Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wisdom of The Simpsons

Below is another post relating my all-time favourite TV show to some life-experiences I've had.

When I was 14 and underperforming in school...underperforming is too weak a word, the kind of word that parents use to deflect talk of their problems. I was failing and frequently being called "a disaster" "a failure" "a fuck-up" from all directions.

In an attempt to get me focused on my studies, my parents first banned me from playing the guitar, then banned me from watching the Simpsons.

Of course I was angry, but this is just the kind of thing that would have happened in The Simpsons, and if it did, it wouldn't be portrayed judgmentally, but portrayed with equanimity.

Two such scenes from the Simpsons reflect my situation well. In the first, Homer and Marge are called in to meet Bart's school counselor, and when asked for his opinion the counselor declares "Bart needs to learn to be less of an individual and more of a faceless blob." In the other, Homer first meets Marge in a detention. When explaining why he is there, Homer says "they put me in detention for being me. I come here every day and be me, and they punish me for it."

Directly after graduating from my Bachelors, I took a summer job. It was a job in which some students make a lot of money, but most make a net loss. The company that ran this summer program were excellent at taking credit for the successes and dodging responsibility for the failures.

In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer gets sponsored by the Power Sauce Energy-Bar company to climb a mountain. When the company loses faith in Homer, they start looking for other people to blame. On reaching the top, Homer scraps the plan of planting a Powersauce flag on the top, and instead places a 'Simpsons' flag. For me, this symbolizes a rejection of the pseudo-collectivism that some companies cultivate for their own self-interest.

For the last three years, I've been working as a teacher. In an episode of the Simpsons where Lisa meets a particularly inspiring teacher, the teacher explains: "One day you'll miss your brother's antics. When your life takes you to far away places, places where your itelligence is an asset, not a liability. " I've always been aware that I'm a pawn in this education-system (same as I would be back home), but I've always striven for this level of connection with my students. As for the substance of what he says, "places where your intelligence is an asset, not a liability." The (as I then thought) exam-orientated, spirit-crushing, secondary schooling system I went through, was an innocent child compared to the one I'm working in now.

And the last scene I'd like to reference, Bart sits down with his fallen idol Krusty the Klown. Bart explains to the impoverished, crestfallen clown "My mom says God never closes a door without opening a window." Krusty prompty replies "No offence kid, but your mom's a dingbat." In Empire of Illusion Chris Hedges writes eloquently about how positive psychology can strangle creativity and moral autonomy. I also have experience of the tyranny of mindless optimism, and Krusty the Klown so eloquently defends my position here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Three Years in China

I got to China on 7th of May 2007. It's been an interesting three years. Below I've listed five of the most memorable moments.

1. Monster Face
The first year, I lived in a wealthy part of a coastal city called Huizhou. At the time, I lived in a dormitory with other westerners, and I'd started learning Chinese from scratch. China was a bewildering, exotic, unknowable place.
Needless to say, the teaching presented some challenges. In one lesson, I had to teach Kindergarten students the vocabulary: nose, eyes, mouth, ears. In order to do that I used a song called Monster Face, which climaxed with all of the boys making Monster Faces, and chasing the girls around the classroom: anarchy.

2. Children's Day 2008
Children's Day 2007 had been bad. Our Head Teacher had just died. I hadn't yet learned how to channel students' restlessness into positive energy, so had some pretty lousy lessons.
By the summer of 2008, I was teaching HIgh School in a village in Northern Guangdong. I was into my last lesson by the time I'
d been reminded that it was Children's Day.
Instead of proceeding with the prepared lesson, I let them play some party games. Not a vintage piece of educating, but something that allowed them to momentarily forget their (to us, unimaginable) exam pressure.

3. Singing on the Train
IN January of 2009, I traveled through the Guangdong province. On a train from Huizhou to Longchuan, my ticket was standing and the carriage was crowded. After 2 hours of idly looking at some song lyrics I was trying to memorize, a stocky Northerner asked me:
"What instrument's that you're carrying?"
"A guitar"
"Can you play us a song?"
SO after some persuasion, I played and sang a children's song called 让我们荡起双浆 “Let's Sway the Oars Together”

4. 5.12
On 12th of May 2009, in order to commemorate the wenchuan earthquake, I got together with a class from the music department of the University I was teaching in, to sing a song called 让世界充满爱 a 1986 song that is roughly the Chinese equivalent of "WE are the World."

5. Busking
As a Caucasian in China, it's always easy to get attention. BUt it's never easy to get attention for anything other than being a Caucasian,and all of the baggage that comes with it. So performing on the street must have been a much stranger experience for observers than it was for me.

