About my ignorance and how I don’t get the Chinese

I annoy myself with my ignorance. This didn’t happen as much when I was younger- either I wasn’t so ignorant then or I just didn’t realize how very so I am, but now it really annoys me. Also, I’m confused over how much I’m ignorant versus stupid (okay, not very intelligent) and you add to that the middle-aged, hormone imbalanced adelpation I suffer (that, for example, is an ignorant use of language), plus all this recent emotional upheaval, and frankly, my dears, I’m a mess. This paragraph, to whit.

Okay. This all started when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning (naturally, it was yesterday’s paper). Actually, it started when I stopped by Sparkleberry Springs and that’s because, while I’m fascinated with the natural world, I know a little about a lot and not a lot about anything. (This is the sad outcome for slightly smarter than average children in public schools. They get to coast through on the additional standard deviation without challenge and then you end up with a nation wasting it’s potential gray matter. I started at the University of Michigan not able to use the library. Seriously. All of the work in my high school was so dummied down that I never had to go to the library to make the grade.) I would add that Wayne at Sparkleberry knows a lot about nature and I learn things over there. But as I do so often, I digress.

Back to the Wall Street Journal article. I don’t get the Chinese. At all. I do not understand these people, their culture, their society, how they think or what makes them tick. That leaves me feeling frighteningly ignorant since there are so many of them and soon, without going into a political rant about our country’s inability to function as part of the global village, they’re going to be running the show. So I hear. But then, what do I know?

This article was about a woman named Chang Lianjun. Mrs. Chang to you and me. Do I understand how the Chinese organize their names? No. More ignorance. And let me remind you, there are so many of them that this would be good information to have. Mrs. Chang is living behind a 10-foot wall in the heart of Beijing. Now you know why this particular article caught my eye. Except she’s parked on a plot the size of about a dozen football fields rather than a standard Chicago lot, which is 25 by 125. Outside her walls are towering high-rise apartments with millions of inscrutable Chinese. Where she lives there used to be a "warren of 1950s apartment buildings" that was home to several thousand working class residents but those apartments have all been torn down now to make way for towering buildings that will house hundreds of thousands rather than several thousand. Now, there is just Mrs. Chang, her second floor apartment unit, the stairwell and the empty apartment below her. Why? Simply put, Mrs. Chang refuses to leave because she has "no other place to go."

Mrs. Chang has held up construction for a year because she won’t budge. A year, people. In the heart of Beijing, this 43 year old woman has refused to move and she has held up construction for a year.

So here’s what I don’t understand: Even considering the possibility that she is starting to be perimenopausal and has scary hormone-induced rages (this was in no way alluded to in the article. I’m projecting because I am so much the center of my egocentric universe that everybody must be like me, an attitude I find intolerable in Washington)- okay, even if she is one of those scary feisty little Chinese women who don’t take any shit guff, WHY IS SHE STILL THERE?

The article says the Chinese government is "trying to take a softer line toward some who have been forced to relocate. Instead of its old focus on speed the government is putting greater focus on justice and social stability."

This is the same government that clubbed to death 54,000 dogs in the streets last month because of an increase in rabies. Three people died of rabies in the Yunnan Province and they clubbed 54,000 dogs to death. They didn’t round them up and euthanize them because that was too costly. So are inoculation clinics. They just whacked them. They paid people 12 dollars apiece if they whacked their own dogs before squads of government employees had to do it but, in the end, all the dogs were whacked.

Now, this is not a rant about whacking dogs- really. You know I think a society needs to value all of it’s living creatures and that cruel treatment of animals is an affront to humanity. You know I feel that way and you do, too- so no rant is needed. No, this is a post about my ignorance.

I don’t understand the Chinese and I think I should know more about them. From where I sit, they look as though they are having some serious issues with priorities and media spin, same as we are. Could someone explain this to me? Why Mrs. Chang, bless her little Chinese heart and more power to her, is hunkered down on 14 acres in the middle of Beijing, holding up a billion dollar construction project and they can’t think of any alternative to whacking 54,000 dogs? I would really like to know. This and a lot of other stuff, too.

Tomorrow I’m going to tell you about acer macrophyllum because that’s something else I know a little interesting bit about and it’s closer to home. In fact, you saw it here yesterday. Bet you didn’t know that.

(I just get weird on caffeine. Really.)

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19 responses to “About my ignorance and how I don’t get the Chinese

  1. Wow. That was a roller coaster ride of not knowing what was going to come out of your mouth next 😉

    You do bring up an interesting point (as usual). I wonder if that woman (who has quite a handful of clout with the Chinese government) could put in a good word for the doggies. Maybe they’d listen to her.

  2. Michele sent me over, Vicki. Great to see you–and your beautiful house. I was looking over your last 6 or 7 posts and–wow. What a great looking place to live.

    Your point about the Chinese government is an interesting one, Vicki. I don’t know what to make of that. For a very authoritarian government to let that act of defiance go unchecked is very unusual. I wonder what the reasoning is behind their inaction.

  3. I think other cultures do not love animals the way we do in the U.S. Isn’t it common culture shock for we Americans to see how animals are treated in other parts of the world?

    Hea, I’d be interested in your comments on my latest blog. My wife and I had a bit of an adventure close to your former neck in the woods.

  4. OK… Has Rich gone on a business trip? I understand the coffee caffeine reference above now, so I won’t suggest that you head immediately to The Russian Tea Cafe place as it is full of caffeine too. As for “understanding”, I don’t understand myself at times, well actually, more often than not. I just wish I could ramble as coherently as you can.

