Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reader Comment: Tank Man


Tank man is apposite at the present time. The young man who immolated himself in Tunisia has started an avalanche of change (and let's hope reform).

Robyn T

Hello Otto,

I am just catching up on a few Bytes -- The Tank Man was of great interest to us.

Diane and I were in China two years ago, for a Chinese friends wedding – we were the only Westerners there, and it was a very special experience, as you can imagine, more so because I had to give a speech!

After the wedding (in Shanghai) we spent quite a few weeks touring China, and of course we found ourselves in Tiananmen Square. We asked our Chinese friends about the Tank Man and they knew nothing of him or the event – same with every Chinese person we met – they are still quite oppresses over there, despite our thoughts that the doors are open – the doors are not open, they are held ajar by the Government.

We never got to see Mao’s tomb or his body in the Chrystal Coffin simply because the queues were massive – five wide and as far as the eye could see – our guide could not even locate the end it!

On the day we were in the Square, the Government had taken bus loads of what they called “Minority People” to see Mao’s body. These Minority People are basically peasants from the Chinese countryside (subsistence farmers, if you like) and they grow food for the Government, and are allowed to keep a proportion of their crops for family use. They live in shacks with dirt floors, no sanitation, no running water and of course no power. They could neither read nor write. It follows therefore that they have no TV / computers etc. Imagine their shock then, when for the very first time in their lives they saw white people (Westerners). And guess who the Westerners were? Me and Diane! We had one of the most fantastic few hours of our lives when we posed for hundreds of tour guide photographs with these people, had babies thrust into our arms and were stared at considerably more than normal. Their costumes, their sense of fun and their laughter remains with us, and will do forever.

For anyone that hasn’t been to China, I would suggest you go soon! Shanghai City now looks like something out of the Jetsons, and many other Cities are becoming over Industrialised and Westernised. The old houses and the old ways are rapidly disappearing - such a tragedy. Soon, within our life times, it will be difficult to know where we are in the world when we travel. Fast food, hotel chains and shopping malls merge together in a mass of marble and stainless steel and neon signs. The differences in lifestyle, thought, desire, expectation and education is what makes people so unique – thanks to this thing called ‘progress’ it seems that very soon we will all be the same – everywhere. Our lives will be sadly the worst for it. It began with the early explorers (yes, Captain Cook, too) and will continue until we are all one – and it seems to me, that we are using the American model upon which to base this sameness......................................

Steve m

Your travel reporter and chief whinger!

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