Monday, June 6, 2011

Life in a Hurricane

I haven’t posted in a few days now, out of (what I believe is a very mature) sense of self-restraint. We are taught endlessly to ‘sleep on it’ before quitting school, or read an angry email the following day before sending it fatefully off to its recipient, or maybe just think a little bit before you go and kiss Jesus in front of Roman guards, or stab Caesar in the back… These reckless moments in life in are too often regretted, and so when my wallet was stolen three days ago, I decided to sleep on it (twice) before posting a blog about my opinions of China.

Whilst it might seem self-important to compare the theft of my wallet to (arguably) the worst betrayal in history, I feel as though this comparison is solicited. Betrayal is the most keen sting I feel. After all the faith I had in China, after all the hours of learning her language, all the money spent to come here, all the hours convincing people that this country is more than chickens feet and pollution.

It has spat in my face. It has mocked my optimism and soured it into naivety.

I had just finished a great dinner with friends when I notice that my backpack was unzipped, and my wallet missing. I can remember my first thought quite clearly, because in hindsight this occasion has revealed sentiment a bit deeper than should be felt from such an incident. I swore a lot. A big lot. And then, I said ‘I’m so sick of this goddamned place. I should have seen it coming from such a shithole. Get me out of here, I just wanna go home I’m so tired of this crap excuse of a country.’

For a while now, I have been trying to swallow a feeling of disdain for China. To be brutally honest, there is a lot to dislike. Living here is not easy. China opened up its walls to the world to see what it could gain, but refuses to listen to the lessons or learnings of the countries it benefits from. As a society, they have chosen to keep what traditions suit them and discard those that don’t, in the exact same way they have chosen to accept what parts of modernity they like, and ignore those which do not benefit them.

You cannot accept academic and technological advancements from western countries without also accepting the responsibility of intellectual property rights. The government cannot copy the university paradigm of the west, then have their lecturers photocopy the textbook and hand it out free to students. They cannot host an Olympics while bashing civilians for an ability to think autonomously. They cannot copy the western model of a police force, then let them corrupt themselves into an unrecognisable group of societal leeches. They cannot accept overzealous trade and production agreements which pollute the world we all live in. They cannot accept the commercial successes of McDonalds and KFC, whilst still claiming that shark finning for soup is a traditional necessity. You cannot be political friends with North Korea, refuse your army any access to social media and censor your political academics, and still expect respect and trust from the international community.
Communism is not okay, you shouldn’t have statues of Mao everywhere. This man is no hero.
Torturing bears for bile is not okay, you cannot truly believe in both western and eastern medicine.
Ethnic cleansing is not okay, you cannot forcefully eject entire minorities from rural areas by flooding them with Han Chinese.
Racism is not okay, just because I am white does not mean I am wealthy to be cheated, an animal to be pointed at and photographed, or a slut to be jeered and stared at and spat at.

I could go on, and on, and on. I feel like each day here carves away at my soul a little more and more. Things I see make me embarrassed to be a human, but more than that, they make me feel powerless. I don’t know how to even begin trying to help or fix what I see around me. The general populous behave like a hive-mind, following orders and void of independent thought.

Typing this makes me feel like a racist pessimist with a superiority complex, but no matter how hard I try to accept this country, there are just so many things that cannot be overlooked. There are things that cannot be excused as simply ‘a different culture’. I don’t give a shit what your traditions are, or what religious book you read, or who your ancestors are. Right now, compassion and humanity cannot be viewed as culture-specific. ‘Culture’ cannot be an excuse for archaic behavior. So long as humans choose to wear clothes and drive cars as the benefits of modernity, they must also accept the responsibilities. China does not. This country takes what it wants and leaves what it doesn’t.

Worst of all, survival here is near to impossible without assimilating the behavior of those around you. A simple exam of catching the metro- a task I have come to hate. When a train arrives, people crowd almost aggressively around the exact area of the platform where the doors to the carriage will open. They elbow each other and scramble to get to the front of this crowd as they see the train coming. When it arrives, the people on the platform are packed so tight around the doors, that the passengers already on the train cannot leave without shoving and pushing their way through the crowd.

Not only does this behavior baffle and upset me, but the situation is such that unless I also elbow and shove, I do not get a spot on the train. Here is the dilemma of China. You will flounder unless you assimilate with the local behavior. If I don’t yell rudely at a stall owner, I get ripped off. The process begins from the very beginning, and I slowly come to hate the person China turns me into. To get the attention of a waiter, one must shout or yell out the generic word for ‘waitstaff’ at the employee. The people who serve you are treated as sub-human. They are just faces to serve you. But if you don’t yell, you don’t get served. If I don’t point and yell a direction at the taxi driver, he takes me on an expensive detour. What am I supposed to do? The only way to get ahead in this country is by stepping on others.

I am exhausted. It is exhausting. Every day presents a new moral dilemma. I am dizzy and tired because they don’t have proper vegetarian food, because they cannot conceptualise a proper meal without meat. What is the solution to this? I cannot drink the tap water without being sick, and so have to constantly buy new plastic bottles of water. What is the solution to this? In winter it is freezing cold, but they don’t build the dorms with insulation, so unless you keep your heater on, you freeze and cannot sleep. What is the solution to this?

Nothing I can do here and now. And these are not things China cares about. And no matter how many smaller countries do all they can for the environment, China is so big, with such a massive population, that they almost cancel out all the hard work of the smaller nations.

I have no energy now to keep complaining. By the end of each day I am defeated. Life here is a rollercoaster of emotions. Week by week I am ecstatic and depressed. I love humanity, and then I want to die. China is a big hurricane, and I am a small thing. Being whipped around inside of it.

And now I am being whipped around this place, but without a wallet.


  1. Welcome to the world, this sounds like one of the man discussions that we have had. Just remember that with the good comes the bad and that without the two there would be no contrast. Focus on the good, remember the bad and ensure you don't repeat the mistakes of others.

    This is no longer a communistic state!!!! What you describe to me are the worst elements of capitalism and a dictatorship!!! Totalitarian rule without consideration for there people, that is not Communism.

    "Communism is a sociopolitical movement that aims for a classless and stateless society structured upon common ownership of the means of production, free access to articles of consumption, and the end of wage labour and private property in the means of production and real estate."

    Stay positive, you may not be able to help much now. But work at it and one day you may just change the world! The world is more often shaped by a few strong willed, than by the indifferent masses!

    The Bro

  2. so so so many thoughts running through my head right now! Brianna this blog is incredible. your writing is brilliant! the content is thought provoking and the photos just make it even more are achieving so much bri. keep it coming even when the going gets tough! sending happines your way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D


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