Archive | November, 2013

China, the Land Led Astray by Logic

15 Nov

It doesn’t take much intelligence to understand that the leadership of China could be suffering from a collective psychopathic disorder, and may be in need of help. I am writing today, to give these poor old men the opportunity of considering some light criticism from a journalist they will have problems locking up. Anyway I don’t propose to visit China until these old duffers have gone, by which time I will probably be dead myself.

First, let me show you a photograph of these excellent fellows, standing in front of just the sort of backdrop they’d prefer to demolish and replace with a very large factory or hydro-electric dam:


The gaze of the Chinese leadership is as intractable as that of a crocodile whilst stalking a duck. Crocodiles, incidentally, have brains more or less the size of a walnut. I don’t mean to disparage these gentlemen, they have probably gone to the very best schools, they are M.I.T. and Stanford, they are endowed with M.B.A.’s and any number of other qualifications. But in almost everything the Chinese leadership attempts, one sees signs of an almost mentally impaired determination to ignore facts or scientific consensus. For instance, in a recent article in The Economist we read about the water shortage in northern China, a problematic issue even in the days of the mighty emperors. I didn’t know that 8 members of the country’s previous Politburo were engineers, or that one of its ex-presidents was a water engineer. Now that I do, things make better sense. The Chinese are more obsessed with canals than the Victorians ever were.  They have a boyish love of concrete, bulldozers and big trucks.

Water in China: Desperate measures

So, the $50 billion South-North Water Diversion Project will move water across thousands of miles of new canals. And some of these will be routed across the Himalayan Plateau, partly because Tibet is the source of a great many rivers that are also crucial to the region south of the Himalayas. Of course, China is always keen on routing things either through Tibet or Xinjiang, just to reiterate to the locals that Beijing is in charge here, and Beijing is rich enough to spunk a few extra billion on the pleasure of flicking someone’s nose. Take, for instance, the new high-speed train link, which for no apparent reason is being diverted through unpopulated, high-altitude areas so prone to storms that certain sections of the track will have to be housed within concrete tunnels to prevent trains being derailed by severe gusts. The cost of the route is $24 billion, a mere snip and no more than a third of the cost of the main Beijing to Shenzhen line. It seems a routine matter for the Chinese authorities to open their large wallet and throw some money around, like gnarled billionaires in a casino, money that seems to have no value, give no pleasure and achieve little benefit. Who is going to commute from Xinjiang to Beijing? Anyone who had to do so, would simply travel by air, and so we see once again that many of China’s high-capital outlay projects are primarily designed as imperial gestures, to enforce its paranoiac hold on the country.

China’s New High-Speed Rail network

It is especially telling to hear that the high-speed line will slice through the next valley from where the Dalai Lama was born. One somehow cannot doubt that a consultant high up in the Ministry of Railways came up with this brainstorming idea, while sitting down to a breakfast of crunchy tiger bones with the Minister. Presumably, this was before the Minister was relieved of his post in July 2013, following corruption allegations that were subsequently confirmed.

Liu Zhijun, Railway Minister, on Trial for Corruption

Interestingly the People’s Court, a misnomer better referred to as “the Government’s Court”, found that Liu Zhijun had lost his “political right to life”. The mind cannot quite take in the opportunism of this Chinese regime, which has left most of its Marxist ideology far behind – retaining the traditional Marxist love of central political control while cynically harnessing every possible capitalist device. There seems to be no end to China’s appetite. Its sales agents roam the world restlessly, looking for more things to masticate and dig up and load on ships. Their commercial efforts are usually offered with a bribe. Just look at the way the Chinese have moved into Patagonia, this remote region famed for very little apart from the fact that few people ever go there. The Chinese have now leased 300,000 hectares to grow genetically modified soya and other products. In return, they have offered to repair and upgrade some local infrastructure, but local farmers and people are not happy about it. Land prices have shot up and they are concerned about the use of agrochemicals.

The Chinese Move into Patagonia

So we can look forward to a world increasingly marked by the loving touch of this nation of technocrats and empire-builders, who seem to have not the slightest interest in anything but economic growth and balance sheets. The environmental record of China is, again, nothing I need to dwell on. Anyone who reads the news will be well aware of it. Let’s just have a look at what they do to their own people, let alone Patagonians.

