The death of traditions

It is so hot and humid in Chengdu right now that my brain is bathing in its own liquid, humming strange tunes to itself and sending me images of massive artillery guns firing into the distance.

Spengler is a columnist for Asia Times who has derided the Europeans for lacking the courage to face the modern world, upholds the Christian belief in salvation through God’s grace as the answer to the world’s crisis of faith and who is certain that traditional societies must change in the face of today, or perish.

And many other themes, some of which he touches on in this latest column about America’s special place in the world and what he believes is Obama’s deepest desire: to rid the US of that which grants us this special place, modernity.


I lament the demise of funk streets the world over. I have been actively seeking out the jabbering markets where chickens are held up for inspection, approved, beheaded and plucked before your very eyes; the courtyards of stone and their rickety wooden enclosure, with door gods and drying tobacco leaf; the delicate dance of a family-supported courtship and marriage; the one stringed wailing and the gourd flutes; family charts, bamboo weaves and dog-hair sandbags.

But they are dying the world over. In some places quicker than others and a few places not at all, but their fate is sealed by the progress of the modern world.

In my own neighborhood, the old Hakka traditions are resting in the cataracts of an 80 year old as he sips tea and fingers his mahjiong pieces.

Every time I meet my man Zhuang Jian for tea, we trade bitter reports of this and that place lost forever to the modern hordes and whisper of the few that still survive. These conversations always end in silence, whereupon we turn to money issues and quote Candide:

“… one’s own garden …”

My heart aches when i read of this prognosis for the world: Modernity and the lonely quest of the individual for solace on earth and grace from heaven. Is it said any differently in Eccliastes or the Dao De Jing? I think tribalism is immortal in us and community is our last gasp to ward off death, but in the end i am my only keeper — I suppose i lament what is gone until i am a part of what will endure.

Dammit, Spengler is right. Wherever I have gone in the world, people are choosing, being forced to choose and just plain drifting into the real world. The only way to reconcile the two worlds is to create things which cause others to dream. Make wishes and see them come true … Aha! i finally know what the Auryn means!

And so the lamenting pray and hope for God’s retribution before his grace. Only the ghosts of the dream world actually spout Mayan prophecies of 2012 to each other, discuss the civilizations that existed 10,000 years ago and that we are doomed to meet their fate.

2012 allows us to be there for it and have the last laugh on guys like Spengler when God’s grace falls on those who longed for what’s lost, instead of those who embraced what is. It is the Great Dream of all dreamers.

Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

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