A troubling metamorphosis

A strange and sometimes terrible thing seems to happen to ideologues when they cease to be outsiders and become insiders. This seems particularly so when they are political animals. History is full of examples of this uncanny metamorphoses. Seemingly idealistic freedom movements slouching to their goal, when once they reach it, turn into either apathetic onlookers of the very evils they formerly raged against – or worse, they become replicas of the very monsters they formerly fought tooth and nail.

Modern republicanism probably begins with the French Revolution. The American Republic is of a gentler lineage, bred out of a pragmatic response to a frustrating contre temps with a myopic British parliament and a somewhat disturbed king. The French version was similar in some ways but was fatally laced with an ideological potion which for a time led it down the path of wanton savagery, rescued only to become another kind of tyranny under the aegis of the practical genius who was Napoleon Bonaparte. But while it pursued its Rousseaunian ideological course, and gained power, it truly became a monster. It was the first of a long line of idealist ideologies to do so in modern times. The latest example of this degeneration is now again exercising its mad and lethal power on a people to whom it would have initially presented itself as saviour – the People’s Republic of China.

Among the more apathetic exemplars of this withering of idealism might be found the Republic of Ireland.

In the late 18th century the Irish patriot, Theobald Wolfe Tone, was in France seeking to enlist the forces of the French Revolution to help liberate Ireland from the laws imposed on it by the British Crown. Unlike Edmund Burke, Tone saw no hope of reforming the system which had imposed murderous penal laws on catholics and manipulated an exclusively protestant land-owning class in Ireland as its willing tool in keeping the status quo.

It is hard to read accounts today of what the people of XInjiang province or of Hong Kong are experiencing and not hear echoes from the suffering of the Irish of the 18th Century. These were set upon and oppressed by the victors of England’s own ‘Glorious Revolution’ of the late 17th century, another movement claiming freedom as it goal but then morphing into a woeful tyranny. 

Wolfe Tone, the acknowledged father of Irish republicanism, succeeded in getting French help. His and their efforts were, however, a miserable failure. He was captured, convicted of high treason and condemned to death by hanging. He asked to be shot as a soldier and when this was refused, died by his own hand. Nevertheless, he lived on as a potent symbol of republicanism for 150 years and has served as such for the eventual republic which Ireland became.

The late Seamus Deane, poet and literary critic, in an essay on Wolfe Tone (now published in Small World – Ireland 1798-2018), examines the motivation which drove this Irish hero in the direction which he took. At the heart of Tone’s political experience was his acute analysis of the condition of Ireland and the Irish – a condition he defined as one of slavery. Deane universalises this and says that all republican theory is permeated by this “whole concept of dependence and slavery… To be dependent on the wish, caprice, or undelegated authority of someone else is to lack autonomy and to be a slave. It is corrupt and corrupting, especially when sustained by violence and an endless bombardment of propaganda and threat.” This, he says, was Ireland’s condition. Such, history shows, is the ground in which so many ideologies bent on achieving freedom for peoples are nurtured. What, however, can explain the subsequent degeneration of so many of them to a condition where they now tolerate and cooperate with perpetrators of the very oppression they fought against so heroically? Or worse, how can so many of them perpetrate on their own people the injustices they once raged against?

Mao Zedong was a hero for his people – and for a time in the West, to young idealists, seemed also to be a hero. But he then turned into – and turned his Republic into – a cauldron of death. Xi Jinping can only be described as a worthy successor. What is happening in Xinjiang province, documented now in increasing detail, can only be described as slavery.

