Thursday, January 27, 2011

Non Compos Mentis

Well, I’m back from China. Lots of stories to tell, most of which no one but me will find worth the telling, so I know better than to trot them out here. At least for now. I actually got back Monday night, but had a lot to do once I got home, and today I’m really feeling the jet lag, or whatever you want to call that disorientation, mild discomfort, and general lack of mental acuity that often occurs when you get back from a long trip. And yes, in case you were thinking that I plan to use that as an excuse to post a stupid article then claim I was incapacitated if it crashes, that is my intention.

President Obama had his State of the Union address Tuesday, speaking of someone else working with less than a fully functional cerebellum. I guess the word that best describes it would be ‘predictable’. As in, demands that his programs not be repealed by the GOP-controlled Congress, mixed in with promises of bipartisan respect and cooperation, verbal jabs at leading Conservatives while demanding softer political rhetoric, and promises to control or even ‘freeze’ spending – while at the same time urging more and more money be spent on his personal pet projects. The same old predictable narcissism and hypocrisy, in other words. Of course Big Media – my new tag for corporate sycophants who still try to pretend that their blatant and omnipresent contempt against anything conservative, rational, or common sense as ‘objective journalism’ – thought the world of Obama’s dialectic, and cheered him on as de facto cheerleaders, but I don’t get the sense that the average American buys the spin anymore, at least not to the degree that the Obamites believe they will.

Obama being what he is, we should not be surprised to discover his approval of a slap at the U.S., performed by one of the very guests invited to perform at the White House. Lang Lang, a musician of mediocre ability but acceptably leftist perspective, performed an instrumental piece celebrating a military victory by Chinese soldiers over the Americans – at an event celebrating Sino-American cooperation and goodwill. We now have the choice to believe either that President Obama’s protocol corps was so inept and stupid that they did not bother to consider the provenance of the piece, or that they secretly approved of the sentiment and allowed the offensive performance to take place on the assumption that the public would not notice the insult or worse, that the Administration did not care that America was being insulted in the very heart of her government. The decision is not an attractive one, and this event happening in the same week where Obama’s aides and staff have emphasized that words and symbols have significant meaning, does not do them credit at all.

My perspective on these current events is colored by my recent experiences in China, a nation whose government hates the U.S. but whose people plainly love Americans. During my time there, I discovered a wide range of public opinion regarding foreigners and their business in China. To be blunt, Asians have an advantage in China but not so much Koreans, Russians are flat-out unpopular, but Americans, while relatively scarce in China, are generally popular and well-liked. That’s a generalization, of course, and it has risks in too broad an application, but from what I have seen, heard and experienced there is a great respect and affection for Americans. Applying that to the Lang Lang incident, it seems to me no wonder that Hu Jintao enjoyed the gesture, because in his country he is generally not able to attack Americans or their way of life. Quite the opposite, although most of my time was spent in coastal regions, even when I went inland to more rural parts of China, Americans are respected and, well, envied, for what they have been able to achieve and what they represent to China. China is a land full of hard-working, intelligent people, but they have been hindered by both a lack of infrastructure and a government which regards innovation as disloyal. American companies succeed in Asia to some degree, because Americans are not afraid to challenge assumptions and seek practical solutions, rather than just play to some rote expectation . In that sense, both Obama and Jintao are alien to the true character of their people and their national culture. I have no doubt that they both mean well, but they lack, well, the ‘common touch’ that true leaders possess; they are professional mandarins, who dress well and speak smoothly, but who do not understand the issues in full and who do not represent their nations half so well as they imagine.

If China ever reaches her full potential, she will lead the world in Commerce and many aspects of Culture. But to do so, she will have to follow the path taken by America. That is, to allow free expression in all public respects, to encourage and reward risk-taking and innovation, not only in processes but also fundamental concepts.