Saturday, June 03, 2006

 

China Travel Essay


Warning: If you're offended by sarcastic criticisms of left wing
political ideology, this travel log is not for you. It contains considerable
invective toward the horrid and philosophically bankrupt philosophies of
socialism in general and Marxism in particular. The writer believes in the
practical and moral superiority of free markets, private ownership, free
thought, and a human spirit free from the arbitrary intrusion of state planning
and coercion. The "People's Republic" of China has recently attained some degree
of the first two freedoms I've listed, but has failed to recognize the others.

Like other historical examples where Marxist ideology has imposed itself, the
conditions of China are not a random fluke, they are the inevitable result of
the Romantic-authoritarian idealism that defines all collectivist philosophy





Beijing: Home to the 2008 Olympic Games!

In August of 2002 I had the interesting opportunity to visit Beijing, the
capital of Mainland China. This trip not only allowed me to indulge my interest
in history but was also a chance to see, up close, a living breathing Communist
state. I came to Beijing with a strong bias against Communism, both as a
philosophical principal and as a functioning concept. My bias was not altered in
the least by what I saw. The only truly great things I saw of today's Beijing
were those that had deviated from the party's founding principals.

Beijing will be the home to the 2008 Olympic games. It is with this in mind
that I compiled and now present the notes I had taken while there. The pace of
change in China is certainly quick and it may be said that my criticisms are too
assertive towards a country that is surely making great strides to alter its
authoritarian manner. None the less, China today is still governed by the "rule
of men," in this case a political party that has brought untold suffering to
millions throughout the world, not to mention the over 100,000,000 who have died
from it's incompetence, ruthlessness, and cruelty. A common tourist traveling in
Beijing will now see a bustling city with high-rise hotels and the pervasive
logos of world commerce. A tourist can easily miss the subtle but ever present
reality of a society under the rule of one dogmatic institution. With that in
mind, I feel it necessary to capture the memory of what a Communist society
looks like "between the lines."

The ideas that drove China to embrace Marxist Socialism are still quite
active throughout the world. As China slowly rises from the dusty tomb of
collectivism there will be other places on the world's map that will seek again
to erect the ugly monolith that totalitarian Socialism represents. This travel
memoir of mine is ultimately a pleading to others to resist the deceptive
absurdities that seek to feed power to the state in the guise of "liberation."
The Marxist vision for the future is alive and well. Fortunately, the
circumstance of its legacy is also alive and well for all to see. If we pay
attention we may yet save future generations from the catastrophes born of its
character.




♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

...Beijing was everything I expected, and more! Do you like police? Whether
uniformed or "plain-clothed," you'll find all the "people's security" you could
possibly need in China's new made-over Potemkin village of the People...

This summer (2002), I had made a brief visit to Beijing, the capital of "The
People's Republic of China." I've put the country's name in quotations because
my observations there clearly confirmed that China is hardly a "Republic" and,
"The People" appears to be a mere reference to the cadres within the Chinese
Communist Party who rule over China in the standard style that is typical of all
of Marx's historical offspring. Much is made of the country's recent strides in
opening up to a market economy. Unfortunately, market reforms and the appearance
of billboard advertising are thin veils to the orthodox paranoia and absurd
totalitarian dogmatism that is still alive and well in the world's most populous
country. China is still very much a place where a student can be beaten up by
party thugs for the crime of having lunch with a foreigner ("associating" with
foreigners -- like me -- is seen as risking exposure to "spiritual pollution" -
the name given to free and democratic ideals).

Since my return, I've dredged up every bit of information I could find on the
workings of the most populated socialist "experiment." It turns out that
periodic increases in security ("strike hard on crime") are quite common.
Randomly beating up a common citizen on the suspicion that they lack obedience
to the party/state is not unusual.

Beijing offers a modern cosmopolitan cityscape drenched in the ghosts of
Stalin and Mao Zedong, a bizarre and surreal lesson in the quirks of political
economy. The paradox of totalitarian socialism side by side with a market
economy, strike one immediately upon arrival.



Paradox: The Market Dictatorship

It doesn't take a Laissez-Faire economist to defend the notion that a truly
free market is one where all aspects of society are free from arbitrary
coercion. Upon arrival at the Beijing airport one can immediately note an
ambience of market mechanisms feebly deployed, but the free market in China does
not extend to the realm of values and ideals.

Beijing's airport was new, and though somewhat austere, there were plenty of
advertisements for the products of the global marketplace. I took with me a fair
awareness of what China had been through the last fifty years or so. The
airport's interior design seemed far removed from images of Mao and the
"cultural revolution."

When going through customs, some hints that this wasn't a normal place hit
me. Huge screens loomed in front of the lines of people. "Welcome to China..." The
banal greeting was quickly followed by a list of rules (all governments love
lists of rules). Among them, some shit about not upsetting the security of the
state. I like it when socialists say "the state." It's one of those rare moments
when they're being honest. I think they really know that "the state" and "the
people" are two different things, and I think they know that the state is where
their ultimate allegiance lies. When they actually say the "S" word it's as if
they're saying "okay, we both know that all this shit about 'the people' and
'the revolution' is a total scam, so just do what you're told and the state will
let you get by." A bureaucrat's dream - can you imagine if the Bureau of motor
vehicles was allowed to hit you, put you in jail, or execute you for thinking
the "wrong" thing?

The first of many contrasts hit me. Below the signs and before the uniformed
bureaucrats was the clutter of visitors who were not...the state, Westerners, and
a smattering of folks from around the world; leisure, indulgent, and
unpredictable individuals who had never recited Chairman Mao's quotations or
confessed crimes as "counter-revolutionaries." All of them were reminders that
the closer one is to the center of the political spectrum the greater likelihood
that one will be smiling. (Ever see a devout radical with a mission who's
cheerful and "great to be around?") It was particularly interesting to see a 50
something guy and his wife taking pictures of each other. They were American. If
I hadn't seen their faces their voices could have been named Smith, Jones, or
McKinley. Their faces were Chinese, but you could tell that they had never waved
a red book in the air (in America most of us don't wave anybody's book in the
air - unless we're total assholes). I wondered if the security people ever took
note of the fact that a Chinese face looks different if the communist party
hasn't molded it - the lackadaisical irreverence that goes with not being in
fear of thinking or articulating "incorrect" thoughts.

The taxi drive from the airport was mundane but, to me, interesting. It was
pretty late at night and the road was rather free of traffic. The highway looked
like any highway. It was wide and well trimmed. The shock to me was the
billboards. I knew that China had been some years into their transition to a
pseudo-market economy. (I really don't think one can describe an economy as a
market economy if a single group has monopoly power over most aspects of
daily life). The billboards looked out of place considering the party founders'
philosophical disdain for the very idea of a profit motive. A billboard /
advertisement is the way a capitalist enterprise seeks to persuade one to
purchase a given product. The idea of persuasion has long been an alien concept
in China. Communism and its lighter twin, Socialism, don't operate through the
concept of persuasion. They exist through force; basic, simple, and unrestrained
- "We're right, do what we say or we'll hurt you."

