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THE OTHER ODE
A Place for
Souls to Wither
While Suffering reaches its Crescendo,
or a Peace of Abundant Vitality ?
Where now is that righteousness which "exalts a nation" ?
International Escapades or the Ode to Vitality and its Priceless Prince ?
TV News, May 21-22,1997.
on President Clinton's Concern at the Fashions of Death
THE OTHER ODE
Ode to death! They pronounce it in euthanasia, as if man were the instrument of life, and the author of death. Of course it is different when wholly artificial means intrude into a decayed system, prolonging it when its integral powers are lost. However this is not the case when intrusion occurs, and the witless request that sickness can for a season induce, is followed with an authority not given to man. A change of mind and of mood can be too late; and such is the folly of playing God.
Death! Death of a nation was a title not without ground, long ago provided for the U.S. public. Death of a church was another such topic of some impact, also years ago, as in each case, fundamental principles were forsaken.
Now it is good to see President Clinton, reported in the TV news for Wednesday, May 21, 1997 as showing clear concern at the fashion houses of death, the film culture of death, the glorification of death. No nation, he declared, is doing well that glorifies death. He referred to the models and the films, the culture and the apparatus of art that has been harnessed, commercially, artistically, glamorously indeed, to bring appeal to the ways that lead to death.
Gaunt models were screened as he spoke, in the TV representation of the speech. Cadaverous 'beauty' appeared, the next generation after the thin look, the twiggy extreme, the unearthly anorexia limit: the relation to heroin, the in-thing for the out-people, was considered. Were these forms, figures, models, advertisements, glamorising the 'heroin look' ? Death! the President stated - the ways to death are not a place for glory.
It seemed to me the best speech I have heard from President Clinton. He spoke, perhaps in a cultivated mode, without passion, but with some gravity and conviction. If his tone lacked force, his words did not.
It is good to see a man in power ready to rebuke the misuse of that vitality which is the human depiction of power, and without which there comes readily merely attenuation, weakness and dreams.
EXTENDING THE PLATFORM
It might be yet better if he were to rebuke what appeared in the TV news on the very next night, the principles that led to the concern of Harry Wu, a Chinese campaigner for freedom, who has before has spoken to the U.S. government. He has been a leader of a Foundation in the U.S., one concerned at the Chinese misuse of political prisoners to aid their economy, in unpaid or ill-rewarded labour. Inhuman conditions, such as Wu has long sought to document behind the bamboo curtain, he presents in terms of a Chinese Gulag, and much detail is provided. Such conditions could be better rebuked than in the provision of most favoured nation treatment to China, on the part of the U.S.. Ironically, the TV newsman indicated, this most-favoured nation treatment had been accorded to China, just days before Harry Wu spoke. However, Wu has been speaking for years, and not least to the U.S. government.
The solution is simple. Let us suppose that Wu is wrong; or that his 19 years in prison in China were a fiction; that his sufferings and knowledge gained in this alleged quagmire were illusory, that he is motivated by revenge, that China is a shining example of toleration, kindness and concern for those who differ from the government in the area of politics, that it actually encourages the expression of diverse and even divergent thought, in the hope that any errors may be disclosed and that it may make improvements where it is able. Let us suppose that the days of the Chinese wall-posters suggesting better conditions and diverse opinions are still here; that it is merely imagination that the artists and authors of such things have been punished, or that Christians have been persecuted as also earlier in Russia, or that churches have been subjected to intrusive and often destructive controls or obstructions. Let all this testimony be simple fiction.
Let us just suppose all that. Yet it simply does not meet with numbers of episodes, such an Tianamen, or match numbers of dissidents often imprisoned, or re-imprisoned, numbers of testimonies from suffering Christians or churches, concerning fines, deprivation or abuses, and numbers of expressions of Communist power. It does not answer the government idea of making morality a Chinese thing for China, in answer to requests for some relaxation, as many suffer, escape, testify and are sought. Ideas do not surgically remove suffering.
Certainly, it should be noted that China cannot properly now be called Marxist, since in practical China and its commercial procedures, using motivations and methods wholly unakin to its ostensible political alignment, Marx is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Does this however mean that commerce is clean ? Alas, the departure of the one, in deed if not in word, is not such guarantee: absolutism can change dress before heart.
