The Book of the Week is “Lost on Planet China, The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation” by J. Maarten Troost, published in 2008.
SIDENOTE: Just as there is hyper-awareness among foreigners of the opaque, dreadfully polluted air in China’s urban areas, there is hyper-awareness of the oppressive COVID political ideology SPOUTED 24/7 BY HYPOCRITES in the United States. The masking and “six-feet apart” rules are simply minor inconveniences piled on by ruling authorities to give the appearance that there are actions ordinary Americans can take to stop the spread of the disease.
However, the major inconveniences for everyone– cancelling big social events, or allowing sports with no fans, and closing schools– are meant to prevent people from gathering in large numbers in one place so that they will be less likely to die in terrorist attacks or shooting sprees. Violent political unrest has become more and more likely (in America!), given the nature of the most recent presidential administration.
Americans have been made hyper-aware of the fatal, contagious viral disease of COVID through scare-tactics that were NEVER used during previous epidemics of fatal, contagious, viral diseases. Take the flu epidemic in 1957. Incidentally, at that time, there were fewer viral treatments for patients, and patients then were just as ignorant about medicine as now: Rosalind Russell, a Broadway and movie actress, wrote, “That second Auntie Mame winter [in 1957 on Broadway] I had the flu three times myself, took antibiotics like popcorn, and kept going.”
Jim Croce caught the flu during what his wife wrote in her book, was an “epidemic” that caused a serious financial loss from his concert series on college campuses in 1972. Students were loath to attend cultural events (but there were no restrictions on doing so) for fear of catching the flu.
Croce recovered in a week, but his wife DIDN’T mention that: he was tested for “the flu,” he saw a doctor, or that he reported his illness to the local government. Along these lines, in the 1970’s, an indeterminate number of people WEREN’T COUNTED in flu-epidemic statistics even though they had flu symptoms– because they weren’t tested for it, didn’t see a doctor, or didn’t report it to the local government. In 2020, the vast majority of people who felt sick got tested for COVID, which led to an immediate reporting to medical or political authorities!
Thus, for the above and other reasons, then as now, statistics on fatal, contagious viral diseases, aren’t all that accurate. A book that makes this point in general, published in 1954, that also teaches readers about how to spot bias, spurious causation, and all manner of misleading nonsense in a range of topics including politics, medicine and economics, is: “How to Lie With Statistics” by Darrell Huff. The highlights include: pp. 28, 35, 39-41, 64, 83-85, 118-119 and 131.
Anyway, the author of the above Book of the Week traveled to various provinces and regions of China around 2005– he failed to specify how many months he was there– leaving his wife and two young sons, two and four years old, in the United States. He wrote he was looking for a livable part of China for his family for a year. While there, he met up with a friend fluent in Chinese, who showed him around Beijing.
The friend taught the author where to get pirated software and pornography, and how to bargain. For, the prices of all goods and services exchanged in the country are negotiable. He also got assistance in hiring a young female translator, whose schooling had taught her only positive aspects of China’s history in recent decades. She had no clue about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
When the author remarked on the air pollution in China, various Chinese people responded to his criticism by saying Los Angeles had smog. Another cultural aspect of life in China, aside from being forced to accept the pollution, was China’s government’s legal insistence that couples have only one child in their immediate families; preferably a boy. Parents of a child of marriageable age met in the local parks to find a spouse for their one child.
The author also conveyed his (unpleasant) experiences of riding on China’s railways, and seeing “…streetlamps decorated with swastikas, a sight that always succeeded in startling me. But, in fact, in Buddhism it is a symbol for love and mercy…”
Read the book to learn: the history of China of the 1400’s, and of the author’s adventures in China proper, Hong Kong and Macau. Through the eyes of the multi-racial author– who is Canadian, Czech and Dutch– the reader might get the impression that Chinese society is sociopathic.
But, when one thinks of the two-word phrase ending in “spree” the first words that spring to mind in AMERICAN English are: shopping, spending, shooting or killing. While it is bashing China, perhaps America ought to reflect on how the rest of the world views it, and “remove the plank from ITS OWN eye” first.