Ruth Ingham, in a recent post, quoted Geoffrey Cain, author of The Perfect Police State, who earlier this month gave evidence at the second series of hearings of the Uyghur Tribunal in London. He detailed how China’s access to an arsenal of intrusive novel technologies has enabled the state to monitor the minutiae of everyday life of each one of its citizens. These means are nothing more or less than the modern equivalent of the cadre of informers Lord Castlereagh used to dismantle Tone’s insurgency in 18th century Ireland. With these weapons the CCP, in its war on its insurgents, are spying on 15 million or so potential “terrorists” and “extremists” among the Turkic peoples of its North Western Frontier. Cain explained how these people are spied on “from the moment they leave their house, whether from the back or the front door, whom they meet, whom they might text or call on the way, what they might download on their phone and who might have sent.” All is monitored. And that is just the spying operation. The ‘re-education” atrocities come afterwards.Wolf Tone’s Ireland took 150 years to complete its journey to full republican status. Today he must be turning in his grave. The Irish Republic not only turns a blind eye to the atrocities in China, it actually cozies up to its leaders. It builds Confucian institutes on its university campuses which serve as apologists for the very evils Tone railed against when he died an ignominious death in a Dublin prison.

Alexander Dukalskis and David Farrell, political scientists in University College Dublin, in an Irish Times piece have put in focus the threats to academic freedom in Irish universities posed by China. Charles Moore, in the Spectator and in the Daily Telegraph, has been highlighting what he sees as the sad and dangerous manipulation of Cambridge University by the same kind of fellow travelling.

Dukalskis and Farrell tell us that “In February 2021, this paper reported that the head of Huawei Ireland wrote privately to Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, regarding an academic article by our colleague Dr Richard Maher about the Chinese telecoms giant. The letter said that academic freedom was a “two-way street” and requested the Minister’s “full support in mitigating the damage that has been done”. He secured a meeting with the secretary general of the department to discuss the matter. When the School of Politics and International Relations privately signalled its concern to the university leadership, the university president described our concerns as an overreaction.”

They then recount how in July 2021, the Irish Times reported on a story that involves the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies (IICS), a spin-off of University College’s  Confucius Institute, which is teaching a class in Chinese politics for UCD students. The School of Politics objected because Confucius institutes are Chinese state-affiliated entities.  The IICS and the UCD Confucius Institute were established at the same time, have the same director, the same email address, the same phone number, the same building, overlapping senior staff, and share the same mission to promote Chinese studies.

They anticipate complaints about their complaints – that it is a storm in a teacup.

“But, you might be asking yourself, what is the fuss? The problem is that the ruling party of China is a profoundly illiberal entity when it comes to the education sector. This has always been the case to varying degrees, but under current leader Xi Jinping the party has turbo-charged its control over intellectual inquiry. As part of its ‘comprehensive reassertion of control’, in the words of expert Carl Minzner of Fordham University, the party-state has focused on the social sciences to strengthen political training for faculty and standardise reading materials. Student informants and placing CCTV in classrooms to monitor teaching have increased. ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ research institutes have proliferated. Students have been arrested on campus for activism. Scholars such as Ilham Tohti remain jailed for criticising party policies.

“Nor is this just a higher education trend. For example, this summer the Chinese ministry of education announced that Xi Jinping Thought will be introduced into the national curriculum. Yes, this is the same ministry that Ireland’s own Department of Education agreed in 2019 was a suitable partner to influence Ireland’s own Chinese language curriculum.” To top it all off, they remind us, the 2020 Hong Kong ‘national security law’ effectively criminalises dissent globally, including on campus.

Part of the answer as to why and how this sad process of aversion and reversion seems to keep occurring is probably contained in another essay by Seamus Deane in Small World. In this essay, ‘Imperialism and Nationalism’, dating from 1995, he examines the complicated relationship between these two primeval phenomena, he finds nationalism’s opposition to imperialism, in some perspectives, nothing more than a continuation of imperialism by other means. Perhaps the analysis can offer an explanation of the strange outcome of so many victories of the oppressed over their oppressors. 

Of nationalism, Deane writes,“It secedes from imperialism in its earlier form in order to rejoin it more enthusiastically in its later form. In effect, most critiques of nationalism claim that, as an ideology, it merely reproduces the very discourses by which it had been subjected. It asserts its presence and identity through precisely those categories that had denied them — through race, essence, destiny, language, history — merely adapting these categories to its own purposes. It also accepts the requirements of ‘civilization’ – modernization, development, and class and gender divisions, which are integral to the system from which it ostensibly seeks to liberate itself. In brief, in the name of emancipation for itself, it joins with the global system of late capitalism and the multinational companies, becoming economically subservient while endlessly asserting cultural independence.” 

