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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Opinion: "China: Now stoned by Sharon"

June 4, 2008

Tom Plate, Los Angeles
The Jakarta Post, Indonesia
June 3, 2008

So now it's Sharon Stone. Before her, it was Steven Spielberg.
And before him and her -- and it sometimes seems now and forever --
there was Richard Gere.

These are America's High Pontificators -- the Hollywood Squares of
the world situation. They like to offer their special wisdom on what
China is doing wrong, especially in Tibet. They like it so very much
when people all over the globe actually take them seriously and
listen to them. And they especially like it when China takes them
seriously by getting furious with them.

As for us ordinary Americans -- well, whatever would we do without
the Hollywood Squares?

Ms. Stone -- looking rather fetching, we must admit, in her skintight
leopard dress at the Cannes Films Festival -- offered the Cannes
crowd this in-depth analysis of the tension in Tibet: "I'm not happy
about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't
think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And then the (Sichuan)
earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that
karma? When you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"

Wow, what a great thought! Stone has this new theory that earthquakes
are caused by bad government policies. Now -- please, and you know
who you are! -- stop laughing so hard. It is just theoretically
conceivable that she is right. If she is, let us consider for a
moment the enormously consequential implications.

For example, I live in Southern California, also known as Big
Earthquake Country. We all sit around our pools, barbeques and
Jacuzzis waiting for the Big One. We assume that some day it will
come. While we're waiting, we smoke or drink different things to ease
the pain of the future shocks.

But maybe -- just maybe -- if we had better government policies, we'd
have fewer quakes here? Maybe if we pulled out of Iraq and finally
improved our public schools and were whatever to immigrants ....

If this is the case, then why are the Hollywood Squares wasting their
advice on China and its earthquakes. What about California and our earthquakes?

If Sharon -- and for that matter Steven and Richard -- would just for
once turn the focus and policy-brilliance on what America (and
specifically California) is doing wrong karma-wise, then perhaps we
can avoid having to endure Mother Nature at her meanest old witch worst.

I mean, why go through what the poor Chinese have had to endure these
past few weeks?

In addition to warmly welcoming Stone's advice about
counter-productive karmic government policies here (or warmly
welcoming her input on anything else she wishes to brief me on), I'd
like to widen that invitation to all the Hollywood Squares who have
advice for foreign governments.

However, my advice is this: Maybe we Americans ought to work harder
to get our own backyard in really good shape before we start nagging
faraway neighborhoods about their shortcomings.

Look at Japan. It is most interesting that the Japanese, who actually
live in China's neighborhood, managed to resist the temptation to
hurl stones at China as Sharon did. Perhaps that's because many
Japanese, unlike many Americans, have really good memories. They
vividly recall their own Kobe quake of 1995. They recall that they
reacted very poorly then -- about as ineptly as the U.S. government
reacted to the Katrina hurricane of 2005 that almost washed away the
theretofore bustling metropolis of New Orleans.

Instead, the Japanese sought to light some candles in China rather
than curse the darkness that could be arguably attributable to
misguided China's policies. Most laudably, Tokyo responded instantly
to Beijing's surprising request for Japan's Air Self Defense Forces
to fly relief teams and equipment into the province of Sichuan. This
was the first time since 1945 that Japanese military aircraft landed
on Chinese soil.

This is not to suggest that Hollywood's High Pontificators are cheap
to dish out the charity. The whole world's heart has been touched by
the tragedy. But as an editorial on the Taiwan Journal, the official
weekly newspaper out of Taipei, put it: "Political disagreements and
contentions between nations were relegated to the backburner as human
survival prevailed over all other contending issues." Like
China-rival Japan, even Taiwan (officially dubbed a runaway province
by Beijing) lost no time in coming to China's aid.

The fact of the matter is that the Hollywood Squares are just too
quick to dish out unwanted advice and judgments, and sometimes at the
worst possible time. Sharon of all people should recall the New
Testament warning (John 8:7): "Let him who is without sin cast the
first stone..."

UCLA Prof. Tom Plate lives in Beverly Hills, not far away enough from
the huge San Andreas Fault.
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