*This article was co-written with the help of the talented and intelligent, Thomas Brandt. If you’re ever interested in contributing ideas or material to New Plateaus, please express it.
Gosh, with a name like São Tomé and Príncipe you’ve got to assume some kind of western European influence, huh? But that doesn’t help a whole heck of a lot in trying to pinpoint this place considering western Europe colonized much of the world.
Okay, how’s this for a clue?:
Africa is one colorful continent. Which flag is your favorite? I like the red and black of Egypt. The blue/yellow star of Ethiopia is pretty sparkly. How about that wicked machete in Angola?
Unfortunately, we can’t even see the flag of the country featured in this article because it’s so darn small. The island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe are the pair of small spots snuggled into the corner, south of Africa’s top half and west of its bottom half. If you need more help, I got my best man on the case:
And if you turn your head to the right Africa sort of looks like a horse or dragon.
Too lazy to turn your head and use your imagination? No worries New Plateaus has tech skillz your ya, too:
Alright let’s get back to the topic at hand—dragons. Whoops, I mean São Tomé and Príncipe. Haha. (Sadly, though, these islands don’t even show up on the dragon map.) Guess we better go in for a close-up:
Yeah, they’re small, but not insignificant. São Tomé and Príncipe is a historically-telling and beautiful country, a unique African/European offering.
First, though, we gotta learn how to say the darn name. This is a challenge. The Portuguese say, “Suh-ooo too-meh ee Pddih-say-pay” And you need to say it with the “Suh” having an nasally “uh”, the “to” sounding like the English word “to”, the “dd” being like a rolled Spanish “r”, and yes, that’s right–no ‘n” sound. Try it again if you like:
“Suh-ooo too-meh ee Pddih-say-pay”
If you don’t like maybe you prefer the English version:
“sow-to-may and prin-si-pay”
That was easy.
Whatever you call them, (I like to call them St. P) they stand as some of the prettiest places on Earth:
Not the image that comes to mind when you think of Africa is it?
Well, it is to these guys:
Aha! So there are people here! At least one, anyway.
Actually, there are about 165,ooo lucky inhabitants of these pair of paradises. Let’s do the quick history of these folks:
The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were first settled by Portuguese explores in the late fifteenth century. This is late considering that much more remote islands in the world had been inhabited for millennia before that. But that’s the official history.
São Tomé was discovered on St. Thomas’ day (according to the Western calendar), which is December 21, and Príncipe (originally called Santo Antão) was discovered on St. Anthony’s day (according to the Western calendar), which is January 17. It was eventually decided that the Prince of Portugal (to whom the natives paid sugar duties) was more important than St. Anthony, so the name of the smaller island was changed in 1502.
The Portuguese started quite the sugar operation, and these islands became Africa’s leading sugar exporter. This labor-intensive work brought in a ton of African slaves. In the 1800’s, sugar was replaced with cocoa and coffee as the islands’ cash crops.
But though the crops changed, slavery still exploited the labor force. Revolts and cries for independence began to come about in the 1900’s, and by 1975 São Tomé and Príncipe gained its independence, and the leader of the revolutionary group which fought for its independence became its first president:
His name was Manuel Pinto da Costa. Black man, Portuguese name.
Say, ‘Hi, Manuel.’
Today, the country is led by President Fradique de Menezes. It hasn’t been the smoothest ride for this island nation as democratic reform in the 90’s, a brief army take-over in 2003, and an attempted recent coup have all wrinkled the nation’s sails.
Also wrinkling the sails has been economic struggle. Independence can be hard for a fledgling state, and the 80’s and 90’s weren’t great for this country’s bottom line. Coming from a position of state control, reforms privatized much of the economy including tourism, banking, and agriculture. The IMF and UN also have been assisting the country throughout this millennium. Recently, a deal was struck between São Tomé and Príncipe and Niger regarding oil reserves under the ocean, allowing Western energy companies to bid for the rights to drill and allowing tens of millions of dollars to come into São Tomé and Príncipe.
Geographically, these equator-hugging lands enjoy warm—but not hot—days with some inland/highland cooling variation. If you go there you can count on 80 degrees. São Tomé is just 30 x 20 miles in size and Príncipe about 20 x 4. They’re small. As in 5th smallest country in the world small. And of the 165K inhabitants, all but around 6K live on São Tomé. Of these, the lion’s share are African descendents from slaves or more-recent immigrants. Additionally, there are some Portuguese, Jewish, and Chinese inhabitants. (The Jewish population was sent here by Portugal in the 1500’s because they didn’t want them in their country, and the Chinese are from Macau: another former Portuguese colony now in present-day China.)
