With June 4th right around the corner, the Western press will likely try to milk it, though each year with decreasing column space. In anticipation of that, we remind our readers the narrative perpetrated in the West is not the truth. 龙信明 draws from public materials and shows us what the real truth is, in English, “Let’s Talk About Tiananmen Square, 1989,” and in Chinese, “且谈1989年的天安门事件.”
For new visitors to Hidden Harmonies, I highly recommend a visit to our “Featured Posts” section (the right third of the blog main screen). There you will find featured articles addressing key topics these last few years by this blog. For example, Ray examines the international political climate surrounding the lead up to the Great Leap Forward (“Another Look at the Great Leap Forward“). melektaus discusses how the Western media collectively defames China (“Collective Defamation“). Allen addresses what Democracy means (“Understanding Democracy.”) Black Phoenix debates other American lawyers about the status of Tibet (“2008 ‘Olympic Debate’ over Tibet on American Bar Association China Law Committee.”)
melektaus‘ recent observations about the Chinese people (“What’s wrong with China? Hint: it’s not the government“) has certainly caused a stir. We all should commend him for sharing his thoughts from the bottom of his heart and for his genuine desire to see a better Chinese society. (Some of you might be visiting because James Fallows of The Atlantic has linked to it. As an aside, see our take on why Fallows is so wrong on so many things related to China.) Anyways, I don’t want to derail his thread, so if you wish to add to the conversation, I urge you to continue there. Many of you have offered thoughtful comments, so thank you. I do want to highlight Allen‘s response here, because, as he illustrates clearly, we all have a tendency to judge others based on our standards – and is unfair:
Where to start? I disagree with so many things here… I will just make some random observations.
The Chinese people especially in the north, display selfishness, rudeness, greed, ignorance, and pettiness the likes I have never seen before. There are too many examples from my own experience to give an illustration of all their deficiencies.
Depending on how you view things, everyone everywhere display elements of selfishness, rudeness, greed, ignorance, and pettiness. You give examples later, but in every case, I think it’s a case of glass half empty or full. It’s your choice how you view the world. The world is never pure – or rotten. You can attempt to see it pure … or rotten …. but the choice is in the eye of the beholder.
Ask a sample of Chinese women what their hobbies and interests are. Take note how many of them say “shopping” and “sleeping” just to get a taste of what they are like.
In my experience, many younger women tend to answer that – in a sheepish sort of way. But I think it can also be a legit answer. Is poetry reading – say of Edgar Alan Poe – a much better – deeper, more substantive, less superficial – hobby? Most people have to work hard just to live a modest, obscure life – what’s wrong with having the opportunity to shop … and then sleep?
The thing is that if you ask a typical American what their favorite pastime is – it is shopping, too. For an American women, that’s certainly true!
Is shopping that much more evil than say playing baseball (not that playing baseball doesn’t involve shopping – often you need uniforms, equipment, – oh yes, you need transportation, too)? If I work like a dog to live on average less $10 / day, what is to say playing baseball is less superficial than shopping or sleeping? What about shopping for grand kids? What aboutshopping for your spouse? Is that an act of love, bonding, caring – or flat out consumerism?
And what of consumerism? When is it actually bad? Do we really have a common metric that says – you are overconsuming – now you are not?
And even when we agree that people do “over-consume” – when does it say more about their character or the environment they live?
I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions…
Then I asked him what car he drives. He said he just bought a very large American style SUV. He also plans to buy a Range Rover and moreover already owns several other luxury cars. Surely he is aware and ashamed of his contributions to the bad air quality in Beijing? Doesn’t seem to me like he is even aware of his behavior as a contributing factor. I also asked how many houses he has. He has three. Three large houses. Again, he doesn’t seem to be aware that his behavior and that of those in his tax bracket are contributing in buying up property they don’t even use but as a mark of mere patrician vanity to the fact that so many Chinese, i.e., the 99% beneath his economic class can’t afford houses in China.
Your last sentence summarizes it all for me. The problem you cite can’t be a general problem of the Chinese – it’s at best a 1% problem. When I visit Beijing, I see nice cars in some neighborhood, but in general, I don’t see expensive, luxury cars everywhere in every stone throw.
Now I do agree that there is this idea that everyone wants to own a car (or two) and house (or three) can be a challenge. We can do a simple calculation and talk about the consequences. But what of people dreaming to achieve this level of lifestyle? Surely, one person doing it per se is not a problem. I don’t know of any moral or ethical system that says that owning a car or house (or more) is intrinsically evil. In the U.S., certainly many do ownmultiple homes (and cars). And in the U.S., it’s not considered an ethical problem – much less a social problem (on the flipside, it’s often considered an important part of the good old American dream). If it is a problem in China, it is probably due to China’s denser population (hence need for continued implementation of one-child policy I presume). I don’t think the solution is clear one way or the other: I do hear more and more people in China discussing the problems of everyone living like kings, even as everyone wishes to live like kings. That is not per se bad.
This is a time of tremendous change and adjustment for the average Chinese. It is a process that will play out – with many internal inconsistencies playing out.
Basic etiquette that all civilized societies must have (such as not cutting in line) often show little practice in China. People are routinely run down by cars running red lights. I have been hit by a car simply walking in a parking lot quite recently because the driver was oblivious to what was going on as he backed his car out of the stall, displaying no consideration for pedestrians.
We all have different thresholds of altruism and selfishness. There are many studies on the theory behind selfish and altruistic social behavior. The short answer is that our behavior is complicated and always evolving. There is saying that in love and war, all is fair. The truth is that in work, that is often the case also. You can complain, but the truth is that people will always exihibit elements of both altruistic and selfish characteris.
About forming a line – that is an evolved etiquette, yet what of it? When I travel on flights, I can buy special passes that help me bypass the normal security check lines. I can buy fastpass to bypass queuing up at the toll booths. I can drive certain cars to drive in special lanes on highways that bypass the traffic. The point is, if forming a line seems a good solution, people will eventually gravitate toward it. If not, people will find ways to break it.
Beyond that, it’s just customs and norms. The following is a passage from a Fodors travel guide:
British people take waiting in line (called “queuing”) incredibly seriously. They highly value patience, and will turn on “queue jumpers” who try to cut in line with some ferocity. Complaining while waiting in line is considered wimpy. Enduring the wait with good humor is considered a sign of strong moral character.
So some people consider whining about waiting in line bad behavior. Should that be the norm for “all civilized people” now? I actually don’t mind the line thing. I can easily swap from waiting happily in line to fight for my place in front of the line (and yes, there are etiquette to how you elbow in front of the line too). It’s all in a day’s work. I can walk to the left or right – it’s just a convention to me.
About traffic – it is a problem. But it was a problem in Taiwan when I grew up … and in many European cities today (see, e.g., this article on surviving traffic in Athens).
Traffic and the associated danger is often an issue with city design (see, e.g.http://t4america.org/docs/dangerousbydesign/dangerous_by_design.pdf). In major cities in developing countries, it is often a symptom of overtaxed infrastructure, which can also lead people to drive more aggressively.
When you have social pressure and ignorance of consequences of one’s action that all encourage things like bribes, you have at the end of a long spiraling chain which descend into the depths of a very deep shit hole. The implicit Chinese social system of guanxi puts enormous pressures to fulfill social obligations that can turn venal and it is this pressure at the root of so my corrupt practices in China today. It becomes so obvious to an outsider like myself. It is the responsibility of its citizens to take notice and change these problematic practices and values.
The way you frame the problem is curious. When corruption is a problem, it should be obvious to insiders (to the average Chinese). Problems that appear to be a problem to outside – such as guanxi keeping outsiders out – may not be a real problem, and even be a feature of all societies, in the form of Old boy’s network, glass ceiling, etc. Real problems – such as taking of bribes – appears everywhere – equally in developed and developing nations, involving all races, people of all socioeconomic class, in all industries, in all governments, etc.
People routinely spit, blow snot rockets, have their children urinate and make bowl movements, and puke on the street completely unaware of the serious health hazards this posses. Things like SARS and H7N9 and many routine flues are spread quickly in China because people’s lack of personal hygiene and responsible behavior. Hepatitis is common in China. People complain about the air quality all the times but smoking causes far more health issues than smog but so many people smoke in public that it is a far bigger threat to public safety. The common sight of someone worrying about the air then lighting up a cigarette would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that their cigarette contributes to the decline of health in others.
This is an issue I believe of rural people moving into the cities. As we all know, what is happening in China is probably the largest scale of people movement in history of mankind. Pooping on the side of the street in the countryside may be perfectly fine (and sanitary, as far as public health is concerned), but not so in a city. Spitting and blow snot rockets may also be a sanitary thing to do – if the average person doesn’t have facial tissue to waste.
I mean, if not for living in crowded space, if we all were living in the countryside, spitting and blowing snot rockets may be the sanitary and environmentally friendly thing to do. You don’t want to waste a perfectly good piece of tissue paper on just nose blowing. Just spit it out! And you don’t want to be blowing into your hands – and wipe of your shirt all the time… So, I don’t think it’s about the character of a people. It’s more about the environment – or rather, a fast-changing environment – and a people in flux…
About your story on your landlord’s dishonesty, what of it? Landlord-tenant dispute is perhaps the most common dispute in modern society. Sometimes landlords are bad (New York even has an online landlord watchlist), but other times it is the tenants that are the turds. As part of law school and as part of a law firm, I volunteered to help resolve and mediate some disputes from lower income families – and you won’t believe the stories. Yours won’t even make my top 10, not even close.
Most Chinese people have put their tails between their legs and caved under the demands of the landlord not wanting to stir up “trouble” and moreover thinking their behavior “civilized” when it is just cowardly and shortsighted. They would have swallowed their flickering sense of resentment and injustice and merely complained to their friends while doing absolutely nothing about it.
Every society has its taboos. People keep quiet for a variety of reason a lotin the U.S., too. Many tenants suck it up. Many domestic issues – including domestic violence, rape cases – are covered up.
But even on the broader issue, I cringe when I read about your take on “rule of law.” Are courts really the place to address justice? Perhaps as political theory, it sounds good. But for the ordinary folk with limited means, the court is rarely ever an effective forum to address injustice… Just because Obama made it to the presidency doesn’t mean the average black (or half black) can make it. Similarly, just because this Joe Smoe won this case against Goliath doesn’t mean the average Joe Smoe can.
Now I do agree that a society has character. It would be nice if most people play within accepted norms (less tainted milk case, for example). Unfortunately, I think in China, that norm may have been disbanded somewhat. But that has nothing to do with law. It has to do with the underlying circumstances. Many do feel it’s they for themselves in the race to get rich fast. So much is happening. China’s own version of COKE, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Google, AT&T, General Electric, McDonalds, Apple, BMW will probably all be founded within one generation. With so much at stakes, some may have disbanded norms that may be treasured in more stable societies. I am sure society will have a way of correcting itself. And again this is not normal times. I see the problem, but in context, I wouldn’t make much judgement.
In the US, consumer rights came at the end of long hard battles by citizens who cared about justice. Many sacrifices were made.
