I wonder if Animal Farm is still on the High School syllabus in Australia. If not then it should be! I remember reading it in ... It must have been in Year 9 or 10. It was one of the books that I found quite easy to read and very entertaining at that age but certainly that and the other compulsory reading material Lord of the Flies have shaped the way I see the world. That might seem a little disturbing but the fact of the matter is that power corrupts regardless of how good the intentions are and to begin with.
Bringing this back to living in China for the last decade, I have learned to accept certain things. Freedom of speech is something that (at least in today's China) is contained within your circle of friends. You can say anything to people you trust but as the occasional blogger, anything that goes into the public domain must be controlled. The rule of thumb that I go by is that the internet is forever and you can't take back what you put out there. So only post up what you would want your children, your wife, your parents, your grandparents or your colleagues to hear.
Not everybody knows this though. They put things online that are embarrassing to themselves as well as to the people around them and this provides an endless stream of entertainment for me. Opening up an internet browser for me is like having my own personal interactive version of Candid Camera. I learned this lesson of self-censorship a long time ago that extends to my work and personal life. Never put in writing anything that you don't want on your permanent record.
What has this got to do with Animal Farm? When you mix a destructive sense of superiority with a an inability to self-censor, you have some of the current problems the US and other nations are facing with the ongoing Wikileaks situation. Blame is being directed at Julian Assange for leaking private cables from consulate staff about other nations and leaders. Great conversation for the pub, for a private meeting, for Jon Stewart but in an official cable to the US Department of State? Show some self control. I hate to tell you but you have been called out. Your girlfriend has just been through your mobile phone and found SMS messages to your friends telling them how much of a pig she is and no amount of finger pointing, begging and lying on the floor between the aisles of Walmart and stomping your feet is going to mask the fact that you told your friends that your girlfriend is a pig and was stupid enough to leave evidence. This stupidity is not born of a lack of intellect but a misplaced sense of superiority that the World's Superpower should be making these judgemental remarks about another nation in official diplomatic communications.
In the word's of George Orwell, "Four legs good. Two legs BETTER." is what you were thinking.
A final note before I get back to keeping my mouth shut is that irony is a wonderful and powerful thing. More powerful than all of us and I hope that more than just I see the irony in that the nation that has criticised internet censorship in the media is now systematically shutting down wikileaks. No doubt they will success but at the price of looking like a complete bunch of hypocrites the next time the Chinese decide to block another site like Facebook or Youtube. Good work guys! You've hobbled yourself against the war against free speech by not having the good sense to self-censor.