The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
Watch blockbuster movies from the “south” and chances are you will start to believe that the world is not really such a desperate place. Perhaps you might even get convinced that under the present imperialist and turbo-capitalist global arrangement things can always get better. If you live in a gutter somewhere in Sub-Continent or Africa, you could simply try hard, you could “believe in yourself and love yourself”, you could “listen to your instincts”, and everything may eventually fall into the right places. You could get acknowledged, rewarded and even catapulted from your misery into some plush pastures that are covering the tall green hills of success.
Think twice! Or… don’t think at all – just bury your head in the sand.
There were always books written and films produced just in order to please the Western funding agencies and propaganda machine. I described the process, colorfully, in my recent political/revolutionary novel “Aurora”.
Just think about Kite Runner written by an Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini, or about all those bestsellers by Salman Rushdie or Elif Shafak, books about India or Turkey, but intended almost exclusively for a Western audience, and often despised in their native countries.
The works of Rushdie and Shafak can at least qualify as “literature”. But now both the Western markets and mainstream media are demanding more and more of ‘feel good’ rubbish books and movies from poor countries, more and more of those simple, picturesque and ‘positive’ stories that are actually confusing and give false hopes to the local population of many poor countries.
Do you still remember Slumdog Millionaire? How realistic a scenario was that? First of all, it was not even an Indian film; it was a 2008 British movie, directed by Danny Boyle, who also had directed Trainspotting. It took place in the Juhu slum of Mumbai.
In 2011, I filmed in the same Mumbai slum where the movie was produced. I asked many, how likely was such a ‘success scenario’ in that filthy and hopeless neighborhood? The dwellers of the Juhu slum just dismissed the entire charade with derogatory gestures; why even waste precious words?
Source: Asia Times
President Xi Jinping invokes Ming dynasty heroes, geopolitical development strategies and wild Asian geese analogies to portray China’s New Silk Roads initiative as the flagship of a trade-focussed new world order.
President Xi Jinping used the two-day New Silk Road international forum in Beijing to establish China as the flagship of a new, benign trade-focussed world order. This was, said Xi, a “new model of win-win and cooperation” that will prevail over gunboat diplomacy.
At the start of the conference, China’s state broadcaster Xinhua made clear that the initiative — officially first called One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and now Belt and Road (BRI) — was not “neocolonialism by stealth.”
“China needs no puppet states,” said Xinhua, while essentially repeating what Xi delivered in his keynote delivery.
“China is willing to share its development experience with the rest of the world” said Xi, “but we will not intervene in other nations’ internal affairs, export our social system and development model, nor force others to accept them.”
The Forum communiqué – a summary of the main points developed in Xi’s keynote speech – reported that the nations represented in Beijing had pledged to promote “practical cooperation on roads, railways, ports, maritime and inland water transport, aviation, energy pipeline, electricity and telecommunications”.
Big business too was represented and, reportedly, is enthusiastic.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma, so committed to advancing an electronic World Trade Platform, spoke to Chinese media at the Forum and hailed BRI’s “inclusion of young people, women, smaller enterprises and developing countries.”
On the final day of the forum, Beijing even engineered a sort of New Silk Road United Nations, in the form of a Leaders Roundtable, with the microphones open equally to all. The event was a nifty illustration of how Xi wants the world to see this initiative.
“The primary intention and the highest goal of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is to allow each member to jointly address global economic challenges, find new growth opportunities and drivers, achieve a win-win situation and keep moving toward a community with joint destiny,” said Xi.
Xi went onto offer exhortations for Ming dynasty navigation master Admiral Zheng He – as a “friendly emissary” – before delivering a metaphor for the new world trade order that he had just outlined.
“Wild swan geese,” he said of the large, rare and wild bird found in Asia but not in Europe, “are able to fly far and safely through winds and storms because they move in flocks and help each other as a team.”
I will always remember my encounter with the writer and cultural icon Susan Sontag, largely because it was on the same day that I met the great Benoit Mandelbrot. I took place in 2001, two months after the terrorist event, in a radio station in New York. Sontag who was being interviewed, was pricked by the idea of a fellow who “studies randomness” and came to engage me. When she discovered that I was a trader, she blurted out that she was “against the market system” and turned her back to me as I was in mid-sentence, just to humiliate me (note here that courtesy is an application of the Silver rule), while her female assistant gave me the look, as if I had been convicted of child killing. I sort of justified her behavior in order to forget the incident, imagining that she lived in some rural commune, grew her own vegetables, wrote on pencil and paper, engaged in barter transactions, that type of stuff.
No, she did not grow her own vegetables, it turned out. Two years later, I accidentally found her obituary (I waited a decade and a half before writing about the incident to avoid speaking ill of the departed). People in publishing were complaining about her rapacity; she had to squeeze her publisher, Farrar Strauss and Giroud of what would be several million dollars today for a book advance. She shared, with a girlfriend, a mansion in New York City, one that was later sold for $28 million dollars. Sontag probably felt that insulting people with money inducted her into some unimpeachable sainthood, exempting her from having skin in the game.
It is immoral to be in opposition of the market system and not live (like the Unabomber) in a hut isolated from it
But there is worse:
It is even more, much more immoral to claim virtue without fully living with its direct consequences
and this will be the main topic of the chapter: exploiting virtue for image, personal gain, careers, social status, these kind of things –and personal gain is anything that does not share the downside of a negative action.
By contrast with Sontag, I have met a few people who live their public ideas. Ralph Nader, for instance, leads the life of a monk, identical to the member of a monastery in the sixteenth century.