Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Virtues of Communism

This is a great story.
I did a tour of China in 1997 and by pure luck got invited to some sort of official dinner with the Politburo of Jiangsu Province in Nanjing. What leaps out in the story linked to is:

Khrushchev was determined, ably seconded by Bulganin, to put us all ‘under the table.’ He and Bulganin proposed toast after toast in ‘pepper vodka’ and they kept eagle eyes on us, especially on George and Ray Crepault (the ‘wily French boy,’ as they called him) to make sure that it was ‘bottoms up’ each time. Someone said we drank eighteen toasts, but I wouldn’t know

In our case the Toronto Mayor, Mel Lastman at the time, had visited the week before. So there were toasts to Mel, to Toronto, of course to Norman Bethune, and to any other excuse for yet another shot paid for by the peasants of China.
To add to the toasting, my hosts insisted that I should, as the foreigner, be treated to a variety of foods that almost caused me to retch, including, the worst, a cooked turtle, which sat there looking like a turtle.
And in our case, perhaps less dignified than the Pearson team, I left the dinner arm in arm with the provincial premier, each of us claiming to be holding the other up.
My guide and I got out of that evening very good hotel rooms and service, so I cannot complain. But I will never forget picking away at the turtle body, being inspected by a dozen eyes insistent that I honor their generosity.


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