zhang.dianli

Oh. Wow.

I found this rant on another site. I thought I was good at rants, but ... this takes me out of the race entirely as an amateur.

The author goes by the name Tangent on a board I infrequently poke my nose into, and that's as much credit I can give. I know little to nothing else about the author beyond what they say in the rant itself.

I've been sitting on a rant, so hear I go. I've boiled down my frustration and anger into words as a vehicle to why I think I can't really find anything enjoyable in my life anymore. So I just need to get this toxicity out and hope that it changes something. Part is taken from my own words and part is taken from things that I've read elsewhere that I've asked for permission to post.

I feel that people are simply not taking the time to recognize the irresolvable fracture that has befell the United States. This is not just

  • Red vs. Blue.
  • Rich vs. Poor
  • Patriots vs. Immigrants
  • Young vs. Old
  • Educated vs. Uneducated
  • Employed vs. Unemployed
  • Employer vs. Employee
  • Insured vs. Uninsured
  • Urban vs. Rural
  • Metropolitan vs. Provincial
  • Proletariat vs. the Bourgeoisie

…. And that list? It can keep going on and on. The point being, there is no longer any sense of a shared identity in the United States, not on any level except (arguably) “Angry vs. Downtrodden”, and that is a recipe for violence.

The US has so clearly divided the nation (we can thank decades of corruption via politics, billionaire acquisitions, and media control + propaganda + censorship) that there is simply no “going back” to the way it was. This is the deliberate product of the US government, only now that they have succeeded at “Divide and Conquer”, they don’t know what to do. We’ve been sold “Hope”, we’ve been sold “Yes We Can”, we’ve been sold “Make America Great Again”, and now we’re being told to “Build Back Better”; all of these represent ideals rooted in the inevitability of a nation in decline, acknowledged and framed by our Congressional and Presidential leaders.

30 years later, America isn’t great, we aren’t even able to muster the support to “build back better”, it turned out “No, we couldn’t”, and all hope has been abandoned.

Civil war might not be the outcome, but the United States will never, ever be United again…. Unless it is under a fascist regime. We have lost the ability as a society to act, dream, respond, or think collaboratively, and we won’t get it back until “they” (whomever that means to you personally) aren’t around anymore.

If you read history it's precisely how nobility destroys a country to turn it into their personal fiefdom.

Let's take Poland for example(as half of my family is Polish). From the country's collapse and ultimate takeover – first by Russia as a military protectorate, and then by Russia, Prussia and Austria through direct incorporation into their empires – is an excellent example.

Societal structures are independent on technology level. They reflect evolutionary dynamics inside the socio-biology of human species. Caveman society or modern day America – these dynamics remain identical – they only speed up or slow down, are more or less complex in their architecture.

So what am I getting at.

History shows that either you have a strong central government – the “king” that hold the “nobles” in check by repressing their independence, or you will lose the society for “commoners” and instead will turn into a society creating a “slave” caste.

Now the interesting part is that who the “noble” or who the “commoner” or who the “king” is – is decided not in superficial arbitrary terms but by relative position in society. It also doesn't matter if the “king” is a single person with hereditary rule or a collective body of elected bureaucrats. It can be the prince of Liechtenstein or the European Commission. Doesn't matter.

What matters is that the “king” responds to the “commoners” and represses the “nobles”. This is key. If the king represses the nobles he needs the commoners on his side. That usually means good times for the country. If the king joins the nobles in repression that's when we get tyranny that usually ends with a bloody revolution down the line where some kind of “king” will represent the commoners to restore balance.

But when the nobles gain the advantage over the king then the commoners are fucked because they have no “king” to restore the balance unless the nobles wage a long and bloody war that makes one of them as the king and that is worse than the bloody revolution – because those wars can last for generations. And so in most cases the nobles perpetuate the system of oppression until the society becomes so backward compared to its rivals that it's taken over (Something something Arx something lol).

