Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Monday, May 11, 2015
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During the time that I lived in America, I was an elementary teacher for a number of years. In my profession, there was complete equality between men and women with respect to individual incomes. We were paid according to a matrix negotiated by collective bargaining. An individual man and an individual woman with exactly the same education and exactly the same years of experience had exactly the same salary. Yet even back then there was considerable discussion about how to address the disparity between men and women with respect to average incomes. Women often spend several years out of the work force during their childbearing years, and this affects the averages for all women. One idea being discussed was to give women credit on the matrix for the years they spent at home raising their children. But do you know who objected to that most strongly? Not men. No, it was the women who had stayed in the work force and paid for daycare all those years.
So, to the question: What should be done to narrow the gap between average salaries for men and women?
Answer: Nothing. It's an unworthy goal. The reason it's an unworthy goal is because the only way to accomplish it would be to force women to be in the work force for exactly the same number of years as men. But would anyone want to live in such a world? The other day I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot on BBN Radio talking about her mother. I found myself asking, "Is there still room in today's world for this kind of mother?" If the answer to that question is still "yes," then we have to accept the fact that average incomes for men are going to be higher than those for women. You see, the ideal society is not a society where all women are forced into the work place away from their children. The ideal society is a society where a woman who wants to work can have any job she wants and can expect to be paid exactly the same as any man who has the same education and experience as she does, but also where a woman who prefers to stay home with her children is free to do so. There is no way that average incomes for men and women would be the same in such a world. The math just isn't there. So the problem with the gender gap is not that it is too wide, but that it is too narrow. In an ideal society the gap would be considerably wider, since I'm sure we can all agree that if every woman who would prefer to stay home with her children could afford to do so, there would be even fewer women in the work force than there are now, and thus, women would have fewer average years of experience than men.
But what about turning it around? How about a world where men and women took turns staying home with the children? Would this work? I think it could perhaps be done to a larger extent than it is now, but men will never stay home as much as women. Unweaned children are not easy to care for. Once they are weaned, it is easy. But there is that period of time before they're weaned when it is really tough. It's hard to explain the frustration of holding my precious little one, and she is crying her little heart out and sucking on my shirt pocket and I don't know how to tell her that I'm really not trying to starve her to death, I just don't have anything to give. As I said, once they are weaned it's a whole different ball game. Weaned kids are easy to please. Perhaps I am saying this partly as a matter of comparison--I was an elementary school teacher, so I took care of kids for a living, and it's easier to take care of your own kids than to take care of someone else's. Anyway, I fully understand that not everyone is into working with kids, I'm just saying that I think anyone who has will tell you that it is much easier to care for young children after they get to the point where you can feed them manually, or they can feed themselves. But before they are weaned, it's really frustrating.
China and America are basically the same--both parents work. Japan is different. In Japan, women are expected to leave the work force at about 25 years of age and get married. A women over 25 who applies for a job is almost viewed with suspicion. I was talking with a woman from Beijing who is married to a Japanese man. She said she went to apply for a job once, and the boss asked her, "Does your husband allow you to work?" No boss in America would ask a question like that if he valued his life. In China, it probably would not occur to him to ask. So China and the US are basically the same in that regard, but with one important difference: In China, there is a built-in cultural expectation that grandparents should care for their grandchildren. This is starting to change now, but I still see a lot of children with their grandmothers. So women usually can expect that the little one will be raised by the grandmother (usually the father's mother). I have tested this assumption many times.
Every year I ask students, "How many of you want to get a job when you graduate?" In a class of 25 students, usually about 20 of them will be women. When I was teaching database in the Software College at Beihang University it was the opposite, but I am teaching at an arts school now. At first they don't get what I am driving at, but then I ask, "How many of you would prefer to marry a rich man so that you don't have to work?" No takers.
I try to sweeten the pot a little. "How about if he buys a car for you?" Nope.
"How about if he hires a maid so that you don't have to do any housework?" Maybe.
"His mother will be your servant." That might get a hand or two.
In the main, though, women expect (and want) to have a career. I'm sure part of the reason is that I teach college freshmen. They are focussed on school right now, so the idea of throwing it all away after all they went through to get here is not going to be appealing. I suspect the answers would be different if I asked the same question down the road a few years.
This year, I tried a completely different approach. I said, "If you had a really good job, how would you feel if your husband stayed home and cared for the children, and then you could support him?" They spat that one out without chewing it.
"If he is my husband, then of course he should provide for our family! He's a man!" Another young lady stood to her feet. "I cannot accept this. I do not want to marry a small white face!"
When young ladies in China talk about their own careers, they sound like feminists. But they're not, really. They expect men to be men. I was asking the question seriously, because I had read about a couple here in Beijing who chose to try that approach. She had a very good job and made a lot more money that he did, so they decided that he would be a house-husband and stay home with the children. She said it was hard for her to come home from work after a long day and see the children all running to their dad to talk about what they had done in school or something. He was the mom. Come to think of it, if I remember correctly, this was a Chinese American couple who had come back to China to work. Perhaps this would not be accepted in ordinary Chinese culture. Would I do this myself? Well, I would not want to do it for a lifetime, but I think for two or three years I could accept it. Kids only have one childhood, and if you have to make a few sacrifices to make it a secure one, I think you should be willing to do that. But I think we can all agree that in most societies, the predominant stay-at-home parent will be the mother. For how long? It's hard to nail it down to an exact time period, but we'll say eighteen months. Most children would be able to be weaned by eighteen months. So multiply eighteen months by the number of children and you have the minimum amount of time that a mother would need to be out of the work force to provide for unweaned children. But that's just the minimum. Many women will elect to stay home until their children are in school. But even after they start school, some mothers will feel that it is better to be more or less available. How many grade school kids do you know who wouldn't rather come home to a mother if they had a choice between that and an empty house?
Even good kids get themselves into trouble when they lack supervision. I remember years ago, I was walking across an open field in North Dakota and I saw a neighbor kid standing by a pole. It was in the dead of winter--maybe 10 below zero. I couldn't figure out what she was doing there. But I could hear her crying. As I came near, I saw what had happened. Walking by the pole she just couldn't resist the temptation to stick out her tongue and touch the pole with it. Of course, her tongue immediately froze to the pole and she was a prisoner. I said, "Hold still." I took my fingernail and scraped her tongue away from the pole. She lost a little skin off the tip of her tongue, but other than that she was none the worse for wear. Kids need parents.
Some people seem to have the idea that professional women are not capable of being stay-at-home moms. But that's not necessarily true. Perhaps we can agree that they have a harder time making that decision, but once they have made it, they are often very competent homemakers. They are educated, intelligent, often well organized and often have well-developed people-management skills. So if they can figure it out financially, not a few of them will be inclined to extend that eighteen months a few years. In fact, many professional women who originally intended to return to the work force after a few years, end up becoming entrapraneurs in order to give themselves greater flexibility. So they will experiment with a variety of options and spend many more years out of the work force than they originally intended. Is this a bad thing? Maybe in some cases, but I would think that most women who have done it would tell you that the benefits gained were well worth the cost of putting family first. But that cost does include spending significantly less time (on the average) in the work force than men, and thus, having a significantly lower salary.
Of course we believe that a man and woman who do the same job should be paid the same. But to advocate a society where average salaries for men and women are exactly the same is to long for a world too horrible to contemplate. May it never be.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The Bible Problem. A year or so ago, I took a student to the bookstore in the Three-Self Church I attend to help her buy a Bible. They said they didn't have any. I didn't need one myself, but I was curious, so I went back every week and got the same answer. I should note that the particular type of Bible I was checking on was the bilingual version (pictured), because that is the one students prefer. Most students tell me that the English is easier to understand than the Chinese. In fact, the old Chinese Union Version was (and still is) an extraordinary literary accomplishment, put together and modified during a span of close to one hundred years, ending in 1919 or 1920. But it's basically a late Qing Dynasty work, so the language is archaic. But for Chinese students who read English, the bilingual version is really an ideal combination, because they can read the English, which is more comfortable for them, but they also have access to the Chinese Union Version, which is more scholarly, and sometimes more accurate than the English, because the CUV is not translated from English. It is translated directly from Greek and Hebrew to Chinese more literally than some English versions, and sometimes more accurately.
Anyway, it was clearly not available anymore, and I was very concerned about why not. I talked to three of the pastors--all three of them denied knowing anything about it. I know that seems extraordinary, but this is China. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. Finally I got the report, and, not surprisingly, it did not come from China, it came from Mission Network News.
Listen to the report, and draw your own conclusions, but here is what I think is happening:
In China, all Bibles are printed at Amity Press in Nanjing. Bibles are not allowed to have ISBN numbers, and sale of Bibles in public bookstores is strictly forbidden. I did see a couple black market Bibles in a bookstore once, but this is very rare. Basically, if you want to buy a Bible in China, you need to go to a Three-Self Church bookstore, or buy one on the street for a ghastly price. But having said that, there has not been a quota limit on purchase of Bibles by Church people in churches. So church people who wanted a Bible could usually get one (unless, as I said, there was a black market operation going on). What it comes down to is that the Party has resigned itself to the fact that there are going to be Christians in China, and that the Church is not going to go away. So they allow Bibles to be sold in Church bookstores to Church people, but not to the general public. What I think happened is that the Communist Party, in its periodic examination of the number of Bibles that were going out, discovered that somebody was going to a church or churches and buying up huge numbers of Bibles for the purpose of distributing them to people outside the church--that is, members of the general public who are not church goers and would not otherwise be inclined to come in contact with the Bible. So the Party decided to compensate for this by shutting down the production of Bibles for a period of time. This shows that they still have a few things to learn about economics--limiting supply does not diminish demand. Quite the opposite. But it also shows that they view the growth of Christianity with suspicion and concern.
Some people (myself included) might be inclined, at first, to see this as religious repression, but when I mentioned the issue to the Italian reporter, he just shrugged, "Rice, noodles, dumplings. Think about how they're cooked. They all involve water, but it's different." I have to admit he is right. The government is not trying to shut down Christianity. They are just adding some cold water to the mix to keep it from boiling over. Printing of Bibles has been restored now, and you can buy Bibles again, although I understand there is a quota of two Bibles per person. [Note that I am speaking about people in the cities. It is not always so easy in the countryside, as the report from Mission Network News indicates.]
So the most significant fact about the Bible problem is that it is not that significant. The Party's decision to (artificially) reduce supply has almost certainly increased demand, so it is likely that there will be more Bibles in China than there would have been if they had just left the matter alone. In today's China, anyone with a smart phone can have a Bible in minutes. I don't have an iPhone, but I know with an Android phone you can Blue Tooth the .apk file from one phone to another very easily. There is no restriction on how many times a file like that can be duplicated, and, of course, no way that any government entity can track how many eBibles are being distributed. So Bibles are here to stay. It's not like it used to be... but that brings up a question: How did it used to be?
Let's talk about that. The Communist Party is very much opposed to foreign control of religion, and when they first came to power, the Bible was viewed as a foreign book and religion viewed as the "opium of the people," to quote Karl Marx (das Opium des Volkes). So there was much government opposition to the Bible, and they were not easy to find. But there were attempts to bring them in from outside, the most notable being the the massive smuggling operation called, "Project Pearl," where a missionary by the name of Brother David smuggled a million bibles into China. I first read about Project Pearl in the classic book about Bible smuggling by Brother Andrew. I next read about it in Jesus in Beijing just before I moved to China. In that book, David Aikman, former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine says that the CIA was flying overhead and was astounded by what they saw. I have often wondered if it was in fact the CIA that tipped off the Chinese that a massive smuggling operation was going on right under their noses. Clearly the CIA could not have known that it was Bibles, not drugs that were being smuggled. At any rate, the police did show up, but they were too late, and the incident became a profound embarrassment to the Chinese government. You shouldn't be able to smuggle a million of anything into a country. I believe it was this embarrassment that eventually led to the establishment of Amity Press, which has printed millions of Bibles for the Christians of China since that incident.
The Bible is a revolutionary book. Empires have risen and fallen on the truth in its pages. Horace Greely said,
It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a bible-reading people. The principles of the bible are the groundwork of human freedom.Bible-reading people are hard to manipulate. They tend to be independent thinkers. So it is understandable that governments inclined toward controling the thinking of the people would want to keep those people from reading the Bible. But this recent attempt by the powers that be in China is not likely to work, because people tend to want what is forbidden. They would be smarter to try the American approach: let people have all the Bibles they want until they get tired of them. In America, the Bible has sold more copies than any other book for so long that it no longer even appears on best-seller lists. Americans buy the Bible in every size and shape, but rarely to they actually sit down and read it. In China, if a Christian has a Bible, he or she is much more likely to read it. Christians in China ask me probing questions about the Bible. So I am not worried. The long term effect of this pruning is going to be good for China.
By the way, the reason my Bible looks so rugged is not because I read it all the time. In fact, I do most of my daily Bible reading on my smart phone these days. But in the early morning, I like to go sit by the lake and have my devotions. Clumsy as I am, my Bible fell in the lake the other day. I fished it out right away, but the pages are a little crinkly.
Friday, April 03, 2015
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Went to Think in China again last night. The Italian guy has lived in China for twenty years as a journalist. His point was to emphasize the greatness of change in China as compared to the west. He said that in the West we still dress pretty much like our grandparents. But In China, people a couple generations back would not look anything like they do today. Considering the issue of China's authoritarian system, he used an interesting analogy from the traditional method of cooking Chinese dumplings. He said you add cold water as the water is boiling to bring the temperature back down. So China tends to restrict certain activity to moderate it. If they didn't want the water to heat up at all, they would just turn off the burner. There is considerable merit to this notion. So during the Q and A section, when I asked about the actions of the party last summer in tearing down crosses in the city of Wenzhou, he tended to minimize it. He is partly right. But he was not very well informed. He said the government did not destroy any churches, and that is not true. Still, his point is well taken and worthy of consideration. The powers that be are not foolish enough to think that they can wipe out Christianity. They used to think so, that's for sure. But they have left that thinking behind. They do try to moderate Christianity in ways that seem bizarre to a westerner. In the United States you wouldn't see the leader of a community ripping crosses off churches just because he thought they were unsightly. But the repression clearly does not represent a determination to eliminate Christianity. They haven't turned off the burner. They just added a little cold water.
The Chinese professor I have heard before. He was much more philosophical about issues like pollution than I am. He said that there is a trade off when a country is in a state of development. He kept comparing China to India. That is a little worrying. If the best you can say is that you're a little bit better than India, things are not going well. But when I talked to him afterward, I mentioned the recent pollution video, and he did say, as seems evident, that is some debate now in the government, with some supporting the recent video by the CCTV broadcaster, and others opposed to it.
Although both of these guys tend to emphasize how much freer China is today than in the past, they were both quite artful in their statements about anything related to the Party. They know what country they are in. Still they did make some interesting points, and it must be admitted that the Party does allow more of this kind of discussion, especially if it takes place in a venue that is perceived to be dominated by foreigners rather than local Chinese people.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
American young people have a more complicated college life. It's pretty hard to get buy without a car in the States. And many students have part time jobs that take up their time. But after they graduate, American young people have fewer social expectations on them than Chinese young people. There is less inclination for parents to push their children to get married as soon as possible. And when they go get married, they are pretty much free to buy a house when they feel the opportunity is right.
But that having been said, everybody has some stress in their life, and we all have to learn how to deal with it. So I asked my students to tell me what they do to cope with stress. Here are some examples:
Talk with friends.
Talk with my parents.
Eat and sleep.
Talk with my friend and cry.
Watch horror movies and scream.
Singing loud and dancing with passion.
Take a shower.
Read a book.
Listen to music.
Eat some chocolate.
Buy something online even if it's useless.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I was in third or fourth grade at the boarding school in northern Japan when I read in my Weekly Reader that Singapore and teamed up with Malaya and a couple other insignificant areas to form the new country of "Malaysia." The year was 1963. At the time I didn't think much about it--I just thought the new name sounded better than "Malaya." I was puzzled when Singapore pulled out of the deal a couple years later. But when I read Lee Kuan Yew's autobiography years ago, he told the story differently. He says in his book that he cried when the decision was made to push Singapore out. It has been some twelve years now since I read his memoirs, so I can't remember just how he put it, but at the time I thought it must be political posturing. That departure turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Singapore. They were not under the British and they were also not chained to Malaysia. Can you imagine Singapore today being saddled with Malaysia's woes? I don't know--maybe at the time he just couldn't see the future and feared that this would doom Singapore to being returned to colonial status or something.
During the Cold War years of the sixties, we always used to hear talk of "Communist infiltrators" trying to take over the world. Lee Kuan Yew turned the whole idea on its head. He infiltrated the Communist party of Singapore, used it to take over the country, and then eliminated the Communist Party. The CIA became nervous about his association with the Communists and talked to the British. The British either knew what Lee Kuan Yew was up to, or they just knew him better than the Americans did. Lee Kuan Yew was educated in Britain, and if I'm not mistaken, he practiced law there for a few years. Anyway, the Brits trusted him and told the CIA not to worry. But the CIA wouldn't leave it alone and stupidly tried to infiltrate the Singapore police. They got caught, and then offered Lee Kuan Yew a $3 million bribe to hush it up. He refused. When he recounted this story several years later, the CIA denied it. That was also stupid--given a choice between Lee Kuan Yew and the CIA, anyone with half a brain would believe Lee Kuan Yew. Here's his statement:
The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing with in Singapore and not get themselves further dragged into calumny. They are not dealing with Ngo Dinh Diem or Syngman Rhee. You do not buy and sell this Government.Lee Kuan Yew has not been without critics. He was compassionate, but he was also an autocratic leader. They used to call him "Hitler with a heart." He outlawed chewing gum, and there is lots of back and forth on how much dissent is really tolerated in Singapore. But he was always easy-going with religious people. He would say, "Pray to whatever God you believe in." Singapore has some of the largest churches in the world. It's interesting that China seems to see Singapore as a model for how they want to operate--a tight ship run by a benevolent dictator. But if that is their thinking, they have a long ways to go. Singapore is a much more open society than China. By a long shot. There is no GFW in Singapore, and as far as I know, you can buy foreign newspapers on Singapore without restriction. But I guess I would have to say that Singapore is not a happy place for trouble makers or protesters. And there have been some cases of foreign migrant workers being abused by corrupt employers. But it must also be said that Lee Kuan Yew built Singapore into a place where educated professionals from just about any background or culture who are willing to work and mind their own business can find a way to fit in. You don't meet professional anywhere who don't like Singapore, or at least value the experience of having worked there. To see what Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore, you really need to look at a map and see just how insignificant that little portion of the beach is from a natural perspective. That it should become a major international city-state is something that no one could have guessed just by looking at what the people of Singapore had to work with.
Lee Kuan Yew will go down in history as an extraordinary leader in a time of great change as the belated remnants of the nineteenth century colonial period moved toward independent statehood. Vietnam is an example of one that had much more rugged and tragic transition.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Sunday, March 01, 2015
The Jessup International Moot Court competition is held every year and involves almost 700 law schools worldwide. Last Fall, Professor Murase from Tokyo, had asked another American professor and myself to help coach the CYU team. Professor Murase has written a text on International law, and it has just been translated into Chinese by a member of the CYU faculty, so he had volunteered to help get develop the CYU team.
At the China competition in February, I felt that the CYU team did exceptionally well. But there were two matches where the opposing team was split--one contestant was exceptionally good and the other was quite below par. The judges apparently decided to base the score on the performance of the best player, so in those matches, the other team took the win. The result was that the CYU team came in 17th out of 40 teams nationwide. That is still a remarkable performance for such a small law school. In the past, no one has really expected the CYU team to accomplish much of anything. But I still feel they did much better than they were given credit for.
Anyway, Professor Murase and Dr. Chen from CYU have managed to arrange for the CYU team to do an exhibition match in Washington at the international competition, and the college has agreed to pay for their transportation, so this way they will get the opportunity I feel they really deserve to show what they can do.
This year's moot court case involves two fictitious countries and deals with the issue of secession. It is obviously based on the recent secession and annexation of Crimea. The final competition in Washington D.C. is actually held before the judges of the International Court of Justice. But here in Beijing the judges were international legal people who are working in Beijing in some legal capacity, or have been involved in previous Jessup competitions. Some of them are really quite good.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Lijiang is known for the old city. There is nothing else there. The old city is on the United Nations register of historic places. But it's so touristed now. Really frustrating. But the youth hostel was very nice--a good place to work and study. I was there almost a week, because I wanted to take a side trip to Lugo Lake. I had a problem with reservations because there were lots of people there, and the hostel told me that their reservation system malfunctioned and they had more reservations than beds. On top of that, every day had intermittent torrential rains. I was beginning to get the picture. Fortunately, yesterday I met a guy who grew up in that area. He told me that the best time to go there was in the spring or fall. I had read something to that effect in the Lonely Planet. But he told me that the hiking trails were not very safe in the summer. I was glad for the info. I will be back. But not in the heat of the tourist season.