The consumer rights you talk about was the result of recent political struggle culminating inpolitical actions in the 1960′s. It arose from necessity. It’s not a the work of special civic minded individuals. Also most injustices are enforced by mass class action lawsuits, not individual suits by “civic-conscious” individuals.
Now while I disagree with a lot of what you wrote, I do agree with you on one thing, the Chinese people has not found solid footing in a modern world yet. People are still adapting, evolving to new lifestyles. Their goals and aspirations will probably also keep evolving. I do believe the Chinese as a people are too materialistic – but that’s me speaking making an American wage talking about someone making on average 1/10 my wave. Many complain of this Chinese materialism, but it’s probably more about pragmatism. In Taiwan, parents often want to know how much their children are making, marriages are often based on wealth… Sounds materialistic. But I believe this is true of American society too, except it’s taboo to talk about those things too openly. People in developed societies don’t want to be seen as too materialist, but if you are pragmatic, you often are.
Truth to be told, the average concern of everyone in the U.S. is about money. Just think about everything you do: most likely most of your waking hour is concerned with doing things that are related in one way or another to making a living. That’s the bottom line. You may find some European nations where citizens may be less – but that’s because the state provides a lot of welfare. Are people unethical to care about money when it’s pragmatic to do so? I would be happy not making any money and pursue music and writing and inventing things here and full time … except I have to care about money, or else my family can’t survive. Perhaps someone from a Utopian future where no one ever has to work for a living would look down on my despicable little life with my narrow myopic focus on money. But would that contempt be morally justified? Would such contempt say more about me or them?
To reiterate, it’s all about wealth and development people! Visit any poor
nation, and even poor areas of wealthy nations (ghettos in LA,NYC, paris)
and you’ll experience the same kind of base instincts of humanity. This is
nothing uniquely chinese.
Fools like Fallows and the mainstream western critics of China always
attribute bad things in China as part of the Chinese character, while when
they see the same things in their own societies, they brush off as once-offs
And as usually, fallows gets some basic facts wrong in his linked article.
He references this quote as if it were fact : “perhaps the best hope is that
Xi will begin confronting the reality that beijing’s heavy handed foreign
policies are the principal cause of its rapidly deteriorating security
Wrong on so many levels, least of which is that qoute is at best an opinion,
and a quite wrong one at that. Is China really insecure, or less so than in
the fast? Wrong, in fact the opposite is true. Beijing is heavy handed in
foreign relations? Wrong. In practically every instance of so called ”
chinese assertiveness”, it was China reacting to changes to the status quo
by other nations. And it all started with the disastrous Clinton pivot. The
principal cause of tensions has been none other than the pivot, plain and
simple. I wonder if Fallows really disagrees with this fact? His answer to
this question will show whether he is spewing lies of an agenda, or if he is
simply woefully ignorant. I’d imagine it’s the former.
By the way, it was only a decade or two ago that you could count on getting ripped off taking a taxi from JFK or any airport in the US, especially if you looked like a tourist or foreign. In fact, you will still be cheated and taken for a ride if you go along with one of those unregistered taxi solicitors standing at the airport doors today. So what does this say about America, or France or UK or anywhere? It was only with technology and crackdown on bad cabbies that you can rely on taking registered cabs now. And in fact, in many Chinese cities, taxis are reliable now as they have taken similar actions.
I know living in China can be a trial at times, but is it any different or somehow more malicious than living in any other developing country? I’ve been taken advantage of in China and many places elsewhere, but I take a different view. I feel pity that they need to resort less than honorable activities to survive, and that I just need to be more careful and mindful of my surroundings.
And I can forgive China and the chinese if they don’t live up to my high and mighty definitions of what social norms should be if they’ve got bigger problems to address than public spitting and some folks taking advantage of tourists. You know, like not letting a nation of 1.5 billion people with not nearly enough resources fall into chaos. Iraq, libya, egypt, anyone?
It used to be that Americans can call their country “The land of the free.” But recent events of how the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred. Suspect locked up without Miranda rights and the Whole city was locked down to catch one guy. Not to mention that the US government thinks that it is okay to look at people’s email and facebook chats without a court order, the US is more like a police state and China is not.
No wonder why many Americans who used to chestbeat themselves why America is so great and China sucks are more silent now.
I have to disagree on your view on James Fallow. I read his book and found it to be very friendly toward China and her people. On his flying in China and his part in opening the aviation and mild criticisms on the closing of air space to civilian aviation and the resulting stagnation. The recent opening of civilian aviation and flying into Tibet proved his far sighted and accurate prediction. One criticism of him I agree is the question of Chinese foreign policy. He thinks China should soften her stance to prevent her isolation and disregard the domestic public opinion which I think is wrong and shows his limited understanding on Chinese nationalism. China will expand her navy and assert her interests in East and South China seas regardless the position of U.S.. I do think China and India will reach an understanding by swapping the East sector to India and West sector to China once India accept the reality and no longer swayed by the emotion of defeat in 61″. As for Melektaus’ article I expect the reaction when high expectations meets reality which fell short. I suspect James Fallow gave the people he met much more slack.
I actually had rather low expectations. I knew that China was a poor country with many transitional problems but it’s seeing the palpable problems with my own eyes and the depths of these problems that’s the motive for my post.
It’s not his book that’s disturbing about Fallows. But like many American journalists, it’s his complete lack of any intellectual and moral virtues that is the problem. see here
Black Pheonix says
I’m sure many Westerners like Fallows are very nice in person.
Which reminds me of an acquaintance of mine in US in the South, and his father who asked me (very nicely), “is it true that Chinese people have no souls, because they don’t believe in God?”
That now reminds me of the new song, “the Accidental Racist”, which is publicly derided in US.
*My point is, I’m sure James Fallows is a VERY nice person if I should meet him in person, and he would be very nice to me, in person.
But the problem is, James Fallows ASSUMES things about an entire GROUP of People, the Chinese, as a GROUP, and discusses his PROBLEMS with the entire GROUP.
In the end, that the CORE definition of a RACIST. (And yes, from my personal experiences, I have met some racists who are VERY NICE in person, my acquaintance’s father above, for example).
Racists do not necessarily ACT meanly toward individuals. Some just THINK and SPEAK meanly about an entire GROUP (i.e. make up assumptions and BS about the Chinese as a people for example).
It’s not necessarily that they are out burning crosses on people’s lawns or calling you slurs. In their CORE, the more overt racists do what they do, because they consider OTHER GROUPS as “problems” in general.
Consider Fallows’ Title of 1 of his articles:
“How China Is Making Me Into a Worse Person”
Self-deprecating on 1st glance, but really a slam on China.
Implication: I was rather OK, until I encountered China! China is the PROBLEM. It’s declining my moral values and manners.
Fallows NEVER encountered bad mannered people in US??! OR such non-Chinese bad mannered people didn’t make him into a worse person, but China did??
Fallows wrote about essentially his transformation to be forced to adapt to some rude actions to “survive” in Chinese taxi lines.
Well, I would say that’s just the old “Do as the Romans do”, and it was IN everyone’s natural tendencies to adapt to environment. That’s just INSIDE of Fallows himself.
In other words, China didn’t make Fallows Worse, he changed himself. (and he didn’t have to change).
“Transformation” is a choice, not an imposition.
On a similar logic, many racists have excused their own actions/choices as necessity to “survive”, i.e. they were forced to change themselves to commit wrongs (which they know as wrong) for their own survival.
*See, Fallows COULD have chosen to take the high road, and maintain his own set of moral code of conduct, EVEN if he encountered bad mannered people in China. (I do, when I go back to China).
But no, he decides by his own choice, to ADAPT and change for the “worse”, IN order to “survive”.
AND then he feels guilt about it, and blames his own choice on China (as a whole generally).
Hey, I don’t mind “do as the Romans do”, but I draw some pretty clear limits on changing my own moral code of conduct.
AND if I do decide to change to ADAPT, I’m not going to blame the locals for my choice, as if I have no moral backbones at all.
I dunno dude. Governing is tough. I deeply admire the Chinese gov’t for doing a pretty amazing job since 1989; name any other government where, when policy has actually been implemented, it has delivered a more or less better life in most aspects to most of its populace consistently between the years 1990 and 2010. Whichever way you slice it, in the annals of running countries that’s a decent record even taking into account the ghastly abuses of power.
That said, it’s pretty low-rent to deny that Tiananmen has its place in the record of awful things that governing authorities do. Cases in point: Kent State shootings, Bloody Sunday, Paris Massacre in 1961, various massacres in Sri Lanka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Sri_Lanka), Peterloo, etc. Arguably Boston ‘massacre’ as well. If I knew a damn thing about the middle east I’m sure it would be fertile ground for additive examples. Anyone looking at that list and thinking “well, I’m [Chinese / Indian / American / Polish / whatever] so obviously no-one like me would do that” is living in la-la land. Yeah, it sucks when you lose the trust of the populace so badly that they start demonstrating in the streets, but either colonialism was a valid governance system or the response to that phenomenon should never be “release the hounds”.
You point touches on something I’ve thought about alot. Don’t be fooled that western liberals aren’t as racist as anyone else, especially toward Asians. They just do it differently. Racist conservatives hate you because they hate everyone and don’t try hard to hide their nature, much. The liberal racists hate you, but they try to sinisterly convince you it’s your fault that they hate you. If you just live up to their standards, they wouldn’t hate you so much. The clear problem is that the reality of their own actions are a far cry from their ideals, and they choose to be very much blind to this.
Relating back to your point, they might be very nice to you in person, but their racist views of your people remain. If they find that they like or are impressed by you, you are merely an abberation, unless your people start falling in line with their definition of social and standards. These people would honestly prefer a China in chaos as long as there are elections and “free press”. Want proof? They conveniently have lost interest in the humanitarian disasters in libya, egypt, iraq and elsewhere after the strong man has been toppled and someone, anyone, was “elected” in thier place. As if by magic, everything will now be fine, cause you know, they got democracy now!
Black Pheonix says
Oh, I quite agree on your points. I have met the “nice racists”, and found them to be far more duplicitous. An overtly nasty racists, you can stay away from, and easily ridicule.
The “nice racists” are hiding their bigoted judgments on you under smiles and courtesies, and looking down on you while giving you a “helping hand.”
This is often why I am so suspicious of many “human rights” activists from the West.
If they are doing it for money, that’s just mercenary (and at least partially understandable motive).
If they are doing it for the “principles”, I question, because inherently, there is something of a logic of “looking down on” some group while lending a “helping hand,” where the activist assumes that he/she has the Power (and the authority) to do what is right, whereas the those who need help are the weak and incapable or too corrupt to know what to do.
Boil it down: It’s a power trip.
But the basic question remains: What makes them think that they have the Power and the Authority??
1 look at James Fallows’ own story tells you how easily people can decide to change their own code of conduct, on the mere excuse of “survival” (in an airport, for taxi service! Not for some thing far more basic, like Food or Water).
Apparently, lots of expats go through the same kind of “transformation” that James Fallows went through!
