Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mixed Metaphors

Cell Phone User and Scooters

China on an Escalator
China is a land of mixed metaphors.  It is undergoing a tremendous metamorphosis.  On the one hand are the old scooters and motorcycles, on the other are cars and cell phones.  There is change everywhere.  One only need to set foot inside a mall in Shanghai.

Tell me if you can truly see a difference between us in these frames.  All that I see is the West with Chinese lettering.  To me it is confusing as if something is missing.  What happened to the old China?  Where is it and is it gone forever.

Change is of course an inevitable part of life.  It is a certainty.  What perplexes me is the tradeoff.  What is actually sacrificed in exchange?  I think of places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico where remnants remain of a culture that dominated these islands.  What I am referring to is the tendency that western change makes everything homogenous.  Will China also look like the malls of the US?  If so, then that's a horrible price.

Ultra Modern Shanghai Mall
What distinguishes China is its uniqueness from the West.  In its haste to catch up, it may have just inherited all of our problems along with our debt and pollution.  I hope that the Chinese retain what makes them special.  Homogeneous is a very bland thing.  Trading Mao jackets for denim is not such a great thing.  There's nothing fantastic about losing thousands of years of heritage for the sake of electronic gizmos and hip hop wardrobe.


  1. Well written and observed Al. Still, I would have to think that China will be a bit like Europe, where the old and new find a way to coexist. There will be pockets of the homogeneous trappings of the modern world. There will also be beautiful remnants of the past.

    My experiences in Italy showed that, where newer buildings struggled to keep up with their much older brethren. To see homes and buildings that are hundreds of years old and still lived in could only bring a smile and awe.

  2. One can only hope. Hell here in Dallas we blew up the old Cowboy stadium. What if the Romans had done the same with the colosseum?


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