The language of the country is Portuguese.
Now hello to the Sao Tomeans:
And enjoy this slideshow if you have two minutes to enjoy the sights and soundtrack of São Tomé e Príncipe! You get to see and hear the unique blend of Euro/Afro and more wonderful views these islands offer:
This country does a nice job of showcasing the variety within sometimes-glossed-over Africa. It also does a nice job of revealing humanity’s past interactions and fruit of those past encounters. It’s a wee nugget of a country but even within the smallest of countries lies an enormous potential for sights, sounds, experiences, and lessons.
This is a piece about our connection to ancestors, their way of life in the Midwest, and these discoveries through one little old lady.
My Aunt OliveHendrickson was born in South Dakota and now lives in South Saint Paul. I’m 31; so guess what year she was born: 1970? Back to 1958?
How about way back in 1935?
How about before WWI.
June 9th, 1914. (I know. It was kind of a trick question. Aunt Olive is my great, great aunt. –I think that’s how it works out.)
I didn’t even know she existed until just three months ago. I got an out-of-the-blue email from a woman named Beverly Klein. I knew the name Klein, but not Beverly Klein. Saying she was my Grandpa’s cousin, she said she’d read a couple articles I wrote in her newspaper: the Bemidji Pioneer. She also added to that she sends the pieces down to her mother, Olive Hendrickson, who lives nearer to me in South Saint Paul.
Hmm, so this Olive is my grandpa’s cousin’s mother. Beverly then put it in another way, writing: she’s your great-grandfather’s 97-year-old sister. Wow. My great-grandpa Ferdig was alive when I was little, passing away when I was 6 or so. Then after my great-grandmother—his wife—died, I assumed that all that generation was gone and that my grandparents were now the eldest family alive. For me, it was as if this eldest generation came back from beyond to reclaim its place in my world, a time capsule digging in another twenty rings into the family tree. A couple weeks later, I arranged to visit my great-great aunt Olive.
It was a twenty minute drive from Minneapolis to South St. Paul. Her rockin’ digs are in a senior housing complex. Living alone, her apartment was the kind of place you’d expect: off-white walls, soft beige carpet, a TV a few models behind the times. Grandma Ollie, as her family call her, had the expected short curly hair, glasses, and loose-fitting button-up shirt and pants. She was short, too. When I stood next to her, I could have rested my arm atop hear head. Indeed, she’d later say she was but 4’11” even in her young-adult years.
Aunt Ollie and I
She was 97 but as mobile and communicative as someone 20 years younger.
So let’s go back to those young adult years. Actually, let’s go back to 1914. Olive Hendrickson told me her story…
She was born Olive Mae Ferdig in Trent, South Dakota on June 9th. Trent is a tiny, tiny town (pop. 232, 2010 census) near the border of Minnesota, a bit north of Sioux Falls, SD. Olive was the 8th of 11 children of William and Rose Ferdig, and with few modern conveniences in rural America in those days, you can pretty much picture “Little House on the Prairie”-type conditions. In fact, these lands weren’t geographically too far from the settings of those books.
Here’s Olive as a baby with her siblings:
The Ferdig children when Olive (baby #8) came along. (Top) Mabel, Bessie, Albert–oldest boy in the middle, Clarence (middle left), Earl (right), Earvin (2nd youngest), Raymond (youngest), Baby Olive (middle). Leo, Harold, and Ruby were yet to come.
I asked many questions about her father William because it was such a treat to have this woman before me who could tell me first-hand what my great, great grandfather was like. Though he looked large in photos, he was better described as stocky:
William and Rose Ferdig
William was an unsettled man. A jumpy German who moved about continuously. With a load of children you wouldn’t think that would be an easy thing to do, but despite protestations from family and obvious logistical issues of moving in those days, his will found a way to bounce from Iowa to South Dakota to northern Minnesota back to Iowa back to northern Minnesota to north-eastern Minnesota and so forth.
William grew up in Sioux City, Iowa—almost straight south of Trent, as a matter of fact, and not too far from Sioux Falls. Here’s a map for ya:
Look at the very bottom right: Sioux City, Iowa is where William and Rose started. They headed up Interstate 29 (just kidding) -perhaps a dirt road back then in the 19-aughts all the way to Trent which is north of Sioux Falls and south of Brookings.
