In a classic example of how we internalize outside events through our own experiences, however incomplete, and how our opinions about “them” say more about us than anything else, consider this.
China executed Briton Akmal Shaikh December 29. It’s a relatively straightforward case, the guilt of the executed was never in dispute. Various human rights organizations, along with the British government protested, citing his mental state, and asked for clemency.
And netizens reacted.
The British audience, as seen in the Daily Mail’s comment thread that counted 1,650 in total, with little exception, fiercely supported the Chinese decision. It says quite a bit about how the British feel about their government and the current state of affairs.
– People are genuinely fed up with Britain’s lax laws, and lament a system that preserves due process and individual liberty at the expense of protecting the well-beings of the greater society.
– Many have firsthand experienced of a society traumatized by poverty, fearful of its youth, and unable to contain or control the combustion when drugs are added to the mix. There’s little sympathy or public support for rehabilitation of drug dealers – a system plagued by re-offenders perhaps, and the term that captures the overwhelming majority of sentiment is “vehement hatred”.
– There’s a splash of racism here and there.
– Gordon Brown is not well-liked, to say the least.
Americans, on the other hand, faced with high incarceration rate and nagging security concerns both inside and outside of the homeland, guilt-ridden with almost-certain wrongful convictions and executions that have taken place throughout the years, and disillusioned by the ineffectiveness of its harsh penal system, are much more critical of the Chinese.
And true to matters close to the American heart, the discussion swerves from criticizing Chinese protectionist policies, its abysmal human rights records, to the greater “war on terrorism”. More so, Americans seem much more concerned with the idea of due process, the potential error of executing an innocent man, and seem to give much more credence to Shaikh’s defense of mental incapacitation – one that almost all British readers view with cynicism.