The pain behind the perfection

As you may recall, I was both impressed and dismayed by the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.  I’ll quote the point I made that comes back again in this post:

They were gorgeous.  They also reminded me very strongly of the public spectacles that socialist countries have always loved:  vast numbers of people moving in tightly choregraphed formations.  It’s certainly impressive, but it’s also a vivid, visual reminder of the socialist state’s ability to subordinate peoples’ individuality to almost robotic perfection.

It turns out that the impressions I picked up were dead on.  First, the Chinese impresario who created the entire spectacle was trying to outdo North Korea — the most rigidly socialist state in the world — when it comes to mass people movement:

Filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the ceremony’s director, insisted in an interview with local media that suffering and sacrifice were required to pull off the Aug. 8 opening, which involved wrangling nearly 15,000 cast and crew. Only North Korea could have done it better, he said.


He told the popular Guangzhou weekly newspaper Southern Weekend that only communist North Korea could have done a better job getting thousands of performers to move in perfect unison.

“North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline,” he said. Pyongyang’s annual mass games feature 100,000 people moving in lockstep.

In other words, there was definitely a political element to the mass movement of synchronized people.  And the only way to create that mass movement of synchronized people is to rehearse at an almost inhuman rate (emphasis mine):

Some students of the Shaolin Tagou Traditional Chinese Martial Arts School in Henan province who began training for the event last May were injured in falls on the LED screen that forms the floor on which they performed and was made slippery by rain, said Liu Haike, one of the school’s lead instructors.


While in Beijing, the constant exposure to the dizzyingly hot summer resulted in heatstroke for some students, particularly during one rain-drenched rehearsal that stretched on for two days and two nights.

The students were kept on their feet for most of the 51-hour rehearsal with little food and rest and no shelter from the night’s downpour, as the show’s directors attempted to coordinate the 2,008-member performance with multimedia effects, students and their head coach told the AP.

“We had only two meals for the entire time. There was almost no time to sleep, even less time for toilet breaks,” Cheng said. “But we didn’t feel so angry because the director was also there with us the whole time.”

Beware the socialist state, even when it looks pretty.

Hat tip:  B.S.

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  • Tiresias

    Had you expected something different?

    The part that I find most amusing is hearing from friends who were there who looked up at the sky – nothing. The fireworks only existed on the world’s TV sets.

    And the part that I find least amusing is seeing the repellent portrait of that psychopathic murdering animal on the wall of the Forbidden City over Bobby’s shoulder every night.

    And I REALLY didn’t need to hear about how every year they replace the old portrait of the world’s leading mass murderer (or maybe he’s only #2, after his pal Stalin) with a bright new one. What it ought to be is pulled down, urinated on, and burnt.

  • Ymarsakar

    Totalitarian systems find beauty in order and perfection. They accomplish such through subordinating the individual mind to the mass mind and will.

    What they lose out in are substantial benefits that only individual choices and wills can produce free of interference.

    The ACLU and their brainwashed dolts misapprehend a key ingredient to human life and law. Utopia or paradise or good government is not about total individual liberty. It is about how the sum total of individual free choices create a system of total order and security greater than any that could be accomplished by totalitarian systems, Book.

    We are the better way of life, in everything. Order, law, peace, war, prosperity, anything and everything.

    Anything a totalitarian system can do, we can do better. But the vice a versa is not true.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Soviet Union leaders once made a comment, for example when one of the Marshals led the Soviet armor strike into Berlin, to the American forces he met that the American system of democracy is flawed and ultimately weak for you will never be able to fight a war or produce true stability or security without some kind of central leadership, like the Soviet Union.

    He was correct. What he was incorrect in thinking is that giving people liberty and allowing them to vote, excludes and precludes central leadership and the power of the spirit of one man, who leads the military forces of America.

    The most powerful central leadership comes from the obedience freely given. The United States of America, all 50 states, is easily compared to the Republics and Satellites of Soviet Russia, the Great USSR. Which one is the more stable system? Which one is the stronger system? Which one requires the least expenditure of energy and time to maintain against rebellion and disorder?

    Ah, but people quote our internal dissent and political debates and Democrat vs Republican as the proof that we must be ever vigilant against ourselves for our system is inherently unstable and thus must require the Strong Man, an Obama, to make us become better than we could ever become by ourselves.

    But guess what, where did Leftism and the social ills of mankind come from? The Soviet Union and their progenitors.

    Even our flaws only exist because of enemies like Russia, you see. OUr flaws will always exist so long as human beings want to use force to take what they want instead of cooperating to earn it. That is a human flaw, but one should not forget which side of things creates those flaws instead of trying to suppress them.

  • Deana

    That is absolutely disgusting.

    My favorite paragraph from that article is:

    ‘”In one week, we could only work four and a half days, we had to have coffee breaks twice a day, couldn’t go into overtime and just a little discomfort was not allowed because of human rights,” he said of the unidentified opera production.’

    I wonder what his definition of “little discomfort” is.

    I just wish the world were paying more attention to this.


  • Deana

    One other thing: who in the world today views North Korea as something to be emulated?

    And when we find someone who does, should we not shun them?


  • gpc31

    Tiresias is absolutely right.

    It was a made-for-TV spectacle, much of it computer enhanced.

    The Triumph of the Will aspect spooked me out too.

    How and why people honor hyper-evil mass murderers like Mao is shocking.

  • suek

    And the whole four hour long grand opening is now available to you on dvd from NBC.

    No kidding.

    I didn’t check into the price.

    Bet it’s a humdinger.

    Wonder if China gets the residuals, or if it’s just a part of the NBC contract…

  • dg

    There is a wonderful timeline painted on the walls of the ante-chamber within the National Museum in Taipei–the most important collection of Chinese art in the world. This timeline highlights the comparative level of scientific and artistic development in China versus the West over 5,000 years of history. The striking thing one finds is that the flow of ideas for most of that history is from East to West. Only the last 450-500 years show the reverse. The fact is that China was the leading economy and civilization for the majority of human history and will likely return to this place again (the 20th century the only one in the last twelve in which China was not the world’s biggest economy). To compare this great nation to North Korea or Russia is to ignore a rather large record of achievement.

    The Chinese have already moved away from communism and are moving away from socialism. Actually, one could argue that the US is more socialist than China, as Ted Koppel did during his interesting look at the emerging giant. China doesn’t have Medicaid, welfare, or free educational benefits. Irresponsibility in China is not rewarded with welfare, and the country does not have a minimum wage. Education in China is based on how hard the parents are willing to work to send their child to school, how much they pay in “supplementary payments” to get teacher attention, and how hard their child is willing to work in school. China would rather put more people to work with manual labor (if possible) than fewer people with heavy equipment. The U.S. and China both subsidize certain industries. I have heard more than one major American CEO comment that doing business is China is more efficient and less bureaucratic than in the U.S. This is not your father’s totalitarian state, but a well-oiled capitalist machine that somehow has managed to jettison the individual political rights that the American and European model now emphasize. I expect China to gradually acquire political/human rights but on a Singaporean or South Korean pattern rather than a French or American one. North Korean it is not!

    By the way, Zhang Yimou is a fantastic director–one of the best in the world today–whose films were banned for years (but no longer) due to their “bourgeois” themes. While his Chinese nationalism perhaps got the better of him in that interview, he is clearly an advocate of individual artistic expression rather than the Stalinist practices of Kim Jong-Il.

    Finally, CCTV is selling a better version of the opening ceremonies than NBC’s copy. You can order the two-DVD video from those “communists” for the highly attractive price of only $8.