Monday, August 30, 2010

Tales from the deep swamp

Down in Luzianna, way past Opelousas and Atchafalaya... I heer tell dar be strange tales emanatin' from da swamps at night. Folks be sayin' that ole Uncle Remus musta resurrected hisself, cuz he be dun toolin' hisself 'round on Bayou Lafourche.
I woodn lie to ya now, and 'sides it aint just me sayin...
Ole Couvillion and his buddy Broussard say they was out haulin in the crawfish nets 'bout dark-thirty. And land sakes alive if Uncle Remus don't come slowly polin' the pirogue and stops right beside of 'em, an' ax dem if he could have some crawfish, wif him be'in so hungry an all havn come all way from Gawgia.
"Sho'nuff," say Couvillion.
So dey carrys Uncle Remus backs to de fish camp and boils up a bunch dem crawfish wif a mess a poke sallet and chased it all wif a sixpack Jax.
After dey be done eatin Uncle Remus ax if da crawfish be a'right or was it tainted wif the oil spill.
Broussard he start to get little uppity but thought better of it. "Now what you think, Uncle Remus? Wha'd it tas' like to you?"
"Well I reckons it be a'right. It sho'nuff tas' good to me, been long time since ah had a mess uh dem crawfish."
"Well, a'right den!" proclaims Broussard, and he be lol.
"I do thanx you for the crawfish, sho'nuff, br'er, " an he lean back and got real still.
By n' by, da frogs got loud and da night gots quiet and still, 'sept fo da sacalait slappin' de cattails and de crickets rippin in de cypress knees. The lucky ole moon be shinin' an de swamp rabbit be yawnin' an' by n' by Uncle Remus he say:
"I gots to tell ya 'bout da tar baby."
Br'er Couvillion open one eye and he say, "De what?"
"De tar baby," say Uncle Remus."
"You means de tar baby what br'er fox got hisself stuck to a'fore he try to t'row br'er rabbit in da brier patch?"
"No," say Uncle Remus, real slow. "D'is be a dif'rent kind tar baby."
"What kinda tar baby dat be, Uncle Remus?"
Uncle Remus, he look down at the firelight and he thought for a minute, wrinkled his forehead. Den he say,
"In de wake of dat Deepwater horizon sitiation, ole Br'er Pet and his den of foxy lawyers--dey be stuck fast to da mucka muck claims and deepdown damages an' can o' compensational worms' mire in da boggy courts, an' it be like a big judicial tar baby fo' years an years fo' Br'er Pet, an' dey will sho'nuff be stuck to dem spill lit'gations and lit'gators--as stuck as stuck can be."
"Cluster-stuck!" say Couvillion.
"Da's right," say Uncle Remus, an he look so sad. "An' wha's mo--dat aint all."
"What else?" ax Broussard.
"All dem claimants and plaintiffs--dey be juz as stuck, cuz you cant get no bloody oil out'a no turnup"
"Sho'nuff," say Uncle Remus, real sad.
"What what in world we gon' do, Uncle Remus? We's 'bout busted up now already as it is!."
"Well, dey's one thing you gots to remember, br'er Broussard."
"Whas'sat, Uncle Remus?
Ole Uncle Remus he raise his head up slow and he look Couvillion and Broussard in der eyes, and he say, "When you be ass-deep in lit'gators, juz remember your objective was to drain de swamp."
Couvillion he gots mad. "So what, Uncle Remus! How you 'xpect dey ever gon' clean up dat mess wid all dem lit'gators ass-deep?"
"Call in Br'er Bird."
"Say what? Br'er who?"
"Br'er Bird. He be one fine bird for cleanin' up dis mess, ya'll. He be bo'n and bred for juz dis kind of mediation. He sho'nuff will get Br'er Pet and de plaintiffs both unstuck from dat litigious tarbaby. Why, juz yesterday I hear him say to Br'er Neil on de radio:

"Until Novermber 23rd, if you're eligible...and very importantly, you must be able to provide minimal documentation of your damage, I will cut you a check without any waiver of any rights...Of course I will (give you compensation). Prove it. Give me some indication...doesn't have to be a tax return. It can be W2s; it can be a profit and loss statement; it can be a checkbook; it can be the statement of your ship's captain, the statement, even, of your priest, but prove you've lost what you say you've lost. I can't just give away the money.I have to be ever vigilant about fraud, but I'll bend over backwards to help get you some emergency compensation."

