Thursday, May 04, 2006


Thought Processes Revealed

Here’s a little bit of coffee-spitting commentary posing as chit chat, leading into today’s etymology lesson (Courtesy of Merriam Webster Online):

Thousands of students marched on China's Tiananmen Square on this day in 1919, part of a youth protest of imperial aggression that became known as the May Fourth Movement. Americans remember May 4 as the anniversary of the day in 1970 when four students at Kent State University—two of whom were protesting what they viewed as their own country's imperial aggression—were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard.

Did anybody else happen to catch today’s Word for the Wise on National Public Radio? (I’m sorry, is that the more globally correct Public Radio International? That’s more Che’ like, anyway.)

That’s right, the unbelievably stupid paragraph above was the lead-in for today’s word origin lesson for the NPR-nics. At first I mistook the protests that were being referenced. These aren’t the 1989 protests against the Communist Chinese, so dramatically illustrated by the lone man standing up against a line of Chinese tanks. No sir, this reference is to a anniversary celebrated by the other side of that 1989 confrontation. Here’s a little background on the 1919 Protests at Tiananmen Square:

The rally and demonstration that had the greatest impact on this whole period of Chinese history was that of May 4, 1919. On that day 3,000 student representatives from thirteen area universities and colleges gathered in the square to protest the disastrous terms of the Versailles Treaty, ill which the victorious allies granted several former German concessions in China to the Japanese, who had signed secret agreements with the Allies before joining their side in the war. The Chinese were outraged. They had also been on the side of the Allies and had sent more than 100,000 laborers to work the trenches, docks, and supply lines of the British and French forces. Now they were crudely rebuffed.
The protests begun on May 4 inaugurated a new phase of national consciousness in China and firmly fixed in the nation's mind the idea of the square as a political focal point. Small scale when compared to the 1989 demonstrations, May 4 nevertheless roused the nation's conscience, and the term "May 4 Movement" was adopted to describe the entire event as Chinese scholars, scientists, writers, and artists struggled to explore new ways of strengthening China and incorporating the twin forces of science and democracy into the life of their society and government. Linked in its turn to a study of the plight of China's workers and peasants, and to the theoretical and organizational arguments of Marxism-Leninism, the May 4 Movement had a direct bearing and influence on the growth of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which convened its first congress in 1921.

(From The Gate and The Square, itself an online excerpt from Children of the Dragon by Jonathan Spence.)

How charming. A hallowed precedent to the brutal Chinese communists, itself in stark contrast to what most readers think of when they think of Tiananmen Square. (You have to admire how well these public radio folks know their Communist history.)

That, contrasted with what I would consider a highly provocative characterization of the protests at Kent State.

Yes, I know that was a highly controversial event in itself, but I would bet, that however much protesters back then used the words US Imperialism, most were against the War in Vietnam. We were there to support an ally that was threatened by Communist aggression, and we all should know how they brutally they retaliated with their own brand of Imperialism when we left.

It just suggests a line of thinking, a pattern of thought to find the juxtaposition of this particular 1919 event with this particular event in 1970. Doesn’t it?

The rest of the lesson consisted of a little game to pick which words originated in 1919, and which in 1970:

advocacy journalism, attack dog, and greener pastures (all 1970)

Hippy, home front, and provocateur (all 1919, with “hippie” from 1965).

free spirit, sleeping giant, and whistle-blower (all 1970)

You have to wonder where heads of the writers and editors of this little puff piece of radio broadcast are most of the time.

Only because this too spoke of patterns of thought: later, in the same Morning Edition segment, the results of Congressional voting of a pair of measures purportedly aimed at dealing with a perceived crisis in the price of gas and oil.

Bipartisan support guaranteed the passage of a bill that seeks huge penalties for price gouging, while near-universal opposition from Democrats led to voting down a bill that, among other things no doubt, would have allowed increased oil refining capacity and opened up new areas in the US for oil and gas exploration.

And here’s what I’m getting at. In the universe of the Democratic Party (and all too many Republican consorts), Oil Companies are the Bad Guys. They must be. Prices are high, profits are up. The b**tards.

So it is as easy as finding a lobbyist in Washington to posture and pass laws aimed at punishing a price gouging that has never been and probably never will be proved or even suggested by any evidence, while common sense steps to attack the fundamental reasons we are so constrained by oil industry and global market dynamics, get defeated.

Which brings me back to my point about Thought Processes. I think these examples reveal states of mind. Prejudices. Government assistance and solutions for all of life’s problems, natch. The way to go. A communal approach. Corporations and capitalism? Bad, bad, bad.

Unless of course, it’s your ox getting gored. Somehow a Corporate solution that involves Trial Lawyers (big Democratic Party supporters, sponsors, donors = Good) is always a good thing for Government, while anything that involves Oil Companies (big Republican Party supporters, sponsors, donors = Bad) must always be suspect.

Linked at Mudville Gazette

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