Monday, October 28, 2013

We Will Sell the Rope to the Hangman

As my faithful readers know, I was born and raised in Texas and immersed and nurtured in its unique culture, and I miss it so.  But fate and family have brought me to the outback of Oregon and I have made an acceptable accommodation despite the dominating political atmosphere of the big cities nearby. 

Nevertheless, there are good features of the state, not the least of which are its scenery, salmon, coffee, blueberries, and, due to the fortunate geographical fact that the Willamette River valley is the second-best place on the planet (after Germany) for growing hops, it is home to a staggering amount of micro-breweries and their product: the place is practically awash in beer.
One of my favorites, when I'm in the mood, is Ninkasi, out of the Land of the Lotus Eaters otherwise known as Eugene.  This opinion is shared with one of my sons who recently purchased a nice metal thermos bottle from their Bierstube: the narrow-mouthed 'black butte' in the 24-oz size, because it nicely accommodates a 22-oz beverage.  It works quite well in this regard, but has the additional advantage that, when struck lightly on a tightly padded object, such as one's knee, it produces a satisfying and spiritual tone of Tibetan quality.  (Ladies, don't seek a further explanation.  This falls within the category of a 'guy thing'.  If it had a small blinking light as well, it would probably fly off the shelves.) 

Naturally, I bought one too. 

I was washing it out with hot soapy water prior to its first use, because I am one of those people who read directions, and continued on to read: "[Trade name]'s bottles are designed in Bend, Oregon, and handcrafted in China at meticulously chosen factories that practice social responsibility, fair labor, and strong ethics." 

Excuse me?  A manufacturer "meticulously" chosen for its "social responsibility, fair labor, and strong ethics"?  In Communist China?! 

Where have these people been?  Certainly not to China, or if so, not outside the control of their handlers.  They should get out more and read up on the history of their friends, or just check current events.  Certainly they (or anyone else for that matter) should read the Belgo-Australian Pierre Ryckmans (writing as Simon Leys) and his scathing and quite readable critiques of China's Great Leap Forward and the still devastating aftermath, covered over by a thin patina of commercial success copied from the West.  But it's not like the human rights abuses in China are some sort of arcane secret; this is a very easy topic to research.

Of course, we hear variations on this all the time.  Around here, with a Starbucks, Dutch Bros, Human Bean, or smaller independent coffee kiosk on every corner, we see reference to 'fair trade coffee' all the time, but few actually recognize that it's a scam and whenever the subject comes up, no one with whom I have spoken grasps the irony that they are often dealing with Daniel Ortega's Sandinistas in Nicaragua or FARC-controlled areas in Colombia, and hardly anyone has a clue about the worsening human rights conditions in Venezuela or Bolivia.  Last week, I saw a Ché t-shirt on a completely oblivious attendee at a funeral service for a soldier.  If you are a left-wing dictator of fairly generous brutality, you are given a very wide berth indeed from the dudgeon of the sophisticated press; the spirit of Walter Duranty, secure in the faith of the Pulitzer committee that he retain his prize despite the magnitude of his deceit, lives on as a muse for main stream media.

Lenin is often quoted as the source of the observation that the West has an abundance of "useful idiots", and that "the Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we shall hang them."  In an earlier academic environment, a fellow traveler once challenged that there is no source for Lenin having made these exact quotes, and for the sake of argument in that discussion I was willing to cede the claim but I rejoined with an established quote from the artist Yuri Annenkov, a protégé of Lenin who copied the following from Lenin's personal notes before wisely emigrating to Paris after Lenin's demise (as he was showing a tendency to favor Trotsky, a rather unhealthy interest in the eyes of Stalin): 
Lenin, by Annenkov
To speak the truth is a petit-bourgeois habit.  To lie, on the contrary, is often justified by the lie's aim.  The whole world's capitalists and their governments, as they pant to win the Soviet market, will close their eyes to the above-mentioned reality and will thus transform themselves into men who are deaf, dumb and blind.  They will give us the credits … they will toil to prepare their own suicide.
But when I see such patently absurd claims such as the like on the water flask above, my mind goes to wonderful 1970 book by advertising great Jerry Della Femina, a book that was to provide the basis for the recent hit television series Mad Men.  The title derives from a moment of sardonic frustration during a meeting about pitching the advantages in the early 1960s of selling new market technology from Japan, a nation then still freshly remembered as the primary source for the atrocious Pacific portion of World War II: From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor. 
I am reminded too often that nothing much has changed.

1 comment:

  1. I used to know a world war 2 vet who had never bought a japanese product and got irritated whenever his grandchildren visited in their toyota.


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