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August 14th, 2008
The Devil’s Clack Dish: Standing on ceremony

The Devil’s Clack Dish: A column
Scene Editor

It took the 21st century to make me a cynic.

I used to believe that the men who were elected to be the president of our country really just wanted good stuff for the people – good schools, health care, and employment.

I used to believe that the majority of companies made useful things for the benefit of the consumer.

I used to believe that most rock bands just wanted to play music because music moved their hearts and minds and they would never use their music to sell junk.

I used to believe that people wanted to help each other because they knew that a sharing community was a strong community.

I’m skeptical about all that now.

I suppose you are snorting at this and saying to yourself, “What a naïve twit.” You’re right. I used to think everyone else, including you, believed in these things, too.

So it amazes me how shocked and outraged people have been about some of the “staged” effects at the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in Beijing. Most of the firework “footprints” were enhanced with computer graphics and the cute little girl who sang was lip-synching to some other less photogenic (to Westerners) little girl’s voice.

Some journalists and bloggers have expressed disgust at this Chinese ploy to charm the world. Some have used the term “Milli-Vanilli-ed,” as if that lip-synching episode was a breach of unfaltering musical integrity even though most big concerts at the time were a-brim with special effects and enhanced taped vocals. The only sin of Milli Vanilli is that they got caught.

We live in a world where we exalt in the shallow surfaces of glittering glamour until we find out the surfaces are shallow, and then we cry out with horror at being duped. We do this over and over again: Ashley Simpson, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, on and on — The Monkees and Clifford Irving etc. The examples over the last hundred years are legion. How many times do we have to learn the lesson that when we are taken in by shimmering surfaces we will constantly be hurt and cheated by them?

This is something China understood about us from the beginning. What we should really be outraged about is that they understand a very ugly truth about us and tried to seduce us with it.

Here’s a good little story that illustrates a tiny bit about China. A food critic was talking to a Chinese chef about the many inventions China had come up with first, such as the compass, paper, printing, moveable type, gunpowder and so many others. The critic commented, “I can’t understand why a culture so advanced uses chopsticks instead of a fork.” The Chinese chef smiled at him and said, “We invented the fork a thousand years ago. We just moved on while you have not.”

See, the Chinese were not trying to “be like us.” China has a very old civilization that was more advanced than the West for thousands of years. This message was implicit in that Olympic opening ceremony, starting with the invention of paper and topping it off with peace and harmony.

All the Chinese are really guilty of is of getting caught trying to placate us with shiny ceremonies while they take over Tibet, torture Buddhist monks and put global corporations in their back pocket with cheap labor as they prepare to quietly dominate the world economy.

The US owes China a half-trillion dollars. If China ever called in our debt, it would cost going on $2,000 for each and every one of our 300 million Americans. So this newly formed cynic says, “Just smile at the cute little Chinese girl doing the lip-synching and have a Coke and a Big Mac and a Snickers Bar and keep buying those cheap imports at Wal-Mart and Target.” Whether we like if or not, we owe them.

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