Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 67“If you say the name ‘David Beckham’ many Chinese people won’t know who you’re talking about. You must say ‘Dai wei Bei ke han mu.’ And if you want to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger, you have to call him ‘A nuo de Shi wa xin ge.’ The vast majority of Chinese people, even those with good English skills, find themselves restricted in conversation with non-Chinese speakers because they lack the understanding of other tongues due to Chinese government restrictions.In many ways the Chinese language, spoken by more than 20% of humanity, has reached a dead end. No new characters can be made. New words have to be coined by combining the present set of characters, which is a problem when using hieroglyphic languages (one character for one word).While English has been adapted by many other cultures, the Chinese language has never exerted the same influence. Historically, many characters in the Japanese language came from China, but the Japanese written language has gone off in its own direction. But Chinese does not easily incorporate new words into its lexicon.”
As far as Republicans go, A nuo de Shi wa xin ge seems largely free of the ideological lunacy of that party. Politicians are mostly image, yet they like to pretend they have substance. By that measure it’s at least a step towards pragmatic clarity to have a man who is explicitly defined as image becoming a politician. Indeed perhaps the fact that he is so overtly manufactured gives Arnie an added strength as a politician. He has no need to deny the obvious, and that endows a certain sort of freedom.
But Sarah Palin…. Now that’s some scary shit. A woman who believes in creationism possibly the next in line to the presidency of the USA? China’s leaders certainly believe in the power of violence, greed, and corruption and tell endless lies about the good things they have done for the country – but at least they stop short of the colossal stupidity of believing the world was made in seven days. They may be brutes and thugs, but they are not as cretinous as creationists.
I’ve focused a lot of the negative aspects of life in today's China, and though I have (apparently to little notice) mixed that in with positive comments throughout this blog, here I will be more overt. If I had to choose one achievement of modern China that deserves respect, I would cite its removal of the virus of religion from the mass of its people.
Now whether the ends justify the means is an argument for another entry. And certainly the bloody glee with which China went about expunging religion from its culture was a crime every bit as bad as the monstrosities christianity has visited on the world. For example, China’s suppression of Tibetan religion, a genocide in progress at this very moment, is a stain on humanity.
But even though the means are evil, the ends teach us a lesson. The majority of young people in China today have no belief in religion – and on the whole (spite of my many criticisms) they are pretty well-balanced, rational and moral. That’s one of the greatest lessons China has to teach the world – people get on just fine without religion. Sure, it’s not an undiluted lesson, for though China has dismissed the fairy tale of faith, it clings on to numerous other nonsenses, many of which have been discussed in the entries preceding this one.
Perhaps humanity needs to believe in nonsense, whether it’s the blustering arrogance of communism or the absurd self-contradictions and logical impossibilities of religion. I don’t know. But at least China has tossed one grand lie into the dustbin of history – the lie of religion.
Good for China.
Yet no message can be unmixed, and so I’ll end this entry with a thought for Thubten Jigme Norbu, who died on the 5th of this month. A great man and a fine writer, thoughtful and balanced. The world is the less for his death.
Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 68“The very fact that Chinese is such an ancient language makes some commentators see it almost as an antique. According to Wang Shuda, writing for China Daily, “You cannot learn Chinese without understanding basic background knowledge.” That’s a fair enough statement in any language. But what does Wang mean by “basic background knowledge”?‘Do you know “wu xing,” the five important elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth, the relationships … among them?’ Wang asks, suggesting that a cultural understanding of these elements in a Chinese way equals an understanding of Chinese as a language.‘Do you know Chinese classical poems, such as “tang shi,” the Tang [Dynasty, 618-907] Poems? How many can you recite?’ he writes, as if a modern language must first be respected for its roots. His implication is that a student of English could not learn the language without first understanding the sonnets of Shakespeare.”