London security forces were on high alert at the Games. Only they missed the ticking time bomb left behind. In addition to the luminous pyrotechnics was the lurking challenge to the West: Will you continue to dominate the world or will China?
No one announced it exactly that way, but it seems clear by the staggering difference between the two opening ceremonies. The Brits had fun, the Chinese were deadly serious. The Brits celebrated individual accomplishments, the Chinese staged a lockstep image of military precision. The Brits featured children at play, the Chinese featured them at work.
The Brits seemed comfortable in their historical skin whereas the Chinese had something to prove. And they did! The Beijing Games were a spectacle of success achieved by striving shoulder to shoulder, while the Brits took time to show how success is often a personal not a patriotic affair.
So is the rest of our century to be a historic competition between Western Capitalism and Chinese Collectivism? Is our 2012 election about the relative merits of rugged individual versus state planning?
Frankly it's likely most of today's voters have scant understanding of capitalism and collectivism. But maybe here's a hint. In the midst of the opening ceremony's celebration of capitalism throughout the centuries, 20% of the time celebrated the Brit's best example of collectivism: National Health Program.
Funny, that idea's been around the West ever since Bismarck at the turn of the 20th C. Yet half of Americans still see it as something too new and different to adopt. Thus the debate will keep ticking...
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