Impressions from a weekend in Yueyang

It had been a brief trip – a short distance, it takes about half an hour by train to arrive from Changsha in Yueyang. I had been there earlier, seeing the blueprints and architectural models of what I would visit now as reality already in place – surely part of the reality as it is about an ongoing development (can anywhere and any time be an end to development?).

Sunday morning, the second day of the weekend trip, 收件人 collects me from the hotel and we walk along the lake – although it is cold again, it is nice, especially after having made the first steps and warming up. A modern and clean area – the tennis court, a little lake with goldfish and golf course bring the notion of the “leisure society” to the fore.

After walking on for a while, I see some old houses, a bit stray from the development path – I write development path as the way we walked is part of the ongoing development programme that aims on attracting tourists – for me always a bit of a contradiction in terms, as I ask myself about the self-destructive potential: People come to an area because they are looking for nature, for some remoteness that allows retreating from the daily stress. Anyway, asking for these houses, is met with a question:

Do you want to walk a bit through the countryside?

And so we go, changing from the clean park-street to a more or less muddy pathway. After having walked there for some time an old man looks – a bit  – skeptical at us – his one hand holds the walking-stick; with the other he is looking after the plants.

My father would know all these plants – he grew up in the countryside.

收件人 says. And I want to know a bit more. He is from the real countryside whereas for the people here the little farming is an additional source of income – the elderly and the women doing the jobs “at home”, whereas the “male breadwinner” is working  in some industrial job, perhaps doing some farmwork in the evening. A bit further I see the rubble of destroyed cottages, the real development path: contrasting the old with the new, but more showing the contradictions between them. The rubble and a bit further the new houses – not really skyscrapers, but too high to easily count or estimate the number of stories. I ask where the people will live in the future.

The government provides apartments – and also some subsidies that makes it possible to pay the rent.

So far the new houses look neat – as long as one does not see the large squares  that had been there before; and one can truly acknowledge the greens, the new squares, the nearness to the lake, and the view on the mountains in the distance … – yes, and another feature is again and again delightful – the “monuments”: old stones, pagodas, tablets bearing the inscription of traditional and new poems …, integrating different perspectives.

Synchrony of times and cultures? – Changing the scene ?

We talk about the price of accommodation – those who lived here in the old cottages may gain nicer accommodation – and they get apparently also some support. Finally they need the compensation for the loss of the additional income of subsistence farming. – But is that compensation measurable in terms of money? Do they loose part of what was meaningful for them? Do they loose the burden of the heavy work?

收件人’s parents want to buy a new place and this brings us to a more general perspective which can be put into a nutshell:

  • government buildings, i.e. accommodation tat had been provided by the state,
  • had been replaced by accommodation owned by the employers: tough one did not live at the workplace, one lived in the accommodation provided by the owners of the workplace. Hearing about it, the old Krupp-settlements come to my mind: working for the Krupps, living in the houses the Krupps provided, and buying in the shops the Krupps owned.
  • The new stage of development is as matter of “freedom”: The market provides accommodation and the law of demand is the rule.

Isn’t it what we read in the Critique of the Gotha Program?

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Sure, in the light of the market it refers to the ability to pay, and the need to submit to the rules of competition. And this is major part of the individualism: personal disintegration, taking the form of the need to look after yourself stops all of us from looking for integrated solutions, going beyond the establishment of princedoms and princessdoms.

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