Nothing dramatic about the arrival at my hotel. The staff was rather brusque
and unfriendly - definitely the antithesis of what I'd become accustomed to in
Japan where I've lived the past few years. I can't say for certain that the curt
manner of service personal was a reflection of the country as a whole. I can say
that the concept of "pleasing the customer" appeared to be something still
unfamiliar to them. Although "customer service" in the capitalist world can be
criticized as an insincere attribute, it makes for an overall more civilized and
pleasant atmosphere. Citizens of Communist countries have been conditioned to
serve "The People" (the State) and to basically disregard or despise the actual

persons they encounter.

My hotel room was suitable, but it was disturbing to know that the cable
selection on my TV was not the same as what "The People" were allowed to see.
The hotel had two computer/Internet connections, but they were oddly placed so
the lady at a desk close by could watch everything you type. Whether by
purposeful design or not, the layout and circumstances of daily life in China
promotes a strange paranoia (I think it is designed to that end). The idea of
individual privacy is certainly not a priority.

My first day out on the streets of Beijing I was struck with the amazing
feeling of being somewhere that was genuinely alien to me. It just felt really
different and it wasn't just Chinese culture and history that produced a surreal
weight to the air.

Later, walking onto one of the nicer commercial centers I found myself rather
impressed with the clean, but active, commercialism that one finds in a typical
developed country. Lively shops and massive cosmopolitan advertisements with all
the familiar images one is likely to see anywhere in the post-modern global
economy. It all looked rather new and well polished. I eventually found that
anywhere in Beijing where one found a thriving modern street, one could walk
only a few blocks to the side and find the old products of socialism alive and
well - filth and squalor.

On the way toward Tiananmen Square, the city's historical center, I came upon
a massive edifice of modern commercial architecture. Venturing inside I found a
rather comfortable shopping mall in the style one would find in any American
suburb. Mostly the same stores too. The Gap, Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC...(no, not
all the stores were American companies) the symbols that the political left
despises -- the horrors of variety at a reasonable price in a pleasant
atmosphere.

By the look of high polished suburban materialism around me, I figured that
it would be just a matter of time before this hard-line society dissolved into
the more moderate temperament that the Bourgeoisie seems to spontaneously
catalyze. (All those "ignorant" middle class "masses" seem to produce a more
comfortable way of life overall to the one's ruled over by intellectual thugs -
"philosopher kings")

Then...there were the cops. All just "doing their job" I suppose, but god,
there were a lot of 'em. I thought it rather bizarre that in this shopping mall
I could find myself in trouble if I told someone "there should be fee
elections," or if I asked someone why so many Falun Gong followers have died or
"committed suicide" while in prison (for the crime of doing meditation
exercises). If I were an actual citizen of the country, being placed under
arrest would only be the beginning of a very bad year for me. As a tourist
they'd probably just send me packing - or I guess if they wanted to, they could
accuse me of "stealing state secrets" (that's become a classic catch-all means
of reminding people who's boss). To put this in perspective, imagine being in
America, walking up to a police officer, and saying, "I think George Bush is an
asshole and another political party should be voted in." The cop would probably
laugh, think you were downright weird for bothering him...or, he might agree with
you and tell you so.

The mall was filled with shoppers like one might see anywhere else. It was
only later that I realized that the average pay for most citizens in China would
make even a mundane purchase at Starbucks a major financial consideration. I
figured that these folks I was seeing were the city's new "nouveau-rich" or
nouveau-middle class, at least. Of course there was a numerically skewed
abundance of "foreigners" like myself there as well.

I found a bookstore with English books in it. I was amazed at the selection,
much broader than I had expected. I started looking for books, like Orwell's
"1984," just to gauge the degree of the supposed "loosening up" of the Marxist
order. They had lots of Penguin Classics, but "1984" wasn't among them. There
was Dickens and Steinbeck and others. Many western classics contain a message
quite compatible with Marx's ideals. Many Intellectuals and writers have had a
soft spot in their heart for the utopian gulag - call it "idealism,." I guess.
It dawned on me that a good amount of English literature however, also carries
messages that are not quite welcome to a one-party socialist state.

It was interesting to speculate on the cost and energy that went into having
Bureaucrats decide what was "appropriate" for "the masses" (individual citizens)
to read. I remembered that the average person in China wouldn't be acquiring
such elitist fare anyway. I was surprised to see a good selection of western
fashion and women's magazines. That's how the (Communist) Party may be toppled,
I figured. A few too many citizens will eventually wonder why "The Party" has
anything to do with their daily desire to have a life independent of drab
authoritarian ideology. Marxism is primarily an ideology of old men and young,
pampered, Western intellectuals, not chic, well-dressed sex symbols. One of many
offenses to Leftist politically correct sensibility appears to be the mere human
desire to look nice (to look "better" than someone else). I can think of few
things more un-sexy than Marxist philosophy.



Incident

After my brief encounter with "the worker's" shopping mall I moved down the
huge boulevard toward Tiananmen Square. It's funny, all Stalinist clones have
had massively wide streets, originally designed to such dimensions at times when
few cars drove on them. The boulevard was lined with massive hotels, which all
appeared to be new or made over to look new. I was beginning to become rather
impressed with the entire ambiance and thought that maybe I should cut The Party
some slack. Maybe they really were reforming and weren't quite the ruthless
dictatorship I had thought. In the next couple of hours I'd realize that
circumstances here were actually worse than I had thought.

Upon reaching the walls to the Forbidden City I passed crowds of people going
about their business. Two students approached me and walked along side of me.
They were in their mid-twenties or so (male and female). They politely asked me
where I was from and tagged along as I walked towards Tiananmen Square. They
were quite nice and we enjoyed each other's company, exchanging mundane thoughts
on learning English and such. They both wanted to practice their English with me
and offered information on the tourist spots of the city. I made a point of not
talking about politics or issues of controversy at all. My travel-guide books
made it clear that such things were to be avoided. So, I'm just hanging out with
two young students. They show me where I can rent a bicycle and then show me a
traditional shopping area. Eventually we got pretty far back into the
neighborhoods and they showed me where some interesting antique stores could be
found.

