Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday Scribbles

It's a cool, sunny afternoon and the leaves are turning from red to orange to yellow. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

The Party never counted on the divide between rich and poor being so relevant:

China has firm reasons for being proud of its economic achievements. Last year, China passed Germany as the world's number-one exporter. This year, China overtook Japan as the world's second-biggest economy and has the largest foreign exchange reserves (worth 2.5 trillion dollars) in the world. However, China's economic good fortune seems to be coming to an end.

China's exports are slumping; its domestic consumption continues to flounder. The problem is an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor in China caused by a highly centralized system of power.

China's state-controlled economic development is obviously a bottleneck to further fiscal advancement; working on political reform is a must. Apparently, some of China's top leaders, who are all members of the Communist Party, have been well aware of the seriousness of the situation. These leaders, however, either as Marxists or as practical rulers, have all clearly known the close connection between political reform and economic development....
From a historical angle, present-day China's economic achievements repeat part of an old pattern. Fathers captured power by force, and sons firmed the power through economic growth; then grandsons or great-and-so-on grandsons lost it through lack of wisdom, cowardice, and incapacity. The alternation of political power with hereditary properties was supposedly ended when the Communist Party of China seized power in the 1940s. But the traditional political structure and attitude have not been abandoned.

Analysts and scholars, due to modern China's seeming commitment to equality and communism, have neglected this point. In China's long history, there has never been state reform with an attempt to transfer part of the political power to people. Before the 1840s Opium War, China's people had never known the sharing of power, much less democracy and science.

From a historical viewpoint, graft and corruption aren't peculiar to the present Chinese society; in fact, they have been perennial in Chinese history. Over the centuries, China's rulers have never effectively worked out this problem. Graft and corruption have always been an inherent part of China's social or cultural system.

Owing to long-propagandized history, Chinese people now seem to have no doubt that their ancestors once set up the most powerful nation in the world -- the Tang Dynasty. But, in fact, the sphere of influence of the Tang Dynasty never extended beyond Central Asia.

The Chinese often have a peculiar dual character. For instance, in the case of history and education, Japan occupied much of China during World War II. Chinese textbooks regularly deny this fact. Chinese textbooks are unwilling to accept that in the Second World War, the USA was the cardinal strength against and over Japan. The Chinese teach that they were the leading force for the triumph over Japan.

China seems to still dream that one day it can overcome Western powers by a combination basically featuring China's old culture and recover its lost dignity and honor. However, this approach could also sow the seeds of turbulence for its future. China's people don't seem to know that what they have done worst so far is accept a worn cultural foundation. If Confucianism were an effective political philosophy, China's history would have been much different. There wouldn't have been as many as fourteen or so dynasties since the West Han Dynasty.

I've seen this before. The Chinese are crushed by totalitarian dictatorships unresponsive to their needs, the wishes of the outside world and their own prideful culture. Read the whole thing.

A fool on the hill (no, not Michael Ignatieff):

It's a landmark event for Beatledom.  John Lennon, dead these 30 years, would have turned 70-years-old today.

For many 60's survivors who grew up in thrall to the Fab Four, the idea that such an important symbol of the youth culture had arrived at the threshold of old age (if such a category still exists in our teen obsessed culture) must be profoundly unsettling.

It is as if that entire generation had finally found itself washed up at the very doorstep of senility.

There can be no doubt Lennon, in his partnership with the brilliant tunesmith Paul McCartney, did craft some of the most memorable pop tunes of the 20th Century. That might be reason enough to celebrate his life. But the failure to complete his life's journey has frozen his memory in perpetual mid-life. There he presides as the guru of peace and love, an unfazed and unrepentant hippie whose vision for world peace remains unfettered by reality or subsequent historical events.

Forgotten, or perhaps conveniently overlooked, is that Lennon's solo work in his ten post-Beatles years was far inferior to anything he did as a member of the group and was weak even by comparison to the output of his fellow Beatles ( and yes, I include Ringo Starr in that assessment). His coda, the cloying and maudlin Double Fantasy (1980) was an embarrassment for such a great talent, and evidence that perhaps his muse had permanently fled.

Part of this can be attributed to Lennon's early 70s determination to make political statements rather than music. Moving permanently to New York City in 1970, he and his wife Yoko Ono became lightening rods for radicals and far left causes. Feminists, Black Panthers, Yippies and peace movement activists, all pitched their tents under the Lennon/ Ono carapace to propagate their liberation politics. The recorded product of this eclectic jamboree, Sometime In New York City (1972), is a rather tuneless and bleak attempt to capture the radical zeitgeist.   It bombed and is regarded universally as one of the worst post break up efforts by any of the Beatles.

