Friday, April 24, 2020

Oh For Chissakes, WTF is This NOW?

If I thought that I had some kind of exceptional mind, I suppose that I would regret the waste of my life. But I don't regret a thing, and I think my mind is just fine. I certainly do work harder than your average bear to keep it that way. I know I don't have a scholar's mind, so no regrets there either. The trouble is that I'm left out from all the interesting discussions.

Here's a typical day: I get an email from a highly distinguished teacher of AP Biology. Hell, he may be the original teacher of AP Biology. What I know for sure is that he was the longest tenured - at 35-some years - teacher at the school I briefly headed, where AP tests were pioneered.

Now, OK, I can blame his veering toward Trump as a consequence of living in Texas now, and of old age. I generally appreciate his humorous spam, and look askance at the ignorant stuff. So today, he sent me a link to a YouTube which "proves" that China planted the Coronavirus, and insinuates that it did so deliberately. A conspiracy theory, in short, not unlike Loose Change which insinuated that Dubya brought down the World Trade Towers. Those desks were manned for a long time at public gatherings. Often alongside the Scientologists, as I recall.

Like you, I'm sure, I've been annoyed by incessant ads on YouTube for "The Epoch Times," and like you I click past them as fast as I can. This time I took a look, and sure enough the Epoch Times is a Trump-supporting true fake news organization genetically related to the Falun Gong. You know, the ones who bring you the Shen Yun extravaganza and get you to think that it represents the true beauty of China.

I've never watched their show, though I have become alert to their ubiquitous flyers, often posted in store windows. I think I may even have been tricked or talked into distributing them myself, before I knew that they were connected to Falun Gong. I have a genuine affinity for China, and knew not what I was doing.

After the events of June 4, 1989, I was engaged in a rather full-throated way in commemorating the massacre stateside. In a way, by virtue of indemnifying a memorial with my School's bond, and by being front page in the News for suing the mayor for access to a public park for the memorial, I was at the center of the commemoration in Buffalo, NY.

Just as the CCP has moderated, I have moderated my views of what the truth is. I won't go into that here and now, but I will say that the thrust of the narrative in this new conspiracy film, which is directed squarely at the CCP, could as easily be turned against the bi-partisan unfettered capitalist regime in these United States. We have to be a little bit more precise now about who and where the enemies of democracy are.

The film is far less polished than Loose Change was. It's main device is to use an obviously fake "investigative journalist" who is a puppet for someone else's voice. In other words, I'm assuming that the film's credits lie. At the very end of the hour-long YouTube is some benign Falun Gong propaganda about compassion, or what I might call universal love.

It seems to me, perhaps tragically, that the Chinese government almost couldn't help but suppress the Falun Gong inside of China. They are jumpy about such movements for historical reasons, just as we are jumpy about communism, I suppose. To say that its methods and its message contradict anything the Falun Gong wants to say about compassion is beyond understatement.

Just now, we should all be rather more jumpy about authoritarianism in any form. In that regard, it becomes ironic that the Epoch Times should be supporting Trump. It all reminds me of Spy v. Spy in the old Mad Magazine.

In the old days of the Chinese Communist Party, under Mao, even they couldn't have believed their own propaganda about the West, and about the U. S. in particular. For a brief while after Deng provoked an opening up, China was in love with the U. S. and anyone from here.

In my own experience interacting with many Chinese travelling to the U. S. with educational delegations, that love quickly turned to envy and then a kind of contemptuous superiority during a time-frame which saw Xi Jinping gradually assume the mantle of Chairman, which implied "for life," and which later got written into the code, to the horror of the rest of the world.

In Trump's case, I don't think he has the guile to mount any direct attacks on China (he also lacks plenty of other prerequisites, that I won't go into here). I take Xi simply to be more benign, certainly than Trump is, and not so narcissistic. His very public initiatives have worked like a charm, and I doubt it would be in his interest to take on the U.S. directly just now, even given the opportunities we've been presenting him. Trump is truing the narrative of Chinese anti-American propaganda better than anyone inside the CCP could have dreamed. He is legitimizing them beyond anything even Xi could do himself.

So, I hew here once again to Occam's Razor. There's no need to ferret out conspiracy when so many more mundane explanations can be found. Sure the Chinese work to unsettle our political system, just like the Russians do, and just like Trump denies (since it mostly helps him). Sure, we work to unsettle theirs. But the overall world is settled on the way it wants the future to look, and Shanghai and New York are the Avatars. That future is only good for some of us, and we should be very concerned about that.

So, this Spy v. Spy stuff can only be a distraction from the work that really needs getting done. And that would be to build or to rebuild political systems which can be sustained on a sustainable earth. Neither China nor the U. S. are on a trajectory to do that. It's still not clear if the virus is helping or hurting, but the answer surely depends on what we make of it.

If the virus valorizes China's system at the same time that it exposes the weaknesses of ours, that's still not the end of the story. If China comes out on top - as I feel certain that it will, though for less nefarious reasons than those in this silly film present - that's not the end of the democracy we once did dream of. Not only is economic strength (or military strength, especially in the U.S. where each is proxy for the other) not always the measure of a healthy system - at least because it's both jumpy and may lead or lag what's right or wrong with the system - economic strength may be the measure of a weak system, especially when wealth is maldistributed and not sustainable.

My only point here is to watch out for which narrative you support. Steer clear of the Scientologists, the Falun Gong, the evangelicals, the Republicans, the CCP and any others who have hard-to-discern motives for getting you to believe what it is they're saying. For sure, steer clear of Trump and anyone who is stupid enough to support him. Not everyone who wants you to champion democracy is actually doing so themselves. They may think they are, but they're really championing a system which is working for them in the here and now.

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