Sunday, 1 May 2011

Na Han - Roaring 2011

About 90 years ago, the Chinese revolutionary writer Lu Xun gave up medical study in Japan to write, hoping to wake a Chinese populace that he thought was “deeply asleep”, unaware of the looming dangers. At first he agonised: His countrymen were sound asleep in an air-tight hut without windows. The door was locked from the outside.  Why wake them? If they can’t get out, why not let them die peacefully? He finally decided to try waking them anyway, hence the title of his collection of short stories Na Han - To scream, holler, roar; to make noise anyway. Miraculously, the Chinese of his generation did wake up in time, and broke free. Naturally, after so much hard work, they promptly fell back into a slumber.
Almost a century has passed. Is Lu Xun’s “Na Han” dilemma still relevant?
Let’s take a look at the symptoms of people in a mental slumber. Firstly, sleeping people are unaware of what goes on around them. Secondly, dreamers transcend the boundary of what’s possible and what’s not. Fly, just fly. Thirdly, their eyes are closed.
Lu Xun’s compatriots who shoved for a better view of their fellow countrymen getting their heads chopped off by the Japanese satisfied all the above criteria. 
So, was the “dark old day” indeed so dark to those who could’t see? In feudal times, the average lowly peasants didn’t normally despise the aristocrats who squeezed them for every drop of blood. Quite the opposite. Look at them Lords: They blew noses with silk hankies, and spat into dainty golden spittoons. The peasants were shocked and awed. 
Occasionally, history bumped into the next turning point: People were starving. Their empty stomachs found things unbearable, so the guillotine got sharpened.
All that was history. Has the world changed, now that we’re in 2011?
Old empires have disappeared, or become invisible. Past colonists and bandits are now respectable statesmen, bankers, humanists representing “international values”, preaching democracy, human rights, globalisation, sustainable development. They maintain a firm grip on three areas: Finance, Military, and Propaganda (i.e. the Free Press), all equally important.
The masses (notwithstanding popular claims of individuality) in advanced countries are being manipulated and exploited with similar tactics - tactics that are being globalised. In the USA, the most patriotic in action, not just words, are the poor. The army is staffed with redneck kids. I think Michael Moore looked, and couldn’t find a single senator or congressman with a kid in the army, fighting “terrorism” in the Middle East. The modern peasant class, after risking their lives to secure oil for the country, come home to find gasoline unaffordable.
The ordinary Briton, in the midst of huge financial difficulties, facing painful cuts in social services, still find the wedding of a 21st century prince joyous rather than wasteful and ludicrous. 

Apparently, the world hasn’t changed much. Peasantry is a state of mind.
Similar to a farm girl who regarded conscription to the court, for the use and entertainment of the Emperor, as being an honour, exploited Global Villagers admire rather than resent the modern Lords. Poor countries are eager to emulate the mesmerising excesses of Noble Nations, be it in lifestyle or political ideology, even as the Imperial Lords are nearly bankrupt in moral and financial terms. The media is doing a good job in keeping the people blind and unthinking. So we see sensational People’s Power, and barefoot peasants discussing Free Trade. The devastating results are numerous and obvious, but only a few would notice. Nearly nobody cares. People are blind, sound asleep, dreaming, as before. 
Perhaps the peasant genes are still among us, keeping slavery alive from within? 
If Lu Xun were still alive, would he scream his wake-up call? Is it useful to wake people sleeping inside a nailed coffin. Oh well, Lu Xun was a Chinese communist; nobody would hear him in today’s world anyway.

Chinese Version: 呐喊2011                                    
Guo Du on May 1st Labour Day, 2011.