Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A cheapness in my soul

Small image of a copy of the Goddess of Democracy statue, which was originally constructed by the Tiananmen Square students. This copy stands at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This image was taken outside of Student Union Building of the University of British Columbia by Dr. Kwan and uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons on 2007-04-27 when it was placed by Dr. Kwan into the public domain.Dear Gentle Reader,

I do not prize cheap. It is not a word of hope; it is not a word of comfort; it is not a word of cheer; it is not a word of inspiration! It is the badge of poverty; it is the signal of distress... Cheap merchandise means cheap men and cheap men mean a cheap country.

William McKinley, Jr. (1843-1901)
25th President of the USA (1897-1901)

President McKinley was a protectionist, although this speech was from his prior time as a Senator, and, from a Senate campaign that he lost.

I do not agree much with protectionists, but, I do agree with some of Senator McKinley's campaign lines; I agree with his analysis of cheap.

I also believe that there is a cheapness in some souls and beliefs, including your humble scribe's.

In the West, Wal-Mart has championed cheap, at the cost of paying people what they need to survive, not what they need to thrive.

And, here in the East, there are many that self-censor themselves, your humble scribe included, because the price of not self-censoring is high, and it is hard to see the benefits of one's actions.

It is almost two weeks past the twentieth anniversary of the crackdown on the students in Beijing.

The power brokers of Beijing were quite protectionist, then.

They are still parsimonious with non-economic liberties.

And your humble scribe was too parsimonious with his convictions to publicly note the anniversary.

There was a cheapness in my soul.

I cannot remedy that. But, I can ask you to remember.

Large image of a copy of the Goddess of Democracy statue, which was originally constructed by the Tiananmen Square students. This copy stands at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This image was taken outside of Student Union Building of the University of British Columbia by Dr. Kwan and uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons on 2007-04-27 when it was placed by Dr. Kwan into the public domain.



Heidelweiss said...

As regards actual "cheapness" I must tell you that I am submitting to the Catholic Church to have it added as the 8th deadly sin. It is evil and vile. It causes people to cheat others and to place things and money above people. I think there is a huge difference between "cheap" and "frugal". Frugal, simply put, is being cautious and "smart" with your money. As I do not believe you to be evil or vile, I will call you "frugal".

Travis Erwin said...

wise does not mean one is being cheap.

Cloudia said...

Late, but worthy!
"And, here in the East, there are many that self-censor themselves, your humble scribe included, because the price of not self-censoring is high, and it is hard to see the benefits of one's actions."
Sounds like Hawaii politics. No make fuss, small island!
Aloha my friend!

Teresa said...

To Chris:
(Standing ovation with long and vigorous applause like the Viennese give to superb musicians)

You're not cheap, Chris. Discretion is the better part of valor.

But thank you for posting this, even if it is a little bit after the date of the massacre. This entire year is an anniversary, and during this time in 1989, the Chinese authorities were seeking out and arresting thousands and thousands of students and workers who had participated in the June Fourth Movement around the country, so we cannot say you are too late. Many of the students caught in those arrests were imprisoned for years in terrible conditions and had their lives ruined as they stood at the brink of adulthood. So I think it is good to keep remembering ALL who suffered twenty years ago and those who are suffering under an injust system even now.

If each one of us would stand up to the bullies of society just a little bit more, even at the cost of experiencing some discomfort, I think the world would be a better place.

With much admiration,

Richard Wells said...

Kudos to you and a tip of the topi to Teresa. I was thinking today about Iran - who isn't? - and how the price of freedom is always blood. The question is, "how much?" The June Fourth Movement - well put, Teresa - may have been just a down payment, but MLK Jr said it well: the arc of history bends toward justice.

PS: you should see the poem your pal Murat posted today. Wow!

Just You

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Heidelweiss,

I accept frugal praise...

Dear Travis,

True, but...

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

[Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents, 1770, Edmund Burke (1729-1797)]

This is most often parsed as "All that is required for evil to triumph (or prevail) is for good men to do nothing".

Dear Cloudia,

All politics is local, because all consequences are local.

(The extension of Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill, Jr.'s (1912 – 1994), 55th Speaker of the US House of Representatives, famous dictum.)

I just wish there was not such a fear of the consequences...

Dear Teresa,

Thank you.

