A Travellerspoint blog

Behind the poker face

there is

overcast 19 °C

Even though it seems a lifetime, we've only been in China for three months. Three months is enough to make exotic China lose its exoticness, and to adapt to the lifestyle here. Teaching has turned into a proper job, office hours are spent on Facebook or reading the news, and the weekends are bound to be pyjama days. We've been to the Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. We've danced on the floor of Hooligans, and shot too many tequilas in orange peel. We've been to the Buddhist temple, the cinema and the shopping mall. We've had more starbucks here than I’ve ever had in my life. As new becomes old, and old becomes distant, I will spend some time writing down some reflections about China and its people.

Lately I read a very interesting article on the purpose of the human in our time. The article was based on a speech of Rudolf Steiner (for those who don't know who Rudolf Steiner is - he is the father of anthroposophy, and the founder of the Waldorf school). He predicted the future of the human very accurately, and described the inner happenings of the technological boost. According to him we can either stray off from our path of development, or keep on the track. Based on his article, there is no doubt that we've strayed from our path. Technology surrounds us, and we become more like robots, like puppets in a puppet show. You just have to pull in the thread and we move. A couple of months back I wrote an article on the technological developments of our time, and was shocked by the scale at which technology replaces us. Within two years you can become the mother and father of your own child. The next year you can choose whether you will have a child with brown or blue eyes. And it doesn't stop there - by 2050 scientists will be able to transfer the human brain and consciousness to a robot. We’ll become immortal, the living dead... People seem not to be aware of the consequences technology can bring. This puppet-like behaviour of people can be seen in many parts of the world, and in different forms. In China people do whatever the government tells them to do without questions or reflections. In Norway too many people simply can’t be bothered. Sleepy, bored faces can be seen everywhere around you. Topics, such as which political party runs the country, or what happens in Palestine, are issues which too few people care about, which again can be a huge threat for democracy, freedom of speech and the free will. Before we can say Jack Robinson we become puppets in a puppet show – the killer of the free will. If interested, follow the link: http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/sid/article4242806.ece#.T40vFrOr9uI

I can write pages and pages with all its pros and cons of the technological development , but as this blog is dedicate to China, I will adapt these thoughts to the Chinese society. Today we went on a school trip with class 4 and 5, altogether 1000 students. A bit of a buzz I must say. The buss took a good hour to a museum dedicated to famous Lei Feng, the communist hero of all times (after Mao). Lei Feng (1940 – 1962) was born near Changsha, Hunan, and became an orphan in early age. He was brought up by the communist party, and became soon a member and leader in the communist youth corps. At the age of 20 he joined the red army, and fought for his motherland, but it is said that he died at the age of 21 (or 22 in east Asian counting, by which the new born is one year old by birth) of a telephone pole that hit him while he was guiding an army truck. Even though there is little known about his life, Lei Feng is the icon of good deeds to the Chinese people, and on the 5th of March whole of China celebrates his day by doing good things in school or elsewhere.

Every single picture in the building pictured Lei Feng happily smiling while helping children or sowing clothes. People believe he was helping people all over China, especially the poor and needy. At once we got out of the building which praised this guy to heaven, a question arose in my mind: Who did take all those pictures, and why only those nice, happy pictures of high quality for its time? Wasn’t Lei Feng poor? Wasn’t he in the army? He must certainly have had a private photographer running after him all day, in order to shoot those photographs. And Lei Feng must certainly have been using Botox, to keep up with his never ending smiling. I also noted that nobody knew more about Lei Feng than the information I’ve been giving here. According to among others Wikipedia, there exist a controversial theory that Lei Feng never has existed. As the communist party was about to lose its influence after the Great Leap Forward, they had to make up an icon in order to keep peace in the state. It would have been dangerous for Mao Zedong to get the entire population against him, and therefore they made propaganda of the highest level in order to maintain calmness among the poor and starving people. They manage to spread this image of him really well, and till the date of today, most Chinese people wouldn’t question his existence. The whole Lei Feng, and its museum was so much filled with propaganda that my stomach turned upside down, and I had to hide the scream filling my lungs. The trip to the museum was however a big eye opener for me. Even though I know that China is a strict communist country without freedom of speech and the free will, I never really noticed this in the society. The museum and the reactions of the kids where however a glorious example of the puppets the people have become of the government.

On one of the posters in the museum there was written “Do everything the government ask you to do.” I was shocked about this line, as well as all the paintings, and ridiculous photo’s. I could feel the blood pressure rousing, and a my eyes glow of furriness. I had to calm myself down, and decided to rather ask the students about there opinion on Lei Feng. They told me he was a good person because he helped people. They told me that they liked Chairman Mao, and that they hated Japan. When I asked why, they answered quickly “Japan people bad.” “Ok,” I answered “ but why are they bad?”, “I don’t know” was the genius answer.

Kids love to make puppets, and so do adults. The puppet making project of adults is however more dangerous; They make the children into puppets. The puppets of the government. I get sick of the thought of this... I’m filled with anger, a furious, bitter anger. The government in China is consciously killing the free will of people. The government of China is putting restrictions on the freedom of people. The government of China is making over a billion puppets.

And that is not the only thing – In another part of the museum a military exhibition was held, and all from tanks to ships could be seen. There were American ships, German tanks, Japanese jets, and Chinese “everything” in the room. The eager 10 year olds showed me around and pointing to deadly weapons with the comment “look, how cool!!”, “Well,” I answered “ I don’t think it is so cool. It is dangerous, everything in here is dangerous!” They didn’t understand that I referred to the whole propaganda, but the guard apparently did, as he sent me a killing look. When we returned home, a couple of kids were trying to shoot each other with their new purchased plastic guns. I thought by myself “be careful that this plastic never turns into metal, and the bullets, into killing objects...” I so badly wanted to scream this out, but as most critical Chinese, I kept the thought to myself, to not get into trouble with the government. Later, I had to write them down, I felt the urge to tell the world what I had experienced. Many Chinese authors vanish mystically from this planet for doing exactly what I do now. They sacrifice their lives to tell the people the truth. Yes, the truth can be risky.

My father asked me the question “What is behind the Chinese poker face?” And now I got to know a part of what is hidden behind the poker face. Earlier I had told him that the Chinese carry a mask, and keep a constant poker face. Yes, Chinese must be incredible good at playing poker. I’ve never heard a Chinese person complain openly about the amount of work they have to do, or about plans that are changed, or about the food, or low salaries, or about anything at all. They accept without questioning- exactly what was written in the museum “Do whatever the government ask you to do.” Without so much as a sigh they continue their work from seven in the morning until ten pm.
This simple sentence in the museum is the mirror of the society. Behind most poker faces you can find a puppet, a robot, drained of questions and reflections. They might think you are strange when you question the medicines which you get prescribed by the doctor, they might think you are crazy when you ask such a simple question as “Why don’t you like Japan?”, they might raise a eye brow if you question the pictures of Lei Feng. Behind this poker face without emotions, there is another layer of the poker face; a combination of fear of questioning, fear of the answer, and a fear of the government. The answer might bring an end to a lot of things they have learned before, and they have to start from scratch again.

What is hidden behind this mask of fear I can’t say for sure, but I will carry this question with me while I’m still here in China, and hope to find an answer before returning home. However, the question is sometimes more important than the answer...

Posted by EmmaMM 05:02 Archived in China

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