This is exactly what happened in Poland that I can remember my a relative of mine talking about as she immigrated to the US during the 50s. During the period of 14th to 16th centuries Poland had its “golden age” during which the nobility gained tremendous privileges at the cost of the peasantry/commoners. That led to the emergence of a “magnate” class – very powerful barons and dukes who did all they could to make the Polish state as decentralized and indecisive as possible. In the end when the dynasty ended they did not agree to another dynasty but rather chose to elect the king, somewhat in the style of the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception that the kings could not be hereditary. This meant that as every country in Europe slowly centralized monarchical power Poland decentralized it, or rather made the monarch impotent both by limiting the area where king has power and the time during which any given king could plan the political strategy.

The consequence was tremendous economic regression of the country, weakness of the middle class, and finally takeover by foreign powers which were invited as “protectors” ... by the “magnates”.

So what do we have in America?

We have the highest Gini factor in the western world which indicates how far the nobility is from the commoners. I'll take a moment to expand just how bad it is.

The US has Gini of 41, between that of Haiti and Argentina, according to World Bank. According to CIA it's worse – 47 (27th most unequal) between Madagascar and El Salvador. It's worse than Russia's and China's. Switzerland – a country that is in many ways similar to the US (federal system, huge decentralization, low taxes, gun culture) and known for great wealth, standard of living and banks hoarding Nazi gold has 28 and is 124th not far from such welfarist and socialist countries as Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Austria or Slovenia and Czechia. (by WB measure US has 41 and Switzerland has 32 – still bad)

Continuing...

We have the least democratic system in the western world – de facto an oligarchy with a political system that is incapable of introducing change that benefits the majority and protects a system established in the 18th century. It's a system that limits political expression by forcing people into big-tent platforms which then compete in a first-past-the-post system where extremes and negatives decide the outcome, and where disenfranchisement is a key tactic.

We have fragmentation of the country into many political entities that can be easily manipulated against each other (not just states) and a situation where the only unifying factor historically has been a war against an external threat. It's gotten to the point where programs marketed as major societal reforms are called a “war” – but probably this is a Freudian slip more than anything.

We have a lot of the wealth of the nobility offshored and locked into enterprises in other countries meaning that the commoners in America can't keep it hostage and demand change. Those enterprises pay low taxes in other countries and the profits are hidden into convoluted investment schemes all the while these enterprises earn primarily because of their influence over the American political system and through use of American military power – since that's how they enforce that other countries' commoners don't take over their investments as hostage. So Americans are paying taxes to support a military that guards the nobility's wealth without any of the taxes coming back to the country.

We have a monetary system that increasingly impoverishes the commoners and enriches the nobility especially as key goods like housing and education become ponzi schemes or investment bubbles crowding out regular people and limiting social mobility which is among the worst in the developed world.

We have a mentality of “enrich the military and scorn all other men” from the Crisis of the Second Century in ancient Rome while at the same time regular military personnel is somehow underfunded, kept as hostage through bad healthcare and education systems which often force poor people into military to be able to fund those and rewarded with “thank you for your service” and Veteran Affairs.

Finally...

We have a king that is dead and has been for a time. Every now and then some senile puppet comes out and mumbles something ineffectively to the thundering applause of one group of nobles and angry grunting of the other group of nobles but its all for show so that the commoners think there's still a king. That king is elected by a rigged dog-and-pony show that even more than the overall political system sardonically laughs in the face of the population no longer even trying to hide it's corruption.

And that's not counting a certain two strata in modern American society – the illegals who are de facto “slaves” who only exist thanks to the good will of their masters not ratting them out to the authorities, and the legals who are so in debt or so close to being in debt that they might as well be slaves.

History tells us that situations like those are beyond fucked up.

This is modern day America.

And what's worse American nobility really really wants the same to happen in Europe – which really terrifies me, because we have fought too many wars and revolutions to try and be just a little bit better and we know just how difficult it is.

