Monday, March 22, 2010

What China is Known For

When you read that title, what pops into your mind?

And how does that make you feeeeeeeeel??

The other day a friend of mine made a joke on Facebook about potty training her 1 year old kid. It was a visual joke, and I'm not going to try to describe it. Let's leave my friend out of this. But someone she knows, who I've never met, left the following comment:
on what planet does a one year old toilet train? i hope you do not mean it
I happen to know that there are places on this planet where they toilet train at that age. So I told my friend I thought it was funny, and then I added the following for the unenlightened other person:
K_________, they toilet train regularly at 1 yr. in China
When I was trying to toilet train my own kid, at an age far beyond when they get started in Asia, I thought that was a pretty neat and remarkable feat and (silly me) thought that maybe she would too.

So today I got up, got my coffee like I always do, sat down with my laptop like I always do, and settled in to bask a bit in the glory of the convoluted victory for 'universal health care' in the States, something that has eluded me up until this point. The glory, that is. And then I read the response from K___________ to my comment:
China is not known for their child development practices, the are know for infantcide (sic)
Well that pretty much ruined my morning. Actually, it pretty much ruined my day. I never fail to be appalled at the utter lack of decorum that people feel free to display on the internet, but I generally associate that kind of idiocy with comments on YouTube videos. I'd never been subjected to it on Facebook, but most of my contact on Facebook is with friends of mine and like I said, I've never met this woman. Don't particularly want to either. And I can't imagine saying something like that out of the blue to anyone.

I get the feeling this same post gets written ten different ways every day across the globe.

Unfortunately, she's half right. China is, tragically, known for infanticide. But she's wrong that it is not known for 'child development practices.' I knew, and I've never been to China. I read about it on the New York Times, see for yourself.

Infanticide does happen in China, which is horrible. I was reading about it online today as a result of this exchange, and it is a truly evil and horrific practice. But saying 'Chinese are baby killers' is the same as saying 'Muslims are suicide bombers' or 'Hispanics beat their wives' or 'Americans are fat racist assholes with guns who eat at McDonald's every day.' It doesn't exactly tell the whole story.


Am I overreacting?

About an hour ago I asked myself if there is a shred of decorum still in existence between virtual strangers, a line that (almost) no one would cross: would K__________ have left the same comment if my last name had been 'Chen' instead of 'Pfohl'?


markuza said...

I was just re-reading the article on the New York Times website about the toilet training, and looks like I could have said 'In over 75 countries' or 'More than 50 percent of the world's children are toilet trained by the time they turn 1' rather than simply 'in China.'

I wish I had.

Fabio Bossard said...

Well, I guess people feel protected behind the computer screen. They say things they wouldn't if they were face to face. Case in point, the flame wars on youtube.

markuza said...

I completely agree with you. In one of my favorite books, Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson, he imagines something called the Metaverse (, which is like the Internet but has some qualities much more like our real world (maybe a little like Second Life? I've never tried that). One of the characters has designed software that accurately portrays facial expressions and non-verbal language, maybe that's what we need to civilize the Internet. Then again, there's lots of people who don't want to see it civilized.

Sabia said...

In defense of K... Abrasive maybe. As you said there is some truth to what she said. It does however dismiss an ancient culture with much wisdom because of one problem.
This particular person would have said that to you in person. If you were Asian..I don't know..she may have used other words to express a similar sentiment.K would not be my friend if she were not capable of hearing other people. FB is not the forum for discussions of great depth.

As a mother mother of a one yr old..I heard and read a lot of accounts of how babies in Botswana-or other places.. never cry (!?) because mommy always has them on the breast..

My response was similar to I would wonder..and question if that child (or children of that culture) ultimately grew up feeling more secure, respectful of women..respectful of others and their environment.

I am aware of other elimination training practices. I know people who have and are currently using them. I don't question their efficacy. Thank goodness for less diapers in the world.

Fabio Bossard said...

The point is how she said it. It sounds rude if you haven't met the person before. To me it sounds kinda rude even if you said it to a close friend. But in the case of a close friend, we could tolerate.
Very interesting, Mark. I will look it up. Yes, It sounds like Second Life. We always think that our lives are boring, so we need to create "second lives" in order to be what we can't or aren't brave enough to be in real life.
There is very nice line from one of the best tv shows I've seen that says: When I was little I, like, worshipped Halloween. And
truthfully, part of me still does. 'Cause it's your one
chance all year to be someone else.

markuza said...