我是2007年05月05号到中国的。 这三年真过得很奇怪。我写下5个很深的回忆。

第一 扮鬼脸

头一年我在惠州教了小学生。 那时候, 我住在外教的宿舍, 而且只懂一点中文, 所以我认识的中国人不多。那时候一切都有异国情调 。

本来教那里的学生确实很难, 但是他们有时候很搞笑。 有一节课, 当我教小一的学生nose, mouth, ears 那些单词,为了让他们记住, 我让了他们扮鬼脸。 课堂里的学生都扮鬼脸挺难忘。

第二 08年儿童节

07年的儿童节过得不好。 我们的校长刚去世了。 学校的气氛很不好。

08年暑假我在龙川的两所高中学校上班了, 儿童节晚上,我不给学生们上课, 我在课堂里, 让大家在教室里玩自己想玩的游戏。 这样确实不负责, 但是做高中学生能让人家失去童心。 那天晚上, 班上的学生能让他们一时忘记外面的压力

第三 火车上演唱

09年一月我在广东省旅游了。 我从惠州到龙川坐火车了。我的票是无坐的。 车很拥挤。 在我对面的一个北方人问了我“你的乐器是什么?”



我就边弹了边唱了 《让我们荡起双桨》

第四 5.12 的纪念日

在文理学院唱 《让世界充满爱》

第五 街头上表演

深圳这座城市能让人家失去想象力。 看我在街上应该会给人一个奇怪的感觉

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

The most intricate Chinese lyric I've written so far is the song <把我当家人>(Treat Me As One of Your Own) it's about the kindness of strangers and dependence thereon.
In my first two years in China, I had some amazing experiences meeting strangers: including getting my guitar out and giving a mini-concert in a train-carriage; getting a lesson in local history from a veteran of the Sino-Japanese war; having a meal with a group of 18 year-old builders; and playing my earliest Chinese songs by a lake in a campus, letting curious people come and go.

Often, as a foreigner in China, when in public, one walks into a wall of friendliness: as expressed in introductory questions, light conversation, and the taking of photographs. I have no reason to believe that there is a sinister side to all this attention we get, but, if I were getting racially abused, I wouldn't take it personally, so as it is, I don't take it personally.

In November last year, I was ordering a meal in an expensive restaurant, and the young waitress was being exceptionally friendly, exceptionally friendly. I'm told she was a beauty, but I didn't make eye-contact, I'm told she was into me but I only gave one word answers to all of her questions. My companion at the time assures me that it was a missed opportunity for a one-night-stand, but I have long since developed a distaste for Chinese people who single westerners out for special friendliness, it would have been like spending the evening with a talking Linda Lovelace.

There's a difference between kindness and friendliness, and I don't believe there is any correlation.

Anybody who knows what a cliche is knows that cliches are a bad thing. But it takes education and experience to develop a distaste for cliche. The friendliness I encounter in China is always a cliched kind of friendliness. After a while, it ceases to matter that most of the time, it is motivated by sincere kindness.
My biggest fear in life is not being used (being used means that I must be useful). It is living in a world where conversations follow a formula; individuals adhere to stereotype; and self-expression is trivialized.

Just as a one-night-stand is no substitute for a romance. Reflexive friendliness is no substitute for learned and leisurely hospitality.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Unofficial National Anthem of Northern Ireland

The author and original performer of the song is Phil Coulter. But I have linked to the Luke Kelly version of the song, because Luke had a much more powerful voice than Phil Coulter.

Some would react to this song as 'corny'. As if expression of raw sentiment and civic pride is a sign of naivety. Our culture tends to look down on innocence, associating it with stupidity, but if you think your superior cynicism makes you smarter than Phil Coulter, I'll bet you that you're wrong.

Here it is
The Town I Loved so Well
In my memory I will always see
the town that I have loved so well
Where our school played ball by the gasyard wall
And we laughed through the smoke and the smell.
Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane
Past the jail and down behind the fountain.
Those were happy days in so many many ways
In the town I loved so well.

In the early morning the shirt factory horn
called women from Creggan, the Moor and the bog,
while men on the dole played the mother's role
fed the children and then trained the dog.
And when times got tough, there was just about enough,
and we saw it through without complaining.
For deep inside was a burning pride
For the town I loved so well.

There was music there in the Derry air
like a language that we all could understand
I remember the day that I earned my first pay
when I played in a small pick-up band.
There I spent my youth and to tell you the truth
I was sad to leave it all behind me
For I'd learned about life and I'd found a wife
In the town I loved so well.

But when I've returned, how my eyes have burned
To see how a town can be brought to its knees
With the armoured cars, and the bombed-out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by the old gas-yard wall
And the damned barbed-wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God what have they done
to the town I loved so well

Now the music's gone but they carry on
for their spirit's been bruised never broken
They will not forget though their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again.
For what's done is done, and what's won is won
And what's lost is lost and gone forever.
I can only pray for a bright brand new day
In the town I loved so well

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The First and Last Recipe: Ulysses

I've noticed that John Berger's 1991 essay on Joyce's Ulysses is nowhere to be found online so I've typed it up and put it here.

I first sailed into James Joyce's Ulysses when I was 14 years old. I use the word sailed into instead of read because, as its title reminds us, the book is like an ocean; you do not read it, you navigate it.

Like many people whose childhoods are lonely, I had by the age of fourteen an imagination that was already grown-up, ready to put to sea; what it lacked was experience. I had already read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and its title was the honorary title I gave to myself in my daydreams. A kind of alibi or a kind of seaman's card - to show, when challenged, to the middle-aged, or one of their agents.

It was the winter of 1940-41. Joyce was in fact dying of a duodenal ulcer in Zurich. But I did not know that then. I did not think of him as mortal. I knew what he looked like and even if he suffered from bad eyesight, I did not picture him as a god, but I felt him through his words, through his endless perambulations, as ever-present. And so not prone to die.

The book had been given to me by a friend who was a subversive schoolmaster. Arthur Stowe his name. Stowbird I called him. I owe him everything. It was he who extended his arm and offered me a hand to grasp so I could climb out of the basement in which I had been brought up, a basement of conventions, taboos, rules, idees recues, prohibitions, fears, where nobody dared to question anything and where everybody used their courage - for courage they had - to submit no matter what, without complaining.

It was the French edition in English published by Shakespeare and Company. Stowbird had bought it in Paris on his last trip before the war broke out in 1939. He used to wear a log raincoat and a black beret acquired at the same moment.

When he gave the book to me, I believed it was illegal in Britain to own a copy. In fact this was no longer the case (it had been) and I was mistaken. Yet the 'illegality' of the book was for me, a fourteen year-old, a telling literary quality. And there perhaps, I was not mistaken. I was convinced that illegality was an arbitrary pretence. Necessary for the social contract, indispensable for society's survival, but turning it's back on lived experience. I knew this by instinct when I read the book for the first time, I came to appreciate with mounting excitement that it's supposed illegality as an object was more than matched by the illegitimacy of the lives and souls in its epic.

Whilst I read the book, the Battle of Britain was being fought in the sky above the south coast of England and London. The country was expecting invasion. No future was certain. Between my legs I was becoming a man, but it was quite possible that I would not live long enough to discover what life was about. And of course I didn't know. And of course I didn't believe what I was told - either in history classes, or on the radio or in the basement.

All of their accounts were too small to add up to the immensity of what I did not know, and of what I might never have. Not, however, Ulysses. This book had that immensity. It didn't pretend to it; it was impregnated by it, it flowed through it. To compare the book with an ocean again makes sense, for isn't it the most liquid book ever written?

Now I was about to write: there were many parts, during this first reading, which I didn't understand. Yet this would be false. There were no parts that I understood. And there was no part that did not make the same promise to me: the promise that deep down, beneath the words, beneath the pretences, beneath the claims and everlasting moral judgment, beneath the opinions, lessons, boasts and cant of everyday life, the lives of adult women and men were made of such stuff that this book was made of: offal with flecks in it of the divine. The first and last recipe!

Even at my young age I recognized Joyce's prodigious erudition. He was, in one sense, learning incarnate. But learning without solemnity that threw away its cap and gown to become joker and juggler. (As I write about him, something of the rhythm of his words still animates my pen). Perhaps even more significant for me at that time was the company his learning kept: the company of the unimportant, those forever off stage, the company of publicans and sinners as the Bible puts it, low company. Ulysses is full of the disdain of the represented for those who claim (falsely) to represent them and packed with the tender ironies of those who are said (falsely) to be lost.

And he did not stop there - this man who was telling me about the life I might never know, this man who never spoke down to anybody, and who remains for me to this day an example of the true adult, which is to say of a being who, because he has accepted life, is intimate with it - this man did not stop there, for his penchant for the lowly led him to keep the same kind of company within his single characters: he listened to their stomachs, their pains, their tumescences: he heard their first impressions, their uncensored thoughts, their ramblings, their prayers without words, their insolent grunts and heaving fantasies. And the more carefully he listened to what scarcely anybody had listened to before, the richer became life's offering.

One day in the autumn of 1941 my father, who must have been anxiously surveying me for some time, decided to check out the books on the shelf by my bed. Having done so, he confiscated five, including Ulysses. He told me the same evening what he had done and added that he had locked all five in the safe in his office! At this time he was doing important war work for the government on the question of how to increase factory production. I had a vision of my Ulysses locked away under folders of government secrets, labelled Highly Confidential.

