Pooh

Yea, verily, the circle is unbroken.

The twentieth century saw the rise of democracy in many parts of the world. In South America, Asia, Europe, and elsewhere, fascist and communist dictators were toppled.

The dictatorship of the proletariat—that most quintessential of hoaxes—was replaced by the will of the people. In the 21st century, we witnessed the Arab Spring, which so far hasn’t worked too well—I would suggest it cannot until Muslim women are emancipated, and the population accepts that the government must be secular.

After the Italian elections, Anne Applebaum’s article on the direction of modern politics took on new meaning. The gist is that political parties prefer not to be in power.

Applebaum provides an interesting quote from an unnamed British politician.

All political careers end in failure. Sooner or later everybody gets voted out, overthrown or forgotten.

Much as I admire Applebaum, I must chide her on two counts. First, the actual quote is different.

All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.

My second criticism is that she didn’t have the courage to name the source. The inconvenient author was Enoch Powell, leader of the U.K. National Front, an anti-immigration, extreme right-wing party, precursor of many in Europe today.

Powell’s obituary is worth reading, but his quote is based on a supposition—that the politician in question operates in democracy.

Should that not be the case, then the sentence is simplified to the ‘happy juncture’ part, i.e. dictators are only parted from office either through death or violent action.

This, then, is the fate that awaits the new emperor of China.

A Ping pastiche, to break you in gently.

China is now almost 1.4 billion strong, and given its trajectory since the cultural revolution, this is a heck of a time to return to the days of Mao Zedong. The Chinese have been protesting in their traditional way—subtly.

Someone discovered that Winnie the Pooh, or to use the Chinese name, wéi ní xióng, bore an uncanny likeness to the Chinese president. From there, it was only a heartbeat before the memes mounted up on the web.

The Chinese regime fought back with a brazen bear attack. Pooh was banned from the internet, and for a while so was the letter ‘N’, because the more mathematically-minded citizens expressed their discord through the N>2 inequality, which symbolized multiple terms in office.

Along with these actions, terms such as ’emperor’ were also proscribed, in preparation for a smooth transition from two terms to life.

Perhaps my personal favorite from the menu.

The internet in China thrives on allegory, using images, music, and deception to circumvent censorship—growing up under Portugal’s dictator Salazar was a similar experience, with newspapers and TV using smoke and mirrors to dodge the censor’s bludgeon.

Trump weighed in, if you excuse the pun, because he is also a man who believes in uncontested rule. When his comments, made with typical thoughtlessness at a private function in Mar-a-Lago, were leaked, the U.S. press made a vague attempt to pass them off as a joke—the fact is there is no evidence whatsoever that Trump actually owns a sense of humor.

For China, a nation so dear to my heart, this is the start of a long and arduous journey—the Middle Kingdom is about to revisit the Long March.

For the United States, there is little concern that there will ever be an emperor called Trump. Thankfully, the institutions are too strong and too diverse, and the people themselves are too accustomed to living free.

But if the most powerful country in the world went in that direction, it would mean that the first amendment had been severely curtailed—and the defense of the first amendment is today perhaps the single reason that would justify the second.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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