Protesters clashed with police yesterday in Qidong China over a proposed pipeline that is to run through their city. What is to be the contents of this proposed pipeline? Oil? Gas? Some other substance that is crucial in keeping the wheels of modern industry moving; you know the stuff that should drive good and proper communists to the streets, raging against the power and wealth of evil capitalist pig-dogs? No, it is none of those things; it is in fact waste from a paper factory that lies in another city miles away, and the proposed pipeline dumps this waste into the coastal waters of Qidong. The government of course says that this waste will not pollute the sea, according to one resident in Qidong, “…but if that’s true, then why don’t they dump it into Yangtze River?” The thing is though the Yangtze runs just to the north of Shanghai and it is the largest city in China; so you can put those pieces together.
The point of me writing about this isn’t so much to report on China’s pollution woes, I think most of us already know about that. It is the fact that this is just one story of a growing discontent with the loyal proletariat of that still authoritarian controlled state. The people there are getting tired of the government simply doing what and as they will, with little regard to what the people want – The People’s Republic of China indeed.
There are those who would like to hold China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse up as an example of how government can spur, and control economic expansion and success. What these same people fail to tell us though is that it actually took the government to relax its controls and privatize many state owned industries for this country to emerge from the shadows of oppression (kind of) and into modernity. These same people also decry the effects of capitalism here as the source of many, if not all, of our ills. Which is it though? It certainly can’t be both – can it?
Capitalism is not perfect, but nothing is perfect. It is the engine that launched America into the “New Colossus” where everyone in the world wanted to come here and strive for the American Dream. It was the freedom from government controls that led them here to try and start something meaningful. People didn’t flee their home countries, their friends and families, to have the iron ring of oppression clasped upon their wrists; they sought the brass ring of success. The naysayers will point to those who didn’t achieve the high life and say, that it only benefits the few. To that I say that the history books are only filled the outrageous successes and the spectacular failures. In terms of humanity we will never read about the countless people who have achieved only a modicum of success, those who live a comfortable and not ostentatious life fail to make it into the history books. There are far more of those people than there are of the wealthy, and there are more of these quietly content people than those of lesser means too. Government controls and regulations simply facilitate the concentration of the successes into the hands of a few, relegating the rest of us to rely on their beneficence. They take away our ability to one day achieve the American Dream; which if I am not mistaken is about reaching for success – at least it used too.
All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse. (Benjamin Franklin)