China II “The Wall”

My stay in China has been getting better, at least it was. About ten minutes ago, you wouldn’t believe what I just saw. It was probably the most disgusting, putrid act of humanity I’ve ever seen face to face.

But it requires some backstory.

Yesterday I was on a mission not to hate Beijing, though it had plenty of reasons so far for me to hate it. First of all, the strange mist that surrounds the city—wait, that’s no mist, it’s a haze of POLLUTION. I don’t see how these people breath and go on day to day without thinking: “wait a minute, this is freaking INTOLERABLE and I should probably speak up about it!”

Anyways, right–so I must not hate Beijing. After all, the Olympics will be here next here (I swear the committee only chose Beijing because they want to increase global warming awareness…and what better way to get people upset at Global Warming than when their star athletes suddenly get lung cancer from five days in the Chinese capital?)

So yesterday I was on the great wall, tired as hell of people asking me to buy things from them. Along the wall I saw them picking out tourists one-by-one, specifically the older women. It was quite a struggle, but my mind couldn’t take it. I thought, if one more person comes up and asks me to buy a goddamn postcard or statue or write my name in Chinese…somebody is going to die.

Then someone tapped on my shoulder.

I burst like a ripe tomato. I thought I would spred blood but my mind wouldn’t let me. I lunged at them and gave them my last defense against the utter tyranny they had reaped upon my life

I gave them THE WALL.

If you are unfamiliar with The Wall, it’s a highly used resource when it comes to teeny boppers, though it’s known far better as a psychological barrier (See: Pink Floyd). It’s an impenetrable defense where the defender stretches their arm like a shotgun in front of them and holds their palm up like a policeman at a traffic light in a manner that defaces the enemy like hiding in shade from a discomforting sun.

This is what I did to the Chinese man attempting to rain on my parade. This is what I did, and even declared in a most pompous, patronizing manner — “Get out of my face–I’m an American!”

After the Chinese saw me do that, they didn’t follow me again. They had seen something they had only read about in books, something perhaps in American movies or mythologized like the great dime novels we have heard so much about but never touched…they had never met someone with the audacity to really give them The Wall, until today.

The rest of the trip until tonight has been pleasant since I began giving people The Wall. I’ve met many nice Chinese people, and they are fantastic to talk to, not desperate to meet foreigners or always nervous about introducing themselves like Koreans, or overly polite and formal like Japanese. They are their own, laid-back and laughing breed, hard working and unafraid to get down in the dirt.

That brings me to what I saw about twenty minutes ago. The most horrifying spectacle I’ve ever seen. When I was in Salt Lake City I saw a mexican melee where an old mexican drunkard got his head repeatedly shoved into a wall and…in Chicago I saw…well I could give you a thousand stories of FUBAR, but this one takes the cake.

I saw an OLD CHINESE LADY getting BEATEN SENSELESS in the middle of a shopping street, and NOBODY DID A GOD-DAMN THING.

I’ve seen old people getting beat up before, usually for something they did (steal, act superior to somebody else), but NEVER have I seen that kind of moral injustice go by in a street filled with dozens of people and NOBODY GIVING A SHIT.

Even if she stole from him, even is she had clubbed the guy in the balls repeatedly, even if she had somehow set off a device that blew up the guy’s family…somebody would have stepped in. IF this was America. IF this was Korea, Japan, or any sane country I’ve visited and had the pleasure to see heroism in all its forms.

But not in China.

This wasn’t like a gang beating up an old lady either, where nobody could intervene because they were afraid of getting shot. This was one dude, grabbing an old short woman by her gray hair as she screamed for help, then slamming her into the pavement, kicking her as she laid helpless, then chasing her down the block as she ran through scores of people, grabbing her again and repeating the violent strokes.

Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t intervene. I had certain precepts I had to consider.

1) Perhaps this was just a cultural difference I had to respect.

RIGHT. That was out immediately. I think only a super-liberal nutjob would ever buy THAT kind of moral relativity.

2) They put people in jail for getting involved with this kind of incident.

I’ve had friends who were put in Korean jails for defending people. And I couldn’t imagine what a Chinese jail might be like…

3) I had a boat to catch.

This may seem like a cop-out, but this boat is in total control of my life right now. If I don’t get on this boat I won’t make it on time for my plane ride back to the states, which means I won’t make it in time to register at UW for fall classes, which means I wouldn’t be able to get into the school I’ve been applying for for the past two and a half years.

I weighed my choices wisely. There’s an unwritten rule as a traveler, which is if it’s not your business, you butt out. My friends and I felt as helpless as the old woman, who like us, was watching the dozens of Chinese men who were watching her getting beaten and for some reason did nothing to help her.

China has been an interesting trip, I couldn’t imagine a place I’ve been more repulsed by—environmentally, socially, and now, morally. They should have taught this kind of stuff in schools. In college, all I got was — Chinese culture is great! Let’s all go and meet those smooth-faced girls whose function is little more than an afrodisiac to western men! Let’s see their charm and wit and how they LOVE us Americans!

