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The Great Leap Forward

November 14
12:00 2012

ERIC CHAET

(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)

During the Great Leap Forward
Yang Jisheng’s father starved to death—
he says in his recent book
that it seemed to him a petty misfortune
compared with the Chinese people’s great advance
into a just & prosperous Communist society—
but it looks different to him now—
in those days, Mao sent orders down thru the ranks
&, up thru the ranks, came false statistics
proving that what Mao ordered had been achieved—
while millions died—
&, now, the Communist Party rules
hundreds of millions struggling to get enough money
to provide for themselves
while a few million entrepreneurs get rich
or the sons or daughters of entrepreneurs—
or nearly get rich before their competitors eat them alive—
while the fees & taxes & interest go
to financiers in Shanghai or Hong Kong or London or New York
or to the heirs of slave owners or opium dealers
who invest in the financiers’ funds
or to Party members in Beijing or provincial capitals.

I lived thru that period on the South Side of Chicago, USA—
I went to a violent & ignorant school
the kind they’re still talking about getting rid of once & for all
I had to run a gauntlet of thugs each day for years—
the city was run by a legal mafia
democracy was who was strongest & best funded, like now
& who could convince the most people of something untrue
that would cause them briefly to believe, & vote them in—
what we believed was happening, wasn’t—
something more terrible was happening—
tho you still won’t read about it—
& it’s like that now, here, too.

It was like that in Russia, then, too—
the Siberian slave camps for dissidents, then a secret
are well known, now—
but what it’s like in Russia now, I doubt that many realize
whether rulers or ruled
or those running around in frantic circles between them—
whether brainwashed or suspicious & resentful.

From what I’ve read & from my experience
I think it’s like that approximately everywhere, always—
(oh, there are glorious, exceptional people & events—
I hope I am addressing an exceptional person
& that more & more people become exceptional)—
but by & large:
some are born into wealth & privilege
& taught that they’ve earned what they have
by their wiser choices than the choices of the squalid & needy—
& many who live in want, it’s true
have self-destructive attitudes & habits—
some manage to climb in among the prosperous
but never dare relax, seek out facts, consider
what the competition they fought their way up thru implies—
some get rich while many struggle
or can’t even keep up the struggle—
some manage to survive long enough
gradually to realize what they’ve lived thru
while most never realize—
& among those who realize
some manage to improve their situations to some degree
tho many never do
&, maybe, some manage to improve the situation
that involves them & others, too—
I hope so, I’m trying—
I hope I’m not still operating on the fumes
of programming by teachers & officials & boys with fists
or programming by deluded, egotistical rebel authors.

But those who manage to improve situations
for others as well as themselves
however temporarily
are approximately never the ones
featured on so-called “news” reports
or awarded prizes for having done it
or hired or elected to do it—
& it has to be done while mainly they struggle to survive
in need, & in the midst of injustice & constant misinformation
& deep, pervasive misunderstanding.

Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, & warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA.  Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways.  1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994.  2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.  Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires.  Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation. 

You can contact him at the Leave a Reply box on each page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <http://www.ericchaet.wordpress.com>.

Find Chaet’s book, People I Met Hitchhiking USA Highwaysand read a review written hereSee also, There’s still a little breath in the old American RevolutionOn Job Creationand Stalin.

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