Many of us have lived in the West for long time, and we have witnessed how People are indeed changing their social/moral code of conduct, on various excuses.
We have seen how politically and socially, Orwellian concepts creep in and sink into the society that doesn’t really care about its true MORAL code, and prefer to debate about silly things.
Concepts like “rendition”, “collateral damage”, “drone kill order”, etc.
These too happened because, on some excuses, Great many people in the West decided together that it was OK for them to abandon their old principles and codes, because they needed to “survive” against “attacks”.
And in that same logic, they show that they have indeed no powers NOR authorities to know any better, or to change things for the better.
They are caught in the same struggle of moralities every day. But the difference is, SOME choose to still believe that they are better at it (contrary to evidence around them).
I don’t think James Fallow needs me to defend him, his work speaks for itself. For someone who spent 5 years in China from selling Cirrus airplane to reporting on China, he shows his respect for China and Chinese people in his funny and self deprecating writings. I really doubt you can hate a country and live there for that long. Although I disagree with him on his view of Chinese foreign policy and I do understand where he comes from, unlike the neocons he’s from a traditional social democratic base with the attached values which I think is not necessarily good for China at present. I do find the word racist overused here and resent it.
I have lived in U.S. for over 50 years and aware that African-Americans sometimes also overuse the word racist when they disagree with others. As a Chinese-American I am aware that we have pre-conceived biases against AA as somewhat lazy, dangerous, welfare cheats, and other stereotypes. Now you may deny it and call me a racist but I think this is true. We as Chinese may have contradictory feelings of superiority and proud of our culture yet sometimes feel inferior against western achievements. I am proud of what China has achieved in the last 60 plus years, that does not mean some of the policies are beyond criticism. Recently the surveillance video of a woman defecating in an elevator in subway in Shenzhen went viral and occasioned heavy discussions in the internet. Some may like Dan start to condemn it as a symbol or barbarian and unConfucian behavior, but others pointed out that the of the 13 stations in that subway line are without any public toilet. That generates debates on city planning. In NYC all public toilets in subway system were closed more than 50 years ago. We smelled urines in the stairways and ignore homeless lying in the corners. There is no debate at all.
Black Pheonix says
I would also let James Fallows’ articles speak for himself. I would just point out, if say Bo Jiang wrote an article of “How America made me into a Worse person,” well…
And I’m aware of pre-conceived biases against African Americans, I wouldn’t deny that Chinese Americans have such biases.
In fact, I don’t have such biases, and I would rail against such biases (held by any people), and condemn such biases as “racist”.
However, if someone (or you) would characterize an entire group (Chinese Americans) as generally having such biases, I would say you are making generalizations.
I don’t think “racist” is being overused as a word. It is precisely that, when someone like James Fallows is not “disagreeing” on a specific policy, but making generalizations about other people.
When I refer the overuse of the accusation of racist I was referring its effect on honest debate. When you accuse of someone being a racist, you are not interested in any response or debate, you are essentially shutting off debate and feel superior. I searched out the article by James Fallow on “How China makes me a worse person” and found it harmless. He was making a point no different than Melektaus made that when you submerge yourself into a different culture, you made adjustments good and bad, and sometimes you feel those adjustments or adaptations makes you dislike yourself. The criticism is on the China’s adaptation of Capitalism, of self centered individualism, of time is money, of uncivil behaviors and manners. If you just look at the title which probably the editors highlighted without reading the whole article of course you will get a different take.
Black Pheonix says
When James Fallows uses a title like “How China makes me a worse person”, he’s the one shutting off the debate right there.
Now, if I were to write “How America makes James Fallows a worse person”, would he actually read the article that follows that title?
And we have on record of how Fallows responded to even a suggestion (from a HH commenter) of how he was wrong on FACTS. (He was NOT interested in any “debate”).
So I think I see his assumptions pretty clearly, and I respectfully disagree with you (I have dug deeper than you think I have).
Black Pheonix says
PS: I have no problem if James Fallows wants to discuss policies and issues honestly. I myself have admitted that there are lots of problems in China.
And if James Fallows wants to discuss China’s problems honestly, i.e. in making suggestions as to possible solutions that have worked else where, (oh God forbid, via some actual COMPARISON data!), I would be all eyes and ears.
Who doesn’t know the problems in China more than the Chinese people??
Hell, even the Chinese government would admit problems with litering, spitting, line cutting, etc.
James Fallows KNEW that he wasn’t even the 1st Westerner to write about such things.
So what does he do to SELL his story?
Add a personal twist: CHINA made him into a WORSE person.
Yeah, that’s the REAL selling point, isn’t it??
Otherwise, who would want to read yet another same story about Chinese people cutting lines IN CHINA?
You think it was harmless?
I think you missed the POINT that James Fallows was REALLY making (They call that an “ANGLE” of the story, a point which if Fallows did NOT write, I would not have complained about).
(And I would not have complained about James Fallows, if he wrote just another story /commentary on rudeness of some people cutting lines, but he wouldn’t have been able to sell his article on such same old stories).
“But the problem is, James Fallows ASSUMES things about an entire GROUP of People, the Chinese, as a GROUP, and discusses his PROBLEMS with the entire GROUP.”
“Many of us have lived in the West for long time, and we have witnessed how People are indeed changing their social/moral code of conduct, on various excuses.”
I find the first statement perfectly acceptable, but then you use the sweeping term about an entire group of people in the “West”? Are you not implicating Finland, Lichtenstein, Equador and Greenland et. al. in one fell swoop?
As I peruse the blogsite, I find “Western this” and “Western that” used frequently as a shorthand way of describing groups of people. It’s probably quite easy to use such shorthand references in a casual way without realizing the implications.
You are twisting the meaning of the article to fit your preconceived notion. If I saw an article of “American make me a worse person” I would want to read the article and determine whether it’s true or in this case taken with a sense of humor. I know people are sensitive to any criticism, and I accept your claim to be unbiased and against racism. I read the exchange of messages with regard to the Chinese basketball players fighting with Georgetown players. There was a different takes of video footages on who made the first punch and references of rough playing in NBA and black players. My take is regardless who throw the first punch the behavior of the Chinese basketball players were abominable. They were guests and represent China. I know recent years there were betting scandals with soccer players and certainly resentments of black players signing with higher salaries playing in Chinese cities. But this would never happened under Mao, although I think sometimes they overplayed the friendship over competition angle.
Black Pheonix says
“I find the first statement perfectly acceptable, but then you use the sweeping term about an entire group of people in the “West”? Are you not implicating Finland, Lichtenstein, Equador and Greenland et. al. in one fell swoop?”
Not at all.
As I have showed here before, the term the “West” was invented by those who SELF-identified themselves as belonging to the “Western Civilization” in a sweeping term, in contrast to other groups, such as the Muslims or the Chinese (even when the “West” claims “inclusiveness” to include other cultures). From its origin, the word “West” was designed as a mark of racial/cultural superiority, to distinguish against “non-Western” people, EVEN when the word “West” itself as not really defined.
And the Western media clearly identify themselves as the “West” all the time. You might want to take it up with them as far as what they wanted to mean by that term, then we can talk about any “implications”.
Black Pheonix says
I only interpret what Fallows wrote in himself. If I’m adding meaning that he didn’t write, let me know where.
Did he attribute his own “worse” transformation to fault of China (and Chinese people)? YES. NOT just with the Title, but also with details of HOW he arrived to it:
“What I do know is that if you exist in this culture, you are shaped by it. I’ve only been exposed to it for a few months, and I’m already responding.”
“I would want to read the article and determine whether it’s true or in this case taken with a sense of humor.”
That’s very generous of you, ( and I would too), but your generous response does NOT prove whether the article was “harmless”, NOR whether FALLOWS would respond similarly (and he has NOT). Plenty of racists excuse use of blatantly racist slurs as “Oh I meant it as a joke!”
And you missed my point on my mentioning of the Chinese and Georgetown basketball. https://hiddenharmonies.org/2012/02/the-kind-of-trash-were-dealing-with/
I ONLY mentioned it to highlight FALLOWS’ response to when someone showed him a possible error of FACTS. Instead of merely disagreeing, he plainly shut down the debate completely with
Wow, THIS is your evidence?
No offense, but wow..
Talk about shutting down debates! Yeah, I’m sure he’s reading carefully, right.
Indeed, even his citation of this above post was out of context. “Twisting the meaning of the article”?? Oh, I’m pretty sure FALLOWS does that regularly to fit his preconceptions (based upon our previous dealings with him).
I continue to respectfully disagree with you. I think you are being too generous to FALLOWS.
I don’t care if he’s intending some thing to be “humorous” or “harmless”, his writings (including his titles and his responses) show his slant and his preconceptions, and I call them for what they are, RACISM.
Yinyang, looks like you’re right. Seems that Al jazeera is making up a 4 part ‘documentary’ about China Rising. I’m watching the first part and guess what they are talking about?
I have the opposite reaction to the response to criticism that everyone else has. I absolutely despise it.
To sum up why, I look at the entire post as one long listing of every possible rhetorical self-justification in every possible measure; Nihilism, contempt, victimization, vindication, moralization, blame game, etc. Any one of these arguments I would not find annoying, but could easily disprove. A few of the arguments put together might be more convincing, but again, would be easily taken apart. But the fact that this man has the contemptible weakness of putting together EVERY argument he can, no one of which can stand on the basis of its own strength is annoying as hell.
I’d rather not pick apart his separate arguments on pieces. Some of them are clever, but all the individual points he makes SHOULD be held in great hatred. It’s not these different ways he argues that is annoying, it’s the fact that he uses all of them that makes him especially annoying to me! Hence, it is easier to point out exactly what he is doing that is so damned contemptible in a (rather overly simplified and also easily attacked) analogy.
One day, a boy is caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. What he does next is try to justify his stealing a cookie in every single way to avoid punishment.
“I promise not to do it again!” – Doesn’t matter, you still should be punished for doing something bad.
“I’m only 4 years old!” – Don’t deny you still did something you know was bad.
“I’m still learning how to be a good boy!” – If you don’t get criticized for your behavior, how would you learn at that stage?
“You eat cookies all the time, dad!” – And this has what to do with following rules?
We start to move into more complicated arguments…
“My big brother steals cookies all the time!” – That does not justify your stealing the cookie, nor does you getting blamed for his cookie stealing in any way mean you should steal more cookies, nor does it prevent that both of you should be punished every time for stealing cookies.
“I should have the freedom to eat all the cookies I want, then I’ll learn how to eat cookies right!” This argument is cunning but has a great many faults. First, no family raises a child without some system of punishments, whether physical, mental, or a reward system (ie, do your homework then you will earn a cookie). Second, there is no such thing as the freedom to eat cookies.
“Your punishment is too hard!” If a boy is whipped for stealing cookies, we could argue that the scale of punishment is drastic. This doesn’t, however, excuse the boy for stealing cookies.
“The law is corrupt!”Again, the boy casts blame at the law when he knows he committed a fault.
