Jakarta Musings

Okay, so, I’m taking some ibu for a toothache, and it’s got me thinking about inflammation and individuality and the future of China. Inflammation is the human body’s response to disease and damage; but inflammation itself causes damage. In nature the goal is for the species to survive; that means individuals are programmed only long enough to procreate. Thus the slow, long term aging impact of our best defense against disease: inflammation.

With the current fascination with slowing aging (another production brought to us by the boomer generation – they really don’t believe in rules…), we seem to be in a age focused on the individual. As in, I don’t want to pay taxes that benefit the community, I want to spend money that benefits me. Slowing the aging process is just one manifestation of this. So we are trying to find ways around inflammation – not just for transient toothaches but for the long term aging process. Old news.

But this meme has me thinking about the traditional view that China is filled with people that think in centuries and not months and years (and sometimes days) as in the west. I’m no sinophile, but it seems to me the Chinese people think first about family, in the great Confucius style and less about “China”. After all, there are many Chinas, many Chinese languages and frankly, the place should have been called Manchuria and Mongolia for half of the past millennium.

The ongoing debate of whether China will adopt a more western style representative political system comes in to play here; if Chinese are human, and from every angle they appear so, then the inevitability of their search or individuality will come to the for eventually. Obviously in many ways it has. As the country opens, every story seems to be about the new money crowd and their individual success or the latest politically acceptable form of self expression to stand out in a country of 1.4 billion.

The conclusion I’m driving towards is: how can there be any other political economy solution than one that allows for an open, non-repressed civil society as the country continues down the inevitable path of individuality? State control wont end because of the growth of mercantilism and property rights diluting power as in the west, it will come from the need for individuality. That is arguably behind the mercantilism in the first place. And it simply means we may see a different vector towards an open and free social system in China than in the west. What are the drivers and the outlets of Chinese individualism? That’s the question…


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