Lung Cancer Incidence Soars in Beijing

In time, the devastation of these policies will surely put an end to Chinese social engineering, which has been going on now for almost seventy years. I do think the leadership is quite correct in its desire to cement its position and repress people, because, in time, those same people will rise up and they will put the politicians on trial in a real People’s Court. On what basis do I say this? Well, on the basis of common sense and historical process. The only real truth in historical evolution is that “the chicken always comes home to roost.” One might call this a brief and simplistic summary of the theories of Arnold Toynbee. Even the mightiest nations and empires have fallen, in the end, because of their own mistakes or even historical entropy. Look at America, still economically mighty but discredited and lumbered with a domestic political climate that can hardly even be taken seriously. Or Russia, this once fearsome empire now run by a topless horse rider proud of his bear-hunting prowess and relentless drilling for oil, presiding over a deeply unconstitutional and unscrupulous regime. And when we turn our eyes to Europe, we can only look down in shame, because nothing has changed here, we are still a group of insular fiefdoms run by political claustrophobics.

Presumably any Chinese citizen who comments on any of this, who challenges or suggests that people should be able to have a voice or vote on regional autonomy or not be discriminated against, not be locked up, tortured or killed, anyone who insists on environmental standards, and so on, will be hauled before the People’ Court for a stern lecture on his/ her political right to life, which will shortly be cancelled. On this day, we could for instance give some thought to the Tibetan dissident Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang, who has been tortured and locked up for nine months on a charge of publishing a poetry magazine. Other Tibetans have been imprisoned for the outrageous charge of downloading Tibetan ringtones on their mobiles. These are certainly heinous crimes!

The case of Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang has been highlighted this week by American PEN, in its campaign to point out cases of what it calls “digital repression”.

Kunhchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang

It’s odd that PEN is focusing on Asian repression, considering that America has lately been exposed as a leading exponent of the art of digital eavesdropping. America, who has hounded its citizen Edward Snowden into exile for pointing out the importance of observing the American Constitution – a traitorous act almost as serious as downloading Tibetan ringtones. For this reason, I will add another link here from a different source, in case certain readers out there would prefer not to have the truth from the horse’s mouth.

Chinese Journalists in Detention

To finish this rather contentious piece, I would offer the following advice to high-ranking Chinese politicians: You have an ancient spiritual belief in peace, balance and harmony. Re-animate it. Stand on your terraces for a few moments every morning, breathe the pure air, drink a glass of clean water. Then tell yourself that all people have the right to food, clean water, clean air and political freedom. Oh, and our children have a right to the same when they grow up.

These things may seem very obvious, but, as I said at the beginning, crocodiles are not so very clever.

Fruitfulness in Action

13 Nov

Marcus Speh has a vital, innovative mind that energetically clears paths through unexplored country – and with his machete, he finds ways through even the most resistant undergrowth. In his collection of short fiction Thank You for Your Sperm (published by Mad Hatter Press, 2013), Speh proves that by putting into words what has never been thought, one makes the unknown tangible and open to examination. For instance, when one of his narrators describes how he “…drifted into thoughts of alien spaceships fighting over the last women on the planet”, we know that we are about to enter an unknown world, poetical in part but also startling, genre-defying and strange. In this exquisite prose collection, Marcus Speh offers the reader a deft and skilful exploration of the actual mechanism of thought, without any underlying prescriptive or bombastic authorial intentions. What we find, on every page, is a ferocious display of imagination. As Speh comments, “I hung that tie in the window as a message for everyone that freedom is still a possibility”. If there is an opportunity through this union of poetry and experimental prose to achieve a moment of freedom, then reading has a purpose.
Reminiscent both of old central Europe in his philosophical high-mindedness, and the twenty-first century in his instinctive grasp of form, timbre and content, Marcus Speh has a wonderful ability to stay on the friendly side of obscurity. He also has a healthy, if almost habitual interest in sex, which is never a bad thing. The courage, depth and versatility of “Thank You for Your Sperm” is really a cut above anything else I have seen in the flash fiction form, and one could comfortably say that with this collection Speh enters the front rank of international flash fiction writers. But this statement does not by a long shot give him the credit he deserves. “Thank You for Your Sperm” is the opening move in an authorship already mature and ready to progress into other areas, and my guess is that Marcus Speh will move into longer fiction. In the sequential “Serious Writer” pieces we already see signs of this. Here, the author seem to be straining at the leash to cut free of brevity and develop himself across hundreds of pages. Gallop on, Mr Speh, you are already covering a lot of country, but you will cover much more.

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