Almost a fortnight late, but, better late than never.

Of course the price of standing up is usually far more than "a little discomfort" as a generation of once-students found out, or as Iran is finding out, again, now...

Dear Richard,

Pretty rough down payment, though. Haven't seen much in the way of payback, either...

And Richard, to your PS, yes.

I agree.

Murat's poem, today, ("Just Yours" from his archives) is phenomenal.

You are both exceptional poets.

I want the books.

From both of you.


Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

You misquoted me. I said "some discomfort" not "a little." I know they suffer more than a little. Much of my interpretation business is involved with helping refugees of torture get settled in the US. I take them to all kinds of doctors for treatment of the after-effects of standing up for their rights.

Yet, I can't help but feel that many times the ones who do stand up get so brutally pounded because not enough of us are standing. It is much easier to break a single stick in half than to saw a cord of wood in two. If we would all push back in solidarity just a tad bit more, maybe the bullies would not have such excellent targets, and we would all only experience "a little" discomfort instead of the brave among us experiencing "some (major) discomfort."

And I still don't believe you were late with this post...


Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

Mea culpa.

I did misquote you.

And, I agree with you.

"It is much easier to break a single stick in half than to saw a cord of wood in two."...

What an excellent analogy.

Given your academic background and your work profile, I just fetched two books off my bookshelves, here.

(It is so sad to have books in storage, inaccessible, on two different continents than the one I am resident in.)

Anyway. Two books that you might enjoy...

"Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence--from domestic abuse to political terror" by Judith Herman, M.D.


"A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century" by Ben Shepard

If you come and visit you can read them at night.


Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

Thanks for the book recommendations. I will try to get them from the university library here, in California. And when I visit you, I'll read whatever new book you have found for the day or the week.

From the titles, they sound as if they will be very helpful to me, and I would rather read them here sooner than I will be in Hong Kong because that is still an adventure-in-waiting, so to speak.

I can sympathize with you about books scattered in storage across the globe. I trust that they are well-packed and safe from damp, mildew, bugs, etc. I lost 85% of the part of my library left in Taiwan to mildew and cockroaches. It was sad because many were expensive Spanish literature books printed in Spain with all my margin notes from college. I felt as though I had lost several of my best friends.

To see what I mean about Viennese audiences and their applause go to and click on the 7th World Choral links. My daughter Joanna plays the cello solo in the finale, her twin sister Phoebe is the principal second violinist and my "baby" Elizabeth is on double bass. I'm added to the mix in the back of the viola section in the middle clip on the website; several of the adult extras didn't play in the grand finale--the stage was quite packed. I don't know if they uploaded the applause at the end of the finale, but it was heartwarming and amazing. I learned in Austria that the Austrians get into music like Americans get into sports. Our orchestra even watched one professional performance in Vienna where the conductor kept the orchestra plucking on beat while the audience applauded a soloist for nailing a particularly difficult passage. So if you have not experienced it for yourself, you need to go to a concert sometime in Vienna. Then you will know how heartily I applaud you for taking a stand in a difficult place. (Enjoy the music, too, especially the sentiments of the finale--which is the Gloria from Haydn's Mass in Time of War.)


murat11 said...

Chris and All: What a fine cafe to stop by for something more than chatter.

I'm sure I was just the hundredth monkey when I "coined" the Walmart mantra, Everyday low prices, everyday low wages...

I'm by no means here to defend la familia Walton, but there's a tiny bit of largesse at the family outlet a few blocks from our house. I walk up to the lot every night about ten, walking Blue the WonderDog for his evening constitutional (or is that mine?). The lot sits on a rise that catches the best evening breezes off the Gulf. On any given night, there are a handful of cars "camped" out for the night. For cars, read "homes" for the occupants. There are some regulars. It occurred to me just last night that there are plenty of businesses in the tonier parts of Tres Leches who would be calling out the peace officers on these folks. Just a crevice of humanity at the newly logoed Mart.

On the larger front, I'm struck by writers around the world who live without the luxury (there's that word again) of freely expressing themselves, for whom there are serious costs when they do...For. What? For. Words.

A beautiful commemorative piece of sculpture, as is Teresa's corded prayer for us all.

murat11 said...

