Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crowded, or Why Am I Even Here?

All pictures taken in Harbin markets.
A Chinese student told me that Chinese people didn't think twice about cramming animals together in unhealthy and unpleasant conditions, because the humans are crammed just the same. Fair point, when you remember the four to eight person rooms and constant water outages in the dorm buildings. And fairer even, when you think about the worker dorms in factory towns.

Is it messed up to be more viscerally upset by a few trampled ducklings in an overcrowded aviary than by the abstract overcrowding in Chinese factories[1] and cities? Is it messed up to feel my hackles rise and my stomach drop when I hear "China has too many people," the excuse and reason which bests all excuses and reasons, and to feel the leaden weight of that appraisal?

It's definitely a little messed up to want to help, as an outsider. Why China, when there's already overcrowding and hunger and a messed-up-just-for-me healthcare system back home? Why waste money on visas and plane tickets?

Still pondering that. There's definitely value in outside opinions, new ways of approaching problems that may not surface in a country where the education, media and traditional value experience is so standardized. Like it or not, there are generous people in America who want to give their money to people in China, and that money's power should be harnessed as efficiently as possible by a Sino-American liaison. And the international cooperation may prove valuable in unanticipated ways.

What do you think about international NGOs?

Anyway. I have a year of structured China study, a year to delve into politics and sociology and maybe even economics, and thankfully, nobody in China is going to let me forget exactly how foreign and white I am. So there's that.

Without further ado, let's meet some of the non-human individuals inhabiting tiny living spaces!


[1] Let's make it clear that I'm a total outsider. I've read a couple of books that discussed factory workers, talked to a few students about where they came from and where they're afraid they're headed, and shopped and photographed at many markets across the country. That's it.

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