Very well: love hopes all things. So we investigate. Let us suppose it. We check all the political statements and responses, and see if they indicate such an attitude as imagined in the paragraph above. It is certainly hard to find evidence of such liberty in practical terms. The opposite is not so hard to find.
Nevertheless, imagine it: We check the allegations of Wu, and have opportunity provided by a co-operative Chinese government to show them mere slanders. UN observers or other, are allowed to check without concern, but with evident joy in order to show that such things are unknown. Political liberty is found, repression and oppression of those who differ is found non-existent, or merely a matter of unfortunate and rare instances, readily accountable. Dissidents are released, freedom of the press shows the folly of imagining repression, and all is well.
Are we dreaming ? It would be a pleasant
dream. Let it happen. It has however not happened yet. The dream may be
pleasant; but all is not well.
RE-EDUCATION AND ITS RIGOURS
The extent of the suffering may be a question, but neither statements made nor actions attested are quite so readily dismissed. Wu alleges millions are in personality undress mode, kept and used in demeaning and evil conditions in order to make money out of their dissidence. "Re-education" is more than a philosophic gloss. Wu in his extensive written materials has addressed devices and procedures for confusing the West, and provides large bodies of detailed information concerning the burial of the economic army from sight and inspection (Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag ; Laogai: The Chinese Gulag, Westview Press, 1992; Troublemaker, One Man's Crusade against China's Cruelty - Chatto and Windus, 1996).
While details need verifying, he is not alone. How can our own land meanwhile have such trade with a dialogue... It appears a sad parallel to having trade with the products from slave labour, in the nineteenth century: as if slavery were an acceptable source of supply! Are those who too conveniently suffer, not ALSO mankind ? Are those who too conveniently gain, simply of another brand ? Is this the way to treat such tarnished products ? can anguish be the supply and we the consumers ?
CHINA AND THE CHINESE
For my part, I love the Chinese; but whoever it is, it is not good to profit from anguish, to be fed by repression, to live from torturous exploitation, even if it is in the name of non-exploitation. Just who is exploiting whom ? Is exploitation acceptable because it is called popular dictatorship ? of the exploited ? Scarcely. Has it been voted in ? Is it the will of China that such things be ? Who is China ? The people or their rulers ? It is ironic that Marx spoke of concern at repression, but none has excelled him in producing it. If Hitler's was the right foot, Marx's was the left in the march of despotism. Its weary horrors were well documented by Solzhenitsyn, who made his famous train-trip through the land after the Fall of the Wall and the beginnings of freedom.
It is time that clarity was obtained. It is time money-making considerations were subordinated to realities, that it was realised you cannot subordinate mankind to such political extremities and escape judgment! Do not the very stones cry out! Indeed, this is perhaps one way in which they do, because Jesus Christ has not been received by a world under judgment: for, said He to those protesting as many of the people were receiving Him as King coming in the name of the Lord, "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." - Luke 19:40. Overlooking too much in Europe, the Europe of Adolf Hitler, was no panacea for the ways awash with cruelty. The stones are crying out to this day, as the spasms of iniquity that rent the Jews in Germany and elsewhere, come into prominence in various discoveries.
Ignoring is not curing. Co-operating is not condemning.
If all is well in this Chinese commercial matter of human suffering, then the means to show it are at hand - if the desire is present on all sides.
If however the contrary statements, both from the Government and about it, are false or misplaced: then let it be shown. A country may rule itself on its own mode, but other countries who have other principles need to consider the consequences.
Remember the hidden Holocaust under Hitler, and the averse eyes at the smoke of factories of death ? The world is now increasingly grasped by such horrors. It is time to remember now, and be assured with adequate facts of a whole morass of misleading information from countless dissidents, Christian and other, church and other; and of voices awry; and that the wail of the oppressed in China is an unaccountable auditory phenomenon; or to act as action was taken with South Africa. Averted ears do not silence the reports or remove their testimony. Ears and hearts are still not far apart.
Peaceable expression of principle,
backed by consistent morality, may prove costly, but so is the other option;
and it is a moral matter.
