Incoherent waffle. Oh man I miss waffles…

I’ve been in China for over a year now. I’ve finished my ESL job, currently travelling around a little until my working VISA runs out and I have to head back to the UK. At least temporarily.

This is a post I think like I ought to write rather than one I really feel like writing but I’ll try to power through. Here’s an amusing photograph before the vague and nebulous spiel begins:

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Haha. Old people acting in a youthful manner.

It seems like a very appropriate time to reflect on the last year. But, in an attempt to reflect ‘properly’, I’ve been trying to recall what I had, 13 months ago, thought I would get out of this whole thing. Despite scanning my old entries here I’m still struggling to remember what exactly it was I was expecting. It’s a very strange feeling.

I think it would be fair to say I had no solid concept of what ‘China’ was before I came. I had vague notions of a huge economic power far away with a vastly different culture. I knew it was a country that functioned, politically and socially, in an altogether different way to any other I had visited before. If all the other places I had visited before were, effectively, branches of ‘western culture’, then I thought living in China would be a sample of a legitimately ‘different’ culture, whatever that means. It’s very hard for me to dig past the, still not yet considerable, experiences I have had in the last 13 months and remember what I thought I was getting myself into. I think I just wanted to do something a little reckless, relatively unusual and attempt to, and I hate this phrase, challenge myself.

On these fronts China hasn’t disappointed. The experience of landing in a city wherein I understood nothing was one of absolute anxiety and excitement. The culture, language, even the bloody traffic systems were all incomprehensible. Initially it was barely possible to muddle through, never mind live as I had been used to. I remember being lost, barely a kilometre away from my apartment, thinking ‘I have literally nothing to go on here’. I couldn’t read any signs, couldn’t talk to anybody.

So effectively you land as an idiot. But an idiot with a very special skill! You are an idiot of English origin! As such you are treated, very often, as being special and as having special privileges. I hesitate to call the treatment positive discrimination, because of the connotations the word ‘discrimination’ carries, but that is effectively an accurate labelling of some of my interactions and experiences. You get stuff because of your race and your native language over and above similarly qualified Chinese people.
Despite being this idiot, you’re very valuable. There aren’t so many native English speakers in Fuzhou, perhaps 1000 or so out of 10 million citizens. If I wanted an unusual situation in which to live this certainly fit the bill.

It’s certainly not a bad situation to live in. I was treated excellently, both by the school and the people of Fuzhou. Often treated better than I felt I genuinely deserved! Occasionally this will make you feel a little uncomfortable. It’s not like I earned the privileged status, I just happened to be born in England! Should I be comfortable with this treatment?

But you have to remember how lucky you are to be facing this supposed dilemma. Any kind of discomfort I felt about this ‘discrimination’ only served to highlight how difficult it must be to be a minority but have the opposite form of discrimination. We were the lucky few, nothing deserving sympathy!  So it wasn’t an uncomfortable way to live, though occasionally logistically and linguistically challenging, but I don’t think it’s a controversial statement to say this is a relatively unusual way to live. It was certainly new to me.

After only a year it’s fair to say that China is still a mystery in many ways. Inevitably, once you learn a little about a topic, as I now have, you invariably become aware of just how much you don’t know. I can talk about various instances I have experienced. I can offer my opinions about certain aspects of China and Chinese culture with a far more informed position than I ever could before. But I’m still relatively new to the place. I have enjoyed learning what I have so far, but much remains enigmatic. The country is huge; a diverse and varied landscape populated with diverse and varied people. I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in Fujian province while I have worked so inevitably my ideas are heavily informed by my experiences of this province. But I think it’s fair to say I know a lot more than I did and I’m quite proud to have learnt what I have.

We are presented with various ideas of China back home, some accurate some not, but it’s very difficult to really get a sense of it before you come. By the same token it’s going to be hard to pass on what I have experienced to others back home but I will do my best!

I’ve touched on this idea in earlier posts; whenever I’ve travelled before I’ve left wherever I went with a sense that there was more left to do in that particular place after I left than there was before I went. I think this is a feeling everyone gets, except when you visit Skegness. A longer experience like this has been, being a little more immersed, has given me a similar feeling but one that seems a lot stronger and harder to elucidate.

I’m pretty sure whatever this thing is, however, it is what I had hoped to feel when I set off to come here in the first place. So yeah. There we go.

Next post I might make some jokes. Stay tuned!

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Year of the Horse

So begins the Year of the Horse. Here are a few snippets of advice I’ve received regarding this transitory period and how it will absolutely affect our lives.

Men, you need to care more about your stomach.

I don’t know how much you usually care about your stomach but ramp it up a notch. It’s not entirely clear why but your increased care should serve you well until another animal takes over chronological responsibilities. Next year is the Year of the Goat and goats eat all kinds of stuff so presumably we can stop caring about our stomachs at all next year and begin quaffing pints of gravel.

‘Husbands and wife’s will argue a lot this year, a focus on communication and understanding will improve this situation.’

Advice that sits well with the best qualities of horses; we are reminded to communicate and be emotionally open to avoid spousal problems. Ever seen a horse engage in an extended verbal argument? Of course you haven’t. There’s a reason for that; that reason is Astrology.

Dzi beads are good for you in 2014

Piss off.

