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<nettime> The New Opium War - Chao-Kuei Hung

The New Opium War

Posted 28 Jul 2002 by atai

This is an English translation of the Chinese article "The Alternative Story
of the Opium War" written by Professor Chao-Kuei Hung (ckhung@cyut.edu.tw),
Chaoyang University of Technology, Taichung County, Taiwan, Republic of
China. It provides a insightful view of the debates over Microsoft's dominance,
and recent crackdown on software piracy, in Taiwan. People in other countries
may also find the story familiar in their own situations, that governments may
be willing to deal with Microsoft to satisfy the immediate needs (accepting
donations, obtaining lower prices, etc., but leaving the MS monopoly in
place, like the state of the food industry in this story), thus not taking on
initiatives to switch to Free (libre) software. (Note: the Ching, or Qing,
Dynasty is the last dynasty of China before the Republic of China)


In the past decades, the British imported large amount of opium and earned
many silver dollars from the Ching Empire, turning our country's previous
favorable trade balance into trade deficit. Recently, the BFA (the Food Business
Alliance, whose members are mainly the child companies of the British East
India Company: think, what kind of food today does not contain opium?) asks the
Ching government to harshly punish these farmers growing opium poppy without
authorization from the East India Company, and these people growing poppy at
home to save on the costs for the drug.

The East India Company's China Region President, Shu Yao-Kan, says, "the
East India Company spends millions every year on R&D on opium products and
marketing so now we can have the good taste, so enjoyable opium products to
smoke/eat. If people do not respect the Poppy Growth Rights and just take our
improved poppy seeds to grow their own, what difference are there between such
people and pirates? Please support the concept of 'Poppy Growth Rights'. We
already give a period of amnesty, and if you come forward during this time to pay
sufficiently for the pop you are growing, we will not prosecute."

The Justice Ministry rushed to buy enough Poppy Growth Rights at very
favorable prices before initiating a crackdown on illegal poppy growth--since
inside the Ministry also planted many unauthorized poppy plants. After all, if you
want to cut the beards of others, you have to cut your own first. However, a
people's representative questioned this: "if the Ministry pays more than the
fair price, it is waste of public money; if it pays lower, then it is
government backdoor deal with a particular company. I will sue the Minister for
corruption." But since the Ching Dynasty has not implemented democracy, this did
not go anywhere.

But the opposition did not stop here. The Young Opium Smokers'
representatives protest: "we condemn the Ministry of Justice for becoming the debt
collection agency of the East India Company! We the young people only learned to
smoke pop in schools, and we did not sell the poppy that we grew. Our actions
were not for profit, why should we pay so much to the East India Company?" The
Young Opium Smokers demand poppy to be freely grown in schools. After all,
opium is daily necessity!

The National Poppy-Smoking Educator Association's president also comes
forward to support the Young Opium Smokers. He says, "the young people are the
future of the nation. We (the teachers) train them to smoke opium also for
non-profit purposes as well as to encourage the growth of the food industry." (In
the past 20 years, "food" and "opium" have become synonyms.) If the East
India Company insists to collect fees from the young people, we will boycott
opium! (But he did not mention what replaces opium)

Food industry expert Ku Li-Hsi says, "our negative comments on the East
India Company should not be based on emotion or nationalism. After all, the
Company has contributed greatly to the food industry of the Ching Empire. If
everyone boycotts opium, our food industry is also impacted." Asked about some
people's attacking the East India Company for adding something to foods to make
people craving for the newest kinds of opium products, Ku responds, "that
their foods have good taste is the truth. Even if there is some secret in these
foods, that is normal practice of business. The protesters probably are
jealous that the Company earns too much money." But some other scholar also has a
different viewpoint: "The protest is not about nationalism or emotional
responses. Don't you see that the British government is also suing the East India
Company, asking that different kinds of opium cannot be tied together on the

The East India Company says, "Educational prices of the Poppy Growth Rights
have been very cheap. A food opium poppy plant, for example, costs 10000
silver dollars on the market but only 5000 silver dollars for schools." Company
President Shu also announces a donation of free poppy seeds, valued at 100
million silver dollars, to non-profit organizations. But there are disputes over
the way this value is calculated, based on market prices, educational
prices, or the prices of illegal opium.

Between the protesters of the "Anti-piracy" and "Anti-anti-piracy" is a
group of strangely-dressed people, who give everyone they saw a strange type of
seeds, called "rice." Rice is protected by a large-bearded monk's "GNU Public
Growth Rights" so can be grown by anyone. These people say, "rice is not
addictive. Rice is rather tasteless, compared to opium products, but can fill
your stomach just fine. If you eat rice, you can change to corn or other foods
at any time and you won't feel bad. So stop taking opium and switch to rice!"
But the people passing by trying rice tend to shake their heads and leave.
The news reporter heard of "free (gratis) food" and tries a bite, but the taste
is really boring. He asks the monk, "if everyone takes gratis food, what
will happen to the food industry?" The monk protests, "please don't call it
gratis food! it is libre food! It means you can freely pass around and grow, but
it does not mean you cannot sell it! What is free is the Rights of Growth!
The food industry will still exist. It just has to transform itself..." The
reporter thinks, "Gosh! these religious zealots are really hard to communicate
with. Do they belive they can change the world? I will go to more interesting
news! Bye!"

So do the Young Opium Smokers have the right to grow opium poppy for their
own use? Or should they buy the rights from the East India Company? What is
the fair price for the Poppy Growth Rights? These core issues (you don't agree
these are the core issues? What is more important than money?) will continue
to be the topics of debate.


the following is also part of the original page

This article will be published in the June/July issue of the "Linuxer"
magazine. The author, Chao-Kuei Hung, believes more and more people will wake up
and realize the truth about the computer dictator (like in the movie "The
Matrix") and has full faith in the future of Free (libre) Software.


Original permission statement

You are welcome to copy and publish this article if the whole article stays
Different words counted: 485

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