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March 03, 2007



Last time I changed my mind:

Trying to tolerate some dongbei ren who proclaim that they hate all Japanese people. Not just the govt, but men women and children of all ages.

Tough to put yourself inside someone's head, and try to understand their thinking sometimes. I was far more comfortable when I just called such people @ssh*les...

It requires less work.

John Biesnecker

I had my mind changed on the death penalty just before my 20th birthday. I had always been pro, thinking "what do we need to keep these sorts of people around for," but four days before my 20th birthday my maternal grandfather was murdered by a guy about six months younger than me, a drug and alcohol-fuelled carjacking gone wrong, apparently. It was a death penalty-eligible case and everyone knew it, including the defense attorney who pushed for a plea bargin life in prison without possibility of parole. My mom and her brother accepted it, not because they had much compassion for the killer -- though both having kids about the same age I think they must have felt something -- but because they had just lost a family member and didn't want the killer's family to go through the same thing.

The idea that the death penalty is simply state-sanctioned revenge that does no real good was something that you would have never convinced me of before this, but now you'll never convince me otherwise.

Island Girl

I changed my mind this morning on whether the US should extend federal laws on immigration and labor to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Details here http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2007/3/2/364/32151/16#c16. The issue has troubled me and this morning I committed to what I didn't want to acknowledge as necessary.


Pandapassport, a very interesting and difficult mind-change there. I remember as a youth my father telling me, "You'll never truly understand the mentality of hate that we had for the Japanese [during the War]. You can't know what it feels like to be not just willing, but eager, to strap yourself up in explosives, roll under a Japanese tank, and pull the pin on a grenade." (Dad, by the way, is very much free of the burden of hate now and owned a string of Japanese cars beginning with a '72 Datsun 240Z that my older bro still has). Yeah, it's hard for me to understand hate, and it does take a lot of work to get inside someone else's head. While it's still impossible for me to work myself up into a real lather over atrocities visited on my father's & grandfather's generations by their Japanese peers, I do get it, albeit at one level of removal. When it's 20-somethings and the issues are strictly things like history textbooks, comfort women verdicts, or visits to the Yasakune Shrine, I get it too. But when it's the kind of indiscriminate hatred, that's another story.

John, your story's really tragic and I can see how it would change one's mind. However long ago it may have been, I'm sure you still live with it and who can blame you for how you feel? I've certainly gone back and forth on the death penalty myself and I can't say that I wouldn't be firmly entrenched in the pro- camp were a relative of mine to suffer that kind of fate. What I was looking for, though, is instances of people changing their mind on "big issues" because of the case someone else makes--cases where you're persuaded to change your mind. If someone switches (American) political parties becaues she gets a raise that puts her in a higher income tax bracket, that doesn't count--not to draw a parallel to your case, John.

Thanks both for the comments!


Thanks Island Girl too - I haven't followed that issue, and appreciate the Daily Kos link. Will check it out.


Really changed my mind?

Guess it would have to be driving. I used to see it as something "fun" and positive, but now I believe it plays a terrible role in global pollution. I seriously believe people should use their cars much less and see them as luxuries to be "rationed" and not treated as a necessity.

By the way, I think the success of Richard's blog can be seen in the discussions. He's also a bit of a complainer. One day he's annoyed about too many arguments - the next it's that there aren't any!

Seriously there are a few people out there to cause trouble, but generally it's a fun place to go.


Apropos of your post on foreign media taking hong bao (http://tinyurl.com/33tsqf), and my doofus response, I have found over the last year or so that I have slowly changed my opinion about hongbao for Chinese media at press events. For my first couple of years here I completely accepted it, and I've defended it in Imagethief on a couple of occasions.

But the more I've seen it, been exposed to it, been complicit in it, and, importantly, reflected on some of the arguments my readers and friends have waged against it, the less tolerant I have become. I've come to see as one of those impediments the Chinese media needs to get over if it is ever going to become really mature. Of course, there are a few other impediments as well, but that doesn't really excuse firms like mine being part of the problem.

Now: What to do about it? All suggestions accepted.

I have one other thing as well, but I'll have to save that one for next time we're sharing a beer.

PS: Sorry I couldn't be in town for Richard's recent dinner. It would have been fun to see you guys. He was kind enough to invite Mrs. Imagethief in my absence, but I think she felt a little uncomfortable going along without me.

China Law Blog

Like reader John Biesnecker, the death penalty. I used to be for it but my increasing distrust of government, its unfair application, and even its costs, caused me to slowly turn against it, until about a year or so ago, when I finally decided it just isn't worth it and I am now firmly opposed.


Raj, Kaiser quoted me on a flippant remark made at dinner - it's true, I do think threads too often break down insto shouting matches and I wish they could remain serious and on-topic. On the other hand, the often heated threads do get people thinking and enough good comes out of the discusions, usually, to make them worthwhile. So yeah, while I lament the vitriol, I'm also glad to provide a place where both sides can thrash things out and shed light on how each side is thinking.

