Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chinese Teenagers

No need to fear. I am alive and well in the Northern capital of the Middle Kingdom, which is to say Beijing, China. The sky is blue, the food is good and the DVD's are a buck a throw. Around the Worker's Stadium Azure Magpies are building nests. And I have a lot of friends here, so it's good to be back. We go to Hohai and drink Yanjing beer for forty cents a bottle.

The internet has changed greatly since I first came here ten years ago. Currently it seems blogspot, wordpress and wikipedia are blocked (and Rense, curiously). However via an unblocked route I may post to, but not read, this blog. I can read the comments as they come in but not comment myself, ha ha.

And this is censorship, sure. But censorship is a funny thing. When done well censorship should more precisely be described as 'absence'. As ever, the absence of things is less noticeable than the presence of things. We all know what's absent in the Western media. Politically, there's no discussion beyond the agreed upon shadow play. Culturally there's almost nothing past a mad obsession with whatever is new and most worthless. Philosophically (not that the media likes that word) there's little other than an all-pervading, centrifugal individualism.

In attempting to discern the absences here, let's just say - China is intensely 'foreign'. It can overwhelm. Spotting the absences is both difficult and easy, ha ha. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just focus on culture.

There is no Survivor or Big Brother here. There are no shows which pit individuals against each other in contrived trivial orgies of lying and cheating. There are no people voting each week for whom they hate the most. There are no dramas featuring serial killers who pretend to be normal. I have never seen sex or titillation on the TV here. Subsequently there is no Desperate Housewives or Dirt or anything even close. There are none of those tedious high-school snot-fests. Nor is there anything like Seinfeld here. Perhaps such depictions of worthless people spending their lives striving for, and arguing over nothing, strike the Chinese as idiotic. Who knows? Perhaps most crucially, the adulation of teenagers is completely absent.

But the results are easy to see, provided one can get past the shock of culture. On warmer evenings, people relax outdoors in an agreeable social fashion. Teenagers with unpretentious haircuts and clothes sit with the adults enjoying conversation. Once you twig to the fact that teenagers here do not have an attitude it's actually shocking. They do not argue with their parents. They do not go off to the mall and sulkily 'hang out'. They're far more likely to be whapping a shuttlecock around with their mother. No really! Flyovers and other places free of trees and powerlines are popular for kite-flying. In front of the Worker's Stadium every day I see people ballroom dancing, doing tai chi and other similar variations of the gentler martial arts. Tai chi is a martial art, you know. The main thing is that all of this can be summed up as ‘simple pleasures’. Chinese people broadly are not jaded. It's astounding how refreshing it is.

It's changing, of course. Kids here play computer games too. And every single thing produced by Hollywood (either for the big screen or small) is available here on pirate DVD. But they are viewed as foreign. The effect they have on the culture and the people are minimal. Chinese culture remains dominant. There is no chameleon-like sub-group here re-interpreting their culture for them. I’m entirely certain the government here exerts control to prevent shows such as this. Is this censorship? I expect so. But gee it's nice to see a culture that isn't driven by a perverse combination of angst and trivial self-obsession, that instead prizes family and harmony, and lacks snotty teenagers.


Anonymous said...

The teenage thing would be a welcome change nobody, for sure.
You are not the only one who is in a foreign land - I've just come back from a week in Roma.

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased your dad's OK.

kikz said...

so glad to hear frm ya thru the ether :)

enjoy china :) i look fwd to more stories when ya get back to oz.

and congratz on dad's remarkable recovery!

annemarie said...

Hey nobody!

Nice to hear the good news about your dad :) And trez refreshing account of life in China, particularly the observations on adolescents and community/neighbourhood life from your pov.

But can/will they manage to stave off the nasty aspects/influences of capitalism? Que sera sera...

We all reap what we sow, ya know. You're gonna get yours, just as assuredly as I'm gonna get mine, etc. etc...down the line...and so it goes...If we abandon our children to anyone or anything else, or if we neglect to care for and raise them properly/lovingly, why then it's other ones or things which raise and influence them. God, it's so simple really. Why do so many not get it? Or is it that so many truly do not care?

Take care mite :)

confounded yet smiling at the same time,

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

nice i dont get it♥

nobody said...

Ah well,

From a single article it may be difficult to determine what I'm on about. The other pieces in the archive will flesh things out, and feel free to read them by all means, but I'll quickly fill you in if you wish.

I view the US media as a very wicked machine. Hollywood, media, print, they're a single unit. They do not reflect society. Society reflects the media's message. The message is not an accident. It is designed to render society stupid and fractious and susceptible to the depradations of the motherfuckers of whom the media are the marketing wing.

China is not like this. They censor their media. The media there does not preach a message of selfishness. It does not perpetually push, and reinforce, the adulation of teenagers. American teenagers believe what the media tells them in regard to their being smarter than their parents. They aren't of course. Believe it or not, there are places where this fracturing of the generations does not exist. But if the teens of these places were subjected to the same message that American teens were subjected to, they would rapidly be as snotty and unbearable as the Americans.

China achieves this by way of a variety of censorship. So. Is censorship such as this, with its eye to harmony, bad? Can you dig it?

teen said...

People that are in their teen years are all the same :D