Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cheese fondue and the fear of freedom

I've been living in Hong Kong for many years and until recently had never used any of the 'expatriate' forums. To be honest I've never really known what an expatriate is. I'm a bloke, originally from the UK, who lives in Hong Kong. Does that make me an expatriate, an immigrant, a resident? Who knows? Some people seem to have a very clear idea about these things, however.

Anyway, I occasionally post on forums such as Asiaxpat where I have to admit that I get an unseemly amount of childish pleasure from continually getting banned for any number of increasingly absurd infringements of the sites posting regulations. This particular site is well-known for being run by a little Nazi chap (I don't really know if he's little but I always imagine such people sitting behind their desk in a Napoleon costume) who likes to ban people for such thought crimes as 'being a bit sarcastic'.

Recently, for example, I was banned for posting unacceptable opinions about cheese fondue, an achievement of which I am perhaps unduly proud. Somebody asked for recommendations for cheese fondue restaurants so that they could compile a list of said restaurants (this is what passes for entertainment around these parts). Several people posted suggestions of restaurants where they had enjoyed the aforementioned melted cheese delicacy, at which point I lumbered in with my unseemly and offensive opinions about cheese fondue. I pointed out that, historically, the purpose of cheese fondue was as a way to use up stale bread and cheese that had become hard and inedible during the course of the cold European winter. As we now possess refrigerators this was no longer necessary so perhaps the posters might consider simply purchasing some nice cheese and eating it, thereby negating the need for a fondue. I was of course immediately banned for the statutory 7 days for posting such a scurrilous and offensive suggestion.

What is interesting about this is not the fact that there is a little man somewhere who likes to exercise the little bit of power he has managed to gain by banning people from his website. This is, I'm sure, quite common and is similar to the officious bureaucrat, traffic warden, security guard etc. What was more interesting was that the banning came at the request of the person who started the thread who demanded that I be banned for suggesting that she might like to try unmelted cheese. This small piece of psychology interests me.

What goes through peoples' minds when they choose the solution of requesting that people be banned or censored for expressing opinions that they disagree with, even about something as insignificant as melted cheese? There are of course many perfectly reasonable responses she might have made to my point. She could have said that she didn't care what the historical purpose of cheese fondue was, that she enjoyed the taste and was going to continue eating it regardless, for example. A position for which I would, of course, have the utmost respect. Instead she decided that she needed to appeal to the leader to protect her from exposure to unsettling anti-fondue opinions.

I realise that I am in danger of making rather a meal (ha ha) of a cheese fondue incident but it reminded me of reading Eric Fromm's the Fear of Freedom, where he explores the psychological reasons that people end up submitting themselves voluntarily to fascist or other authoritarian regimes. Fromm is right to feel that the interesting thing is not the psychology of the leader in these circumstances, who has some fairly obviously explainable motivations, or of his opponents, but the psychology of people who voluntarily choose to submit themselves to his rule.

So next time you see someone asking for you to be banned from a forum for upsetting their notions about cheese fondue, beware. It's the thin end of a wedge that leads to totalitarian dictatorship I tell you.

Anybody fancy some cheese?


Anonymous said...

I got totally banned recently.

A lady had started a thread on sex, and her husband wanted to spice up the relationship and convinced her to have anal. As she was uncomfortable with this, someone suggested she do it to him.

She questioned this and asked how...

I replied something about using / checking out "strap on" devices.

That was enough for the Canadian to totally disbale my account; no communication at all, and delete my post.

I wonder what century we are living in.

Ray said...

"Absolute power will corrupt people", so does the little guy who got absolute power in his small garden.

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!