Monday, February 23, 2009

The difference between East and West

Very sad but also interesting article about a few Chinese students killed by an uninsured, aggressive drive in the US:

It's very sad and the families raised a few good points: Why was the man who killed their children allowed to drive?

But at the same time, the article outlines some fundamental philosophical and cultural differences. Sure, tragedies are universal -- there's no denying that the pain of losing someone you love has no cultural boundaries. But outside of that, we see certain fascinating differences:

Chinese laws would've never let someone like Skaggs drive, and more frustratingly, they say, the Chinese government would've stepped in with financial help if this had happened in their homeland.

The families expect the US government to help out or compensate their financial woes because of the death of their children, thus the end of their "prospect" for the future. To me, that just seems incredibly odd. The person dies; it's a tragedy, and it's sad. But to expect the government to compensate because your future and your dream are cut short?

Emotionally, I can understand the stress and heartaches of broken dreams, and the real issue of owing money... but that's why my parents never borrowed money just to send me to college -- if I had died, my parents would have lost everything but they wouldn't owe anyone anything. I do think that, in such as case, people who get student loans should get assistance... but then again, it's the risk of life. You take certain risks in life in hopes of certain returns, but nothing is guaranteed. Sure, no one intend to die in a freak accident. But that's why we have life insurance. We shouldn't expect the banks or lenders to pardon your debt because something awful happens to you. Least of all the government.

But to me, the following quote is the most interesting:

"When you raise a child in China, you are basically insuring your old age," Sun Yan's mother, Yu Ming, said, weeping as she spoke through a translator.

In China, at least, raising a child has become a financial security blanket, an investment. It seems that way. "Insuring your old age." That philosophy seems very alien to me, even though I'm Chinese. The idea of having children so they can take care of you when you get old and provide something back to you -- a return of investment in many ways... it just goes against everything I believe in as far as children are concerned. What pressure?! You're striving to have a great future not only because it's your life, but because it is your DUTY now to take care of your parents. They've invested in your future so their future will be secured.

I can't stand that kind of thinking.

And this makes the whole thing even sadder because not only do they see their children as investments, they also put all their eggs in one basket:

Conversely, it is a Chinese law that has been most devastating. Because the world's most populous nation has for 30 years enforced a one-child-per-couple policy, Bian, Xue and Sun Yan had no siblings, so the families' prospects for the future were crushed in a Ford Taurus at the intersection of Urbana and Moorefield roads.

Now, that's just sad.

And then this:

Friends and family members regularly stop by their homes in China, asking, "How could there possibly be no money? We really need money, too. Can you return it?" Sun Chun Zhi said. "They really don't understand why we didn't get any money. They didn't believe that ... they're not forcing you. They sit there and keep asking for money."

That highlights tremendous social differences. First, they had to borrow from friends and families instead of the state or financial institutes, such as student loans, etc. My experience has always been that borrowing from friends and families is a ROTTEN idea. Money has ruined so many relationships, as evident here. People may have sympathy for your loss, but at the end of the day, they want their money back -- it's not their problem. It feels really heartless, and it's something I don't understand myself.

First, I wouldn't have lend anyone any money so their kids could go to college.

Second, I wouldn't have asked for that money back if their kids died.

Apparently, I'm not Chinese enough, as my parents always teased me (for being too Americanized), to understand that kind of mentality.

Ironically, my parents don't subscribe to that kind of thinking, either.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Inconsistency of Our World

The late George Carlin used to muse about the absurdity of our world -- the inconsistency and contradictions, that's part of his hugely popular acts. Because it's true: our world is full of contradictions:

It's illegal to use marijuana, but it's perfectly legal to sell and buy bongs and stuff made from hemp.

It's illegal to speed, and in some states to use a radar detector, but it's perfectly legal to buy and sell such devices.

It's illegal to make porn (it's considered prostitution) but it's perfectly legal to buy and sell and view them.

There are laws against murders and assisted suicides, but it's not illegal to commit or attempt suicides.

It's not illegal to be gay or engage in consensual homosexual acts, but it's not legal to get married if you're gay.

It's illegal to smoke in public places and restaurants, etc. but it's perfectly legal to buy and sell tobacco products at those same places.

It's your right to be a lousy parent as long as you procreate, but they'll put you through extreme (not to mention costly) scrutiny if you want to adopt someone else's child, even when the parent doesn't want the baby.

It's okay to fuck up a country for 8 years if you're a white Republican President, but if you make a few booboos in less than a month as a young Black Democratic President, you're criticized for being a fraud.

People keep saying "quality over quantity" and yet they buy the same crap over and over again.

People fall in love as quickly as they fall out of love (I guess this one is not a contradiction -- it's actually a constant).

People who eat a big meal and huge dessert while drinking a diet cola.

People who eat right and exercise regularly, then smoke a pack of cigarettes every day.

Writers who proclaim they don't like to read. Or filmmakers who say they hate movies.

Companies that are on the verge of bankruptcy, having to lay of hundreds of thousand of employees, then go and award their executive millions in pay and bonuses.

We need to pass tests and get a license to operate a vehicle, but we don't need anything when buying and using a gun.

Sex with a minor is illegal, but two teenagers having sex with each other is "human nature."