Sunday, April 15, 2012

The East is Red, and Red is in the East

Don’t call me naïve. I’m not naïve. I’m not, for example, the Other Art Teacher, who came to China without knowing it was a communist country. I shit you not. After arriving here, she kept suggesting really inappropriate religious things, such as naming the four classes in sixth grade after the saints of the gospel, and when people kept mentioning communism and China in the same sentences asked, and I quote, “I keep hearing about communism. What is that, some kind of philosophy?”

No, I’m a good American, and I know what communism is. It’s Bad. It’s so Bad that there are only 5 countries in the entire world still clinging to these ideologies (see if you can figure them out…I’ll list them at the end) But then, on the other hand, I’m not a really good American, because I really don’t give a flying fig about politics. Or history, at least not 20th century history. And it’s only been living abroad that has awakened me to these sorts of things, because your standard high school history course doesn’t exist to teach such things. It teaches civic pride and nationalism very well. Details about conflicts such as the Korean War and Vietnam….eah, not so much (actually being IN the DMZ, or the Cuchi Tunnels, though – now that will educate you real quick. And make you want to know more). The point of this digression is, there are a lot of things I didn’t know about communism.
As I mentioned last Saturday, I’m reading Lost on Planet China right now for the second time. This book has been therapeutic for me – it took me a good week to read it the first time, not because it wasn’t a riveting book but because I was savoring it. I never savor books. I’m more the “gorge yourself on books until you have to go to the vomitorium and then start all over again” kind of reader. But I savored this one, and when I got to the end, it broke my heart a little bit. It also educated me. As I said, I’m not into history or politics…or, err, even current events. Sorry if that offends, but the news is depressing and I have my hands full dealing with the depression Nature gave me without piling the news onto it. I prefer my news filtered through people who know what will be interesting to me, what I can do something about. So even though I live in China (possibly BECAUSE I live in China) there are things I had no idea about. Such as the Falun Gong. I’ll let you look that one up on your own, because looking it up was what led me to last Saturday’s field trip. See, apparently the PRC still makes propaganda posters. The Falun Gong haven’t been around that long, and yet, the Wikipedia page has propaganda posters about them. It’s a funny thing to think about, that in this digital day and age governments would bother with propaganda. But then, without unfiltered media, I guess they could be effective. So I went to the Propaganda Poster Art Center to learn more.
I like the fact that “art” is in the name of the museum. Lots of the posters really are beautiful works of art. And the PPAC is a great place, because let’s face it, posters don’t get a lot of respect and the owner/curator, Yang Pei Ming, has done us a favor by collecting them, because so many of these posters were destroyed after their day was over. But it’s interesting, as an outsider, to look at them. I teach my fifth graders a unit on propaganda posters, and as we look at propaganda from WWII I draw attention to the fact that we know how ridiculous these statements are now, but that the people living then found it easier to believe. As I laughed out loud at this one, I wondered if my students would find it ridiculous, as well…
I won’t say anything else – I’ve probably gotten myself into enough trouble with my ramblings this month. Suffice it to say that it was the most interesting museum I’ve been to since DC’s Spy Museum. The PPAC is at the corner of Huashan Lu and Changle Lu, and pretty much equidistant from the metro stations at Jiangsu Lu (on lines 2 and 11), Changshu Lu (on lines 1 and 7) and Shanghai Library (line 10), so find yourself a map, pick your metro line, and go there, because it’s well worth the 20 kuai admission price. And the Bund is nowhere NEAR this exciting these days…
*(The five??? China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. Those are the easy ones. You should have gotten those. Especially since Korea and Vietnam were mentioned in the post, and Castro’s on one of the cards. Extra credit if you knew the fifth one was Laos.)

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