what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Carpe Diem


In the last 24 hours I have been buying Amazon books as if there were no tomorrow. Some 36 will be winging their way to the mountains in the next few weeks – not counting the 15 or so which are scheduled to arrive in the next week. At my age, one can only count one’s blessings and access as much as one can.
I got on a dangerous roll when I dipped into the Amazon recommendations (based on my reading patterns) and found so many of the sort of travelogues I love which mix interviews with background history of the country. A lot of these and history books I’ve ordered cover the Balkans (larger definition) and also central Asia and Caucasus in which I spent 7 creative years. The haul includes several Patrick Leigh Fermor’s I don’t have and Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levantine trilogies.
I’ve started to read Daniel Bell’s China’s new Confucianism whose intro semed rather to undermine its thesis when it indicated that, for the moment, the new-found respectability of Confucius is only verbal. It does not extend, as he wrly puts it, to elderly people having one vote for their leaders let alone the multiple vote which might be implied by the confucianist respect for the wisdom of the aged.
One of the most distasteful aspects of contemporary China is the complete disrespect of the forces of law and order for the law and of the rights of the ordinary citizen. I had read a lot about the collusion of municipalities with developers and the ruthless way villagers and townfolk alike have been and are brutally evicted from their homes to make way for the new buildings which now blight the country.
Lawyers who try to defend the people are thrown into prison.

A country the size of China, of course, cannot be run from the centre – the Provincial Chiefs (who have a majority of power on the party’s central presidium) dominate. An article in the Foreign Policy journal put the matter starkly -
Consider how aggressively Chinese cities have now begun to bypass Beijing as they send delegates en masse to conferences and fairs where they can attract foreign investment. By 2025, China is expected to have 15 supercities with an average population of 25 million (Europe will have none). Many will try to emulate Hong Kong, which though once again a Chinese city rather than a British protectorate, still largely defines itself through its differences with the mainland. What if all China's supercities start acting that way? Or what if other areas of the country begin to demand the same privileges as Dalian, the northeastern tech center that has become among China's most liberal enclaves? Will Beijing really run China then? Or will we return to a fuzzier modern version of the "Warring States" period of Chinese history, in which many poles of power competed in ever-shifting alliances?
Some great blogs found this morning – in the development field. And one of them has a very helpful series giving useful advice on IT to people like myself. From the latest of these, I was able to download three helpful bits of software.

The woodcut which adourns this post is taken from Frans Masereel’s The City published in 1925 and can be read in its entirety on the link. I’m very fond of old woodcuts – and tried unuccesfully to find in my favourite art bookship in Brussels
(Posada) more Jacques Engelbach woodcuts which I came across in a nice 1927 book I picked up for 1 euro in a Brussels fleamarket in June.

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