We decided to get something to eat and went into a little place next to a
small police station. I might add that, said police station had large windows
but they were tinted with a creepy cobalt blue (the color of carbon paper - for
those who remember carbon paper). You couldn't see into the windows, but
certainly got the impression that "they" could see you. Half way through the
meal a stocky guy with a crew cut, and sunglasses (all the government folks seem
to really be into this "tint" thing) came in and tapped the male student on the
shoulder saying something quietly. The student looked a bit puzzled (he didn't
seem to recognize the guy) but got up and left with with this Mafia-looking
character. I didn't think much of it initially - I still had the image of
"Starbucks" and the new China ambience in my mind. The girl said, "I don't know
him, who is he?" (It seemed that she was speaking out loud, more to herself than
to me). Her look of concern began to make me think that there may indeed be some
cause for alarm. It was eerie. I knew we had done nothing wrong but started to
consider that I was in a country with a history that didn't require "doing
anything wrong" to find one's self in serious trouble. The girl began to become
quite agitated. I noticed and thought it rather odd that a little girl, who I
believe was the restaurant owner's daughter, stood several feet away just
staring at both of us. (She seemed to know that something was wrong). I started
to feel a bit edgy myself as I saw the level of agitation increase in the
student. She said a few things about "human rights" and even alluded to the
Tiananmen "incident" in 1989. That did it - I was scared. It was positively
surreal. I cautioned her to keep her voice down, as I now feared the possibility
of her disappearing soon as well. For all I knew, I was guilty of some "crime
against the people" too. I knew my politics and history but never felt the live
action of being genuinely afraid while simply sitting in a restaurant dining
with some students wishing to practice their English. A few minutes later the
student who had left, returned. My relief prevented me from immediately noticing
his condition. He was splashed with water and was wiping the water from his
face. He was smiling and nervous and proclaimed "It's all right, It's all right."
Only then did I notice that he had been rather badly beaten, his right eye
swollen, bruised and cut. The front of his shirt and pants were smeared with
blood. The owner of the restaurant sat in the back staring at us completely
emotionless, occasionally flicking his cigarette in an ashtray. It was a total
scene from a movie. I caught myself immediately and made a point of not
"over-reacting." I just kept saying, "Are you okay?" and he kept saying, "It's
all right, it's all right." Finally I said, "It's not all right. "What should I
do? Should I leave...what am I supposed to do, I don't want you to get in any
more trouble." He just kept trying to convince me that everything was all right,
as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. We were only a fifteen or
twenty-minute walk away from Tiananmen Square and masses of tourists and mundane
activity. Obviously, I doubt that every time a foreigner eats with a student,
the student gets beat up. Maybe it was because we were a bit outside the center
of the city. Maybe it was because the restaurant was next to a police station. I
don't know. But I knew that, unlike other countries, the option of "reporting it
to the police" was not the wise option. I later concluded that such things occur
here because they can occur. There are no independent media or private
organizations to question the random decisions of state operatives. "They get mad at us
sometimes when we associate with foreigners." That was the female
students summation of the events that had transpired. A country of over a
billion people and the government has the power to tell individual citizens that
they can't eat with a foreigner [!]. My readings had led me to believe that
things in China had mellowed somewhat. I had no idea that it was really this bad
(maybe I just didn't really understand how bad it really was in the past).
Needless to say, I had to leave these students - it appeared that it would be
dangerous for me to talk to anyone beyond a brief mundane encounter -- at least
dangerous for them. They gave me their cell phone numbers. When I later tried to
call them, a stern, automated and creepy voice uttered, "The number you dialed
does not exist." The choice of words and tone had all the charm of a barbed wire
fence - more than appropriate in Socialist society.



Black Audis

Circumstances had now put me into a more observant frame of mind - or perhaps
prodded me into a subtle paranoia. I began to look for, and noticed, the
undercurrents of the city. To a tourist who hadn't encountered what I had thus
far, the city for the most part would appear relatively "normal." Lots of people
strolling about, people flying kites on Tiananmen Square (where the army had
mowed down and arrested hundreds, possibly thousands of people more than 13
years ago). I began to notice the odd abundance of shinny new black Audis with
very darkly tinted windows - everywhere. If a car were an officer in the Nazi
SS, it would be a black Audi with tinted windows. One could stop at any
well-traveled street corner and see one go buy every 10-20 seconds. I made a
point of checking out some parked ones when I saw them. A little identification
document could be seen on the dashboard (a small section of the window one could
actually see through). I think that I was correct in assuming that a brand new
German import was probably beyond the average private citizen's income, and the
nouveau riche appear to show off their wealth with greater variety.

In one interesting area of the city behind the Museum of the Revolution one
can find a particularly intriguing environment. This is minutes to the side of
Tiananmen Square and seemed well fortified with some military vehicles and
personnel, lots of police and, of course, black Audis. Most of the buildings in
this area had check gates with high security and, from a bicycle, I could see
that the best landscaping services in the "worker's paradise" are reserved for
whatever bureaucratic institutions these were. The excess of antennae on the
buildings roofs implied a kind of seriousness as well. Of course all countries
have security agencies and such, but here the ominous ambience was overwhelming.
Maybe it was the severe Doric authoritarian architecture - a favorite of
Communist and Fascist alike. Ornament in building design or life itself, just
isn't part of the Socialist world vision.

The next to the last day of my stay I was walking near the periphery of
Tiananmen Square and a young student approached me again. I talked briefly with
her and basically suggested that she not talk too long with me. She assured me
that it was okay. We stopped in front of the Museum of the Revolution in a
chained off pedestrian area. Sure enough, within minutes, four Darth Vader
mobiles pulled up right in front of us and stopped (again, this was a chained
off sidewalk area). There were four guys in each car (plain clothes). They all
got out and just loomed around. It looked downright comical. They were clearly
listening to us, their quick glances at me failed to come across as discreetly
as I'm sure they intended. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking them,
"May I help you?" I made a point of acting as naïve and simple as possible, and
made ridiculous mundane comments about the weather or, "Have you been to that
museum?," and similar trite questions. Finally a fifth black Audi pulls up -
this one in a rather intimidating way, driving rather fast and coming to a stop
only about four feet in front to us. These guys too, got out of their car and
acted like they were enjoying a leisure afternoon, (among other people with
black tinted window cars in a pedestrian area?) I wanted to say, "Do you guys
have a clue as to how ridiculous you look? So it was, that I found out how the
average communist government spends it's time and money. I'm sure that, if the
average brigade of politically correct leftists on an American college campus
had black Audis at their disposal, they'd follow the same plan.



Sites

Tiananmen Square [the gate of heavenly peace] is the center of Beijing. This
huge area is sprawled out in front of the gates to the Forbidden City. Many know
the Forbidden City itself for it's tremendous presence in the movie The Last
Emperor. Hovering over the main gate to the Forbidden City and visible from
almost anywhere around Tiananmen Square, is the huge and ominous portrait of a -
really - Big Brother, Mao Zedong. The aesthetic affront is as if one were to
hang a picture of Richard Nixon on the Washington Monument. To see this horrid
icon on a great ancient structure amongst a sea of modern people, is extremely
unsettling (at least to folks like myself who aren't too comfortable with
dictators and police states). The Communist Party of China still dotes on the
memory of this heinous thug the way one might take flowers to the grave of a
diseased abusive parent. Mao's portrait is on the money, in souvenir shops, and
in the minds and hearts of everyone who's clueless as to just what a destructive
force this guy was to the civilization of China. Could one even imagine a
picture of Adolph Hitler on the Brandenburg gate - but, oh, I forgot, Mao "had
good intentions..." (The left always has "good intentions;" "The people," "the
struggle against oppression" etc.) The dead old man himself is actually in a
mausoleum on Tiananmen Square where worshipers and the curious can quickly
breeze by his waxy preserved form.

