Ignorance is Bliss?
When I first arrived in China, I immediately began my quest to find a VPN. For those who don’t know, a VPN stands for “Very.Private.Network”. And that means, installing VPN software breaks through China’s Great Firewall. I knew there was no way I could possibly survive a summer without all the conveniences of the american internet, and it only took me a day or two to find a working VPN for my computer. I thought it was a true stroke of brilliance as I perused facebook, and the Wall Street Journal online in my first few weeks. It was a true luxury that only cost me 12 dollars for the summer. But then, funny things started happening with my internet. Websites like facebook or twitter even gmail and skype would become hopelessly slow to load, or even drop the connection seemingly out of nowhere.
As social media coordinator in my office, my frustration over this little phenomena really goes without saying.
What my coworker explained to me is that websites like gmail, and western news websites are technically allowed by the government, but they install obstacles in the loading process that make the websites painfully slow to load. This way, even though people have the option, they will opt for faster chinese regulated news resources.
So even though I knew all about the debt debate in congress, the syrian uprising, and the news of the world controversy, I had no one to discuss this news with. In fact, people in china live in a pretty blissful world. No one hears about crime, government uprisings, genocide, or democratic political conflict. Besides my lacking a person to talk with about the news, I wasting too much time watching pages load on my computer. And so I went to the dark side: baidu.com and qq.com.
The top news stories were about the world’s heaviest baby and travel destinations in mainland China. At that point, my frustration got the better of me and i just closed the window, consigned to news illiteracy until I returned home in August. So the past few weeks have been news free. Even though I feel like I am purposely stuffing my ears with cotton balls, it has been slightly refreshing not to have the concerns of the world at the forefront of your mind.
Since I wasn’t getting news, I set my sites on a new target. Music. Surely I could download the new LMFAO and Nicki Minaj singles, right?
I ran into the same problem. The only music that downloads quickly without a dropped connection is from chinese artists.
So now I have no new news, and no new music. Not only would I be having reverse culture shock when I got back to the states, but I would be having serious pop culture shock. China isn’t even allowed to see the last Harry Potter until August 4….and I only just found out Posh Spice had her baby yesterday. Talk about being behind on the pop culture times….
I began to realize why it is the chinese are so fascinated by westerners. If you don’t have a vpn, the only chance a person has in China of catching a glimpse of the west is in the faces of the westerners blazing the trail in China. Our world is still so new, and still pretty inaccessible. It is no wonder I have found the cultural differences between myself and a few of my fellow female coworkers so incredibly vast. Sometimes I feel years older than my coworkers who have already completed their masters, and I think access to free information, and our cultural value to be indpendent from family and parents at a much younger age are two very big elements of this phenomena.
But my biggest concern was that my fellow coworkers seemed truly satisfied and happy with the amount of information they were allowed to access. However, I buried my concern this morning, and attempted to find common ground in the always entertaining discussion of english words written on tshirts. Today on the metro, a friend of mine spotted one saying “peace, ass, and love” so I mentioned it to one of my coworkers. She laughed and explained she didn’t have any sort of tshirt like that, but if she were to purchase on of those tshirts, she would get this one (featured below)
…..and thats when I realized. I had been thinking about chinese people in the exact way their government wanted me to. Knowing you are ignorant certainly isn’t blissful, but it does inspire creative angry english tshirt designs.
Kudos to Yama for finding this gem of a tshirt on chinese ebay.