While Lennon's post-Beatles recordings, save for the very early ones, can be largely dismissed, what can't be dismissed is his cultural influence. Lennon stands today as the most revered icon in the pantheon of the peace movement -- a figure of such sainted majesty that he has been practically beatified by secular humanists. This reputation balances precariously on the foundation of just one song -- the anthemic Imagine.

Imagine dredged up some half-baked Romantic notions and presented a vision of a world free of conflict.  Attached to an ethereal melody it seem to float in a sea of mysticism, painting a picture of a utopia that most Communist leaders in the 1970s would have recognized....
Would Lennon have matured intellectually as he aged, ultimately recognizing that this formula for world peace, written in a swishy mansion in the English countryside, far from the Communist despots and authoritarians who at that time imprisoned nearly half of humanity, could not work? Would he have understood that there was something a little skewed about attempting to denude the world of religion, governments, sovereignty and wealth?

Would he have finally understood that his adopted home, the United States, actually stood as the last best chance for humanity to preserve the liberty that had allowed him to pen such masterpieces such as Across the Universe and A Day In the Life....?

Probably not. Naïveté is one of the great privileges of the rich and famous. Insulated from the hard realities of life, our pop icons are safe and free to make ignorant guesses about the world and pose solutions that suggest more, not less, misery for its human population. Once having made such a statement of principle, it is highly unlikely that Lennon would ever have retired his Imagine philosophy. Unlike McCartney, who has revealed himself to be comparatively sensible on a number of important security issues, Lennon, socially alienated as a child and conditioned to reject convention, likely would have continued to find some gratification in oppositional politics and ideologies.  It is doubtful he could ever have written a song such as Freedom, which McCartney penned in outrage following the attacks of 9/11.
I'm not sure I would think McCartney as "sensible" all the time but he certainly was a better songwriter. Lennon, for all his folly,  still leads ignorant generations to think that nihilism is a valid lifestyle. I suppose it never dawned on him while living in New York how fortunate- and arrogant- he truly was.

In Ottawa this week, police arrested five university students for displaying a pro-life exhibition.
They were peaceful and merely expressing an opinion and showing the realities of abortion.

In Toronto at the same time, the trial began of a man arrested and charged by police for defending his store against a career criminal with a mass of convictions. The drug-dealing crook was offered a reduced sentence if he would help their case against the model citizen of a store-owner.

The inescapable conclusion is while the police in this country are supposed to be guardians of the people, they are increasingly becoming agents of the state.

That they are political, or at least obey political masters, is surely now beyond dispute. Notice how they repeatedly refused to arrest or charge violent native protesters in Caledonia, Ont., even after there was filmed evidence of some of the demonstrators attacking people and destroying property.
Bingo. Whatever your opinions may be on the above topics, we must agree that if we labour under the social contract of surrendering some of our freedoms to the state, we should get something back in return. What do I care if there are photos of the oil sands, dead baby seals or dead babies in university halls? I am an adult in full possession of my faculties. I don't need a greedy student union to dictate what is offensive or not. Either they do away with the double standard that stands as the status quo or adopt an airtight policy that applies to everyone. Why arrest a handful of students or a homeowner or an immigrant shopkeeper because they do things unapproved by a liberal oligarchy? We have actual criminals walking the streets. Worry about them.

Related: pro-abortionists hate cupcakes:

You have to be kidding? Children=cupcakes?
To be frank, I hate cupcakes. I love children. And if I recall correctly, school baking "generally" comes from mum. Slogans would not be in any way acceptable. 

Just "ice" the damn things....cupcakes shouldn't speak to you! 

(Sidebar: there were comments that just went into weird directions. They couldn't be printed here. Why someone has this anger against confections, I do not know. It's like saying puppies and sunshine have gotten too uppity lately. Very strange.)

Ragging on cupcakes? That's just sad.

It's not (just) about cupcakes, really. It could be any food item. It is the idea that someone has a belief they would proudly, competently and openly defend. When one wants nothing more than an echo chamber for their empty arguments, having someone or something shake that complacency disturbs them no end. The answer to that is to grow up.

They're just cupcakes, man.

Speaking of cupcakes: pumpkin spice cupcakes. Enjoy.

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