Tiananmen Square itself is the heart of the massacres and arrests, which took
place in 1989. I won't use this essay to detail the events of that tragedy.
Suffice it to say that it was a typical Communist government slaughter.
Communist governments have a sordid history of "liberating" citizens by killing
them. In 1989, students, old ladies, and common citizens peacefully showed
support for the introduction of democratic reforms in their society. The
Communist Party didn't think it would be a good idea so, vetoed their hopes and
killed a lot of them. There were mass arrests with the usual reeducation
campaigns common to all left wing authoritarian mentalities. Like a fervent
religion, they often give one the option of repenting their sins (disagreeing
with the beaurocratic state). Seeing the square thirteen years after the violent
episode was another surreal episode in my tour. It looked rather benign. People
looming about everywhere in innocent randomness. Lots of tourists, family
portraits being taken, and kite flying. On either side of the expanse was a
police van. Fairly innocuous, considering their vigilant eye for stray Fulan
Gong adherents who might at any moment threaten the state with a meditation
exercise. There were a few other harmless looking vehicles, little landscaping
trucks (with cops inside - maybe to issue tickets to weeds). Seeing such banal
circumstance would certainly cause the average foreigner to question my
heightened concerns and observations. I thought it would be interesting to scope
out the bigger picture. On the side streets surrounding the square there is
plenty of "backup," as mentioned before. Police and military are ready and
waiting to insure that no one gets any funny ideas about usurping the Party's
iron grip on the Chinese spirit.

Occasionally the speakers overhead blare out little segments of tourist info
regarding Tiananmen square's size and history (no, it's most memorable episode
in history is not mentioned). I wondered if the English rant was a direct
translation of what the Chinese visitors were hearing. The little upbeat talk
ended with some nonsense about the square belonging to "The People," that cliché
leftist euphemism in the phony Marxist charade that infuriates me the most. Just
who exactly are "The People?" I know that I certainly wouldn't qualify as a
"People." The label attempts to imply that there is some massive block of
individuals who adore authoritarian dictatorship and anyone who sees things
differently simply isn't a "People." The folks who coin such phrases are
inevitably not common people. It's part of the vocabulary of elitist
intellectuals, lawyers and other assorted egomaniacs. Listen to an ideologue
ramble on about "The People" and you can be sure that he or she isn't a farmer,
factory worker, or store clerk.

In some of the gift stores around the city one could buy little pieces of the
old Tiananmen Square. A new firmer base was installed to hold the weight of
tanks should they someday "need" to initiate another moment of political
instruction - of course, they didn't say that.

The Great Hall of The People (a classic Orwellian name) that flanks Tiananmen
Square is a monstrosity of Stalinesque' kitsch. When looking at the poorly kept
aesthetic standard of Communist past and present one can almost feel the Party
breathing down your neck. The building looks like an architectural beast that
has leaped from Stalin's head. The "Great Hall" doesn't even vaguely look
Chinese - I dare suggest that it doesn't even look human. It's big, like the
Communist Party. I suppose that, if the Party were a school of design, the Great
Hall would be its model achievement. It's monolithic, cold, overbearing and
unattractive. This is where the Party meets and applauds the leadership for
making rules for everyone else. This is where old men define "revolution" as
keeping things the same through force.

Inside the edifice, "white" marble has somehow yellowed, as if someone had
smeared butterscotch and old ideas on it. Around the hallways of the building
are, tattered, stained, and buckled carpets revealing the state budget's
condition. The condition and ambience of some rooms made them appear like some
place one would hold a garage sale. On the ceiling of the building's huge
auditorium, a massive star (who knows what it's made of, it looks like plastic)
looms over it's crowd of true believers like some giant, cheap pin that a
retired cosmonaut would wear. Nothing looked like China. It was all Russian c.
1953. The founders of this "system" were definitely not Nationalists. They were
complete sell-outs to a foreign ideology. All the philosophical mistakes of the
west had been dumped onto them, courtesy of a Russian middleman.

The Great Hall of The People was what it looked like; it was a house of old
men.

Mao Zedong's mausoleum doesn't really deviate much from the aesthetic charms
of The Great Hall of The People. The only exception being that the old man who
dominates this building really is dead. The Mausoleum is the centerpiece of
Tiananmen Square and probably the center of Communist China's delusional heart.
Among many, Mao Zedong is still clearly thought to be a super human hero. The
fact that he is easily responsible for more deaths than Adolph Hitler fails to
convince some that actions speak louder than words. As with any icon of the
left, he only needed to speak of "justice," "equality," " and struggle against
"oppression," (in the Marxist universe, this gets you a blank check to kill and
imprison as many people as you'd like). Socialism loves a well-narrated fairy
tale.

Outside the dead thug's mausoleum are grand sculptures showing heroic workers
and peasants led by the magical silhouette of Mao. Most have weapons and fists
raised in triumph (the raised fist is a leftist peace symbol). Incredibly long
lines weave about outside the building. I sensed that most of the people waiting
truly believed that this guy was okay. I suppose if the Nazis had managed to
keep a grip on Germany, there'd be more than a few Germans paying homage to
Hitler's remains. Would a successful and surviving NAZI party tell future
generations that their "great leader" was a spirit of pure evil?

...Anyway, the entire escapade had an Elvis-like kitsch patina to it. As one
waited in line, dramatic choral music blared in the background with the ambience
of a Disney production at Graceland. I wondered if maybe it was Santa Claus laid
out inside. Compliant loyalists and their smiling kids dashed temporarily out of
line to purchase fake recycled flowers. I imagined Mao's form surrounded by these
token gestures of allegiance. I was imagining too much. The flowers are dumped
into an industrial cart inside the lobby before one even reaches the bloated
autocrat. They're later recycled for reselling - like the state's ideology. I
reaffirmed my belief that sentimental homage to dead politicians is really
stupid - even stupider if they were dictators.

If this were a U.S. public facility there'd be little capitalist plaques
saying "Carpet courtesy of Monsanto" and other demure advertisements...the price
of really well kept and beautiful public displays. I couldn't reconcile the
obvious devotion these people had for this dead egomaniac and the dismal
conditions of the building they housed him in. The corridors leading up to the
ruthless pig are in surprising disrepair. Buckled and stained wallpaper and
soiled electrical sockets. Mao's death throne wasn't musty, but it looked like
it should have been.

