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Archive for January, 2011

China is on the rise, there is no question. But many people in the west still view China as a threat; and propaganda campaigns are beginning to appear here to transform negative western sentiments. (Watch MSNBC for the most recent one that aired today). Pro China TV ads that glorify and extol the greatness of China can be used to transform how the west views the Chinese in a favorable light; but it can also have the effect of detracting from perceptions of our own cultural greatness and potential in the process. National pride campaigns beamed to our airwaves from foreign countries, compete with our own national pride campaigns here at home: The media is a powerful tool for creating mass public opinion.

I have demonstrated in a previous post that the real threat comes (not from China, itself but) from how we have chosen to organize our society around valuing consumerism over production and self sufficiency. However, if we are continuously fed media that shows how great China is, is it possible that we will overlook the mistakes we are, ourselves, making to the Chinese advantage? It may be a little far fetched but the issue is worth noting at the very least.

I’m not saying that our nations cannot mutually benefit one another–In fact, we will have to find a way that a win-win situation can, and does, happen into the future; or there could be one ugly war on the horizon. Geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific region is a very sensitive world issue that cannot be ignored for much longer. It is imperative that we view each other in a friendly light. There is no need for hatred, xenophobia, or racism in a civilized society. However, we can, and must not forget that we both must benefit from our relationship in more ways than cheap consumer goods in exchange for a boost to the Chinese economy alone.  China’s rise comes with a whole set of other issues that need to be addressed–economic issues (currency value of both US and Chinese currencies), geopolitical issues (US presence in the Asian-pacific; Korea, Japan, Taiwan etc.), and issues of trade reciprocation (is the west merely going to keep buying without selling back products of it’s own?).

Pro-Chinese propaganda campaigns on our airwaves are a great way to shape public opinion of China in a positive light as they emerge as one of the world’s great nations once again. But, we must be cautious and aware of the world that we live in, our position within it, and how each side serves to gain and to lose in our future partnership.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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The neighbor kid, Dustin, showed up to school with a new Walkman one day. He was a few years older than me and all the girls thought he was the coolest kid in school. When I asked him if his parents had gotten it for him he said that he had paid for it with his own money. He told me he had a paper route and it only took him a month to save for it. It would have taken me a year or more to save for something like that with the allowance that my parents had given me.

It was my idea. I insisted that my parents let me take on a paper route so that I could be popular just like him; so I could have money to go to the movies and buy cool stuff. I was tired of the two dollar allowance that Mom and Dad had given me since I was only old enough to know that money could buy extravagant things like candy and Slurpees and chocolate bars and such. I figured that I was tough enough to bare the kilometer walk each winter’s day up to the top of Klahanie Road and back to our little place on, Freda Avenue, for that eighty dollar paycheck at the end of the month. If I recall correctly, I had to walk double, no, even triple, that distance to Robert.L. Clemitson elementary school and back each day; it was uphill both ways and I’ll insist on telling my grandchildren the same story. I thought it wouldn’t be too bad; I thought wrong.

My fingers still feel ice cold. Fifteen years have passed and I can still feel the way my breath shot across my face in the wind and went off somewhere. I shiver when I think of the way my toes went numb and my eye lashes froze together when I blinked. I could only inhale through my mouth because my nostrils would stick together when I would try to inhale through them. My teeth bore the cold instead as I opted for icicles to form from the mucus that dripped out my nose. I was only nine; far too young to be working outside in the dead of winter; too little to be carrying one-hundred-some-odd papers over my two little shoulders. I could barley lift them. I wonder if that drain pipe just around the corner from our little blue trailer still has any remnants of the Daily News from 1991.

When the flyers came I couldn’t lift them all so I, sort of, dragged them behind me until I could get out of site from our place; then, if no one was looking, I would hide them in that drain pipe.

The paper called our house and asked me where the papers were after I had ditched them for a couple days in a row. Geeze! I didn’t even have any hair on my legs yet. I’m sure the neighbor kid that inspired me did though. He was nearly six feet tall already. I had such a crush on his little sister, Crystal. I think I wanted to impress her.

I remember, before I started, a man came to our house wearing a black suit and tie. He carried a brief case with him. He asked me a few questions and made my parents sign a paper saying that I wouldn’t quit right away if I lost interest. I remember wishing they wouldn’t have signed it during that first day of delivery. In fact, I remember thinking that same thought quite regularly.

