Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Point Guard of the Proletariat

Since the reign of Mao Tse Tung, the Chinese government has honored “model workers” as part of the country’s May Day celebration. In true communist style, the winners have usually been faceless factory or farm workers. But one of this year’s winners is… Yao Ming, professional basketball player.
At the height of Mao Tse-tung's push to make China an industrial giant, the model Communist worker was someone like the famed Iron Man Wang, an illiterate peasant so dedicated to building the nation that he once leaped into a construction pit to mix cement with his own body.

Now, in a land of cellphones, high-tech workers and instant millionaires, photos of Iron Man Wang are literally museum pieces.

The new model worker stands 7 foot 6, wears baggy shorts to work and wields a deft hook shot. Instead of construction pits, he leaps into seas of autograph seekers and a custom-fitted BMW 745 — the one with the back seat removed.

What's more, he doesn't even work in China.

Take a bow, Yao Ming.

The ruling Communist Party on Wednesday named the Houston Rockets' center a model worker for this year's May Day celebration. The list of nominees, which once honored hard-working factory employees and paraded them before the masses as inspiration, now celebrates the NBA star, the chief executive of a software company and the chairman of an investment firm. [emphasis added]
Brilliant! Why don’t we honor capitalist heroes in this country? (BTW, I’m aware that Yao Ming is a center, not a point guard. But I couldn’t think of a good play on words involving centers.)


Anonymous said...

Ahem, I don't mean to rain on your parade of Capitalist poster children--the global climate change will accomplish that nicely--but Wow Chow Ring-A-Ding-Ding or whatever his name is is NOT a capitalist in the pure sense of word, just a highly paid jock. Of course, when he puts his money into investments that further degrade the planet ecologically, morally or otherwise disturb the world's natural tranquility then you can include him in your cast of capitalist clowns.

I still like you Glen because your funny, smart and congenial and a bit of an econoclast yourself, but you are quite wrong about the long-term sustainability of Capitalism. The late Robert Heilbroner made that very clear in his numerous books. It will crumble just like "Communism" has and the destruction left in its wake will be vast and monumental. A monument to man's insatiable greed and sorry sense as to what is really important in life, I suppose. Rest assured that posterity will curse us for the world we leave them.

Anonymous said...

That was supposed to be Ring-A-Ling-Ding. SORRY for misprint!

Anonymous said...

I so sorry Anonymous but Glen is very very right. Capitalistic distruction is always good thing and Yao is a grate grate player. I bet you never before see him play with balls. He good acrobat to. So what if I his older sister. I got right to cheer for my younger brother. Ha Ha, he rich now to. You no rich Anonymous are you?

Sue Ming (sister of Yao)

Anonymous said...

"Brilliant! Why don’t we honor capitalist heroes in this country?"

We (Bush) just gave them huge tax breaks; isn't that enough?

Are Arthur Laffer and the rest of the Reaganomics crowd (Manikew et al) some of the capitalist heroes you are referring to. I'm still waiting for the trickle to trickle down. Give the dog a bone.

Glen Whitman said...

I'm willing to count anyone who trades services for compensation, in voluntary transactions, as a capitalist. Also, notice that others besides Yao Ming were honored, including the CEO of a software firm and the chair of an investment firm.

Heilbroner, by the way, was a socialist who believed that communism was sustainable until it crumbled in his face.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't Yao Ming be a model worker? He pays 50% of his (multi-million dollar) salary to the Chinese government, various Chinese sporting agencies, and his former team in China (run by a provence government), and is obligated to come back every summer to play for the Chinese national team in international competitions and may be "recalled" to play for China at any time.

If it were me, I'd have defected by now.

Anonymous said...

"Pivot man of the proletariat"?

BTW, "anonymous" -- speaking as an atmospheric physicist, that "global climate change" stuff is bunk. Just normal fluctuations being overinterpreted. We're about due for a downward fluctuation in temperatures...

But then you know that. That's why you've switched from "global warming" to "global climate change."

Glen Whitman said...

"Pivot man" provides good alliteration, but it doesn't make a play on "vanguard of the proletariat."

Caliban said...

Sounds like things are getting better in China to me!

The late Robert Heilbroner made that very clear in his numerous books.

Not to acid rain on your parade either, but didn't Heilbroner recant towards the end? "Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism" -- that's Heilbroner. If your own sources don't agree with you, how can we be asked to?

Wow Chow Ring-A-Ding-Ding

Uhm... excuse me?

I'm still waiting for the trickle to trickle down.

I'm not. I'm not 'rich' by your measure, but every single I day profit from the fact that other people are. They buy the software I write -- and if they were poorer, they wouldn't.