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"Wearing pajamas and shouting Comrade!" Are the Chinese starving? - Chronarchy

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November 27th, 2006


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03:00 pm - "Wearing pajamas and shouting Comrade!" Are the Chinese starving?
As I sat down at lunch today in front of Baker Systems, I noticed a half-eaten acorn sitting on the bench. Some squirrel had cracked it open, eaten part of it, and threw well over half of it away.

My first thought was, "Hey, there are starving squirrels in China who would love a dinner like that!"

And then it struck me: why China? Who started this myth that people in China were perpetually hungry? Why not Ethiopia, or Somalia, or Darfur? Why not the back streets of the US?

Why does China, in my mind, hold the corner on these starving people? Why not somewhere more contemporary in the news?

I have no idea. But it absorbed me today as I stared at this half-eaten acorn. Why China?
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "Jolly Mon Sing", -JB

(27 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
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Well, I suppose we should be the world leader in *something*.

And I think it's got some staying power, yes. My main question is, where does that staying power come from?
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From:delphinastar
Date:November 27th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
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Hmmm- maybe because it's half way around the world?
Maybe it started as "You know- half way around the world, someone is starving..."

Just a thought.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Could be. I wonder if it is similar to our "digging to China" statement about what happens if you keep digging that mudhole in the back yard? Sufficiently far away and sufficiently exotic makes a good location for you not to want to go.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
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Well, in that case, China is directly opposite.

The Erie paper once had a cartoon in it that had some Chinese men coming out of a pothole- a statement on the state of our roads at the time. :)
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From:rfunk
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)

directly opposite

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The Australians might have some thoughts on that matter.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC)

Re: directly opposite

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Might depend on the particular angle one took whilst digging one's way through the Earth. ;-)
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From:hearthstone
Date:November 27th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if it dates from back when there were missionaries over there hoping for donations--the idea that the local populace was starving could have inspired churchgoing parents to loosen their pursestrings, and the parents in turn would use the "starving Chinese" line to get their kids to eat.

Or perhaps there was just a notable famine there at some point?

Those are my best guesses. And I know that the "children starving in China" line has been used since at least the mid-20th century, going by old kids' books I've read.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:51 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking it might have been the "Great Leap Forward" period, myself. That would combine propaganda and actually starving people along with national pity, perhaps. Dunno.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
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My folks always said, "There's starving kids in Africa", as did the lunch ladies at school.

Mom stopped saying that when we kids started making elaborate plans to ship our leftovers over to the starving kids.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 09:50 pm (UTC)
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Curious. I don't think my parents ever actually said it to me, honestly and now that I think about it. It just struck me as odd to place it in China.

And I imagine I would have answered similarly: "Well, then we should give it to them!"
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Well, at the time, the famine in central Africa was all over the news so Africa made sense.

I told one of the lunch ladies we should send the leftovers to the starving kids & for the first time was told that I was too smart for my own good (which at age 9 made no sense to me)
From:tanrinia
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
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before the one-child policy, the chinese were faced with starvation. not dust-bowl ethiopian starvation (yet), but they were running out of resources nonetheless.

so it still exists in the adage? colloquialism? due to cultural lag.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
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Ah, cultural lag. Lovely thing that is.

I had figured it was something along those lines.
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From:triskele
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
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When I was a kid in Catholic school, each year we would have something called Operation Rice Bowl. We would take home a little cardboard rice bowl bank and put our change in it, and then it would get shipped off to feed the starving kids of...Ethiopia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, etc. Whatever 3rd world country was fashionable that year. I'm guessing China was popular for the older generations.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 27th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
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My favorite part of that campaign was putting together the neat little boxes they gave us every year.

My Mom said that in her day, the money collected was so they could fund missions to Africa to baptize the "pagan babies".
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From:tlachtga
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
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Wow--I'd forgotten about the "pagan babies" until now. Yeah, when I was a kid, they had Operation Rice Bowl, and my mom and her relatives would mention the "pagan babies." Guess they didn't expect me to grow up into one.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 28th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)
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Friends in my old Coven were wondering how they could go about signing up their brand new Pagan Baby for some of the mission money. :-D
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
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I think there's a book out called "Save the Pagan Babies" or something like that. Not sure it's about actual Pagan babies, but I admit to having been intrigued by it when I saw it on the shelf.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
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Never did that, at least so far as I remember. Then again, with school projects like that, I was. . . pretty bad. It probably would have sat in my desk for six months (or the end of the school year, whichever came first).
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From:nontacitare
Date:November 27th, 2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I always heard Ethiopia. I never heard about starving children in China. Maybe it's a state-by-state thing? I grew up in New York, and if I remember correctly, you grew up in Kentucky. Maybe each state has its own starving country.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if each state goes through rounds of "be a big brother to an underprivileged country" in Congress?

Mass: "Yeah! I got Ethiopia! What'd you get, Iowa?"

Iowa: "Aww, I got Sweden. Damnit!"

Mich: "w00t! I get Djibouti! What's wrong with Sweden, Iowa?"

Iowa: "Rhode Island had them last year, and their socialist programs totally made RI look like putzes for sending stuff to 'em when Sweden had better social programs. Now we have to increase ours at home! The Democrats are going to have a field day with this. . ."
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From:nontacitare
Date:November 28th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
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That's beautiful.
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From:romandruid
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
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When I was a kid, there *were* starving people all over China. When I was nine, I "adopted" a Chinese girl by sending two weeks allowance to the Christian Children's Fund (who never left me alone after that). We used to hear a lot about how all they ever had to eat in China was rice... no meat, no dairy, and only limited fruits and vegetables. I don't know how much of that was true -- that was all before the Cultural Revolution, and information was very limited and not altogether trustworthy. China is a VERY different place now than it was 40 years ago.

But yeah, that's where it came from.
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From:smithing_chick
Date:November 28th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
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China is a VERY different place now than it was 40 years ago.


I didn't realize how true that was until I took a Chinese Art History class (well, started it anyway)

It was especially weird to realize how much the Communist revolution improved the status of women.
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From:chronarchy
Date:November 28th, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. The thing I noticed about it, that made me pause, is that I don't remember China as being a problem, famine-wise. When I was a kid, the CCF was all about Africa. I saw a lot of pot-bellied undernourished African kids on television, which is why I suddenly saw the disconnect.

Why wasn't I raised to think of Africa as the place with starving children who wanted to eat my food, rather than China? I mean, we even had "jokes" about the famines in Africa, so it's not like we weren't aware of the situation.

Maybe the use of China distanced it more, or maybe (just maybe) the lack of actual starving people there in the 1980's helped distance those around me from the real problems in Africa?
From:fred_smith
Date:November 29th, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Did you keep the acorn. For research, of course.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 29th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC)
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No, I broke it open so that some other poor squirrel could enjoy its fruit without having to do the work to get in.

Fat, lazy squirrels are better for dinner.

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