Socialist fantasy

I did catch some of the closing ceremony. Just as China seems to have forged a new kind of communism, it seems to have forged a new kind of communist artistic style. Before, the only style allowed in Marxist regimes was socialist realism. Now we seem to have socialist fantasy.

Socialist realism had to consist of character types, with evil capitalists and a ridiculous and sinister middle class (still a Hollywood staple!), opposed by muscular workers and large groups of the noble proletariat. Based on what I saw at both the Olympic ceremonies, which would have to have been party-approved, this new style still rejects individualism, which would still be bourgeois and counter-revolutionary, and is highly collective.

We still see nothing but groups and individuals, all alike, taking their place in the groups. But this socialist fantasy–as we see in those lit up figures flying around–is fanciful and future-oriented. It is built around mass unity, rather than class conflict. It emphasizes wealth to the point of conspicuous consumption, though it is national wealth rather than anything that belongs to individuals.

This kind of communism, I suspect, will prove far more formidable–and appealing–than the old.

Olympics post-mortem

Here is an incomplete, sometimes tongue-in-cheek list of highs and lows at the Beijing Olympics. Do you have any final thoughts as they pass into history?

Vice President Biden?

So, Barack Obama has picked Senator Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate. Thoughts? I’d like to hear from both fans and foes of Obama.

(A rare Saturday post)

Dog morality

Maybe there is something to the Mowgli/Romulus/Remus legend. SeeFemale dog rescues abandoned baby, takes child with her puppies:

A female dog found an abandoned newborn baby girl early Thursday and took the child home with her puppies in a poor suburb of the Argentine city of La Plata, local media reported citing police sources.

The owner of the dog reportedly noticed the baby hours later, when he heard her cry. The man immediately called the police, and the newborn was taken to a hospital in La Plata.
The dog, called China, reportedly found the baby in a barren lot in the neighbourhood of Abasto. Guided by her instinct, she took the girl with her puppies and kept her warm in the Argentine winter.

Couple this with new studies that show what we all knew already, that humans and dogs do communicate with each other–we can correctly interpret what the different barks mean, from happy barks to angry barks–and that, according to this article, “Dogs are becoming more intelligent and are even learning morals from human contact.”

So I guess this opens up a thread for dog stories. Do any of you have any examples and personal experiences of this sort of thing with your dog? And do attributes such as dog intelligence, dog communication, and dog morals pose any theological difficulties?

This could make China go ballistic

Update to our discussion about whether the Chinese gymnasts are really 16, as the rules require: International Olympic Committee launches probe into He Kexin’s age. Can you imagine China’s response if the committee strips those little girls of their medals? The loss of face? The spoiling of their nearly-perfect and self-esteem boosting Olympics? The emotionalism and defensiveness from their wounded pride could make Russia’s recent sabre-rattling seem inconsequential.

No second place in Kung Fu

Here is a fascinating article on how cultural–and I would say political–differences show up in sports, how unlike the exuberant Usain Bolt, Chinese athletes hardly ever celebrate expressively when they win, but rather keep up the Communist practice of self-criticism. And how the Chinese consider any medal but a gold as losing. From No Fun and Games For Chinese Athletes:

Chinese gymnast Cheng Fei had just won a bronze medal for her performance on the balance beam, less than a week after the Chinese squad beat out the Americans for gold in team competition. But speaking with reporters immediately afterward, all she focused on were the mistakes she had made two days earlier in the floor exercise.

“When I was a beginner, it was normal for me to make mistakes,” an exhausted Cheng said Tuesday. “But I persisted for four years just for these Games, so when I lost on Sunday it was unimaginable for me. I feel totally empty. . . . I don’t have my soul anymore, and am only left with my body.”

Even though China has captured more gold medals than any other country, it is difficult to detect success in the voices of its athletes.

Instead, the athletes’ post-competition comments reveal a world of pressure and unfulfilled expectations, in stark contrast with the more confident, even boastful comments by Western athletes.

When they do well, they fail to boast; and when they do poorly, they can be intensely self-critical. Their attitude, experts say, is largely cultural. . . .

“Our athletes have more pressure than other countries’ athletes. They feel they are really responsible for the country’s image,” said Mao Zhixiong, who teaches sports psychology at Beijing Sports University. “Many Chinese athletes practice their sports not because they like it but because they are selected by the country.”

The Chinese government also tends to reward only first-place finishes. According to a well-known saying here, “There is no first place for literature, there is no second place for kung fu.”

Chinese athletes spend so much time in training that they rarely see their families. Many struggle to find rewarding work after retirement. Foreign athletes, by contrast, often have jobs or other obligations during their careers and train in their spare time.

Diver Chen Ruolin, 15, who finished first in a preliminary round of 10-meter platform diving Wednesday, said cheering crowds were an encouragement to her. But she seemed puzzled when reporters asked if her family was present. After the question was repeated, Chen replied matter-of-factly: “They didn’t come to watch the game. I don’t care about this.”