POWER AND MORALITY
One 'distinguished' Australian statesman, some years ago, stated that the reason action was taken against South Africa and not Russia, was that it was feasible in the case of South Africa. Such is the subordination of morals to politics. Such is visionless blinking at vice. To act consistently with righteousness does not take military power.
To trust in God does not require deference to 'political realities'. Said Isaiah to a people seeking help from Egypt in his day, rather than from God: "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit" - 31:3. Seeking 'help' should be in terms of the Almighty, not flesh. The love of God is not conditional on fear or greed, but on grace and the presence of God.
As to fashion death, film death, commercial
death, repressive death, morbid co-operation in the wallowing in death:
it is time life was preferred, and the preference became more than an inclination.
PHILOSOPHIC DEATH ? AN EXERCISE IN ILLUSION
But what of philosophic death ? This proceeds with Government support in school and university to such an extent that conformity to ruling cultural canons is deplored by highly placed academics of different persuasions, as noted in SMR and That Magnificent Rock; is all too visible in Government schools in this land; and is not seldom the subject of court cases in the U.S.. It is time academic death, philosophic moribundity, spiritual decease ceased to have preference and privilege, to be glorified; for as President Clinton indicated, a society that glorifies death is not healthy. It is just that the affirmation needs to be extended to more areas; the vision needs to be applicable in other professions, interests, phases and occupations of mankind.
Survival of the fittest and power-broking approaches to politics are likewise glorifying death. Death enough have they produced in their vainglorious follies, founded on nothing: as if creation were continuation, and as if modes of life were to be addressed with continuation as the consideration above all, without reference to what it is that continues.
Self-centred success in being rich and alive becomes the assumed aim of enlightened people. We hear of national interest as if this were some greedy, grasping plane of gain which by nature makes all men potentially at war, and all peace a delicate process based only on this, that one is doing as well as one could at the expense of whomever, limited only by 'enlightened self-interest', and this - if need be - bred with deception.
Forbearance, mercy, goodness, virtue,
peace, yes truth itself, all is forgotten in this fundamental law: survive.
Such is the trend of things; and such it will be till judgment is ripe:
but heaven forbid its being acquiesced in.
SPIRITUAL LIFE: AN EXCURSION INTO REALITY
It is based on that unchaste and illusory dream of the absence of God, and is accompanied by the absence of blessing. Wars erupt as independence, self-fulfilment, national, regional or sub-regional are passionately sought, in whole strata of society, becoming the be-all and end-all. Indeed, such pompous and unlovely follies show significant power to end much in this sin-afflicted globe, as in the lives of millions already slaughtered, amid such visionless glorification of the ways of death, such acrid substitutes for spiritual life.
Life depends on its source and origin; and so long as the mythical attribution of life to what is non-life, of design to no designer, of law to chance, of spirit to matter, of mind to magic continues, and God Almighty, mentioned in the constitutions of both the U.S. and Australia, is actively mocked in the drugged philosophies of morbidity, of power-play, casuistry, evolutionism and death, so long is society not healthy.
Says the Lord in Proverbs 8, speaking of His wisdom: "ALL WHO HATE ME LOVE DEATH." Man is engaging in vast numbers, then, in a funereal courtship with death, as if the verification of the word of God in this case became an all-consuming passion. All-consuming ? is arithmetic to interpret the term!
This is the other ode -
not Ode to a Skylark, or Ode to Vitality, far less
Ode to Jesus Christ, the Spiritual Conqueror and Oasis for Man: rather is it the
Ode to Odious Death, and all that leads to it, is full of it, and denies, defies and delinquently derides the Prince of Peace. He has provided the way to a life that endures beyond the grave, just as it arrived from beyond the earth, and will be judged in the same celestial arena.
THE ODE TO CHRIST is the ode which is one of superabundant vitality: for He has come that we might "have life, and have it more abundantly" - John 10:10. Crucified hands are handsome when it comes to effectual evidence of care. Bodily resurrection is impactive where death is concerned. The prediction of world history is a grave thing, when graves are being dug by ignoring it.
"He," says God in His wisdom, "who sins against Me wrongs his own soul." All, we recall, "all who hate Me love death" (Proverbs 8:36).