Saturday, April 15, 2006


Richard over at "The Peking Duck" is paying tribute to the "Tank Man" , the single individual that went to stand in front of a row of tanks on June 5th, after the Chinese army had swept Tiananmen square clean of the thousands of students and supporters that had been camping out there for months. The footage of that man, forcing the tank to veer sideways in it's attempt to continue it's route, is engraved in our common memory as an icon of the opposed trying to resist the oppressor and in this way may have changed the way China will behave were it to encounter the same situation again.

I would like to quote also here the first paragraph of the article from Pico Iyer Richard refers to in his thread, with respect to Tank Man:

"Almost nobody knew his name. Nobody outside his immediate neighborhood had read his words or heard him speak. Nobody knows what happened to him even one hour after his moment in the world's living rooms. But the man who stood before a column of tanks near Tiananmen Square - June 5, 1989 - may have impressed his image on the global memory more vividly, more intimately than even Sun Yat-sen did. Almost certainly he was seen in his moment of self-transcendence by more people than ever laid eyes on Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and James Joyce combined."

Reading this paragraph, I was reminded instantly of that other individual that, purely by the fact of having been captured on photograph in another such moment of extreme drama, may have changed also to a certain extent the way people perceive war and it's atrocities. I'm talking about that girl of which also nobody knew who she was, the girl that ran towards the camera, screaming from the napalm burning her naked body, the girl that was caught in the lens of Nick Ut, reporter for Associated Press in Vietnam, the girl that from the moment the reporter snapped the world-famous shot started to change the way people thought about the Vietnam war. I'm talking about Phan Thi Kim Phuc, then age nine, living in Trang Bang when a South-Vietnamese fighter plane mistook her and her peers for the enemy and fired off.

Both are images that had the power to knock the world a conscience, both images were the sting in the skin of those who wanted to keep the truth hidden. They have become a forceful accusation of the wrongs of this world, although they are "just" images, but maybe in the end they are our best argument to show that real power does not necessarily come from the barrel of a gun. Just image-ine !


richard said...

Excellent post, thanks.

Lao Lu said...

Thank YOU, Richard, for taking the time and stopping by.