And as a concluding remark:

Long time ago when Ronald Reagan was talking about “Evil Empire” – I'm old enough to remember that – he always claimed that he meant the Soviet Union. But that's not true.

And that's because Soviet Union couldn't be the Evil Empire. No empire in the process of slow agony which leads to peaceful dissolution can be called “evil”. Maybe it once was, but not when Reagan spoke about it.

Reagan made a Freudian slip. So when he was talking about the Soviet Union he was thinking about his beloved America.

And just to drive one more point.

In the 1980s the USSR had gone through death throes of the Soviet system. Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko – 70-somethings died within a year or two of each other replacing the Secretary General's seat. Gorbachev was of the “young guard” being 50-something. Then he led the country into its dissolution, although not intentionally.

In 2016 the US president could be a 70-something, an almost 70-something and another almost 70-something. This was repeated in 2020, only worse. What do you think is coming in 2024?

Whenever people are faced with this graph there are several excuses made for the results.

COVID-19 case rates by continent and select nations

We can safely dispense with the covidiot responses denying the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no information that could be given that will persuade these people of anything. I'm not even going to take the facile route of saying they're too stupid. They're not especially stupid. They're especially uneducated. This is too big a topic for me to ever address.

I will also myself dispense with the people claiming China is just lying about their numbers and that there's millions dead. This is not something I can prove to the satisfaction of these people. They are convinced that millions are dead (some of the more ludicrous estimates put it over 20 million!) and yet somehow I know literally nobody in China who even had a case of COVID-19. Nor anybody who died. Nor anybody who knows someone who had a case. Nor anybody who knows someone who died. And somehow I appear to have not had to climb over piles of bodies either.

So this leaves one more common objection: that it is China's authoritarian government that got them their results and what happened can't happen in a country with freedom.

This is the one I will address today.

Authoritarian countries don't automatically succeed

Here's a few other countries ranked against continents.

COVID-19 case rates by continent and selected authoritarian nations

See those countries? See how lousily they're doing against world standards? Interestingly they're authoritarian countries, one and all. It turns out merely being authoritarian isn't enough. There's something different in China that made them excel against even other authoritarian states.

Free countries don't automatically fail.

Here's a few more countries ranked against continents.

COVID-19 case rates by continent and selected free nations

Each of these countries is doing well by world standards and each is also rated as a “Full Democracy” on the EIU Democracy Index.

So … what then?

Well, given these two graphs it's clear that being free doesn't automatically make you fail at handling COVID-19 and being authoritarian doesn't automatically make you succeed. There must be something else.

Some point to “island nations”. As if the UK wasn't an island nation. And as if South Korea were. Others point to sparse populations. Which doesn't work when you look at Japan and South Korea.

No, there's something else at work, and to explain this, I have to explain Chinese governance.

Chinese governance

Now just to be clear at the outset, this is a grossly simplified birds-eye view of how Chinese governance works. The reality is infinitely more fiddly and confusing and I don't want to get into all that nonsense because it obfuscates the main point (which, tragically, I don't get to until near the end of this wordy barrage).

There are, in effect, three layers of Chinese governance:

  1. The government.
  2. Community leadership.
  3. The people.

The Government

The government is openly and unabashedly authoritarian. What the government says goes. Actions that go against the government get brutally suppressed. There is no denying this (and, in my opinion, not a lot to excuse it either).

But here's the thing.

The government, as large as it is, cannot possibly control 1.44 billion unruly citizens. And if you don't think the Chinese are unruly, wow have I got some shocking news for you!

As my first example of the unruliness of Chinese people, I'll tell you the story of outside food and drink in restaurants. A few years back (c. 2016) the city passed an ordnance, at the behest of the restaurant industry, permitting restaurants to ban the bringing of outside food and drink onto their premises. The reaction to this was stark and shocking. There was practically a revolution in the city of Wuhan. A policy that was to be brought into force six weeks after the announcement was suddenly withdrawn after two weeks and replaced with a directly contrary policy. It is now encoded in Wuhan's laws that restaurants must permit customers to bring in outside food and drink under the constraint that the meal in the restaurant must be substantially larger than the outside elements.

