Freedom’s Just Another Word for Not Enough Control

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

 

 

 

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre this June, buffoonish martial arts movie star millionaire Jackie Chan delivers a roundhouse square to the back of Tank Man’s head:

"I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not," [Chan] told an audience at a regional economic forum in southern China Saturday. "If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic." He continued: "I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want."

The Asian Wall Street Journal notes that Chan’s latest movie has been banned by the Chinese government.

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42 Responses to “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Not Enough Control”

  1. #1 |  Michael Pack | 

    I’ve never cared for Chan’s movies.Stupid is the word I’d use.I now know it wasn’t a act.

  2. #2 |  Chuchundra | 

    I love Jackie Chan. He makes some great movies (although maybe not recently).

    Unfortunately, he, like most actors, is a doofus.

  3. #3 |  Mario | 

    It would be interesting to get more detail from Mr. Chan as to exactly what his problem is — not that that would change anything.

    Are there too many billboards in Hong Kong? Did they tear down some “historic” site to build a shopping mall? Do young people riding the buses no longer stand and offer their seats to older folks?

    Mr. Chan may just be cranky. It happens when you get older. It’s too bad that he’s using his celebrity to disseminate his vague, half-baked musings.

    Perhaps he’s a little to free with his tongue.

  4. #4 |  Mario | 

    [Correction: too free with his tongue.]

  5. #5 |  Kieffer | 

    It’s hard to tell what he really means without knowing the prevailing attitude of his audience toward Hong Kong and Taiwan. If “chaotic” is some sort of code word, it has a very different meaning than if you take his comments at face value.

  6. #6 |  Jay | 

    Mr. Chan is hardly alone in “using his celebrity to disseminate his vague, half-baked musings.” It’s all too common, and worse is that some people give celebrities musings more credit than they’re due.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Reminds me of those surveys you hear about from time to time where they ask people in the U.S. if we have too much freedom of speech and a large proportion say yes. Free speech can hurt people’s feelings, you know. Usually the survey is conducted by some organization that couldn’t exist in its present form in a less free country.

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 

    When people see freedom as chaotic, they also see oppression as sanctified order. Chan won’t get another dime out of me.

  9. #9 |  John Jenkins | 

    Yes, we definitely should be criticizing Jackie Chan for failing to criticize the authoritarian government that could snuff out his life and the lives of his family if he says something that government does not like.

    Frankly, we have no idea what he really thinks, irrespective of what he says in public, because he is not free to tell us.

  10. #10 |  perlhaqr | 

    Ok, first, ++ to John Jenkins, but he has the option of not saying anything.

    And frankly, there are a few too many people like this that aren’t being held hostage by the Chinese Gov’t.

    And that’s why I just really don’t have any hope for the future.

  11. #11 |  Shane Haithcock | 

    While I certainly disagree with him, Jackie can say whatever he wants. I never hear anybody complain when a celeb bashes a republican or even when Sean Penn visits with dictators who want to see the US fall. Where is the uproar there?

  12. #12 |  Tokin42 | 

    #8 beat me to it.

    On the other hand there are a lot of americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, who believe… “If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”, and that doing what we want is a bad thing.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #8 John Jenkins

    Yes, we definitely should be criticizing Jackie Chan for failing to criticize the authoritarian government that could snuff out his life and the lives of his family if he says something that government does not like.

    You make a good point. But, while he may not be free to criticize it, he probably doesn’t have to actively advocate it.

  14. #14 |  todd | 

    Chan can say what he wants but he is another out of touch elitist. Isn’t the natural yearning of man to be free?

  15. #15 |  Edwin Sheldon | 

    If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now.

    Sign me up!

  16. #16 |  T.J. Brown | 

    Was Chan trying to be ironic? If so, it was brilliant.

  17. #17 |  omar | 

    Libertarian disclaimer: I’m repeating what others have said to me and trying to put myself in their shoes to better understand them. Please don’t hate me for trying to understand things I don’t agree with.

