Over the last two years I have been copying articles originally only published at Magic City, to my own website. I recently came across the following story for which I can find no record on the old Kingscalendar website, and so I will publish it here on the new site and in doing so, hope that you will enjoy it.
Originally published on February 25, 2007 under the title name: “What is There to Like about Living in China?”
It’s 4:36am Sunday 25th February 2007, and I’m sitting at my computer and I’ve just finished reading various news media from Australia, China, Israel and Magic City. Why 4:36am? It’s a long story.
Yesterday lunchtime I arrived back in Wuhan from a week away in the countryside to celebrate Chinese New year with friends and family.
On Friday I had planned to travel from the small village in which I was staying, to Hong Hu, from whence I had planned to travel by bus to Wuhan. Experience has taught me that it is better to buy your ticket and start your journey from the Main Bus Terminal there, than try to board anywhere else along the route to Wuhan. I had wanted to set off at 8am, but was told by my friend that we should leave after 10am breakfast. Furthermore, he informed me that we would travel with Aunty and Uncle who would be travelling that way in a motorized rickshaw. This it seemed would save us a 30 minute walk to the main road.
Well, 10am came and went and we sat on the porch of the farm house waiting for a rickshaw to come by. 11am, Midday, and 1pm came and went as well as we waited for a rickshaw to pass by. At 1:30pm, father finally decided to drag out the tractor, and our little group set off up the several kilometre long pock marked bumpy dirt road heading toward the bitumen and cement main road. That journey by tractor certainly turned out to be well worth the wait, for it was quite a slow trip with ample time to take in the scenic splendor on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. Of course, many locals walking on the main road, and many people in passing cars and buses also enjoyed our trip, finding it amusing to see a Laowai sitting on a handful of straw on the side of the tractor trailer.
20 minutes or so later, we arrived at another Aunty’s house, where I was introduced, and shortly thereafter, my friend and I, realising that all the passing buses were full, hailed a taxi that was returning to Xindi from Fengkou. We were quite lucky, because it already had a passenger, so we were only charged 30 yuan for the both of us, and as the Driver drove like he was flying a Lear Jet, we made Xindi (Hong Hu) in no time flat.
The unanticipated late hour of arrival at my destination meant that I had no time to do several things that I wanted, and after a nice dinner, a long walk, and a massage, I returned to the hotel room to sleep. Unfortunately, sleep was not that easily forthcoming that evening, and as the only bus seat that I could procure for my trip home yesterday left at 7:40am, I was very tired by the time I got home.
As soon as I entered my apartment, I threw a load of washing into the machine, and took a nice hot shower. When I emerged, the phone rang, and a friend informed me that he was in Wuhan and was coming to stay with me the night, and would arrive at 6pm. I immediately went to my kingscalendar email account and set about transporting the 800 trash emails off to the trash bin while reading through the 30 or so other emails in my hotmail account.
With that done, I ran down the road, ate some KFC, and returned home to catch up on some sleep. An hour and a half later I woke up and noted it was 5 pm, and decided that I could not afford to fall back to sleep, as I needed to do some shopping before my friend arrived. At 6pm on the dot, he phoned to tell me he would arrive at 10pm. Mmmm! I could have slept another hour or so!
By 8pm I was ready to drop off to noddy land, but fought the urge because I knew that once my friend arrived and disturbed my sleep, I would have trouble going back to sleep. At 10:15pm as I was turning off the TV and computer and heading off to bed (determined to ignore him if he came banging on my door later in the evening), my guest arrived.
It wasn’t half obvious that I was asleep on my feet, so he did not argue when I informed him that I was going to bed and so was he, and that he needn’t think of using the computer or watching TV as I was desperate to sleep and had no intention of being kept awake by the lights the noise or the knowledge of him walking around my apartment. Submissively, he did what he was told.
I then pulled out the phone, turned off the lights, climbed into bed, breathed a heavy sigh, and waited…and waited…and waited to fall asleep. No such luck. I was a little angry, and my mind would not be still. About 1am I got up and had some biscuits and coffee, and at about 4am took a hot shower, followed by more coffee plus toast and a cigarette or two. Yes I know! Coffee and cigarettes are stimulants! But really they have no such effect on me! It’s just that I have trouble falling asleep.