I've never seen even a “free” nation that changed an unpopular decision so quickly in the face of opposition. But change it (and quickly) they did. Because the alternative was mass riots.

Yes. Riots.

Because those are actually a pretty common thing here. I found this out in my first month in China when a taxi drove past a food market and I saw a bunch of people—largely middle-aged women—in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with police. And the police were losing. They were getting kerbside-stomped by middle-aged ladies using heeled shoes and umbrella tips to unleash damage. Asking students later what it might have been about it was almost unanimous: it was likely a popular unlicensed seller was getting harassed by the so-called “economic police”. (That's a western term only. The proper Chinese term is 城管 or Chengguan, and translates to “urban management” or other such terms.)

Indeed in the very same school where I asked that question, not too long after (a bit under two years later) there were eruptions of student riots (note the plural) over the ridiculous and obviously corruption-furthering rules for dealing with the then-spread of SARS.

Really, the Chinese are an unruly people and the government both knows this and fears this, reacting with delicacy and negotiation most times.

And this is where the second layer of governance shows up.

Community leadership

China is, for traditional reasons, in most of its territories, divided up into walled and gated communities. The most iconic form of this is the old-style hutong of Beijing, but similar kinds of community-building exist everywhere in China (among most of its minorities as well). Each such community has a leadership council of people (so-called “cadres”) who live in the community and act as the Party's agents within it.

Now technically speaking community leadership is part of the government, in that the cadres are all Party members. There is, however, a distinct difference in feel when dealing with the community Party officials and government officials proper. See, the community-level leadership lives in with the community. They are obligated to get to know everybody in their little realm. (Local police have similar obligations.) They are part of the community, not ruling over it. “First among equals” sorts of nonsense.

And they get dragged for it.

The community leaders take huge heaping piles of abuse from their “wards” when they make mistakes. And if they get caught in flagrant corruption that actively reduces the quality of life of residents, their lives become almost pitiable.

I am a member of my small compound's community WeChat group and DAILY I see people discussing, sometimes quite vociferously, affairs in the community. I believe the polite wording is “frank and open discussion”. (I call it “a shouting match”.) This is not what people think of when they think of Chinese governance if their knowledge base comes only from western reportage, but this is the government as most people actually encounter it here.

And this is the key. About 90% or more of what interactions people have with government here is with their community leadership. Their neighbours. Yes, the higher levels of government (national, provincial, county, city, etc.) have authoritarian powers, but they tend to use these more in an “advisory” capacity where they set policy, provide resources if needed, and then let local communities effect those policies according to their specific local circumstances. These policy implementations are frequently (indeed usually) done with the input of the governed. Community consensus is sought for at all times and accomplished most times.

In the COVID-19 fiasco during the Great Wuhan Shutdown of 2020, two months of mind-numbing terror I do not ever wish to experience again, it was the community leadership that arranged for food: initially food-sharing while outside food sources were arranged, later delivery of staples (mostly rice and fresh vegetables, though sometimes also fish). Indeed it was the community leadership that responded to a resident suggestion (proposed by three hairdressers with cabin fever) to organize safe, COVID-19 distanced haircuts for the community.

This approach to governance serves two major purposes:

  1. It insulates regular people from the … ah … excesses, shall we say, of the authoritarian levels of governments. This is why the Chinese government is still popular in China after all these years of tyranny: most people don't experience tyranny. (A shock to many people is the fact that if there were free and open elections all of a sudden in China, the current government would win in a landslide. This is what happens when you build a worldview up on only the reports of dissidents. You get rude awakenings when reality hits you in the face. Think the Bay of Pigs…)

  2. It grants an incredible level of flexibility in how the government can adapt to circumstances despite ruling over a massive, diverse, and almost byzantine political landscape. (This same flexibility has its shortcomings too, naturally, chiefly in that it allows corruption to fester for longer before it gets cut off.)