    I asked my Chinese friend about this kind of stuff last year in Singapore. He said something to the effect of “you just don’t get it, you think freedom is the #1 universal good trait. In China, we think being a great country is the best thing. We just want a great emperor – if that’s an actual emperor, The Party, whatever we are happy. We really want someone in charge. We define ourselves through the state. When you are dead, your family will remember you for a few years. When I am dead, the world will remember my family forever.”

    As libertarians, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that while we revere freedom of the individual, it’s not a universal value. Some people really do look at positively themselves as a cog in a great national machine. The success of the whole is greater than the freedom of the individual.

    I don’t agree with this belief, but it’s the dominant belief in the world. Our racial/cultural diversity and history in America encourages us to believe in freedom above national identity and whatever else comes with that. But in the end, it’s just a belief system. It’s just our model reflecting what we value most. Freedom is as much a construction of our minds as authority.

  18. #18 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I’ve been through this argument. The problem is that actual freedom does lead to a great state, with the bonus that the people are *free*.

    I will say, though, that the Chinese have pulled off the oligarchy thing probably better than anyone else in history. But that doesn’t make it right.

  19. #19 |  omar | 

    @#17 Michael Chaney

    actual freedom does lead to a great state, with the bonus that the people are *free*.

    True!

    For most people though, it’s about the appearance of freedom or the appearance of authority (or appearance of safety – TSA theater, or appearance of being green, or whatever value seems most important at the moment) rather than the value itself. Check out all our attempts at amendments to prevent flag burning. And every freedom-crushing nationalism movement ever.

    Our disjointed and small “community” thinks about these things a lot harder than most folks do. Our logic just doesn’t apply to most cases or voters. It’s all about perception. shame.

  20. #20 |  Wavemancali | 

    A lot hinges on the context of which freedoms. For example too free in the form of business practices or too free to take part in political dissent?

    One of his comments was if buying a TV he would buy Japanese rather than Chinese because the Chinese one might explode. A control of product safety is something Americans applaud.

    At the time of the Tienanmen Square Massacre he spoke out about the actions of the government being wrong.

    I’d like to hear more before forming the posse to string him up.

  21. #21 |  Chris in AL | 

    Was this dripping with sarcasm when he said it? Which fails to come off in print? If it was tongue in cheek “I think we need some oppression or we just go bonkers!” then fine.

    Otherwise, he should shut up. There is no way the Chinese way is better than the American way.

    The Chinese listen to people’s private phone conversations and read their emails.

    The Chinese arrest people and hold them without cause.

    The Chinese seize private assets and make them property of the state.

    The Chinese strip search young girls looking for contraband, without parental consent.

    Fuck those guys!

  22. #22 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Chris, point taken, but there is one major difference.

    We know these things happen, we talk about them, and occasionally do something about it.

  23. #23 |  Zargon | 

    “But in the end, it’s just a belief system. It’s just our model reflecting what we value most. Freedom is as much a construction of our minds as authority.”

    Believing in authority is believing that some people should have the right, or the ability, to tell some other people to obey or die. Believing in freedom is not believing that.

    They are in no way morally equivalent preferences, or values.

    Now, the Chinese environment (and the US one too, to a silghtly lesser degree) trains people to believe in authority rather than freedom. That makes the popular belief in authority understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.

  24. #24 |  Mario | 

    I just want to register my disagreement with Omar’s moral relativism.

  25. #25 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    Chan’s statement simplified:

    People are too stupid to be free…

  26. #26 |  Daniel | 

    #9 and #12: Is it possible that he’s not free to remain silent? What if the Chinese government put him up to saying those things?

  27. #27 |  Chris in AL | 

    @#21

    I know Mike. I was just on roll and having fun.

    What is scary is that while the Chinese government is well known for covering up their oppression, censoring information and filtering dissent as a means keeping their boot on the population, our government does not.

    My meaning is, it is not about exposure or transparency. We are doing it right out in the open. Everyone behind it has been caught red handed. But that doesn’t stop it.

