Sign And Sight is the online magazine that translates European, and particularly German, intellectual writing into English so that it will be available to all Europeans. The experience is new, but the thinking is not always new or exciting. Consider this article on beauty:
According to ancient Tao wisdom, it is in movement that a person attains beauty, in Tai-Chi for example. The Chinese syllable 'mei' (literally: fat sheep) means beauty. It is used to describe good food, a sense of well-being, a pleasant bodily feeling. And, ironically enough, also the United States (literally: beautiful land). So it is possible to have beauty without burdening it with ideals of physical self-improvement and abstinence. Why not just enjoy life?The argument is not different from ten thousand pieces of multiculturalist inquiry. The West suffers from some pathology, usually caused by capitalism (in this case, the piece attacks both the modelling industry and the competition encouraged by the larger museums). By comparison with the purer cultures, less corrupted by evil capitalism, one can return to the enlightened state of consciousness destroyed by modern society. By comparison, however, "globalization" is rapidly destroying those purer, better states of consciousness by corrupting these innocent societies with the evils of the West:
What Schiller really meant - and what the Chinese believe today - has largely been forgotten: superior intellect, wise politics, expert craftmanship, human prowess. For the Chinese, only what is true and good is also beautiful, says Jullien. Essayist Dave Hickey goes a step further. In his book "The Invisible Dragon", he describes how this "classical" stance is about to be driven out of the Chinese. They too are subject to the influence of academies, museums and universities. As in Europe, these institutions search for beauty in constructs and systems. But the Chinese no more believe in concepts than they do in making sacrifices to achieve an end. Their traditional view of beauty is a celebration of change, eternal circulation and transformation. And according to Hickey, this is precisely the opposite of everything rigid and statutory embodied by institutions.Let us summarize before we rebut. "Classical" Chinese attitudes toward beauty are under attack by the corrupting influence of Western "institutionalism," i.e., universities, academies, museums, etc. Those attitudes, far healthier than our own, hold that only "superior intellect, wise politics, expert craftsmanship, human prowess" are beautiful, things that are "true and good." But this is being lost, lost, as Western influence and globalization destroy the ancient Chinese wisdoms.
But this culture of the transformative is in retreat, and it is disappearing faster than people are aware of. As Chinese choreographer Jin Xing puts it: "Chinese bodies look weak in comparison with beautiful African bodies. And the Chinese don't have the overriding sense of envy and justice that makes bodies hard and people rich in the West."
Now to rebut.
1) Institutionalism is not new to China. Far from it. Modern Western culture, however, driven by "institutionalism," does not approach the Chinese love for the corporate and social construct. There is no institution in the West like the Chinese Communist Party, and the CCP embraces all aspects of life.
2) It is not true that the Chinese embrace only "what is true and good." In fact, the Chinese relationship to truth is this: social harmony is more important than truth. The truth is always to be avoided when it would create social discord. This, in personal relationships as in State affairs, is considered polite and proper, and is why I could never find out just when my next paycheck was coming when I lived there.
3) As for the beauty of "human prowess" and "excellent craftsmanship," academics are referred to the practice of foot-binding. "Fat sheep," indeed: both plump and helpless.
As always, I'll make my home and take my stand in the West.