Rose Scofield also grew up in Sioux City, and this wasn’t the only pairing of these two sibling sets. There were three. William and two of his sisters married Rose and two of her Scofield brothers.
I have more questions than answers about the life of William and Rose, but what I gathered from Olive is that soon after marriage, they were off. And that her father’s restlessness was vivid. One time they left their home in such a hurry that they, “left a nice organ in the house”, she said. Later on, Olive was just one week shy of graduating the 8th grade, but her dad had the family up and leave anyway. Later at her new school that fall, she had to repeat the 8th grade all over again.
“When he got ready to move, he wouldn’t listen to nobody,” Olive said.
According to other relatives, there’s a story from my great-grandfather (Olive’s older brother), Clarence Ferdig, that their father came home late one night and had all the children hurriedly gather into their horse-drawn wagon. He ordered them to cover their heads under a blanket. Clarence said his father got into a fight at a saloon, injured a man, and was now wanted. Tough to hold down a job that way. To make a buck William did some logging and farm work.
This was America in the 1920’s. Men in cities during that era started to dabble in modern luxury—automobiles, electricity, indoor plumbing, phonographs. They went to work and wore a suit, had a routine, perhaps a small business. On the weekend they’d play golf, mingle with others, and have a cocktail.
And then there was my great-great-grandfather, William. What a clash!
He did do a nice job of cleaning up for this shot, though:
This is the cover of the Ferdig family tree.
Asked about their personal habits, Aunt Ollie said that neither of her parents smoked. William did like to get a bottle “when he could afford it”. They hardly went to church–perhaps because there were no churches around at times–though missionaries would visit. She said the family got along and that they “never fought or nothing”.
Naturally, Olive had even fewer answers about her parents’ parents. Her one story about interacting with her grandparents was when her family made one of their many moves back down to Sioux City to care for her father’s bed-ridden diabetic mother. (That’d be Olive’s Grandma Ferdig, or my great-grandfather’s Grandma Ferdig, or my own great-great-great Grandma Ferdig—whew!) Olive remembers her brothers shucking corn for area farmers down there in Iowa to make a couple bucks.
Interestingly, and sadly, she never even saw as much as a picture of her Grandpa and Grandma Scofield.
After caring for their grandma, they skedaddled out of Iowa (the week before her 8th grade graduation) and moved back up to northern Minnesota to a place called Quiring Township about 35 miles north of Bemidji. This place is so remote that I grew up 15 miles from there, and I hadn’t even heard of it until Olive mentioned it.
Her school was a one-room schoolhouse; all the roads were dirt; and a trip to the bathroom meant going outside. They were always poor. “We didn’t have nothing”, Olive asserted, recalling a lack of a bicycle or ice-skates for the kids. They’d keep their milk cool by putting in a bucket and lowering it into a well and heat their modest home via a wood-burning furnace. They needed it, too. Because back then winters were winters, and you didn’t get to escape the conditions at will. On those frigid February nights, Aunt Ollie told me she remembers waking up in the morning and seeing ice on the dish next to her bed.
Reminiscing in the comforts of her present-day home, she said, “I often wonder how we got by.”
As a token of remembrance, though, Ollie recently purchased a model replica of the same kind of stove used by her mother:
Ollie would be free of that fleeing-family living when she met Roy Hendrickson. Roy’s little brother, Louie, who was Olive’s age, handed her a Valentine’s Day card (guess that tradition goes back a while) when they were teenagers in school. He played Cupid, though, not Casanova and signed it with his brother’s name. “He was full of heck, that Louie,” Olive said with an adoring laugh. Louie’s alive today–across the border in Wisconsin, racing Olive to 100.
Unfortunately, Roy isn’t. But little did Louie know, that 80+ years ago, he was helping set up a marriage that would last almost 70. Today, Olive’s husband, Roy, has been gone only 10 years. And him being 6 years Olive’s senior means he was 94 himself when he passed. She was 18; he was 24 when they married, and they shared 69 years in marriage.
Roy and Olive’s life began up in northern Minnesota and took a turn for the west out to North Dakota where Roy’s two brothers had farms. Later, in Grand Forks, Roy got a job at a meat-packing plant, and later yet–the 1950′s–they moved to South St Paul where he worked meat-packing until his company closed. After a day of digging out kidneys, he’d come home and have to soak his hands, Olive said.