The end result, he suggests, leaves us with this: “An intellectual proletariat, with bourgeois pretensions, that claims it has achieved national consciousness is substituted for a non-intellectual sub-proletariat that once was the national consciousness. In such a situation, many forms of reaction are justified on the grounds that they are ‘national’. External domination has been introjected to the point that a nation, so construed, may be said to have learned nothing from oppression but oppression itself.” 

That the Republic of Ireland, tracing its inspiration back to the man who suffered and died to liberate a people from the most abject oppression is cooperating with this Marxist regime should dismay Irish people. It does not. That this Republic, and certain of its established state-funded institutions are now hand in glove with one of the planet’s great oppressors should be seen as a gross contradiction of everything in the inspiration which was of its essence. It is not. Sad metamorphosis indeed.

Addendum:

Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room of the Irish nation and its relationship with oppression – as an oppressor.

First Things@firstthingsmag·

For the first time in history, a nation has voted to strip the right to life from the unborn.

Darkness descending – again?

When you read a column in The Sunday Times (London) which introduces itself to you with this cri de coeur,  “I’ve found a way to sidestep cancel culture: I’ll tell you everything I’m not thinking instead”, you can’t help feeling you are in some kind of enemy territory. When someone as outspoken as the larger-than-life Jeremy Clarkson is reduced to a strategy like this you cannot but think, I better keep quiet.

Clarkson’s editors were afraid to print something he had written the previous week because it might offend the safetyniks. They deleted what he had said and substituted it with a new clarksonesque paragraph “expressing an opinion which I don’t have”. So the next week, feeling that letting them do his work for him was selfish, he sat down and “wrote something that I’m not thinking instead”.

We cannot but feel that the cultural surveillance which provokes this state of affairs must end soon. The lunatics may take over the asylum for a period but it’s hardly reasonable to expect that the situation will continue indefinitely, or even for an extended period. Or is it?

A very sobering read which might make you question any naive expectations that sanity might return to our culture anytime soon is Arthur Koestler’s seminal novel, Darkness at Noon.

Koestler wrote this book over the years 1939/40. It is a fictional chronicle of an interrogation of an old Bolshevik who becomes a target and eventually a victim of Stalin’s terror apparatus. It features several such victims who by just not managing to say the right thing, or appear not to be thinking the right thoughts, or are fool enough to suggest the simplest deviation from the “correct” path, end up with bullets in the backs of their heads.

Reading Darkness at Noon will set off all sorts of  unpleasant bells ringing in your head as you find yourself wandering through the labyrinth of a political culture which had determined that human nature was not something that was fixed but was something that a flawed inherited culture had constructed – or mis-constructed – and had to be put right. For this new culture it became an absolute principle that in the name of progress, justice and equality, former ways of thinking had to be replaced by a new order.

There are enough stories appearing in and on our media every day to make it unnecessary to spell out in detail why Koestler’s novel is likely to set off those chimes in your head. Just today, Sunday 18 April, Ben Lawrence writes

in London’s Daily Telegraph:

I nearly didn’t write this piece. I realise that as a white, middle-class, middle-aged man wading into the identity-politics debate, I may as well just find the nearest pack of wolves and throw myself in their path. But something needs to be said about the regressive idiocy that is threatening the creative spirit and the sheer enjoyment which the worlds of arts and entertainment bring to millions of people.

There are enough regular reports of people being required to grovel to make our minds hearken back worryingly to the show trials of 1930s Russia. Like those targeted then, those now in the cross-hairs of ‘woke’ warriors are not only required to grovel but are  being obliged to say that they are very grateful to be made grovel.

In the mental battle of minds which ensued in Darkness at Noon between the interrogator Gletkin and his victim, Rubashov,  we can see the gradual disintegration of truth before the relentless machine which was moulding its own version of “truth”. 

