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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Don’t Get Angry, Get Embarrassed.

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been to America once, and God love it (which I’m told He does) I do want to live there and would spend many happy days in Maspeth, where I stayed courtesy of my friends Dan and Zoe, and watch the evening sky, at first blood red, then cool through the infrared spectrum to a dark, velvet, Guinness black.  The Manhatten skyline – still something that you can’t quite think “men made that” – of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State and the Brooklyn Bridge would be mere silhouettes that melt into the blackness of the night sky.  All of the Disneyesque poeticism pulls into stark contrast the Stephen King nightmare that is dealing with American airlines and American Homeland Security.

My time in America was a fantastic experience bookended by simply the worst travel experience known to humanity.  An experience that would make cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse feel loved.  Rarely have I been made to feel like a criminal in any airport in the world.  Even at Osaka airport, where I was fingerprinted, photographed, medically examined for fear of carrying H1N1 into the country and subject to intense investigation (I was the only foreigner with the documents that supported a one year work permit in the country), I was made to feel at home, wanted and looked after.  The elderly airport official who said “please” about 30 times in the first 10 minutes was polite, knew his stuff, and stood next to me like the grandfather I barely knew as I jumped through all the necessary hoops to get into the country.  Of course, the whole procedure took longer than any airport that I’ve been to, but it was the politeness, the feeling that someone was taking an interest, and the awareness that both of us where at the mercy of a massive administrative machine that made the whole thing much easier.

And in America, I met Seattle Bill.

Bill was fat.  Bill was big and fat.  In fact, almost everyone in America is big and fat.  I don’t mean that they are all doubly fat, I mean that for their height, they are fat.  Bill towered over me, I was eye to eye with what I imagined would be the arcing red, sweated crease in his skin underneath his last rib bone, where  – if he were shirtless – you would see the clear demarcation line between his ribcage and his unsupported intestinal tract.  He was nineteen feet in height and two  Isuzu People Carriers in width.  BP could’ve drilled for oil in his cleavage.  The unfortunate demography of his lower abdomen had forced him to buckle his trousers around his pubic bone, at roughly the point where pubic hair becomes belly hair.  His stomach muscles had long given up on keeping his gut in check, and I wondered how many steps up a flight of stairs he would need before he fell over backwards clutching his chest.

From his waist upwards, he was a big man.  From below the belthoops of his trousers, he was the stallion of a man that his wife had married thirty years, six million Happy Meals and a four million Cokes  ago.  He also had enough weaponry hanging off his low slung belt that would make Simon Mann think ‘that’s a little too much’.  When asked a perfectly reasonable question by one of the Chinese businessmen behind me – “why are there only two immigration officers?  Why do we have to wait?” – Bill pointed a chubby finger as a thick as a sausage and said through pursed lips with a John Wayne locked jaw “They’ll be ready…when I’m ready”.  He waddled off, the miniature shockwaves of his footsteps sent ripples over his tightly clad buttocks.  He presumably went to get a doughnut.

The flight from Beijing to Seattle dumped me in Seattle at 6:40am.  Thanks to the super high tech Homeland Security I made it through immigration in a mere two hours and fifteen minutes.  I had missed my flight by an hour.  The next flight that I could arrange left Seattle at 5pm, went through a time warp, and dumped me at New York JFK around 11pm.  The flight back from New York to Beijing wasn’t fun either, have been delayed for an entire 27 hours in Seattle airport.  The problem was that in America relies on people that have power but no responsibility.

Chris Rock tells a joke in his stand-up routine that he lives in an area that has house owned by Eddie Murphy, Mary J. Bilge, Jay-Z and a white dentist.  Which is exactly the same as the situation here in China, substituting black folks for Chinese, and er, keeping the white folks.  To be a white man in China, as it is in America, is to have won the lottery of life.

