Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Indifferent Chinese People

(Zhou has nothing to do with this rant,
she was just correcting my paper)

Today I met up with my speaking partner, Zhou, getting her to help me take a look at my qualification assignment for the exam we're having back home next semester. It's due in mid January, but I'd like to finish it before I leave China on Sunday.

The topic is "My most memorable experience in China", and I wound up writing about how the state of  today's society in China (in one of many ways) forces Chinese people to indifference.

Serious stuff, but hey, I figured since I'm going home soon anyway, there's no point for them throwing me out for being critical of the Chinese government.

The essay was only supposed to be approximately 
1000 characters, so it was very 
limited how in-depth I could go anyway

Zhou proof reading 
my essay

Since I have to give a final presentation for my yuedu class
on Friday, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone 
and just perform my essay and show some graphic images
in honor of my beloved Yuedu teacher

One of the first few weeks in China, Lotte and I were riding our bikes home from school one day. 

Right at the spot not too far from our house where you have to cross the train tracks, a lady driving a motor bike had just fallen flat on her face and was laying in the middle of the lane, in the opposite direction of where we were heading. 

We immediately parked our bikes without locking them and rushed across the street. The time it took us to get off our bikes and cross the street at least 20 people had passed her; in trucks, in cars, on motor bikes or riding bisycles – they just past her, making a little turn to get past. 

She was clearly in shock, still sitting in the middle of the street, stressing to find out if her cell phone was alright. She was all dusty and had bruises and bleeding scratch marks full of dirt. We asked her if she was okay and if she needed to go to the hospital. We tried to clean out the scratches on her hands and knees a bit with some water from our bottles, and she was very shaky and wailed from pain in her leg when we helped her get back up, but she assured us she was alright and thanked us profoundly. 

Still no one else had stopped to ask if they could be of any assistance. 

That day I tried to console myself, telling myself that if we hadn’t stopped, surely someone else would have stopped seconds later. Right?

Then a few months later I read in a Norwegian newspaper online about this 2-year-old girl from Guangdong Province, who'd been run over twice, and that nearly 20 people passed by, completely ignoring her.

(Not my photo)

I even watched the very graphic video, but still my first reaction was a kind of amazed denial

I'd been feeling for a long time that whenever China was being brought up in Norwegian media, or Western media perhaps, most of the time it seemingly was to point out something worth ridicule or condescending criticism about Chinese people or Chinese culture, either telling about how they would fit 64 small school children into a van in order to drive them to school, or how Chinese people skin dogs alive in order to make winter coats, portraying Chinese people like uneducated, uncivilized savages. 

Yeah, I guess I felt somewhat protective, wanting to defend Chinese people and their ways in a kind of a social anthropological way, I don't know.

Naturally I was appalled by this horrific incident, yet somehow I was still desperate for someone to confirm that Western news seemed to be slightly unfairly critical of China, seemingly only reporting when something was worth critisism or ridicule. 
I was also desperate for some kind of explanation that would justify this despicable inhumanity. 

I discussed it with Lotte. 

But she just simply said, ”this is China, every man for himself” – as we earlier had made jokes about, when talking about jostling in the queue at the cafeteria at school, or on the Beijing subway. 

Surely this couldn’t be used in this way? Could Chinese people really be that apathetic, so indifferent and heartless? 

I felt so frustrated and was eager to ask my teacher about it the next day at school.

(Lol, the teachers at school must be so used to the foreign students considering them to be omniscient beings, constantly bombarding them with questions about issues we come across as foreigners living in China).

Right after a small break in between classes I called for the teacher's attention and said ”Teacher, I have a question which is kind of off-topic, but it is really important for me and my understanding of Chinese culture and society”, and the entire class fell silent. I suddently felt nervous, because I had so much I wanted to say, but so limited ways of expressing myself (in Chinese).

I explained about the story about the 2-year-old, which both she and most of my fellow class mates had heard about, and I was almost pleading for an explanation for how so many people could ignore a fellow human being so desperately in need of help like that.

Her face turned very serious and admitted that this was a problem in China’s society. Then she told us about a story from around ten years ago, where this lady had gotten in an accident, and the good samaritan that helped her to the hospital suddenly got all the blame for the woman's injuries and wound up having to pay a lot of money.  After that the so-called peng yu effect spread, 
resulting in people not being willing to help in fear of themselves getting pulled into trouble.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I thought this was only a myth often directed towards the US and Americans, seemingly being very fond of suing everyone at any possible chance; suing the man giving you life-saving CPR because he unfortunately broke a couple of your ribs performing the deed.

Besides, she was only a baby!

(Off topic - yet on topic, yet a complete other topic at the same time: in the video above, the lady picking up garbage that finally comes to young Yue Yuem's "rescue", pulls her up in a very violent manner, like she wants the kid to somehow stand up straight or something - after being run over be two trucks, that makes me think "first seriously injured, now most definitely paralyzed for life". God, Chinese people need to learn basic first aid.. )

When I rode my bike home from school that day, my heart was filled with sadness. 

Sadness and desperation for a society that could possibly be this apathetic and indifferent. How could someone refrain from helping a little baby in fear of themselves getting in trouble? What has this world come to? I could never live with myself after that if it was me.

Furthermore, what kind of society is this where people take advantage of the goodness of people’s hearts and try to scam them when helping them?

Later I learned that getting medical treatment in China is both hard to come by and expensive. Very few Chinese people have medical insurance, so if they get in an accident they would need to pay for the expenses out of their own pockets. This causes people in a pickle to desperately point out a scapegoat. Can't blame 'em, really.

China will only grow bigger and stronger, being one of the most influential and powerful nations in the world. But, boy, do the Chinese government have their work cut out for them, finding solutions for prominent problems in Chinese society, so that Chinese people won't be forced to put their inner "moral guidelines" aside, in order to survive. 


Anonymous said...

Det er bra du bryr deg og deler dine meninger. Det er akkurat det vi trenger - å få mennesker til å tenke mer over alt som skjer i verden, og forhåpentligvis være med på å prøve å endre det.

Nina Marie

Shiang Ying said...

Interestingly, in my Thai class recently, the teachers were talking about the same phenomenon happening among Thais - not helping so not to get involved with responsibilities uncalled for. In social psychology it's called Genovese Syndrome - named after a woman raped and murdered in populated New York - she screamed for help for at least half an hour to no avail. where individuals don't offer help to victim in emergency when there are other people around. Perhaps this bystander effects are not confined to Chinese culture - or like what my Thai teachers say about "Thai people".

Kijo said...

Ville ikke torturere meg selv ved å se filmen. Men ville bare legge til at jeg elsker teksten din til tross for at den er utrolig trist. Full cred for å tørre å spørre et så touchy tema foran en hel klasse, skjønner frustrasjonen din.

Clases De Chino said...

Giving gifts in China is common and appreciated, but knowing how to do this appropriately is vital, especially in business situations. There is a saying in China that loosely translated means to persuade others by reasoning. Thanks a lot.