Monday, July 6, 2009


This picture was taken in 2005 when I visited Urumqi, the city in Xinjiang Province in China that is now having all the unrest. The Uighurs and the Han Chinese have been living together in that vast part of the world for many decades now. I remember being amazed at the incredible numbers of people who gathered together in this marketplace. In the middle of the picture are two old men who captured my attention, as they seem to be observing the scene in front of them, and I wondered what they were talking about.

We were not carefully watched while we were there, and it was easy to pick up the tension between the ethnic minority population, the Uighurs, and the more affluent Han Chinese population. When I think of China's government and how prone it is to suppress dissent, I fear for the future of these people. No matter what one's feeling might be about how to handle unrest, if you haven't been there, you cannot understand what these people might be feeling. One sympathetic local resident told me that the minority population feels like they are living under occupation.

I was standing in line to go through customs when traveling from Beijing to Urumqi and I watched the Chinese soldiers pulling all the people out of line who looked darker and more ethnic, and they didn't treat them very well. They shoved them around and treated them like second class citizens -- which I guess they are. So now things are beginning to erupt in violence.

I traveled there from Boulder, where I had witnessed street demonstrations against the war in Iraq, with sometimes thousands of people gathered with signs, shouting and blocking traffic. The belief I had in the safety of those demonstrators was complete. There is no such safety if you demonstrate in China. Or in Iran. Or...

It's late at night and I can't sleep. I got up to see if I could find some peace within my turbulent thoughts by sending out a missive to you, my friends in the blogosphere. What, if anything, can I accomplish that might ease the pain and suffering in the world? You, my new friends, are all over the world and come from so many different backgrounds. Do you also see these images and react to them? Surely it doesn't help for me to agonize over this.

For the first time, I wonder if the monks and nuns who retreat from the world and spend their lives in prayer, sending their thoughts upward toward the heavens, living a life removed from the newspapers and the TV images and the geopolitical upheavals might be on to something.


  1. Hi DJan I think you got an award please visit Caramel Macchiato. I'll be right back.

  2. DJan, it happens in some places around the world. We also have those endless street demonstrations, rallyings, and it doesn't stop. But the positive thing was nobody was being harmed by the authorities. They just implement maximum tolerance unless they are provoked by these demonstrators, no racial discrimination or whatsoever. I think that's the goodness of living in a democratic country. People here doesn't react with it anymore because it's a normal sight to us here, besides when they get tired of it, they will just leave peacefully.

    Go to sleep.


  3. Agonizing is a waste of energy; Prayer is fruitful. We are blessed in this country to be able to voice our opinions.

  4. I liked this photojournalistic/philosophical/cenobitic blog. The more I learn about history, the more I'm aware of the power struggles throughout the ages, all around the globe. And from my pampered place and time I also have to blame the victim just a little. Rise up, stand up! But then, that's easy for me to say. I enjoy a cultural history of freedom and freedom-lovers, revolutionaries and suffragists. When I put myself in the place of the Uighurs (or other oppressed people) I shudder and wonder what indeed I would do?

    It all starts at home, the home of one's soul. And ultimately, since we can't change human nature, prayer at least helps us see what our job is, and how we can be part of the butterfly effect.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I also wonder just what I would do if I were, for example, a Uighur. In China, there is no real justice. They can just take you out and shoot you and there's nothing you or your loved ones can do about it. That's actually what woke me up last night: the images of the beautiful people I met and the situation they face now.

    I know I would not rise up but find some other way. You can't do much for a cause when you're dead.

  6. This is so very sad,i think only prayer can help those that suffer around the world.
    IHAVE AN AWARD FOR YOU come see.....2 infact.

  7. First of all, congratulations DJan for all your awards and all your followers – you publish a very nice blog and people are noticing. About your post - I think that it is the reason that, as some people get old, they become solitary or hermit like. It is very hard to see all the suffering and know that it has happened in many places for many years, is happening and will continue in the future, and there is little one can do. But I do believe that China is opening up and hopefully now that events can be seen on TV instantly, it prevents them from acting too harshly.


I really appreciate your comments! If you see a word verification box here, just ignore it. I don't use the darn thing and Blogger is trying to get us to use it, I guess. Ignore it and your comment will still appear.