South Saint Paul would be their home up until the end.
Here’s a bit of video of our interview:
We met for only an hour and a half, but spanned a lifetime. And her life isn’t done yet. In fact, in celebration of it, a mini-reunion of distant relatives all came together three weeks later for her 98th birthday on June 9th.
The community room at her living facility was the place for this event. Walking in, I saw the usual cake and gifts and snack trays along with tables with people sitting around.
The center of it all of course was the birthday princess:
Interesting was how spread out the relation was between all the attendees. I knew less than half of the people there—such a branching out can occur in four generations. Actually five now. Olive has two great, great grandchildren.
Also there were a few people that I knew were related, but I never bothered figuring out how. Beverly Klein’s (the women who originally wrote me the email) grandson, Tim, was there. Also growing up in Blackduck, I always thought of Tim as friend of my younger brother, not a relative. (It seems a sort of either/or thing: family or friends.) Yet, there were Tim and I, tied together by William and Rose Ferdig and Olive Hendrickson, his great grandma and my great, great aunt.
Another young fella, Kyle, and I took our branching to paper and diagrammed our tree of life:
My tree on the right; his on the left. Ollie and Clarence are our sibling great-grandparents. We each share 1/16th of William Ferdig. What does that make us?
What would you guess by looking?
What I do know is that in a paternalistic society, I tend to put more weight into the ancestors who share my name. But my mom’s mother’s mother’s father has the same amount of genetic similarity as do William and I. (Well, the fraction is the same, but maybe there’s significance to Y chromosome down through the generations? Any geneticist or biologist out there?)
How about some musicians?:
Ollie’s B-day got a soundtrack! I believe these middle-age strummers are Ollie’s grandkids.
After some cake and commingling, we stepped outside. It was a gorgeous afternoon and one of Ollie’s children brought the old car that her and Roy bought back in the 50′s.
This was no jalopy, either. She was cherry. Car show ready, it was, reflecting those sunbeams like it was the source of the glow. Ollie stepped into the driver’s seat like the clock was turned back 50 years and waved like a beauty pageant like the clock was turned back 80:
When seeing a shot like this, with all the family in the background, I always wonder if an elderly person like Olive ever thinks about all the beautiful life they are responsible for.
This shot puts some perspective on this as well:
Generations 1, 2 and 5.
And here’s a bit of footage for ya from the party: )
Reflecting on her life, Olive said back in her apartment, “I don’t know how we lived.” It’s incredible how different things are today than how they were when she was a girl. All the inventions (she said of my digital camera’s screen image, “If that ain’t something!”), all the luxuries and comforts.
She must think to herself, “Wait, did all this really happen right here in Minnesota in one lifetime?” The 20th century was an exciting era to experience. Now 12.5 years in, the 21st is treating her pretty good, too.
When I was a boy, the Cannuck currency was 2/3 that of America’s. I remembered the ratio by comparing it to the ratio of kilometers to miles. And though it was still cool to have Canadian coins (money was still money and good for candy!), I know the storekeepers in my hometown preferred the American version.
Today things are different. The Canadian dollar has been as strong as the U.S. dollar for a few years now. And now I come across this article on TheWeek.com that shows Canadians enjoying a higher level of wealth than their American counterparts for the first time in any recorded history. Wha?
Yes, the average household net worth in Canada is $363,202
In the U.S. it’s $319,970 :(
So, why is this?
Is it us or them?
A few theories are brought up on the site; I’ll offer them briefly:
1. Though more socialist with health care and financial regulation, Canada also spends way less, has lower debt, and made significant social cuts in the 90′s. They seem to walk a completely different fiscal line than the U.S. does.
2. The easiest answer for the new discrepancy is the housing bust. Many Americans lost their shirts while Canadians did not:
3. Canada’s banking system plays is safer.
4. Canada’s new found wealth via their rich natural mineral and oil resources.
The article played a nice role of talking up Canada (their unemployment is also 1 point better than America’s), and that’s great. But one assumes that this new reality is more of a case of America falling.
It’s those reasons, I think, that need to be brought up.
In Japan, technologists have created some kind of cutie-pie cartoonish virtual young woman who follows you around in real life. You won’t get any street cred for having this gal by your side, though, because you’re the only one who can see her. She’s not imaginary–just fake.