Without becoming aware of it, they had got accustomed to these rules for their game, and neither of them distinguished any longer between actions which Rubashov had committed in fact and those which he merely should have committed as a consequence of his  opinions; they had gradually lost the sense of appearance and reality, logical fiction and fact.

Rubashov occasionally found himself clutching at straws of real truth in the midst of this battle because he was a man who had known truth, who had a history which still lived in him. His interrogator had none. He was the “new man”, the creation of the system. He was a new Neanderthal, fresh out of the mists, whose most conspicuous trait, as Rubashov sees it, “was its absolute humourlessness or, more exactly, its lack of frivolity.”

These are the traits of those in our own time who cannot see beauty, humour, or who cannot value any kind of creativity without passing it through the sterile filter of their own tortured “correct” cultural framework – and then call on those who fail their tests to apologise and disappear. 

Rubashov reflects that he and his fellow victim, Ivanov – whose first appearance in the story is as Rubashov’s interrogator – came from  a world which had vanished. “One can deny one’s childhood,” he observes, “but not erase it. Ivanov had trailed his past after him to the end; that was what gave everything he said that undertone of frivolous melancholy; that was why Gletkin had called him a cynic. The Gletkins had nothing to erase; they need not deny their past, because they had none. They were born without umbilical cords,  without frivolity, without melancholy.” Ivanov’s fate has another parallel in our own time in the fate of those like that one-time progressive, J.K. Rowling.  The guardians of the progressive ideology turned their guns on her when she dared question the latest addition to their ever expanding canon of what is correct and what is not.

Today’s progressive generation has set out to cancel the culture which is our inheritance. This relentless urge, more bewildering every day, stems from this frightening truth: they may know facts but they know nothing of history, of the real past, the living past. Erasing is easy for them because what they are erasing is meaningless to them. Their great evil is so-called privilege but they have no understanding of privilege. They see only a privilege which has a root in some injustice. They condemn all privilege, failing to see that most privilege has its roots in the exercise of human virtues – hard work, love and more. Rather than seek the cultivation of those virtues and the curtailing of the vices which blemish privilege, they tear down structures which offer to all the riches associated with privilege.

The absurdity of it all is laid before us by Jeremy Clarkson when he tells us what he’s not thinking:

You need to be constantly aware of your privilege so that you are aware of the challenges faced by people who lack that privilege. And you need to understand, once you’ve spotted someone without your privilege, that you should give them your Bentley. Then the next day, when they see you waiting for the bus, they should give it back. How refreshing that would be. Sharing everything and chatting in the day-long queue for bread with people who are just the same as you are. And thinking the same thoughts about everything as well.

It worked with climate change. There was a time when the subject could be debated, but then the BBC announced that there was no debate and that anyone who thought man might not be involved was a climate-change “denier”. Suddenly everyone was on side. Like we are today on meat, the royal family, trans issues, mental health and colour. It’s so much easier that way.”

The final dialogue of Rubashov with his interrogator echoes into our contemporary cultural landscape.

He put on his pince-nez, blinked helplessly past the  lamp, and ended in a tired, hoarse voice: 

“After all, the name N. S. Rubashov is itself a piece of  Party history. By dragging it in dirt, you besmirch the history of the Revolution.”  

To which Gletkin responds: 

“To that I can also reply with a citation from your own writings. You wrote: ‘It is necessary to hammer every sentence into the masses by repetition and simplification. What is presented as right must shine like gold; what is presented as wrong must be black as pitch. For consumption by the masses, the political processes must be coloured like ginger—bread figures at a fair.’ 

Rubashov was silent. Then he said; 

So that is what you are aiming at: I am to play the Devil in your Punch and Judy show——howl, grind my teeth and put out my tongue——and voluntarily, too. Danton and his friends were spared that, at least.” 

Gletkin shut the cover of the dossier. He bent forward a bit and settled his cuffs: 

“Your testimony at the trial will be the last service you can do to the Party.”