I live in a 68 square meter apartment that I pay 3300rmb per month for (330UKP there abouts).  I come from Manchester, UK, work as an English teacher and earn 14000rmb per month, with about 700rmb tax, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, have no intention of paying off my minor student loan, and live quite happily with few money worries apart from the dent that my annual trip to see the folks is going to put in my bank account.  I speak a little bit of high school Spanish, have intermediate Chinese  and do a little of everything from writing the occasional article in a little known magazine that nobody reads, to teaching people to speak English.  In the last years, I’ve returned home for 3 weeks, taken a 10 day vacation in New York, took a month off to visit friends in Chengdu, whilst traveling to Kunming and Lijiang, return back to my apartment in downtown Beijing, and continued working my rather dull job.  When I got suspicious about a lump growing on my lip last month I immediately went to the Hong Kong International Hospital at the Swissotel in Dongsishitiao and happily paid 680rmb to be told that I have a “lesion on lower lip” and was duly given a course of B multivitamins.

A very close friend of mine studied for her master’s degree in Manchester, speaks fluent English and Chinese, and has a prestigious position in a growing African-Chinese company.   She lives on the outskirts of town, is always looking for a roommate to help with the rent, and hasn’t been out of the country for pleasure since she graduated 8 years ago.  Over weekend she was sick, and is considering going to a doctor if she her condition doesn’t improve.  Needless to say, she’s Chinese and I’m not.

China has been taken over by the morals and values crowd, with the censorship of the Internet and the purge of pornography to create a “healthy online environment”, the failed implementation of the Green Dam software, the scrubbing of critical posts about the government and the house arrests of “subversives”.  Quite frankly, the government of China’s morals and values would have more resonance if the Chinese government actually knew what morals and values were, which I don’t think they do.  I don’t really mean that as an insult, but the belief that every Chinese person is heterosexual, that people don’t like looking at pornography (they do) and that in China don’t really knows what’s going on, or that people in China believe that an apartment in China can be rented for twelve dollars isn’t a moral or a value.  It’s just stupid.  What they’re really talking about are superstitions, traditions, fears and personality cults.  Real morals are honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance.  The others are just bullshit issues that the Chinese government uses to justify its legitimacy.

Morals and values are choices that we make about how to treat other people.  And they can be measured.  They can be measured in the way we see people treat other people, and of course, the Chinese government, with its institutionalized torture, abuse, harassment of journalists, bloggers, and other free speech advocates, endless transparent propaganda, victimization and other downright out and out lies have shown that their morals do not include treating people like human beings.  We have found out this week, the exact extent to which the Chinese government values the basic rights that, in most modern countries in the first quarter of the 21st Century, we take for granted.  Western journalists have been openly threatened, investigations have been whitewashed, and censorship has tightened, all in the name of the Chinese Communist Party – the last bastion of rhetoric that last saw the light of day behind closed doors in 1950’s USSR.  When did you last hear a sentence that included “the masses”?  1962?  Khrushchev?  Trotsky?  Well, it was actually last week when Wen Jiao Bao made his speech to the NPC.

Chinese people have it easy.  They don’t really have to think that much.  They aren’t really taught to think that much, and anyone who has ridden any subway and has seen Chinese people bemused by the ticket machines, the thought of giving people the vote in China is a terrifying prospect.  When people offer some such pro-democracy comment thinly disguised as “power to the people”, I often find myself asking the question, “what people?  These assholes?”.  Chinese people are often the first to leap to their country’s defense, citing economic progress, healthcare, literacy, the rise in living standards, confused that they shouldn’t be angry at their country, since they have really only done things that their parents could dream about.  Angry is the wrong emotion.  Chinese people shouldn’t be angry about their country or their leadership.  The Chinese, like American people, shouldn’t hate their country – they should be embarrassed by it.

China’s Revolution Needs Supersizing

March 1, 2011 Leave a comment

move along, nothing to protest about here

Chinese citizens were told to shout “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness, referencing rising food and housing prices, the overqualified and underpaid ant-tribe, and massive government corruption and cronyism that has dogged the Chinese government since its inception.

While the protests in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain were gathering momentum, I found myself hoping that the same wouldn’t happen in China.  If it did, I explain on Facebook, the government crackdown would make Gadhafi’s violent response look like a paintballing outing for extremely nervous insurance salesmen.  The choice of venues (KFC and McDonalds) neatly illustrates the pampered nature of the Angry Young Men of China – we can have a protest, but we really need to go somewhere where we can get some food later on, possibly with a the local neighborhood American diplomat.

