President Nancy welcomed us to Zoomland at 12:30 PM sharp and called for the “volunteer” to lead the Pledge to the Flag. The coward not in attendance, President Nancy leaned into the Pledge herself and got us rolling.
PP Mike Newman stepped forward with a Thanksgiving Prayer, giving thanks for all our blessings (like Rotary) and asking for help and strength in this time of pandemic. He also asked blessings for our leaders and Peace and Goodwill among the citizenry.
PP Admiral Edwin Gauld regaled us with a song appropriate to the occasion. “We Gather Together” is an Old Dutch hymn I love, but I did not know was a celebration of the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in 1597, so it is certainly appropriate both for the Pilgrim holiday and our ongoing election.
President Nancy welcomed us all to the “Warm and Friendly…” and shouted out to District 5280 Governor-Elect Guity Javid who was zooming with us. She then announced that our Christmas Shopping Spree with the children of the Salvation Army Transitional Housing Center will be a Zoom on November 30 and not our traditional bus ride with the kids on a Thursday night. Donations and chaperones are requested, so please respond by Email to president Nancy. There will be a dinner for the kids on December 10. Everything will be virtual this year,
so step up and sign up without fear!
Since we’re “dark” next week due to the holiday, president Nancy announced her “Rotarian of the Month” early. Terry M. White was her excellent choice and no surprise to any of the PPs of the past decade who have relied on Terry for his vast knowledge of WVRC history and financial rules. Even though he recently retired from Bachelorhood, he has continued to serve as our Treasurer.
Tom Barron, our accomplished Program Chair, was called upon to introduce our Speaker for the Day. Tom, who has enlivened our “year of the Pandemic” with many excellent and eclectic speakers, again did not disappoint as he introduced Robert Wang, author of The Opium Lord’s Daughter which won an Independent Press Award for Multicultural Fiction. Robert was born in Japan of Chinese descent and raised in Hong Kong before he migrated to the US. Realizing that most of us knew nothing about the opium wars of the 1840’s, he proceeded by giving us a quick description of the history leading to this era.
It was a time of China’s trade wars and a time of massive opiate addiction promoted by Western trading companies and governments—and eerily similar to today. The English Navy ruled the seas and English demand for Chinese tea, porcelain, clothing, and other consumer goods was inexhaustible. Chinese merchants, unfortunately, only accepted silver in payment and English demand far exceeded their silver supply. The British East India Company decided to grow opium in India and sell it for silver to the Chinese who became addicted. Thus, William Jardine and James Matheson created massive fortunes which persist to this day by creating 12 million Chinese addicts.
The corrupt Chinese government at the time was too weak to resist for very long. They tried to lock up the imported opium, but this “seizure of British assets” was the cause of a close vote in Parliament where the traders prevailed. War was declared, the Royal Navy quickly dispatched the meagre Chinese fleet, and the British claimed four good harbors for their trade, including Hong Kong—in perpetuity. Thus commenced the “100 years of shame” for the weak Chinese
government. Only in 1997 were Hong Kong and Macau returned to China. This awful thievery was a great humiliation to the Chinese and is still used to justify later Chinese imperialistic ventures to this day. Of course, the People’s Republic with 1.4 Billion population certainly has little to fear from the West these days and most of its brutalities are inflicted on its own citizens. In any case, the ugliness of the British and American traders’ tactics, in particular, can at least remind us of our own misdeeds abroad these past 180 years. Even our beloved FDR’s grandfather is said to have reaped great fortunes there in that era.
The author’s presentation was well-received, but he told us nothing of the book’s plot, leaving it all to our lurid imaginations. He stayed late for our questions and maintained an apolitical stance all the while, to his credit. Although much of Chinese culture is greatly admired here in Los Angeles, including the immigrants who settle here, the PRC is clearly the only serious competitor the US faces in all the geopolitical landscape. I wonder if The Opium Lord’s Daughter can be purchased in the PRC?
Meeting notes prepared by PP Dwight Heikkila