Richard and Chris: My thanks to you both for the poem props.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

I have lost four libraries to date. Two in Canada, one in Japan, and one in Taiwan.

Some I have lost due to the exigencies of bad cashfloor, one to a divorce that I had nothing to do with. And parting with cubic metres upon cubic metres of books is always distressing.

I admit that I am never a physical glossator; my marginal notes are all written in the grey matter, but I gloss my personal copy. I know where to look in my personal copy, not in someone elses. Some sort of weird neural cartography at work. I feel for your lost armada of words.

I am listening to the Musique sur la mer youth symphony orchestra as I type. They sound deserving of applause. Kudos to your family.

The recording cut out on me before any applause was reached, and I know the type of applause that Viennese audience give, though only as a co-giver, not as a a recipient.

What an interesting organisation, allowing the parents and grandparents of members to play in the Symphony, also.

Dear Murat,

I hope that that situation at Wal-Mart lasts for those who need it.

The challenge will come when someone becomes quite ill and leaves their parking site in a less than hygienic state.

And the Walton family does make a difference in the world, including many positive differences.

The Heroine and I were discussing how much of a positive impact BAT (British Anglo Tobacco), for example, makes in the global sustainability field.

Similarly, Monsanto can be relied upon, every time, to volunteer funds and expertise to assist in Africa, with a positive predictibility that is not only second to none, but that outclasses everyone other corporate player.

Regarding Iran or Zimbabwe or Myanmar; I hear you loud and clear.

As per the sculpture, it was a symbol of defiance during the days in the square and was literally thronged by the organizers. It was a geographic beacon, alerting the students to where their leaders were, and a symbol of the struggle.

And, now, copies can be found all over the world.

And Murat, no thanks are necessary for the props for your poem. Thanks are necessary to you for crafting and sharing it. Thank you.


Sepiru Chris said...

PS, Teresa, When I say I gloss my personal copy, I mean in my head. But I look up the glosses via looking at the untouched physical copy I own.

I know. Weird.

Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

I don't think your psychic glossing is weird. I'm that way, too, in that I find passages much more quickly with my own copies of books. I just put margin notes in books for classes if the professor emphasized something that was counterintuitive to my way of thinking. That way I didn't forget it for the tests. One of my Spanish professors at Georgetown was quite brilliant and had some unique insights into some of the lesser known works from Spain's siglo de oro. I frequently made margin notes in books for his classes, and I lost all of them... (sniff, sniff).

Losing 4 libraries is a lot. My condolences.

I was unable to find the two books you recommended at the university library today. One seems to have been stolen, and the other not purchased. I will continue looking for them. I have several friends who are librarians.

The Musique Sur la Mer Youth Symphony Orchestra is a truly unique organization. My girls and I were involved with it from its inception in 2002 until the concert tour of Austria and Czech Republic in 2007. Now the girls are all away, and I am doing other things, but we certainly had amazing experiences with the group including performing at the National Cathedral in Monaco on New Year's Day 2003, in the Sydney Opera House and in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein and with the Vienna Boys Choir and with other excellent choirs from Asia in the concert that is posted on the website.

One of the goals of the orchestra is to promote international understanding and world peace through the medium of music. On each of the concert tours we met youth from other countries and cultures and collaborated together to produce a performance. The parents and grandparents playing in the group helped supervise the younger musicians and allowed children as young as 9 or 10 to enjoy the benefits of such a cosmopolitan undertaking. One of our hopes as parents is that those experiences broadened our children's views enough to make them tolerant adults with a global consciousness. So far, so good, but they are still young, and only time will tell.

Thanks for putting out the list of more socially responsible corporations. I was not aware that Monsanto helped so much in Africa. I have heard negative things about it from people who do not approve of its genetic reengineering. I had heard of WalMart's generosity in the communities around its stores.

I think industrialization is truly a two-edged sword. It is hard to say to developing countries that they cannot aspire to all the conveniences that we enjoy, yet the road to enjoying such a standard of living is fraught with dangers. We discussed this quite a bit in our classes on Modern Asia and Chinese politics last semester. I always told my classmates to do all their laundry on a washboard by hand for one month (including washing their jeans) and then only line dry the clothing, before they criticized developing countries for being greedy for modern conveniences. But no one was willing to take me up on my challenge... They said they would take my word for it.