Thursday, April 24, 2008

Torch Relays and Tolerance



Photo: Pro-Tibet supporter is blocked by pro-Chinese supporters. Olympic Torch Relay, Canberra. ABC/Reuters.

I am sure that tonight's TV news will be full of the Torch Relay and associated demonstrations. I notice also that the ABC blog attracted comments to the point that they stopped comments.

In discussing the Torch Relay I do not want to get caught in a discussion of the facts. I was not there, and do not know. I do know the way that the event is being covered, including the Sydney Daily Telegraph's Chinese mobs in ACT relay riot.

Leaving all this aside, I want to make just three points, points that I have made before.

To my knowledge, this is the first time that I have seen a popular Australian cause, and Tibet is popular, simply out massed through the organisation of a single ethnic group with a different view. This has caused some agonising in the blogosphere because people are not quite sure how to handle it. I guess my comment is get used to it, because it is likely to happen again.

My second point is that none should assume that their views, however self-evidently right they may appear, will carry the day. I have seen many of my own views simply overtaken by time. I see no reason why this should be different in the future. We simply do not know what Australia's value framework will look like in ten year's time.

I must admit to a degree of frustration here. I have always mixed fairly widely across areas and groups, giving me a feel for different positions. In this more complex modern Australia, I no longer feel that I know what people think and feel. I am too Sydney inner west, metro or eastern suburbs bound.

Accepting this, my feeling is that many recent migrant groups are far more conservative than people realise. It's complex, because many do not want to talk about things in an environment where the dominant views are different from the things they actually believe in. I find that I have to coax out views in private, getting people to talk.

This brings me to my third and final point.

We talk a lot about tolerance in modern Australia. Yet we live in a fairly intolerant society. If we are really to embrace tolerance, and I think that this is very important, then we have to learn to listen to very different views and at least understand the position those people are coming from.

Postscript

Ninglun (Neil) had an interesting update post on this issue.

3 comments:

ninglun said...

I am of course pro-Tibet, but had a coachee in those Chinese ranks. Most of them are young, born even after Tiananmen, and for most of them life for them (or their relatives) in China has been more than tolerable; they are also very happy Beijing has the games and as excited by it as we were in Sydney 2000. I can understand their viewpoint, and what happened today. I think we should be glad it really passed off with few problems. One up for Australia, I think.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for this, Neil. Always good to get an informed view. I think that your last sentence is about right, too.

ninglun said...

Thanks. I have amplified my thoughts into a post: Beijing agrees to Tibet talks.