Stealth politics

A couple of recent news items about China have intrigued me. NPR reported that a stage adaptation of Animal Farm is showing in Beijing (audio link). And a Chinese national who has spent much of his life in America but recently returned to his hometown, Shanghai, reflects on how much things have changed there.

It seems amazing that Animal Farm could be showing in China. But the story makes clear that while the older generation found it moving and relevant, the younger generation just didn’t get it–perhaps because they were all busy sending text messages to their friends on their cellphones during the play. The story in the NY Times is even more astounding:

I listened to my 14-year-old cousin sing rap in Chinese about the fantasized martial arts, jiang hu. When I asked him about Chairman Mao, he gave me a blank stare, just like teenagers in Harlem had when I inquired about Malcolm X. “Who is Mao?” my cousin asked. “They might have mentioned him in school, but I didn’t pay attention.”

If nobody except for politicians care about politics, then everyone else will leave the politicians alone to do…whatever they want.

Is it possible that China’s political class has secured its future by making the citizens fat and happy, and pretending that it is irrelevant? Is it possible that the same thing has happened in the USA?

2 thoughts on “Stealth politics”

  1. … Then again, that guy’s young cousin is part of a long, worldwide tradition of kids not paying attention in class. Yours truly included! Maybe most people have to get a little older before they can really start to care about the wider world.

    American rulers would never pretend to be irrelevant. No, they secure their future by making the citizens fat and complacent, then go on to take all the credit for everything good in the universe.

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