From an aesthetic point of view, the title might have been more catchy as Big bangs for a head in a muddle resulting in an unsightly puddle but the piddle part of it is actually relevant later on. Whatever, on with the show…
It is never really a good idea to stay up late in a Chinese city. I forgot this last night when I was up until 2am adding posts to my travel blogs about Spain and Taiwan. I was reminded at about 8:30 this morning, when some guy started yelling over a microphone somewhere nearby. Why do people do that anyway? I mean, the whole point of microphones, surely, is that you don’t have to yell! And don’t get me started on cell phones… it’s a telephone, no matter how far away the person is, you don’t have to shout, they can still hear you (and, unfortunately, so can I… every single boring detail of the rather bland conversation). Right, I should stop being a cow, but like I was saying, I was woken up before I was ready by a very well-amplified shouting guy. Loud music and big bangs followed. I am a light sleeper. Trust me, it takes much less than canons to startle me awake in the morning!
I know what I am about to say is unreasonable because the cacophany had absolutely nothing to do with me and I am not narcissistic enough to think the entire world revolves around me, but from the middle of my resentful and sleepy haze this morning, it felt like some kind of cosmic punishment for staying up too late. While I might think it was deserved if I was hungover from a night of clubbing, I had been up writing! I heard something on a Sinica podcast once mentioning how a huge majority of web users just read and use the information they see on the net, whereas a minority participate by commenting and an even smaller minority actually create. I happen to be a part of that rare, creative minority! I empty the contents of my mind frequently and in several places on the internet (a bit like a dog that pees on lots of different trees?!). I think my mum would probably say this is because I’m pretty absorbed in the importance of my own opinions, with an ego the size of… something very big (don’t get me wrong, she loves me to death and is far from critical of me, but is a smart cookie and well aware of my failings). My take on the situation is that I find writing much cheaper than therapy and less strenuous than exercise, although I am certain I should do more of the latter. Plus, sometimes I manage to write something that people actually find useful, amusing or (gasp) interesting and that gives me warm fuzzy feelings of contentment. The point is, I spent the night writing and I feel most unhappy that I have suffered unpleasant repercussions for this. What is wrong with writing?!
I have been spent a fair bit of time in the last couple of days catching up on news, Dateline and Insight episodes and Sinca podcasts. As a result there are far too many issues flying about in my head. So, yep you guessed it, it’s time for this pooch to pee.
One of the things that I have seen mentioned recently in Sinca podcasts, ChinaGeeks’ articles and was made blindingly obvious to me by a table in a CASS paper on population issues in China is the gender gap and its potential affect on society in the years to come. Basically, there is clear evidence that for the last 20 years (since the relevant technology has been widely available) that people are screening pregnancies for the sex of the baby and acting on this information (Madariaga, 2010). Otherwise, how would you get discrepancies like those in the CASS 2008 paper? It is not like this is new information, I know the media has been going on about this for ages, but just look at this data! Among 0-4 year olds, for every 100 girls, there were 123.26 boys. 121.4 boys for each 100 girls among 5-9 year olds. And 115.91 boys per 100 girls aged 10-14. Although the rate of population increase is decreasing (which in itself, will lead to all kinds of issues and will also affect the extent of the gender imbalance), the ratio of boys to girls is increasing. Given that more than one million babies are born in China every year, that is a huge (and in my opinion catastrophic) difference. China is already changing in so many ways so very quickly. I think this aspect is an undesireable change, to put it lightly.
Some watchers have commented that this gender imbalance may lead to instabilty and a greater incidence of violent crimes (there has been a lot of talk about this in Western media as well as Chinese). Others have suggested that it might actually work to the advantage of women (they will not have to worry about finding a partner, given that there are plenty and will be able to focus more on their careers and education instead of being in a rush to get married in their twenties). My worry is that it will lead to the opposite. I don’t think a male-dominated society (and here I am talking about pure numbers as opposed to the way it is now) will be at all beneficial to women. I think people in power look after themselves. What if there is a job shortage? It would be in the interest of the majority if women stayed at home, or at the very least, retired much earlier. Note: the compulsory retirement age in China is already earlier for women than it is for men, despite the fact that women live for longer… the latter is also very obvious in the CASS study mentioned above, particularly for Chinese people aged 75 and over. For example: in 2008, there were 92.14 men per 100 women aged 75-79, 80.08 men per 100 women aged 80-84 and 65.34 men per 100 women aged 85-89. I guess this could lead to a society with heaps of young men and old women… and while this could have some interesting side-effects relationship-wise, if women are forced to retire earlier than men, they will not be at work and thus will not have the financial or political power to protect their current rights, let alone affect change.
