“If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”
...BEIJING — China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years — [From this mornings NY TIMES]…
You really have to wonder about two things when it comes to the Chinese. .. How, in spite of so many obstacles, they managed to come so far so fast? .. If all it ends up accomplishing is entitling the Chinese people to the same level of existential displeasure hyper-consumerism and conformist consumption have produced in America…. What the fuck was the point?
Mrs. N. is scratching her head raw over this business. She is asking herself how they can be so incredibly good at so many things, have such a rich philosophical history, and STILL entirely miss the punch line of the joke that modern consumer culture has turned out to be? Miss the levels of depression, meaninglessness and unhappiness that stalk the dark corners of what life in America’s consumer utopia has turned out to be for so many. Yes, there is something profoundly disappointing going on with my species. Our treasured social and economic systems are, for the most part, deeply pathological. In spite of this… our absurd model remains the template for more of the same.
Maybe you are wondering why Mrs. N. is going on and on about the Chinese when the title of this little exercise is “Standing Stones”? The reason is this… After reading the article about the Chinese in the TIMES this morning I took a walk out back around the gardens. The standing stone (Mrs. N. has ALWAYS been about the business of standing up stones) that you see in the picture reminded me of the lovely summer day I spent, 42 years ago, climbing around the standing stones in Wiltshire, England known as Stonehenge. They were open to the public then and climbing around them like a monkey was perfectly acceptable. People are much ruder today and they are fenced off, but, I digress.
Books on the subject of Stonehenge will tell you that nobody really knows “why” it was built. There are many different theories. Some historians claim that it was a temple, or, an observatory, or, a place to cremate the dead. They all agree that it was constructed over 5000 years ago in many phases over many lifetimes.
Having stood on the sight admiring Stonehenge, and having spent many days and much effort standing up stones of all sizes myself, in gardens here and there, Mrs. N. can tell you with certainty what it was all about. It was about the feeling deep in the bones a human gets from observing the glorious results of their physical labor. It was about the bonds that form between humans dedicated to completing an apparently impossible physical task. Building places like Stonehenge, terracing mountainsides into magnificent rice paddies and building beautiful stone walls out of the stones farmers remove, one by one from the fields they plant, are all examples of what it really means to be human. It was about satisfaction. It was about REAL accomplishment. It was not about the bullshit work, the acquisition of more and more shiny pieces consumer crap, that took the place of REAL accomplishment and REAL satisfaction. Building hard, even impossible things, worked and promoted human sanity as surely as our culture now produces human dissatisfaction and insanity. It was as natural to stand up huge stones for the shear existential joy of it as it is unnatural to spend one’s afternoons in gyms, lifting weights and riding bicycles going nowhere in an effort to look like you just came off 5 years on a Georgia chain gang…. in spite of the fact that you pay a man to cut your lawn and a woman to clean your house.
This is America’s idea of Stonehenge. A tourist attraction made out of Styrofoam. It’s not far from my house as the crow flies. Many fat Americans go there to have their picture taken. 5000 years from now it will not be there. At least that is something to be thankful for. Now, all we need is something to be thankful to.