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State of China speeches, etc.

Are jokes a sign that a totalitarian regime is crumbling? In East Germany, the regime actually encouraged jokes to give popular discontent a safety valve. Nevertheless it collapsed. In Nazi Germany, joking about the regime was very dangerous, but war brought an end to the regime. At first in Franco Spain, jokes would have been dangerous. Later they circulated, like this one: A foreign journalist went to Spain to find out the truth about the Franco regime. One fellow agreed to tell him, but insisted they meet secretly. The journalist then asked him "What do you think about Franco? Looking cautiously around, the fellow replied "To tell the truth, I like him".

What about China? Apparently conversation is fairly free, but jokes? The Chinese seem to have more sense of humor than the Japanese. Do they appreciate Paul Simon's jokes? He reports: "As an added chuckle, a brave Chinese academic this week publicly called for reform of the National People's Congress (Ren Da) of China, calling it a "rubber stamp retirement home". Meanwhile, one colleague told me that the "how to vote at the RenDa" instruction sheet has already been handed out to Congress members. My clever wife's "quip of the week" is "any place that calls itself a People's Republic has little to do with either"

Ronald Hilton - 2/2/02