Review: TED Talk Eric X. Li on China and the US


“We live in the dusk of an era. Meta-narratives that make universal claims failed us in the 20th century and are failing us in the 21st. Meta-narrative is the cancer that is killing democracy from the inside.

Now, I want to clarify something. I’m not here to make an indictment of democracy. On the contrary, I think democracy contributed to the rise of the West and the creation of the modern world. It is the universal claim that many Western elites are making about their political system, the hubris, that is at the heart of the West’s current ills. If they would spend just a little less time on trying to force their way onto others, and a little bit more on political reform at home, they might give their democracy a better chance.

China’s political model will never supplant electoral democracy, because unlike the latter, it doesn’t pretend to be universal. It cannot be exported. But that is the point precisely. The significance of China’s example is not that it provides an alternative, but the demonstration that alternatives exist.

Let us draw to a close this era of meta-narratives. Communism and democracy may both be laudable ideals, but the era of their dogmatic universalism is over. Let us stop telling people and our children there’s only one way to govern ourselves and a singular future towards which all societies must evolve. It is wrong. It is irresponsible. And worst of all, it is boring. Let universality make way for plurality. Perhaps a more interesting age is upon us. Are we brave enough to welcome it?

Thank you.”— Eric X. Li’s TED talk: A TALE OF TWO POLITICAL SYSTEMS

I do not subscribe to China’s one party system, but the faults of China’s system aside, it is maintaining itself and its people, unlike the US and its western model that is increasingly about survival through annexation.

The US model is about putting off the problems of here and now, by putting effort into destroying and annexing always the next thing, the next country, the next resource.

However a country that does not resolve the issues of its own back yard before expanding and enforcing its will on other countries, is like a dog with rabies, running around the neighborhood and jumping fences and killing and mating with other dogs. It is a policy of barbarism and ultimately genocide and madness.

So while I do not think China’s system is an answer, compromised as it is by corruption and human rights violations, it is clear to me that unchecked Capitalism masquerading as Democracy, what the US and other Westernized Nations are calling Democracy… is a more compromised, more untenable, more destructive, and ultimately more evil system.

So the crux of Eric’s closing speech (quoted above)is sound, not that we should adopt China’s system, but that we should be flexible, and open to a changing and changed system, and the idea that there are a multitude of systems and solutions that remain untried.

Open to the idea that we as individuals, groups, and nations must always be looking to form… a more perfect union.

A successful nation is perhaps not an end, but a journey. And it is the things we allow a nation to do on that unending journey, in our name, that defines not just the success and the failure, but the good and the evil, of our lives.

Ruminations on Micheaux’s BODY AND SOUL (1925) & Murnau’s FAUST (1926)

Ruminations on Micheaux’s BODY AND SOUL (1925) & Murnau’s FAUST (1926)

I find both of these films very odd, and both very daring and challenging for the times, but neither particularly satisfying.

Of the two Murnau’s FAUST is by far the better known, well… as well known as silent films get, with numerous re-masterings and expensive restorations done, and new scores routinely crafted for it, and volumes of critical analysis written, and the darling of film courses everywhere.

And while I’m a huge fan of F.W. Murnau’s SUNRISE (Sunrise along with Erich Von Stroheim’s GREED, and a handful of others, is considered, rightly I believe, one of the greatest silent films ever made); I’m not as enamored of his FAUST. The technical wizardry for the day was ground breaking, but FAUST, for me suffers a couple of flaws we’ll get into in a moment.

Because flaws aside FAUST has maintained a level of attention, accolades, and restoration to be envied, while Oscar Micheaux’s BODY AND SOUL, has pretty much become an invisible film. No restorations, no re-masterings, and fairly unseen and unknown.

Which is a shame because the two films make an interesting diptych on religion and carnality and the suffering of women; the almost crucifixion of women at the hands of a dismissive, patriarchal society. And they both offer intriguing performances by their respective female leads.

BODY AND SOUL, is one of the few surviving silent ‘RACE’ pictures (Pictures created by and for Black audiences and the thriving Black movie theater circuit that comprised 600 black owned theaters [as opposed to the half dozen in existence today], popular in the years from 1915 to 1928) and as such, is an intriguing and historically important part of both cinema and highlighting the cultural fabric and concerns of the day.


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