I was furious as only a fourteen-year-old can be. I refused to compare my father's pain - as he had asked me to - with my own. I painted a portrait of him - the largest canvas I had done to date - where I made him look diabolic, with the colors of Mephistopheles. Yet my fury notwithstanding, I couldn't help acknowledging something else: the story of the confiscated books and the father in fear for the son's soul and the Chubb safe and the government files might have come straight out of the confiscated book in question, and it would have been narrated with equanimity and without hate.

Today, fifty years later, I continue to live the life for which Joyce did so much to prepare me, and I have become a writer. It was he who showed me, before I knew anything, that literature is inimicable to all hierarchies and that to separate fact and imagination, event and feeling, protagonist and narrator, is to stay on dry land and never put to see.

Under the upswellinng tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly and sway reluctant arms, hising up their petticoats, in whispering water swaying and upturning coy silver fronds. Day by day: night by night: lifted flooded and let fall. Lord, they are weary; and, whispered to, they sigh. Saint Ambrosio heard it, sigh of leaves and waves, waiting, awaiting the fullness of their times, diebus ac noctibus injurias patiens ingemiscit. To no end gathered; vainly then released, forthflowing, wending back: loom of the moon. Weary too in sight of lovers, lascivious men, a naked woman shining in her courts, she draws a toil of waters.

I suppose I should form a response to my previous post

This is an essay by a guy convinced that other people are perverts. Immediately, the words Travis and Bickle spring to mind: a man who can't see his own perversion. Words like 种族主义 (racism) and 法西斯主义 (fascism) are seldom used in public discourse in China, but that doesn't mean they don't have a huge part to play.

Near the beginning he says "As a Chinese scholar..." does anybody seriously think this guy s a scholar?

Notice that in the essay, the words, white, western, and foreign are all interchangeable, and he never explores the meaning of any. Chinese girls who make a fuss over us just because of what we represent are inarguably degrading themselves, but he never asks the question, isn't it also degrading to us whiteys, westerners and foreigners? And at least 50% of all the aggressively friendly 崇洋媚外 people who I've had to deal with in my 3 years have been male: at least.
He never questions whether nationalism, racial prejudice, social conservatism, and misogyny are good or bad things. His essay is all of those things and more.

Why is this article not on Chinasmack or any other English site? Why has it had so little attention from the expat community or the international media? I find it very disturbing and very telling.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My translation of a popular essay on the Chinese blogosphere

Chinese women! Please don’t get into bed with foreigners.

If you ask a foreigner, why did you come to China?
He’ll usually tell you, because I admire China’s long history, wonderful culture, the stunning scenery, the breakneck development, the amazing changes.

But I tell you, apart from the very few who are sponsored by the government, and those who are backed by large companies, the overwhelming majority are here for two reasons.

The first, they can’t support themselves very well at home, or maybe even can’t support themselves at all.
The second, for Chinese girls.

One afternoon, myself and a friend, a French girl were returning from eating out, we were at the entrance of our place of work, far away opposite us, there was an oldie collecting rubbish, in his hand he was pushing a small cart, at this point the French girl poked me, “”Did you see that?” “See what?” I replied bewilderedly. “In front of you.” I then discovered, the oldie was a foreigner. His hair was long, dirty, and messy. No wonder myself, from that distance, and with my eyesight, thought he was just a garbage collector. The cart in front of him was not for carrying rubbish, but it was a mixed-race baby. Beside him was a Chinese girl, a young, beautiful, statuesque Chinese girl.

The French girl giggled: “Why do Chinese girls do this?” The reason she was laughing was because, while we had been eating, we had been discussing this issue. Actually, I’d already heard stories of this kind of foreigner with Chinese girls, but I’d never thought anything of it, but now it was before my eyes it was too powerful to ignore: a gorgeous Chinese girl with an old, ugly, dirty, short, bald, shrivelled foreigner, and their baby in a push-chair.

As well as that, the French girl wouldn’t stop laughing, (I had no idea why she was laughing like that) at that moment, as a Chinese, my self-respect was affected deeply.

Several days later, I made three decisions:
Tell everybody the ugly truth about the foreigners I know.
Inspire the Chinese people to rise up and stop Chinese girls from fawning over foreign men.
and most importantly, as a Chinese scholar, research how foreign women look at Chinese men, then I can use that knowledge to help Chinese men attract foreign women.

My first act was to go with my colleagues to interview some white women who live in China but have never had a Chinese boyfriend, address the central point of my research. Even more importantly, we wanted to go and interview those who had had a Chinese boyfriend, and white women who had married a Chinese man, invite them to tell us what are the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese men. I know that foreigners who fit this description are few, but luckily, I’ve already met several.

