Politics & Policy

Oslo Journal, Part V

Editor’s Note: Last week, the Oslo Freedom Forum took place. OFF is the annual human-rights gathering in the Norwegian capital. The previous parts of Jay Nordlinger’s journal are at the following links: I, II, III, and IV.

A visit to Norway will make you think a little about immigration — about “Islamification,” integration, assimilation, civilization, and all of those important things (all of them ending in “ation,” apparently). This is a touchy subject to talk about. But it really ought to be touched.

Bernard Lewis, the great historian, was once being interviewed by a Dutch journalist. Lewis said, “If present trends continue, the Netherlands will be majority-Muslim in 20 years.” The journalist said, “So?” Lewis thought, The poor SOB. He has no idea what’s coming. He thinks Holland will continue to be Holland, just with a different face.

Mark Steyn once made a brilliant Broadway analogy (one of his many). Years ago, there was a “black Hello, Dolly!” –i.e., a Dolly with an all-black cast (Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, et al.). The show had a different flavor. But it was still Hello, Dolly!

Will Europe be like that? Will Norway still be Norway, but wearing a hijab? Maybe. But maybe not.

These questions are not far off into the future. The future is now, so to speak. The most common male name in Oslo today is Muhammad. “So what?” you say. Well, you may be right. Maybe this deserves nothing more than a shrug. Alternatively, it could be seismic.

‐One of the guest speakers at the Oslo Freedom Forum is Ti-Anna Wang, a young Chinese woman — a young Canadian, actually. She was born and raised in Montreal. Her father, though, decided that he would devote his life to the Chinese democracy movement. In 2002, when Ti-Anna was 13, her father was arrested. As I understand it, he was in Vietnam when the Chinese Communists abducted him, took him into China, and imprisoned him.

That prisoner — Ti-Anna’s father — is Wang Bingzhang. He has spent at least ten years in solitary confinement. His health, mental and physical, is ruined.

Ti-Anna has devoted a good deal of her life to his cause: his plight, his freedom. If I have heard her correctly, she took a year off before entering university in order to campaign full-time for her father’s release. That makes an “interesting” “gap year.”

Ti-Anna did not choose this life. Well, in a way she did: She chose how she reacted to her father’s imprisonment. But her father’s choice made a huge impact on her.

Recently, Ti-Anna has been teaming up with other daughters of Chinese political prisoners. They draw comfort from one another, I’m sure. Ti-Anna speaks of “our little group of dissident daughters,” which is growing, because more and more democrats are thrown into prison.

Ti-Anna does not gripe about her plight or fate: In her presentation to the forum, she says, “It’s a privilege to be given this mission, to take part in such a noble cause.”

She is a big woman — a generous-hearted woman. If I were in her shoes, would I have this attitude? I don’t know.

After her presentation, I talk with her a little. She tells me about her name. She was born on May 11, 1989. The Tiananmen Square demonstrations were just beginning (I believe). She went home from the hospital without a name. She was just Baby Wang. Her mother took her in a stroller to a rally in support of the democrats back in China. And, of course, on June 4, the Communists carried out their massacre.

Ti-Anna was named in honor of the Tiananmen Square victims.

So, she was kind of marked from the beginning — marked by politics. Is that fair to do to a child? I don’t know. But it is done. One could argue all sorts of ways, I imagine.

I ask Ti-Anna, “Does it bother you that people in the West regard China as basically a normal country, instead of a one-party dictatorship with a gulag?”

Hang on, let me quote from something I wrote several weeks ago. It is a review of Ethan Gutmann’s new book, The Slaughter, which is about the Chinese Communists’ persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. I wrote,

His findings, his book, must be ignored, if life is to go on — if business with China is to continue as usual. We have a psychological need to see China as a normal country (and maybe a material need too, given commercial relations). We take vacations in China, as we do in France or Argentina. We send our young people to study in Beijing, as we send them to Dublin or Florence. We work in Shanghai, as we work in London or Tokyo. On our campuses, we welcome hundreds of “Confucius Institutes,” whereby the CCP extends its “soft power.”