    I think back to Watergate. Slightly before my time, but here was a case where, once it was exposed it was shut down. The American freedom of the press in action. Nowadays, we catch them all the time. And they just smile and say, “We decided that’s legal now.” and the Supreme court smiles and says “And we agree.” They are not worried about ‘being found out’ anymore.

    So then what can we do? All of our open dialog doesn’t matter when they do it anyway

  28. #28 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    Oh…and before we get all warm and fuzzy about our own “land of the free”….we really aren’t. Just have a little more than some but make no mistake…WE ARE NOT free here either. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I think some believe it because it’s been regurgitated to them countless times since age 5.

  29. #29 |  Zargon | 

    Hate to be a downer, but…

    “We know these things happen, we talk about them, and occasionally do something about it.”

    Do we know the Chinese don’t know those things happen, or don’t talk about them? They don’t talk about them in public venues, for very obvious reasons, but I suspect most of them know that stuff happens and some of them talk about it in private. Of course, I don’t actually know.

    As for doing something about it, I hate to break it to you, but we don’t really do anything about that stuff either, for the exact same reason the Chinese don’t. Being a martyr sucks.

    Oh sure, we get agitated and complain when people are arrested without cause. The state sometimes graciously allows victims of government theft to get their stuff back (after spending a bunch of time and a small fortune in court costs/lawyer fees). We get indignant that some people get strip searched without cause and write a few letters. We beg our masters to pretty please be nicer to us. Occasionally, a cause is picked up by the media, and the specific case is made right. But never, ever, the general case.

    The only effective resisting that’s going on in those four categories listed is in the first one, with open source encryption becoming more common. That’s got a long way to go, and honestly, if it ever becomes common enough, it’ll be illegal, and doors will start getting busted in for sending encrypted e-mail to grandma.

    No, we’re not going to see any real changes until the shit hits the fan, because until then, the cost of effectively resisting (or much more likely, ineffectively resisting), is your life, whether it be by simply ruining it, or with a few bullets in the chest.

  30. #30 |  Drew | 

    As a former Hong Kong resident, I’m having a hard time figuring out what Chan is even talking about here. HK too chaotic? Honestly, it’s a society that is still far more dominated by commerce than any other concern. It’s way more straight-laced than most American cities.

    But, still, I’m totally hoping I can add Chan on twitter. Woot!

  31. #31 |  Zargon | 

    Thinking more on my last comment, I think I’ll emphasize that knowing about and discussing what is happening is not a useless action. Far from it. It is perhaps the most effective preparation we can have for when the shit hits the fan. I simply see no way to avert the eventual SHTF crisis.

  32. #32 |  Tokin42 | 

    I need to add that my earlier post meant to say that #9 John Jenkins beat me to it.

  33. #33 |  Rolo Tomasi | 

    This is just another reason Bruce Lee was more awesome than Chan. When he spoke, he was thoughtful.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5705518582839508545&ei=f7_wSZmcA4rIrgKSm63tCg&q=bruce+lee+philosophy&hl=en

  34. #34 |  Z | 

    “If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.” Yeah that’s pretty much the idea.

  35. #35 |  omar | 

    @#24 | Mario

    I just want to register my disagreement with Omar’s moral relativism.

    All morals are relative unless you believe a beaded man threw his laws down upon the masses.

    All other philosophies are derived from assumptions. Like math, if you alter your starting assumptions, your conclusions will be wildly different. Unlike math, we are crazy people with strange desires we don’t understand, so any assumption (“all men are created equal”, “the rich earn their money off the backs of the poor”, “it’s ok to kill people for your country”, “drugs are bad, mmmkay”, etc) is just an “accurate as we can be” model we develop in our heads. The universe doesn’t give a flying flip about “equal men” any more than it does a meteor flying through space.

    We came from an amoral world, and as humans, we have been trying to find the better morals than “hit you on the head so I get what I want”. People didn’t really figure out libertarianism until ~200 years ago. “Freedom” is sure as hell not the “natural state of man”. It shouldn’t be surprising some people don’t share our philosophy.