But all of this comes to naught if you don't have the final layer working properly.

The people

The Chinese are more than just unruly. They're downright frustrating in how confusing they become. For example, there's a bizarre way that market vendors interact I like to call “cutthroat cooperation”. If, for example, you go to the silk market in Hangzhou, the vendors will aggressively compete with each other to get your attention, to the point that they will try to pull you out of one vendor's tent to drag you over to another.

But once you've made your choice they suddenly help each other. I experienced this when buying robes for a friend to bring back to Canada in that very aforementioned market. We picked our vendor, started negotiating, and the other vendors just evaporated. Then we hit a hitch. One robe we wanted wasn't available in the size we wanted. So that vendor took a few pieces of her own stock to one of the other vendors that had only minutes before been trying to steal us as customers and did a stock swap to get the thing we wanted. From the little snippets I could understand (Hangzhou dialect is a bitch), an extra 10 RMB gratuity was the price. For enabling a sale worth about a thousand.

I can't figure them out.

And this becomes doubly frustrating when comparing reactions to different issues of public health and safety. They drive like rules of the road don't exist. (Hell, they drive like the laws of physics don't exist!) To call drivers in Wuhan (and every other city I've lived in) “irresponsible” is a gross understatement, roughly like calling Niagara Falls a bit wet. This is why the death toll to car accidents in China is so shockingly high. (104.5 per 100,000 automobiles per year, as compared to, say, Germany's at 6.4, or Canada's at 8.9, or the USA's at 14.2.)

And then we get to matters of food or disease. Currently there is a pork shortage in China because of a disease in pig herds that threatens to turn zoonotic (in a way that will make COVID-19 look like a statistical glitch). When farmers try to hide diseased pigs in their herds, their own neighbours will turn them in and get the herds destroyed. Similarly with COVID-19, despite the sensationalist reportage in western news sources, the chief enforcement arm of many of the mitigation policies, like masks, are the sharp tongues of aunties who will fucking cut you with their words until you put that mask on and slip away in shame.

Yes, maskholes exist in China. With 1.44 billion people they can't be avoided. But they get smacked down, not by the authorities, but rather by elderly ladies and sharp tongues. By bus drivers and shop keepers and restaurant owners or workers. By their fellow citizens, not from authorities.

It is this level of citizen engagement—this degree of civic-mindedness—that made COVID-19 mitigation efforts so powerful in China, in short. Because without people willing to experience a few minor discomforts for the benefit of the whole, no amount of governance is going to change the outcome. The outcome whose deadly cost you can see in the numbers everywhere.

TL;DR

The success in China vis a vis dealing with COVID-19 has nothing to do with cooked books. It has nothing to do with being an authoritarian state that can force unpopular measures on its citizens. (They couldn't even enforce simple laws about outside food!) The real reason for China's success is threefold:

  1. The government knows that if it panders to billionaires that it will be out of power in a bloody orgy in no time flat and prioritizes accordingly: for the people.
  2. China's governance is structured in a way that gives it an unusual amount of flexibility in effecting policy.
  3. China's people are more community-minded when it comes to threats to the body politic than are, say, Canada's or Germany's.

And it is #3 in particular that people making excuses have to start thinking of. Because without a foundation of people willing to make minor sacrifices for each other to protect the whole, no amount of good governance can fight COVID-19 … and the numbers in the first graph (repeated here) show it.

COVID-19 case rates by continent and select nations

An acquaintance of mine and I had a nice, frank, but polite discussion about Chinese nationalists. Without going into too many details, his business is at risk as an uninvolved bystander in a war between another business, Chinese nationalists, and a Japanese vlogger.