Darkness at Noon is read by many as an exposure of the fundamental philosophical contradictions of Stalinism. If it is, it offers another parallel with our time. The infuriating illogicality of the progressivism to which we are now being subjected is confronting us every day as Stalinism did when Arthur Koestler wrote his revealing work of political fiction.

Rubashov summed up its inherent contradictions like this:

The Party denied the free will of the individual—and at  the same time it exacted his willing self-sacrifice. It denied his capacity to choose between two alternatives—and at the same time it demanded that he should constantly choose the right one. It denied his power to distinguish good and evil—and at the same time it spoke pathetically of guilt and treachery. The individual stood under the sign of economic fatality, a wheel in a clockwork which had been wound up for all eternity and could not be stopped or influenced—and the Party demanded that the wheel should revolt against the clockwork and change its course. There was somewhere an error in the calculation; the equation did not work out.

Neither does that of the crazy political philosophy of our time.

Darkness at Noon makes grim but salutary reading. This era must never be forgotten – because its clones are still with us, and will probably always be threatening us. They are with us now in equally virulent forms – China today –  but also in embryonic forms like the ‘woke’ plague just now in gestation. Cancellation then might have been literal and lethal but the poisonous spirit is still the same in the daily cancellations of our time.

The evil that men do…

mao_zedong_quote

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. But in too many cases there is not even a modicum of good to accompany those bones. So, it seems, it was with Mao Zedong, the “father” of modern China.

Just last week we were again reminded of the evil influence of this man and how that evil still lives among us when, heroically, Katy Morgan-Davies, enslaved since birth in Britain by her Maoist-inspired cult leader father, said she forgave him after a judge condemned him to die in jail for his decades of abuse in which he had robbed her of “family, childhood, friends and love”.

Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty of horrific assaults against two female followers and false imprisonment and child cruelty against his daughter.

At Southwark Crown Court, Judge Deborah Taylor said: “You were ruthless in your exploitation of them. You engendered a climate of fear, jealousy and competition for your approval. The judge said Balakrishnan had treated his daughter like “a project”.

A project? Therein lies the pernicious influence of Mao Zedong, the man whose dedication to a utopian project was pursued at the cost of the lives of more than 45 million of his countrymen.

Yet this man, of whose ideology Balakrishnan is a micro representation, inspired some of Western Europe’s most famous intellectuals for some of the seminal decades of the last century, the 1960s and 1970s. In fact recent studies reveal that in its essence Mao’s legacy was as brutal and his personal life was as vicious as that of the man who was last week condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Mao was not only the man who set China on her ruthless totalitarian path. He was also the man whose ideology has inspired his successors to continue to pursue social and population control policies which seem set to plunge China into a demographic catastrophe. Furthermore, in his personal life he was a voracious and utterly abusive predator of the women in his life – and there were multitudes of them. He would put Caligula to shame.

A review in the Times Literary Supplement of a recent biography of a Belgian writer who died in 2014 reminds us that:

 In the 1960s and 70s, a nation that saw itself as the most sophisticated on earth fell under the spell of the greatest mass murderer in history. Mao Zedong had admirers in many places, but only in France did his appeal stretch beyond small bands of revolutionaries. The cream of the progressive intelligentsia – from Jean-Paul Sartre to Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Jean-Luc Godard – as well as pillars of the conservative establishment enthused about him. André Malraux was Mao’s most fulsome eulogist. Alain Peyrefitte, another Gaullist grandee, published a bestseller in 1973 arguing that under Mao’s stewardship China was destined for greatness. President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing called Mao a “beacon” for humanity.

Pierre Boncenne, the author of the biography of this Belgian, Simon Leys, tells us that he should be remembered as one of the earliest voices to be raised against the adulation of this tyrant. He tells us of the moment when Leys was first alerted to the atrocities perpetrated by Mao. He was pursuing his day job, the study of Chinese art and literature in Hong Kong when a car bomb exploded outside his apartment and killed a famous critic of Mao. This was 1967 and this was just one atrocity of the many that made up Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Within a year of that explosion students were on the streets in Paris, London, Dublin and other cities around the world, accompanied by some of the aforementioned intellectuals, acclaiming Mao Zedong as a hero for our times. It was too much for Leys. He wanted to put the record straight and began the first of the three books he published between 1971 and 1976 – Chairman Mao’s New Clothes. Then he followed with, Chinese Shadows and Broken Images. In these books he told the story of the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution as he saw them unfold, exposing the naivety of Mao’s Western acolytes.