Finally, there he was. Flanked by soldiers and draped in a red Soviet Hammer
and Sickle flag (Why not the Chinese Flag, I wondered). The old boy's not
looking well. He really looks dead...all that smoking must have taken a toll on
his complexion. I won't use this little essay to go into the historical
significance of this clown other than to say that he represented the extreme end
of the leftist worldview. Mao took the Marxist-Leninist horror show and
increased its brutality. When one reads of "Maoist insurgents," one can be
certain that such insurgents are expressing the communist ideal in its most
ruthless form. When Pol Pot oversaw the mass killing of over a quarter of
Cambodia's population, it was with the usual basis in Marxism, an Intellectual's
education (in France of course), and the added refinement of Mao Zedong's
specific ideals for agrarian society. It should certainly be no surprise that
the current Chinese government is one of the few that still looks fondly upon
the bizarre prison society in North Korea under its dictator, Kim Jong Il. Like
all leftist value systems, "The People" are nothing more than an abstraction to
the great Communist "thinkers." They are a mere concept, toys, ...specimens to
experiment with. It disgusts me to realize that Mao Zedong's greatest following
was, and probably still is, amongst spoiled intellectual dweebs in the West who
resent the fact that they live in a world were the most prosperous and
successful societies are the ones that are the most free - and by default,
Capitalist.

Upon exiting Mao's observation cubicle, one is emptied into one of the most
bizarre souvenir shops I've ever seen. Mao kitsch in all its forms can be
purchased using money that also has his stupid face emblazoned on it. For
humor's sake, I bought a little folding plastic screen with pictures of the
Chinese fuehrer and a smattering of "revolutionary" old men. The clowns that
flanked Mao's portrait were all done up in military uniforms weighted down in
tacky medals. Only one of them is smiling, making him appear absolutely
hilarious among the other grimaces of rebel bitterness. It's hard to smile when
you're enslaving an entire civilization and you're hoping to avoid the latest
purge.

"Equality" and "justice," ...the perennial cry of the Jacobin intellectual
caste. The only distinction between Mao and Hitler was weight at time of death.



Nightlife

An interesting environment to appraise this culture in transition was its
nightclub scene. China has been officially corrupted by western (human)
decadence - good for them! I was only able to sample a few of the night venues.
One could see the typical Dionysian revel of any normal city, but there were odd
remnants of the party's looming presence. They surely know by now that they're
losing their grip. Like fundamentalist religions, radical politics cringes at
the thought of human passions. Anything that implies interest in sex or drinking
is foreboding to the uptight puritan of political ideology. The passionate
"revolutionary" just can't seem to fathom that some people have other interests
beyond The Party, The People, and other stoic abstractions. To possess mundane
and worldly interests is deemed "selfish" to a leftist ideologue (of course,
such things are deemed most selfish when practiced by others, since Marxists
occasionally indulge in such revel themselves). Worldly pursuits are often seen
as symptoms of that scourge every socialist hates - "materialism" (gasp!). Such
trivial enterprises as getting drunk, dancing, or wanting to get laid are
beneath the holy moral character of the champions of ideology, which is why this
Party is never any fun.

I found myself in a little cul-de-sac of club venues, a few of them harboring
American themes (e.g. a western style saloon). I went in the one that appeared
to be the most active. It was pulsing with music and dancing bodies. My initial
reaction was..."awesome!" "This looks okay." There were plenty of done-up young
girls and beer bottles circulating freely. It didn't take long for an attractive
young lady to come up to me and ask me to sit with her and her friends. This
would have been nice I suppose, but it's become a sort of ploy to get the
(supposed) wealthy tourist to pay for rounds of expensive drinks. I passed on
the invitation.

I found it rather amusing when I noticed a PLA ("People's Liberation" Army) cop, complete with helmet and
riot gear standing behind the D.J., some bored 24-year-old standing at attention
because he was told - maybe believed - that he was protecting the state from
potential "spiritual pollution." He had to have noticed the gorgeous young
tightly clad ladies dancing about. But there he stood, like an ice sculpture to
the socialist state and all it's puritanical gloom. Amazingly, disco tunes
cranked over the floor as scantly clad nymphs wove charms that the PLA could
never understand - Sparta's little hold on Dionysian potential. I asked a girl
why the cop was there. She said he was there to, "protect the D.J." - god
they're naïve. I later noticed that he wasn't the only cop in the place, like
everywhere else Beijing, the place was crawling with them. Like America's "war
on drugs," this was an example of a seriously overdone misuse of resources.
There were stickers on the wall with a Smiling cartoon cop holding his hand up
and saying "say no to Drugs" (god, they even copied that shit). It's scary when
a police state copies American anti-drug propaganda.

A girl asked me if I knew where she could get some marijuana (she asked in an
oddly affected unsecretive manner - I assumed she was one of "them"). In statist
society it's typical to use everyone against everyone else. I told her she'd
have to wait a few years and then added "wouldn't it be funny if that cop behind
the D.J. started playing the guitar?" She walked away uninterested in warped
western humor. After one girl stumbled around me a few minutes and mumbled some
indiscernible sentences, one of the non-hip cops-without-uniform guys made a
point of creeping up next to us to listen to what she was saying. I just posed a
look of disinterest in them both. The guy was probably somewhat pissed. Cops
hate it when a potential threat turns out to be unthreatening.

One thing I noted with pleasure was that these kids (most of them appeared to
be in their early twenties) were having fun. They were dancing to decadent
Western music, and were dressed for enticement. Most of them were probably
effectively drunk as well. Of course, what I'm pointing out isn't all that
amazing anymore in cities of the new China. It was just amazing to me because I
knew that less than thirty years ago most of these kids would be in sexless
proletarian uniforms turning each other in for any "crime" that indicated their
mind had wandered from the state's holy tenets. .



The Daily Ambience

Watching people swarm about the city in the daytime, I fancied that what I
was seeing was probably similar to Cuba (minus the free market activity), where banal tourists can walk about
photographing charm and quaint decay totally oblivious to the fact that the
citizens around them are constrained from expressing themselves freely upon any
issue that may be interpreted as "political." This of course includes meditation
exercises or benign statements in support of unapproved or unlicensed religions.
In a citizen's job, school, or local community, there are always others who will
take note of a one's attitude. In this regard, a state run by the Communist
Party is similar to a religious cult. The pressure may not stand out to those
merely passing by, but it's a considerable weight to those who must be
"cooperative" within the local routine circumstance they find themselves in.
Such weight clogs the very air in China's capital. Actually, the status of the
air is beyond mere symbolism.

The air in Beijing was clogged with filth. In the non-Socialist world, most
citizens have been convinced of the "need" for government intervention when it
comes to issues involving the environment. There's clearly a threshold though,
where government eventually gains an interest in not keeping the air, and water
clean. Hard-line socialists states like China are noteworthy in having horrible
pollution conditions, far worse than their capitalist counterparts (even though
industry and technology is less wide-spread).

