red dust [books]

from the new york times, 09.28.09:
BEIJING — Domesticated pigeons of this city, take note: Until Oct. 1, you are prohibited by government edict from flying over the center of China’s capital.

Do not take it personally, however. The government is preparing to observe the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China with a parade that will make 76 trombones look like a child’s plastic kazoo. And nothing — not unauthorized window-peeping, nor marchers’ mental health, nor even the chance that pigeons might muck up displays of aerial might — is being left to chance.

China’s government at times resembles an exasperated parent trying to rein in a pack of rebellious children. Its edicts are persistently flouted by censor-dodging Internet users, wayward local officials and rioting Uighurs.

But when it comes to the impending National Day celebration in Beijing, the government appears fully in control. When swarms of soldiers, throngs of tanks and flocks of floats roll past Tiananmen Square on Thursday, 10,000 police officers and security guards will monitor Beijing street corners and checkpoints for evidence of potential party-spoilers. As many as 800,000 volunteers have also been enlisted to help maintain security.

Knife sales have been banned in at least some stores. Beijing’s international airport will be closed Thursday for three hours. Along the parade route, the authorities have forbidden parade-watchers from opening windows or standing on balconies.

Three journalists from the Japanese Kyodo news agency said that when they stood on a hotel balcony to cover a Sept. 18 parade rehearsal, the authorities stormed into the room and assaulted them.
(continue reading)

ma jian, from the guardian, 06.02.09:
Two thousand years ago, contemplating the relentless flow of time, Confucius gazed down at a river and sighed, "What passes is just like this, never ceasing day or night ..." In China, time can feel both frozen and unstoppable at the same time. The Tiananmen massacre that 20 years ago ravaged Beijing, killed thousands of unarmed citizens, and altered the lives of millions, seems now to be locked in the 20th century, forgotten or ignored, as China continues to hurtle blindly towards its future. (continue reading)
this makes me wonder about change. and fear. and control. reading ma jian's red dust: a path through china this past week i couldn't help feeling vicariously stifled by the impositions of the chinese government upon its citizens in the 1980s (in addition to what we hear about today). ma writes in such a way that i felt as if my own inherent-feeling freedoms were being manacled, and yet i exalted with the freedom and transience that ma created for himself as he wandered through cities, villages and wilderness, alternating between such diametrics as honored guest, fugitive and foreigner in his homeland. red dust is blue highways with lunatic stubbornness. having cast off not only his job and home, but also refusing to turn back when he is utterly without money, food, or contacts, ma becomes a modern nomad. despite often lamenting that he must keep going because he (his life) doesn't have a destination, ma attains freedom by thinking and choosing for himself - acts that single him out as a threat to the perceived harmony of new communism. by simply wandering across his home country, ma was revolting against the strongholds of tradition, conservativism, and leadership-imposed fear. it's unfortunate, though not surprising, that ma's books are banned in china today.

from red dust:
i leave the asphalt road and turn left down a dusty track that takes me through rolling sand dunes. a few hours later, the sun starts to sink and i realize that i might not make it to anxi before dark. i see a water tower near the horizon, and a ragged line of roofs. trucks move like boats across the heat haze behind. as the sun sinks lower, everything glows with a golden light. i drop my bag and lie down on my back in the sand. no wonder horses roll to the ground when they are tired. i feel better with my hooves in the air. i kick off my shoes and let my steaming toes suck the wind. then i open my bottle, drink some water and splash some onto my face. my mind turns yellow. i hear a ringing in my ears - perhaps it is the noise of the sunlight, or the desert wind blowing through the telegraph wire. the water i swallowed charges through my veins. eighty percent of my body is water. my cells float in a sea. i am floating, too, but my ocean is larger than theirs. i have the sky. i have freedom.
i jump to my feet, check my compass and continue west, chanting a verse from
leaves of grass.

allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
to undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
to merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
again to merge them in the start of superior journeys...

allons, ma jian, allons.

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