Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things I've noticed, or had pointed out to me, about China

1. Infants and toddlers in split pants for easy toileting. A picture of such a child is below. Apparently parents put them on buckets or other handy commodes and make a noise in their ear (which sounds remarkably like the sound that my great-grandfather used to make to summon his dachshund). It was suggested to us not to test this sound on our babies, lest we produce the conditioned response. Americans would freak for a number of reasons; here it's seen as practical and child-focused.

2. You'd really have to search to find litter.

3. No graffiti.

4. Very pleasant herbal touches in urban spaces -- a lot of somebodies spent a lot of time making the median strips and roadsides look very nicely cultivated, and planting trees in neat lines everywhere they could.

5. Millions of bicycles, very few locks.

6. Toys for public use left in public places, and left there in good condition.

Then, for contrast with these communitarian values, a every-man-for-himself approach to driving that would make Ayn Rand wet herself.

I'm far to cynical about government to think this is all the product of communism or statism. I suspect it's more of a cultural difference that precedes the political system now in power. Our guide and a greeter at the home we visited suggested that the society becomes more selfish as living conditions improve. But I suspect it's not so much capitalistic values destroying mutual concern as it is unchecked growth overwhelming community and familiarity. It's easier to litter if you don't know anyone on the stree.

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