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The most alien, shocking and awesome portion of the Opening were the mass routines. Part of this is cultural. The Koreans are good at these mass effects, and the Japanese too. It’s somewhat an East Asian thing. Historically these mass dances are designed to resemble machines. […]
That is our first reaction but I think it goes further than that. The 2008 fou drummers represent the We — the power of the collective. The West and particularly Americans have traditionally emphasized the Me — the individual. China is a culture more comfortable with the We than the Me, and here they were showing both the power of the We and its modern face — blinking LED drums. We once thought computers were about individuation, but these days we see they are about socialization as well.
More importantly, the social aspects of web 2.0 have shifted the center of gravity from Me to We. Witness books like Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. Here come 2008 Chinese drummers. The great uncertainty in the coming years is how far China will shift to the Me and how far the west will shift to the We. What the Opening Ceremonies opened up was the arrival of the We. What I heard in the pounding pulse of the drummers was not “Here come the Chinese,” but “Here comes everybody.”
Long after the winners of the gold metals are forgotten, these Olympic Opening Ceremonies will be bookmarked as the Opening Ceremonies for China itself.