“In twenty years, I won’t steal cookies!” Again, it doesn’t matter what you do in twenty years. You, however, should be punished for your behavior, or else you won’t learn.
“It’s in my nature to steal cookies!” It may be in someone’s nature to be a criminal, that doesn’t give him a free license to be a criminal. He should have consequences for his actions.
“I was allowed to eat cookies when I lived with grandma!” Here, the child could either be making up a situation (the usual way of justifying bad behavior) or pointing out the unfairness of the world (ie, in some situations children are spoilt). In the first case, if the parent does nothing the child now knows a perfect excuse for any situation. In the second case, the more difficult one, the parent need not justify every unbalanced act of society (to do so is ridiculous!). The argument is getting more complicated, it’s leading to…
“Why is it wrong?” Time-waster. The parents made a decision at some point to have this law, a suitable punishment, and now the entire justification must be questioned. The child hopes that by having the parent have to explain the entire matter and point out the entire situation, the parent will become bored/discouraged, and may even forego punishment completely. The simple thing is, the child KNOWS it is wrong! He is feeling guilty, he just wishes to draw out the punishment. After all, he has nothing better to do, no better ploy or tactic to use.
“There is no such thing as a just law!” The nihilistic argument. By pointing out the emptiness of the world, the child justifies his narcissism. This is the favorite argument of teenagers and empty, sardonic people. This is NOT a justification for any act, but it certainly feels like one. By adopting this position, any act is okay. Murder, rape, etc. To not recognize that there are common mores for society, progression of values, and the direction of civilization is the most basic argument there is. By making this argument, the child knows that this is a one-time argument. No child truly wants there to be a lack of any laws. That way, the parent could do as he wishes to the child (rape, murder, beat), and there’d be no way to stop him. The child basically wants the laws to not exist for the moment, so he can steal his cookie, then he wants the laws to resume.
“Jimmy eats cookies all the time!” Again, similar to the grandma excuse, it is not the eating of the cookie all the time, but that there is a system for when to eat cookies and when one shouldn’t. Furthermore, one shouldn’t steal anything.
“The system is wrong.” As above, any argument based on this basic fact can be made to waste time. Any serious contempt of this system should set forth with the fact that the parents are hopefully reasonable, that they are not contemptuous human beings themselves. If they are bullies, the child should be in the hands of protective services. The entire system, then, is a mess, full of human errors and judgements and constant layers of bureaucracy. But fundamentally, the system should not be held accountable whenever the child wants a cookie. Yes, the system should be debated, the parents measured and found wanting at times, and the child will grow more aware of the system as he grows older, but fundamentally the rules for correct behavior are not a value system applied from above, they are a system that should be developed internally. Eventually, those rules should become intrinsic to the child, who becomes a man or a woman. Perhaps they will even develop certain moral characters of their own that are superior to their parents’ system, ones that make up for what they saw as shortcomings or that allow for greater moral judgements. Many people grow up and say “Why should we eat cookies at all, when people are starving? I enjoy fruit just as much, and it’s healthier.”
One could drag out this analogy to great tedium, or attack any one of its points for the exact same reason as the annoying poster made every single one of his arguments for China.
That is NOT the point of my reply. My point is to realize, when one is making each of these simpering arguments, just how stupid it sounds. To realize that all of the justification, blame, and shame that you toss doesn’t excuse you for acting like horrible people. It actually makes it worse! Acting the spoilt child is more contemptible than acting like a man, and saying “Yes, it’s wrong. I won’t do it again.” When we hear people step up and take blame, we allow them to move on. When they refuse to accept blame, we think they are weak and contemptible. And when they do multiple arguments for why they are right, we think they are not just weak and contemptible, but that they’re weasels without any moral character.
And that, to me, defines China’s growing up. It is the spoiled child of the last twenty years, and looks in little mood to do anything but take as much advantage as it can without any punishment.
Your ‘spoiled child’ analogy is just plain stupid and ridiculous. It is like saying why China can’t be more like the US. I can use your idiotic ‘spoiled child’ rhetoric the other way to ask questions like “Why Americans can’t live beyond its means?” or “Why does America bully smaller nations?” , or “Why is America’s bridges and roads are falling apart?” or “Why does America funds the terrorists?” or “Why Americans think that it is okay to shoot at each other?” and etc…
I can’t believe over a thousand words comment without any coherence and meaning. Only at the last sentence I understand he’s raving against China.
I wasn’t making the point about raving against China. I was making a point about another person’s post. I wasn’t referring to any of the other comments in this spread, I was just responding to the post as I saw it and what I read that Allen had written. Go back and read his post, and it reads like a spoiled child trying to defend himself. I’m blaming a person for using specious arguments in defense of bad behavior.
To pug_ster, the point of the analogy is not to excuse China, or to excuse the USA. The point of it is to say, “There is no excuse for poor behavior.” Whenever we hear anyone give these same stupid excuses for any action, we should hold them accountable.
To N.M.Cheung: You apparently misunderstood the whole attention of the post. I wasn’t attacking China, just what I saw as a rather inexcusable post. (read Allen’s post at the top) In the last line, I do link it to China. That last paragraph should be taken as an add-on, not as the main subject matter for the post.
Black Pheonix says
“There is no excuse for poor behavior.”
Of course not, No excuse. But I think you haven’t gone past the hurdle of “ADMITTING to poor behavior” yet.
I don’t think anyone is making excuses for actions they don’t consider as “poor behavior.”
So, I don’t know what you are talking about, in the “whole attention” of your post, and you are wasting our attention.
I don’t know what you think Allan was trying to “excuse” in his post.
If you are just going to waste bandwidth with your generalizations, I think you are rather inexcusable.
This kind of ‘spoiled child’ mentality is invented by the Western propaganda and this garbage seemed to been eaten up by people like you and by the way you wrote that ‘spoiled child’ essay of yours. It is analogous to the ‘White Man’s Burden’s’ mentally during the 1900’s. It is dangerous because this kind of attitude justifies modern day imperialism and colonialism.
I’ve read your comment several times, but I think it can be summarized by yourself.
You don’t like my comment because they are all for China. So you don’t like my conclusions … that’s ok.
For others, I want to make clear that I am not arguing for or against China here. But I hope two main points come across.
1. Many of so-called accusations say more about the accuser rather than accused.
2. Many of the so-called problems are the result of the environment, not the people.
3. Many of the so-called problems actually arise around the world – in both developed and developing nations – and for some reasons, are attributed to a nation and people when it comes to China. The pissing thing is salient.
Do you know how smelly New York and Boston subways are? People routinely do pee in public places in all cities I’ve been to in Amreica. And it’s not just there. I’ve seen people pee in parks, and yes – even when the park restrooms are open. Now should I attribute these problems in New York and Boston and other cities to Americans? Christians? Westerners? Immigrants? Poor people? Social economics? Something else?
In the case of China, I have provided some plausible answer, or at least contexts – to understanding the problem – at least ones more plausible than the mere rant that Chinese people are uncivilized. Of course, that doesn’t by itself make the “problem” identified to be nonproblmes. I fully agree that many of the behaviors cited are problems in modern cities – especially with a migrant community – but let’s not lose sight of the fact that many of these problems are also problem with urbanization, people in flux, etc.
To frame a problem, to be productive, one needs to frame the problem in the right way, rather than just denigrating a people, a culture, or nation – why accusing them as so uncivilized, atrocious, or despicable. What is civilized behavior anyways? There is no absolute standard. It’s all relative – relative to the environment. I have pointed out in other comments that many of currently accepted behavior such as handshaking are pretty offensive too. If I want to end it, I might point out the benefits for abolishing such behavior. That’s productive. To simply rant how people are so backward and atrocious and despicable. Well -that’s not productive.
Anyways, back to aahzmandius’s comment, if you don’t like the way I frame the problems, that’s perfectly fine. You can ignore me. Or you might comment on why I am wrong. But to attack my arguments based on how all my arguments are “for China” (whatever that really means) – well that’s conclusory. It’s a statement – and not enlightening at all – and says more about you than anything else.
For one thing, I never said anything good about the west. I never claimed anything about the white man’s burden, or used arguments repeated ad nauseum. Those are words you put in my mouth.
All I said was that I hate when people make long, whiny lists of excuses. One excuse, fine. Two excuses? Okay. Three excuses? Meh. Four or more excuses, I start getting annoyed.
So if you want to assume that because I disagree with you, I must be an imperialist, superior, white-scum redneck trash, that’s your racist bias working against you.
All I’m saying is, STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND BS ARGUMENTS.
Saying “Making up some lame excuses your country doesn’t have problems” doesn’t imply “America is better than you”. It does not. And saying that is what I’m saying doesn’t mean that I said it.
I don’t like the way you framed the problems because all you’re doing is coming up with every excuse you can possibly think of. Some of these excuses literally contradict the other excuses you’re using. Some, individually, are basically accusatory in nature. Others are so nihilistic that only a morale-less person would use them.
So make one or two good excuses. Don’t pile up the BS. Don’t act like a spoiled child.
And Allen, you’re doing it again. Just because people pee in stairways in London doesn’t mean that it’s okay to pee in stairways! Don’t be a baby! Just say, “YES IT IS WRONG TO PEE IN STAIRWAYS!” If you disagree with me, if you think it’s fine to pee in stairways, then say so and be done with it! I, personally, believe people shouldn’t pee in stairways in either London or in China! I believe it’s a problem in both countries! That doesn’t make me a racist, nor does it make me an apologist, or a white man’s burden propaganda-ist, or any of those other things others said. It just makes me a guy who says “Don’t make up some excuse or attack for your problem.”
And again, you come up with the, “What is civilized behavior anyways?”
The answer is simple. IT IS WRONG TO PEE IN STAIRWAYS. That is civilized behavior.
And yes, if I hear an American making up some stupid excuses for the behavior of his country, in similar fashion, I will call him out on his bullshit. I will point out that he’s just making a list of simpering excuses and he should be a man and admit, “Yes, this is a problem, and we should do better.”
If that makes me anti-Chinese, or anti-American, then so be it. I’d rather think, I’m anti-bullshit.
Gees, and your argument is don’t be a ‘spoiled Child?’ Very ‘intelligent’ argument, which seems coming from a ‘spoiled child’ hocking all that BS.
Black Pheonix says
“Just because people pee in stairways in London doesn’t mean that it’s okay to pee in stairways!”
That may be true, but what makes you so sure that it’s WRONG (for people to pee in stairways in London)?
May be London can designate some “stairways” for peeing! They can certainly decide as a “democracy” to do that!
Afterall, a bathroom is just a room that people designated for peeing (and other bodily functions). Why not a “stairway”??
Who are you to call that absolutely wrong?
Hong Konger says
I’m with @aahzmandius.
The excuse thing drives me crazy, partly because it’s just personally annoying to have everyone talking like a whiny 5-year-old — but more importantly because it is halting China’s next big push in progress.
China has done a great job in developing and pulling people out of poverty. It’s next big goal is to make life more livable — less corruption and pollution, more civil pride, good behavior, social responsibility, decent hygiene.
Many people are worried about food and water safety these days. Hanging out with friends, I brought up the 16,000 pig carcasses floating through a Shanghai river that serves as a water supply source. Some of those pigs tested positive for swine flu and were thought to be dumped by farmers too cheap or lazy to dispose of them properly. We’re extremely lucky that no epidemic or mass food / water poisoning resulted from this incident. But we might not be so lucky the next time it happens, or the time after that.
The response from a friend was typically infuriating: “Oh, that’s not a big deal. Before, somewhere else, I heard of an even bigger dump of diseased pigs.”
My response is: So what? Even if 20,000 diseased pigs were dumped in, say, India or Africa. That doesn’t make 16,000 diseased pigs a good thing in Shanghai. There are some universal truths. One of them is DISEASED ANIMALS ROTTING IN YOUR WATER SUPPLY IS BAD NEWS. No more excuses, explanations or comparisons needed.
I don’t know why the Chinese are so defensive against any criticism, no matter how apolitical or how logical.
Have air so bad that your children need face masks to go to school? Point to the Industrial Revolution… in the 19th century. But even if the West poisoned its natural resources 200 years ago, should China do the same today?
Can’t open your own business because every utility, police officer and landlord wants a bribe? Point out that corruption was worse in the U.S.S.R.
When Hong Kong dock workers striked over terrible conditions, some commenters responded that “conditions were worse in Bangladesh.” Well, of course they are. But even if 1,000 die in a factory in Bangladesh, should we stop offering protection to our own laborers?
I don’t know where this knee-jerk reaction comes from. An obsession with face? A desire to just change the subject to avoid a difficult conversation? Maybe a need for an excuse to not do anything?
A lot of people who bash on china should read Sinclair’s The Jungle. Most of the complaints are superficial, honestly. So hong konger’s are repulsed by some mainland habits? This really speaks to the immaturity and lack of humility of said HK’ers.
If anyone has some magic potion that would turn 1.5 B mostly poor Chinese into well mannered, wealthy people as per wealthy western standards – speak up now or forever hold your peace.
“China has done a great job in developing and pulling people out of poverty. It’s next big goal is to make life more livable — less corruption and pollution, more civil pride, good behavior, social responsibility, decent hygiene.”
You seem to think that only you and outsiders realize this is a problem. Where is the logic in this. You think the chinese don’t know about these problems? It’s their lives and futures at stake after all. I rather believe that most chinese knows about the issues, and are playing the best hand they can, and amazingly patient and understanding of it. When I hear many of the complaints aired here, I see those making the complaints as childish, arrogant and misplaced. I see a kid throwing a tantrum, someone trying irrationally to force a notion of a developed nation onto a developing one.
Humility people, Humility!
Actually, you’re wrong into putting the dead pigs in the river incident to used as a spoiled child metaphor. The spoiled child metaphor is repeating doing bad things over and over again without changing, but this incident with the dead pigs happened only once.
Second, I think you and many westerners don’t know how this incident with the dead pigs in the river came to be. It used to be that many diseased pigs were sold to the black market and this tainted meat got into the food supply, thus the reason why there were no dead pigs on the river before. Recently, the Chinese government start cracking down on this. Now the problem is that there is no place to dispose of these diseased pigs, so these people threw them down the river. Now the Chinese government steps in and create place to properly dispose these dead pigs so we don’t see any more of these pigs down the river… So I fail to see why the spoiled child analogy applies here.
Hong Konger: Thank you for stating my point with several personal examples.
Pug_ster: It’s okay to disagree with me on the principle that I’m too simplistic. That’s because I’m railing against sophistry.
I can’t tell if you’re posing the nihilist’s arguments because you actually wish to debate the point or because you are so used to giving the same argument again and again that you feel you win every time you give it.
If you truly wish a response, ask some people whether they would piss on their food before they eat it, or piss on stairs before they walk down them. Or just go ahead and piss on some stairs then walk down them. If you want me to respond to your ridiculous abstract notions of nonexistence and wordplay, well, I’d be happy to in another post. But I think we’d probably both be happier to talk about something else.
Black Pheonix says
“If you truly wish a response, ask some people whether they would piss on their food before they eat it, or piss on stairs before they walk down them.”
For the 1st part of your hypo, you are changing the Hypo.
For the 2nd part, it appears that you answered your own hypo. If people are pissing on stairs in London, then those people obviously DID!!
If People are doing it (as posed by your hypo), then they obviously wanted to, then who are you to say it’s wrong?
“If you want me to respond to your ridiculous abstract notions of nonexistence and wordplay, well, I’d be happy to in another post.”
It’s your “abstract notions” in your hypo, you are the one being ridiculous. For one, I don’t even know what people in London are “peeing in stairways”, as you claimed!!
Well, let’s just get that straight 1st, shall we?
Are there people “peeing in stairways” in London?? Or are you just being ridiculous in your hypo?!
Are there people pissing on food before they eat it?? Or are you just being ridiculous in your hypo?!
I’m pretty sure you are just being ridiculous. Which is the point of me throwing your hypo in your face. (Don’t understand sarcasm?)
I would love to talk about something else, but you apparently can’t go on without the ridiculous hypos (which others did not bring up).
I think we are done with you wasting bandwidth here.
Aime Cesaire’s Discourses on Colonialism (1955) may offer a useful perspective.
In the Discourses, Cesaire points out that the European projection of itself as humanistic providers of civilization and order to a savage and chaotic world is a lie based on false ideals of white superiority; that colonialism uses language of service to mankind, progress and rationality to mask the savagery of turning the colonized into slaves and resources providers. In colonizing the colored races, traditional civilization was denigrated and destroyed. This has the effect of unleashing destructive barbaric forces in both colonizer and colonized.
Cesaire’s essay was highly influential, especially in the black consciousness movement. South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko drew inspiration from this work. (Biko’s “writings and activism attempted to empower black people, and he was famous for his slogan “black is beautiful”, which he described as meaning: ‘man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being'”)
What is serious is that “Europe” is morally, spiritually indefensible.
And today the indictment is brought against it not by the European masses alone, but on a world scale, by tens and tens of millions of men who, from the depths of slavery, set themselves up as judges.
The colonialists may kill in Indochina, torture in Madagascar, imprison in Black Africa, crackdown in the West Indies. Henceforth, the colonized know that they have an advantage over them. They know that their temporary, “masters” are lying.
Therefore, that their masters are weak.
And since I have been asked to speak about colonization and civilization, let us go straight to the principal lie which is the source of all the others.
Colonization and civilization?
In dealing with this subject, the commonest curse is to be the dupe in good faith of a collective hypocrisy that cleverly misrepresents problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them.
In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly – that is, dangerously – and to answer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamentally, is colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law. To admit once for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies.
Pursuing my analysis, I find that hypocrisy is of recent date; that neither Cortez discovering Mexico from the top of the great teocalli, nor Pizzaro before Cuzco (much less Marco Polo before Cambaluc), claims that he is the harbinger of a superior order; that they kill; that they plunder; that they have helmets, lances, cupidities; that the slavering apologists came later; that the chief culprit in this domain is Christian pedantry, which laid down the dishonest equations Christianity=civilization, paganism=savagery, from which there could not but ensue abominable colonialist and racist consequences, whose victims were to be the Indians, the yellow peoples, and the Negroes.
That being settled, I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, the receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy.
But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best?
I answer no.
And I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.
First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and “interrogated, all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.
And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific reverse shock: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine, discuss.
People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind-it’s Nazism, it will. pass!” And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.
Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa.
And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been – and still is – narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist.
I have talked a good deal about Hitler. Because he deserves it: he makes it possible to see things on a large scale and to grasp the fact that capitalist society, at its present stage, is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men, just as it has proved incapable of establishing a system of individual ethics. Whether one likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is Europe, I mean the Europe of Adenauer, Schuman, Bidault, and a few others, there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler. At the end of formal humanism and philosophic renunciation, there is Hitler.
And this being so, I cannot help thinking of one of his statements: “We aspire not to equality but to domination. The country of a foreign race must become once again a country of serfs, of agricultural laborers, or industrial workers. It is not a question of eliminating the inequalities among men but of widening them and making them into a law.”
That rings clear, haughty, and brutal and plants us squarely in the middle of howling savagery. But let us come down a step.
Who is speaking? I am ashamed to say it: it is the Western humanist, the “idealist” philosopher. That his name is Renan is an accident. That the passage is taken from a book entitled La Refonne intellectuelle et morale, that it was written in France just after a war which France had represented as a war of right against might, tells us a great deal about bourgeois morals.
“The regeneration of the inferior or degenerate races by the superior races is part of the providential order of things for humanity. With us, the common man is nearly always a declasse nobleman, his heavy hand is better suited to handling the sword than the menial tool. Rather than work, he chooses to fight, that is, he returns to, his first estate. Regere imperio populos, that is our vocation. Pour forth this all- consuming activity onto countries which, like China, are crying aloud for foreign conquest. Turn the adventurers who disturb European society into a ver sacrum, a horde like those of the Franks, the Lombards, or the Normans, and every man will be in his right role. Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honor; govern them with justice, levying from them, in return for the blessing of such a government, an ample allowance for the conquering race, and they will be satisfied; a race of tillers of the soil, the Negro; treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race. Reduce this noble race to working in the ergastulum like Negroes and Chinese, and they rebel. In Europe, every rebel is, more or less, a soldier who has missed his calling, a creature made for the heroic life, before whom you are setting a task that is contrary to his race – a poor worker, too good a soldier. But the life at which our workers rebel would make a Chinese or a fellah happy, as they are not military creatures in the least. Let each one do what he is made for, and all will be well.”
Hitler? Rosenberg? No, Renan.
But let us come down one step further. And it is the long-winded politician. Who protests? No one, so far as I know, when M. Albert Sarraut, the former governor-general of Indochina, holding forth to the students at the Ecole Coloniale, teaches them that it would be puerile to object to the European colonial enterprises in the name of “an alleged right to possess the land one occupies, and some sort of right to remain in fierce isolation, which would leave unutilized resources to lie forever idle in the hands of incompetents.”
And who is roused to indignation when a certain Rev. Barde assures us that if the goods of this world “remained divided up indefinitely, as they would be without colonization, they would answer neither the purposes of God nor the just demands of the human collectivity”?
Since, as his fellow Christian, the Rev. Muller, declares: “Humanity must not, cannot allow the incompetence, negligence, and laziness of the uncivilized peoples to leave idle indefinitely the wealth which God has confided to them, charging them to make it serve the good of all.”
I mean not one established writer, not one academician, not one preacher, not one crusader for the right and for religion, not one “defender of the human person.”
And yet, through the mouths of the Sarrauts and the Bardes,,the Mullers and the Renans, through the mouths of all those who considered – and consider – it lawful to apply to non-European peoples “a kind of expropriation for public purposes” for the benefit of nations that were stronger and better equipped, it was already Hitler speaking!
What am I driving at? At this idea: that no one colonizes innocently, that no one colonizes with impunity either; that a nation which colonizes, that a civilization which justifies colonization – and therefore force – is already a sick civilization, a civilization that is morally diseased, that irresistibly, progressing from one consequence to another, one repudiation to another, calls for its Hitler, I mean its punishment.
Colonization: bridgehead in a campaign to civilize barbarism, from which there may emerge at any moment the negation of civilization, pure and simple.
But let us speak about the colonized.
I see clearly what colonization has destroyed: the wonderful Indian civilizations – and neither Deterding nor Royal Dutch nor Standard Oil will ever console me for the Aztecs and the Incas.
I see clearly the civilizations; condemned to perish at a future date, into which it has introduced a principle of ruin: the South Sea islands, Nigeria, Nyasaland. I see less clearly the contributions it has made.
Security? Culture? The rule of law? In the meantime, I look around and wherever there are colonizers and colonized face to face, I see force, brutality, cruelty, sadism, conflict, and, in a parody of education, the hasty manufacture of a few thousand subordinate functionaries, “boys,” artisans, office clerks, and interpreters necessary for the smooth operation of business.
I spoke of contact.
Between colonizer and colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses.
No human contact, but relations of domination and submission which turn the colonizing man into a class-room monitor, an army sergeant, a prison guard, a slave driver, and the indigenous man into an instrument of production.
My turn to state an equation: colonization = “thing-ification.”
I hear the storm. They talk to me about progress, about “achievements,” diseases cured, improved standards of living.
I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out.
They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks.
I am talking about thousands of men sacrificed to the Congo-Ocean [A railroad line connecting Brazzaville with the port of Pointe-Noire. (Trans.)]. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life-from life, from the dance, from wisdom.
I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.
They dazzle me with the tonnage of cotton or cocoa that has been exported, the acreage that has been planted with olive trees or grapevines.
I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted – harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population – about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting of raw materials.
They pride themselves on abuses eliminated.
I too talk about abuses, but what I say is that on the old ones – very real – they have superimposed others – very detestable. They talk to me about local tyrants brought to reason; but I note that in general the old tyrants get on very well with the new ones, and that there has been established between them, to the detriment of the people, a circuit of mutual services and complicity.
They talk to me about civilization. I talk about proletarianization and mystification. For my part, I make a systematic defense of the non-European civilizations. Every day that passes, every denial of justice, every beating by the police, every demand of the workers that is drowned in blood, every scandal that is hushed tip, every punitive expedition, every police van, every gendarme and every militiaman, brings home to us the value of our old societies.
They were communal societies, never societies of the many for the few.
They were societies that were not only ante-capitalist, as has been said, but also anti-capitalist.
They were democratic societies, always. They were cooperative societies, fraternal societies. I make a systematic defense of the societies destroyed by imperialism. They were the fact, they did not pretend to be the idea; despite their faults, they were neither to be hated nor condemned. They were content to be. In them, neither the word failure nor the word avatar had any meaning. They kept hope intact.
Whereas those are the only words that can, in all honesty, be applied to the European enterprises outside Europe. My only consolation is that periods of colonization pass, that nations sleep only for a time, and that peoples remain.
One of the values invented by the bourgeoisie in former times and launched throughout the world was man – and we have seen what has become of that. The other was the nation.
It is a fact: the nation is a bourgeois phenomenon.
Exactly; but if I turn my attention from man to nations, I note that here too there is great danger; that colonial enterprise is to the modern world what Roman imperialism was to the ancient world: the prelude to Disaster and the forerunner of Catastrophe. Come, now! The Indians massacred, the Moslem world drained of itself, the Chinese world defiled and perverted for a good century; the Negro world disqualified; mighty voices stilled forever; homes scattered to the wind; all this wreckage, all this waste, humanity reduced to a monologue, and you think that all that does not have its price? The truth is that this policy cannot but bring about the ruin of Europe itself, and that Europe, if it is not careful, will perish from the void it has created around itself.
They thought they were only slaughtering Indians, or Hndus, or South Sea islanders, or Africans. They have in fact overthrown, one after another, the ramparts behind which European civilization could have developed freely.
I know how fallacious historical parallels are, particularly the one I am about to draw. Nevertheless, permit me to quote a page from Edgar Quinet for the not inconsiderable element of truth which it contains and which is worth pondering.
Here it is:
“People ask why barbarism emerged all at once in ancient civilization. I believe I know the answer. It is surprising that so simple a cause is not obvious to everyone. The system of ancient civilization was composed of a certain number of nationalities, of countries which, although they seemed to be enemies, or were even ignorant of each other, protected, supported, and guarded one another. When the expanding Roman Empire undertook to conquer and destroy these groups of nations, the dazzled sophists thought they saw at the end of this road humanity triumphant in Rome. They talked about the unity of the human spirit; it was only a dream. It happened that these nationalities were so many bulwarks protecting Rome itself… Thus when Rome, in its alleged triumphal march toward a single civilization, had destroyed, one after the other, Carthage, Egypt, Greece, Judea, Persia, Dacia, and Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, it came to pass that it had itself swallowed up the dikes that protected it against the human ocean under which it was to perish. The magnanimous Caesar, by crushing the two Gauls, only paved the way for the Teutons. So many societies, so many languages extinguished, so many cities, rights, homes annihilated, created a void around Rome, and in those places which were not invaded by the barbarians, barbarism was born spontaneously. The vanquished Gauls changed into Bagaudes. Thus the violent downfall, the progressive extirpation of individual cities, caused the crumbling of ancient civilization. That social edifice was supported by the various nationalities as by so many different columns of marble or porphyry. When, to the applause of the wise men of the time, each of these living columns had been demolished, the edifice came crashing down; and the wise men of our day are still trying to understand how such mighty ruins could have been made in a moment’s time.”
And now I ask: what else has bourgeois Europe done? It has undermined civilizations, destroyed countries, ruined nationalities, extirpated “the root of diversity.” No more dikes, no more bulwarks. The hour of the barbarian is at hand. The modern barbarian. The American hour. Violence, excess, waste, mercantilism, bluff, gregariousness, stupidity, vulgarity, disorder.
Black Pheonix says
“My response is: So what? Even if 20,000 diseased pigs were dumped in, say, India or Africa. That doesn’t make 16,000 diseased pigs a good thing in Shanghai. There are some universal truths. One of them is DISEASED ANIMALS ROTTING IN YOUR WATER SUPPLY IS BAD NEWS. No more excuses, explanations or comparisons needed.”
I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but that’s the inevitable down side of MODERN food production methods. MASSIVE scaled, mean LOW quality control. That’s just statistics.
No “excuses”? Sure, the ONLY way you can make food safe is to grow your own food (even then).
Otherwise, no one should be making excuses for things they can’t possibly control.
YES, modern food production methods inevitably means BILLIONS will be able to eat, but they won’t know what they are eating for sure (or how safe the food is).
Similarly for water, BILLIONS can get to water for cheap, but you won’t know how clean it is, or whether some guy upstream is pissing blood in the water. You can’t even be sure whether your own well water is safe, or some one is fracking oil that’s leaking into your well.
It’s just statistics of 7 billion humans on planet Earth.
Take HK for example: Question: How does a city like HK handle its garbage??
Answer: It has to continually expand to “new territory” to open up new garbage dump.
HK has ONLY 3 strategic dumps, all in “new territories”. Even those will be projected to be filled in 2-4 years.
So what would HK do after that?
I would love to hear some “no excuses” solutions. (In fact, lots of people are hoping for such solutions).
And, Statistics is NOT excuses, it’s just simple math.
We wouldn’t have to run the math, if human beings just stopped eating, breathing, drinking, and producing waste.
You want “no excuses”?? Then why stop at just cleaning up after yourself?? That’s not “excusable”, until you buried your trash on your own property.
The only “no excuse” solution? Each of us living in our own sealed bio-dome, producing our own oxygen, our own food, and keeping our own trash and poop.
Now, from what I have read, no one has succeeded in that.
You are welcome to try, (or fund someone to try).
The recent proliferation of “Ag-Gag” bills in various states in the US in response to video exposes of animal abuses at production facilities offers another perspective on industrial meat production practices:
“A new set of laws — dubbed Ag-Gag bills in the media — prevent undercover investigators from working on factory farms with intention of finding and reporting illegal patterns of behavior, like animal abuse. In the states where they’ve been passed, these laws criminalize people trying to unmask the facilities for what they are rather than the companies who made them that way.
Last Wednesday, a California state lawmaker withdrew AB 343, the nation’s fourteenth proposed Ag-Gag bill in response to overwhelming public disapproval. While representatives in California, New York, and Minnesota repealed the bills shortly after introducing them, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are still considering them. The nation’s first Ag-Gag laws were passed in Kansas, Montana, and Missouri in 1990-1, aimed at criminalizing photographers and videographers with intent to defame the facility. In all, seven states have enacted Ag-Gag laws, six have pending laws, and three have withdrawn.
One of the most crucial investigations led to the largest meat recall in history. Videos obtained by a farm worker at the Hallmark slaughter plant in Chino, California, expose workers repeatedly kicking and jabbing downed cows, shocking them, and torturing them with a hose and water to get them to walk to slaughter. Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned authority on livestock treatment, described these images as “one of the worst animal abuse videos I have ever viewed.” The recalled beef was distributed by Westland Meat Co, a major distributor of beef to the USDA’s National School Lunch Program.
In another case, in Hart, Texas’s E6 Cattle Company, an undercover investigator documented the bludgeoning of calves heads with pickaxes and hammers, calves thrown alive onto dead piles, ill and dying calves denied medical care, and calves and cows confined in stalls, standing deep in manure and urine buildup.
The owner of the E6 Cattle Company was sentenced one-year probation, and charged $4,000 in fines. Five of his former employees were sentenced for jail time. Were an Ag-Gag bill enacted in Texas at that time, the footage would likely be dismissed by the court, and the videographer would have also been facing jail time and a 500-dollar fine.
In most cases, their videos are the only means of documenting the kind of evidence needed to press criminal charges on livestock facility owners and employees.
Proponents of the bill range from individual farmers and ranchers to national organizations that represent beef, poultry, pork and dairy producers. Emily Meredith, communications director of the Animal Agricultural Alliance, the nation’s largest coalition of farmers, vets, processing facilities, and ranchers, explained in a recent debate, that, ‘these videos damage [the farmers’] reputations…And many of these videos have found no legitimate instances of abuse, but rather use manipulated footage. They show false narrative of the images….meant to shock and awe consumers.'”
To all, I am hoping to respond within a day. Some of the criticisms are criticisms leveled against Chinese bloggers and Chinese in general for a long time. But Nanny went home today … with 2 kids and guests over … I have no time to blog. I promise, my response will be among the most insightful – from my perspective – I have offered on this blog.
The Great Smog of London occurred in 1952. Leading to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Game, a major concern was Japan’s polluted air. Minamata Disease was all the rave in those days, kind of like today’s SARS, H1N1, H7N9, etc.