Like any Communist enterprise, the entire city was a monument to capitalism,
for it shows just how bad things get when capitalism -- free exchange of ideas
and products - has been outlawed. Of course, I'm fully aware that what I was
seeing was a city and culture in transition and that much around me was now
capitalist, but the ugly weight of socialist authority still showed its stark
gloom almost everywhere I went in the city. The most lively and genuinely human
parts of the city were the most commercial, the places were the party was buried
by neon and shoppers -- Rousseau and Marx would hate it. In contrast, Many of
the Public buildings had an ugly façade incorporating motifs in dull faded red
mixed with faded yellow and gold - another reminder that ideologically, this
place's origins had sprung from the drab mind of Joe Stalin and Lenin (it was
Russia-China).

There's a weird smell everywhere in Beijing -- like garbage and burnt after-
Shave. It was even in my hotel room and remained in my travel case when I
returned. It's pungent and sweet, but vaguely repulsive. In my fanciful biased
reverie, I imagined it to be "what communism smells like" -- old men with cheap
hair tonic.

The currency I used was the "People's money" and looked like something in a
board game. Most of the bills had various poses of the "great helmsmen" (the
communist dictator Mao Zedong). Some bills had varieties of peasants from the
far-flung regions of the empire triumphantly exuding the glories of patronizing
multicultural political correctness. I wondered how soon it would be before the
U.S. had dramatic images of heroic generic minorities plastered across their
money. Of course the state needs to appease these folks as much as possible as
most of them would gladly split their cultures from the worker's playpen if
given the chance.

I found myself in Starbucks often. It was the ultimate island of recuperation. On
one occasion a Scott Joplin ragtime theme was playing, emphasizing the paradox
and absurdity around me.

I kept giving money to Starbucks. They gave me something I wanted (coffee)
and I gave them money (something they wanted). That's capitalism in a nutshell.
And, what of the workers in Starbucks? They gave Starbucks something it wanted
(labor) and Starbucks gave them some of my money. Ultimately, the party has
restrained the people of China for the last half century because some 19th
century German Philosopher thought all this free exchange was a bad idea.
Ironic, considering that said German thinker had a weak work record and
basically leeched off of others most of his life.

For every visible cop I saw on the streets of Beijing, I think there probably
two or three guys with plain clothes and sunglasses who definitely pay attention
to what "the People" are saying and doing. The state is a master of wasting
human resources on such folly.

On my walks, I'd often see the construction sites of massive skyscrapers
rising from the dingy city's scheme. At night, one can see these sites
surrounded by sleeping prols - on sight accommodations. In America, if such a
scene occurred, leftists would use it to justify the need for a socialist
"revolution." Here, it's a symbol of the revolution's success [!].

Each night that I walked about the streets I would see a few beggars, pretty
low key but clearly not so well cared for considering the price this society had
paid to supposedly eliminate such "injustices." A little dirty 6 year old, or
there-bouts, came to my bike as I was parking it and held her hands up, pleading
in Chinese. So, they've managed to create the worst of two worlds, inequality
and a police state. The entire apparatus exists for the sole purpose of keeping
Marxist orthodoxy and autocrats in power. I'm reminded of that often used
justification for such things, "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet."
The problem is, their eggs have been the skulls of their citizens and they
haven't even come close to making an omelet. Through most of communism's
history, they've made it hard to even get eggs.



The PLA

I checked out a couple of Antique shops in the back streets of the city. You
know something isn't quite right when a uniformed soldier is posted outside of
an antique shop. The People's Liberation Army runs much of China, in one way or
another. Like all communist states, the military has a key role in "maintaining
order." It's downright ironic that the radical left, in democratic countries
like the U.S., likes to pose as champions of pacifism, jumping at the
opportunity to oppose military action against assorted dictators or terrorist
states. Although a variety of citizens in America have opposed war actions on
numerous occasions and for numerous reasons, most of America's anti-war protests
have been organized by some affiliate of a socialist party or sympathizers to
the totalitarian (anti-capitalist) cause. And yet, to be sure, Marxist-Leninists
are all too obliged to lift the hand of Mars if the effort is directed toward
"spreading the revolution" or "protecting socialism."

The People's Liberation army's presence in Beijing is pervasive. The local
police are a mere branch of the institution. The Communists have developed a
solution to unemployment - they hire lots of people to be policemen and street
thugs. Can one even imagine how America would operate if the local cop was
ultimately working for the Pentagon and the Pentagon's purpose was to maintain
the rule of a single political party. (I realize that the "progressives" out
there will argue that this actually is the case, but it just ain't so).

The PLA needs cash, so after Deng Xiaoping said Capitalism would be okay if
it helped pay the Communist Party's bills, the PLA immediately jumped on the
opportunity to make the big bucks.

The PLA runs everything from gift shops to Disco's. Again, imagine the local
dance club sending its receipts to the Pentagon.



Communism in General:
Philosopher Kings and their philosophy
(thoughts can kill)


So, what does all this mean? Why do over a billion people currently live
under a bizarre authoritarian bureau-state, one that wears a new coat of
semi-respectability as it opens its cash drawers to the human desire to merely
do well? What are the philosophical underpinnings that have allowed this to
occur? To answer this, I must take issue with the entire edifice of
Marxist-socialist philosophy.

There are some very basic statements that one can make regarding the products
of Marx's political and economic philosophy.

Those with nothing are raised to subsistence. Those subsisting continue to
merely subsist. Those above subsistence are lowered and, of course, the elect
few (party members) are raised to holy status. The priority of Marxist socialism
to "guarantee" that everyone will obtain a subsistence level of existence has
typically succeeded initially if one lives through the purges and imprisonments,
but during the further implementation of their program the gauge of subsistence
is progressively lowered to account for mass famines and shortages of basic
commodities. A socialist will never acknowledge that it is the very philosophy
itself that dooms socialism to failure. The romantic idealist insists that a
near perfect world of equality can occur. The mistake in this argument is the
base assumption that equality is a desirable goal in the first place. What is
called equality is ultimately nothing more than, uniformity, conformity, and
subservience to the state and its minions -- leveling.

Another classic leftist assumption is that there is something out there
called "the People" (or "society") and some equally magical non-people that has
"too much" money. I believe it was a follower of Ayn Rand who once insightfully
said, "Society is no one in particular and everyone but yourself." This, of
course goes back to the Leftist's obsession in viewing humans in their status as
groups. In real life there is no "The People." Society is a collection of
individuals with a variety of diverse interests, values, and capacities
-equality is not a natural state for anything, anywhere. (This, of course, does
not refer to equality before the law, which is both desirable and easily defined
with no harm to anyone).