Suffice to say that the Chinese didn’t really grasp the nettle and give an all-out protest on the same scale as their Egyptian and Libyan counterparts.   A number of factors conspired against them a) they publicized the whole thing on Twitter which is banned in China, b) the Chinese authorities are stupid, but they’re not too stupid not to use Twitter to keep tabs on troublemakers c) they used Google Maps to pinpoint exactly were the protests were being held.  It was, to borrow one of Hannibal Lecter’s lines, a fledging protestor’s first attempt at a transformation, and not that great a success.  That said, at least the members of one of the world’s largest standing armies had something to other than stand.

The authorities didn’t really do themselves any favors either.  Fearing massive negative publicity, they duly phoned up every reporter in the city and told them not to go anywhere near Wangfujing or Tiananmen Square without special permission – which is a little like telling a two year old not to press, under any circumstances, the big red button with “danger – do not press” written in yellow and red letters above it.  If anyone should be arrested for subverting state power, it’s the Chinese idiots who spread news to the people who didn’t even know there was news in the first place to be spread.  It’s also given officials, as the 9/11 terror attacks in American gave the American officials, more wiggle room to collect in one place all the troublemakers, and any excuse to tighten the rules is a good excuse.

While their tactics have been quite simple, they have been quite effective – no one can argue that spraying water from a street cleaning van is a more acceptable than an M1 tank rumbling down the Wang Fu Jing.  If the dissidents get the idea that the most they have to deal with is getting a little bit wet (which, admittedly for Chinese people is on the same level as contracting leprosy) every weekend, they may get that little bit bolder.  It’s a shame that the Chinese police didn’t deal with the foreign news media.  Nothing makes a western report moist with anticipation more than a protest in China, but nothing eats up column inches like reports of Chinese police beating the living daylights out of foreign reporters and illegally detaining those covering a protest in China.

Fantastic Prizes to be Won!!

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Taiwanese animators at the Apple Daily and NMA weighed in with their satirical short film “China Creates Peace Price to Rival Nobel” and “Li Xiao Bo: A Story of Hope and Struggle” both of which skewer the political miswranglings of China’s finest diplomatic minds.

Not wanting to be outdone, the Chinese responded to pressure from, er, the Norwegians, by awarding a it’s own citizens with prizes for outstanding achievement in the fields of harmony and peace.  The World Harmony Award, created by the World Harmony Foundation was awarded to none other than Chi Haotian, a Chinese general who had orchestrated the troops at Tian’anmen Square in 1989, encouraged Chinese people to fire on women and children on the battlefield (although what women and children are doing on the battlefield is anyone’s guess), and drew up plans for a Chinese invasion and occupation of the USA:

Our military battle preparation appears to aim at Taiwan, but in fact is aimed at the United States, and the preparation is far beyond the scope of attacking aircraft carriers or satellites. Marxism pointed out that violence is the midwife for the birth of the new society. Therefore war is the midwife for the birth of China’s century.

Er.  Go China?

U.N. Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs lent a certain weight to the award ceremony to the insane old man honorable CCP cadre, by gently handing it to him, rather than smashing him over his wrinkled old noggin with it and doing us all a favour by putting him out of our misery.  Needless to say, the UN’s Human Rights High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay, declined to attend the award ceremony for Liu Xiaobo in Oslo

Furthering the cause of peace in the troubled province of Taiwan was the aim of the Confucius Peace Prize, which was duly awarded to Lien Chan of the KMT – who promptly denied ever hearing of it, as was told to the Taipei Times:

“We’ve never heard of such an award and of course Mr Lien has no plans to accept it,” said Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), director and spokesman of Lien’s office.

The KMT yesterday also denied having any knowledge of the the award, but defended his contributions to cross-strait developments.

“The KMT is not aware of the news and it would be more appropriate to comment on the matter after we make sure there’s such an award and learn the details,” KMT Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said.

Since Chan wasn’t sure if the award even existed, he didn’t attend the award ceremony (described as “chaotic” and “hastily organised” by attendees) so the glass…thing was given to a young Chinese girl with ponytails instead, because, of course, Chinese girls “symbolize peace and future”.

The whole pointless, posturing fiasco is best summed up by the inimitable James Fallows at The Atlantic:

South African officials eventually looked back with regret on the years in which they jailed Mandela; while racial inequalities are still with us in America, even Glenn Beck pays honor to Martin Luther King. Let’s hope Liu and his family live to see the day when official China can look back with regret on its decisions at this time.