It was an interesting conversation and, too, it was a good opportunity to highlight something that's been bugging me for a very long time. Since this acquaintance is a decent human being, not a politically shrill nitwit like most people who talk on this kind of matter (especially—but not solely—in the USA), we both came out of the conversation with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the other side's view.

Me being who I am, however, I will naturally only expand on my side in this essay.

Trumpistan

I'm going to open up this explanation with a shocking admission: I number a Trumpistani among my friends. I loathe Trump and have since his shenanigans and faux swagger of the 1980s infested everything, everywhere. I've always viewed him as half-carnival huckster/half-sociopath. It was astonishing to me for the past forty years that anybody had ever taken the man seriously as anything but a clown with too much inherited wealth. As a president his sole saving grace was that he was literally too stupid to be dangerous to the world. (No, his utter shit handling of COVID-19 was not dangerous to the world in comparison to the danger he could have been had he more than one brain cell left over for thought.)

Too, I despise most of the Trumpistanis that I encounter. They're the ones who follow Trump loudly because he finally lets them say the things they were too ashamed to say out loud before: racial and gender hatred, mostly. But there are people who are Trumpistanis for reasons other than racial hatred and this friend of mine is one of them. I disagree with him on … pretty much everything political, but I still consider him a friend and someone with whom I can converse.

Why? Because I know for a fact this friend of mine isn't a racist piece of shit like the loudest of the Trumpistanis. He's not even particularly sexist—about the level of sexism you'd get in mainstream American culture (which, to be fair, is pretty sexist!). What he is is fed up. See, to him there are precisely two political parties in the USA:

  1. The political party that cares only for billionaires, despising anybody who doesn't have at least a billion in the bank..
  2. The political party that cares only for a slightly different set of billionaires, but who despises anybody with a penis and white skin.

(Note: I'm not saying I agree with his characterization! I'm explaining it.)

American-made

He is, basically, entirely disaffected. He believes (and I genuinely don't think he's far off the mark, though his characterizations are a bit extreme) that he has no voice in the system as it stands. He is a sacrificial animal to mainstream society. He has no money, so he's worthless to mainstream Republicans. He has white skin (and is a he) so he's demonized by mainstream Democrats.

Is it any wonder that he supports the candidate who claims to want to burn this all down?!

This is the point I'm very slowly reaching: he feels disrespected, disaffected, discarded. Further, he feels (correctly!) that he is maligned by loud voices, accused of things that he is not, of doing things he has not. Anything he says in his defence is shouted down. Anything he tries to do in his support is pointed at, perversely, as evidence that he is in the 'ruling class'.

He is so impoverished that, although a voracious reader (of philosophy and history, no less!), he has fewer books on his (roughhewn) bookshelf than I have books of just gaming material.

(Oh. And he's a veteran of Iraq—one of the many PTSD victims of the Republicans who despise his kind for not having money, so threw him and others like him into meat grinders like Falujah and then scrapped their toy soldiers once broken.)

There's a reason why Trump resonates with so many, and the facile “they're just racist shitbags” explanation, while true of many, is not true of all nor, I would wager, even of the majority. Trump and Trumpistanis are a symptom of a problem—of a deep rot—not the source of it. Trump and his Trumpistani followers are a product of America and American “discourse” (for want of a better term to describe the chimpanzee screeches that pass for American political thought).

Chinese nationalists

And this brings us to Chinese nationalists.

I make no secret that I think the Great Firewall is an idiotic thing. It serves no useful purpose. It is trivial to work around (and I literally know nobody around me who's interested in the Internet outside of China who doesn't have a dozen different routes to get to it—including 12 year old children!). It makes the Chinese government look fearful.

And it's counterproductive. Just not in the way that you think I mean it.

Tear down the wall

If I were evil, and thus able to be head of the Chinese government, I would tear down the Great Firewall as my very first act as head of that hypothetical situation. Not because I'd believe in open discourse and frank exchanges of ideas but rather because I would in only a few weeks have the entire population of China clamouring for its return. And I would have a nation of strong, isolationist nationalists.

