“Beijing Spirit”

Here is Beijing Spirit (as codified in a subway display ad):

Patriotism. Innovation. Inclusiveness. Virtue. Quite apart from the questions of who developed this formula, what the public purpose is, and whether anyone in the citizen audience for such encouragement pays even the remotest attention (and indeed, whether there is any reason that they ought to), I found this intriguing. I thought about this on several long walks between subway lines, and sandwiched among my fellow humans who were Going Places on the Beijing Metro.

I am all for sane and non-toxic forms of patriotism. I still love me some Canada as I learn to love the world.

Innovation is a grand thing, the yang to tradition’s yin. (Or vice versa.) Bring on the new; in China, for all its reverence for the 5000 years of civilization, change is a high-speed train. Wisdom is needed to keep it on the rails.

It’s hard to see any dark side to inclusiveness, so long as it’s about more than holding one’s nose in tolerant contempt – say, for the migrant workers who build the luxury highrises and supermalls – or smiling for the foreigners who buy and spend, and then muttering darkly about them in private.

Virtue seems such a quaint idea, and is all the more lovable and necessary for it. Chinese respect for virtue runs deep, and let’s hope it’s a renewable resource in this furiously competitive, deeply wary society.

Think. Ask. When does patriotism collide unkindly with virtue? Can it co-exist with inclusiveness? Must virtue and innovation be at odds, or can there be new and creative expressions of the truly and deeply good? (Pray for ‘yes’.)

These are thoughts from an afternoon on several subway lines.