My blogland in April 2007

I was much more into explicating what I saw as important ideas back then… I still support the ideas. Original links may not work.

Found on John Baker’s blog, and in Marcel’s email

06 Apr 2007

First item: one of my favourite crime fiction writers has just died at the age of 60: Michael Dibdin Dies. I love the Aurelio Zen books.

Second item: Great Firewall of China:

You can use this site to check if your blog or website is available in China. I don’t know why you would want to do that, but maybe you do.

I am interested. Here is the result for this blog.


So, according to the test, is the English and ESL Blog, but a couple of hours ago, according to Sitemeter, visit #101,847 arrived from CHINANET Guangdong province network. I am told the Chinese nanny can be variable…

The third item: “Marcel Proust” emailed an interesting set of links on Zona Europa, beginning here. Two more are at the foot of that page. It requires considerable familiarity with Chinese history and literature in the past sixty years really to get what they are about, though they also bear on the phenomenon above. I was especially interested in the second page as in my 1994 book From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt I used the wonderful poem “If Lu Xun Were Still Alive”. Lu Xun was a great 20th century Chinese poet and essayist of the Left who is still much revered in China, deservedly so; he was also, it may be argued, fortunate enough to die before the Communists came to power.

The poem “If Lu Xun Were Still Alive” by Zhang Yu’an appeared in 1980 and may be found in Seeds of Fire ed. Geremie Barme and John Minford (HK 1986).

…Perhaps he would be holding high office,
Or perhaps just one of the rank and file.
In high office he would not forget to be like an ox to a child,
If humble he would not fawn or be servile.

Perhaps he would have been heaped with honours,
Or perhaps he would be just out of jail.
Honoured, he would feel new outcries, new hesitations;
In jail he’d have written new “Permitted Conversations” and “Pseudo-free Letters”…


Perhaps he would splash his ink around to praise the “new life”
But perhaps too he would try to cure the ills of the age.
He might be rather happier and more cheerful,
But he might too have felt new unease and wrath.

Not rocket science to see that poem as a critique, is it? I see its use of Lu Xun as being a little like the use we tend to make of George Orwell, another manifestly honest (though complex) figure.

On the page The Other Stories of History from Zona Europa is “translation of an essay by Qian Gang about the ‘banned’ book The Other Stories of History: My Days at the Supplement Division of the People’s Daily (风云侧记——我在人民日报副刊的岁月) by Yuan Ying (袁鹰).”

The Other Stories of History recorded the “stories at the editorial department” of the People’s Daily during the 1980’s. There were not many stories but each word evoked our memories of the 1980’s. For example, in “What Is The Crime For Writing A Diary! Invoking A Civil Right That Has Been Trampled Upon For Many Years”, the story was about the extraordinary response from the readers to a submitted essay. People outside mainland China will find it hard to believe that personal diaries and letters can be used as material for denunciation in that age so that disaster can fall suddenly.

“If Lu Xun Were Still Alive” describes the problem caused by a poem dedicated to the memory of Lu Xun. The poet imagined that if Lu Xun were still alive: “He might have acquired various honors/but perhaps he was just released from prison.” He might have become a high official and attend important conferences, “but he would not have three security guards and two secretaries.” “He might have gotten into a modernized sedan/but he would not have used shades to shield the view of the roadside/He would extend his hand to every drifter/He needs to listen quiet to the complaints from unemployed young people who have read many books …” After the poem was published, it was followed up by “a certain comrade in the central government” to the point where it was raised to the level of “a counter-revolutionary poem.” Fortunately, this was the post-Cultural Revolution era and Mr. Yuan Ying was able to escape with a self-criticism…

Mr. Yuan Ying’s book is a piece of writing by a Chinese citizen permitted under the law. It is also the righteous words by a Communist Party member in compliance with party discipline. It told people that the Chinese Communist Party made this and that mistake, but it also expressed deep apologies with promises to reform. As Xiao Jun said, “It is good if you make mistakes and admit them!” More importantly, goodness and justice continue to live on inside the Communist Party and there continues to be people who fight for the truth with the warm blood of their lives.