To act individually or within a group is ultimately a choice of the
individual. Socialism on any level is never voluntary. The mob can vote for it
or tolerate its growth, but the individual is helpless to choose his or her own
path in a commune with compulsory membership.

"The rich get richer..." Typically, the countries burdened with high rates of
poverty and starvation are those with the greatest amount of state control in
citizens' economic activity. It's never been a simple debate between "those who
seek to solve poverty vs. those who favor its existence." It's easy to say "he
has a lot of money, make him give some to "the poor" (after the government gets
their cut). It takes greater reasoning to recognize economic policies that
allow a country to prosper over the long run. It's foolish to argue that it's
preferable to live in a "fair" society of massive poverty over a prosperous
society that is unequal. Using poverty and inequality as an excuse to impose
authoritarian power, socialist governments have created horrid police states
that virtually guarantee economic stasis. They not only don't end poverty, but
also actually thwart any chance of dealing with it at all. Proclaiming the need
to end personal economic freedom to "end Poverty" makes as much sense as ending
water to solve the problem of thirst.

There is a significant difference between the "classes" that spontaneously
emerge in a dynamic and free economic system and the planned and enforced caste
that is imposed by an authoritarian system. Both socialist and capitalist
economies have "classes" - the capitalist one occurs due to the natural
differences and capabilities of people and is subject to constant change. The
socialist class system is due to imposed reward by and for ass-kissing
allegiances and compliance with ideology. There is certainly little opportunity
to change one's status in such a system. Personal application and initiative to
better one's circumstance is more likely to arouse suspicion than pay off in
status and reward.

The naïve and superficial view of economics that leads to sympathy for
socialist philosophy, can be seen in some common perspectives that many hold. If
you asked the average middle class citizen if rich people should have to give
part of their money (the "part they don't need") to the poor - they'd respond
matter-of-factly - "of course- it's only 'fair'." If you then suggested that
they too should be forced to put up the money they "don't need" to "help the
poor," you'd probably get all manner of protest, something to the effect that
they "work hard" for their money and only "the rich" people should have to [be
forced to] sacrifice their funds, their life, their soul, to some conjured cause
of justice - because "they're rich."



Communism in China Specifically:
"The Party" that isn't fun



The recent (and still quite active) leader of China, Jaing Zemin, has often
used the phrase "Chinese characteristics" to note the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist
system that's been imposed on the people of China. While it has been noted that
Confucianism does indeed call for solid tiers of respect and obedience, this
does not change the fact that the current secular religion ruling China is an
import from Germany and Russia. The citizens of the world's most populous
country would be wiser to follow the observations of Lao Tsu who, in the Book of
Changes, describes a prosperous order as one coming about by little or no
government interference (a far cry from the Marxist mega-state).

With capitalism you get a bunch of garish signs that try to get you to buy
stuff. With socialism you get an enforced demand to buy a philosophy, backed by
lots of police. The Beijing I saw, in my brief stay there, was crawling with
cops, which is what one can always expect when Marxist orthodoxy is implemented
and maintained. (Obedience to philosophers and ideologies is not part of the natural or spontaneous order of things).

In researching information on human rights issues in China, I've found that
what I observed while there was not particularly unusual. The harsher realities
of life there are in fact products of periodic efforts by the Communist party
to cleanse China of subversive elements that may threaten its monopoly on power.
Of course, like any one-party state, a "threat" is any disagreement or
desire for open self-expression. Local authorities are given a lot of latitude
in forcefully maintaining the party's paranoia and ruthless discipline. I was
reminded, while there, of all the angry Marxist rants I'd heard from pampered
middle-class "rebels" back in America. What kind of country would they create if
they were given a nation-state to play with? This was it, like the former Soviet
Union, the former Eastern Block, and anywhere else Marx's scheme had taken root
- "political correctness" on steroids...with an army. I thought it tragic to
consider where China might be now if this band of "rebel" idiots had not taken
control of the country and imposed the German/Russian economic plan. While
America was making refrigerators, hula-hoops, and laying the groundwork for the
communications revolution, these clowns were holding trials and reeducation
campaigns, and crowding prisons with "enemies of the people."

For over a half century, Marxism has been the Chinese state religion. With
all the fervor of fundamentalist Islam, it is a belief system that is not open
to question or appraisal. Where does such a philosophy ultimately take a
society? Imagine giving an angry middle class leftist intellectual in the U.S.
absolute power and a nation state. Voile, the worker's...cage.

To the great disappointment of the most fervent, the passing of a couple of
generations usually dooms "the revolution" to the ash heap destiny it well
deserves.

The Chinese Communist Party now finds itself in the same quandary that all
socialist economies eventually find themselves in. They can let the
command/authoritarian philosophy produce and maintain relative "equality" of
poverty or accept freedom with all its shortcomings and considerable benefits.

There's a new generation of Chinese who know little about the horrors of the
Cultural Revolution, or even the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. They simply
wish to work, listen to music, or be in love (horrid "bourgeoisie" amusements).
The party could initiate one of it's perennial crackdowns to shut the real world
off for a billion people, but that ain't gonna fly anymore. They'll have
difficulty explaining to this generation that a dictatorship and one party
monopoly on power is for "their own good." Their other choice is to continue
reform, liberalization, and constraining corruption through an enhanced respect
for the rule of law (and not mere obedience to philosopher kings and
bureaucrats).

It's doubtful that the party of Mao and Jaing Zemin would be the freely
chosen one in a truly open election of contending viewpoints. The communist
party is now in a well-deserved corner. No matter what course they follow,
they'll be lucky to get out of it without "the People" retaliating against their
over half-century of oppression and sterile imposed conformity.

In China - as everywhere Marx's philosophy has been implemented - all the
worst traits pointed to in the free market system are magnified ... with the added
"bonus" of seriously top-heavy government maintaining absolute authority over
its citizens. In essence, a communist society is one in which a single
mega-corporation -- the communist party -- has cornered the market on ...
everything!

A possible scenario of how communism in China will end: More internet sites,
previously accessed, will be deemed to be affording "too much" access to
information and such access will be "temporarily" shut down by the "State" (the
Party). A bunch of 23 year olds who know nothing of capitalist or Socialist
philosophy will ask, "why?" A free society always asks "why?" A statist one
simply says, "Do as you're told," sometimes adding contrived altruistic
embellishments about "the people" or "the revolution."

One of the standard rants directed at America and capitalist countries in
general concerns, "Imperialism." The mere act of opening a food franchise on
foreign soil is often enough to elicit the charge. The Communist states
ironically have a well-documented track record for seeking to expand their
boundaries through force and violence and seldom "colonize" with so benign a
method as selling Big Macs to individuals who have freely chosen the product.

Considering China's well-documented dealings with Tibet and its current fears
of more freedom taking hold in Hong Kong, the population of Taiwan and the
civilized international community have every reason to be suspicious and fearful
of the stoic autocrats who lord over the Chinese people.