When she appeared on Sinica’s podcast about the recent attacks against children, Qin Liwen said China already has the highest female suicide rate in the world. Who knows what this is related to? Not necessarily sexism. But I think it is just the tip of the iceberg of issues concerning female safety. I would also expect to see the incidences of violent crime against women (in the form of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence) increase noticeably. As the recent spate of violence against young children shows us, when people are pissed off, mentally unstable, or just plain creeps, they take it out on those they perceive as weaker than themselves… they kick the dog, batter little kids and, often, men strike out at women too. And why wouldn’t they perceive women as weaker than themselves when, in addition to physical stature, we are smaller in number, with less financial clout and are not treated equally (even in theory, just look at the difference in retirement ages) by the law (let alone in practice).
I’m sorry, but I don’t see any bright light at the end of the tunnel for Chinese women if the current gender imbalance in the birth rate continues.
In relation to this, people have also asked if it is any worse to abort a foetus because it is a girl. Will your opinion depend on how you feel about abortion? I don’t think so because even if one is of the opinion that abortion is murder and thus plain evil fullstop (and I would really rather not go here since, to be honest, I think an awful lot of people are incapable of discussing this issue calmly, whatever their persuasion), then yes I think it is worse. Firstly, if only because of the effects that a large gender imbalance will have on the society. Sure maybe one less girl will not make a difference, but the substantial lack of girls which will result if many people make the same decision will produce negative consequences. Secondly, if you are rude to someone, that’s bad enough, right? If you do it because of their race, it is racism. If you kill a huge number of people, it’s a massacre. If you do it because of their ethnicity or religion, it’s called genocide. I think it follows that regardless of how you feel about abortion itself, making the choice not to give birth to a child based on the fact that it will be female is worse than having an abortion for other reasons. I don’t know if there is some kind of word like ‘sexicide’ but that is what I am looking for. Sexual discrimination falls short. I’m sure some will say that this kind of statement does not understand the culture that is part of the context of these decisions. Actually I am well aware of the reliance of peasant families on a male heir as well as traditional views about a son to carry on the family line. I just don’t care. I think sexual equality should transcend cultural and national borders. I know it doesn’t but I think it should. Furthermore, I think there are grounds for saying anybody who wants to bring moral relativism into this particular issue is sexist.
I suppose there are related issues which will stick some holes in my last paragraph depending on my answer, such as people who might have an abortion based on a foetus being male due to the prevalence of certain medical conditions among male offspring. I don’t know what to say about this. There are a lot of things to do with the ethics of reproduction that I feel very uncertain about. Sex selective abortions based on nothing more than the desire for a child of a particular sex is not one of them.
In the same podcast, Qin Liwen also talked about NGO’s which exist to help fight female suicide, but are heavily restricted by authorities. The result is that social problems exist and escape through the safety net of government activity. This happens in many countries. NGOs often step in to fill this gap. When the government makes it nigh impossible for NGOs to do this, I think Qin Liwen is right, it is effectively making it impossible for people to help themselves and each other. Authorities then have a monopoly on the "help" industry. I don’t think this is good for many reasons, such as limited government funds and officials being ignorant of the grassroots issues. Most importantly, I think it creates an unnatural relationship between people in society. A person is in a terrible situation and needs help, another person feels sympathy and wants to lend a hand. Why must the government insert itself in the middle of this very natural empathic connection? I think many modern social problems exist because of a disconnection people sometimes feel nowadays, which leads to a lack of empathy or sympathy for others. I’m not saying NGOs are perfect, but I think they are one example of empathy in action. Why would anybody want to butt in? I think this kind of paranoia, or whatever it is that is causing it, needs to be addressed.
In case you are wondering, I spent a lot of my high school and university years involved in NGOs, so yes, I am completely biased.
Anyway, that is far from all that has been bugging me recently, but I think it is more than enough for one therapy session. See you next time, Doc.