Monday, September 19, 2011

Class Warfare, You Betcha!

When President Obama called on the super rich to share the economic pain our nation and the people are suffering from, he is duly accused by his Republican opponents as staging a class warfare. President Obama sparred back against such charge and claimed that what he proposed, upper-income tax hike, was simply not a class warfare. Obama threw his darts rather aimlessly, saying:
You’re already hearing the moans and groans from the other side about how we are engaging in class warfare and we’re being too populist and this and that and the other — all the usual scripts. I mean, it’s predictable, the news releases that come out from the other side. But the truth of the matter is, is that if we don’t succeed, then I think that this country is going to go down a very perilous path. And it’s not going to be good for those of us who have done incredibly well in this society and it’s certainly not going to be good for the single mom who’s working two shifts right now trying to support her family. It’s not going to be good for anybody.
I agree with Obama's goal and means, but again, I don't think he fought back with enough strength.

Why afraid of the word "class warfare"?  Why deny it?

Not class warfare?  I would say, it is indeed class warfare, a warfare has been waging for decades by the rich against the poor.  What Obama is trying to do, is simply to reverse the trend, to protect the feeble.  Why would he shy away from using the word?  He really should have staged a counter charge, head on.

Whatever the Republicans want to do, is the tried and tired means of more corporate tax cuts, and more deregulation - they are perhaps good for profit, for the balance sheets, but again and again, they have been proven bad for the people and the country.

Let's call spade spade.  Whatever the Republicans plan to do, is to rob the poor even further, to squeeze the middle further, so as to have a even bigger share of the national wealth.  The low and middle-class have suffered long enough under the yoke of the corporations, and their political henchmen, and we should not allow ourselves to sacrifice more in order to ensure the continued growth of the corporations, which have completely severed themselves from the quality of ordinary people's life.  We want to have a fair share of the wealth.

We don't want to stage a class warfare.  However, it is it brought to our door step, we'll fight back.

This is what Obama should have said.  Would he ever be our true champion?

Thorned Flowers
Thorned Flowers © Matthew Felix Sun

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Remaking Mitt Romney, à la John McCain

Republican presidential candidate, former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, has been remaking himself ever since he entered the race in last cycle when he lost to John McCain, who was nominated and lost big in the general election.

Incredibly, Mitt Romney has stuck to his tried and failed scripts, with some borrowed pages from now disgraced John McCain.

Mitt Romney is remaking himself in John McCain's mode in all earnest and that will prove his undoing and make him as a tragic figure as McCain.

Like John McCain, Romney chooses to present himself as somebody else, meanwhile studiously disown his sizable political achievement, McCain as senator with independent streak, and Romney, a governor who helped to usher in universal health care in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The day they disowned their own achievement and characters, they became nobody and completely phony.  Lacking authenticity was one of the major defects Romney has and his silly posturing only exacerbates it.

John McCain, during his pandering to the far right, who always disliked him, lost his friend in the middle and the left, together with his integrity and human dignity.

Mitt Romney, a respected politician, instead of running on the record of his political achievement, determined to run as a business leader, in the climate that big business prospers while middle class and labors suffer.  It has never been so clear that business interests are independent and often not correlated to the main street.  Therefore, Romney might just runs over the precipice - even if he prevails in the primary, his selling out of his integrity will catch up with him and he will regret, as bitterly as John McCain, on the election day.

Governing is an art; it's not business.  I would not hesitate to choose a career politician over a business person, who only sees profit and balance sheet, while oblivious to the people who might be affected by their profit-driven decisions.  Business leaders do not have in their minds the average American's interests.

Let's not delude ourselves.

Colony / 屬地 / Kolonie
Colony © Matthew Felix Sun

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Wasted Opportunity - on San Francisco Opera's New Commission "Heart of A Soldier"

Wasted opportunity?  No, I'm not talking about Obama's lackluster presidency which failed to solve so many pressing problems our nation faces, though it surely warrants such description.  No, I'm talking about San Francisco Opera's new commission, "Heart of a Soldier", an opera with libretto by Donna di Novelli and music by Christopher Theofanidis, and was based on James Stewart's book of the true story of Rick Rescorla.  The opera is scheduled to be premiered on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City, in 2001.  It is to be staged by Francesca Zambello, who just triumphantly staged Wagner's Ring Cycle for SFOpera, the instigator of this whole project, when she read the book, she immediately saw it as opera material.

Ten years after the attack on World Trade Center, it is high time for remembrance, reflection and some deep thinking.  It is also a high time for an operative treatment of a story regarding the September 11 attack.  I was hoping for an opera in somber tone, with ample respect for the deceased and the bereaved, with collective reflection on the events lead to the fatal day and the aftermath, with a clear-eyed hope for a better future.  We need a 9/11 opera.

