Out of the Well: A Frogs-Eye-View of China and the World

Random Jottings on China, History, Culture, and Life as seen by an American student in Beijing.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Martyr With a Broom; or why you have to be brave to be a street sweeper in China

So I worry about this country sometimes.

I have a text book right now that depresses the hell out of me. Theclass is radio listening, and towards that goal it is effective. The
subjects, taken from real radio shows, however are awful. teachers
making whole classes of children slap a child's face, teenage Internet
criminals, fake diploma mills, and the like.

The last few day have been too much. The lesson is entitled "why do we make public sanitation workers shed blood and tears?" according to the radio report (circa '98). For some reason there is a prevalent phenomena of people "humiliating and beating up" sanitation workers. It seems that at the slightest provocation people are willing to go up to guys n gals (often from the countryside or elderly) driving garbage trucks and picking the trash off the street and beat to the point of unconsciousness, disability and death.

When i first read this i thought. Well its just to weird to be true. Then i thought, well at the end of the nineteens maybe it was a problem, but surely not now. I just googled the Chinese phrase
"Sanitation workers humiliated" as it appeared in my lesson. 17,300 hits came up, one from earlier this month. I was proud of myself that, armed with my new beating up sanitation worker vocabulary, i could make my way through a few articles calling for greater public respect for these people, as well as publicly provided medical insurance. So it is still a problem.

Sorry to tell you all this. It is just driving me crazy how absurd this is. I really like this country but this makes no sense. Why sanitation workers? What makes them such a target? Why not taxi drivers, construction workers, or the lady who sells me egg pancakes in the morning? (Not that I wish it on anyone, especially not the egg pancake lady.)

My mornings are filled with both garbage truck men and street cleaners, I am going to spend the next couple of weeks worrying about them.

On the upside, less than 6 days until Sarah comes to China and helps me think about less crazy things.


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