Friday, November 5, 2021

What Was Elon Musk Thinking?

The twitterverse is abuzz with speculation. It is even more abuzz in China where twitter is banned and where the poem was posted on a site called Weibo. What was Elon Musk thinking when he posted an old poem in Chinese? Since everyone is speculating, we feel empowered to add to the din.

For those who know more Mandarin than I do, here is the original:






— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 2, 2021

As for the English translation, here is one version:

Beanstalks are burned to boil beans,

The beans in the pot scream out.

We are born of the same root,

Why should we incinerate each other with such irritation?”

Dare I say that the translation does not illuminate the issue overly.

So, here is one way to place it in context:

The allegorical poem, which has two main versions, is credited to poet Cao Zhi (曹植) and was reputedly published in 430 CE. The legend behind the poem is well known in China and generally goes something like this: 

Emperor Cao Pi (曹丕) is suspicious that his brother Cao Zhi intends to overthrow his rule and summons the poet to prove his loyalty. The emperor demands that Cao Zhi write a poem before finishing seven steps to convince him of the poet’s innocence. 

It’s about a family dispute, a bit of sibling rivalry. An emperor believed that his brother wanted to overthrow him. He commanded his brother to write a poem that would make manifest his innocence.

Apparently, the metaphor involves two beans that are together boiling in a pot. The one says to the other: we came from the same bean stalk-- that is, we had the same father-- so we should not and cannot destroy each other. That means, the anger we feel boiling up in us does not come from within; it comes from an external source.

In short, sibling rivalry makes no real sense, so it cannot be real.

And then, we will add a comment from Reuters, via Zero Hedge:

The poem describes "the relationship between two brothers from a royal family during China's warring Three Kingdoms period that is taught in all of China's primary schools about the importance of getting along", Reuters wrote.

Obviously, Chinese readers have been pondering this tweet, which was posted on a Chinese site, Weibo. They have been reading it in terms of Musk’s relationship with the Chinese government. Given that he manufactures Teslas in Shanghai, the point is reasonable.

And yet, consider the alternatives. In Chinese primary schools the poem is taught in order to show children the importance of getting along. In American primary schools today, no one teaches the importance of getting along. Children are more likely to learn one or another form of today’s dominant oppression narrative, and to learn to hate themselves, to hate each other, to hate their country, to feel and to stoke antagonism. At times, teachers teach the lesson through critical race theory. At other times, they are imposing leftist ideologies. In all cases children are taught that they should not get along.

To me, this notion has a specific relevance. I cannot guarantee that Musk was thinking about the fact that I am currently finishing a longish manuscript on the importance of getting along. (Not being well versed in Chinese poetry, I took Rodney King as my inspiration.)

I surmise that Elon Musk is not aware of my manuscript or even of this blog, though, after all, you never know? If it is mere serendipity, I am still happy to count him with Rodney King among those who recognize the primary and fundamental importance of getting along. 

1 comment:

Bizzy Brain said...

Save your ink. You can convince everyone in the world that it's important to get along, but they still won't do it.