In the Hutong
Straining air through my teeth
There is much being written tonight about the thinking of Ms. Sharon Stone and the feelings she expressed about the earthquake in Sichuan from the red carpet in Cannes. Before we get carried away, some perspective:
No matter how intelligent or famous someone is, they cannot possibly speak intelligently about an unlimited set of subjects. We all have opinions on subjects about which we know little, and for better or worse we venture our incompletely-informed points of view on a far wider range of subjects than we should.
Usually, there is nothing wrong with that – for most of us, it gives us a chance to venture our opinions, have them shot down for very good reasons, and walk away having learned more about a subject. Not to mention had a good conversation (face-to-face, in a forum, or in a blog) in the process.
For someone in the public eye, that kind of casual “hypothesis testing” tends to be a bit more problematic. It gets very easy to step in doo-doo, so usually they avoid it.
Much to the chagrin of the many people whose livelihoods depend on her continued popularity, Ms. Stone has stepped (some would say “leapt”) into some very deep doo-doo.
I would venture to say that any religious leader – including the one she apparently deeply admires – or any true humanitarian would take her aside and inform her that whatever her opinions might be on Asian politics, her remarks were a blight not only on herself, her industry, and her cause, but on humanity. I daresay that in the interest of her own karma, her soul, or her own peace of mind they would counsel her to apologize, and to reach out with humility and take all reasonable steps to help ease some of the suffering of those she dismissed so flippantly.
But that’s not the larger issue.
What is truly important for us to remember is that there are – and will continue to be – people in the public eye who will speak out on issues related to China despite knowing very little or nothing of what they speak. Until they, or the world’s public at large, know better, this will continue.
There are, therefore, two correct responses to this situation:
1. Pointedly ignore Ms. Stone and others like her; or
2. Set out to clarify the record.
I would never defend Ms. Stone and what she said. Personally, I find every word of her diatribe, the setting, and the political convictions that underlie it, utterly detestable.
But by attacking her personally we miss an opportunity to debate the point.
And the debate is what is important. Not the source of the opinion that begets it.