Everybody I know in person, and everybody I know of online, who climbs the Great Firewall and interacts with westerners gets more nationalistic, not less. That “open discourse” doesn't make people clamour for more American/western-style democracy and economics. It makes people think that westerners are fucking insane and need to be isolated and kept away from.

This is how bad an impression you leave.

And, naturally, some, usually young men, decide they want to embark on a “cyber-war” with the west, hence the loud Chinese nationalists who fuck up everything for everybody.

Nationalists

These loud, arrogant, destructive Chinese nationalists are essentially China's Trumpistanis. Ironically most of them, before encountering Americans and other westerners in their native habitats, likely loved American/western culture. They were to the USA what the so-called “otaku” in North America are to Japan. And like so many of those “otaku”, upon encountering the real thing—most critically the real, unfiltered reverse opinions of the real thing—they recoiled and then started lashing out in the pain of the “betrayal” they felt.

Because the truth is that unless you're white (and ideally male), you're pretty much considered subhuman in most of the west. (Yes, even “enlightened” Europe.) You're tolerated. You're appreciated for what you bring in times of plenty. But as soon as even the slightest thing goes wrong you're dismissed, rejected, hated, hounded.

Don't believe me? Ask the Chinese in the USA and Canada between about 1860 and 1976 (!). Ask Japanese-Americans in WWII. Ask blacks over the entire history of Europe and North America. Ask Turks in Germany. Ask anybody that seemed “Arab” after 9/11. Ask anybody that seems “Chinese” now in the era of COVID-19. Hell, ask women in tech!

American-made

So what happens is these bright-eyed, bushy-tailed “America-stans” climb over the Great Firewall to interact with the people of the nation they love the culture of so … and they get treated like shit. They're accused of horrendous crimes – personally. If they correct one of the oh-so-many completely wrong ideas people have about life in China, they're called “CCP” (pro-tip: if you use “CCP” you're showing that you're an ignoramus and can be safely ignored) shills. They're taken to task for every crime of the Chinese government (real or, more often, entirely imagined) and demanded to personally account for it. And if they push back in any way, no matter how gentle, with their perception, their truth, they're dogpiled by the very people they wanted oh-so-badly to meet!

And the funniest part is that most of the times the criticisms are made-up shit like “social credit”. (Protip: it's not a thing, at least not how it's been described to you in your “free” press) Imagine the confusion people in the USA would have if they were told to answer for, say, their invasion of Moscow in WWII. That's about the level of bewilderment that most racist asshole dogpiled accusations engender.

When they go home and lick their wounds, their reaction is not entirely unlike those of the Trumpistanis: “fuck those assholes”. Their positions harden. They become nationalists. And a significant fraction of them become those obnoxious nationalists that fuck up things for everybody else.

Another “made (chiefly) in America” set of obnoxious shits.

Segue

It's not only Chinese nationals, incidentally, that get that shit dumped on them. I'm ethnically half-Chinese/half-German. Culturally, until a period beginning in 2001, I was half-German/half-Canadian with just a sprinkling of Chinese elements for seasoning. It wasn't until I moved to China in 2001 that I started to connect with my Chinese cultural roots. Until that point I was a complete banana.

I'm not a Chinese citizen. I'm a Canadian citizen resident in China with Chinese-looking features (though enough that are a bit off that people notice).

And I get the same shit that Chinese people who jump the firewall get. If I correct the oh-so-many pieces of bullshit that people spread about China, I get called a government shill, a “wumao” (because nothing says “I know what I'm talking about” like using an out-of-date piece of slang incorrectly!), or an operative of the “CCP” (which, as I noted above, does not exist and merely identifies you as an ignoramus). I routinely get, all over social media (which is part of the reason I just eventually ditched Facebook and Twitter), challenged to answer for the Chinese government like I'm a part of it. (Doubly ironic since, as a foreigner, I'm not even allowed to join the Party!)