We also wanted to hand out a questionnaire to these white women, in order to use more scientific methods, to get them to describe how they view Chinese men, and try to found out who are the five most charming Chinese men that they can think of. All of this research will answer for me one question:

Are foreign women interested in Chinese men? What do the single foreign women in China most want from a foreign man? How do Chinese men become more charming for foreign women? What kind of Chinese men are most attractive to foreign women? What kind of foreign women go for Chinese guys? How do you meet foreign women? In public, how does one approach a foreign woman? When did China become heaven for foreign men?

John is just such an example. Not long ago, I met him on the street, holding hands with a Chinese girl who was taller than him. To introduce himself, he said his Chinese girlfriend works for the Home and Motors Company. In fact, it wasn’t John who introduced himself to me, I didn’t get his attention yet, because this instance of meeting him was world’s apart from the last occasion.

John is an American, 42 years old, height 1.67 metres. He hasn’t even graduated from University; in America he couldn’t get himself a decent job. After living in Africa for a couple of years, he heard the get rich quick stories of many Americans in China, and came to Shanghai. When he first came to Shanghai he wasn’t familiar with life here, so he get himself an English teaching job in a small town in Jiangsu.

John wasn’t happy, after a couple of months in Jiangsu, he came to Shanghai to look for work, he stayed in a cheap hotel for 12 yuan a night. I met him then. That day I went to eat with a foreign friend of mine, and I saw them chatting, I thought she knew John, so I invited him over to. I didn’t know until later that they had only met by chance there and then.

When we were ordering dinner, John ordered a pretty expensive dish, my friend asked him in English, the thing you ordered was pretty expensive, do you intend to pay for it yourself? John carried on like a kid who’d been caught doing something naughty. I saw him racking his brain, first I told my friend in Chinese not to worry, then I told him in English to continue choosing.

After that, because of work and other responsibilities, I quickly forgot him. This time I saw him, he told me that he’d found an English teaching job in a school in Shanghai. I didn’t talk to his girlfriend, but I could tell that she looked down on Chinese people. Looking at her background, I was tempted to think, I bet she doesn’t know that her American John once relied on other people to buy him dinner. This is rather too similar to a fairytale, it’s obviously manmade, and after making it up, man goes and lives it.

Also, on a Shanghai bus, I spotted a typical American street-hood with a young Chinese girl. And in broad daylight, he put his hand under her shirt and started feeling her breasts. After ten minutes, the Chinese girl clearly wanted to say that her breasts had had enough stroking, but unfortunately her English ability was limited to a couple of words at most.

A taxi driver told me, once outside a famous bar he met a black man, both of his arms around a Chinese girl. Originally, he thought, this must be a working girl so he wasn’t bothered, but they ended asking them to drop her off at the dormitories of a famous college, it was then that he felt a shock.

It’s reported that, some hospital in Beijing received an AIDS patient, this American businessman confessed before dying, in the preceding weeks in Beijing, he had been with six Chinese women, on further investigation, most of them were respected intellectuals.

This bunch of foreigners in China: they can’t find jobs in their own country, they use their status as foreigners in China to get money, chug beer, and chase women. Their only hobby is criticizing China. Some diplomats even use their position to have their way with Chinese girls. Some even publicly say, “My identity can get me any Chinese girl I want.”

China, do you know, you give foreigners too much, way too much, and in return foreigners do nothing but look down on you. You should call them something even they are not used to. Call them white trash. I also want to take this opportunity to officially tell these foreigners “don’t congratulate yourselves too much, you’ve only had the flesh of Chinese girls, not their souls nor the best of what they have to offer.”

Recently, a joke has been doing the rounds on the Chinese internet about a foreigner seeking marriage in China: a 47 year-old foreigner enters a Chinese marriage-agency, there have been no inquiries in a long time. Then suddenly one day, he received two letters proposing marriage, the foreigner was shocked. On further investigation, he discovered that one of the staff at the marriage agency had put his age at 67.

An independent survey recently confirmed that Chinese women don’t marry foreign men for love. They also discovered, the average age-gap between a Chinese woman marrying a Western man is 10.5 years. 13% are of entirely different generations, a full 20-year age gap. It is reported that the record age-gap for a Chinese-foreign marriage is 54 years. On the day they were married the American man was 82 and the Chinese girl was 28.

Incidentally, I recently saw a joke in an American magazine: a man in his eighties took his pregnant wife (in her twenties) to the hospital. The doctor gently asked him the baby could possibly be someone else’s. The old man replied “no way, I can perform miracles. Once, when my wife and I went hunting with one of her boyfriends, I used an umbrella to point at a deer, that deer just dropped dead there and then.”

