From Russians to the Chinese

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Do not be fooled by Xi Jinping like we have been by Vladimir Putin.
To hold free elections is a great advancement in human beings’ political history.
Power corrupts and no one is spared. No one, no matter how saintly, capable or honest they may appear. No one.
We, Russians, failed in letting Putin remain in power and now are facing the consequences;
the massacre of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the guilt we must live with.
Though the number of dead is today a mere fraction of what happened to Jews in WWII, we Russians are starting to feel what the Germans must have felt when they finally recognized that they had stood silent and become Hitler’s accomplices.
Deep in our hearts and minds, we no longer cheer when a missile hits a building where families live, killing a mother, a child, a father, ending their possibilities as human beings.
Now we grieve and ask ourselves, what madness have we allowed to be unleashed in our name, in the name of Russians, a people who have contributed to this world and gone through much suffering at the hands of despots.
Why, we ask ourselves, have we allowed it?
Whatever invention Putin came up with it’s all a lie to keep himself and those he favors in power.
We, Russians, are guilty of not speaking up, of not objecting, of not facing our fears.
We are guilty as individuals and collectively.
And we apologize to the world.
We ask your forgiveness and vow to find a way to depose the brutal tyrant who governs us.
We do not want to live behind the ‘Curtain of Putin’, the isolation he thinks is best for us.
No. We want to join the world and be part of every convulsion it suffers, be part of every struggle it faces, every social ill it has to wrestle with, for that is what will help us evolve and develop our civic conscience.
Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, you must do the same. Do not accept to live behind the ‘Curtain of Xi Jinping’ and his interpretation of the world.
Do not be fooled. Anyone who’s willing to take away your freedom of speech is capable of the worst crimes against humanity.
Anyone who is willing to intimidate you will try to walk over you if you let them.
When the time comes, Xi Jinping will order the invasion of Taiwan, do not doubt that for one moment. It is all about his glory.
And you, with your silence, will be his accomplices. Worse, he will ask you to squeeze the trigger, to push the button to drop the bomb and you will do it.
And if the Taiwanese don’t surrender quickly when he orders the invasion, in your name, Xi will want total destruction. ‘It’s a small island,’ he will say, ‘we’ll repopulate it. There’s plenty of us.’
Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, if you make an effort to develop your own political ideas, you will not be cheering the bombing of the Taiwanese but will be protesting such cruelty.
We, Russians, failed to develop our own political ideas and instead deferred to Putin.
Look where he has taken us. And there are more dead to come. More destruction. Schools, hospitals, theatres, residences, energy plants. Putin will let nothing stand in his way.
We, human beings, for the judicious exercise of power, must consent to limits. If we don’t then we abuse our powers.
Look at what’s happening in Iran. In the name of god, the killing and maiming of protesters goes on and on. In the name of god, freedom of speech was suppressed and that’s how it all began.
Apparently, it is only the clerics in power who hear the voice of god. Not the people who are driven to risk their lives in defense of their beliefs.
Democracies are not perfect. They are tainted by all manner of folly and excess for to be human is to be flawed.
We in Russia had a brief period under Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1990’s when we had a taste of freedom. But we didn’t appreciate it and let it slip away. Our mistakes overwhelmed us while no thinker stood up to cry out, ‘let us be patient, we have a history of living in oppression and kneeling before tyrants and czars and it has scarred our souls and minds. What we are going through is new to us, let us give it a chance.’
Had we learned to live with our mistakes and learned to correct them, there would have been no invasion of Ukraine. No killing of innocent people, men, women and children whom Putin, to further degrade them, now calls Nazis.
Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, autocracies breed brutality which – to paraphrase the words of a man whose name I don’t recall – sooner or later comes for you, your partner, your son, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor.

A reader asked me the other day, ‘why do you speak in the name of Russians? You don’t know them’. So here’s my answer, ‘because I assume the best in them’.