Sorry, Steven, but I won’t praise you

Perhaps you live on another planet, and haven’t heard that Steven Spielberg is boycotting the Beijing Olympics because of China’s responsibility in the Darfur crisis.

Everyone including rebel groups in Darfur seems to be praising this courageous act – apparently, some people think that this will make a difference for the people suffering in that forlorn region of the world. Well, in my (very) humble opinion, not only is this act only superficially meaningful, but it’s also hypocritical.

Sorry, Mr. Spielberg, but I think this is BS.

I’m curious to see how Mr. Spielberg’s decision to withdraw as artistic advisor will impact the situation in Darfur. Will China decide to forgo its massive politico-economic investment in Sudan? Will China modify its foreign policy? Will China – one of the strongest, fastest growing economies in the world – seriously take into consideration Mr. Spielberg’s indignation when deciding to pursue whatever policy options they choose? Highly doubtful.

Will Mr. Spielberg’s decision make a concrete difference for the victims of this conflict? Well, perhaps if his stance actually motivates governments and meaningful entities to really deal with the situation…. But this is shifting the blame for primary responsibility from Sudan, President Bashir and his henchmen (the real culprits) to the Chinese.

This isn’t to say that China plays no role in this – they do have leverage over Sudan. And they should be considered “complicit” in what is going on in Sudan. Furthermore, I think that the inevitable politicization of the Olympic games (of such great importance to China) is at the very least going to change China’s perception of itself, and perhaps it will lead to internal reform. But that it is entirely up to the Chinese themselves.

But I also think that the criticism of China should focus on its internal problems, rather than its foreign policy, which is the real issue. Perhaps if China was ruled differently would it project its power on the world stage in more benevolent ways. In fact, Human Rights Watch issued a press release following Mr. Spielberg’s statement, which shifts the loci of the accusation from Darfur to a wider range of issues:

“Human Rights Watch has urged that sponsors not only press China’s government to end its support of governments such as Sudan and Burma that commit massive abuses but also that they encourage Beijing to improve deplorable human rights conditions in China itself.”

Also, I’m curious to know how much money Mr. Spielberg and Spielberg owned companies make on the Chinese market…. Is Mr. Spielberg still buying clothing “Made in China”? Does this now mean that Mr. Spielberg is no longer “supporting the Darfur genocide” and is now a peace activist? Gee! It’s easy these days to switch sides.

Here is an interview of someone who somewhat agrees with me, or at least expresses a healthy doubt as to the real effectiveness of Mr. Spielberg’s stand

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