The Way of the West | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Way of the West 

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To the editors:

(Re 10/4/91 article on Chinese composer)

It's interesting how things are becoming sharper, clearer. Barriers are down and yes, we do see through things. Democracy is the word. Everywhere there must be democracy as in the West, the free, democratic West. Composer, musician Bright Sheng, from China, is at home here in residency at the Lyric. He likes the freedom of the West. Naturally. Here he is courted, will be raised above his fellowman because he is talented. In the West, all the talented are above others, raised to stardom, applauded, happy. But he is blessed, for even in China he was saved from going into the countryside to labor communally with other citizens because Madame Mao had a soft spot for the arts. Yes. The awfulness of laboring with others, those common, poor folk who have no talents, nothing special about them, who were born to labor for us all, to reproduce themselves and then to die quietly. He was saved in China. And now he is in the West, the democratic West, where we are all free to develop our talents; no one labors here who is not a beast by nature. But he says he yearns, remembers something, what? Another freedom? Maybe a freedom that comes from thousands of years of culture flowing through him. Poetry and philosophy that lauds not the ephemeral individuality each of us has, but the grand anonymity of humanhood of which we are only a part. The ground under him held his ancestors' bones. There was once something more than himself. He mentions his mother. She was China, the link. But he rejects that matriarchal umbilical cord. He will choose Daddy, the way of the West, democracy, the chance to be free, an individual at last, wealthy, famous, admired, untethered, without responsibility, without a past and with a future shining like an axe. We can all choose that. It is what is offered. Believe me.

Raymonde Oliverus

Chicago

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