Changing one's mind...I've done it a lot in recent years. Iraq. Open Source. Immigration. Most of the items Kaiser mentions at the end of his post. The CCP. I haven't necessarily changed my mind on all these items, but my perspective has become more nuanced and includes a bigger picture. I think it's always a healthy exersise to challenge one's own perceptions and, if neceaasry, revise one's conclusions, painful as that may be. I see former warbloggers like John Cole or Andrew Sullivan doing this, and I'm struck by how the exersise makes them more clearheaded about everything, as though scales fall from their eyes. That's happened with me and the CCP. There's a lot there I hate, but I can't write about them with any meaning or insight if I don't acknowledge their achievements and seek to understand how they pulled off their sucesses, as opposed to wallowing in ideology and slogans ("the CCP is evil").


On beggars. In China, I used to give them money sometimes, if I had one or two kuai ready at hand. In Holland (my home country) I never gave them anything, as there is really no need to beg, if you don't have a job the government will give you money, if you're on drugs the government helps you quit.

But in the last years, the Dutch government has put less and less money into these things, and nowadays many people who beg really have nowhere else to go, they can't do anything about it. They might have multiple problems (addicted to drugs+psychological problems, for example), or they might be in Holland illegaly and have no means of going anywhere else. So I've been starting to think that maybe I should give them money.

In China, no-one takes care of people who are out of luck and have no family. But then I met Shibo. She had come to Beijing from Harbin, and almost ended up on the street at some point, but she found work just before she completely ran out of money. She had worked many jobs, sometimes several at the same time, and during the time she worked she also managed to put herself through high school (gaozhong), and was studying university level when I met her. If she can make a living by working, so can other people, there's no need to beg if you still have both arms and legs.


Good question. I can't say I've changed my mind on the death penalty, the Iraq War or open source (con, con, pro respectively), but I could say my feelings have changed on the issue of national self-determination after living in Xinjiang. What that change is and where I've ended up I'm not so sure, but more and more I find trying to define a nation being like one of Zeno's paradoxes or a zen koan.

In China, there's a laundry list of things to which many (not all) of us become more tolerant and accustomed. Hovering waitresses, flexible traffic rules, spitting out chicken bones, pick your poison. I guess in some ways those count as a change of mind.


Nah, Dave, those don't count as a mind change - those count as just acclimitization.

Lu, I had my mind changed on beggars too. I was usually pretty niggardly about giving them money, but never believed my Chinese friends who told me of the existence of organized beggars' guilds. I now know they really do exist, and I've seen good Chinese investigative reporting about how they operate. And while my heart goes out to the maimed children they employ to win the pity and the alms of passersby, knowing that the money I'd give 'em would flow to some rich, exploitative ass-hole who would deserve the death penalty if I still believed in it prevents me from forking over any specie.


I changed my mind about the growth aka gross excess of consumption in the US economy. We haven't had a real recession in quite a while and it would do us (and especially the under 25 set) to go through one now. The Bush administration has learned about humility and reality and now its time for the US public.

That, and it is not ok or natural to be a big fat ass.


I virtually reversed my opinion on NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia - from thinking it was the only option to being totally against it. But I didn't budge an inch in any of the heated arguments I had about it at the time. In fact they just made me more convinced I was right. I'd go scurrying off to dig up more facts that backed up my case, and since that was what I wanted, that's what I got. It wasn't until much, much later that I started reading things that challenged my views with calmly stated facts. Without the anger and indignation of those previous arguments, the more I read, the more convinced I became that not only was I wrong about Kosovo, I'd been wrong about the whole series of Yugoslavian civil wars.

Respect seems to play a major role.

One argument that astonished me was about grammar. How can anyone be passionate about that? But one evening I was chatting with my parents and aunt, when I suggested (harmlessly, I thought) that the phrase "I ain't got none" doesn't mean "I have got some." I said that double negatives are perfectly valid and grammatically correct in many dialects of English. All hell broke loose. Finally, as things were starting to get seriously out of control, I said that Chaucer had used double, triple and even quadruple negatives. I dug out the Canterbury Tales and read:

"He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight."

And that was that - argument over and peace restored. If the great Chaucer had said it, it must be OK. Six decades of total conviction reversed with a single sentence. But it wasn't my sentence.


I grew up in a religious area, raised by a religious family, and never had a lot of exposure to anything different from what I had learned. These, combined with my own willingness to close off any opposing view about my values, turned me into a homo-phobe. Despite the fact I had never even MET someone gay, I had programmed myself to thouroughly dislike someone who was. My views have definitely changed, much through the help of my dad.

During a family dinner conversation, homosexuality was brought up (I can't remember if we were talking about the news, or what). I'd rather not repeat the filth I said, but my father took me aside and told me that one of his best friends in high school was harassed and ostracised by his family because of it. Eventually, he committed suicide. He made it clear that the kind of hate that I was spewing was doing NOTHING for me, and could only bring hurt and pain, and possibly even death to good people who live differently than I do. My father has always raised us with typical conservative christian values, but this was DEFINITELY the best lesson he ever gave me.


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