In Beijing my $20 per night hotel didn’t have internet, so I used an internet cafe to check email. I’ve heard about the internet gaming that goes on in China, but I was amazed at what I saw. I walked up three flights of stairs to a quiet room that had a bank of 125 computers. It was dark and quiet. The outside windows were open, which gave some relief from the smoke from a few young guys chain smoking.
At almost every computer there was some young person engaged in basically what looked to me like a complete waste of time — ranging from Mario Cart to war games to chatting with a boyfriend on skype. (Okay maybe chatting with the boyfriend on skype had some redeeming value since it involved interaction with a real human being.)
I paid 3 RMB per hour for use of the computer, which comes to what, about 50 cents per hour, roughly speaking.
I tried to update my blog, but it wouldn’t let me. I could sign into my blog, but I couldn’t type anything into it. I think it was blocked, but perhaps I was wrong since all of the headings were in Chinese. I wonder why it’s in English when I’m on my own computer but in Chinese when I sign in on a Chinese computer? I guess I’m just a technology idiot not to know the answer to that question.
Speaking of the general subject of internet and blogging, articles from Washington Post are frequently blocked, period. I wonder why those are monitored so closely whereas other sites with the exact same news stories are not blocked. Interesting. It’s like when Saybay wanted to apply to a certain college and couldn’t access their web site. Apparently some professor there had said something that offended someone. It was a slight problem because this particular college required an online application! We figured out how to get around it eventually, but it wasn’t totally effortless. Joy.
The funny thing is that speech does, in fact, shape society, as does a culture of gaming, in the same way that any particular mental activity or pattern shapes the mind and the thoughts. The leadership of this culture is adept at media manipulation and shaping of the common mind and mindset. I couldn’t help but think, however, in the climate of Beijing preparing for the Olympics, how fine the line is that must be walked in that arena. On the one hand there is a mindset that foreigners are bad and bring bad influence or have done bad things to us in the past, or that bring in bad ideas. On the other hand, there is the notion that we must be nice to the foreigners and treat them in such a way that they will feel welcome and as if we want them here. I think it’s similar to a carrot and stick. But I’m convinced it’s all about money and power. Once it transfers, which it indeed is in process of doing, the world balance will shift. This is Atlas’s shrug! And what a shift it will be, because the ethics that dominate this society are completely different from those that govern those currently in vogue. More on that another date.