Before we go on, take a look. Start the video at about 1:00 since I’m assuming you can’t read Japanese. (And if you can read Japanese, tell me below about how my assumption made an ass out of me. –only do it in Japanese!)
Here’s the video:
I think it looks pretty awesome. However silly it might seem right now, it’s definitely a step in technology having someone or something right there in your own “augmented reality”–as they’re calling this. And not just to see her, but to be able to interact with her. It would take some pretty sophisticated computering to be able to have this virtual person respond to finer interactions, but we should be hopeful that one day this companion can play chess or even have a conversation.
Of course, like the Internet and television before it, this technology can also give a person with isolatory tendencies the chance to become more so. Technology has its inherent, dichotomous positives/negatives.
But let’s stay positive here:
How about this scenario off the top of my head: prisoners too dangerous to be left with other inmates could still be in solitary confinement without being alone. One creative commenter on YouTube said, “wow that´s scary… imagine horror videogames in the future.”
Steve Jobs was a self-starting, free-thinking entrepreneur. Yet whenever a new Apple product is released, we see that part of his legacy is a population of those who chase trends and hold a brand in sacred esteem.
A recent article from the news magazine, The Week, offered a piece called “Five Reasons Apple is a Cult”. Yeah, it’s a cheap and snazzy head-turning headline, but it’s not inaccurate to say that some of the activities found within the Mac world do resemble the signs which cults are formed upon.
I can remember being in 8th grade and Thomas Bechtold, a real smart 7th grader, talked up Apple computers in our science class over the ones all the students had at home. I also remember Matt Henriksen, a good buddy of mine, saying that same year that Apples are more “user friendly”–whatever that meant.
To me, I didn’t even know there was a difference between the Macs and “IBM compatibles”. (We never had a computer in our home until I was a Junior.) But since those days, the schism between the Apple vs the PC user has grown from computers to all sorts of electronics and to Apple vs. everyone else.
The exclusivity that limited Apple computers’ functionality also created a loyalty. And Apple became an island–though many of these fans would assume it plateau above everyone else. This loyalty has been seen in its customers for decades. With the creation of the Apple Stores, we now see this extend to employment. And here’s where The Week article gets it’s gold.
A few excerpts:
“Apple stores are inundated with job applications.”
“Upon learning that they’ve been hired, many newly minted employees burst into tears.”
“Apple has implemented a virtual cone of silence over its retail operations, barring employees from speaking to the press.”
“Employees rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how likely they are to recommend a job at Apple to friends and family members. Those who reply with a 9 are marked down as ‘promoters’ — those who put down 7 or below are considered “‘detractors.’”
These statements are interesting for two reasons: 1. that cult psychology–like doomsday psychology mentioned in a previous article on this blog–can sneak into the minds of most anyone, and 2. that Steve Jobs was so not like the people who laud his products!
And when the two come together in employment, the company–also at odds with Jobs’ character–promotes this exclusive-minded culture and policy. The conclusion I come to is that Jobs used this powerful “cultish force” (for lack of a better term) purely as part of a business strategy.
Genius! …and a bit twisted, not just to exploit groupthink in others, but to help propagate it.
Happy Fourth of July! Here are some thoughts about freedom.
My friend, Susan, attends a very liberal liberal-arts college. It offers no majors or class requirements. The intention is to remove all roadblocks from a student pursuing their interests. I thought it sounded great. In high school and college I hated having to take classes I didn’t want. Also, I thought about the whiz kids whose gifts were being held back by requirement detours and the other students I knew who wanted to be in shop class but were forced to read Dickens.
Susan contrasted her college experience to her older days at a parochial boarding high school. There she had curfew. But Susan is a bird of her own feather and would often stay up late studying. For this, she was punished.
I see the best in people when they are free to spread their wings, unfettered by policy holding them back for being “too young”, “too irresponsible”, or because “it’s too late to be up”. “Treat people like adults, and they’ll act like adults,” I liked to say. Broad-brushing policy groups people and removes a sense of identity and responsibility.
But there was a problem with my thinking. It wasn’t that I was wrong; I just always failed to see the other side.
Last summer, I took part in a nine-day stay at a tai chi school on a mountain in Hubei Province, China. There, myself and the ten or so other attendees awoke at 5:30 each morning and were on the road jogging by 6:00. We practiced together; we ate together. Days were structured, directing my time and actions, and the group provided support to strive higher and stay focused.
