We were supposed to go to the aquarium today but the fog this morning was too thick to allow ferries to the island. Instead we ended up at The Hulishan Fortress, a Ch’ing Dynasty endeavor to modernize after the First Opium War. There was a ceremony – with folks dressed in period (early 20th century) uniforms, demonstrating combat readiness exercises, and shooting one of the fort’s many cannons. The whole ceremony was really a performance – much more about celebrating the cannons than about using them for battle. I know it was just a show, but it got me thinking about the huge military parade in Beijing celebrating the 50th year of Party rule (notice I leave out which party because I grow weary of misapplied labels) in China. I really don’t imagine China having military use for so much of those things because the nation seems preoccupied by defense but unlikely to take the offensive (unless they think that you are actually Chinese territory that should be brought back into the fold – in which case, watch out!), and who would ever mess with China?
Anyway, it feels to me that so much of what is built and purchased is just for show – the practical purpose being, not the utility of the item itself, but instead the status adhering to those who can claim it. In addition to characterizing the fortress I observed today and the military arsenal on display in the parade, there is the brand new car that sits, unregistered and unused in Xiao Yin’s parents’ garage, the substantial uniformed security force at Zhongshan University that is present 24 hours a day but does nothing. I could go on and on.
Keeping up with the Joneses on a grand scale.