Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beijing

THOSE OF US of a particular age may recall when the the capital of mainland China changed its name from Peking to Beijing. Renaming things is a particular passion for Commie revolutionaries, so this particular move wasn't surprising. But what was surprising was the speed at which this new name was adopted in the United States: at first, primarily, by those we ought to expect, namely Communists, pinkos, and fellow-travelers, especially in the news media, who sneered at linguistic conservatives who preferred the old word.

I ought to note that this isn't a trend merely among Marxists. The name of the country of Qatar, long pronounced 'ka-TAR', (and this is the pronunciation in my dictionary) became nearly universally 'cutter' in the broadcast media, following Condoleezza Rice. So what if that is the way locals say the name? We say it otherwise. Should we insist that the French say "United States" instead of États Unis?  Should we call Germany Deutschland?  Such is the power of the mass media.  But certainly, when traveling to foreign lands and using the local language, one ought to use the local pronunciation, for that is the polite thing to do.

The name of the Chinese city means, both now and then, "Northern Capital". What did change was the system used for converting Chinese ideograms into roman letters, replacing systems developed by Europeans with the homegrown Pinyin system. This system varies greatly in places from Latinate pronunciation:  for example, 'd' in the Pinyin system is pronounced 't'.

Under the new system of spelling, the word Beijing is pronounced, roughly, 'Peking'.  The Chinese themselves didn't rename their capital.  So nothing really changed, and the joke is on us.  Perhaps the Chinese are irritated that Westerners started using a new name for their city.

8 comments:

  1. And what a funny look you might receive from the waiter if you tried to order Beijing Duck, rather than Peking Duck. Until the change makes it to the menu, it should be ignored. That's my motto.

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  2. Bit of a hangup there, Mark -- or is the first paragraph a quote?

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  3. And nothing changed in terms of what the city was called in Chinese.

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  4. Mark pray that the Chinese learn to accept the freedoms that we enjoy and stop the name calling petty BS! I thought you were bigger than that or are you a small minded crank!!

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  5. I've been called a lot of things, but I'd rather be called for dinner.

    I despise marxism in all its forms, be it Communism, Socialism, green-on-the-outside-red-on-the-inside watermelon Environmentalism, and all of the various class-conflict ideologies based on sex, race, or economics. It is poison. I despise totalitarian regimes of every political and economic persuasion.

    Of course there are many reasons why someone would want to join one of the various marxist movements: many want to help solve the problems that exist in our world, and in the old days, the movement was a good opportunity for a young man to find an easy woman. But others have deep-seated self-hatred.

    The problem is that marxism is based on conflict, and this conflict has led to the largest shedding of blood in the history of the world. There are some who are idealistic, who would overlook such violence, hoping that things go better next time, but there are others who are pessimists and are bloodthirsty. A gentle college professor may start a revolution, but it is a brutal bully-boy who will end it, and who will rule with violence.

    I used strong, mocking words because of the brutality of marxism and because of its widespread acceptance among the intelligentsia. I make an effort not to criticize individuals, but I will not hold back on criticizing ideas.

    I must admit, however, that China is better than what it used to be. I predict that a hundred years from now, China will be the largest Catholic country in the world, and its people will be happy and free. The country just needs, with God's grace, a few high-placed missionaries who have the ear of the nation's leaders.

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  6. It's fine that you are opposed to people who foment violence. After all, the kingdom is one and cannot be divided. That is kind of incompatible with conflict.

    However, it might be better if you focused your commentary on conflict and violence themselves, and eschewed the labeling.

    Communism is not all Marxism. Indeed, the church has been the inspiration and source of many communist efforts -- including the Jerusalem church.

    On the other hand, violence has long been treasured by the opponents to the different communisms, from the Sanhedrin through the fascists to capitalists.

    The telling point in your post is the sentence "A gentle college professor may start a revolution, but it is a brutal bully-boy who will end it, and who will rule with violence." Once again, it's not the "-ism", it's the sinner.

    Follow the puma, for he is wise.

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  7. According to my dictionary, communism is "a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their ability and needs".

    This is what I would assume is close to the common understanding of the word "communism". The early Church and religious orders are what could be called "intentional communities" in contemporary parlance; they are not brought about by revolution, or governmental force or threat of force. Also, these are Catholic and not atheistic and materialistic.

    Agreed, right-wingers have an evil tendency to kill foreigners or others who are different, and left-wingers have an evil tendency to kill their own. It is the difference between hatred of the Other and hatred of the Self. Greed vs. resentment, both are very wrong.

    Many of both the Left and Right will often support philosophies that justify brutality. Individuals may state that they personally aren't the type of person who would do such atrocities, but that isn't comforting.

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  8. Mark, the common understanding may well be that "communism" = Marxism. But if that is the only definition your dictionary gives, best to get a new one.

    Deeper investigation might disclose a long history of communism before Marx appropriated the term. And much of that history is religious. "...Societies in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their ability and needs" have included not only the the Jerusalem church, but also many (most?) monastic orders, the Italian communes of the middle ages, and many protestant movements including the Shakers, the Oneida colony, the Zoar community, the Amana communities, and many other 19th century "utopian" experiments just here in the USA (fascinating books on the topic exist, some predating Marx). There have been (and continue to be) communist communities around the world today. But I'm going to give up adding to the list of names. You are a bright fellow, I'm sure you get my point, and can look up other examples yourself if you wish.

    By the way, how about Buddhist monasteries and some (not all) Hindu ashrams?

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