A friend of mine who spent 2008 in China tells me that my blog is blocked there by the internet censors. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m more saddened that a billion Chinese readers are currently being deprived of my wisdom and insight, or flattered that the Chinese Communist Party regards me as a potential threat to the country’s peace, stability and mental hygiene.
The up-side is that I now feel no obligation to refrain from publically commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre (4th July 1989). As a 10 year old I remember watching the news through that period, old enough to remember the confusion about what was happening, hoping that someone, somewhere in the Chinese leadership would make it all right. In many ways, watching the news with my parents through the 2nd half of that year was my initial education in politics. I learned about ‘democracy’ because people were willing to face down tanks to experience it. I remember the tension as we all wondered whether the soldiers of the Red Army could bring themselves to shoot their fellow citizens.
Later that year, 9th November 1989, we watched the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember the sledge-hammers, the graffiti, and the euphoria.
There was nothing internal to either of those events that could enable us, as they were unfolding, to foresee how they would be resolved. The Chinese State rolled over those lonely protesters with as little trouble as the tanks in the Square and today the Party appears stronger than ever. But Communist East Germany was ended and then a couple of years later, so was the whole Soviet Union.
But, maybe, it could have been China that was reborn. Maybe there could still be a wall through the heart of Berlin?
With hindsight comes the opportunity to trace out some of the historical causes behind the events. We reverse engineer the results and design models to account for the data. With hindsight we can see why what is, would always have been. Or at least, we think we can. We judge the actions and affairs of those who have gone before us, assign values to their struggles, weigh what we know of their motives against their outcomes. We are the teachers of history. We teach those of the past to know themselves.
But what then would you say to that single man staring down a Red Army tank? He was an evolutionary dead-end. He picked the spiky end of the historical pineapple. He chose his moment poorly. He did not know that history was against him. If he knew what we now know, he would not have done what he did. He would have stayed away.
How do you really love the Lost? How do you love and esteem something that has no future, that in itself was a terrible folly, that given the chance we would seek to prevent from ever coming to be?
Gallipoli or Changi or Tiananmen Square or the friend who commits suicide?
How do you really love it for what it is in itself, without denying the time or the person a substantial reality in themselves? How do you love this person without making his or her life just a symbol of some more substantial universal truth? (Mateship, Courage, Justice, etc).
Or is that really all they were or are?
I wonder if something like these questions are at the heart of the human aspect of the Christian doctrine of Election.