What a load. Though I’ve meet some nice Chinese eople, I wonder how many of them would have helped an old lady getting beaten in the street. Did they lose all their morals in the Cultural Revolution? What has communism done to what used to be the most morally superior land in the world? What happened to the country of Lao Tzu, of Confucious, of philosophy and moral leaders, WHAT HAPPENED?

Neruda perhaps says it best when I think of China.

“And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!”


March 27, 2008. Tags: , . Travel Blogs.


  1. Lavis replied:

    Feel sorry that you had a bad impression on China, and Chinese ppl. I dont wanna defense for my country, but just wanna be objective and fair-and-square.
    First, I wanna say, not all the Chinese gals LOVE Americans and ready to throw themselves to the Americans’ arms. With rapid economic growth, there are more and more wealthy ppl in Chinese society, maybe you just dont have chance to contact with this kind of group and their community. Thet are called “knowledgeable elites”, most of them occupy IT, technical services, real estate, or simply put, they earn money by their knowledge. They live in villadoms. My american friends told me that it’s pretty common that American gals married to old guys for money and counting their fingures to wait the old guy to die. It’s human nature to pursue profits. And there is district difference, in those internationalized cities like Taiwan, Hongkong, Shanghai, there are some gals love Americans, but not all of them. It’s highly likely that the majority of them are whores, aiming at making money. Those cities that had colonilized experienced intended to be fond of aliens, but in city like Beijing, most of the young are righteous. If you wanna criticise, it might be better for you to criticise Taiwan gals, according to the statistics, 91% Taiwan gals in US married to American guys. ( The rest might be too unattractive to marry them.) But no one criticises them, that’s really unfair!!! If you really dislike this phenomena, you should have a native gal as GF.
    Secondly, the enviroment issues. Bejing is a large city with 85% of the population are immigrants from other provinces. Because bj provides many job opportunities, as NYC does, so a myrid of ppl rushed into bj for job opportunities. There is a large population in China, the education chances in China are limited, those ppl who live in rural areas dont have access to edu. Thus they are primordial, rude, and intend to solve problems by voilence. That’s really bad. But you can witness similar things in Uway 45 st next to uw campus. The homo grappled with each other for the snipes. The Europeans I met often deride the insurance system of America– there are so many homos in this so-claimed fulls of peace, liberism and love, and from time to time, 80 yr-old men or women dies in their houses and their neighbour found their corps after 1-2 month after their death. that’s really a good way to recycle, huh? In addition, it’s not a good excuse that you didn’t stop it. When I was in Seattle, I gave changes to homos and delayed the bus to U-village for serveral times, even it’s really veli unconvenient and unsafe for me, but it couldn’t stop me from doing that. Back to the enviroment issue, Chinese gov. really did sth about it. Now the air is much more fresher. The essence of the army or troops of different countries is the same- brutal, mechanism of maintaining the functions of government. There is no superman to intervene in a rape happened in a dark night both in American and in China, and more worsely, the plot happened in America might turn out to be a three-P. Maybe I am cynical, but I think that’s kind of the truth.
    Lastly, you mentioned the impacts of cultural revolution. No, no, it’s far more complex. As one of your research fields are Globalization, you should know that’s out of the result of expanding globalization. This is an era that ppl on the earth share media information, including internet, hollywood movies, American TVs. Not only the ideologies of American way are expressed in those medias, but also life style and attitude. The teenagers dont have many decision abilities, they just imitate the deeds and acts in movies, such as being violent, they think that’s cool.
    — to be continued.

    • neonorganum replied:

      Thanks for the feedback, this essay was written before I had any real interest in globalization and the mobilization of flexible labor for global capitalist production, and at the time my understanding of global cultural forms came ala Thomas Friedman.

      Much has changed since then, first and foremost the argument concerning the air of Beijing. China has been making great steps towards renewable energy, skipping hybrid cars and going straight to electrics, for example.

      When you say 91% of Taiwanese women in the U.S. marry American men, do you mean American white men, or Asian (Taiwanese) Americans? I was not the object of much feminine desire when I was in China, but that might be due more to my race than my nationality. Also, I didn’t go clubbing in Beijing, so my lack of visibility may not have allowed for it.

  2. Lavis replied:

    Thanks so much for the prompt response. Well, I’d say, you didn’t get much female attention when you travelled in china, that might because you didn’t enter the right pool and has nothing with the race. Education in large cities is quite widespread, after 4 yr-education, those gals might know the happiness of marriage has nothing to do with nationality. To cross the boundary doesn’t necessarily guarantee achieving happiness. See, in the conference, your great sense of humor, insight toward things gain women’s admiration, whose age ranging from 15 yrs old to 45 yrs old. Ppl rushed to ask for your email address after ur presentation. 🙂

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