A sharp contrast comes in the form of the “young” ideological controllers who have official Communist Party positions. They know very little about Party history, they are cruel and merciless towards old Party members such as Yuan Ying and they don’t even have the rigid beliefs and puritanical lifestyles of the “leftist tools” of the previous generation. They only made practical considerations and watch the market prices in officialdom; they are greedy, vulgar and do not disguise that they are seeking power and their language are lowly. They guess what their superiors are thinking and they amplify the results. Even one little “factor of instability” within their “domain” may affect their career path, and so they will take high-pressured action against leftists and rights, party members and civilians alike. The barbarity and absurdity of their actions arouse astonishment inside and outside of China. Each of their bad deeds is enough to turn their superiors’ most recent “enlightened” statement into an instant lie; they are the most effective saboteurs of international trust in the Chinese Communist Party.

Let me repeat myself: I have no interest in the crime that the censors made up for Mr. Yuan Ying. The Other Stories of History is undoubtedly causing them to lose sleep. History has that kind of magic. I also do not believe that they can ban anything because the times have changed! This “sudden cold spell” in spring means nothing. Dear friends, let me recommend this warm and wonderful book from Mr. Yuan Ying to you.

I notice too that current “angry young men” in China (see Fenqing in Wikipedia — fascinating stuff) sometimes still “believe if Lu Xun were still alive today, he would continue fiercely criticizing the government.” I think they may be right; you should also note that being an angry young man in China does not necessarily mean one is pro-American or enamoured with western democratic models. That fenqing [say FEN-TCHING] article really is a fascinating glimpse into some of the many variations the quest for freedom might take, and the many various things people in other places might wish to be free from.

Dear me, don’t we need to learn to think a great deal less in blacks and whites in this world, when most of what is out there is some other hue?

That test still works as of 20 April 2016, and this blog is visible in China.

Multiculturalism is not (necessarily) the enemy…

15 Apr 2007

In today’s Sun-Herald there is a piece by Kerry-Anne Walsh called “Multiculturalism isn’t the enemy.” Unfortunately, given it is an excellent piece, it is not online. It should be. So here most of it is:

…Twenty years ago, a folk festival in Australia was a homage to all things Celtic. It’s a sign of Australia’s extraordinary growth and maturity that the four-day [Canberra Folk] festival now attracts the cream of domestic and international acts and honours the music, dance, arts and cultural life of an extraordinary number of nationalities in the Australian family.
This year, as the poisonous war in Iraq and the turmoil in Afghanistan continue, the music of the Middle East was deliberately honoured.

As his Government readies to whistle up so-called cultural values as an election issue, Howard, if he’d attended, would have witnessed a microcosm of the miracle that is our new multicultural society.

Kevin Andrews, the staunchly Catholic Immigration Minister whose added title of Multicultural Affairs was ditched in January as the government moves to ditch multiculturalism altogether, might also have received divine enlightenment.

Traditional Aussie bush poets performed alongside a wide variety of Middle Eastern music and dance groups. Irish fiddlers jigged and reeled; Aussie bands played bouzoukis alongside didgeridoos. A Sunday morning ecumenical Easter service was themed in the celebration of diversity, with prayers for the narrow-minded, the war-torn, and the bigoted.

The broader political backdrop, in this election year, is an ideological battle over the future of multiculturalism with the government ramping up its “integration” rhetoric as the poll date nears.

Howard explained that dumping “multicultural affairs” from the ministry name and adding “citizenship” expressed “the desire and aspiration that immigrants become Australians”.

Does that mean that the 7 million people from 200 countries who have successfully made Australia home while retaining their own proud heritage haven’t wanted to become Australians?

Why not applaud the successes of our melting-pot society… instead of finding fault and political opportunities?

Multiculturalism didn’t create the Cronulla riots. White and black Australia led the way long before the term “multiculturalism” was coined in the 1970s. And white blokes sitting in radio studios are a bigger threat to racial harmony than a word.

The word “multiculturalism” is now loaded by some politicians and detractors to send the erroneous message that multiple cultures threaten the Anglo one.

They should get out more.

I despair at the anticorrectness correctness that infects the Howard government. They are tossing many a healthy baby out with the bathwater, I feel.

See also Shan Jayaweera, “Sharing two cultures shouldn’t be a test of allegiance.”

WHEN you are the child or grandchild of an immigrant, you live in a state of cultural limbo. Your culture is part of who you are, but the pressure is on to “integrate” into the “mainstream”. It is bad enough that this pressure to conform comes every day at school, at work and in the media.

