Chinese Nostalgia

The International Herald Tribune has on a couple of occasions–most recently today–included what at first glance seems a Chinese news supplement. A second glance shows that it is “prepared by China Daily, People’s Republic of China.” It is a “news” advertisement section. Scanning through it is like a trip down memory lane–the days of State Controlled Media–and a reminder that, in fact, such is still the case in China. Its lead story, “Road Map Unfolded,” is a breathtakingly uncritical account of Premier Wen Jiabao’s announcement of China’s five-year social and economic development plan. The business article is called “Executives: Outlook is good for business.” It is intended, apparently, to give English-speaking Europe insight into China. It does–but surely not in the way its makers meant. It is written in passable English–no garish gaffes. But it is dead, ghostly. Rather than show us that the New China is just like the West, its message is whiplash retro: a throwback to Chairman Mao.


Kurt Lovelace, a German-American poet who I knew back in the day, just sent me some of his poetry, among which was this very fine thing:

Put Some Relish on Your Plate, Pontius Pilate

I started out believing in everything:

the open field, plow in hand, horse

waiting to be worked, words hedged in the furrow

of a somnambulant dream, irises open

to the moment of opening

as if posturing a proof were proof enough

but without the heavy lifting of burdens, the

concrete blunders one must make clearing the way

to ubiquitous insight.

If the hurt would stop helping the scrunched imp

of all our days rolled into aphasias of dreaming

that stream down like sunlight through the wet branches

of Spring, it might be enough.

Perhaps I can ask you about it someday

and you’ll tell me everything I’ve ever wanted

was within reach, if only I would have put

out my hand, wide palms like bells ringing:

but to wedding, a funeral or just praise

at the hours and minutes granted us?

The world is flat as we make it to be

and dysfunctional as any academic journal

that needs must exclude much to get out each issue

as if saying no is how we define and chisel-out

our future defunct selves, some not regretting

their appointed rounds, headlights firing deer up

in those dark snowy woods where we began

so recently ago, stirring fire tearing flesh

from fresh kill grunting sex berries barely edible we

sat huddled against the large night

of animals dancing in their thin stars above us.

Say again, what?

Put your fears in a little box and smoke it:

not this warm interrogatory weather we’ve been having

that no one really wants to talk about, that peels

shirts from bodies with an utter unconcern that’s neither

here nor there.

Copyright Kurt Lovelace 2011 All Rights Reserved

Email: Kurt.Lovelace@Gmail.Com

For Further Poems —  http://PoetsPlace.Com/Kurt

Needed: New Nuclear News

One of the upsides–if it could be called that–of the Japanese nuclear nightmare has been a new focus of critical attention on nuclear energy.  It was sold as super-cheap.  In fact–pick your study (here’s one)–it is hideously expensive–and that without addressing the health and environmental risks.  Here in Europe, France has gone whole hog for nuclear power, with 75% of its power coming from nuclear reactors.  The Japanese sold nuclear to their public as the only viable way of powering their densely populated archipelago.  In the U.S., many environmental groups were long skeptical, but eventually went along for the ride, on the grounds that nuclear is cleaner than fossil.  Time says the irony of nuclear politics in the U.S. is that while the government keeps pushing nuclear, Wall Street is backing away.  Meanwhile, Japan’s prime minister has just told parliament: “The earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear accident may be Japan’s largest-ever crisis.”  I used to live in Tokyo, and I can tell you: the Japanese are not given to overstatement.

The Long History of Official Japanese Denial

The Japanese government has a long history of denial.  There was an official policy of denying Japan’s 1937 massacre in the Chinese city of Nanking, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of women were raped by Japanese soldiers.

For decades the Japanese government denied that its military ran brothels–staffed by “comfort women” from around Asia–especially during World War II.  This was despite overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands of women were forced into prostitution.  Only in the 1990s did the government begin to change its line.

The Japanese government similarly denied for decades that it had an agreement with the U.S. military whereby American nuclear vessels could use Japanese harbors, and held to its denial even after American documents detailing the agreement were declassified.

The lack of information coming from Japanese official sources in the unfolding nuclear catastrophe has to be put in historical context, for the sake not only of the Japanese people but those in other parts of the world who may be at risk.

See: Japan Times, The Rape of Nanking, comfort women.

The New Jeffersons

Joris Luyendijk–one of the most nimble and far-ranging Dutch writers today–told me something last evening that could provide a new frame for understanding recent events in the Middle East.  Luyendijk lived and studied in Cairo, and one thing has struck him in blogged comments of young Arabs he has been following.  The organizers of rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are–as has been endlessly reported–of a new, digital-savvy generation, and their way with Twitter and Facebook has caught the old guard looking old and off-guard. These new revolutionaries are, we are led to believe, the latest incarnation of the crossbow-wielders and the musket-shoulderers, changing the military/political game with new technology.

But does their focus come with crippling limitations?  Luyendijk said he has heard more than once comments like this: Once [Insert Tyrant Name] is gone, I’m done with politics. That, safe to say, was not the sentiment of a Jefferson or a Lenin.  Luyendijk made these comments over a dinner we had with Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows, is a warning about the shallowing of all sorts of discourse that is taking place in the internet age.  Are the leaders of the would-be revolutionaries steeped in politics to the extent necessary to carry the momentum of revolution into a new order?  Is their commitment to change deep or shallow?