Watching the NBC broadcast of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing gave me a sleepless night. Something about the ceremony and the games bothered me. I had to think it trough.
What do you make of the following features of the Opening Ceremony?
More than eighty heads of states and their spouses (half of the world’s total) sat in the intense heat and murkiness of the Beijing evening, to watch a show of Chinese history which was uninformative and completely biased to its glory, put together by the communist propaganda apparatus.
President George W. Bush was there with his family in suit and tie, despite strong advice against it from John MacCaine, Nancy Pelosi, Mia Farrow
Fallows, [CORRECTION: The highly respected journalist Fallows seems a bit concerned to be confused with Ms. Farrow. Sorry James. – DJ] and probably his own conscience.
The French president was the biggest loser in the crowd. Having made it clear to the world that he intended to boycott the Beijing Olympics, he amicably slipped into his seat in the Chinese National Stadium with his tail between his legs. The Chinese Central Television gave him quite some close-ups; the message was subtle but clear. “The words of the President of the Republic of France have no value. Don’t trust him even if he tells you that coal is black and snow is white.”
The cheers and applauses each nation received, especially the loud-mouthed boycotters, from the Chinese audience during the March of the Nations, carried interesting messages. What was the Chinese cheering for when team France, team Germany and team USA marched in (wink, wink, wink)?
American cyclists flew to Beijing for the games despite the pollution. They were keenly aware of the detrimental impact on their heath and performance, putting on facial masks even before they left the airport.
Where did Steven Spielberg sit during the ceremony? What were his thoughts about the show?
I started to feel grateful; maybe China owes the world a “thank you”. Then I had a second thought. The congregation of the world’s Celebrities of Political Power DESPITE the strong forces holding them back demonstrates China’ Soft Power, not the world’s charity or fondness for the Chinese.
Power is the capacity to induce compliance, to make others do your biding. The ability to induce compliance in your competitors, detractors, or even better, your enemies, to make them bend backwards to accommodate your needs, demonstrates your power. Their protest is an index of your power; the louder the protest, the more clearly you know you are prevailing and frustrating them. The violent protests that disrupted the Olympic Torch Relay throughout the Caucasian World (Europe, Australia and North America) never induced “humiliation” in me, nor did the “Genocide Olympics” t-shirts and banners. Instead, they stirred a feeling of invigoration combined with a Cheap Thrill.
Soft power is the ability to persuade and influence others with one’s culture, values and ideas, instead of coercion (does anyone have the correct citation?). Presumably soft power induces compliance without drawing protest.
Then the Western protest led me to a third thought. The concept of “soft power” is baloney. China did not attract the political celebrities to the Opening Ceremony with its culture, value or ideas. There is no such a thing as “soft power”. The only power recognized in this world comes from Money and Guns, just like in the drug trade of America’s inner cities. The Chinese establishment has come a long way to acquire this wisdom. The Confucius elite who had run China for thousands of years with their “culture” never got it. Chinaman Mao got half of the wisdom; “political rights come from the gun barrel.” It took another 40 years of PRC until Deng Xiaoping got the other half; “to be rich is glorious.” Are you still wondering why Mao and Deng are revered by the Chinese despite their flaws? Culture and ideas are useful only in so far as they help you generate more money to make or buy bigger guns and other goodies. The Olympics are indeed China’s “coming out party”. It celebrates China’s beginning to master the combined power of Money and Guns. The eighty some heads of states bore witness to this achievement at the National Stadium in Beijing on the evening of 08, 08, 2008, with profuse sweating and pungent body odor.
In the Western eye, Dalai Lama has a lot more culture and better ideas than President Hu Jintao (our 胡哥). His culture bought him a few meals and photo ops at the White house and in Hollywood and lip service to his Free Tibet, but nothing substantial. Even His Holiness’ supernatural connection with a previous life and threat to stop reincarnating did not help. When the Olympics opened, the World’s Leaders abandoned him for Hu Jintao (胡哥).
Having thought through the issue of power in the opening ceremony, I still could not sleep. There is something profoundly silly about the Olympics. Many silly things have been said by the political figures over the world (not just the French president and German Chancellor and Nancy Pelosi) on behalf of their countries. I myself have posted more stupid and vulgar remarks on the internet about the Olympics and “the West” than on any topic in my adult life. I often got the feeling that I had been transplanted back to my old days of chanting SB and NB at the Workers Stadium, as a hooligan and a jackass combined in one. At times I seriously worried about how low my mental life would go. The Olympics have made me (and many others) stupid, with its silly concepts like “soft power” and “one world, one dream”. Before I started posting stuff on the internet about the Olympics exactly a year ago, my literary pursuit was Chinese poetry. I posted teasers of my virgin collection (断雨集) but the response has been very disappointing so far. Many people are interested in the Olympics but have no time for poetry. Maybe things will change after the Olympics. I hope I can move back to my more refined hobbies and receive more support in those endeavors. Sports events are silly; they make everybody stupid.