The issues regarding Taiwan are clearly complex. Although there is a
historical connection between the Island nation and the Mainland, recent history
has left the two states with radically different governments and cultures. The
Communist party does not rule over Taiwan - but it certainly wishes to change
that situation. Like Tibet at an earlier time, Taiwan is seen and described as a
"renegade province." "Renegade" in the communist vocabulary means they don't
wish to submit to the whims of a single autocratic political philosophy.

In spite of depictions in the media, the Communist mainland's controversy
with Taiwan has not been over mere threats by Taiwan to publicly proclaim
independence. More accurately, the threat from Taiwan is that its citizens may
dare vote for such independence. As has been typical of communist parties and
their mentality around the world throughout history, the "ignorant masses" dare
not determine their own life beyond the party's control.



Sympathy and Support: Responses of the intellectual community's
"Progressives"


Remember those pampered ranting radicals in college. Imagine these true
believers in a dozen "isms" being given their own nation-state. That's China under the communists.

With a historically documented track record for incredible violence and
coercion, the politics of the extreme left is still looked upon by some with
sympathy, if not outright support. Why? For one, we must look at where this
support comes from. In the West, it would not be an exaggeration to say that
socialism's supporters come from an intellectual elite. In that sense they are
little different from the champions of most of Communism's most dogmatic and
ruthless experiments. There's an ironic over-abundance of the "well to do"
amongst Marxism's leaders and followers; disgruntled artists, philosophers, and
other contrived bohemians who tend to fancy themselves anti-materialist
"rebels." Such a pampered corps of fervent believers makes for a supportive
brigade of raised fists.

While the world's intellectual community continues to deride Adam Smith's
"invisible hand," one should surely find it preferable to the visible fist that
Marxist socialism has continually offered.

Psychologically, the romantic idealism of the hard Left will gladly
relinquish a good portion of humanity to build their magic kingdom. Mao Zedong
himself said that a loss of half the world's population in nuclear war would be
acceptable [!] as a step in building his new order. Pol Pot thought nothing of
exterminating a quarter of Cambodia's population in striving for the same goal.

There's an odd reluctance on the part of those who call themselves
"progressives" to acknowledge the depth of horror that their wicked twin -
communism - has imposed on millions. The same people who shrieked in horror at
civilian casualties when America struck Afghanistan and the Taliban, weren't to
be found during Russia's ten-year [!] involvement there. The most one will hear
(on rare occasions) of Communist aggression, imperialism, and hegemony, are some
bland bureaucratic acknowledgements of "human rights issues," "misguided
experiments," or, "perhaps having gone too far in their earnest attempts to
create a better world."

In it's most basic essence, radical politics is the abode of control freaks -
mad that free individuals are beyond their control (and might become wealthy as
well). To the resentful intellectual/artist, anything is preferable to a world
where open commerce results in greatness and wealth for some and insignificance
to others (themselves).



Personal Evaluation: The future

In China today, many gaze on symbols of rapid economic development (Beijing
is rampant with high rise construction) and see the fruits of socialism's
"promise." After my trip, an issue of Time/Asia contained comments by a citizen
of Nanning who expressed his thanks to Chairman Mao and Deng Xia-Ping for new
trees and the -- now -- clean river in his city. It wouldn't occur to such a
blind and compliant follower, that the recent advent of market reform has been
the cause of the new state of affairs, or that what they are finally
experiencing could have actually taken place long ago - as it had in Taiwan or
Hong Kong - if the Communists had not come to power and imposed their bleak
system of control.

Like Japan and other countries in Asia, China has begun to copy America in
some respects - the dreaded "Americanization" -- but, on a broad level, even
America's method and style is not its own. The dynamism of a relatively free
system has resulted in all the things we call American - a result of free and
diverse human expression. It's why "American" means foods from Italy, China,
Japan, Ireland, etc. Ironically, the emerging access to food, clothing styles,
and music from around the world is, when not being derided as "globalization,"
is often called "Americanization." What countries perceive to be Americanization
is ultimately nothing more than the circumstance one consistently finds with the
emergence and establishment of a middle class who are free to choose styles of
food, music, entertainment, and lifestyle.

As a country still ruled by the Communist Party, China is but one example of
government authority that extends far beyond the reach of reasonable constraint
and limitation. It is clear that the historical terrors and present day abuses
in this system are not qualities that are absent in the west. In America itself
the well thought out restraints to government power outlined in it's
constitution have been breached a million times over. Although that is "another
story," it should be emphasized that the very horrors, which occur in the one
party dictatorship of China increasingly occur in the U.S. and other countries
that are less centralized or under the thumbs of dogmatic authority. The
problems and flaws outlined in this rant are ultimately not just problems with
China, but any philosophical mindset that will gladly feed arbitrary power to
the State. The motivations to such a stance are often, ironically, noble;
resentment of "inequality," concern for "social justice," and other
preoccupations of Romantic Idealism.

Those who seek to free the Chinese people from their ruthless incompetent
over lords need to stress to them the reality and causes of their circumstance.
Communism in China is ultimately a mere extension of the imperialist legacy. It
is largely a foreign (German and Russian) philosophy imposed by elitist
intellectuals who were educated in European traditions.

Socialism, Communism, romantic political idealism, and "progressive"
authoritarianism are ideals professed by a long chain of philosophers. They were
refined by Rousseau and Marx, implemented by Lenin, honed by Stalin, and
perfected and fine tuned by Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and Kim Jong Il et. al.

So, what does this one document's biased appraisal of Beijing and China tell us?
Admittedly, nothing really. Those who agree with my initial philosophical stance
hardly need further convincing that Communism and its variations are wretched
value systems in which to "organize" society. Those who disagree have likely not
read beyond the first few paragraphs anyway.

With all the disruption, broken bones, and broken lives, that Communism has
left in its wake, some will still rally forward with their dream of imposed
"equality," "justice," and "revolution." In the final analysis, the Chinese
version of Marx's utopian vision bears little difference from everywhere else
it's been applied. A given cult leader's style may very, but the same arrogance,
inflexibility and cruelty always surfaces (and usually manifests from the very
beginning). This shouldn't be a surprise. Indeed, among more sober minded
observers it has never has been a surprise. Those of us who recognize the
potential good in fellow humans know that for them to truly flourish, they must
be permitted to live their lives as they themselves choose. The resulting world
will not be utopia and it certainly won't be the sterile template, "equality."
It may not ever guarantee "justice," but it will also not be a world of famines,
purges, reeducation programs and states that decree destruction of economies and
lives.

I have no doubt that within the next few decades China will increasingly become a dynamic
society of free people. The fact that this will coincide with the fall of the
Communist party's authority there will be lost to some. To others it won't ever
matter, they've got better things to do with their lives than read stale
dogmatic chants from dusty old Red Books.




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