[Photo from Clive Rose/Getty Images]
Generally, the opening ceremonies at this summer's Olympic games in Beijing have received plaudits and accolades from around the world. Oh, there was a bit of sniping as to how some of the fireworks may have been digital simulations, but overall, the ceremonies were considered a magnificent tribute of China's creative and technological prowess.
It wasn't easy. The ceremonies involved a cast and crew of some 15,000 people. They required a great deal of "sacrifice and suffering." Some of the "performers were injured, fainted from heatstroke or forced to wear adult diapers so the show could go on."
Gillian Wong, writing for the Associated Press, tells of martial arts student, Cheng Jianghua, who was one of 2,200 "carefully chosen pugilist prodigies" who performed at the opening ceremonies. Cheng and his pals "spent an average of 16 hours a day, every day, rehearsing a synchronized tai-chi routine involving high kicks, sweeping lunges and swift punches. They lived for three months in trying conditions at a restricted army camp on the outskirts of Beijing."
Not a few performers said their training was so difficult it left them with various injuries sustained "from slipping during rain-drenched rehearsals or fainting from heat-stroke amid hours of training under the relentless summer sun."
But it was worth it, says 17-year old Ren Yang. "When we performed that night, all that I could feel in my heart was joy. Pure joy."
I can't help wondering if American youth would accept orders to train in such a rigorous manner; to quietly accept injuries acquired during training; to live in a "restricted" barracks far from the action; to wear adult diapers to ensure that the "show could go on"; all for the glory of the country that is the United States.
Perhaps here is a clue to the difference between the two countries. In China, a totalitarian country, the state is all. In China, the state is the object of adoration and respect; the individual's worth is directly related to his/her value to the objectives of the state.
In the United States, hypothetically, at least, the individual comes first. We the people form the government; we are the government. The state has value only in so far as it serves the needs of the people. If the government should fail in its duty to serve the people, we have the constitutional right to overthrow the government and install another in its place.
I think I like our system better.