Sunday, September 21, 2014


1:20 AM and pounding it out. My currency is words; I draw the world with language. Breathe in, breathe out. Emotional volleys arcing through the air, targeting me in their searing blaze—they fade into dim sparks. They are held at bay because I refuse to obey the twisted logic of enforced guilt. I know who I am and I do my job. I do it well. This moment of victory will remain aloft; it soars into the light of the sun. The clouds are my friends and they shield me from harm. The wind carries my weight and cleanses my skin. We fly away from you and your foul slings and arrows. They fall back onto yourself. I will not torture myself with your barbs. I will not allow myself to harm myself by allowing your toxic worry to infect me. No credence. I fling you away, I brush you away, your words are dust and crumble and dissipate.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Concluding IWHHR

Dear IWHHR Community,

Congratulations! We are now at the end of our course. This week, Professor Murray concludes with a final tea time, commenting on Week 8: Aging and giving reminders about how you can receive a Statement of Accomplishment from Stanford University for completing this course. We encourage you to continue building our community at after the end of this online class.

Statement of Accomplishment

As Anne announced in Tea Time, while the class "closed" on September 4, we have given you until 11:59 PM PST on September 10 to turn in all written work for the class. Click on "Requirements to Receive a Statement of Accomplishment" on our Course Info page. That downloadable PDF file will list the different items needed to obtain a Statement of Accomplishment from Stanford University.

In our class materials, there is a section labeled "Submit Writing Assignments (Statement of Accomplishment)." That is where you should submit all your written work for the SoA (in addition to other places you may have shared it. Check your completion of the different SoA elements by clicking on "Progress" at the top of the page.

Post-Course Survey

Please be sure to take our post-course survey. We want to hear your voice and find out what went well, and how can we improve this course. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Bonus Talkabouts

We had wonderful attendance at the Talkabout session last week. We may offer future Talkabout sessions so you can connect with other participants in the IWHHR community even after the course concludes.

It has been a distinct pleasure interacting with you through this online experience, and we hope you will take what you learned about international women's health and human rights, and apply these ideas in your own community. Please also be sure to stay in touch with us at

Anne Firth Murray, Kevin Hsu, and the IWHHR Team

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

So that's Paternalism

It dawned on me today: sometimes, the Chinese government (or its Hong Kong cronies) acts like a really terrible Asian parent. The father insists that he knows best, and the kids need sit down, be silent, and obey. Suddenly, the phrase "Asian paternalism" is starting to make sense!!!

As an Asian American son of immigrants—as part of that generation living at the intersection between the old world and new, between tradition and modernity—the deep need for cultural negotiation really hits home.

Maybe that's why the CCP's rhetoric and actions (and also the present HK government, and sometimes the KMT in its less democratic moments) are particularly offensive. It's also why the Asian American community needs to care about these issues. This isn't happening to some far-off country to which you have no ties; it affects your homeland, and it affects the discourse for future generations of 華人, people of Chinese descent: both 華僑 and 華裔.

How you speak to your children; how they view their heritage, their culture, their linguistic upbringing; how they relate to their family history—all of that will be impacted by the polity, and the narrative, and the image of one's ancestral homeland.

P.S. Mayoral elections in Shenyang would be extremely entertaining. (Real elections, not rubber-stamping.) I just can't get it out of my head that this kind of contest will happen in the future, with active campaigning, lively speeches, and open polls. It's going to be a carnival!

Pondering Democracy in Hong Kong

From The Diplomat today comes an article on "The Battle for the Soul of Hong Kong." Though dramatic, it's not too hyperbolic, because it truly is a question of self-determination or allowing outside powers to dictate the fate of one's own society. As I was reading the piece and its characterization of the different actors, questions about the motivation(s) of the Hong Kong government and rationales for/against democracy piqued my interest.

The government can choose a moderate path with an eye on a sustainable outcome by respecting public opinion for greater rights and participation; or it can ram through its own decision, at the behest of Beijing, and continue a policy of slowly suffocating Hong Kong and its people's aspirations. It's just too bad the government won't pay attention to what the citizens want, and will likely insist on its own approach.

Doesn't it kind of sound like terrible Asian parenting? Where the father insists that he knows what's best, and the kids need to be quiet and obey? Where the mother won't even listen when the kids try to explain why the decision being forced on them isn't necessarily the right one? Where the parents don't even bother explaining or give patronizing answers that are more like self-fulfilling prophecies?
And now I'm getting angry ... but more on this visceral reaction later.

A leader of Hong Kong who stands for the people would be regarded as a popular hero. S/he would go down in the history books as the woman or man who stood up to Beijing.
We'll see if anybody has the guts. It's like Yanukovych in Ukraine: he had the opportunity to be the visionary leader who transcended his Moscow-oriented instincts and brought Ukraine fully into Europe, according to the popular will. Instead, he kow-towed to Putin, resulting in massive unrest and democratic protest (unfortunately followed by civil conflict goaded by Russia).

By the way, if you say, "Hong Kong people aren't _____ enough to elect their own leaders" you should probably check with the HK students at your nearest British or American university and see if they're _____ enough. Otherwise, you are in effect denying your peers the very rights you have as an American. Just try telling them that to their face.

In this day and age, there's a growing consensus that democracy and universal suffrage are the only legitimate means for governments to be empowered. (I'm pretty sure in the aftermath of any multilateral intervention, the UN would have to set a timetable for democratic elections. International missions would simply not be able to authorize dictatorship. The resistance from governments across the world would be fierce on purely normative grounds; even dictatorships have to pay lip service to democracy.)

Even if we're being pragmatic about the chances of success for democracy and only wish to selectively apply it in societies "ready" for it to take root, Hong Kong is not even a marginal case. It's highly-developed, well-educated, has extensive experience with rule of law and civil liberties, features amazing infrastructure and municipal services; enjoys a strong court system and an active counter-corruption agency; and is internationally oriented. The warning klaxon goes off: if not here, then where? If not at this level of development, then when? It should have a functional government and, one would suspect, a relatively orderly democracy.

In these situations, there wouldn't be chaos or violence unless the authorities force things to the extreme—when they undercut the moderates by refusing to listen or negotiate, when radicalization is the only outlet left. Why would you go down that road when you could have a smart, safe landing through measured, effective liberalization with hope at the end of the road? That is, unless you think suppression is a long-term solution, and democratic aspirations can be regularly tamped down, bought out and co-opted, or eliminated. In that rather cynical future, the government doesn't just believe it can manage the demand for political participation, but has convinced (deluded?) itself into thinking it can fundamentally alter norms and construct a mindset where public voice no longer manifests, and where democratic values no longer matter.

At the local level, at least, participation matters. It increases patience and buy-in. How much more important for that to happen at the national level, where broad social consensus is even more important to weave identity and hold a polity together.