(And to a caller): "Show me your contracts that you lost.That's the simplest way. Show me the canceled contracts. Also, show me where you were employed, where your business was. Was it on the Gulf? How close to the Gulf? How directly impacted by the beaches and the fish and the shrimp, and the oysters, and I'll try to do everything I can to get you paid."

"Sho'nuff?" say Couvillion.
"Da's right," say Uncle Remus. "Dat tarbaby be one helluva a sticky mess, but you gots to start somewhere to drain dat swamp, and it look to me like Br'er fine Bird gots a good startin' out place."
"You so right, Uncle Remus," say Broussard.
Den dey all t'ree lay back and snooze 'til mo'nin while dem crawfishes crawl in de traps

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Mountaintop, a song

Well I walked out,
I walked out to Pisgah mountain.
Well ole Martin Luther King
he'd been up to the mountaintop
and I wanted to see what he had seen.
And ole Moses, oh
he'd been up to the mountaintop,
and I wanted to see what he had seen.
When I reached the top of Pisgah mountain,
what did I see?
I saw a promised land
just waiting for me
and waiting for all of ye.

Well I walked down from the mountain
and into the town.
Well ole Martin Luther King
he'd been to see the big man,
and I wanted to see what he had seen.
and ole Moses
he'd been to see the pharoah,
and I wanted to see what he had seen;

The promised land is what you make it to be.
struggle to unwind
your unconstant state of mind.
Just take a walk up the mountain, my friend,
and you will see:
what goes on down in that dirty old town
is bound to be.
So you can make up your mind, my friend,
and make it up good.
Are you looking for the promised land?
Or are you dying?
Are you dying
in a wasteland?
'cause I may be asking you now;
I may be asking you,
but some day, Lord yeah,
He's gonna ask you too
and what you going to say?
What you gon'na say when my Lord comes on that day?

Carey Rowland copyright 1978

Sunday, August 22, 2010

got them sharia-sheddin' blues again

On May 12, 1937, the archbishop of Canterbury placed a crown on the head of a young prince. In that act, the Church of England, a religious authority much stronger and older than any one man, proclaimed George VI the anointed King of Great Britain and its dominions. After the disruptive abdication of former King Edward, the restoration of British royal authority into the hands of a willing sovereign was a welcome relief for the English people. And all was once again well in the realms of the British empire, or so it seemed.

Couple years later, and all hell was breaking loose; the world was falling apart. Britain was fighting for its life to prevent Hitler and his crew of thugs from taking over. The Teutonic madman had usurped governmental authority from the whimpering sovereign of Hohenzollern of Germany,and was running roughshod over civilization, bent on conquering Europe and probably the world if he'd had half a chance.

King George VI of England ultimately had to lean on the common sense and fortitude of his vigorous people, their army, the RAF, and Winston Churchill's fierce resolve to prevail against the heathen horde that had sought to subdue them.
After that war to end all wars had subsided, after the Brits had repelled the Nazi war machine away from their obstinate island and had driven their blitzkrieging Nazi asses back into the forlorn fatherland. After that-- the English, having received no small measure of assistance from us, the Russians, all our other Allies, even the humbled French-- the formerly-fortuitous God-ordained English monarchy commenced to lapsing into a ceremonially opulent impotence.

But the Brits still cherish their Queen.
Even mean Mr. Mustard still loves to go out to Buckingham palace and catch a glimpse of her royalty on the occasional Sunday afternoon. They're clinging to a vestige of their former magnificence is what it is.

Most folks these days don't put much stock in that whole theocratic authority trip--divine right of kings and all that. We tossed out those antiquarian channels of governmental legitimacy a century or two back, when We the People, in the interests of liberté egalité fraternité, supplanted our churchified heritage with the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, scientific hypothesis, Darwin's Galopagosic observations, and Einstein's curved universe of relativity.

