Alain Tanner’s movie Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000 and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey described futures that are now bygone past. The year 2525 is forever connected to the song In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans, but unfortunately, none of us will have the opportunity to find out if their prophecy becomes reality – unless you believe in reincarnation.
However, the year 2022, at least for German-speaking folks of a certain age, evokes immediate associations with the Hollywood movie Jahr 2022 – Die überleben wollen (The Year 2022 – Those who want to survive). In the movie, produced in 1973, Charlton Heston plays a detective in a dystopian world where the rich and powerful – man – still live in apartments with air condition and in-door female bed-fellows, whereas the vast majority barely survives in slums on hand-outs of “Soylent Green”, the stuff which gives the title in the original English version. With the help of his notebook, a human being as paper is not available anymore, played by the great Edward G. Robinson in his very last roll, he finds out the brutal truth: Soylent Green is not made of Soybeans and Lentils, as there are no more plants or animals on Earth, but from the flesh of the deceased. Hunted down himself, Heston’s last cry to mankind is: “Tell everybody: Soylent Green is human flesh!”
Watching the movie today, the 1970s apparel and hair styles look odd, and the problems of the climate catastrophe are reduced to the lack of food. However, with the experience of mankind of the horrible years of 2020 and 2021 and the anxiety about this coming year 2022 in mind, the protesters, which are taken away by the police with gigantic shovel dredgers, look eerily familiar.
Cannibalism is, according to Lu Xun, a practice that is ideologically supported by Confucianism. The writer, one of the leading forces of the democratic movement of the 1920s, used to be among the few authors which were still published after 1949, as Mao called him the best modern Chinese author. He died early enough in 1936 before he had to decide if he really wanted to support the Communists or not. When your humble editor in the late 1980s had the – not very lucrative – the privilege of being the wholesaler of Chinese books in the German language from the People’s Republic of China for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Lu Xun’s books, including The Story of Ah Q, which provides the discussion of the relation between Confucianism and cannibalism, was about the only readable Chinese fiction translated into German published by the Foreign Language Press in Beijing.
Nowadays, Lu Xun has disappeared from the curricula and bookshelves in China and Confucianism, once identified by the Communist Party of China as the root of China’s problems, is again revered as an important part of Chinese heritage. Cannibalism in the literate sense of the movie fortunately disappeared – shall we say: for the moment – from human society (at least I was told so visiting Borneo some years ago from people who ought to know).
Cannibalism in the sense of Lu Xun, preventing for instance vaccines against the SARS-2 CoV pandemic to be distributed equally around the world, is still very much with us.
This is the last issue of COTRI Weekly for 2021 before we go into our Christmas break. The coming year 2022 certainly looks like a box of chocolates, to paraphrase Forrest Gump: You never know what you’re gonna get. Let’s hope the tourism pralines of 2022 will be sweet and creamy and not filled with chilli, mustard or worse, as has been all too often in the chocolate boxes of the last two years.
We are of course on standby for a special edition of COTRI Weekly if any Black Swan event will happen, like the frictions within the Communist Party resulting in a coup d’etat or a civil war or a winter flood sweeping away the skyscrapers of Pudong, or, even less probable, the opening of the borders before Chinese New Year.
With all the best wishes for a healthy and profitable New Year from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI WEEKLY team, looking forward to see you (hopefully not only on a screen) in 2022!