August 26, 2007

Mao's Little Black Book


Interesting essay in the International Herald Tribune (an unrelated aside follows this sentence) analyzing Chinese personal ads over the years. (Unrelated aside: One of the highlights of 6 of the 7 days of the week when I lived in Greece for a year in the late '80s was reading the IHT. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what's wrong with newspapers lately--everything from their business models to their in-house operating systems to their editorial content--and it seems to me that the IHT-like discipline of having to choose only the most important stories from the U.S. plus trends pieces from around the world would be a good exercise for papers to go through...)

Anyway, back to the essay -- it's an interesting read on its own merits, but I found this bit of interest:

They don't have political freedom. Their newspapers and Web sites are censored and filtered. The great movement for democracy that had produced the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989 is well past and shows no signs of a revival. But the Chinese have won the right to be as acquisitively bourgeois as they want to be, and one attribute of being bourgeois is to want pretty things, including a pretty wife or handsome husband.

It seems to me that political freedom is the institutionalization of personal freedom, built incrementally. The West's freedoms spring initially from the question of who shall determine how we worship (or worship not at all, in the case of Paine and perhaps Franklin and Jefferson)--the Pope, the King, or our own conscience. A right to pursue happiness--in transubstantiation or consubstantion, or more importantly in the girl in the beret or the boy in camo pants--leads inevitably to other rights.

Posted by Ideofact at August 26, 2007 11:13 PM