Hence has our hubric secularity at long last overgrown our outmoded religious foundations. This includes our moral moorings too. Having no basis, except the opinions of mankind, on which to determine what is right or wrong, we have forged a brazen new world in which anything goes--if it feels good do it: off-the-books accounting, infant selection, lady gaga libido, high-frequency-trading on steroids, heavy metal on meth and sado-machismo with online hyper-voyeurism to whet the libidinous appetite.

While lapping up all this pleasure, wealth and leisure, we've managed to educate so many people now who've gotten the complicated world all figured out; we can view the overthrow of quaint queenly monarchies and past mythologies as progress, societal evolution, and good riddance.

In the midst of such widening post-modernity, the sun is definitely setting on the British empire, if it hasn't already. And little brother yankee Sam, so bright with energetic potential in the post-GreatWar suburban expansion, is lapsing into self-absorbed lethargy and self-medicated entitlement depression blues. Consequently, Chinese bureaucrats will soon be calling the shots on how we spend our federal reserve notes, and the sharp sword of sharia law will eventually slit through our aspinal moral mediocrity, as is now happening among the disoriented, burka-detesting citoyens of liberated France.

Will our long-sought secularity be any moral match for the long arm of Islamic Law? Will our watered-down, politically correct, hypersensitive "nigger"-eschewing egalitarianism even hold a candle of character to these burka-sizing self-righteous Mohammedans who are determined to compel us infidels to pray five times a day and cover our women so they won't look like Marilyn Manson on a bad day or Marilyn Monroe on a good one?

Western culture is on the skids. Where's some royal dignity when you need it?

That British empire-- fading as it is into the dust of history, that obsolete futile monarchy, that despised colonialism which had selfishly sought to sweatshopize the world while claiming to civilize it-- that same limey cartographying, meddlesome mandate-making meshugganism-- That same British kingdom had, in 1917, cleft ancient Palestine in twain. That same Balfour-declaring John Bull ridin' colonializin' fee fi fo fum empire had allowed a lapsed, stowaway dormant Davidic theocracy-- now a left-leaning democracy-- to insert itself right smack into the middle of the infidel-whippin' Mohammedan world. And what a mess it has been since then.

Thanks a lot, England.

Nevertheless, here we are in 2010. Mr. Ahmadinejad is strutting his authoritarian shiite around the world and who knows if the Persians have got evil intentions to nuke Israel or if Israel's just paranoid?

Who knew?

God help us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Your link in the Money Chain?

You probably learned about the Food Chain in sixth grade. It goes like this:
Tree draws nutrients from soil.
Beetle eats woody parts of Tree.
Bird eats Beetle.
Cat eats bird.
Wolf eats cat.
Wolf dies, decays to soil.
Tree draws nutrients from soil.
Its the food chain, a linked succession of life-sustaining events that stretches back to the dawn of time.
What about the money chain? Have you heard of that?
It goes like this:
Wheat draws nutrients from soil.
Farmer harvests wheat.
Farmer sells wheat to Mill.
Mill converts wheat into flour (value added), sells flour to bakery.
Bakery makes doughnut (value added to product), sells it to girl.
Girl takes doughnut (service added) to man stranded in his car in traffic; girl reaps generous tip.

This really happened. The girl's name is Stacy; the time was 1973; the man was in a long gas-station line because of the OPEC-generated fuel shortage; the Donut was a Dunkin', and I heard about this on All Things Considered.

The sequence of events illustrates the money chain.
Money is circulating every day among people everywhere. Its what people do. Some folks have a little extra, maybe enough to make an impulse purchase--like a doughnut--purchased merely because some energetic 7-year-old, gently guided by her father, provides the go-get-'em service while hungry people are stuck in a gas line.

Like I said, this really happened. During the gas shortage of 1973, a guy (thousands of people, actually) was waiting in his car in a long line of cars, to buy gas. Seven-year-old Stacy positioned herself in a parking lot where she could strategically approach the stranded motorists. It was an improvised opportunity borne of a a child's courage, her father's wise resourcefulness, a potential buyer's appetite relative immobility. young Stacy converted the circumstance into a profitable activity.