I don’t know if that Chinese girl will get pregnant, but it would definitely make one respect the human capacity for creating miracles. You might have achieved something, but you’ve lost the most valuable of self-respect.

Needless to say, the instigators of these ugly foreigners’ success are the Chinese women. But these women, most have never been abroad, their brains are full of fantasies. So, today I want to take this opportunity to tell them the truth. If you’ve found true love, I congratulate you and wish you luck. Personally I say, if it’s true love, then no matter what troubles the future brings, it’s worth pursuing.

Nevertheless, I also want to warn you, firstly, Chinese women above all seek marriages that are stable, in developed Western countries, the divorce rate is around 50%, for inter-racial marriages, the statistics are even higher.

Secondly, I find it highly unlikely; the foreign men of today afford Chinese girls true love, because the first ingredient of true love is respect. And in the eyes of foreign men, the image of Chinese women has already been ruined by that minority, it’s already changed: the world’s most open, most forward, least careful, simple-minded, half-witted, stupid and easy girls. It’s very hard to believe that any man would give true love to this kind of girl. I only have one example, I heard an American say he was looking for an Asian girl who was a combination of maid, cook, and sex worker.

Maybe you’re only after money, I understand you, and I don’t blame you. But I want to tell you, before committing yourself, you should be certain of two things: 1. Is this foreigner really rich? Because I know, many foreigners in China are not rich. 2. Does he want to marry you? If he doesn’t marry you, then his wealth will have nothing to do with you.

Maybe you want to travel abroad. Again, I don’t blame you. But before you commit yourself you should be certain of two things: 1. this foreigner wants to go home. The outside world is generally wealthier than China, but it’s certainly not heaven. The dangerous part is, many foreigners in China don’t want to go home, because they can’t find decent work at home, maybe even can’t find any work. They don’t want to go home to return to that idle, lonely life. 2. Does he want to marry you? If he doesn’t marry you, then you’ll never acquire the right to settle in his country.

My colleague’s neighbour’s daughter married a Japanese mountain farmer. The neighbour often says some analogies in front of my colleague “Now we don’t care about money. 100000, 200000 is a small number.” But, my neighbour replies, “do you know if your daughter’s really happy in Japan? Chinese people are obsessed with face. Will always tell good news, and disregard bad news. Some years ago, a Chinese TV show interviewed a Chinese girl who had married into a Japanese farming community. From lively, vibrant, colourful Shanghai to the remote, cold hills of Japan, the Chinese girl could only express disappointment and helplessness.

Maybe you’re after sex. In Australia, a female author, Miss Shi, has written, “I have a girlfriend, by Chinese standards she is extremely open, a woman of vast sexual experience, the first time she was with a western man, she felt an extreme pleasure. She told me over the phone that the feeling this Western man gave her was so good that she wanted to marry him, and I calmly told her, 8 out of 10 western men are great in bed, 2 out of 10 are average. 2 out of 10 are awful.”

By saying this, Miss Shi really stirred the pot. Swathes of Chinese men came out of the woodwork to defend themselves. This topic had been discussed in our local newspapers over several months, it’s even spilled over into parts of the international media. Apparently, this is a very sensitive subject for Chinese men.

This 2/10 figure was made up on a basis of Miss Shi’s own experience, and to consolidate her own feelings, it was not however based on knowledge. What are Chinese men really like in bed? I did my own investigation.

This time my subject was not Chinese women who had married Western men, this time I wanted to ask white women who had married Chinese men, or had once had a Chinese boyfriend. I bluntly asked them one question, what are Chinese men like in bed? They bluntly replied, very good, some even said perfect. One even responded with a question of her own, “are Chinese men not confident in their own sexual prowess?”

I should continue my investigation, when I am finished my research I will make my findings public.

Moreover, I’d like to tell everyone, the latest research on sex shows that, a woman’s pleasure in bed does not depend on the man she is with, it depends on herself. This research goes to show, women’s failure to enjoy herself in bed, is usually the result of her own suppression of her own spirit. As long as women can rise above this repression, then they can be as happy and carefree as men in bed, maybe even more so. This research proves, that the real reason Miss Shi’s friend experienced so much pleasure the first time she was with a Western man was because of what he represented to her, it allowed her to let go of her repression.

The most recent studies have shown that men and women have similar responses to sexual stimulation. Before, it was believed that men depended on visual stimulation and women depended on atmosphere and ambience to prepare for sex, that has been used to explain why men like to watch porn. But visual stimulation can also arouse women, even to the point of orgasm.

