Monday, December 31

Giza's pyramids will be much better once Chinese engineers modernize them

After nearly succeeding at destroying their own past in the name of modernity, the Chinese are intent on modernizing all of the Silk Route. Some measure of how they're proceeding in this quest is found in a 23-minute SBS documentary made for Australian public TV, posted to YouTube by SBS in 2016; it's titled Bulldozing Tibet's Past?  (I will assume SBS added the question mark in an attempt to avert the wrath of Chinese advisors to Australia's government.) 

To get into the swing of things fast, I suggest you first go to the 10:15 minute mark of the video. There, the documentary explains that in 2010 there was an earthquake in earthquake-prone Qinghai province that killed about 3,000 Tibetans and collapsed or severely damaged numerous if not all houses that Chinese engineers had built for the Tibetan provincials -- who had no say about moving into the houses on account of their ancient Tibetan-built houses were bulldozed. However, the remaining Tibetan-built houses in the province weren't affected at all by the quake. They'd been designed and built to withstand earthquakes. 

I won't resist adding that Chinese rulers didn't think up the idea to pry humanity away from its past. See Nils Gilman's Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War AmericaAnd the Soviets had their own Cold War modernization policy; the big difference is that they modernized on a shoestring budget, whereas the U.S. could spend big money to modernize the world's underdeveloped peoples out of accepting Soviet Communism.  

But it was actually the French who got the modernization ball of yarn rolling. This was during the reign of Louis the Fourteenth if I rightly remember John Batchelor's book discussion about a horrific crime wave that hit Paris. The idea was to modernize a big swath of the cityscape -- replace dark, narrow and winding streets with brightly-lit boulevards laid out with mathematical straightness. This so thieves couldn't jump out at passersby and so assassins couldn't lug suitcases full of poisons through the streets of Paris without being noticed.

The French eventually transferred the urban modernization project to their colonial holdings; they came to see the traditional cityscapes in those lands as a symbol of the devious Oriental Stranger.

But once the whole ball of yarn is untangled we can see that French modernization theorists didn't do anything to colonized peoples that they didn't do to themselves, and their American counterparts didn't do anything to postcolonial peoples that they didn't do to themselves, and so it goes. The difference here is that Americans and the French -- and Saudi Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques, who are busy modernizing the history out of Mecca and Media -- are nowhere near as industrious as the Han Chinese.

In October of this year, Roger Scruton described for readers of the American Conservative magazine How Western Urban Planning Fueled War in the Middle East. But I don't think it's the West that will bulldoze what still stands of humanity's past. If their actions in Tibet are any indication it will be the Chinese, with willing cooperation from elected and unelected governments across the world. 

So I really do hope that you'll visit YouTube and watch the documentary. It isn't only about what the Chinese are doing in Tibet. It's also about all of us, about our acceptance of governments whose top priority is ensuring that the masses don't get the jump on them from the cover of ancient traditions and structures.


No comments: