05 May 2008

Philip Glass on the Olympics

“I think that we should pull out . . . The Chinese are supposed to be taking care of human rights; they haven’t done it. The only reason we don’t pull out is that people are more interested in money than they are in human rights. I think the Olympic Committee should really pull the plug on it. . . . Basically, the Chinese commies have been isolated for 50 years; they have no idea what the rest of the world is like. They think that we’re just another province of China and that they can do what they damn well want to. And they’re a bunch of losers. They make a distinction: As long as you’re not political, you can do whatever you want in China. But politics is about the way we live! They’re drawing the line on the very things that matter to us most.” ~ Phillip Glass (9 April '08)
Composer Philip Glass recently has offered his views on the complex politics central to the upcoming Olympics. As I have noted here several times, the Beijing games are not idiosyncratic in being political [1] [2] [3].

Glass is right and wrong. He is wrong to think that it is vaguely possible to "pull the plug." It simply will never happen. In part that is because of the money. In part it is because of the sheer hypocrisy - the U.S., for example, surely cannot speak with any credibility on the need to censure countries that violate civil and political rights. At a more fundamental level, though, Glass also is right - "politics is about the way we live!" And so the question is how one might mount a political - rather than a moralistic - response to the Chinese on human rights. And, of course, the same is needed here at home too.
P.S.: Word has it that Glass describes himself as "a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist." On re-reading his remarks I began to wonder. Which of those traditions would embrace his dismissive comment "they're a bunch of losers?"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep its a good point. While one might ultimately wish that the Olympics in China was boycotted due to the political situation there, it is hard not to think that all the criticism and protests are happening solely because it is China. I think Gordon Brown provides us with the most glaring example of the hypocrisy. Saying he will not attend the opening ceremony while thanking Bush for all he has done in Iraq and Afghanistan!

05 May, 2008 13:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, the invasion of Iraq has united neocons with human rights advocates, who were suckered into thinking that the Iraq war was about liberating Iraqi citizens from brutal tyranny. Then, global warming has brought together left-wing environmental activists, with right-wing anti-Muslim bigots, who both want to see the end of oil, albeit for different reasons. And now, anti-Chinese furor makes bedfellows out of right-wing isolationists, and left-leaning Tibetan activists. Globalization sure has changed the rules of the game!!

05 May, 2008 16:49  
Blogger mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yes, the Olympics are always cover for urban removal, gentrification, displacement, and corporate development scams -- it's possible, however, that these Olympics have caused more displacement (hundreds of thousands of people removed from their homes in Beijing alone) and more rapacious development ("the equivalent of three Manhattans" have been added to the Beijing skyline, according to an article by Anne-Marie Broudehoux in the book Evil Paradises) than any previous Olympics.

But the point is not to compare tragedies -- I think what is needed is a global movement to end the Olympics, period, or at the very least to expose them as a hideous oppressive corporate scam.

07 May, 2008 01:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diverted the audio from the other people to the speakers and recorded everything onto Vegas.

15 May, 2008 01:33  
Blogger J. Wesley Brown said...

I want to vomit in my mouth every time I hear someone talking about a boycott of these games as a proper statement on China's human rights record. Has no one taken a history class?

The Olympic games were begun as a non-political event and if two or more city-states were at war, the fighting would cease until the games were complete. Here, we have political differences and talk of a dropout?

We should criticize and pressure China on their human right record regularly but the upcoming games are not the forum.

23 May, 2008 00:53  
Blogger Unknown said...


May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

Our site:

URL: http://www.2008chinaolympics.com
Title: Beijing Olympics

Please let me know if you want a link back.
Many thanks for your reply.

Best Regards,


09 August, 2008 03:50  

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