I can tell you, Chinese men’s problem is not physical, it is psychological. What’s Chinese men’s biggest problem? Lack of sexual technique. Western men’s advantages are, in both urban and rural areas, they have sexual counselling and treatment clinics, an open attitude towards sex, and if they have a problem, they can seek support. To use an inappropriate example, an old lady who has cooked all her life is not as good as a young chef, because professional training is so important.

I call upon you to eliminate all of these ugly foreign men. Some of you might already be blaming the Chinese women, but aren’t we all responsible for creating this situation for the ugly foreign men.

The kind of women who are only after money are everywhere in the world, in America they are called “Gold-giggers”. In other parts of the world, these kinds of women are looked down upon. It’s only in China where they are respected and envied. This society that mocks poverty but not wealth is responsible for creating them.

There is an American female Professor of Chinese, who has an incomparable love of Chinese history, and cherishes Chinese culture, took her husband to China. But after not very long she decided to return home early. “Everyday my husband was surrounded by Chinese women, Some didn’t even bother disguising their excitement. In order to preserve my marriage, I decided it was best to return to America.” This American Professor bemusedly stated, “back in America, I read a Chinese novel from the eighties, the novel is full of women and their lovers who are not careful, accidentally have a baby, and end up having to throw it into the river.”

I also don’t get it, we’re all Chinese people, but in a short twenty years, our attitudes have changed so much.

I would like to know, the ones who give special attention to foreigners, especially Americans, are they these same women? I can understand the American President’s visit to China being in the headlines, but everything else the American President does being in the headlines is taking it a bit far isn’t it? Don’t forget, the more fuss you make over them, the less fuss they might make over you.

Here, I am appealing to achieve one thing, stop Chinese women from surrounding Western men. I am deeply aware that as an individual, my power is miniscule, so I want to encourage everybody to rise up: if you know any young Chinese girls who have opportunities to meet foreign men, please feel duty bound to show them this essay.

If you married a foreigner, bravely stand up and tell your sisters: your life abroad is actually lonely, repressed, painful, and homesick. If you are the parents of such people, don’t boast about your daughter’s life bound to this sluttish moneybags existence.

If you are a translator, under no circumstances get emotionally involved. Our translation of the names of foreign countries shows that we subconsciously have an inferiority complex to them. We translate the word America into “Beautiful Country,” whereas our Japanese neighbours translate it into “Grain Country,” a much better translation! If your imagination is vivid, don’t think of America as a perfect country, or a beautiful country, think of it as a grain production base.

If you work in an international company, don’t look up to foreigners, “foreign affairs are not all big affairs.” Have a better attitude towards your own fellow citizens, foreigners come and go. Don’t forget, the food you eat was cooked by Chinese people, the clothes you wear were made by Chinese people, your salary is paid by Chinese people.

If you work in sport, don’t let foreigners earn Chinese people’ money, most importantly, don’t welcome foreign thugs like Tyson into China again.

If you work in an insurance company, don’t look at foreigners differently again, treat them the same as your compatriots.

If you work in positions of authority, please be less corrupt. The corruption is the main reason for the bad atmosphere in our society, and this is your responsibility.

If you are an economist, don’t just think about your vested interests, don’t just think about powerful people, say a few words for the man on the street please.

If you are a policy maker, do not get wrapped up in self-interest. If the mountains are bald, the water is smelly, the air is dirty, the dust storms are rising, and everyday morals are declining. If nobody cares, and social harmony is lost, if the suffering are left for dead, then what does your power really count for?

If you’ve earned yourself some money, be kind. Have some morals in the way you spend it. Don’t be greedy and materialistic. Contribute to society.

If you are a Doctor, please save people’s lives. Do your job ethically. Don’t let the angels in white die in your hands.

If you are a Lawyer, respect the law. Don’t use your power to prey on innocent people.

If you are a film-maker, don’t waste all of your money on crowd-pleasing. Make some films about Chinese girls who turn down foreign men, or Chinese men who hook-up with Western girls.

If you work in dentistry, please recommend a decent toothpaste for the Chinese people. Today’s Chinese people rely too much on primitive methods of oral hygiene.

If you work in advertising, please have less of these disgusting words like “Royal” “Noble” “Elite” “Successful” and “Luxury.”

If you serve as a role model for young kids, please teach them a sense of shame. When I was young, my mother told me, clothes may be tattered, but will never be dirty; people may be poor, but will never be downtrodden; wealth cannot be prostituted, conviction cannot be destroyed, the head can be cut and blood can flow, but life is precious, love is even more valuable. Why don’t todays children hear such speeches?

