Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered

Flat White

Xin Du

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Xin Du

13 December 2022

12:31 PM

In the novel Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi gave a heart-wrenching account of her experience as an English teacher in the capital of Iran when the 1979 revolution threatened to drag the once thriving country back to the Middle Ages.

She wrote: ‘My generation complained of a loss, the void in our lives that was created when our past was stolen from us, making us exiles in our own country.’

In 1979, 100,000 women, who previously could dress as freely and fashionably as any European, marched in the streets to protest against the mandatory injunction to cover their hair with the hijab or the chador. More than 40 years later, protests have erupted once more in response of a 22-year-old, Mahsa Amini, who died on September 16 after being arrested by the morality police for not wearing her hijab correctly.

Amini’s family claimed that she had been beaten, including having been struck several times on the head. It is a claim that the Iranian government disputed, albeit not very convincingly. Given Iran’s routine record of mistreatment of women who push back on the puritan interpretation of Islam, hardly any Iranians believe the offical narrative.

Protests have taken place for months all over the country. Women have burned their hijabs and cut off their hair in public. Even the Iranian football team refused to sing the national anthem at the FIFA World Cup in solidarity with the protest movement, as well as one of their own who was arrested for publicly supporting the Amini family.

The fact that the regime they are protesting against will eagerly resort to violence highlights the courage of the protesters’ actions. Compared to their bravery, the soggy capitulation of England, Wales, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland – all of whom gave up on their proposed idea of wearing ‘OneLove’ armbands to promote diversity and inclusion as soon as FIFA threatened sanctions –  is rather pathetic, but not unexpected.

True courage is also being shown by Chinese citizens, who have started protesting en masse across the country against the tyranny of the ‘Covid Zero’ dictates of the CCP, which have arbitrarily and inhumanely taken freedoms away from its citizens, millions at a time.

With the accumulated frustrations of almost three years of indiscriminate and unscientific Covid restrictions readying the tinder box, a trigger for the protests, which seldom happen in China, is an apartment fire in Urumqi that killed 10 people. The Covid lockdown measures had reportedly hampered the efforts of fire rescue crew to enter the building as well as those of the residents to flee, resulting in the deaths. The official death toll is 10, and 9 injured but it could have easily been a lot worse.

In the aftermath, people flooded onto the streets, clashing with the police and openly shouting for President Xi to resign, a dangerous move that may see them jailed or worse. The whereabouts and welfare of the ‘Bridge Man’, who held a one-man protest in Beijing by unfurling anti-Xi and anti-Covid lockdown banners atop of a bridge in October, is still unknown.

During the height of the protest that has brought about the end of the Covid Zero policy, many cleverly protested by holding up blank pieces of paper, giving the censor-happy CCP nothing to censor, while simultaneously underlining the fact that they were not at liberty to speak.

As expected, besides increased policing, the CCP has continued to engage in censorship across the board to hamper not only any reoccurring protests, but news of the protests, in a predictable effort to ‘save face’. The BBC’s China Bureau, Edward Lawrence, was beaten and detained by the police for doing his job. In a move too reminiscent of Huxley’s Brave New World, the CCP has resorted to using bots and flooding Twitter with porn and escort ads when searching the cities where protests are occurring.

The relationship between liberty and courage have been remarked upon by many throughout history. Courage, being the cardinal virtue, is the precondition for all other virtues. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, wrote that ‘a man with inner courage dares to live’. To live is to yearn for freedom. And freedom, as Robert Frost remarked, lies in being bold. And it seems that being bold does have its effect – several large cities in China have eased restrictions after the protests.

And while prepared for the worst, one must take courage in the knowledge that justice and liberty can prevail without bloodshed. The Velvet Revolution in the then-Czechoslovakia in 1989 overthrew the one-party government run by the Communist Party, through peaceful protests, strikes, and mockery, led by Vaclav Havel, a poet, and playwright who became the President of the new Czech Republic.

But 1989 to the Chinese brings forth less warm memories. It is still unknown how many perished in the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4th, 1989, when the CCP turned its troops, ironically named the People’s Liberation Army, against its people. Like the Iranians, this bloody history makes the courage of the Chinese protestors even more admirable.

In clear contradistinction to the bravery of the Chinese demonstrators, Apple, in what can only be the abject capitulation to Chinese profits, has limited AirDrop on iPhones in China after protestors used it to share information.

The English revolutionary and pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote that, ‘Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.’

Too long have too many simply enjoyed the fruits of the modern global market, fast internet, and copious entertainment. Too few have thought about where these privileges come from. Even fewer are ready to defend the wellspring of it all – that of freedom of speech. For all human progress comes from individual minds that are free to think for themselves, and especially those who do so in the face of censorship and expurgation.

In the face of true courage in the face of tyranny, one cannot help think of Paine’s poignant words in The American Crisis:

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Luckily, courage is contagious. May their courage spread and bloom, and may we who live in better circumstances keep our fears to ourselves and share our courage with those who need every ounce.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.


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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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