I got another comment on this post this morning, in Chinese:


I ran it through Google Translate, and it (presumably) means:

"The behavior of a simple pleasure of others souls, prayer is better than thousands of people to bow their heads."

Which sounded okay, if a bit obscure. Then I realized the associated link was to a porn site :)

Fabio Bossard said... comment ever!

markuza said...

Sabia- abrasive definitely. As to the fact that she would have said that to my face, and realizing that she is your friend, I have gotten to be friends with a couple people who were shockingly rude to me the first time I met them. This in spite of the fact that I never wanted to have anything to do with them after that initial contact. So yeah, I'm sure she can be a nice person, or worth knowing, or whatever, I just don't see the point in acting that way and I don't like it.

As for FB not being a great forum for in-depth discussions, I personally agree with you, but I think a lot of people would not. There's a lot of people trying to use it to discuss serious issues, I don't spend much time in groups like that so I don't know if they are superficial or not, or what they are going to look like five or ten years from now.

As to the right age to potty train a kid, it seems to me that if you have the time and energy (and focus) to potty train them before they are two years old, then that's great- I'm skeptical that it causes psychological harm, but I am not well read on the subject. Marrying into another culture with very different rules for child rearing, I decided before Lucas was even born that I wasn't going to read too many books about how to raise my kid- it would have been a constant battle to enforce those rules, to try to raise my kid 'the way I was raised,' or rather 'the way my peers are raising their kids.' I don't regret that decision most of the time. But there are still plenty of battles, and diapers were (still are sometimes) the least of it.

markuza said...

Fabio- if a close friend of mine said stuff like that with any frequency I'd seriously consider whether I wanted to be friends with them. Sounds more like 'frenemy' territory to me.

Fabio Bossard said...

Yes, Mark. I would too if it happened frequently. We use the verb "relevar" when it comes to friendship, but, obviously, to a certain point.

andre said...

The first things that popped into my head were bad poisonous drywall and big tasteless crawfish. Then you moved on to the highly charged realm of parenting and in particular potty training. We all carry our own context and view the world via same, don't we? I have abrasive friends too, and someone might pop a shocking comment like K's into a real life conversation and everyone would probably get real heated up and a debate would occur, and maybe face to face each person's good points would be as noticeable as their bad, and later all might move amicably onto other topics. In the delayed, anonymous world of the net, a comment is posted and hangs there. As you say, no facial expression, no shame, no having to receive an immediate rebuttal, or even any rebuttal at all. In your face book. Have you ever imagined meeting a horrid internet troll in person? I doubt they would be so virulent and icky. They might even be really shy and unobtrusive. I just spent the weekend with a two, almost three year old who is still in diapers. Good luck with it all, and thanks for sharing. M

markuza said...

Well said M. You reminded me that I am sometimes that guy who makes the shockingly rude comment in conversation- but it's supposed to be funny. I guess if you don't get my sense of humor you might think I was a complete ass. I may in fact be just that...

Hey, congrats on that Superbowl! Bravo Saints!

Regina said...

Loved this post. When I was pregnant (my daughter is now 3), I wrote an article for a Brazilian magazine entitled "A Guerra das Fraldas" (the war on diapers), basically discussing the options for those who don't want to trash the planet. There is a group of American moms who developed a sort of whistle that conditions the very small baby to use the potty at a very early age. It is not for me, but seems to work for many. (And, for the record, my baby is still not potty trained. She is resisting bravely)
And about your other topic: isn't it scary how people get mean in front of a computer? I bet that is why so many bloggers give up after a while.

markuza said...

Thanks Regina. I must say the idea of training with a whistle seems somewhat alarming- shades of Pavlov and all that (even though my mouth waters when I'm called to the table). Then again, I've also heard you can learn alot about raising kids by having animals, and I think it's true- not that I treat my kids like pets!

Yes, people can be quite nasty at the computer- I've noticed some of my nastiest comments (of which there aren't that many, one of the advantages of having a relatively obscure blog) are accompanied by lots of typos, which makes me wonder what the mental state of the commenters is- a night on the town and a few nasty comments before passing out?

Regina said...

Yeah, I also get the Pavlov vibe from the whistle technique, why I didn't really consider it for a second.
Just found an article about comments nastiness that might interest you:

markuza said...

Thanks Regina- very interesting article! I read in the comments (how could I not read the comments after that) that he didn't research the material he quoted very carefully- I didn't bother to verify this and I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference in terms of his argument.