Boncennes’ biography, Le Parapluie de Simon Leys , tells us that while some acclaimed the books, they made little impact on the Western cult of Mao. The TLS review summarises the moment when the penny finally dropped:

Their public shaming did not come until Leys’s first television appearance in May 1983. Other guests on France’s prestigious cultural show Apostrophes that evening included Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi, who was promoting her unrepentant autobiography of a Mao fan. Leys took the opportunity to tell the Red Guards of the Left Bank to their faces what he had been thinking of them for so long. “I think idiots utter idiocies just as plum trees produce plums – it’s a normal, natural process. The problem is that some readers take them seriously”, he said. “The most charitable thing you can say about [Macciocchi’s book] On China is that it is utterly stupid; because if you did not accuse her of being stupid, you would have to say she’s a fraud.”

Sales of Macciocchi’s book plummeted after the show – which ironically she appeared on to promote.

The reviewer tells us that Leys’ writing on the subject still repays reading because of his power to tell simple truths. Forty years on, researchers have shed light on key episodes and updated the death toll – as high as 45 million for the Great Leap Forward of 1958–61 alone – but few, he says, have painted the overall picture with such limpidity and depth. “Leys brings not just factual but moral clarity to the story of Maoism. His notes on a hellish utopia and the fascination it can exert make him a significant figure of anti-totalitarian literature.”

True religion, G. K. Chesterton wrote, was a way of stopping the mind from spinning out of control and of anchoring it in reality. This appealed to Leys, who was a devotee of G.K. and also a devout Catholic. In his view the political monstrosities of the twentieth century were rooted in a failure to acknowledge reality and this was particularly true of Maoism, which stated the absolute supremacy of the leader’s will: if you followed Mao’s teachings, – and remember how many students in the 60s and 70s were intrigued by his “Little Red Book” – anything was possible. Imagine and design your project and pursue it to the death, the deaths of millions if necessary. For Leys the sophisticates of the West who refused to pay attention to real events, lost in their abstract thoughts, idiotically surrendered themselves to one of the greatest evils the world has ever seen.

Perhaps we should be cheering?

A Civilization in the balance – Quito’s future?

The New York Times reports that Ecuador, with just 16 million people, has little presence on the global stage, but  that China’s rapidly expanding footprint there speaks volumes about the changing world order, as Beijing surges forward and Washington gradually loses ground.

Without ignoring the harsh realities of the Chinese political system and the questions which keep being asked about its human rights abuses, it might be worth considering that backing China is like taking a train going in the direction of freedom whereas backing the Western liberal model is like putting your money on one going in the opposite direction.

Growing Chinese influence – there and elsewhere, as in Africa – might be much more positive than a growth of American influence where the dominant and ascendant culture is far more hostile to real human values than the increasingly Christian culture in China might be.

Across the Ecuadorian countryside, the Times reports, in villages and towns, Chinese money is going to build roads, highways, bridges, hospitals, even a network of surveillance cameras stretching to the Galápagos Islands. State-owned Chinese banks have already put nearly $11 billion into the country, and the Ecuadorean government is asking for more.

While China has been important to the world economy for decades, the country is now wielding its financial heft with the confidence and purpose of a global superpower. Dare we give two cheers for that?

In China itself, according to the China Religion Survey 2015, details of which have been released by the National Survey Research Centre at Renmin University, Islam and Catholicism are the two religions that have seen rapid growth among the Chinese who are under 30 years old.

In that age bracket, 22.4 percent of Chinese are now Muslims while Catholics follow very closely at 22 percent. But while the Muslim growth comes mainly from population growth – with that clearly indicating resistance to the one-child policy – the Catholic and wider Christian growth is through conversion. Conversion to Islam is relatively rare.