If you are a Chinese woman, hold your head up high. If you are a Chinese man, straighten your spine. In this world, there is an unalienable truth, if a person doesn’t respect himself, he will never achieve the respect of others. A country, and a race is also the same.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Troubles of Northern Ireland

The Troubles (a title that reflects the culture's tendency towards understatement) extended from approximately 1966 to approximately 1998. But by the nature of the conflict, its difficult to set exact dates on either its beginning or its end.

The two most well-known atrocities that happened in Northern Ireland were Bloodey Sunday of 1972 and the Omagh Bomb of 1998.

In the time between those two incidents: Latin America's most benevolent democracy was hijacked by its own military; a revolution in Indo-China began with women and girls tossing flowers at their new leaders and ended with piles of human bones that stretched into the horizon; In Iran, a tyrant was overthrown and their new leader oppressed the women, persecuted the intellectuals, and led his people into a long victorless war; an explosion spread a radioactive cloud across the Berlin Wall and it burnt over Europe like a lamp; In China's Gate of Heavenly Peace, the students and workers clashed with the army in their nation's capital.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Dog Chasing A Car

The below is a necessarily meandering defense of the directionless life. A more academic tone could not do the job of arguing my point.

A question frequently asked in job interviews is "Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?"

The Financial Crisis of 2008 ruined or set back many people's plans for the future: factories in China closed, forcing workers to lose their jobs; office-departments merged or closed down, forcing workers to lose their jobs, these aren't original observations I know.
The Financial Crisis happened at the end of a summer in which the blockbuster film was "The Dark Knight." In the film's most memorable performance, Heath Ledger inquires "Do I look like a guy with a plan?...I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it...I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control really are. "

I am not encouraging all young people to become a dog chasing a car. But the working-lives of my generation will be different to our parents' and their parents' working-lives. As for any generation, making a living and making a life are both difficult processes. But for mine, the two processes seem particularly separate.

Before I continue, I should explain which generation I'm from, and why, at 26, I still haven't started (or even selected) a career. I came to China in May 2007, eight months after graduating from my Masters Degree. Some people think of teaching English in China as an anti-career, as a way of avoiding entering the real world. Although many English teachers in China are unsuccessful in their own countries, I don't encourage anybody to measure their worth as a human being in terms of how much money they make, or their position in society. Teaching English in China is a good way of simultaneously making a living and making a life. And, no it's not a way of escaping working for THE MAN, it's merely a different kind of rat-race.

My coming to China happened shortly before the credit-crunch which was followed by the Financial Crisis. There were lay-offs across a variety of sectors, and those suffering most were those with the least experience, on this basis, it could be argued that my coming to China was a good career move. But, in the words of Baz Luhrmann in a song that means a lot to the people who were teenagers of the 1990s and 2000s: "Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, and don't berate yourself too much either. Your decisions are half chance. So are everybody else's"

A popular saying at the time of my graduation was "Business is the new rock 'n' roll." In Britain, businessmen such as Simon Cowell and Peter Jones are icons and figures projected as role-models for the young. But in my meager experience, business was not the new rock 'n' roll but the new religion. In the summer after finishing my undergraduate degree I entered into a work experience where conformity was forced, cash was worshiped, and views that dissented from the values of the business I worked for were mocked.

Before coming to China, there were many things that I wanted to do with my life, but they were all incompatible to paid work. Any job I had sought would merely have been a way of supporting my hobbies: playing the guitar; creative writing; critical writing. I agree that: "When pleasure is the business of life, it ceases to be pleasure."
So for the time being, I will continue with the teaching-in-China, although there is clearly no future in it. It's a job that enables me to meet interesting people, grow as a teacher, push myself to keep learning (in order to grow as a teacher) and frees up enough time to pursue other things.

Busking in China

Once when I was small, I saw a middle-aged man singing in a shopping-centre. I asked who he was. It was explained to me: “if you don’t do well in school, that’s what you might end up doing for a living.”

There are very few buskers in Shenzhen. When I first came here late last summer, I wondered if this was because their reputation isn’t good.

We are the first generation to have mp3s, video-sharing websites, and i-pods. As well as in bars, concert-halls, and tea-houses, we have recorded music in our offices, cars and living-rooms. We live in the age of the global village, when we can enjoy African folk music, Latin dance, and the Great Composers of the West, without the inconvenience of paying for a ticket to see them.

I wanted to know, can street performers still really move people? Will people look down on unknown, undecorated, artists?

At the beginning of last year, I began writing songs in Mandarin. Since then, I’ve wanted to make people hear my music, but I have no idea as to how to enter the music business.

Performing on the street is different to more traditional types of performance. There is no stage, no tickets, the audience can reach out and touch the performer. It can add some color to the streets of this busy and businesslike city.

Before I began, I didn’t know whether I was a great artist, or an eccentric daydreamer. Now, I am happy to call myself a great daydreamer.