It was probably about minus twenty degrees Celsius outside on average that winter. I didn’t have a very good jacket and I’m sure my boots weren’t that great either.  I guess Mom and Dad just didn’t have any money for warm winter clothes at the time.

What was worse was that I couldn’t grab the papers with my mittens on, so, I had to take them off at each doorstep. It made the process last that much longer.

I think I had a frozen tear or two on my face when I returned home that first day but my parents still wouldn’t let me quit. They said that it was my responsibility and that I had begged and pleaded for them to allow me the chance to have the job in the first place. They were right; I had begged them for weeks to let me have my own route. What a dumb idea.

I won’t forget that long, long winter; as long as I live. The way I froze won’t soon be forgotten either. But the day I got my first paycheck, all those feelings of resentment went away. I had never received more than five dollars at any given time but to receive eighty was a serious thing for a nine year old.

I think Dustin was twelve or thirteen. He got paid around the same time as me. We always went shopping together. I bought his sister nice things like teddy bears and such. I think she kissed me once but I can’t remember.  I remember the excitement of receiving my first paycheck though. It wasn’t until years late that I would come to realize how fortunate I was.

10 Years Later:

After the flight, our luggage in hand, we walked out from the flight terminal into the heavy gloom of post-industrialized China. The air is a little thicker from the exhaust fumes and burnt coal that linger there and everything is coated in a fine black layer of soot.

A boy in a suit, dirtied from the sands of a dwindling hour glass, swept across the parking lot with the wind. He still follows me in my mind speaking those two words “Hello. Money? Hello. Money? Hello. Money?” He says it as if he has been emptied of all the reasons why not to say it. It seems there is a way of pronouncing words that make them mean existence; words that come not from the throat, but from somewhere deeper yet, from the still pit of an empty stomach.

He begged for pennies. I can still recall the sick pang of hurt that shot through my own stomach as I watched the sight unfold. I think it was Martin who was the first to offer up a Yuan from his wallet; a Yuan was enough to eat a little something in China but, here, in Canada it was the equivalent of four 5¢ candies from the corner store when I was that same age.  At least, that is what a nine year old boy from British Columbia would most likely decide to buy for an equal sum. I would have used the money for candy when I was a child, I most certainly recall the times when a quarter meant four candies, five if the clerk was nice enough to, magically, rescind the tax.

Someone else gave a Yuan, too. I can’t remember who it was. But, I do remember the other boys that soon began to run toward us barefooted; in their raggedy attire; from the unseen locations on the periphery of the parking lot. They all appeared to be wearing black suits that must have emerged at one time from the bottoms of garbage heaps. Or maybe they were slaves to some slumlord who wanted them to look as hopeless as they appeared.

The boys followed us through the parking lot, the group expanding to an additional three as we approached our chauffeur’s vehicle.

They begged and pleaded in their foreign tongue and it was a universal cry for help; it was a harmony made by the crashing of symbols in the wind. As our guide, Jenny, pushed us into the vehicle and began to slide the van door closed, I had just enough time to slip a Yuan into one of their little beckoning, outstretched hands before they were gone.

“Welcome to China” I thought as the vehicle began to pull away; and as Jenny, embarrassingly, turned to us to explain that this type of child should be ignored because they are everywhere and because they become bothersome with their numbers.

We drove to our feast. We couldn’t finish all of the food that Jenny ordered for us. We didn’t take what was left over because we still had a long drive and because our hosts insisted what was left could be thrown away.  Spare food? Spare change? Rice change?

It is in contrasting my memories of youth that I am fascinated by how reality can change in an instant and become something much different.

