The Ti Party

     A little over 2,300 years ago, Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor of China, ordered that the Great Wall be built, and that all the books written before his time be burned.
     This was the program of the original Ti Party.
     That program has not changed to this day.
     Far too much ink has been wasted recently on this so-called political movement.
     I hope to never write about these people again.
     But their goals, if they truly have goals, seem so closely modeled on Emperor Shih Huang Ti, I had to point it out.
     To build a wall around the country and to burn all the books that fail to glorify the Ti Party: That’s pretty much the program, right?
     Shih Huang Ti actually was more progressive than his epigones in the Ti Party. He was a patron of the arts. He ordered the construction of the enormous terracotta army, which was lost for 2,200 years until some farmers dug it up again in 1974.
     And he created China’s enormous road system, the first roads built on such a grand scale in the history of the world.
     Wasteful spending, I think we call it.
     There was even a birth certificate controversy about Shih Huang Ti.
     His enemies claimed he was not actually the son of King Zhaoxiang of Qin, but of a concubine and a rich merchant, Lu Buwei, who pimped her to the king after he had knocked her up.
     This is all true. Well, I’m not sure who Shih Huang Ti’s daddy was, but there really was a controversy about his birth.
     Some historians say Shih Huang Ti ordered the burning of the books and the destruction of the libraries to expunge all records of his dishonorable mother.
     Other scholars say he also prohibited the mention of death. He wanted to be immortal, and he was convinced he would find the key.
     Shih Huang Ti lived his last years as a recluse in an immense palace, with as many rooms as there are days in a year, convinced that its walls could protect him from the things he dared not name.
     So you see, nothing that the Ti Party blathers about today is new: their guilt about sex, the priapic obsession with national defense, the conviction that they have found the key to immortality, their wandering through labyrinths of their own device, their fear of scholars and learning.
     All we know for sure is that the modern Ti Party is not as progressive or enlightened as a Chinese emperor who died in 210 B.C.
     Speaking of palaces and ancient history, in his “History of the World Conqueror,” the Persian historian Ata Malik Juvaini wrote, around 1270, that Kublai Khan built his own immense palace from plans he saw in a dream. The palace was never finished.
     Five hundred and twenty-some years later, Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamed about Kublai’s palace, then awoke and wrote his great fragment of a poem, “Kubla Khan,” which was never finished either. Coleridge could not have known Juvaini’s history, as it had not been translated into English yet.
     Jorge Luis Borges asked, some 150 years after Coleridge, just what was going on.
     First Kublai Khan dreams about a palace, then starts to build it, but dies before it’s finished. Then Coleridge sees the palace in a dream and starts to write about it, but is interrupted, and the poem too remains a fragment.
     Borges asked if the palace could be a new idea that is “gradually entering the world.”
     From studying Shih Huang Ti, and Kublai Khan, and Juvaini, and Coleridge, and the Ti Party, I think we can see that Borges was wrong. Aside from science, there are no new ideas. And the fellows who come later, and claim to have new ideas, probably do not have as good an idea as the first guy did.
     First there was a dream and a fragment of a real palace; then a dream of a palace and a fragment of a poem. Now we’re back to building a wall around our country, and expunging history.
     Or rewriting it.
     Ignoring it.
     Same thing.

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