This China Religion Survey, 2015, held interviews from more than 4,000 religious sites between 2013 and 2015. The research found that even though Buddhism and Taoism are more popular with the older generations, Protestantism has posted the greatest number in terms of places of worship.

Furthermore, 60 percent of people who work in places of worship see state regulations as “fair.”

This is contrary to the latest report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which said there is an “alarming increase in systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses” on religious freedom in China last year.

In 2014, the Chinese government took steps to consolidate further its authoritarian monopoly of power over  all aspects of its citizens’ lives. For religious freedom, this has meant unprecedented violations against Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, and Falun Gong practitioners. People of faith continue to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences, and in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship. Based on the alarming increase in systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses, USCIRF again recommends China be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The State Department has designated China as a CPC since 1999, most recently in July 2014.

Nevertheless, Eleanor Albert of the Council for Foreign Relations, independent but also US based, reports a more positive picture:

Religious observance in China is on the rise. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is officially atheist, but it has grown more tolerant of religious activity over the past forty years. Amid China’s economic boom and rapid modernization, experts point to the emergence of a spiritual vacuum as a trigger for the growing number of religious believers, particularly adherents of Christianity and traditional Chinese religious groups. Though China’s constitution explicitly allows “freedom of religious belief,” adherents across all religious organizations, from state-sanctioned to underground and banned groups, still face persecution and repression.

While no one could argue that the level of difficulty – and even persecution – being experienced by people holding religious beliefs in the West is at the level experienced by Christians  in India or China, it does seem that  in China at least the trend is in the opposite direction. Take, for example, the complaints of Christians in the United States who now find that the moral codes of their religion are in conflict with the new politically correct codes being affirmed in the public square and which are assigning them, at best, to the margins of society.

A few examples:

  • The implications of the multiple court battles going on over Obamacare enforcement of contraceptive culture on Christian institutions.
  • The forcing of service providers to act contrary to their consciences by obliging them to endorse what they consider immoral behavior.
  • The Supreme Court determining to exclude anyone who prays in Jesus’ name from a rotation of officials who open city business meetings.
  • The removal of US military Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, over the issue of praying in Jesus Name.
  • UCLA’s prohibiting a graduating student from thanking her “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in her graduation speech.
  • Colleges making special accommodations for foot baths and Muslim only prayer rooms, while a Muslim group membership may be suspended or revoked for 57 reasons including but not limited to: unbecoming behavior, insubordination, or inactivity; but denying Christian groups campus recognition “because it requires its officers and voting members to agree with its Christian beliefs”.

Matthew Staver, Dean and Professor of Law at the Evangelical Christian Liberty University School of Law, puts it this way:

In a world of political correctness devoid of the rule of law, tolerance has come to mean total rejection of Christianity and moral standards. Modern tolerance redefines words like ‘marriage,’ ‘discrimination,’ ‘equality,’ ‘morality,’ and even ‘absolutes.’ The word ‘tolerance’ as it is used today never includes opposing arguments or competing worldviews. Tolerance has become Orwellian and decidedly intolerant.

So where does that leave Ecuador? It is not in a very good place just now and, with its Chavez-like regime  headed by President Rafael Correa, in the longer-term it may be playing with fire in exposing itself to an economic colonization by China. Seeking to distance itself from the US it has turned to China as Cuba did to Russia back in the 1950s and ’60s. That did not end well.

But if all did turn out well, the question which poses itself about all this is whether there is a better future in store for a country which allies itself with a power which may be evolving towards a tolerant and Christian society than being dependent on one whose Christian civilization is in decay. Furthermore, American investment seems increasingly to come with politically correct cultural strings attached which bear within them the seeds of its ultimate self-destruction.

I watched a chilling interview with David Foster Wallace just a few days ago. It was chilling because of how this tortured soul ended his life. It was chilling because it was hard not to connect his sad death from the grim prospect which he foresaw for America, captivated as it was by a culture of greed, self-indulgence and consumption.