Flavin's Corner
6-4-99

Back To Square

Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life.
Make the white queen run so fast she hasn't got time to make you wise.
'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured
For the queen to use.
Move me on to any black square,
Use me any time you want,
Just remember that the gold
Is for us to capture all we want, anywhere...
"I've Seen All Good People," Jon Anderson, The Yes Album, 1971.

     Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Statue of Liberty in New York
Harbor, and many sites in Washington, D.C. come to mind when Americans
think of "freedom."  So too does Boston, though perhaps not often enough, as
it boasts of the "Freedom Trail" winding through historic backstreets, the gray
and creepy Charlestown dock of the USS Constitution, the small, cheap bronze
plaque commemorating the original location of the Green Dragon Tavern,
where drunk Freemasons got the idea to do the Tea Party thing, and much else.
Boston, despite some hangings and poor censorship issues, is a "freedom" kind
of city.

      As today is the tenth anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, it's
a somber reflection of freedom and the gains of hard-fought self-determination
celebrated among Boston's Chinatown residents, as activists have recently used
the democratic civil process and successfully fought against the strip-joints of
the ol' "Combat Zone" district and have transformed streets once covered with
vomit, urine, used condoms and syringes, into a clean, healthy, and thriving
community.  Marking the occasion, as well, across the Charles River in
Cambridge is Ling Chai, one of the leaders of the student protesters in
Tiananmen Square, who now uses Central Square in Cambridge as her base to
challenge the Communist Chinese with the Internet.  Immigrants can care for
their neighborhood AND conduct an online revolution...  Whoda thunk it?

     Future scenarios, such as the Dickian Bladerunner L.A. with sushi-carts in
the street, or the William Gibson cyberpunk world ruled by greedy Japanese
techno-industrialists, put too much emphasis on tiny Japan and not enough on
China.  When China wakes up, the world will be, for better or worse, a much
different place.  Sometimes we forget this, though usually most people simply
withhold conjecture, refuse to gamble, and discuss something else.  No one
knows what's going to happen in China, or anyplace else for that matter.  But,
China will wake up ...and there's a possibility some of those many "What if a
billion Chinese all did [fill-in something] at the same time..." joke-problems
may come true.

     The democratization of China would seem inevitable--I usually cite Disney
laying down the first cable in China and acquiring cool rights, as when the
Disney-owned Discover magazine was granted exclusive coverage of the Takla
Makan or "Caucasian" mummies.  The trial and error, school of hard knocks,
and tough love approach we've shown Communist China since its 1949
inception ...might be working or not.  Who knows?  Recent events have
alarmed more than a few...

     Okay, ...China is a solid sixth of our planet and they've claimed their fair
share of the headlines of late.  While we applaud the gains of Hong Kong, we
cannot overlook the persistent repression of the current Communist Chinese
government.  They assume totalitarian self-justification, not that dissimilar to
the Islamic Taliban in Afghanistan.  A government with guns which has its
mind made up.  ...Not good a thing.

     Debate and compromise is especially difficult after NATO recently bombed
the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, the subsequent rioting against the American
embassy in Beijing which was sanctioned by the Communist government, and
yesterday's notice of the planned testing of a Chinese submarine-launched
missile which could carry a nuke ...past Japan, way past Japan, and onto the
continental United States.  And, as is well known, there's some talk of China
stealing nuclear secrets, though ...usually if we hear about it, it's already a
foregone disappointment for the intelligence sector.

     China is way resourceful, but there's a backdoor to stubbornness others may
take advantage of which doesn't require purchasing or earning--going Taoist,
trusting eventuality, and waiting them out.  I think it's best if we relax and let
China develop on its own.  China, though totalitarian, is not a punk, rogue
government like North Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or Iceland, and
genuinely cares for its history, land, and people.

     The near future of the People's Republic of China might well contain an
answer to the ruling Communist Party in a counter-part to Yeltsin, perhaps
entailing posters of Mao Zedong sporting a birthmark on his forehead like
Gorbachev's, as well as the necessary mismanagement and recovery time when
capitalism follows communism.  If the recent Russian problems with keeping
their commitment to the international space-station is any indication, NASA
might wish to advance-order Chinese contributions, as delivery might be slow.

     Chinese immigrants have established respectable neighborhoods in all the
American cities they've settled in and their efforts regarding Boston's "Combat
Zone" are indeed praiseworthy.  I can honestly say I don't miss the strip-joints,
prostitutes, and accompanying low-life, as such may be easily found in
surrounding suburbs.  Chinatown has absorbed nearly all of the "Combat Zone"
and transformed a several-block area of prior shady and shabbiness into a
popular restaurant and business district.  There's a couple of joints still there,
fighting for expansion, but it looks like a losing battle.  Now, if only Boston
would revitalize the rest of its downtown, finish the "Big Dig," and add a
second bridge...

     The violence of Tiananmen Square, the "Goddess of Democracy," the lone
figure in front of a line of tanks, all seem like ancient history, as of course does
1921, when Mao co-founded China's Communist Party, and 1949, when the
"revolution" declared victory and drove Chiang Kai-shek's "Nationalist"
government into exile in Formosa/Taiwan.  50 years of Communist China;
...wow!

     Continuing her studies and getting an MBA at the Harvard Business
School, Ling Chai now runs an Internet company which markets an intranet
application to colleges and universities. [Click  here for Ling's page.]  Her goal
of bringing the "revolution" back to China via online propaganda is laudable,
and despite such negative press as the recent Atlantic Monthly piece which
questioned her loyalty to nationalism over the basic capitalist urge of
succeeding with your own business, she seems a dedicated and credible activist
for human-rights.  She's also kinda cute...

     Apparently the Communists are discouraging any remembrance of the
violence 10 years ago in Tiananmen Square, but halfway between Harvard and
MIT in Cambridge, "freedom" will be celebrated this weekend in Central
Square.  I hear the party is bring-your-own-ideology...  Very democratic!

probably bringing a cheap "red" whine,
Rick

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