Thursday, January 24, 2008

Of Cavemen, Spirinters, Rocketships and Nationalism

I find it odd how the Chinese seem to have an overwhelming desire to be able to trace every aspect of human history back to China. Every invention, every political, philosophic or political thought simply has to have been at least foreshadowed in China a thousand years before anybody else thought of it. I must admit that I don't really like racial interpretations of history or ideological ones either and it appears to me that often times the Chinese engage in a well stirred blend of both.

They've found a fossil of a caveman this week that is a prime example. It is supposedly 100,000 years old and according to the local news reports shows that ancient humans where in China long before anyone in the West thought they were. In other words, though not stated as such, everything started in China. They wouldn't care if this thing had been found in Canada. It might make a short blurb on the "Culture Express" program on CCTV9 but nothing more. But, because it was found in China it is all over the news. You'd think they'd found the signature of Slartybarfast on a rock and that it was in Chinese.

The manufactured excitement over the Beijing Olympics is also somewhat scary to me. I really wonder about people whose national identity is so shallow or fragile that they feel they must prove their national manhood by winning more medals than anybody else. I would expect wealthy nations with relatively large populations to do better in a setting like the Olympics than a poor and corrupt country like Chad or the UK. Make no mistake, China is a nation that is both wealthy and populous. They should, therefore, win their fair percentage of medals at the Olympics. But the Chinese I've talked to and those they quote on TV seem to want Chinese to finish with the top three spots in every sport to prove how superior China is to the rest of the world. "Zek Heil" anyone?

I lived in the US during the Atalanta, Lake Placid, LA and Salt Lake City games. I don't remember 30 minute TV mini-series on the Olympics airing every night after the news.

If I were the IOC I'd make every Chinese athlete pee into a cup three times a day and draw blood as well from now until after the Olympics and do a complete test for steroids or banned substances in every sample. Otherwise they could just ask those women divers on the Chinese team why they suddenly have all that hair on their legs and have started growing hooves, horns and tails and going "mooooo" when they pass a bale of hay. Herbal supplements? Yeah right.

Then there is the Chinese space program. Why are they so proud of it? The PRC is doing things that the US and USSR did nearly 50 years ago. You'd think they'd be embarrassed rather than proud. Especially since they didn't even do it by themselves. They simply photocopied the blueprints of old Soviet rockets.

I don't know. I feel that patriotism is a good thing generally. It is also true that the last refuge of scoundrels is patriotism. Too often those who are not scoundrels go along with the scoundrels for personal gain, out of complacency or out of fear. I think that the patriotic Chinese need to rid themselves of more than a few scoundrels in their government. It is time that the Chinese become able to separate themselves from their history and be able to look at their national flaws as well as their virtues. But that would require an amount of honesty and freedom that isn't present in China. Not yet anyway; maybe soon.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who loves China but doesn't always understand China

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