And yes, this has radicalized me somewhat. Like to the point of not giving a shit about COVID-19 deaths in the west because, well, self-inflicted injury through stupidity. I'M A WESTERNER and westerners are turning me, ever so slowly, into … well, not a Chinese nationalist, but certainly someone who no longer gives a shit about the west.

And yes, this, too, is largely a “made in America” phenomenon, though Canadians and Brits (in particular) are equally repulsive in this. There's just fewer of them to piss me off.

Solutions?

Well, honestly, I don't think there is one. Westerners are too fucking arrogant to think that they might actually be in the wrong on anything. If a brown-skinned person (especially a brown-skinned woman!) dares correct them on anything, their reaction, on average, is high-handed dismissal, condescending “father knows best” incorrection, a pat on the head, and more offensive stereotyping.

If, however, the world wasn't such a shithole of arrogantly dismissive people, my personal recommendation for a solution would be:

  1. Stop talking and listen. And I mean actually listen, not just wait for your turn to speak again. Shockingly enough, Chinese people know that China isn't perfect—that the Chinese government isn't perfect. The thing is? Most of the shit you think you know (like the non-existent Tiananmen Massacre) is not real. If you talk, you won't find that out, and you won't find out what the real problems are (and trust me, there are a myriad of very real and very horrible problems here!). So shut your mouth and listen. You can correct factual errors about your own nation. But do not correct “factual errors” about the nation of the people you're talking to. You don't know shit. Act the part.
  2. Don't be a racist shitbag demanding that every Chinese person account for the actions of a very small minority of China (specifically: the government). This is doubly wrong given that you won't answer for the actions of your governments that you have a choice in! You're literally demanding accountability you won't take for yourself from people who have less choice than you do in their government!
  3. Be aware of what's at stake. These people that you're hounding? They're the future leaders of China. And they probably hate you now. Is that really the future you want? Try maybe understanding that the people on the other end of your performative, posturing dogpile can and will impact your future and the future of uninvolved people all around you.

As, sadly, my acquaintance mentioned at the start found out the hard way.

It was decided by the WHO in 2015 that diseases should not be given geographical names (Spanish Flu, for example, which on top of everything else should have been called the Kansas Flu) nor names from economic sectors (Swine Flu) because of unfair stigmatization and economic disruption this practice causes. (Ref.)

(Interesting historical footnote: it was pork producers who first lobbied for this, followed by poultry producers, before the rule was finally brought in.)

This is why it is technically poor form to use terms like “the Wuhan coronavirus” and the assholes who insist on using it are rightly taken to task for it.

The Problem

For a while the press was copacetic, however, with naming variants after geographical regions (which is … seriously just as icky as naming the primary disease after one). This is why we had the “UK strain” and the “South African strain” for a while before that was pushed back against (now the Alpha and Beta strain respectively). The reason for this is clear. The official strain names are a confusing mess to untrained eyes. The “Delta” strain now causing panic around the world, for example, is called …

VOC Delta G/478K.V1 (B.1.617.2.+AY.1+AY.2+AY.3)

Just rolls right off the tongue doesn't it? Which is why they now give names like Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, and Lambda. (Yes, there are now many more “strains of interest” past the fearsome Delta. Whee!)

But those names are problematical as well. Partially because they're boring, but mostly because those strains have causes. Blaming the people living in a given geographical region for the strain is unjust, absolutely. But the leadership being given blame sounds about right to me!

The Solution

So here are my proposed name substitutions for COVID-19 strains:

  • COVID-19Jinping
  • AlphaBoris
  • BetaCyril
  • GammaYoshihide/Jair
  • DeltaRam
  • EtaMuhammadu/Boris
  • IotaJoe
  • KappaRam2
  • LambdaPedro

I think if heads of state started getting deadly disease variants that broke out under their watch named after them, so people talk about how “Joe killed 120,000 people” and such they might start taking countermeasures more seriously.