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Chinese Car Culture - riding along in my automobile and driving home for Christmas

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  • Simon Baddeley
    A grim and instructive read - that piece by Ted Conover It set off some grim musing on the unshared condition. I came across a book the other day - Jan
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 9, 2006
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      A grim and instructive read - that piece by Ted Conover

      It set off some grim musing on the unshared condition. I came across a book
      the other day - Jan Needle's 'Wildwood' - which tells the wonderful tale of
      'The Wind in the Willows' from the perspective of those who live or try to
      live in the Wild Wood.

      I can hardly imagine the population of any developing country not being
      seduced by these insanely unsustainable transitions, attracted to
      circumstances where untold opportunities seem to open up for individual
      enjoyment of material wealth.

      As a member of several generations of the river bank class in "The Wind in
      the Willows", one part of me has resented the incursion of the stoats into
      my privileged idyll which, whether it was walking (what is now called
      rambling), motoring, yachting, travelling (We are travellers, they are
      tourists). These recreations were as good, as they were for those who lived
      on 'the riverbank' (messing about in boats for example) because the greater
      part of the population had to give so much of their time to simply

      "They" stayed out of "our" space, "our" consciousness and, in many cases,
      "our" consciences. "We", "our" and "they" are political pronouns often used
      as though they were politically neutral terms.

      Bertrand Russell said the central dilemma of redistributive politics is that
      "you can ruin absolutely anything by making it available to everybody." In
      my childhood and much of my later life I dipped regularly into the world of
      badger, rat, toad and mole but I have also striven to vote their/my world

      I have regrets. My wife and I had two weeks on our own in North Brittany a
      few days ago, lying on pleasant beaches and strolling the rocky coastline
      but even though we were outside school holiday windows there wasn't a
      landscape whose serenity wasn't interrupted by the close and distant noise
      of exploding fossil fuel and the clear sky overhead was streaked from
      horizon to horizon by contrails. The stoat population has been rightly
      liberated and is on the move in search of riverbanks.

      I was inclined to A.A.Milne's view that: "One does not argue about The Wind
      in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love,
      and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man
      tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test
      of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I
      must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so
      ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on
      the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself.
      You may be worthy: I don't know. But it is you who are on trial."

      Well yes and no. Milne and Graham (and other Corinthians) may both have
      written to exorcise the horrors of the Great War and did it with largely
      unsentimental genius, but neither so far as I know could have quite made the
      psychological leap to sharing the world with the stoats once they rose above
      the stews of the Wild Wood. Only Toad might have come to play Folsom and if
      he had the best song in his set would surely have contained a chorus of
      "poop poop".


      Simon (Badger)

      Capitalist Roaders

      Published: July 2, 2006

      The more instructive comparison, as we stood on this fancy bit of highway
      surrounded by rice fields and, here and there, people at work in them, was
      with the rural poor, the peasantry, the hundreds of millions of Chinese who
      do not yet (and, you imagine, will not in their lifetimes) share this
      prosperity. Many villages still are not connected to roads at all. When an
      expressway just south of here was completed last year, I was told sotto voce
      in Beijing, a series of demonstrations by peasants at a toll plaza delayed
      its opening. They were angry because the road had taken their land, and
      this, we are now seeing, is the story all over China: the government itself
      counted nearly 80,000 mass protests in 2005 alone. The country's economic
      growth is fantastic, the urban atmosphere heady. . .but then you see through
      the glass the peasants just in from the countryside, burlap bags at their
      feet, looking utterly from another planet, representatives of hundreds of
      millions of others, almost standing still while Zhu and Li zoom on by.
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