Monday, July 03, 2006

Cultural differences.....-Part I

Today was a very interesting day. S.O. and I packed boxes that we could pack together, namely household goods. We are packing ourselves in order to save money on the move to the new location. The movers will then come and move the goods to new our new abode. One interesting side note to this for me, is watching the movers slide their shoes on and off again over and over as they move stuff out of the apt. As an American I find the wasted energy hard to believe, the S.O. on the other hand accepts that as the natural order of things.

Which gets to the heart of the new things I learned today. For a short while, we went out to get something to eat and to do some shopping. Will someone explain to me again why, in the middle of moving, this was the right time for her to have me buy her yet another pair of shoes? Even if they were on sale? Its not like this women lacks for shoes. By my last count she has over 42 pairs, hardly in the same league with Imelda, but she has me beaten by an over 4 to 1 margin.....and that includes my golf shoes. ( I have one pair she has 4, all purchased by yours truly...).

The highlight of the day came when we came across a picture of Mao Tse Tung, in a display of Chinese teapots. She called him by his Japanese name Mo tak tou, I called him by his American name: Worthless, Godless, Commie Pig. The conversation that ensued was (somewhat) surreal:

Me: "Yea that's Mao Tse Tung. What did you call him?"

S.O. "Mou Tak Tou".

Me: "Americans say Mao Tse Tung".

S.O.: " He's the father of China".

Me: (Staring at her in shock, trying to figure out if she was messing with me, slowly realizing that she was serious...) .. " Uh no, he is not the father of China. He is the father of the Chinese Communist party, which through an unfortunate series of historical accidents, now misrules over a billion people and steals jobs from deserving Americans, supplies Wal-Mart with cheap goods, and whose thirst for oil has kept oil prices high and the dollar low. The real father of modern China is Sun Yat Sen. And had his successor, Chiang Kai Shek, not gambled the fate of the nation on an ill advised invasion of Manchuria in 1946, which in spite of things he almost won, till George C. Marshall made them halt and thus forfeit the initiative to Mao and his thugs."
The conversation actually went that way until I realized that I had gone too far. The S.O. has little interest in politics or history and I knew this would bore her. However she bravely carried it on a little longer.

S.O. : " What do you mean?"

Me: " Well, if Mao had stayed in his caves or simply been allowed to keep Manchuria which, after all was Japanese for over 90 years, the bulk of China would have remained under the KMT. If Chiang had left them alone, the history of Asia would have been quite different. There probably would have been no Korean War, No Vietnam war, No Pol-Pot in Cambodia, no sell out of Hong Kong in 1997 just to name a few..."

S.O. " Lets go look at the pointy toed shoes that were made in China over there.......".

Me: " Whatever...."

Actually, if you read What If? edited by Robert Cowley, you will find an essay by Arthur Waldron that speculates on just such an alternate history. I'm a big fan of alternate history and have bought a lot of books that show alternative timelines. In his essay , Waldron argues that there were actually two paths not taken, either of which would've saved China from its gloomy history and its continued oppression by a bunch of Communist pigs, who are trying to have their cake and eat it too: A capitalist economy without political freedom. The first path would have involved Chiang actually crushing the Communists in 1946 at Harbin. As Waldorn points out "his incredulous commanders begged him to reconsider, telling him that victory over the Communists meant total victory in Manchuria" . The other line would have had a DDR type Communist country developing in Manchuria, one that would have probably collapsed the way the DDR did because it would have been dependent on a capitalist China to its south. And probably well before the DDR actually folded.

What surprised me though was that the S.O. really believed Mao was the father of China. What the heck did they teach her in school anyway? Certainly not the whole story. Then again I'm told that Japanese schools do not teach history well before 1945 because there are just too many touchy subjects and besides there are only so many hours in the school day. If so its a cautionary tale for America............

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