Restrictions and control may rub me the wrong way, yet my freedom at this school was restricted, indeed, and my life was enhanced from the experience. Counter-intuitively, the structure concentrated my activities, freeing up more time.
Sure, I could have done this activity on my own, relying on my own discipline to get up early and out the door. But I hadn’t. And following my training, I tried to keep the routine going. That first morning after, I rose out of bed and noticed immediately how much harder it was to do so when there wasn’t the expectation of a schedule given to you.
So my motto about always treating people like adults simply isn’t always true. (Or maybe it isn’t so juvenile to have rules.) Being over-concerned about the wrongs rules may lead to misses the boat for the majority, if not all adults who benefit, at least at times, from being given orders.
Susan spoke more about her liberal, liberal-arts college, saying that many seniors she knows have no idea what topic to write their graduate thesis on. This is unnerving as they’ve spent 4 or 5 years of their life, shelled out a ton of money ($43,000/yr tuition), and now can’t decide why they did so. (And this is after a competitive screening process accepts only those who would succeed in this kind of environment.)
I had to think that some of these students would have benefited from a few orders.
Cannot this same argument for directives and mandates be made in support of the Affordable Care Act?
Let’s continue the examination of freedom by realizing that it’s a malleable notion:
In China, I saw two teenage boys playing one of those claw crane games—you know, that fun arcade/vending machine that requires the user to direct a claw over their desired item, hit a button, and then hope that the claw grasps and retrieves it. Well, back in China, inside the machine weren’t cute fuzzy froggies and teddy bears.
Inside were packs of cigarettes.
In this strange example—and others—I saw that in the literal sense, China was freer than America in areas of smoking, drinking, seatbelt use, car seat use, and driving laws. Figuratively, China also offered a camaraderie of people out in the streets interacting and relaxing, kids walked home by themselves after school, and the police were more approachable. Things just felt more free. Meanwhile, though, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) shapes their people’s lives by preventing many activities—speech, religion—that we in the West believe are fundamental human rights.
So while residing in more of a bubble, within the sphere people relied on personal choice. America, conversely, is more consistent from top to bottom and is more rigid when it comes to drinking laws, curfews, and no toys with McDonald’s Happy Meals.
Depending on who you ask and how you define freedom will determine which place is freer. And what we in America think is universal—what makes a country better—isn’t always so. The Chinese I got to know preferred their system, and from looking around while over there, I could see why. Looking across the Pacific, I could see why. Americans get on China’s case for not having democracy but freedom of choice for one’s leadership doesn’t look too promising when people repeatedly elect bad leaders.
Even within the U.S. different people prefer different versions. Some will forfeit pieces of economic freedom for the freedom felt from not having to worry about paying for education or healthcare. Others don’t mind forfeiting some personal freedoms for the freedom felt when their country is more secure. We all have to get along.
I’m one of 300,000,000. I share the country with a lot of people. If what I prefer isn’t what most others want, than I have to appreciate the weight that that gives to their preference. If most want the Affordable Care Act to pass, then there’s value to recognizing that this may mean this law is better for the country because so.
Also, one can’t know the repercussions of this ruling. So I try and ignore the cheerers and the moaners about the recent Supreme Court ruling. Anyone happy or upset probably isn’t so because they care about people getting healthcare; they’re overjoyed or angry because they’re either relieved or scared their ideology was supported or threatened. It’s either Heaven or Hell to them, and we all know we’re on Earth.
The truth is, there’s a lot to consider when reviewing this case. I saw the way orders benefitted me, but there’s also a difference between voluntarily committing oneself to a period of structure and having it forced upon you.
The strongest point I do believe in is what the law indicates.
Let’s say this law does benefit our country. What does that say about America that we have to force people into an activity they ought to make on their own anyway? This is nothing to cheer.
Also, I believe, in a death-by-papercuts kinds of way, that each freedom lost is another slit into our humanity—so small that you may not detect the cost. But paper cuts add up. More people get healthcare now—because it’s a law. Less people smoke now—because we tax the heck out it. More people wear seatbelts—because we fine them if they don’t. Get the picture?
By making an action a law, the state is replacing the right reason to do it. The law has the capability of shunting an activity of self-care into the realm of “because the state says so”.
And while I appreciate China’s own version of freedom—that it showed me how different can also be good—I also saw while living there a culture lacking the independence and initiative in technological and expressive endeavors that America has historically exhibited.