Thursday, December 03, 2015

Mao: “I used to read [these outlawed books] in school, covering them up with a [Chinese] Classic when the teacher walked past . . . "

As a boy, Mao read voraciously, developing what would become a lifelong habit.  “What I enjoyed were the romances of Old China, and especially stories of rebellions,” he later recalled.  “I used to read [these outlawed books] in school, covering them up with a [Chinese] Classic when the teacher walked past  . . .  I believe that perhaps I was much influenced by such books, read at an impressionable age.”

I read this on the ferry into Seattle to catch the train to the airport earlier tonight.  I couldn’t help noting the irony between this quote and an article in today’s LA Times  about how four men involved in a book company in Hong Kong that publishes political books about Mainland politicians, disappeared in October this year.  Their work, based on the one country two systems policy, is legal in Hong Kong.  [Can't get the link right now as we prepare to board, but will try to add it later.]

Where will the future Mao’s come from?  Well, Mao’s legacy is pretty grim, so maybe those books should be available too so people don’t repeat what he did.  

The original quote comes from James Bradley, The China Mirage:  The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia.   

Bradley, who also wrote Flags Of Our Fathers, started this research trying to understand what had caused the US to go into the war in which so many died, and his father had fought.  

So far, the basic premise is that American Christian missionaries along with the traders who got rich smuggling opium into China, painted a picture for Americans  of China just waiting to become Christianized and Americanized.  And a few Chinese students in the US played this fantasy to their advantage.  

Sound familiar?  

Seems like we’re still running blindly into other parts of the world we are woefully uninformed about and are easily swayed by Americanized nationals, especially those of wealth, good family, and a US education, and a story that matches our narrative of the US greatness and as the savior of the world.  

Bradley traces how Warren Delano was among the opium traders who created family dynasties.  Delano's fortune was passed on, in part, to  both Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Franklin’s story of China came directly from his Grandpa Warren and his mom Sara who had spent a few early years in a completely isolated rich quarter in Hong Kong.   From this she was an expert on all of China.  

What do we really know about the Middle East?  Sure, there are a lot more sources today, but think about some of our recent adventures, and think about what some politicians are saying we should do.  Their realities are just as wishful as those who invested in Chiang Kai Shek in the 1920s.  

1 comment:

  1. I want to comment on your observations about the foreign-placed 'domestic' in other countries, the problem known in the UK as ‘Children of the Empire’.

    Gene and I have seen the very real differences between US citizens, here in Britain, who come over to live within a military or corporate transfer and those just 'moving' countries. The sponsorship works to tie one to the ‘home country’ in so many ways: where one lives, the 'extra' health plan that lets one jump the queues, the school one places one's children, the very place one can rent or buy is influenced by these helps of an arranged life.

    Contrast that with folks like us who move with no assistance for immigration barriers, the bureaucracy, finding housing, paying taxes in two countries. There’s more: where one’s friends live, spends time with, the news one decides to read or not, the people you work with and most important of all, how 'native' one wishes to be or become. If you are plunked down in another country with hopes of leaving, it’s harder to really live with that place. It isn’t home when you go fly. There's always that 'get out of jail' card to be played -- that emergency airlift when one knows if you call on the US or the UK for help.

    Two events may help illustrate my thinking a bit. Yesterday, two news events broke in their respective countries. The vote of Parliament in the UK to enter an air campaign against De'ash targets in Syria v. the US story of mass-death and injury by shootings.

    I wrote to my MP, I talked with friends on the upcoming vote. I urged others to oppose in my neighbourhood. Our MP abstained. It was a small accomplishment. It felt good. I contrast this with the California mayhem news, where Gene's sister has a daughter-in-law who is a sister of one of the injured.

    I can't imagine a better test to my citizen sentiments. And I found I’m more concerned as a citizen with UK bombing policy as it’s where I live. I am concerned personally with the US shooting as a matter involving my extended family.

    This, for me, is partly what you're writing about – and more. It's that whole 'children of the Empire' thing that civil servants used to be in the UK when their own children grew up while in foreign postings. It is much like what US citizens (or its pretenders) have in relation to countries they visit or work in when they always intend to move back. It's an unavoidable consequence of global reach and power that someone does the work overseas. Where does one allegiance really rest? How then can you be part of the local knowledge when you don’t accept what you learn?

    In a reverse way, this is any country’s worry over immigration. Are you REALLY one of us? Can we really trust you as one of us? Living in two worlds, we aren’t quite cut of the same cloth as those who know no tug of allegiance to culture, language, politics of the other, the place one used to be.

    In the case of the US citizen, it isn't simply that you are a person who moved country. You are a Yank, no matter where you go. The work before you, before us Americans of the United States, is to lay down that affiliation long enough to see we don't see and know locally. And then begin to really live there.

    For me, one sign of doing so was slowly letting go of Thanksgiving.

    It's a difficult effort and many aren't even aware they might do so. And so America gets led by the trusted son or daughter of its loins and lands, as did the British Empire before it, relying on its expatriated returnees, ever eager to come 'home' for information.

    The US likely won't hear from many of us who don't want to return as we’re seen as exhibiting unpatriotic thinking – we’re no longer ‘real’ Americans – I’ve been told this. But that makes all the difference. It’s the view the USA won’t hear, Steve, as they are right.

    Be well.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.