Archive | August, 2007

China’s skewed gender ratio hitting the roof

27 Aug

I wonder how the ancient Chinese society coped with this problem. To be sure, their marriageable male population must have been higher than their female population. For one: Female infant mortality rates must have been higher than male infant mortality rates because of how little valued girl babies were. (In Chinese sayings, if you give birth to a boy child it’s called a ‘jade birth’, if you give birth to a girl child it’s called a ‘tile birth’, as in the tiles of your roof.) For another, the habit of richer men having multiple wives/ concubines must have come at the price of other males being deprived of a wife.

From ancient Chinese stories featuring poor bachelors, however, it did seem that the general male generation during that time seemed resigned to the fact. When a pretty girl (in these stories for some reason the girl is always pretty) throws herself at a poor man (which doesn’t happen that often, actually. That’s why they become legends), he is surprised and delighted for multiple reasons. One of the reasons, which seem like a credible reaction for ancient Chinese men, is because they thought they would never be able to get married. They would say that they couldn’t afford to pay for a middle-woman to arrange a marriage, not to say keep themselves fed. (Of course, in these stories, the pretty girl usually comes with a sort of charm that makes them eventually rich.) Men during that time were more resigned to their status than otherwise, partially due to the Buddhist principles of Karma/fate during that time.

However, unrest from being in a state of hopeless bachelorhood is bound to be more problematic in present day China. There are several reasons for this:

1. Under a free market and government encouraged atheism, people are less likely to settle for fate.

2. The fact that families more able to afford more than one child are more likely to have girls might exacerbate the situation, because girls would then be more likely to come from well-to-do families. Thus men from impoverished families would find it more difficult to find brides, due to the fact that women still tend to like to marry above their status.

3. Chinese women still marry outside their country, even though their country needs them. They contract their marriage to Taiwanese bachelors (who certainly aren’t doing it because there are too few marriageable Taiwanese women*) and like to marry foreigners. It is a known fact that the amount of Chinese men marrying western women is lower than the amount of Chinese women marrying western men. This may be eventually overhauled, however, because of the real need in China for brides.

4. Though there are precedents in certain cultures of men sharing a bride. (In Tibet, for example, brothers can share a wife because it’s expensive to marry a woman into a family), it’s not going to happen anytime soon in China. Chinese culture’s ingrained masochist values find the very idea humiliating. Instead, it’s an honor for a man to have mistresses, during which multiple women would seemingly remain faithful to one man. And women seem to agree to this culture as long as the man in question can afford them. This is why prostitution is not going away in China, it’s a convoluted form of sharing women due to lack of women without the indignity of making it official.

A China with more males than females is going to be more aggressive than it would have been under the current trend of development. A nation made up of a majority of men in power is more likely to spell war. Women in top positions aren’t going to ameliorate the general atmosphere either because women, when faced with competition with males, tend to act more aggressively to secure their positions. The Chinese have been relatively docile for various reasons:

A. It is in Chinese culture to only care about affairs that are pertinent to themselves. That’s why even though China has become a superpower it hasn’t expressed so much interest in involvement concerning the Iraq war.

B. Chinese people don’t usually like war because it disrupts prosperity. China also has thousands of years of written history concerning war so such a concept has already lost its glorifying appeal.

With the growing gender gap, however, this docility might not last. This is going to be detrimental to the world, and it does not bode well for cross-strait relationships betwixt China and Taiwan.

relevant article:

Beijing drafts tougher laws on abortion of girls: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2007/08/26/200

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Should we tolerate intolerance?

24 Aug

I went into the bookstore today and flipped through Newsweek. One of the articles caught my eye. It talked about how schools/universities were being shut down in Iraq due to the threats facing teachers, professors, and students (especially female students). It reminded me of another article a while back that informed us the Taliban was now targeting teachers and aid workers. And then another article giving us a nice list of how jihadists are now interpreting the Koran in concern with whom one should be allowed to kill for the greater good, even inadvertently. The conclusion: Anyone. Children, bystanders and civilians. They have basically become exempt from any constraint concerning the subjects.

