Couldn't help but recall this quote, attributed to Napoleon, while recently viewing portions of the 1937 film version of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. While there is both much justifiable praise and criticism of this work, I was struck by the following text appearing at the beginning of the film, which of course is speaking to the imminent role of China as an ally in the struggle against Japan:
THE SOUL OF A GREAT NATION
IS EXPRESSED IN THE LIFE OF
ITS HUMBLEST PEOPLE. IN THIS
SIMPLE STORY OF A CHINESE FARMER
MAY BE FOUND SOMETHING OF THE
SOUL OF CHINA. ITS HUMILITY, ITS
COURAGE, ITS DEEP HERITAGE FROM
THE PAST AND ITS VAST PROMISE
FOR THE FUTURE.
At the time, of course, neither Chinese Nationalists nor Communists could imagine the "vast promise for the future" that China would eventually take post-1979, and its enormous force in the current global economy. It also occurred to me that the film "Mother India", twenty years later, borrowed heavily from visual representations of suffering peasantry as portrayed in The Good Earth. Well, as for China's future, imagined circa 1937, or even as peasants starved there in the late 50's, "who'da thunk it"?