In the 1920s, many American metropolitans, especially Chicago, were very polluted. In New York, when you dumped human and industrial wastes directly into the Hudson River, they just eventually flowed to the Ocean. Filthy rivers/streams around Chicago mostly ended in the Lake Michigan. In the 1930s, the industrial pollution in America was slowing down due to the Great Depression, but it came the nasty Dust Bowl.
Yet the 1920s and 1930s gave us the likes of Earnest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When we gradually fade out of the history one day, what the world will remember our generations by, are probably overlooked by your parochial eye.
Speaking of air pollution, by far the most significant cause is coal and how coal is burned. It was the same in London circa 1952, Tokyo circa 1964, or Chicago in the 1920s. China’s insatiable energy need has quadrupled in the last 3 decades. Half of the coal burned in the world is in China today, and most of the coal burned in China is of the high-sulfur types. Once that growth of energy demand slows down, and the supply of less polluted energy sources catches up, you will see the same transformation — Just like the disappearance of “London Fog”, one day people will ask where that great “Beijing Smog” is?
Mister Unknown says
Those who think western environmental pollution is a thing of the past should check out the documentary “Gasland”, in areas where fracking is used to drill for shale gas, people can light their tap water on fire.
& speaking of lighting water on fire, as recently as the 80s people can light large parts of the Great Lakes on fire as well. The notion that the west no longer pursues environmentally damaging forms of economic development is a myth that should be promptly dispelled.
Black Pheonix says
“Have air so bad that your children need face masks to go to school? Point to the Industrial Revolution… in the 19th century. But even if the West poisoned its natural resources 200 years ago, should China do the same today?”
It’s not whether China “should” do the same today. It’s whether China COULD feasibly avoid doing the same extent of pollutions as Europe in its rapid industrialization.
From the scale of industrialization in China, I would say China HAS indeed avoided the historical scale of pollution in Europe during the 19th century.
You are suggesting that China is simply repeating a mistake. While the data actually suggest that China avoided the mistake of Europe.
By your logic, all pollutions today would be the repeating of the 19th century pollutions, regardless of actual proportional extent?!
I think not.
*Oh by the way, studies also concluded that China’s pollution may have slowed down Global Warming, by blocking out some sun light. But tomorrow, they will probably say Fast Food is good for your heart too.
Who are you going to believe?
Agree on all counts, but it’s also no doubt that air in China overall is far more polluted than in the Western countries.
The living standard in Brazil is largely comparable to coastal China. Their rivers according to my untrained eye don’t seem to be less polluted than those in China. Sao Paulo is nearly as densely populated as Beijing with equally congested motorways, yet its sky is always blue. It all comes down to coal being an insignificant source of energy in Brazil (less than 1% of what China consumes).
Tweeting about it, blogging about it, or just just howling “I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”, just won’t improve the situation. A few random ideas:
* Consider accepting Iran in SCO.
* Actively involve in the Afghanistan nation building after the NATO forces withdraw.
* Push through the NG pipeline project connecting Iranian NG to China.
* Expedite the Russian NG pipeline.
* If the Australian coal miners are having problems of raising money domestically, allow them to go to China to raise money. Australian coal is mostly low in sulfur.
In short, China needs to expand its NG pipelines to the other two top-3 NG nations. If coal can be reduced to be only used in large power plants and steel mills, the air pollution problem is half solved.
As I have showed here before, the term the “West” was invented by those who SELF-identified themselves as belonging to the “Western Civilization”
Kind of like the term “China” was inventred by those who SELF-identified themselves as belonging to “Chinese Civilization”.
“And the Western media clearly identify themselves as the “West” all the time. ”
Kind of like the Chinese media who clearly identify themselves as “China” all the time.
It’s my opinion these broad categories lead to miscommunication. If the Mayor of Townsville takes a kickback on all new factory openings in his town, no greater interest is served by referring to this as “Western” problem or a “China” problem.
Black Pheonix says
“Kind of like the term “China” was inventred by those who SELF-identified themselves as belonging to “Chinese Civilization”.”
Actually, the term “China” was not invented in China.
“Kind of like the Chinese media who clearly identify themselves as “China” all the time.”
True for current time.
“It’s my opinion these broad categories lead to miscommunication. If the Mayor of Townsville takes a kickback on all new factory openings in his town, no greater interest is served by referring to this as “Western” problem or a “China” problem.”
It’s Only “MIS-communication” if the characterization is in error relative to the self-characterization.
So relatives are finally gone. I want to respond to a theme I see recurring. First we have aahzmandius
Then you have Hong Konger
And then there is melektaus himself:
There are others…
When you get criticized by so many, from so many angles, you reflect. Depending how you read the above, I have been accused of evading the issue, bringing up irrelevant comparisons, talking about irrelevant subjects, making up excuses, and obfuscating the issues with bull shit.
Heck if I weren’t an editor on this blog, and if the above commentates are correct, many of my fellow bloggers would probably accuse me of “trolling” and banning me altogether!
But I don’t think in bringing up comparisons I am being evasive, or making excuses. For example, when melektaus mentions how bad the traffic is in China and how that’s due to uncivilized bahavior on individual’s part, and when I bring up how bad traffic is other places in the world, my point is not to bring up an irrelevant comparison – or excuses. My point is to note that there are many causes for traffic. Look around the world. It happens often in developing nations with sparse resources; it happens in developed nations, too. It happens in Western cultures, Eastern cultures. My point is to note that let’s look at these complex causes across different societies with different cultures and learn the true cause – instead of jumping to conclusion that this is about character of individuals or cultures.
Bringing up others’ experiences for context is not about making excuses, bringing up irrelevant comparisons, or spreading bull shit. It is trying to instill insight.
Now to the name calling of others being “uncivilized,” I admit I really do have a persoanl problem with anyone calling anyone “uncivilized.” Again, by what standard?
Should peeing on in public space be deemed universally uncivilized? That to me is myopic to the most extreme. Peeing in public space in the rural area may not be so bad. It’s definitely economically and environmentally more friendly than to building lots of public outhouses that people must use instead. OK what about public pathways that everyone walk on. Surely that must be “universally” bad. Well, by Sierra Club standards, people actually should pee on trails when hiking in the wilderness. Yes, you should pee on trails, the same path you walked on, that others walked on – not rocks on the side, or vegetation on the side of trails – because that leaves the least impact to nature. Again, the context matters.
None of this is excuse for people peeing in subways (as some do in New York) or public parks (as some do in Shanghai), but I think it makes sense to try to step into the shoe of those who do it … and try to understand their perspective. We might also want to compare with other societies, to see if there are common factors at play – as often there is, involving social issues, city design issues, etc. From that, we might better understand why things are the way they are, why people are the way they are, rather than simply say people are uncivilized, lazy, evil, selfish, whatever.
Less than two years ago during election season, I was in Taiwan – where one still finds many who spit, blow snot rockets in public. One find many hand out election materials (candidate propaganda) with a little gift packets of tissue paper. Many in Taiwan still find it too wasteful to buy tissue paper. They prefer to just spit. You may find that dirty, even offensive, but I don’t find that universally uncivilized. Tissue paper do cost money to make. You may not like it, but is it about “civilization” – or your own perspective? If people get diseases more readily from people coughing and sneezing in a closed-off room (as we all do, and yes, in advanced societies) than spitting in the open on public sidewalks, does anyone have real ground to pronounce such behavior universally uncivilized?
Now one can look from perspective of public health to define proper behavior. But even then I wouldn’t call it civilized vs. uncivilized. When a close friend of mine visited India a few years ago, he learned that in some hostels, there were no toilet paper in the public restroom. There was a spigot nearby. He later learned that there is an etiquette to wiping your butt with your hand in India.
Is that uncivilized?
Note, I am not trying to find an excuse … to detract. I am trying to say, understand the circumstances, the context. People are the product of their environment. Not everyone has a 1st world income and live in 1st world cities. There are many local adaptions that work for local circumstances – denigrating other’s adaptions as “uncivilized” is to me offensive. When people from those environment then move enmass to urban areas, they face tremendous challenges – besides standard socioeconomic challenges. Blaming society’s problem on these migrants I believe is atrocious in itself.
Now – I want to take some time to respond to Hong Konger’s comment.
What does Hong Konger think he means by: “Oh, that’s not a big deal. Before, somewhere else, I heard of an even bigger dump of diseased pigs.”
If I said it, I would probably mean, there are no issues to discuss beyond those that are already discussed before. It’s not new news. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the issues. There are nothing new to be learned discussing this case. And I think that’s a perfectly good stance to take.
And about the statement “There are some universal truths. One of them is DISEASED ANIMALS ROTTING IN YOUR WATER SUPPLY IS BAD NEWS. No more excuses, explanations or comparisons needed.”
Really? Is it really such a universal absolute?
In any industrialized society, we tolerate a certain amount of risk. There are risks of any sorts of accidents involving factories, airplanes, trains, nuclear plants, food supplies. Yes, a child – in an idealized world – might wish away all the evils of living in real societies, yet we know they exist – and tolerate them. Thus in law, we don’t hold everyone accountable for all liabilities they might cause – only negligent behaviors. In practice, we have come up with insurance schemes to insure away all sorts of accidents we know are bound to happen. Even in a nation with an economy as advanced as the U.S., as much resources as the U.S. has (and tolerates) a bad agriculture run-off problem.
The point here is not to say, U.S. does it, so China can. The point is that there are inherent problems with industrializing – with doing things large scale – which includes industrialized farming. Factories blow up. Accidents happen. And normal negligence gets magnified into any sorts of horrific results. Yet we as a society can reasonably choose to tolerate it. It’s not a universal truth to simply point at the horrific result to end the discussion. The discussion only starts. Comparisons, explanations are important. Discussions of context is important. China doesn’t exist in the vacuum. When the problem China faces is industrialization, China should and can look to the history of industrialized nations, to the experiences of other industrializing nations for context. Sure China can always look to better the world – to escape history. But it should not be lectured to do the impossible – to bear undue costs of development.
This shows how narrow and moralistic people in the West / people living in the Western mindset have become. Poisoning the natural resources 200 years ago? No the West continues to poison its natural resources today. It has recently cleaned some of it by outsourcing it to developing nations. It can afford to live more cleanly – at least on the surface – by while consuming a huge amount of energy per capita. If polluting is merely a moral choice, maybe what Hong Konger write makes sense. But it is not. A large community of say monks will probably pollute just as much as a say large community of murderers. I’m pretty sure of that. Individuals may make moral choices about dumping trash down a storm drain, but as a society, the factors involved are complex and hugely dependent on factors such as gdp per capita, technology access (I saw an MIT survey a few years ago that shows most Americans support limiting export of green technology to perceived economic competitors such as China), resources, international trade conditions, etc. Looking to what the U.S. and other nations went through is informative – and can hold the key to figuring out what China ought – and ought not – to do for its future.
To be frank, China has to chart its own course in developing sustainably. Its population size, lack of access to many important resources – dictates it must. Comparisons to the U.S. brings context – but I don’t think anyone important is proposing that China simply follows America’s path.