    So yea, moral relativism is probably a more accurate model of how the world works. If you want to change minds, attack the assumptions people work from, not their morality as if it’s intrinsic to the universe.

    I’m not excusing crime and oppression, only noting crime and oppression are constructs invented by man, declared evil by our assumptions. Those concepts change with time, and man will eternally find the concepts up for debate. It’s naive to think we have it all figured out.

  36. #36 |  Twin-Skies | 

    I recall reading an old article saying that Jackie Chan used to get beaten rather frequently as a child by his master in Chinese acrobat school. Sammo Hung, a fellow student, recalled similar memories.

    Perhaps he’s subconsciously projecting those bitter times?

  37. #37 |  John Jenkins | 

    All morals are relative unless you believe a beaded man threw his laws down upon the masses.

    That is incorrect. You don’t have to believe in received knowledge to believe that application of reason leads to objective moral truths. Your statement is logically false.

    Your argument seems to be that because we make assumptions, those assumptions cannot be right. That is an obvious logical error (an assumption can be right; it’s just not proven).

    Moral relativism is simply the claim that there is no objective morality. If that is so, then there is no argument for libertarianism and no argument to, say, refrain from murder. If there are no objective morals, then by definition we cannot make a moral claim.

    What good does it do to attack someone’s assumptions if there is no objective morality? The only basis to attack a proposition is to show that it is false. If the central claim of moral relativism is true, then no moral claim is falsifiable, so someone’s assumptions about morality are unassailable.

    If your attack is to say “I disagree,” then you are wasting everyone’s time. If your attack is to say, this assumption is better than yours because the consequences are better, then you are making a moral (consequentialist) claim. If your attack is to say, this assumption is better than yours,” because yours permits bad acts, then you are making a moral (deontological) claim. That you think there are “better morals” than any other morals shows that you personally reject moral relativism.

    Relativism is not an answer to anything. Relativism, much like the claim, “because God said so (or wills it),” is an END to a discussion, not a beginning. It is a weak, watery cop-out and demonstrates an unwillingness to struggle with tough questions.

  38. #38 |  SusanK | 

    I’m not going to get upset about what an actor says about a country when that country has banned his films. I only know enough about the situation to know that I generally don’t care what celebrities say about anything political because it is most often being written for them. Here, I figure Chan either (1) truly believes what he said (2) said what he did to get China to not ban his movie (3) said it for the benefit of any family he may have there. I’m not going to do anything about it, and I don’t personally know anyone who would.

  39. #39 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @ omar,
    “As libertarians, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that while we revere freedom of the individual, it’s not a universal value.”

    Great statement. I realized long ago that most people aren’t ready for the kind of freedom libertarians want. People called me all kinds of bad names for saying that.

    As a libertarian, freedom of choice is what I want. But, not everyone can be free. It is as much a battle as everything else in life (like earning a living). You can’t “socialize” freedom very well…maybe that’s the problem in the USA. I believe it has nothing to do with moral relativism. Much more to do with Tao (IMHO).

  40. #40 |  Tim C | 

    #35 | omar | April 23rd, 2009 at 7:40 pm
    @#24 | Mario
    —-
    (Mario) – I just want to register my disagreement with Omar’s moral relativism.
    —-
    (Omar) – All morals are relative unless you believe a beaded man threw his laws down upon the masses.
    —-

    Bull shit. A is A.

  41. #41 |  Klintron | 

    There’s some debate over the translation of Chan’s comments:

    http://cnreviews.com/life/news-issues/jackie-chan-chinese-control_20090420.html

    I’m not sure what Chan said is much better than what he was reported as saying, but I’m far less sure of just what it is he actually said now.

  42. #42 |  omar | 

    Bull shit. A is A.

    If our brains were big enough to truly define A, then I’d buy it. Unfortunately, A is short for 50,000 variables for each of the 6 billion people on this planet changing every second. The idea that you can extract absoulte universal truth from any situation vastly overestimates your intellect.

    I’m a libertarian because I don’t think I’m smart enough to figure it out for everyone else.

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