Thursday, April 28, 2011

Making an exhibition of yourself

I haven't written many new jokes this month - this is perhaps a flaw with spending my weekends hurling myself down hills or going to weddings.

(Actually, hurling suggests rather more commitment and determination - it's been more like hanging off the back of a bicycle trying not to die, but let's leave that aside for the moment.)

Still, perhaps I should have locked myself away in a garret somewhere and been very serious about one-liners. Given that my lacksidaisical work ethic means I only seem to think of funny things whilst in the shower, I'm not sure engaging in such purposive behaviour would net any better results. Or I'm not washing frequently enough.

One notionally amusing event this week was the Einstein exhibition. Not because some people seemed annoyed there were warnings children might be upset by the part covering the Holocaust. (Did they think the children shouldn't have been warned? Or did they feel children should be made of sterner stuff, emotionally invulnerable to the deaths of millions?)

No, the amusing bit was how the exhibition had changed as it travelled through mainland China. In Beijing, all reference to World War One was excised. Not much of WWI happened in China, from what I remember in school - it was principally a European conflict, although somebody may put me right on this. When it was over, China did have its German protectorates parcelled out between the victors, which can't be very nice. Rather like having two strangers come round to your house and one taking your furniture because the other person owed him money. But the usual form is for China to hype up its greivances, not cover them up. And if Einstein was at work in a Swiss patent office during WWI, then ... Well, the Swiss have always been a bit neutral. Maybe the Chinese are embarassed because the PLA's elite time travel division went over to Bern in 1918 and violated causality.

When it got to Shanghai, the exhibition wasn't big enough for the hall, which is a rather bizarre statement, either suggesting the planner didn't pay much attention, or he's a glass-half-full kind of guy. So to fill up space, they stuck a load of stuff about Confucius in there too.

Well, I guess they had a lot in common. One was a bloke with mental facial hair who defined time and space ... And the other was Einstein. Uh.

You can see why Confucius, telling people to respect their parents and the government, might be a popular figure for the rulers of China, but trying to identify him with Einstein is a bit of a leap. If nothing else, it seems a sign of insecurity - you couldn't possibly bear to have a smart guy from Europe commemorated, without having to bring up one of your own?

It's not like any other nation goes round rewriting history to suit its own requirements, is it?


I'd better shut up now.


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