Ahead of this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, we’re getting to know some of the authors, artists and advocates joining the 2016 line-up. In today’s post, the Bali Advertiser looks at the extraordinary stories of Stan Grant, Suki Kim and Anatasia Lin – three powerful voices from very different parts of the world.
Individuals who campaign for Human Rights must sometimes feel lonely indeed. But this year, Ubud will grant a large audience to the most compelling voices for those who cannot speak.
In spite of threats to family, accusations of self-interest, and personal smears on an international stage, three guests refuse to dilute their pleas for change. Best-selling books and accolades notwithstanding, the uncertain paths of true heroes are being blazed by Su Ki Kim, Stan Grant, and Anastasia Lin.
Su Ki Kim migrated from her native South Korea and become a US citizen as a teen. The severance of Korea, and so its families, has remained a painful wound. Angered by the western dismissal of North Korea as an unlucky backward people ruled by a series of wacky despots, Kim visited the north several times and ultimately found a way to tap more deeply inside. Kim landed a job teaching English at an elite North Korean university.
Her With You, There is No Us is an astonishing memoir of what it’s like to work within a nation of slaves, where everyone, even the brightest new leaders and scientists, are infantilized through constant state control. Concepts and realities such as the worldwide web and basic methods of scientific investigation are at best completely misunderstood and purely unavailable to anyone, even the future leaders.
All the northerners she met were so facile at lying (whether hyperbole or deceit), it was difficult to engage in simple communication. Yet in her account of life in “a prison disguised as a school,” she writes of moments of human connections with her students, who she found tragically beautiful and adorable. Minimizing risks where she could, Kim has given readers a glimpse at who is there, suffering under a regime so oppressive that all human life is merely a source of energy for the state.
Kim emphasizes her desire to humanize North Korea, so she secretly noted her conversations and let actual human voices speak to her western audience. Inside, she found it “morally unacceptable that the world is there, and the rest of us are here.” Kim feels that a Pyongyang Spring is untenable unless the world can help make it happen. And so we have her book, to get us started on the process.
Australian Stan Grant was, from 2001 to 2012, a CNN anchorman, embedded combat reporter, and dedicated Beijing correspondent. But behind the scripts and reportage, he quietly bore the wounds of growing up as a marginalized child of the aboriginal nation of the Wiradjuri, original stewards of land that is now New South Wales.
Hard luck and hard labor plagued his father’s life, but family bonds were strong. At university Grant was radicalized by researching the family stories he’d been told, reading everything he could about Australia’s relentless war of extermination on his people, and subsequent admonitions for its citizens to simply disregard it.
As a journalist, driven to give air time to oppressed and war-ravaged people, Grant’s own ignored depression and emotional pain hit a crisis point. He has rechanneled this and triumphs as an eloquent voice for his brothers and sisters, authoring now-viral pleas to end racism.
Stan Grant’s stirring Talking to my Country joins Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Beds Are Burning in the canon of great works calling for action in the name of the real first settlers. It’s that good a read.
Today, Grant is Indigenous Affairs Editor at The Guardian, and National Indigenous Television’s Managing Editor. His words in support of Aussie footballer Adam Goodes have gone viral and convinced many hearts and minds that there is so much more we can do. Prepare to be captivated, and deeply changed, when Stan Grant takes the microphone at Ubud this fall.
Anastasia Lin, crowned Miss Canada in Vancouver in 2013, is anything but a typical beauty queen. Actress, pianist, and compelling public speaker, she holds degrees in International Relations and Theatre Acting. She is also one of the millions of students of Fa Lun Dafa. One of Lin’s movie roles was based on the testimony of Fa Lun Gong members who survived torture in Chinese prisons, and narrowly escaped being harvested for their vital organs. Preparing for the role by meeting them face-to-face, Lin was impressed by their courage in the face of “dark, old-school Communist way[s].”
Lin makes a compelling argument that money, and not virtue, has driven China policy in western nations. These form laissez-faire alliances with a super power that keeps its people in a state of mind far removed from the Beijing Spring of 1989. Lin pleads that “we should all stop pretending that we are helping China reform… the Chinese government does this because the international community allows them to. When threats and intimidation come, this is when we (can) show who are.”
Today, Lin must constantly walk the tightrope of championing Human Rights for the Chinese people, while threats are made to her family members in the mainland. She stands, as she says, with the Chinese people and begs the Communist Party to take up dialog. She asserts that the government is not so much afraid of her, as they are their own people.
In their own way, these three heroes understand that individuals are the building blocks of any nation, and that when all individuals are truly free, a nation and the world achieves greatness.
Most remarkably, all three know that these are Human Rights issues which most people would prefer to simply ignore. Eldridge Cleaver famously coined the idea that there is no room for neutrality; for if one is not part of the solution, one is part of the problem. And this fearless concept is taken to heart by Grant, Kim, and Lin, who, in the face of all reasons to look another way, to rest on laurels, to just let it go, instead decide to forge ahead for a better future for all humankind.
This article was originally published in the Bali Advertiser.