But when you have politicians and commentators wanting to remove multiculturalism from the vocabulary, it is time to take a stand…

A beautiful illustration of what may happen for the good and for integration and community harmony at their best — that is when we simultaneously accept and celebrate diversity — may be found, according to the Encounter on ABC Radio National this morning, in Dandenong Hospital in Victoria. “The City of Greater Dandenong is one of Australia’s two most diversely populated municipalities and its local hospital has substituted a multi-faith ‘sacred space’ in the place of its old chapel.”

…Max Oldmeadow: Max Oldmeadow, and I guess I am here because I am old and I have been associated with the Christian Church. But I was born in Dandenong so of course when I was born there wasn’t a hospital. It was in the forties, early forties that it was opened and it was a locally run show right from the beginning.

Margaret Coffey: Creating a Sacred Space, on Encounter, – people of Dandenong telling a story of transformation in their community. I’m Margaret Coffey – and Max Oldmeadow is old enough to remember the groundwork, and the young men who cleared and drained the swampy rubbishy land in their own time, to make sure Dandenong would get a hospital.

Max Oldmeadow: I mean it was a broad group in the community that felt the need, both the medical practitioners, and there weren’t a lot of them in Dandenong in the forties. It was you know a fairly small country town, a market town at that stage,

Carmen Powell: Very much a country town, very safe. You could wander as a child for miles around and get tadpoles – I mean it seemed miles – now it is only a few streets. But no streets were formed, it was very much country. I would go to bed of a night to the sound of the town hall clock chiming. Very comforting feeling. Monday nights to the sound of the cattle being penned ready for market the following day. A blink of an eye. Mm…

Max Oldmeadow: Well my background is the Methodist Church which then became the Uniting Church. I’ve been closely associated with that I guess all my life. I was a lay preacher I have to say for fifty plus years and you know I do remember the Churches played a very big part at the beginning. They were determined there should be a chapel. I’m doing a history at the moment of the 150th anniversary of Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Dandenong – I’m doing the Methodist bit – and reading minutes I read where the appropriate committee of the Methodist Church saying we’ve just got to support the ministers fraternal in getting a chapel. And of course it was appropriate it should be a Christian chapel at that stage because the population of the city was almost entirely Anglophile (sic). There were virtually no people even from Europe pre Second World War

Carmen Powell: My first contact with another culture was the beautiful Steve Manias.

Max Oldmeadow: There was just one famous fish shop belonging to Steve and this was quite unique. And he was a Greek and this was quite unique.

Carmen Powell: If you went past their house and they were talking all this, as I thought then, yabber, that was really scary stuff. So you sort of got onto the other side of the road. There was just none around…

Carmen Powell: Being a timid person – I’ve always been pretty scared of anybody that was a different colour than me. But a couple of years back I did a New Year’s resolution that I was going to get to know some of these other cultures and through the Historical Society I’ve become involved in a work for the dole program and I work with these people two days a week, from as black as pitch through to all grades of colour. Fabulous. Muslims, Sudanese, Chinese, Vietnamese. It has just been so good because they are just ordinary. Yes, I am surprised, myself. I haven’t spoken it out before.

Norma Dickson: We see an awful lot of different cultures coming through here now. You accept them. That’s what they are. And I think on the whole everyone at Dandenong gets on really well – we’re a very happy hospital. The little lady who was dishing out the cappuccinos this morning, said Oh I just get sent to here and she said but I have just found everyone so friendly here, she said, it is just no nice to be here, and that’s what Dandenong Hospital always has been since I’ve been here.

Max Oldmeadow: You know this sacred space, I just love it. I just think it is a beautiful spot and just so important in our community…

That sounds like success to me.


I have mirrored this post on the English and ESL site.

Photographing Lord Malcolm

29 Apr 2007

Lord M wanted some pictures of him with Sirdan and myself, so Sirdan brought his camera and after lunch we went to the hospice. Lord M is pretty much the bionic man these days and can’t get out of bed much, but two nurses helped us wheel his bed to a spot with a nice background view and we took two sets of pics, one lot on Sirdan’s camera and the other lot for Lord M to look at on his mobile phone, along with some he took a couple of weeks back at the Chinese Garden.

was afraid the photos might look a bit, um… Lord M has been more photogenic than he is right now. But they are actually rather nice. I’m glad we did it.

One thought on “My blogland in April 2007

  1. My blog is accessible from China. I’ve had 39 hits from China, 9 from Macao and 457 from Hong Kong (which is probably not censored in the same way). None from North Korea though. Surprise, surprise.

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