Stacy was thinking out of the box. Although the drivers' vehicles were motionless or crawling, the girl's neurons were firing on all cylinders, devising a way to make lemonade, as it were, out of a lemony situation.
Ventures like hers have made the USA the prosperous country that it is today.

Oh yes, we are still prosperous, relative to most the of people who live on this developing planet. We are still prosperous, even if many of us are stuck in the right place at the wrong time, or in the wrong place at the right time, or just stuck in the employment line, maybe a line like the one you'll see cast in bronze at the Roosevelt Memorial across the lake from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

What about you? Have you explored the money stream to see if there's a little liquidity stream pooling up in your environs where you might gather a few buckets of cash? Or some other resource. Have you checked it out? Have you opened your eyes, as Stacy did, to the possibilities for increase right around the corner from you, or a few exits down the beltway, a few stops away on the subway.
Or are you just waiting for something to land in your lap? Expecting a phone call from Employment Security? Listening for a knock on the door from the union boys?
Don't hold your breath; look around. You may find a silver lining in those clouds.

Its the American way, and the only way we'll ever get out of this mess, because I hate to tell ya, Virginia, but there ain't jobs out there for everybody. Some of us are going to have to spring out for the promised land. Better get busy and find something to do. You might be the next Bill Gates, or Oprah.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Year ago in Sichuan

I had an unforgettable experience in China, in July 2009:
Tuesday morning I woke up among the industrious people of Chengdu, Sichuan, and ventured forth into their bustling sidewalks. Several million of us hit the streets at about the usual time in the morning haze; we all went our various ways to perform regular tasks and to work busily toward daily objectives and larger life purposes. Just like people everywhere, really, doing their thing.

In this city of China, it all happens in the thickest smog I have ever seen.

Of course, being human, my family and I had to contribute to it. How could we not? My traveling family and I caught a cab for the airport. Whizzing along on the elevated freeway, I could survey the big urban picture sprawling into graybrown haze in all directions. Multitudes of tall apartment buildings and office towers loom in the fog like oversized tombstones in an old thriller movie. The near ones are shrouded in gauzy stillness, with the distant ones stretching beyond the pale of vision--obelisks of invisible humanity.

Then we boarded a plane and flew from the worst of air to the best of air. Nestled in a steep valley of the Minshan range of the eastern Himalayas is Jiuzhaigou, the "valley of nine villages." It is the opposite extreme from the teeming Chengdu metropolis. The two disparate locations, both in Sichuan province, are only a few hundred kilometers apart.

The Chinese administrate, with admirable sensitivity and care, two stunningly beautiful national parks here. If the yellow dragon of Huang Long could drag some of that pristine air from those cold alpine ridges down to the plain of Chengdu--oh! how beneficial that would be for the children of that crowded city. I have had the same thought about my home in the Blue Ridge mountains and the metropolis if Charlotte, a hundred miles away.

The next day,we rode buses with many other tourists from the bottom of one of those deep gorges up the long, verdant valley of the Juizhaigou Reserve. The bus stopped at the second village and we got out to take a walk. A colorful cluster of low stone and masonry homes were brightly festooned with red and yellow walls displaying elaborately-detailed multi-colored art. A special arrangement of structures and flaagpoles stood at the village entrance. A gentle flapping of long banners chanted their fabric cacophany in the mountain breeze. I walked over to this entrance to have a closer view.

There I came upon the local Ben/Buddhist shrine. It was a row of nine stupas, which are tall, white stone monuments with chunky square pedestals that support half-egg-shaped domes. Considered by some to be an elemental pagoda, each solid structure is formed as a kind of free-standing steeple with monumental adornments. Each one of these nine identical stupas is capped with a short rod-like spire.

A small Buddha statue, visible through dingy glass, is enclosed in each stupa at the height of about two meters. Beneath each icon, painted in wide black strokes, within a circle about the size if a human head, is a swastika.

There they were--nine swastikas all in a row upon a set of Buddhist stupas. It disturbed me. Didn't these village people know what had happened in the wide, depraved world seventy years ago? Had they not heard that the beast Hitler had absconded with their ancient symbol and used it ruthlessly to motivate his band of Nazi thugs, and then a clueless nation, to commit murderous crimes upon millions of unsuspecting Jews and other people?