However, the creative team of the opera steadfastly denied that it would be a 9/11 opera, instead, they emphasized that it would be an opera about love - the camaraderie love between protagonist Rick Rescorla, whose military experience prepared him to save thousands people's life in his company, and his life-long friend Dan Hill, and a late-found love between Rick and his wife Susan.  The love between Rick and Susan, as poignant as it was, did nothing to propel the story line - their love contributed nothing to the final denouement and it is puzzling to see that this love becomes the focus of this opera.

What this opera's about?  It seems to me about a hero's path.  The opera included many flashing points, such as Rick met American soldiers in his British hometown as a boy, his killing a lion to prove his bravado, his stunt in Vietnam in order to fight the Communists and his career as security chief for financial firm in New York City.

The real drama lies in his early design to kill communists and the doubt later crept in while in Vietnam.  The synopsis mentioned the motive for Rescorla and Hill to go to Vietnam is their desire to seek a just war.  Had they found it?  Was the war just?  How shaken were they by their doubts?  In the same vein, did people ask why the Jihadists attacked our civilians?  Did they see it as just?  What about other Muslim people who might bear grudge but would not pick up weapons to kill randomly?

The parallel between the desire to kill communists and modern day Jihadism is also a very interesting topic.  Did we fail or refuse to see other groups, defined by different forms of government, different religions, or different ideology, as human beings, just as the modern day Jihadists do?   Grown up in communism China, when I read the line of "fight the Communists", I inevitably thinking about my father, who was a career civil servant and joined the Party in high school, or my mother, an expert doctor, who struggled entire career to be admitted into the Party to prove her worth, or my sister, who had to join the Party in order to be promoted into a managerial position in a newspaper.  Are these career soldiers the people only happy to kill?   What about the aftermath?  How we handled the suspects we rounded up in Afghanistan and Iraq?   Perhaps it was not touched upon by the libretto because it is too close for comfort.

All these moral dilemmas and arguments would have made a compelling and thought-provoking opera.  But all these were seriously under-developed or consciously avoided.  Since the libretto shied away from all these aspects, all the possible depths and nuances are lost due to this avoidance.  Apparently, the creative team didn't want to create another controversial opera like John Adam's The Death of Klinghoffer

One genuinely interesting part included in the opera was Dan Hill's conversion to Muslim and his moving to Afghanistan, but that thread did not go further either.  Therefore, the opera becomes episodic, meandering and skin deep.  It is heart-tugging in a tear-jerking way.

As for the music, the argument from San Francisco Opera's general director David Gockley yields no comfort.  Opera News magazine quoted that he wanted a legitimate composer, one with "a big emotional sweep, who's not afraid to write a popular melody but still can deal with a big arc and complexity and breadth."

Rehearsal photo from San Francisco Opera

Instead of an opera with fitting gravitas à la Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, we will get a technicolor Lawrence of Arabia.   Very sweeping.

Moving beyond an opera commission.  Let's see if we have learned much.  How have we grown up?  Have we used the pivotal moment in history the tragedy brought to the world to heal the wounds of humanity?

Unfortunately, not much.

We have not done enough to deal with social and economical injustice in the world; we have employed cruel methods against our opponents, or just suspects, in order to protect our freedom, mostly the "god-given right" to consume as cheaply as we can, at other people's expenses.

However, there is glimmer of hope.  What the Western power had done to support Libyan people's cause, while allowing them to own their own revolution, struck the right balance.

However, we know better than trusting too much on hope.  We live in a complex, confusing and perilous world.  Let's hope that there will not be a double dip - a reign by maniacal, egocentric and intolerant Republican reign, particularly of Texan brand.

Related articles:
--> Not Enough Drama, Love to Rescue - on San Francisco Opera's Commissions "Heart of A Soldier"
--> World Premiere Opera "Heart of A Soldier" and What Is a Tragedy
--> San Francisco Opera's New Commission - Heart of a Soldier

Thursday, September 1, 2011

There's A Great Future in Banking

For the new graduates, particularly those born with silver spoons in their mouths, the valuable advice from the Republican leaders would be: "There's a great future in banking!"

Yes, in banking.  Nothing else, not even plastics.  After all, plastics are related to production, commerce and based on science, which has completed its evolution (see, Republicans have no aversion to using the word "evolution") when Archimedes shouted "Eureka!"  Afterwards, what ever the "scientists" had put forth were just theories.  Once we can tell the difference of gold from silver, what more do we need to know?

Our great nation was founded by principled people who would not stomach other people's tolerance of other religions or customs, and became the very people not tolerated; therefore, we are to carry on our great tradition of intolerance into 21st century, be it other science, knowledge or common sense, as long as it does not conform to my world view.

Yes, banking.  Not politics.  We can buy politicians.

Yes, banking.  Not science.  Scientists we ridicule.

Yes, banking.  Not manufacture.  Labors we exploit.

Yes, banking, even if you have doubt about your abilities or affinities.  Sage from China said that "Dragons beget dragons; phoenix beget phoenix; while mice can dig holes since their births", therefore, as long as you are from families of rich, you'll succeed as bankers, who will rule.