I’ve always been a believer in education. I believe that an informed population will be more capable of making sound judgements and exercising their will in an accountable fashion. Education is a right that any manner of attempting to mislead or bar people from this is a crime as offensive as stealing. It goes without saying that aid workers deserve protection. One reason education and aid are under attack is because the extremists believe that they support the government the United States helped foster. But there is another, and even less charming reason…

Many professors in Iraq have been killed or have escaped the country, crippling their higher education system. The reason given for their prosecution is because most professors are more secular and thus less likely to take sides in the sectarian conflict. Neutrality and sense is not an option here. It seems to have become an issue of ‘You are either for us, or against us’.

This provokes a question: One of the greatest assets of western culture has been it’s tolerance for individuality, for multiple viewpoints. What, then, should western civilizations (and those with systems influenced by western thought) do in the face of a group that is showing intolerance for others? Should we tolerate intolerance?

Is there any other way out?

The Dutch are gradually losing their tolerance not only for Muslim extremists, but the general population of Muslims as well.

 

related articles:

Iraq’s endangered schools: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20226576/site/newsweek/

New Taliban rules target teachers, aid workers: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16127078

The guidebook for taking a life: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/10/weekinreview/10moss.html

Dutch muslim women protest “mixed swimming”:http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2003-09/16/article07.shtml

Dutch to ban muslim veils: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20738763-1702,00.html

The flawed options in Darfur, note paragraph three: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2007/08/23/2003375491

 

 

World Peace is impossible

17 Aug

I know that most of us would love world peace. It’s an ideal, a great one. Something to look forward to. But the fact is, after an ideal is achieved, what then? The activists would be out of a mission. How many activists out there have a personality that could, like the old Roman General, settle down back in his farm after winning the battle? Most activists revel in the continual struggle against adversity, shining as a beacon of justice in the mire. That makes life worth living. That’s why we all love the terminator series.

I try to create a model of world peace in my mind, and all I see is that once a certain situation may stabilize, there are bound to be dissenting factors that will rebel against all the ‘pseudo-everyone-loves-everyone-niceness’ and there’ll be people to oppose these rebels, thus making peace impossible. How much tolerance can we learn for each other? And if diversity is inevitable, so would disparity in levels of tolerance. We as humans cannot agree to exercise our freedom of will with the responsibility that it requires. Thus our society is in a constant state of flux.

People, by nature, like to be respected, to be better than others. That in some cases creates grounds for inequality. I often wonder, also, that in many people’s secret hearts of hearts, there isn’t actually a desire for some form of wrongness in society. There was a little boy in Anne of Green Gables series who once declared he didn’t want to go to heaven. When asked why, he said that the Sunday school teacher claimed that in heaven, they would all float in the clouds playing musical instruments for eternity. It sounded horribly boring. To be sure, if heaven is really like that, I doubt that people would want to go to heaven at all. And world peace, in a way, would be heaven on earth. It’s unsettling. I’m not saying I don’t desire it, but can we force everyone to agree to this?

In the increasing world trend of activism, we live now in an age of hope. We live with the idea that we really can do something to save the world. We live in constant change and excitement. This is heightening our expectations of what we can do, as individuals, as teams, in solving world problems. Heightening our desire for action. For justice. Heightening our appetite for the doing.

When and if all the problems in the world are solved, what then? Suddenly, people will panic. What? Nothing else to participate in? Must we all go back to a life of living, of enjoying our family and friends? I do not think everyone will agree to this.

Fortunately, World peace will never happen. Thus, if ever we humans solve all main issues concerning inequality, the environmental and energy crisis, intolerance, disease…etc, there will always be minor issues to wrinkle out. The industry of activism will be able to as sustainable as wind power.

And we’ll always have to educate the next generation to heed history. I’m not optimistic about that either. A cartoonist once commented that he found himself drawing the same theme every decade or so, because man does not learn from history. The mistakes are repeated, with the stakes higher. World peace? Not gonna happen.