By Raymond Zhou
People all across the country are praying that it will not rain on August 8 - the day of China's biggest party.
If it rains, it will be a huge wet blanket, as many special effects designed for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics will have to be curtailed.
If there were a god of thunder and rain who could arrange such things as rainy days and sunny days, what would he do? Would he want to spoil the party? Well, I would say, if he is a benign god, he would happily bestow a rain-free evening for the occasion. After all, what could he get out of disappointing a 1.3 billion population with high hopes? The only thing he would get is schadenfreude.
Rational people do not engage in activities that harm others if it does not benefit themselves. Of course, the weather is not controlled by human beings, so one cannot apply rationality to the elements. But with fellow human beings, hopefully my argument holds water.
The Olympics is a big platform where everyone wants to showcase their best. That includes people who are not happy with China, its policies, actions and pursuits. By getting China's attention or the attention of the whole world at this particular juncture, they believe they can make their statements and solve their problems.
I will not delve into their issues and grievances. Whether they are legitimate or not, the Olympics is simply not the place for them. It is not just the principle that sports should be separate from politics; it is cultural finesse that one should not ruin another's festivity.
In the West, a big crowd is fertile land for attention grabbing. You can crash parties and make mischief. In China, when the host is throwing a big party, others go along. Etiquette demands that guests refrain from outrageous behavior that may upset the host. For example, creditors are not supposed to collect their debts during the Lunar New Year celebration. What if the debts are due during that period? Well, you wait till later.
The Beijing Olympics is like a wedding. Neighbors do not show up to conduct business, but to celebrate. What do you do at your neighbor's or friend's wedding? Even if the host is your enemy, you will probably hide your hostility and be a good sport. That is what people with good manners do. It does not mean people do not have differences, but that they know this is not the occasion to touch upon these differences.
What if you have to give voice to these differences? Well, there are the three parks designated for holding protests and you can apply according to the rules. But I advise against it. If you want solutions to legitimate problems, you do not offend the other party first by spoiling his party. That will only make a mutually acceptable solution less likely. Besides, what is so urgent you cannot wait for a few weeks?
Some believe that China is "weak" because the whole world is watching and therefore it is the best time to, not just talk, but shout and yell. Unless making a dramatic gesture is your only goal, this would be a terrible tactic usually taken by those with little knowledge of cultural nuances. What we Chinese call "face" the West calls "respect", and if there is one such occasion this is the one that calls for respect. It is not just the government or a few organizations that you will rub the wrong way, but you will hurt the feelings of all Chinese people. Okay, that sounds like a clich, let me rephrase it: Don't rain on our parade. Thank you, Barbra Streisand, for the inspiration.
(China Daily 08/02/2008 page4)