God I so hate it when this happens. I want to get in touch with an expert, someone whose voice and wisdom is so needed, and find they’ve died. I remember it happening with China scholar Robert Weil and Kurdish expert Vera Beaudin Saeedpour in years past.
Today I was — later than I should have — trying to get hold of Henry Rosemont, a great scholar of Chinese philosophy and author of Chinese Mirror: Moral Reflections on Political Economy and Society among other books only to find out he died in July from this fine obituary.
I enjoyed seeing several of his talks online. Here’s one he gave in 2012, titled “Individual Freedom and Human Rights vs Social Justice: A Confucian Meditation“, which begins: “Some of what I say this evening will worry liberals greatly. Some of the things I will say will annoy conservatives even more greatly. So that suggests that either I’m totally bipolar — or Confucius is — or that it might be helpful for you to try to bracket those kinds of labels and try hard to listen to what I’m going to say on its own terms about the Confucian persuasion.”
“I first went to live in China in 1982. I thought they should build hostels and welcome foreigners to visit inexpensively, in keeping with the egalitarianism the government supposedly championed. Instead, they built five star hotels. Partly it was a matter of the capital needed from Western companies like Holiday Inn but partly they bought into a certain Western economic model.
“While the Cultural Revolution was successful in many respects — it stopped the famines, provided enough clothing — the leadership over the last two decades pursued a plan of growth that virtually no one thought they could achieve, quadrupling the economy. But this came at enormous human and environmental cost. Inequality is stark and worsening in China, life in the countryside is very bleak, especially for women; only in China do more women than men commit suicide, almost 60 percent of the world’s total.
Many hawks would make China out to be a grave military threat to the U.S., but consider, for example, some very simple facts: The U.S. has 12 aircraft carriers, China has none; the United States has over 700 military bases and other installations outside its borders, while China has none; 250,000 U.S. military are stationed overseas — not counting the mercenaries — but again, China has none. China has 100-400 nuclear weapons, the U.S. has 10,000. The Chinese have much better grounds for fearing the United States than the other way around.
My latest real interaction with him was after I wrote the posting “‘Democracy Now’ Gets Nuclear Ban Vote Totally Wrong” late last year. He saw it and responded:
Excellent letter, Sam; thanks for doing it. I’m quite disappointed in Amy Goodman; what has happened?
Have a good weekend,
I thanked him for his note, wrote that I wanted to get him on a news release soon. I emailed him again in April with no response and — especially since he was just about the age of my father who died in January — had an occasional worried thought in the back of my mind, until today.