-Justin Allen Philcox

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For several years now China has been steadily gaining on the U.S. to become a major economic rival. A recent Foreign Policy blog posting by Joshua Keating entitled, “Did China’s Economy overtake the U.S. in 2010” ( http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/01/14/did_chinas_economy_overtake_the_us_in_2010 ) suggests that the Chinese economy overtook the U.S. economy in 2010. This is much earlier than what previous estimates had indicated. One interesting thing that was not mentioned in this article, however, is the growing amount of U.S. debt that China has purchased: China now owns, by some estimates, roughly 8% or near a trillion dollars in US debt; this is the largest single foreign holder of U.S. debt. With these statistics taken into account, it puts China at a major  strategic advantage, economically. The industrial revolution that put the U.S. in it’s position at the top, is the very same industrial revolution that the U.S. (and Canada) has freely given to China. The cheap products we find at Walmarts etc. are the new riches of China; and the specter of the vanished western industrial base. The west is effectively transferring to China, the very economic power base that put it on top in the first place: the industrial revolution. So long as cheaper consumer products are available in China, Western manufacturing bases will vanish one after the other. U.S. gains in cheap consumer goods comes to the detriment of the U.S. as an international powerhouse. What was the major strength of the U.S. economy has, over the past 20 years vanished due to the ideas espoused in Neoliberal/Neoconservative  ideologies and Globalization. Is it too late for the U.S. to reinvent its manufacturing base; or will countries who make the products cheaper like China, Mexico, and India take the lead in the world economy of tomorrow? Chances are, the U.S.’s decline will be long lasting and permanent if they choose not to recognize their grandest mistake. Once these “countries of tomorrow” make their big gains, what is holding their currencies from increasing to meet the U.S. currency in value? Where will the U.S. find its cheap products then? What will U.S. currency look like as their debt continues to grow to feed its hunger for the cheapest goods around?

-Justin Allen Philcox

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The first topic I chose to write on deals with quality of life in a community. One of my commenters put forth the idea that quality of life is connected to having avenues in which people can pursue and refine their talents. I feel that the Arts, and in particular, funding for the arts is a necessary part of creating a community of quality in this regard.
I also asked how we might deal with class inequality in the discussion about quality of life. Funding for the arts again helps in regards to equalizing the quality of life for individuals; regardless of socio-economic standing. Since it is the job of politicians to work for the people of this country, good government ought to entail the promotion of quality of life within our communities.

If arts funding adds to quality of life of people in our community, regardless of socio-economic standing, then Arts funding should be recieving more funding (not less); especially in times of economic turmoil when more people are forced out of work. If anything, politicians who recognize this, and add funding for the arts in difficult economic times,  are doing themselves a favor come election time. Are politicians who cut arts funding in economically unstable times commiting political suicide?

-Justin Allen Philcox

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One question we so infrequently ask ourselves is, “what is it that brings quality to our lives?” This question, if it is given the time necessary for response, has the potential to have lasting positive impacts. If people know what brings quality to living, it can have positive implications for individuals as well as for the greater community as a whole. Policies based around fostering quality living, and education directed at acknowledging what quality living consists of, can have the power to move society in the best possible direction.

A truly virtuous society is one in which a community ethic is based around acknowledging what quality living is in the general sense, and then striving as a group to obtain it whenever possible. Quality of life that is based solely in connection with capitalist pursuits (spending and buying things) is not the kind of quality life that everyone in society can share with  one another. It is becoming more and more the case that the rich are getting richer and the poor are growing poorer (and larger in number). While this is, in itself, a problem that needs to be rectified in this world, it is not  feasible to base quality of life merely in monetary terms; for this would result in saying that more and more people are not being granted the means to a life of quality. Quality does not need this monetary attachment; although, it might be argued that without money a life of quality is hard to come by.

Quality of life is something to identify for everyone in this community. If a general definition for quality of life can be universally accepted by the world’s people, we may all have the common ground necessary to foster positive human development everywhere. Can money be detached from quality? What does “quality of life” mean for you?

Justin Allen Philcox

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Hello world!

This is my first blog posting where I am not merely responding to what others have written. I can’t believe, frankly, that it took me so long to start one myself. I have been blogging for many years but I have never had my own blog. I am no longer the mysterious visitor couch surfing, so to speak; rather, it is as if I have moved into my very first home. I will furnish this home with words, images and ideas rather than furniture, hardwood flooring, fine tapestries, and Turkish rugs.   It is my intention that this blog be focused on the topics I find of interest that day. My ideas are likely to pertain to things such as: Politics, news and current events, academic articles, and philosophy; my posts may even pertain to things like culinary arts, or just life in general. I welcome debates, new ideas, and criticisms (as long as they are constructive). You do not have to agree with everything that is written; however, if you do not agree please provide a valid counter-argument. I will more than likely respond to many comments so long as they are not spam…I’ll save the spam for the neighbor’s cat, thanks.

I hope you enjoy what follows from here on out,

~Justin Allen Philcox

P.S. When using the source materials from justinphilcox.wordpress.com please site my name, title of the work, and domain name. Thanks 🙂

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