will one day be a country that we can feel good about buying musical instruments from, but I fear that day if it comes will be many years in the future.

-Kin’en

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Chinese Guitars Part 2 »