I had seen the symbol, in all its blatant starkness, in numerous other residential displays in this region, and had been perplexed by its uninhibited display. Were these isolated people seeking to re-appropriate a tarnished component of their heritage? Or were they, God forbid, identifying with its usurper? Do they even have a clue about the atrocities inflicted beneath that swastika banner between the years 1933 and 1945? I don't know. But I didn't take the time to go and tell them. Me no speaka the language.

I then joined the family for a walk along their pristine lake. I pray for them; I pray for all people on planet earth.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From jellyhead to crowing glory

Knowledge is limitless as the universe, extensive as Hubble images of distant nebula, intense as the intricacies of DNA. It just goes on forever. A person could acquire knowledge all his life and only scratch the surface of all that is happening.

Human history is full of wise people who acquired copious knowledge: Moses, Socrates, Confucius, Newton, Einstein, and many more. But the world we live in requires limiting knowledge, because too much of the stuff overwhelms us. History is also full of smart people who were frustrated because the general tide of human activity is determined more by baser instincts than by smartness. Most people are more concerned about being fed and comfortable than they are yearning for knowledge.

In ancient times, the wisdom given to Moses compelled him to write a book about the origins of the human race. Many people today consider Genesis a collection of myths or Hebrew/Chaldean folk tales. I don't see it that way. I believe that the work of Moses was divinely inspired. If you can attempt viewing it, as I do, beyond the veil of time and evolving human knowledge, you will see that it is raw truth.

That's not to say that its revealed truth is necessarily congruous with our ongoing revelation of scientific discovery. When Moses did his research many millenia ago, he had no benefit of Hubble telescopes, the scientific method, libraries or Google. Because his treatise is not equipped with these contemporary intellectual supports, we jaded moderners tend to dismiss the Genesis account of creation as something quaint and anthropologically curious, and therefore of lesser value than scientifically established knowledge. I do not see it that way. Moses was, like, the Einstein of his time.

According to Moses, there were two trees in the the Creator's garden about which he had given humans specific instruction. Adam and Eve, first prototypes of civilized humans, were commanded by God to eat from the tree of Life, but not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good/Evil.This makes an awful lot of sense when you think about it, because knowledge is as limitless as the universe, whereas life itself--well, it must go on.

You see, Moses wasn't forbidding knowledge; he was putting it in its rightful place. Knowledge is quite stimulating, and at times very useful, but it does not sustain the spirit of God which inhabits the tree of life.

I'll tell you how all this rumination started. A couple of days ago, I heard on my nearby public radio station, WFDD, two very different perspectives that pertain to this conundrum, but they were right next to each other in time. The contrast between Dr. David Linden's mind-opening knowledge of neuroscience, and Ms. Gerry Patton's account of her lifelong struggle to find the right hairstyle, is quite stark. I've been thinking about the difference between their two perspectives for two days now. And yet both of these precious people, miles apart in their perspectives, represent together the great, fascinating spectrum of human experience. There is so much that could be written about this, you know, but instead of attempting to uncover all the nuances of truth from both sources I will simply supply two audio links and two quotes from these two amazing people whom I heard on a sunny Monday morning, talking about a little something they each have learned in this life.

Dr. David Linden, neuroscientist, talking about 600 million years years of evolution and how the life process had patched together, from disparate genetic parts, the human brain, said this:

"A miracle happens. You have enough neurons in this cortical circuit, massively interconnected, and somehow, what emerges from that are these amazing human traits - the ability for me to know what you are thinking based on social cues that you give me, other forms of observational learning and high-level cognition."

What I like about this statement from Dr. Linden is his use of the word "somehow," and that's what I've been contemplating for two days.
Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, NC, an hour-and-a-drive from my home, Ms. Gerry Patton offered, after describing the lengthy quest for her optimum hair expression, this kernel of wisdom:

"After many years of searching and finally accepting that the good Lord knew what he was doing when he placed this hair on my head, I'm working with it and loving it...I'm growing locks...Now I'm happy and nappy...He gave me something extraordinary and beautiful, a head full of kinky hair and now I found a way of letting it be my natural crowning glory."