When the Chinese No. 1 comes to visit, we entwine Chinese and American flags on Pennsylvania Avenue. In the White House, Lang plays piano versions of “patriotic songs,” i.e., Communist propaganda songs. Everyone smiles and applauds. A state visit from Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao or Xi Jinping is no different from a visit by the Canadian prime minister, except grander.

Ti-Anna Wang and I agree, I think, that what we might ask of people is that they know something of the truth about China. Visit the Great Wall, if you feel the urge, but know something of the truth. That’s probably not too much to ask.

Ti-Anna and I also talk about Taiwan. Her mother is Taiwanese (if I have heard and remember correctly). She herself has studied in Taiwan. We have a love for that country, in part because it is true China, in many ways. Chinese culture is preserved and respected there. And the compatibility of Chinese culture with democracy is obvious. Is manifest.

From what I have seen and heard from her, Ti-Anna Wang is a brave, good, and treasurable girl. (I’m sorry if I’m not supposed to say “girl,” but I’ve never been much good about following certain language rules . . .)

‐Does the name “Standing Man” mean anything to you? Let me quote from a Freedom Forum bio:

Erdem Gunduz, also known as the “Standing Man,” is a performance artist who rose to prominence during the 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey. On June 17, after the Turkish state issued a ban on demonstrations in Istanbul, Gunduz stood silently on the sealed-off Taksim Square for more than six hours, staring at an image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the nation’s founder. As Gunduz’s peaceful protest circulated on Twitter, other individuals began to emulate him. Turkish police tried to provoke a response out of the motionless Gunduz . . .

. . . but he was unfazed by such provocations, and hundreds of protesters joined him. Gunduz became a powerful symbol of the movement.

And he is here speaking before us, on the stage of the Nye Theater. He looks like a dancer, which he is. He is also a choreographer. For some reason, his speech is accompanied by music — background music: “Clair de lune,” from Debussy’s Suite bergamasque. It is nice, I suppose, but a little hippie-dippie . . . (Nothing wrong with that.)

‐By the way, is “Clair de lune” the most famous piano piece in the world, after “Für Elise”?


‐A Mexican journalist is here: Marcela Turati Muñoz. She says what has to be said: Journalists in Mexico are being hunted down and killed, including in their homes, in front of their families. In many areas of Mexico, says Turati, “narco-politics is in charge.”

A haunting phrase.

‐Jon Callas is an interesting speaker, and person. Any relation to Maria? Or Charlie? I doubt it. Callas is “an American cryptographer, inventor, and entrepreneur” (bio here). He begins his talk something like this:

“When I was a kid, my parents said to me, ‘When you’re old, you’ll be the establishment.’ Well, I’m happy to be middle-aged and still fighting the establishment.”

Then he pumps his fist.

I’ve always hated this “fight the establishment” talk, for reasons I could get into. (My hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., was full of such talk, but it was phony, because there was no establishment to fight, in the Ozzie-and-Harriet sense. Everyone was left-wing. They were the establishment.) But Callas is a likable guy, and I find it impossible to roll my eyes.

‐Pussy Riot is here — that is, two members of that punk-rock group in Russia. They are Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. They look like punk rockers, with their boldly dyed hair. They are in their twenties, but one of them says, “I’m actually 50, because I spent two years in a Russian prison camp.”

I am of two minds about their anti-Putin performance in the Moscow cathedral. But I am not of two minds about this: Two years’ imprisonment for a 40-second performance? A 40-second protest?

Come on . . .

‐A friend of mine here says, “Jay, I like what you do on the Web, with your Oslo journal. It’s old-school, old-media.” What he means, I think, is that a Web journal is not Twitter, not Facebook, not Instagram, not Reddit, and not any of those other things I know practically nothing about.

I think of a Web journal as kind of new-fangled! But I guess it’s like chiseling on tablets or something.

I’ll continue my chiseling on Monday. Thanks for joining me, dear ones.


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