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Derek Best has contributed to several publications, including Macleans Magazine Canada, and Omni Magazine, USA. He is has also produced many documentary films for Television. For many years, he has been interested in A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical thought system, and maintains the official website for that organization. "ACIM", he says "is central to my personal way of seeing the world." This site is strictly personal however. Derek has an eclectic range of interests, and writes about them here as the mood strikes him.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Great Wall

When I was in China I still had to update the Course website weekly. This was a challenge because the Chinese apparently consider the Course to be seditious material. I was completely unable to access the website from anywhere inside China; I would simply receive a polite notice on my screen (in Chinese) saying that web page was "unavailable". I suppose all that discussion of love and forgiveness must seem pretty threatening. Two thousand years ago they built the Great Wall to keep the outside world -- outside. Today they are completing its modern day equivalent -- the Great Firewall. They are spending huge amounts in manpower to try and ensure that freedom of information is not a feature of everyday life. I don't know if they will succeed; as long as there are proxy servers in the world, people will just log on and surf freely, (as I did.) Still it is thought-provoking to know the Course is in the same forbidden league as Falun-Gong, BBC News, the Dalai Lama, the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, the country of Taiwan, and about 19,000 other websites, at last count.
But before we rush in waving flags and handing out gum, let us remember China's culture is far older than our own. Is it not neoconservatism to assume that what we revere in the west is applicable and desirable globally? That the Chinese "deserve" free access to information? Could we not look at our own recent history of suspicion and censorship, paranoia and possible eavesdropping, and mutter - very quietly - "mea culpa". Anyone who believes there is no internet censorship in our homeland might want to try logging on to the Course website using the free wi-fi at any of the 900 U.S. locations of Panera Bread. You will see a screen telling you that you have tried to access "occult" material, and your request has been blocked. (Fortunately the sandwiches aren't bad.) That old stand-by of Cultural Relativism suggests we should leave other countries well-enough alone. China will get to wherever it is going with or without our opinions or values. Napoleon is reputed to have said "Let China sleep. When she awakens the world will be sorry", which was itself a kind of laissez faire relativism. The classical objection to Cultural Relativism is that non-interference can prevent moral progess... as manifested in this case by the alleged suppression of freedoms. However no one can deny the huge de-facto influence of Western culture on the East already, and what moral progress has that accomplished? If having an entire generation of Chinese women craving Britney Spears' wardrobe is moral progress, perhaps it might be better not to spread our values quite so zealously.
Anyway, no one can possibly suppress the truth forever. Nor need they. We all do an excellent job of burying it ourselves.

2 Comments:

Anonymous marian said...

nicely said.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Annalisa said...

Dear Derek,
Great to see your photo. Thank you for helping me with the concordance a few years ago. (I live in Canberra, Australia). It has saved me lots of time.
You are often in or on my mind with sincere gratitude.
Any chance to pass on my gratitude to Ken for the many insights I have received through his work? I would like to see a way to send appreciation, both for the Facim website as well as the books.
Much love in Jesus
And best wished for ahwever season you may wish to celebrate
Annalisa

12:25 AM  

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