I haven’t heard of this too much. Most Chinese I know take corruptions seriously. You won’t find government officials explaining away corruption in China today by hiding behind the U.S.S.R. – as the U.S.S.R. is no longer viewed as a model. It’s viewed as a dinosaur – what not to do.
But comparison with the U.S.S.R. is not totally irrelevant either. Due to historical circumstances, many of the development of PRC took place under the wings of the U.S.S.R. To the extent China suffers from a corruption problem, some of it can be attributed to the system it adopted from the U.S.S.R. If corruption is worse in the U.S.S.R., at least there is some reason to think the Chinese people are not to blame – only the system.
I hear a lot of Americans whining about how free trade has decreased their standard of living. They say, how can we compete when companies in China, India, Philippines, etc. can hire workers without providing much benefits, who work in conditions deemed shabby by American standards?
Yet does it make sense to demand what ultimately becomes a uniform world labor standard?
I don’t think so. The world has local conditions. Each location must adopt its own tailored to its own circumstances. In France, it may be illegal to ask employees to work more than 35 hours a week without overtime pay. Some French may even think it’s a universal right…
Yet even though if labor conditions must be domestically tailored, Americans are correct to compare what is going on around the world. It cannot be done in the blind. If you are in an industry where you compete against products made in Bangladesh, then in some ways you do care about what is going on there. If you are competing against Bangledesh workers, then yes, comparisons are valid. You may even have to work down to their standards; you may need to ditch the industry, or ask your government to enact laws to prohibit their product from coming in – to disengage from that aspect of international trade.
So again, things are not black and white. As Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
No it’s none of this.
On a personal note, for this blog, I think this discussion shows the dangers of sometimes calling another out for finding excuses, for going off topic. Sure trolls do exist that want to derail the discussion. But sometimes they may actually be engaging but seems to be derailing only because we do not understand them. Sometimes when one calls another a troll, it may say more about the person calling out, than the person being called?
Thoughts on this?
Supposedly Chinese officials are now complaining about the “uncivilized” behavior of Chinese tourists. The washington post article even has a video of an alleged Mainland Chinese tourist as exhibit A of “rude” behavior.
My take, I think this focus on “uncivilized” Chinese tourist as “Chinese” is another example where it says more about the accuser than accused – of Washington post making it a story than Chinese tourist in general.
And here I go again – urging for some context.
Truth be told, there are rude Chinese tourists just as there are ugly American tourists,” (or check out this youtube video on how not to be an ugly American tourist) German tourists, French tourists, British tourists, etc.
So there are ugly tourists. Big deal. It’s not that it’s not a problem per se, it’s just that it’s a general problem. Some Chinese officials wanting Chinese to clean up their act is fine. It’s part of his job to clean up Chinese reputation.
But the Washingtonpost making it a story … with a link to one video of some hot tempered Chinese Mainland tourist.
It’s like someone who goes travelling. He gets pickpocketed … and then attribute that as some sort of character problem of the place he is travelling.
Perhaps he’s right, but more likely, he just ran into a problem that travellers often encounter and made a big deal of it … because of his own prejudices.
Hey Washingtonpost, there are rude tourists everywhere. Write about rude tourist. Don’t make it into a Chinese thing, devoid of all context.
Here is another of example how facts lie…. a topic I touched upon ever so lightly in a recent post.
Looks like some expat in China has commented on this ugly Chinese tourist issue (though not the post article) a couple of months ago.
It’s a softer take, but at least it does put things in better context than that post article.
Hong Konger says
This has been a big topic since that Chinese kid fessed up to scribbling his name on a priceless, ancient Egyptian monument. I think a certain amount of self-awareness is good.
The Chinese people will never improve their image overseas if they are not honest about their flaws.
And I think that honesty comes from a people finally confident enough to admit they are wrong sometimes – a people not so nervous and obsessed with “face” that they can’t even take logical criticism.
The government has announced, many times, efforts to improve behavior and hygiene, both overseas and at home. And this is a good thing for China.
Black Pheonix says
Recently, my wife and I went to Thai restaurant.
While we were eating, the owner’s daughter (probably 2 year old) was running around playing in the restaurant.
She stood behind my wife for a little while. We thought she was just having fun, but then we realized that she took a ball point pen and scribbled all over my wife’s jacket, which was hanging on the back of her chair!
The owner came to apologize, and offered to pay for dry cleaning (which probably would not have worked in any case for the material).
We were upset, but we told him not worry about it.
Kids will be kids at that age. Tourist or not.
I don’t get upset with kids “scribbling”. That’s what they do. I don’t know how much self-discipline can you really drone into kids of that age.
As Adults though, I think the parents should bear most of the responsibility. They should know well enough to watch their kids more, (and if they can’t, then they shouldn’t take their kids on vacations).
I also think the Governments should bear responsibility for their own artifacts. Lots of places don’t let the tourists near the artifacts, adults or kids.
If the Egyptian government opens the door to let people get too close to their artifacts, that’s just asking for trouble.
Hong Konger says
Some of the commenters on this blog are ridiculous. It’s like they can’t admit that anyone among 1 billion + Chinese could ever do anything wrong – it must always be the fault of the foreigners. (In this case, the it’s the Egyptians’ fault for sharing its amazing artefacts? By that reasoning we should also dismantle the Great Wall, the Louvre and the Taj Mahal in case someone defaces them And if you’ve seen what the Chinese have done to their own Great Wall recently, you’d be horrified).
Black Phoenix – Your example is a 2-year-old. The vandal here was 15 or 16. And the people pouring criticism on him were fellow Chinese, and rightly so.
First, there’s HH’s favorite bad argument — that one wrong makes another wrong right. Your wife’s jacket getting dirty has NOTHING to do with a widespread problem of mainland tourists ruining historic and natural monuments, both at home and abroad. There’s a big difference between a toddler having an accident and a spoiled high school student who deliberately carved his name on a priceless 3,500-year-old piece of history.
I don’t want to go back to all the points of this post, but why do people here have to defend ever bad thing, big or small, that every Chinese person does? Out of 1 billion folk, there are doing to be many people who are dirty, rude and corrupt. And the newest generation of Chinese are simply not very well mannered. Why pretend that we’re in some la-la land where every Chinese is above criticism?
I think the average Chinese netizen is far more honest and self-aware than most of the people who post here, most of whom are disconnected to what the average person in this region feels and thinks, and who have not lived in China for decades, if ever.
Black Pheonix says
“By that reasoning we should also dismantle the Great Wall, the Louvre and the Taj Mahal in case someone defaces them And if you’ve seen what the Chinese have done to their own Great Wall recently, you’d be horrified.”
You are being ridiculous. Who suggested “dismantling” any artifacts? Just you!
“widespread problem of mainland tourists ruining historic and natural monuments, both at home and abroad”??
How “widespread” is it?
BTW, even Western media have discussed part of the fault of the Egyptian government not taking care of their historical sites. I’m not alone in this.
Black Pheonix says
“There’s a big difference between a toddler having an accident and a spoiled high school student who deliberately carved his name on a priceless 3,500-year-old piece of history.”
What’s the “big difference”? You are not making your point clear here.
” why do people here have to defend ever bad thing, big or small, that every Chinese person does? Out of 1 billion folk, there are doing to be many people who are dirty, rude and corrupt. And the newest generation of Chinese are simply not very well mannered. Why pretend that we’re in some la-la land where every Chinese is above criticism?”
I don’t know why you are generalizing. I DID say that the “PARENTS” should take some responsibility!!
“I think the average Chinese netizen is far more honest and self-aware than most of the people who post here, most of whom are disconnected to what the average person in this region feels and thinks, and who have not lived in China for decades, if ever.”
I’ll give you the courtesy of explaining your generalizations about commenters here on HH. If you continue with this pattern of throwing mud at other commenters here on HH, with your unsubstantiated generalizations, I suggest you go else where.
AS I STATED above, the “parents should bear most of the responsibility”!!! Perhaps you didn’t read that.
As such, your criticism of our “ridiculous”ness is simply irrational and baseless.
If you are not going to debate more seriously and carefully, and just want to rant about the commenters here, again, I suggest you go elsewhere.
And you are NOT going to have the last word on your baseless accusations!! (So, I suggest you adopt some better manners for yourself)!!
Black Pheonix says
“In Egypt, the questions were far more practical in nature: Why, and how, is the government failing to protect the ancient temples, tombs and pyramids that lure millions of tourists a year? And how did this particular instance of defacement go undetected for so long (the parents of the boy, now in middle school, indicated he defaced the temple on a trip some years ago).”
YES, other people have also wondered how the Egyptian government is missing this.
BTW, the boy is NOW in middle School. Meaning, he was in Elementary School, when he did the defacing YEARS ago!!
Get the FACTS straight.
The reactions for some expats and other lowlifes are predictable. Take a look here
Notice that they are shocked, shocked at my post because it goes against what they perceive as the status quo of hh. They cannot fathom that Chinese may be individuals with different opinions and can think for themselves (which they ironically prove incapable) and have contrary opinions to each other. They can only see Chinese people as a faceless, homogeneous mass.
I have been posting many articles at odds with some editors and posters and commentators since I started here. Their true nature as vicious bigots cannot be hidden. What’s “shocking” to them is not the content of what I’ve said which many of them seem to agree with but that I’ve said things as a Chinese person with far more insight and style than they can ever say even if their lives depended on it.
a-fucking-men, melektaus. You’re doing a damn good job, exposing these charlatans for what they are: nothing more than white supremacists who pine for the unapologetic era of 19th century colonialism.
Black Pheonix says
Yeah, to the Duck Pond, we are all just 50-cents.
Western “Civility”, meet Irony of the stereotypes and conspiracies you cling to. (Which in itself, demonstrates the common, but conspiratorial and baseless, thread that binds the Duck Pond community, the pool of spittle blown back in the wind and gathered around mildew).
Why go to a real beach by a real ocean, when the Ducks can just quack all day long happily floating in the glistening pool of their own spittle??
Black Pheonix says
Interesting stat about the Duck Pond’s latest critique of Melektaus’ post, (which I would propose as a standard of measuring how nutty/muddy Duck Pond is getting):
The words “culture” or “cultural” are mentioned a full 168 times currently in the post and the comments, even though the original post doesn’t even talk about “culture”. (And 1 comment from 1 usual suspect discussing Chinese as a “race” with generalizations, “you have a race which exhibits the full panorama of western and eastern superstitious cult behaviours.)
Culturalists?? Or just plain Racists using “culture” along with some wink winks??
I think the number of the sweeping generalizations (about Chinese “culture”) in the Duck Pond is quite illuminating as to its true nature.
Another good article about Chinese tourist recently brought to my attention by Black Pheonix.
Rude Chinese tourist stories, do they say more about those “rude tourists from China”, or more about those making accusations that rude tourists are coming from China?
Black Pheonix says
1st clue about those who write about “rude tourists from China” is, they don’t ever list any stats.
All anecdotes. Kinda weak allegation considering how sweepingly general in condemning such a huge group of people.
And now we actually have some analysis to indicate that it was just stereotyping.