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Forwarning – This post might have sad realities in it.

Today Saucy had a new van to take us to school in.  Molly and I don’t know what happened to the old one, but instead of heading straight to our Friday school, we went in the opposite direction and Saucy spent some time talking to roadside workers.

Aside – China has a something around a 4 % unemployment rate (which could be skewed based on the way they define it, but still 4% is pretty good. I mean, you can’t beat a rate like that with a stick.  or broom.  you just can’t).  One vocation they seem to support more than in the US are employees who maintain the roads and sidewalks.  You can’t drive a block without seeing one or two people in these orange vests with large straw brooms, sweeping gutters, the middle of the street, or sidewalks.

Aside – They don’t make sidewalks out of cement.  They make them out of tile.  It takes a long time, consequently, to lay a sidewalk although, yes, it does look very lovely.  The sidewalks in our neighborhood look like they have marble lining them.  A lot of parking lots in front of stores are tiled as well.

Saucy stopped at a vague, unmarked store in a line of vague, unmarked stores to get one packet of paper on the way to our Friday school.  It’s things like this, the roadside employees we see everywhere, the random shopping venues, that remind me of how different the culture here is.  In some ways, basic human nature remains the same across the world.

Yesterday marked the 11th  self-immolation in regards of a long standing debate between China and Tibet. It’s generally believed that self-immolation is their (monks and nuns of the Tibetan Buddhist faith) protest against the exiling of the Dalai Lama to India, but I could be mistaken.  I can’t fathom something like this happening in the US.  Especially because of some form of religious persecution.  Which, on further inspection, seems like a weird conclusion to arrive at.  Our country was founded on religious persecution.  We cannot pretend that because we are centuries away from our beginning that religion of any specific brand and of any shape or form has stopped being scrutinized or criticized.  I think we just find convenient ways of becoming comfortable or desensitized to it.  Does this mean, perhaps, that people here care more about what they believe is important?  Do they have better morals than people in other cultures?

I’m not writing this to point out flaws in the United States culture or character (or China’s for that matter).  I’m just pointing out differences.  A few weeks ago the death of a toddler in a province not far from Hong Kong made international news.  As sad as her death was, it was the reaction (or lack thereof) of bystanders that shocked people around the world.  Since that incident, more have come to public light (newspapers are calling it a rash of incidents)

Aside – “incident” is a callous way of putting it, but I’m trying to remain neutral and nonjudgmental in this post.  I refuse to criticize any institution in this.  I’m just observing cultural differences.

Yesterday a woman leapt from a bridge and was unaided by people driving by.  A film of it was posted on the internet.  The passenger in the car who happened to film it condescended to call an emergency service, but failed to get out and assist the lady.  Even more shocking are the responses to the video, but I won’t repeat them here.  Suffice to say that they echo the apparent attitude of the commuters.

Sad things happen every day.  Toddlers dying because of parents or drivers not paying attention isn’t exclusive to any area of the globe.  Suicide and attempted suicide is a plight every culture faces.  But it’s our reactions that make us human, and it’s our actions that speak more about our selves than our culture or country.  I could have read about these incidents in the US.  Some of you probably have.  It strikes me more when I’m not a hemisphere away.

Many people look at the damage tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes wreck with colorblind eyes.  We accept these as facts of the world, regret the human loss and injury, and go about our life.  When these tragedies happen just across a state line or to neighbors, we feel the pain far more acutely.  It is a coping mechanism.  If we had the emotional capacity to cry or feel complete depression and anguish every time we read or saw or heard something sad, we would be unable to function.

Furthermore, these reactions – of the monks and of the people who have walked by people in need – can all be attributed to the bystander effect.  If one person would have helped the fallen woman, more would have followed.  Because one person found a reason to self-immolate, more have followed. And no matter what culture we’re in, we all are guilty of falling plague to this effect.  Think I’m wrong?  There’s no way I can prove that more people will or won’t follow because one person acts, granted.  But one only has to look at Abu Ghraib prison offenses, Stanford Experiment by Philip Zimbardo, or the Westboro Baptist Church to see this effect.  It’s called a bandwagon, and it, apparently, exists globally.

In other news, we’re going to Disney Land next week!

Also, fact check: