My mother has a funny story about cute, dimple cheeked, blonde 6 year old Zhou. She was finishing her education and decided to participate in a study abroad trip to Poland (Soviet controlled Poland). This meant that my old man had to take over the putting young Zhou to bed duties while she was away. Fast forward to her return and the hilarious realization that my father was not only reading me bedtime stories but also putting me to bed with protest chants.
Mom: Ready to go to bed?
Little Zhou: Can we sing the songs?
Mom: umm…. sure….
Little Zhou: ‘Ronald Reagan he’s no good! Send him back to Hollywood!’ – ’A union, united, can never be defeated!’
Ah, the joys of raising children.
Zhou knows protest:
My father is a labor activist. My mother and father were real hippies. I started hitting the streets with picket signs before reaching the age of reason. My illusions of what policemen actually do was shattered when I was 13 and saw the police brutally beat down a peaceful demonstration for no reason – tear gas, horses, blackjacks – the whole nine yards. I’ve been to countless protests and picket lines. I’ve run from police in riot gear. I’ve marched against corporate greed, Wall Street bankers, union busting scabs, racial oppression, bad drug policy, and police corruption. And thanks to living in China, you can now add the critical issue of what air conditioner units was specified in a contract to that list.
What You Need to Know:
Zhou bought a house a while back. It’s almost time to move in. Chinese people care more about property than any other culture I’ve ever encountered. Get ready Suzhou, here we come.
To the streets!
Ol’ Zhou was in the streets protesting a few weeks back. We marched, we displayed our outrage on banners, we chanted, we demanded action. Sounds normal enough – except this is China, I’m a foreigner and we weren’t protesting social injustice, government abuse or workers rights/wages.
No, this was a protest against something else. It was a protest against something so bizarre, so different than anything I’ve previously participated in, so contrary to my traditional worldview that I dubbed it “The Rage of the Running Dogs”.
Power to the Professionals!
I got a text message. A call to rally together and protest the obvious injustice perpetrated against us by our evil housing development company. Assemble the people, march, protest, demand change. This Saturday. 1:30pm. We will gather the masses at…………a Starbucks.
To get into the proper pro-capitalism protesting spirit, I hit the streets in outrage while drinking a hot chocolate and eating a tuna sandwich. Surrounded by Yuppies decrying tree density/placement, the thickness of glass windows and air conditioner units, I’ve never felt safer at a protest in my life.
1) More trees damn it! And put them where you said you would.
2) We demand double thick glass on our outside patios!
3) Give us the air conditioner units promised in our contract – not the equivalent A/C unit you put in instead!
Those are some hardcore protest demands right there. As you can probably tell, my heart is not 100% behind the cause.
Hitting the Streets!
We formed up and began the march to fulfill our capitalist demands. We chanted things that roughly translate to “Name of our building company, shame on you. Give us our trees!” and “Name of our building company, we demand thick windows”.
It was weird. A bunch of 30-something professionals kindly demanding action on minor grievances. Not my finest protesting hour but something tells me that the results will be far greater than any other protest I’ve ever joined. I might actually get a few more trees out of it instead of the usual result….nothing with a side threat of police violence.
What do we want? More tress!
When do we want them? Before we move in!
Hey hey! Ho Ho!
Those A/C units have got to go!
OK, I’ll put the sarcasm away for a second. I always like to support those who stand up for what they want. Not only that but I was happy to see my new neighbors have a sense of community and pride in their property. I’ve lived places without such pride and they were total shit holes. I’ve also lived in neighborhoods with a great sense of community and it really makes a big difference. Money doesn’t matter – it’s all about the community. I’m willing to give up a Saturday afternoon to help build those bonds – even if it means protesting glass thickness.
My protest here in China ran counter to everything that I have ever know a protest to be and turned a regular Saturday afternoon into something fun – I laughed, I chatted, I avoided pictures. After a couple of hours, I got bored (my heart just wasn’t in the demands) and walked over to the park to watch a sunset. I followed that up with a trip to the movies.
All in all, a pretty fun little Saturday.