Finally some choice words from the purveyor of astonishing bullshit reputable  news site http://www.consciouslifenews.com (great for a laugh):

Decisions you make in any new cycle are important, for they can have a profound impact on the rest of the cycle. 

News just in, decisions have consequences! This year the decisions you make will reside in some kind of causal chain where one thing will lead to another thing. My God the Year of the Horse is going to be strange! Hopefully we can all handle this huge metaphysical shift; thanks for the crushing insight CLN!

You must be grounded and in your heart to make the optimal choices. It’s not enough to mentally say that you are in your heart – you must truly reside there and operate from there. 

Stop mentally residing in your brain! Clearly your brain is rubbish at making choices. Mentally reside in an organ incapable of mental activity, you fucking idiot! What are you playing at!

Be specific.

Yes definitely. Try to avoid talking in a loose and general way such that what you say can be roughly interpreted as true by almost anybody. Don’t utilise vagueness as a means to appear wise or prophetic. You may accidentally exploit some idiots who can’t differentiate between useful advice and the incoherent ramblings of a self-proclaimed ‘intuitive healer’.

Sound advice, Conscious Life News, sound advice.

funny-farm-animals-17

Have a good one!

Less News from Anywhere

I feel like I ought to apologise to every conspiracy theorist I’ve taken the piss out of in the past. Not because they’re right, but because maybe their absolute unwavering cynicism and conviction that every layer of bureaucracy and government serves, in some way, to undermine our freedoms/rights might not actually be as stupid as I thought. It’s usually not a rational process they use, or an analytical one, but it seems like, through some shoddy grasping of the nature of power, they’re going to have a lot of ‘I told you so’ moments in the future.

The news is making for miserable reading at the moment. The layers of misinformation are growing so thick and fast I can’t even begin to try and parse what is being described. I read articles, statements, comments and it feels like I’m no more informed than I was before. Not in any meaningful way, I know plenty of stuff that people want me to think I know.

This morning Facebook, Yahoo and Google all denied any knowledge of the ‘Prism’ surveillance program that Obama recently confirmed has been running in the US for some time.  The original document that was leaked by the Guardian states that Prism runs with “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

These statements are what we have to work with. All we know is that these people have said these things and these documents have been reported on. From here we can, reasonably, conclude one, or more, of the following options:

  1. Facebook, Yahoo etc are lying, they know about and are complicit in Prism.
  2. The document is false, but this seems unlikely given that Obama has admitted the programs existence. Of course, Obama is left in the position of having to either say these CEOs are lying or admit that his program is accessing this data unapproved. So he just doesn’t approach the issue.
  3. These CEOs genuinely aren’t aware of the program and their companies have some kind of strange pseudo-department that deal with this sort of thing and don’t tell the board. Hurrah for more layers of secrecy.
  4. To hell with it. There’s no way to interpret these events and speeches and arguments and counter-arguments in any way that helps clarify anything approaching ‘the truth’, or as I prefer to call it, what is actually going on. I’m going for a drink.

So am I any more informed? Hell no. I have no idea what’s actually going on, I just know more about the narrative that certain people wish to thread.

Part of the White House’s response to this Prism issue goes as follows; it actually made me physically angry to read this.

“Now, the thing that I want to make clear is that the top priority of the president of the United States is the national security of the United States and protecting this homeland.  And we need to make sure that we have the tools we need to confront the threat posed by terrorists, to disrupt plots that may exist, and to otherwise protect the homeland.  The President is committed to that.  That is his top priority.

But what we need to do is we need to balance that priority with the need to protect the civil liberties and constitutional rights of the American people.  And that is the subject of a worthy debate — that there are people who have a genuine interest in protecting the United States and protecting constitutional liberties — constitutional rights and civil liberties that may disagree about how to strike this balance.  We welcome that debate.  The President has spent a lot of time thinking about this.  I think that was evident in his speech and I think that’s evident from the way these programs have been conducted.”

This made me so angry it ruined my day. This, right here, is disingenuousness condensed into some kind of self-serving singularity. If press-releases were people this one would mug old ladies to pay for its all-consuming addiction to snorting powdered children’s tears.

Maybe he welcomes a debate NOW, after he’s fucking implemented everything he wants anyway sans any kind of debate. It’s like saying “I know I just murdered that guy but I wholeheartedly welcome the debate on the respective positive and negatives aspects of homicide.”

It also appears he has no idea what a debate is. Making statements defending your use of absurd levels of surveillance, after the fact, and with no intention of ever changing your stance is not participating in a debate. Nothing will change, this has already happened. Our level of participation in this ‘debate’ has been defined from the outset at a big round 0.

Mr Obama welcomes a debate, one that involves you and your friends or family around the dinner table for a few days until it’s all forgotten about and the media has decided on some other issue to focus on. One that is, unfortunately, of no consequence because it does not appear that ‘the public’ are involved in these issues at all.

Dichotomies like this seem to appear all over the place at the moment. Relating to this, it was only last week that, at a security conference in Singapore, the US defence secretary claimed that the US government was highly concerned about “the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military”. Yeah well, that seems pretty rich now doesn’t it.

The administration is not embarrassed or ashamed, nor will this blatant and rampant hypocrisy undergo any real investigation or discussion. Or debate. And I HATE that I can say that and mean it.

I welcome the debate on what can be done about governments just doing whatever they please.