Monday, June 22, 2009

Tell me WHY

The Chinese Communist Party earlier this month launched a new political campaign, under the catchy slogan The Six Whys (always with the numbered lists!).

I gather there's quite a lot of "explanatory" commentary on some of the points in Chinese, but the core text at least has been published in English - I found it here (amongst other places).

Strictly speaking, there are more than 'six' whys, since points 2 to 6 make explicit the implied alternative being argued against with a follow-up 'why not?' question.

Even by the standards of Chinese political writing (at least Mao had a way with a vivid metaphor once in a while; since his day, political rhetoric here seems to have become merely turgid and repetitive, and - as far as possible - devoid of any actual meaning), this is pretty impenetrable stuff.

Beneath the typical fog of Chinese exceptionalism (the unique "facts and circumstances of our own country", "socialism with Chinese characteristics", "we can only take our own path[s]") and paranoid xenophobia ("hostile forces in the West refuse to stomach our nation's development" - ouch!), the basic answer to all of these very pertinent WHY NOTs seems to be simply - Because we can't.

If you struggle through the empty jargon to find any deeper level of meaningful argumentation, you find only a petulant Because we say so.

And the real reason - clearly implicit in all this guff but, of course, unexpressed - is: Because to do any of this would undermine the Communist Party's monopoly of power in the country (and hence its control of channels to personal enrichment).

It's curious, though, to see just what questions are deemed to be troubling the nation at the moment (and are thus, in fact, likely to be the questions troubling the Party leadership in its internal wrangles over the direction of policy): Must we persist with Marxist socialism, rather than moving more towards democratic socialism and capitalism? Why can't we embrace the principle of 'separation of powers'? Must we persist with a one-party system rather than adopting a multi-party system? Must we persist with state ownership rather than pushing further towards privatization? [Er, there has already been rather a lot of privatization, boys.]

Most worryingly, the final questions seem to suggest that turning back the economic reforms and reverting to a 'more pure' system of public ownership is under discussion (though, thankfully, being vetoed by Hu & co. at the moment). I've long been hearing rumours that there are some reactionary crazies running around in the upper echelons of the Party. If they got the army on their side, we'd be in for an almighty shitstorm.

Anyway, any request to Tell me WHY inevitably puts me in mind of the great and good Sir Bob Geldof, and the song I Don't Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats - for my money, the greatest hit of the 1970s (and hence, of my childhood). Unfortunately, the original video does not seem to have surfaced on YouTube yet. However, there is this very powerful performance by Geldof, accompanied only by The Rats' pianist Johnny Fingers, from The Secret Policeman's Other Ball - a celebrated 1981 variety show staged on behalf of Amnesty International, which featured just about anyone who was anyone in the world of British comedy at the time, and some great music too (I wonder if the whole show is available on DVD?).

I also found
this performance from the 1985 Live Aid concert, and this one (minus the original Boomtown Rats, but with Bob still on good form) from the Live8 20th anniversary event in 2005.

Note: I originally started to write this on Monday evening, but my netlink to Blogger has been bothersomely unstable again this week - hence the delay in getting this up.


stuart said...

"Beneath the typical fog of Chinese exceptionalism"

Love that bit - it encapsulates the problems that a dominant China is going to create for this planet.

As for Geldof, an underrated songwriter I feel. 'Diamond Smiles' is a particular favourite.

The British Cowboy said...

Love that song. Not sure if it is the greatest of the Seventies, but it is damn close.

Froog said...

Not much of theirs had registered with me at the time, apart from the three massive hits; but when I started buying the original albums 5 or 6 years later, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that they have plenty of good songs on them. A sadly underrated group. I suspect during their brief heyday, their sales must have snapping at the heels of Blondie and Abba, and were probably rather ahead of the other leading punk-inspired bands like The Jam and The Clash. Yet today, they seem to be almost forgotten; 'young people' piss me off by filing them among the "one-hit wonders".

The British Cowboy said...

Either take back the whole ahead of the Jam/Clash thing or find somewhere else to crash.

Froog said...

I was talking about commercial success rather than artistic merit, you sensitive soul, Cowboy.

Although the argument could be made on that as well, possibly.

I was just conjecturing that through '79-'80 they probably sold more records than just about any "British" (in the sense of British Isles) band. Three enormous hits,a batch of not-bad follow-up singles, and a couple of more-than-decent albums. I'm not sure that even The Clash did that well at their peak.