Today is the first time I’ve written in more than a week. Some of that is my fault. Laziness. Apathy. The desire to watch more than one movie in a day. But part of this is also China’s fault.
Those blog-hating bastards.
See, in China, a lot of websites are blocked by the government. Facebook is blocked. YouTube is blocked. XXXbunker is blocked. And any site related to WordPress is also blocked. I’ve actually tried to start a blog on an unblocked site in China, and it’s virtually impossible. This is because China has a deep impulse to control the flow of information, and thus they hate blogs. There are no bloggers in China. There are no amateur press people or TMZ, no Zhang Wei Hilton. And when I don’t have a VPN, there is no Parking Space 37 either.
Which was the case this weekend. I was at Feng Deng’s place and I didn’t bring my laptop. So there was no writing to be done, since this website was impossible to access. Instead, I sat around and watched the movie ‘200 Cigarettes’ – which I’ve wanted to watch for years but never did and now I realize that it took me almost 2 decades to watch a movie that really sucks – and then at night Feng Deng’s friends came over and we all got pretty drunk.
It’s weird hanging out with Feng Deng’s friends. They’re all in their late twenties or early thirties, and most of them sell cars. They drink a lot and none of them speak English. When we hang out with Feng Deng’s friends, I basically just sit there and do a lot of nodding. Since I can’t speak Chinese, there’s not much communication happening between them and me. Our interactions are limited to smiles, thumbs ups, and clanking our beer glasses together.
But something struck me as interesting the other night. Feng Deng’s friends were talking about me, and thus Feng Deng translated what they were saying. They said that I seemed like a really interesting person. Someone artistic. Someone of depth. Someone who had more to offer the world than an occasional thumbs up.
This, you know, got me thinking. I mean, really, I’m not that confident that I do have much more to offer the world than some nodding and a solid high five. Once in awhile I have my moments, those small incidents of exceptionalism where I say something witty or vaguely insightful. But would they – would I – live up to the expectations of Feng Deng’s friends? I’m not sure. I thought about how it could be possible that being quiet and having emotive eyebrows just might trump the ability to express oneself.
A lot of times, people take a sunny point of view in regards to not speaking a language. “Oh, if they could only understand me, then they’d really like me! They’d see how funny and warm I am!” People are optimistic like that. As for me, a true pessimist, I see it the other way. I think if we all understood each other, we’d probably end up liking each other a lot less. Because I’ve met literally thousands of people in my lifetime that I was able to understand, and how many friends do I have?
That’s like 980 people that didn’t make the cut. So what are the chances that Feng Deng’s Chinese friends would end up liking me if they all knew exactly what I was saying? I’m guessing that the chances would be less than they are now, when we all just drink in silence.
And to that degree, maybe China’s onto something. No Facebook. No WordPress. No Twitter. No overdoing it, no supersaturation of opinions. Of our thoughts. There’s no venue for ranting, no place for shared Huffington Post articles or ill-informed dating advice or brief judgemental statements followed by hashtags.
Nope. There’s only those quick bursts of short WeChat moments, baby pictures and flattering selfies. In the West, our freedom of expression, maybe it’s turned into a need to express, a real and true need to share one’s full opinions. And that need is thoroughly absent here in China.
Which could be why Feng Deng’s friends look at my drunk and red foreigner face and wrongly think that there’s something interesting lurking there, behind my flushed cheeks. That there are some words of staggering brilliance dangling like a hanged man at the end of my useless tongue.