What I like about this testimony from Ms. Patton is her use of the phrase "the good Lord knew..."

And both of these extraordinary people I heard on public radio within ten minutes of each other. It takes all kinds to make a world, you know. Thank God for diversity.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Profits in China

People in the USA are disoriented about profitability now.
We're having an identity crisis, and in our post-'08-meltdown, we, the great initiators of 20th-century enterprise, are wandering around the world trying to figure out how to make some money.

Tony Sagami's advice is to invest in American companies doing large business with China. He's recommending General Motors.
Tony is also directing his investors to Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Long John Silver's. Tony says Yum! has 3500 stores in China now, and that Yum! is making that nation a central part of their future growth strategy.

Do we in America, who have a fast-food option on every sprawling block, want to now make ourselves fat'n'happier by sending convenience food franchises to the burgeoning new markets of the world? --even as we complain about obesity and our frantic pace of life?
I don't see that we have much choice, if we're going to make $.
And as for our resident USgovernment-owned car-mega-maker, I'm wondering--for how many decades now have we said that what is good GM is good for America? Do we now say that what's good for GM is good for the world, and for our portfolios?
I mean, my wife and I switched to Toyota and Subaru thirty years ago because of those companies' reputations for economy, efficiency and reliability.
But we were amazed, last summer, to see so many Buicks in Shanghai. Would we want to support American cars overseas when a doggone cutting-edge Volt costs 40 grand here at home?
And this whole WalMart/Chinese connection has got so many Americans up in arms these days, even as we shop there in droves.
What's a consumer to do if s/he's going to save money?
And what's a yankee investor to do?
I don't see that we have much choice, if we're going to make $.

No way around it, in a globalizing world, and yep, I'll take Taco Bell over McDonald's any day. Not only that, but my ole Chevy would leave your Ford in the dust any day of the year, and its looking like it will do it next year and the year after that, even after a frickin guv'ment bailout.
Sorry, Henry', read 'em and weep. Much as I hate to say it, that's what a guv'ment bailout will get you--a leg up in the rest of the world. I guess we're playing by the same rules now those other countries were all along?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jobless slap rap

yes you,
who are standing in line
for a Roosevelt dime
waiting for something to happen--
come hear my rappin'.
yes you--Who
absolved your responsibility
to contribute to GDP?
Who gave you permission
to cease your rendition
of providing some good
for your ones in the 'hood?
Who gave you permission?
who assumed your submission--Who
let you off the hook?

Go read a book,
at the very least--
since your employment has ceased.
pushed you off the mandela?
some paper-pushin- fella?
Just because times are hard,
go plant crops in your yard!
Was it the local unemployment cadre?
It warn't your madre
and I know it warn't your padre!
Was it the hard-hearted capitalists,
or statisticizing mapitalists?
--stacking up their productivity,
rationalizing insensitivity
drivin' up their stocks
with their class-war locks
to keep you off the clocks
and away from the docks?
Was it them?
--must 've been him!

Have you now joined those ranks,
(be glad you ain't in the tanks!)
job-seekers forever spurned
--as Wessel termed,
the "permanent cadre of unemployed?"
perpetual evidence of the null and void?

Yes, you can do that
said the rat in the hat.
We'll give ya permission
along with remission.

Hey! what you gon' do?
asks 353732
Denial, delay and willful delusion
have now become your dismal conclusion?
Did you fall in this hole,
just to get on the dole?

Naw, man.

Step up; hold out your cup.
Keep your place in line
for your Roosevelt dime.
Your situation is surely a sign
of our worst and best time.

But you,
you hoo!
Maybe now's the time for you!
Just do what you've needed to do--
its a blessing in disguise,
as you may surmise,
an unplanned prize,
just you realize.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What works in China

Reading about China in The Economist this morning got me started on a memory.

