Liu Xiaobo Has Changed the World

I am almost halfway done with “No Enemies, No Hatred,” which is a compilation of selected essays and poems by Chinese writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo. Brief background on the writer: he has been an active voice in the fight to open China to more freedom and less corruption. On Christmas Day 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for subverting state authority due to the very writings which would win him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Because this book is a collection of his writings, it is hard for me to write my thoughts on specific subjects. Rather, what I have gotten most out of this book are the common themes which seem to run throughout his writings over the course of many years. For instance, he feels guilty for being heralded as a thought leader against the state in China when there are so many others who have given so much more for the same fight. The Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, where so many “normal” people received much harsher sentences and even death than the “elite” dissidents, seems to be a turning point in his life.

Liu has great faith in the power of ideas. Freedom of speech is the ultimate method to spread ideas.¬†When protest begins by the people, the government cracks down on it. If what they protest isn’t personally against them (such as when many protested once a young girl’s murder and rape was labeled as a suicide), then they cannot cause “disturbances.” However, even when it is an issue which personally impacts them (such as land ownership), the same is said by the state.

An empty chair for Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Price Ceremony in Oslo. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

The only action he sees from the state is done to protect their own interests. When they look to keep power, suppress civil rights, control the media, and facilitate other things for the state, they work rather effectively. However, to serve the people, stop child slavery and trafficking, and promote other forms of justice to the people, he finds they are “super-incompetent.” The state only makes superficial changes – such as adding “human rights” into their constitution – to feign an appearance of progressiveness. Nothing, he says, is being done to help the systemic problems in the state.

In his early writing, he looked toward the Western world to fix the problems he saw in China. However, when visiting the US, he began to see himself and this viewpoint differently. Two points: One, he no longer thought of himself as a revolutionary thinker; rather, he came to the conclusion that the most revolutionary thinkers in China could not compare to the thought leaders elsewhere in the world. Those in China only offered ideas to change China, not to change the world. Two, he no longer saw the West as a cure for all ailments in the world. Instead, the West offered certain solutions to fix China, but there is still more thinking which must be done to change the world.

While Liu may not see himself as that beacon to change the world, I find nothing short of inspiration in his writings. Though his ideas may not be full of new concepts to the West, it is because of his courage to challenge an autocratic regime that he should be celebrated around the world. People must have the heart and the commitment to do what is right if we want to see humanity progress.

With a little more than half of the book left, I know I will find more inspiration which will help me as I progress on my own. I believe in fighting for those who have no power to fight for themselves. I believe in empowering others to realize they can fight, too, for their own humanity. And I believe in the abilities of individuals to alter the course of history. If you inspire even one person to better the world – whether their personal world or the whole cosmos – then you have altered the course of history for the better. Liu has done this for myself and many others. Let us all work to do the same.

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