Finding myself feeling fresh and relaxed but not ready to sleep, I sat down to read the news. The last two items were from Magic City, and this brings me to why I like living in China. Every so often, even at Magic City, I read articles heavily weighted against China. Now in the good old days when I was just a plain simple racist that had only ever lived in a White Western Country, I would probably have read those anti Chinese articles and given a nod of approval, but these days, being a racist (or so the emails say) who actually lives in China, I find it fascinating that so many westerners have such a negative image of China.
Now if you believe the ‘hype,’ China is an oppressive totalitarian state that governs through fear by means of armed soldiers, and routinely abuses the rights of all citizens. Well I gotta tell ya folks, apart from security guards delivering or collecting cash from banks, in 4 years I’ve only encountered armed personal on two occasions, and both gave rise to hilarity.
On the first occasion, I was walking along a street, unsure if I should take the next street on the left to Tiananmen Square, or the following one, when I saw a policeman or soldier walking toward me, wearing a side holster. I stepped in front of him and said: “Excuse me!” The poor guy screamed and darted out into the traffic! He got about 2 or 3 metres before he got himself under control.
The second occasion was in Hong Hu. I was waiting for a local bus when I saw a platoon, brigade or whatever a gaggle of soldiers is called, jogging up the street, many of whom were carrying weapons. But it was not the weapons that intrigued me or made me laugh. Here were these fine specimens of Chinese Manhood (sorry fems!) jogging along holding hands, or arms draped around each other, and even some, obviously fatigued, with their faces being cradled on the chests of their buddies. Add to this their surprise at seeing a ‘whitey’ and their bright smiles and cries of ‘hello! hello!,’ it was hard for me to not to fall apart in hysterical laughter. China is truly a place of wonderment.
Anyway, back to the news. How is it said that China is a totalitarian country, when almost every day somewhere in the world, there is one or more reports of institutional abuse of anyone who does not agree with a particular political ideology. I see today at Magic City that some parents in Boston was it, that don’t want their kids listening to gay fairy tales (no pun intended!). That article did not mention any abuse, but we all know that anyone who challenges the politically correct notion that Gay is OK is not OK. There was Christopher Adamo’s article “Democrats Still Playing Games With Critical Issues” that highlights the sharp political division in American Society and of course there was Erik Rush’s article “Freedom of Screech” which highlights the intellectual fascism within the Education System. Then there was Daniel Clark’s article “Civil Serpents: Beware of Snakes Bearing “liberties” and let’s not fail to mention William Calhoun’s Satire: Do Feminists Have a Sense of Humor?
Everyone has a right to an opinion and a right to support the political party of one’s choice, but isn’t it strange that in a democracy, one seems only to have the right to think and speak what one or other fascist group dictates. I find it strange that in totalitarian China, (and I speak only from actual experience – but don’t let that stop you from telling me I’m wrong), that people can express both personally and in print, opinions that run contrary to the official policy of the government, and do so without fear.
I find it strange that in this totalitarian country, where I hear the term ‘human rights’ so frequently, and read the term so frequently in the press, that society is happy to place individual human rights behind Society’s right to peace, stability and harmony.
I find it hard to understand why it is so that in democratic countries where people have the right to speak freely, speaking freely can land you in court on charges of inciting to hatred. How I hate such people! They should be locked up! Ooopps! Am I inciting people to hatred? Probably!
Whenever I am asked why I chose to teach in China and not in some other country, I have to tell the truth and say, I did not choose to come to China. I was talked into it by my brother who suggested that it was a good way to waste one year of my life while I got my website up and running.
But when people ask me why I like living in China, I also have to tell them the truth and say, ‘Because I am happy living here!.’ I’m not stupid or deceitful! I know only too well that the language barrier means that I am not privy to all the bitchiness that goes on. Here however, unlike back home, I don’t have to worry about whether I should refer to someone who fits the description, as Black, Coloured or Aboriginal. I also don’t have to worry about whether or not I am going to get my head bitten off for calling a woman Miss, M/s or Mrs., or accidentally referring to someone as the chairman, instead of chairperson. I don’t have to worry about being abused for telling Irish jokes, gay jokes, old people jokes, religious jokes or simply saying: ‘Heck she’s gotten fat this last year!’
