New #1 in China, Wen Jiabao. I am taking a course about the economic "miracle" of Southeast Asia. Every class, no matter whether the chapter was about Mayalsia or India or Japan or Korea, we have talked about China. 12 or 15 people who are fascinated by how money makes the world go 'round -- and me. My interest is about the people and the age old Confucian philosophy of China and especially about that portion that is Chinese occupied Tibet. Now the papers are full of analayses. Wen and his family is called "extraordinarily wealthy." Most of the 400 in the Politburo and their families are also extraordinarily or very wealthy. The analysts I have read say Wen is a very "ordinary" bureaucrat". Soon he and the politics of China will recede in the papers, same old, same old. And Israel, Syria, and, briefly, Myanmar, will take over the front page. (I speak of the NYTimes, not the many other newspapers in the US that devote their front page space to local news rather than world news.
Friday, when I began my writing class with the usual "free writing" minutes, as teacher I drank my coffee and glanced at the editorial section of the NYTimes left behind by the previous class. An op-ed piece by a Chinese-American caught my eye. When the writing minutes were over I asked the class -- 15 or 16 intelligent seniors who read papers and watch television news -- if they knew anything about the 1950s famine in China. No, not really. So I read the first paragraph of that article which pointed out that the greatest famine ever known in the world was in China 1950-52, thanks to Mao's land reforms. 36 million people died. More than died in WWI. More than died in WWII. Far more than the Armenians. Approximately 20 million more than in Stalin's private famine in the Ukraine. 36 million poor peasants and townspeople. The Jews will never forget their 6 million nor will the world be allowed to forget them.
But well educated Americans who lived during that period have no inkling of what happened in China--nor do they have any idea what is happening now. Our papers talk about economy, money, money, money. They talk about technology and they talk about the scandals we love--be they Generals or TV personalities. We can do nothing at all about the millions upon millions who died in the 20th century, in wars, famines, revolutions, at the hands of madmen like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. We have the most pervasive media coverage that ever existed but ignorance reigns, history is forgotten. Only an academic few recall the axiom: Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. Never again, say the Jews. What do the Chinese say, the Cambodians, the Hutus and Tutsis, the Serbs, Ukranians, Armenians .... on and on and on.
These are my Sunday morning thoughts. I wonder if any ministers, preachers, evangelists in America sermonized about China this morning.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!