    PS: I might send some cash to purchase some of the loose tea from the tea cafe. I still know one fellow in Chicago… Patrick T… an architect…. Nyssa’s first date…. he was in college, she was six… the one she could have married if I had had her when normal people have kids…Sigh. Anyway, he sent me a batch the last time I ran out and my tea from two years ago is about to run out.

    I need coffee.

  5. Your post and ensuing comments are…well…something.

  6. Beverly-I think that about sums it up. Tomorrow I’m going for pithy.

  7. It’s all about a power issue. Mrs. Chang likes saying NO.

  8. This was an excellent post – HIGHLY excellent, in fact. I loved it.

    I am just as confused as you are, but I still loved your post.

    Maybe the Chinese just don’t consider animals (domestic or not) to have any of the same qualities or rights as humans, hence it being (assumedly) logical for them to club 54,000 dogs to death but to leave the lovely Mrs. Chang where she is? I dunno – I’m pregnant and probably just as mentally confuzzled (if not moreso) than you are, my menopausal friend 😉

  9. *yoga for the hormones*

    Big Leaf Maples?

  10. hmmm i’m not this entertaining on coffee…or caffiene for that matter. I apparently need to switch brands.

    Are you sure this chinese woman isn’t my little neighbor next door? Cause really, she’s scary and in her 40’s.

  11. Chinese Culture: Names (Copied off the internet)(Note the third paragraph)

    Most Chinese names have three characters e.g. Lee Tai Hoi, whilst some have only two e.g. Lee Hoi or four e.g. Au Young Tai Hoi.

    Some Chinese name their children with the same second characters so as to indicate they are from the same generation in the same family e.g. Lee Tai Hoi: Lee Tai ; Lee Fat; Lee Tai Sun.

    Chinese women retain their maiden surname after they get married. In Hong Kong as in China, they normally put their husband’s surname first then followed by their own names. For instance, Miss Fung Kit Ling Kit becomes Mrs Chan Fung Kit Ling; Chan is the husband’s surname and Fung is her maiden surname but she would be known as Mrs Chan. Some may not use her husband’s surname at all. In the above case, she will be known as Ms Fung.

    The pronunciation of Chinese names may vary with different dialects. The spelling of Chinese names is according to their pronunciation at their place of birth. For instance, a Chinese person born in Hong Kong, having a surname of Hui may have Xu or Hsu as the surname of his father who had been born in Mainland China.

    The order of surname and other names has caused a lot of confusion because of the contrasting difference between the Chinese and British systems. Traditionally, Chinese names start with the surname first followed by other names. For example, Lee Tai Hoi, Lee is the surname. Some Chinese may still keep this order but indicate their surname by underlining it or using, capital letters.

    Many Chinese have adopted English names either at birth or at school. If Lee Tai Hoi adopts the name Peter, in Hong Kong he is known as either Lee Tai Hoi, Peter or Tai Hoi Peter Lee. In order to comply with the British system they would put their surnames last, e.g. Tai Hoi Lee or Peter Tai Hoi Lee.

    No wonder we do not get it!!! It is so confusing.

    ——————————————————————————–

  12. “Maple leaves are so sharp and they keep sticking in my socks!” she complained bitterly, her acerbic wit dulled by the hours she’d spent raking. “I can’t believe we live in a neighborhood that bans gasoline-powered leafblowers! Global warming is a myth!” she huffed, red-faced and sweaty.

    Yeah, sometimes I wish Brigit Bardot or maybe some nude models in bodypaint would go over there and rattle their cages a little. The more I read about their treatment of animals the less I want to buy their stuff. Yeah, I read “Made in …” labels.

  13. The dog thing makes me crazy (surprise!). I have an instant and automatic dislike/distrust of cultures that are routinely cruel to animals.

  14. We have a rabies epidemic in WNC too, but no one is clubbing dogs to death. Can you imagine the kid reaction? I try to teach my kids about the circle of life, and, because we have cats, they’ve seen their share of dead critters, but clubbing dogs to death? That, I don’t get.

    O, and you were describing Mrs. Chung, and I was imagining this little, stubborn old Chinese lady, then I noticed that she’s only 43!

  15. We’d all better learn to understand the Chinese, and not just because the culture is so different from ours.

    I was more taken by the thoughts of depth of knowledge. I may run with this topic, Vicki, I warn you. I’m reminded of the old cliche – a generalist is some one who knows less and less about more and more while a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less.

    In the arena of nature, it doesn’t matter how much you know. I’m very much aware that I still know virtually nothing. And the very interesting thing is that anyone with a modicum of observational capability can know or perceive something that not even the most “educated” scientists know. I really like that, and I see it repeatedly from the questions and observations of students and blog readers. To my delight they hammer home to me on a daily basis that there’s no such thing as an expert, just a lot of people who see things and wonder. So don’t feel intimidated!

  16. Heh – I just realized the rest of that cliche:

    A generalist is someone who knows less and less about more and more until he or she knows nothing about everything while a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he or she knows everything about nothing.

    Having worked with specialists, I much prefer generalists.

  17. I’m sure the Chinese wonder, “How can they do that?!” about many of the things we do as well.

    Is it hot in here, or is it just me…?

  18. When it comes to the government, I find not a lot makes much sense. I think this is true for all governments.

  19. Looks like the family name thing is already covered. Why diversity in policy? Different individuals involved who just happen to be in the same geographical region, which used to be several kingdoms. People of all different religions, cultural traditions…somewhere along that line.

    Every now and then here some protest holds up a logical building project by refusing to move and concessions are made. And more often people are bought out.

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