About a year ago we traveled to Beijing. There we visited the Forbidden City, which had been, for many centuries, the epicenter of power wielded by 24 Chinese emperors.
I and my family had entered the Tiananmen gate and walked with our guide through the entire length of the compound, about 3/4 of a mile, to the Schwumen gate on the north end. Although commoners had been forbidden to enter the place until 1925, plenty of them were there when we ambled through on that sunny July day of 2009.
Toward the end of our northward trek, our guide explained that we were viewing the residence of the former royal families.
I entered a room where an older man was using a small paintbrush to apply calligraphy to a silk banner. Our guide introduced him as a nephew of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. I asked the calligrapher a few questions about Pu Yi, and he told me I could learn more about the former emperor by reading his autobiography, which could be purchased from a vendor nearby.
And so I did. For 75 yuan, I purchased and read the life story of the child-king who had been ejected from the Forbidden City by the National Army of Feng Yu-hsiang on November 5, 1924. Pu Yi was 18 years old when that had happened.

His story, From Emperor to Citizen, is an amazing first-person account of world-changing Chinese revolutionary events and personal metamorphosis.
He describes how, in sixty years, he had outgrown being a silver-spoon royal baby to becoming an angry prisoner, and ultimately an old man. Through the crucible of time he had made peace with his life, his nation, and his new role in world vastly different from the one in which he had started. On the final page of his story Pu Yi wrote:
"...when I was in total despair about myself and felt that I could not bear to live a moment longer--at those times these Communist Party members had held firmly to their belief that I could be remoulded and led patiently to becoming a new man."
And that he did. His life story is a saga of tribulation and transformation by which he became, in the end, a "new man." He wrote the above words in the early 1960s, shortly before his death.
Pu Yi's enforced re-education, subsequent reconciliation with the Maoist rulers, and his testimony of self-actualization, represent quite a different experience from that of many other Chinese.

The lady Nien Cheng, for instance, In her 1986 book, Life and Death in Shanghai, recalls a conversation with a party worker who had previously known Nien's dead daughter. The young woman had said:

"The new Party officials (who had been) promoted during the Cultural Revolution (1966) were never idealists in the first place. They saw the Cultural Revolution simply as an opportunity for personal advancement, and joined the Revolutionaries to realize their ambition."
Like anywhere else on earth, the changes that were going down weren't all about ideology and societal improvement. Life is much more complicated than that.

Ms. Cheng also shares her talk with a Mr. Hu, who had been a friend of her deceased husband. Describing one incident during the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s,Mr Hu said:

"I was thrown out of my house by the Red Guards just like all of us. And I have had my share of misfortune. But we mustn't dwell on the past. We must look ahead and be thankful we have survived."

Although Mr. Hu's trouble was an injustice not easily forgiven, his emphasis on the future instead of the past is a valuable lesson for all of us world citizens-- Chinese, American, or whoever.

Nevertheless, we understand that reconciliation with past abuses does not constitute endorsement of those events. We all know that.
We also see, in retrospect, that the whole of China has itself survived those treacherous political abuses, and maybe even purged itself of some of the oppressive measures that defined that chaotic era. Many changes have come and gone.

After Mao's death, and after the judgments upon the vestige of his wife and her gang, Deng Xiaoping managed to emerge as China's primary leader. His leadership de-emphasized the communist ideology that had driven the revolution and its oppressive aftermath. The reforms of the '70s and '80s sought to replace the old communist model with a hybrid plan that could tolerate capitalist practices. It appears that the burden of Chinese leaders turned, pragmatically, from fomenting revolution to getting everyone fed, housed, and employed. Part of the new program was that folk could even put aside some yuan along the way.
From this American's perspective (and I only spent two weeks there) that emphasis on provision and security is still, for the most part, motivating the Chinese government and the CCP.
Make sure all citizens are fed, housed and busy. Sounds like what our nation and its government are attempting to do today in the USA, though we have also cultivated a noble heritage of preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, or at least trying to.

Yet so many of us these days are thinking about ways to keep ourselves fed, housed, and employed. On the other side of the world, and by different means, folks struggle with the same challenges. The thought brings me full circle to the origin of this little rumination, which started this morning with my reading The Economist article about the expanding economic clout of Chinese workers. It is similar to the influence that American workers had on our productivity during our century and a half of dynamic expansion.

China has come a long way since those dark days of civil war. Haven't we all?