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A symmetry of hatreds

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — in which a couple hundred people mimic our society at large ]
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There were reports of some people shouting “white power!” while others were shouting “black power!” at rival protests outside the South Carolina State House today — but that just means that opposing views were expressed. The report that really caught my attention was this one, from The Hill:

The media outlet’s coverage documented protesters from both rallies shouting obscenities, racial slurs and slogans at one another.

It’s not so much the simple symmetry of opposing slogans that troubles me, it’s the symmetry of obscenities and racial slurs that’s so depressing.

Not opposite — oblique, maybe orthogonal

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Chattanooga — when a gun free zone is no longer gun free, aka words are not the deeds they describe ]
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Two sides of the same Chattanooga coin?

and:

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We mostly understand that Juan Cole and Megyn Kelly represent opposite sides in the broad strokes liberal vs conservative divide, but on this occasion their two views are not necessarily opposed so much as oblique, maybe even orthogonal.

Cole’s point is about his desire to keep guns out of the hands of criminals / fanatics / terrorists, while Kelly is talking about her desire to allow trained military personnel to carry arms on duty.

But how easily we elide the nuance into simple opposition.

Lucky?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — where two negatives (OPM and Secret Service) may make an ironic positive — a DoubleTweet ]
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On the one hand…

— while on the other…

Taken separatedly, they’re both on the sinister side — but together, almost dextrous?

Cold War and Political Fire: Speculation on the State of Sinology

Monday, June 8th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

China HandJohn Paton Davies 

Our newest ZP team member, T. Greer of Scholar’s Stage blog has reposted two very thoughtful essays on the Chinese strategic tradition and its interpretation that can be found in modern Sinology. They are excellent and I encourage you to read them in full.
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In his second post, T. Greer raises many questions regarding the state of Sinology, as well as topics for future investigation yet unexplored that would represent in equivalent fields, the fundamentals. Given that China represents not just a nation-state and a potential near-peer competitor of the U.S. but thousands of years of a great civilization, it is remarkable that the professional community of Western Sinologists is so small. The number of USG employees with the highest level of conversational fluency in Chinese who are neither native speakers nor children of immigrants would probably not fill a greyhound bus.
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Why is the state of Sinology relatively parlous?

I think the poor state of Sinology is traceable primarily, albeit far from exclusively, to the Cold War for two reasons:

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First, Mao’s tumultuous, totalitarian rule cut off access to Chinese sources and China to Western scholars for roughly a generation and a half. This in itself, coming on the heels of almost forty years of revolution, warlordism, foreign invasion and civil war, was enough to cripple the field. Without access to in-country experience, archival sources and foreign counterparts, an academic field begins to die.  Furthermore, Mao’s tyrannical isolation of mainland China was  far more severe than the limited access for Western scholars of Russian history and journalists imposed by the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin, in contrast to Mao, was partially a great Russian chauvinist and the Soviet dictator demanded  certain aspects of Russian history, culture and the reigns of particular Tsars be celebrated alongside the Marxist pantheon . Mao’s feelings towards traditional Chinese culture were much more hostile and ideologically extreme.  Stalin’s worst abuses of Russian history in demolishing a historic Tsarist cathedral for a never-built, gigantic Soviet labyrinthe pale next to the mad vandalism of the Cultural Revolution .

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Secondly, the fate of “the China hands” like John Paton Davies and the “Who Lost China” debate during McCarthyism rendered Sinology politically radioactive in America. It is true that many of the China hands like Davies combined a realistic strategic assessment of Kuomintang/Chiang Kai-shek shortcomings with politically naive or wishful thinking about Mao and the Communists, but the field was dealt a blow from which it never recovered in American universities. Davies was not a Communist or even a leftist (though some China Hands were fellow travelers) but that nuance was lost on the public  in a period that saw in swift succession Alger Hiss, the Berlin blockade, the the Fall of China, the Soviet A-Bomb, Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs and the Korean War. It seemed at the time that the Roosevelt administration had been infiltrated with Soviet spies and fellow travelers (largely because it had been) and in that atmosphere of Red-baiting, Davies was subsequently scapegoated, smeared and fired.  This McCarthyite political cloud over Sinology was curiously juxtaposed with the simultaneous robust funding of studies of the USSR, Russian culture and the training of Slavic linguists in the 1950’s to 1991 by the USG. For academics, going into Sinology could become a professional dead end and carried (at least in the early fifties) an odor of disloyalty.

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There are certainly other and more contemporary reasons for American  Sinology being more of an esoteric field than it deserves, to which someone else with expertise can address but all fields need to attract talent and funding and until Nixon’s “China opening”, American Sinologists struggled against the political current.

Raijin Fury

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — for Ibn Siqilli, Gilles Poitras and JM Berger, three friends with eyes on graphical culture, and Thomas Hegghammer, who knows the importance of such matters ]
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Raijin 602 2

Dr-Strangelove

logo 602

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Sources:

  • Tawaraya Sotatsu, Fujin-raijin-zu
  • Squidnova, Dr Strangelove
  • No governmental patch, Stellar Raijin
  • — nor should we forget “the dragon on smoke”:

  • Hokusai, The dragon on smoke escaping from Mt Fuji
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    fuji-koryuu


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