Friday, January 18, 2008

The Failure of a Cultural Revolution

Dear Dong Ping & Colleagues Across The Curriculum
(Courses Without Borders Series)


Cultures of Submissiveness

Laoshi changchang zai,
gangqiang sheifei duo

“Submission ensures a safe life,
courage leads to trouble.”

At the very bottom of the Chinese social
hierarchy, ordinary villagers had become
accustomed to oppression and abuse. As
a result, official abuse was normal for them.

In this struggle for success in the national
entrance examination, one sees the legacy
of traditional Chinese education, the goal
of which was to train loyal and obedient
civil servants for emperors rather than
creative thinkers for society.

It was common for teachers to strike students’
heads with sticks and other convenient objects
like chalk andblack board erasers.

Dong Ping Han, The UnknownCultural Revolution

(the etymological origin of the words “study,”
“student” and “stupid” is I.E. steu: to be struck
by a stick. Stunning. Stunned. Actually, in both
Zen and early Greek traditions: something like
this stunned condition is considered requisite to
the beginning of philosophy. How else entertain
the new and the alien?)
Tipping point: that phrase has replaced “robust”
among adult speakers (not counting sustainable,
or among adolescents & TV interviewees: “surreal”)
Moving forward, we must openly address not only the
drug issues plaguing the sports we love, but the culture
of fear that shakes our society. We’re scared of failure,
aging, vulnerability, leaving too soon, being passed
up — and in the quest to conquer these fears, we are
inspired by those who do whatever it takes to rise above
and beat these odds.

We call it “drive” or “ambition,” but when doing

“whatever it takes” leads us down the wrong road, it
can erode our humanity. The game ends up playing us.
So let the rookie teach us all something important.

Just do it, but do it ... afraid.

Doug Glanville, former Chicago Cubs, Phillies,
& Texas Rangers player. “In Baseball: Fear Bats
at the Top of the Order” NYTIMES 1/17/08
Here, where the
northern swells of
the Appalachians
lap the southern
fringe of the Rust
Belt, thousands of
people who long
had tough but
sustainable lives
are being wrenched
into the working poor. (NY Times 1/17/08)
Guan Zhaoyin, a former landlord in South River village,
kept a big variety of beautiful hybrid golden fishes inside
huge tanks with pretty rocks. He also had some beautiful
parrots and three white mice inside a cage playing tricks
with various gadgets.

The official Red Guards of the village denounced them
as the culture of the exploiting classes and destroyed
them in public.
Sida, “the four bigs,” referred to daming (great airing of opinions),
dafang (great freedom), dazibao (big character posters), and
dabianlun (great debate) – the 4 bigs that helped move the
Cultural Revolution in China back in the day.

Powerful village and production team leaders were
overpowered by the big character posters targeting them.
They lost their arrogant air. Big character posters were a
widely used medium during the Cultural Revolution. Street
walls were covered with layers and layers of big character
posters. After the wall space was used up, wooden boards
were set up to hold more big character posters. Writers of
big character posters did not need to please any editors,
and no reputation was needed to put one out.

Villagers say that if they are not happy with what was
going on in their village, they could write posters to air
their opinions. In a Chinese village, a big poster attracted
attention very quickly. Thus an individual could easily put
his or her concern into public forum. Other people could
write to engage in discussion too.

Ordinary people were empowered by this convenient
political weapon, which was one of the reasons the
Communist Party officials and village party bosses
hated it so much.

See Pg 61—re great debates, big character posters,
mass meeting: empowering the workers.
Dong Ping Han, The Unknown CulturalRevolution

Sames & Differences Game

Of course the Cultural Revolution failed & the
problems remain, (the thesis of Dong Ping’s Study
: how to reconcile and relate “social justice” and
“economic success”
—2 hostile but complementary
aspects of any conscious & self system of any size.)

It always looks something like this:
on on
the the
one hand other hand

Go ahead and substitute surrogates for X & Z--your
favorite binary pairs of seemingly double-binding
irreconcilable oppositions you know what I'm saying:
I don't have to spell IT out, do I? It's the Y FACTOR
that counts, call it Liberal Art--across the curriculum,
across the universe. How to do justice to both X & Y
for crying out loud, without out letting either of them win.

Or lose.

It's a "School Mode" problem.
You know: a "leisure time" consideration.
Not to be collapsed, conflated, or confused with Church & State modes.

Yrs in ongoing Failure.

xxxooo, Presbyter (even now I can overhear Professors Han and Kahl
in the next office--sounding like they are fomenting revolution, so
noisy and enthusiastic.)

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