Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hello Open World - Satyagraha 2.0 - (updated Dec 30, 2015)

I've been once drunk tossed out of a bar, 
but I aspire to get tossed from a café for my unread verse. 
It has to be said. 

That the rooster was once a leaf. 


China on its surface may glitter wealth and prosperity, but beneath the facade is a troubled nation with moral decay and spiritual voids. The rotting roots are in part created by the anchored practice in information and media censorship robbing the Chinese people of their freedom of the arts and expression; in fact robbing the people of its soul. Censorship is counterintuitive to maintaining China's national stability and advancing the Chinese characteristics in a global community. China is in desperate need of opening its society's access to information from around the world, opening civic participation in the global governance structure, opening its media to its own public as the “fourth estate” not just to account for profits, and allowing the arts to flourish to deliver the needed social commentaries reinvigorating a new era of Chinese exceptionalism.

Things are easier said than done. Since China entered the “belly of global capitalism”, the Chinese government sees social stability synonymously linked with political stability through sustained economic development. See Ching Kwan Lee & You-tien Hsing, Social activism in China, Agency and possibility, RECLAIMING CHINESE SOCIETY (Routledge, 2010). This itself is not problematic, but China's censorship renders its economic developments void of certain moral courage to do the right thing. Despite aggressive circular economy laws and political rhetoric, China's provincial political elites are leading us to a depleted world with accelerated climate changes, social unrest, and human rights violations; all the while, the central government keeps the Red Curtain over its people and make empty promises to the rest of the world. To date, the Chinese people see the authoritarianism and corporate greed as the price to pay for better lives; the world turned a blind-eye to China's problems for profits' sake. We stay silent and let the self-imposed censorship consume what's around us, detrimental to our global moral core.

A critic would gladly stop at this static view of the problem. A careful China observer, however, would see the beginning of China's peaceful and quiet transition through its uniquely linguistic leverage, connecting to the world through the Red Curtain. In China's civic environmentalism, for example, activists have created a new language master-frame of “greenspeak” directly reflecting global citizen actions (Rom, Brockmeier, and Muhlhausler 1999: 2). See Guobin Yang, Civic environmentalism, RECLAIMING CHINESE SOCIETY (Routledge, 2010).

This type of linguistic “quiet activism” (hereinafter, “Satyagraha 2.0”) is not surprising. The Chinese language itself is riddled with ancient verses and on-the-go rhythmic prose. There is a rich field of symbolism people use daily for their humor and discontent. It is one of the few ways by which the Chinese people have empowered themselves. They set the rules and influence the rhetoric. They then make positive changes in incremental and gradual ways passively disarming the bureaucracy that resists change. Poetry in particular is an even more powerful thing to be leveraged. Properly understood and directed, it is something that can rekindle the Chinese exceptionalism we desperately need.

However, Chinese poetry, like other forms of art remotely suggesting any varying opinions, is unmistakably hunted towards extinction.

To restore the Chinese moral core and fully leverage China's Satyagraha 2.0 through language and poetry, the value and dignity of the individual must be respected. The voiceless must be read and heard. In particular, Chinese poetry must be revived in the modern context and be given a global voice. Without poetry, China will not have an open society and the world will not have a future. But once the Chinese poetic exceptionalism is awaken, it is capable of great things. With one-fifth of the world's population, China's will-power aligned can transform our future for the better, or worse if we let it be.

 The choice to change is ours.


Believe in the Future 
When spider webs seal my stove without mercy 
When ember smoke sighs over sad poverty 
 I spread out the despairing ashes stubbornly 
And write with fair snowflakes 

(-Shi Zhi, translated by Michelle Yeh) 

仁 礼 誠 人 
人 必 治 法 
法 修 其 德 
德 治 其 國 

jin (2011)


(Update: I recently discovered two other posts I've written on this topic. 
(1) On Language and Games – the Wittgensteinian Fly From a Bottle; and 
(2) Imaginative Re-Colonization.  I'm sure there are more, but you will have to find those on your own. Cheers, jin.)

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