March 18, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith
If we look at this country 400 or so years ago, one figure that stands out is of course William Shakespeare.
It always makes me laugh that at the time, critics were of the opinion that a certain John Webster was a better playwright, and old Mr. Shakey was a bit of an also-ran.
Nowadays though, if you ask the average clart if he/she rates John Webster, then you’ll get quite a bit of head-scratching occuring. And maybe the occasional dude who’ll say: “Yeah mate, got all his albums…”
I suppose what makes it interesting is that in this info-techno saturated society there is just so much stuff to choose from. Not just books or plays, but news reports, adverts, web pages, updated web pages, mp3s, blogs, vlogs…..
Whatever will those humans 400 years hence make of us all as they sift through it? Perhaps Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code will be a footnote, and students will be pouring over every word of citizensmith – the obscure 21st century splott blogger….
I can dream, can’t I?!!
A while back I had a vivid dream. I was in a dark room in some kind of a living space. There was light coming in through a window, it was very early in the morning. I became aware of a young boy of about nine or ten talking to me. He said his name was Tse-Kwan and he was from the future. He was Chinese, but spoke English with a perfect American accent, and he used words and concepts well beyond his years.
Tse-Kwan told me that looking back from where he was in the future, the history of China in the 20th and 21st century was very important.
The years which followed the 1949 Communist victory there he called the “Sleeping Dragon” period. China in the main turned away from the outside world, which was licking its wounds from the Second World War, and embarked on a time of growth and consolidation.
This lasted roughly until the 1970s. Then, China sought dialogue and know-how from the West and other countries. Figures such as Edward Heath, Richard Nixon and later Rupert Murdoch cut deals with its leaders, the former lot doubtless licking their lips in anticipation of access to the country’s massive market. This period Tse-Kwan called the “Waking Dragon” period. He told me this was what the world was living through now, and it would continue until a point in the future that he did not elaborate on.
What would then follow would be the “Living Dragon” period. This would possibly be triggered by an event or series of events, he wasn’t clear which, whereby China would end up a major player on the world stage. In the scamble for resources and power that would characterise this time in world history, he said, China would be very influential.
Personally, I was amazed that there was to be a future at all!
A friend of mine, a Hong Kong Chinese woman called Ming Mei, once described to me the prevelant attitude in China to democracy, not just amongst its leaders but amongst much of the population as well. It is seen as a rich country’s indulgence, a dangerous frippery that is not appropriate for China. It was a point of view she happened to share.
China is a very old society, much older than our own, and no matter who has been in power, the same characteristics have always been apparant. There has always been a very rich and powerful elite in control, and a huge mass of people who do all the shit work. Kind of like everywhere, except to the max. And these days, the numbers of this mass run past the billion mark, and they are extremely poor.
What is also the case is that a strong personality has always dominated political life – Chairman of the Communist Party or Emperor, it amounts to the same thing. Democracy, as we understand it in the West, is not how things are done there, and barring a short experiment in the early part of the 20th century, it never has been.
One of the best examples I can give is what happened during 1996-1997 as world governments were planning to implement what they called the MAI, (the Multilateral Agreement on Investment).
This would have given corporations the power to override the laws of individual countries in their scramble for bucks. It would allow them free reign, untempered by national democracy, to abuse environmental and labour laws the world over. And it was all debated in secret, with almost the whole UK press silent on the issue.
Details got leaked on the internet, which even then was a novel tool in the world of activism. At the time I was working for Schnews and got to see the whole process go on at first hand. The outcry against the MAI finally became so deafening that it was quietly shelved.
It was terrible and exhilarating all at the same time. However, what is alarming about this story is not so much that it happened, rather it shows the way governments and corporations are thinking.
Democracy is stupid, it’s getting in the way, we don’t need it, now eff off.
A while ago, the US computer company Cisco systems provided the Chinese government the technology it needed to create what has become known as the “Great Firewall of China.” This ensures net users in China can’t access websites in the West, and vice versa. The technology also allows the government to monitor dissident activity.
Google recently connived in this when it set up http://www.google.cn, its China-wide search engine. It respected the Great Firewall and the Chinese goverment censorship laws. So much for freedom of information – isn’t Google’s motto “Do No Evil??!!!” (You could almost see something like this coming with a motto like that).
Yahoo and Microsoft have recently got into trouble because they provided information about dissidents to the Chinese government.
Maybe the fact these companies were recently hauled before the American Senate was more to do with alarm surrounding the Chinese government’s ability to call the tune with powerful US corporations, rather than the free speech issue. Or maybe I’m just being really cynical. Anyhow….
In recent years, we have witnessed the gradual erosion of freedom in countries such as the UK and the US, who are supposedly its guardians. This has happened partly in a piecemeal way, with legislation such as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 here in Britain, brought in to deal with specific problems at the time.
As the legislation didn’t affect most people, most people didn’t care about it. But it had severe consequences for freedom of movement and abolished the Right to Silence, amongst other things.
Other bits of legislation such as the Patriot Act in the US, or the recent UK terrorism bill, were brought in as a reaction to a specific event, (9/11 and 7/7).
The best one yet, as I have pointed out in this blog before, is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which will abolish the role of Parliament in the UK.
Democracy is stupid, it’s getting in the way, we don’t need it, now eff off.
Like the MAI, I don’t think they’ll get away with it, but it shows you the way their minds are working.
The illegal invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK is also an example of ignoring democracy, this time on an international level. Perhaps these aren’t flashes in the pans, but the shape of things to come.
China appeals to our corporations because they can operate there whilst paying people fuck all and ignoring all kinds of inconvenient labour and environmental legislation, (etc etc, blah, blah, I know I’m getting predictable and repetitive…). They can also sell their products and their know-how to a government who aren’t going to curb their power.
As the oil runs out and the eco-systems give way, maybe countries in the West will come to resemble China now, rather than the other way round. As the governments here in the UK and elsewhere pull up the drawbridge, there will be more and more of us on the outside, and less and less on the inside. In this situation, with resources scant on the ground, democracy could indeed be seen as an indulgence, a frippery.
China is a corporation’s wet dream. If my imaginary friend Tse-Kwan is correct, maybe his country’s overwhelming influence will be come not just through self-conscious attempts to domninate the globe, but because the political system that operates there is seen as ideal.
By those who run big business.
One of the reasons the British Empire went pair-shaped was because it started to educate those damn natives!
Whether you want to see it as a gesture of paternalistic colonialism, or just a response to the practicalities of running a massive overseas empire from a rainy island off the coast of Europe, the result was the same. The silly imperialists thought they were being clever but they ended up creating “monsters” they couldn’t control.
So it is with the corporate scramble for China. It is a process undertaken by the dominant power which contains within itself the seeds of its own decay. One order endeth, another beginneth.
Some would say he’s already here!
I can almost see him now, Excalibur in hand, coming out of Glastonbury Tor, ready to do battle with the oncoming Chinese dragon.
Imagine his surprise when he found out it was not the Chinese dragon he had to do battle with. It wasn’t even an oncoming army. It was his own subjects’ ignorance, stupidity, cowardice and greed – ALONG WITH EVERYONE ELSE’S!