In China, even in the same classroom, you can find your self facing several students with the same name. I once had half a class of students surnamed ‘Zhang,’ and all had similar personal names. Zhang Mingxing, Zhang Minxin, Zhang Xingmin, Zhang Xinming…. you get the idea. When someone mentions a name and you ask, “which one is that?” they will tell you quite specifically which one that is. Oh he/she is the fat one, the short one, the black one (yes some have black skin), the ugly one, the one with pimples or the one with the crippled leg.
I’ve listened while students talk about how much they dislike Mao Zedong, while others politely wait until the reasons are given, and then will chip in and disagree, quite politely. I’ve played devils advocate and stirred the students up pitting them against each other in a war of the genders and watched as they argue and laugh at who is scoring the better points. I’m not talking about scheduled class activities here. I’m talking about impromptu discussion.
I even remember the time I challenged students to consider their reactions if they discovered a close friend or relative was gay. Oh you would have been so proud of their western like politically correct BS, and BS it was. One boy was really good at giving the appropriate answers until I asked his reaction to a scenario in which his little brother not only announced that he was gay, but that he was getting married to his lover. The response? I would kill him! ‘You mean you would beat him up?’ “NO! I would get a knife or gun and kill him dead! I would not allow such a dishonour in my family!.”
It is truly wonderful to listen to people argue a point and disagree on issues, without all the name calling and accusations of racism, sexism and every other ‘ism’ or ‘ist.’ Maybe the reason for this is that the Chinese, having lived through their own truly terrible period of Chinese Political Correctness, appreciate and cherish the freedom they now have to openly state their views and to disagree with each other.
I think it strange that as China opens up and begins to adopt all those wonderful things we once valued about Democratic Society, that the Western World is carelessly degenerating into vicious sectarian totalitarianism.
Whereas once in China people had no right to speak anything other than what was politically allowed, today people are free to express their opinions. In the West, the reverse is happening. Whereas once in China, religion and the religious were persecuted, today they have liberties being denied in the West. Whereas once in China people were either uneducated or politically indoctrinated in Education, today the Chinese are striving for Academic Excellence in order to build a strong nation, and while they do so, in the West it seems Education is, if not merely a tool for the dumbing down of society at large lest the less fortunate or lazy ‘feel bad’ about their underachievements, it seems to be increasingly a system of Political and Social indoctrination.
I am not now nor would I ever want to be politically correct. I simply couldn’t stand it! I was raised to say what I think and mean what I say. Given that the politically correct conceal their true feelings and meanings behind deceptive words, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for such people to know that since their words cannot be trusted, that they could never afford to trust anything they were ever told. One would constantly be pulling everything apart looking for the hidden meaning and true translation of everything one heard.
I imagine political correctness to be something akin to being like a liar, who, knowing that ‘he’ is a liar, is constantly thinking that everyone else is lying; or the thief, who, knowing that he cannot be trusted, cannot trust anyone.
The hypocrisy of party line politics, which is what political correctness is all about, (both hypocrisy and party line politics), is anything but democratic, for in the final analysis, should one party gain majority power, any and all of it’s stated sectarian aims could be achieved irrespective of commonsense and the reality of what is good for society as a whole. At that point, the scene would finally be set for true totalitarianism. This is something that I have learned from the history books.
Everytime the downside of living in China gets a little too ‘down’ for me, all I have to do to cheer myself up is imagine myself living back in the West. Those few shuddering reflective moments are enough to set me back on the straight and narrow; and when students start telling me of how much they want to emigrate west, I straight away verbally slap them a few times around the face and say ‘Wake up! The last place you want to live is in the West. It’s like a brothel! It might be a nice place to find a few moments of pleasure, but it sure ain’t as good as living at home!.’
In the old days it used to be that you had friends who held to a variety of political, social and religious views. It didn’t really matter. You liked someone because of who they were as a person. Today however, a person can only remain your friend as long as his views reflect your own. Maybe that’s why I really like China. Here I have friends who like me even if they disagree with my views.
Anyway, that’s my opinion. You can keep yours!
- If you found this article interesting, then you might also like reading: Staying Sane in China