Monday, 16 February 2009

On the Webb: Kids these days...

A girl I met at White Rabbit the other night managed to make me feel old by talking about the latest trendy music in Britain. While i'm probably too old for minimal techno and progressive house, although looking at the next two youngsters might make me feel uncomfortable, I am at least comforted by the fact that it is never too late to start smoking and father a child…

Although he probably looks more grown up than I do when I have a cigarette in my hand, this young chap from Sichuan is probably too young to have developed such a habit:

The adults in the video were much more impressed than most Chinese netizens, who reacted with predictable venom towards the parents of two-year-old boy.

Less predictable, however, was the online Chinese reaction my next youngster, Alfie Patten – a 13 year old from my home county of East Sussex:

Born in the very same hospital as yours truly, one-week-old baby Maisie has caused nothing less than a furore back at home. Repeated cries of “broken Britain” are abound, and familiar debates are underway surrounding issues such as sex education, abortion and provision of social welfare in the UK.

Interestingly, this story was also given some inches by the Chinese media. After reading a surprisingly lengthy article in The Beijing News I went online to see what the Chinese netizens thought of this...

Some comments fit with the commonly accepted view of a nationalistic Chinese online population. A user with the alias
k11k12 on said:

"The world no longer sees you British men as gentlemen, don’t think you are this and that, there’s nothing special about you after all!”

Very few comments took this tone, I thought there would be much more. Instead, Chinese BBSs were dominated by some interesting discussion:
  • The first thing that shocked me was an unnatural amount of support for the young parents. On a range of sites, countless people wrote “牛” and “厉害,” both of which could be translated as “cool.” I suppose a failing society thousands of miles away is nothing to worry about for the Chinese, many of whom would just think faraway teenage parenthood to be nothing more than a quirky novelty.
  • Many doubt the authenticity of the news article. Multiple comments were similar this one by 钟祥人在东莞 on “疑强烈质疑” - “[I] question this, strongly question this.” Perhaps this points to a lack of trust in the Chinese (or British) media? .
  • On the other hand, people’s suspicion could also stem from insufficient understanding of human reproduction. This might be why many commentators have said things like “Surely it’s fake, people that young can’t have children.”


Anonymous said...

I think this is probably pretty compelling but I can't see the photos in this post.

Just me?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I was able to view the videos in my reader, not here on the post though.

Pretty messed up. At first I was going to write something lengthy but thought better of it. I mean what can you say really. Ignorance is difficult to overcome, whether it be China or Britain or anywhere else.

It also illustrates my own ignorance and just how out of touch I have become living here in my China cocoon. I hadn't heard about baby Maisie until I read your post.

Jez Webb said...

Expatriategames - Now that's what I call a name!
I doubt people can see the videos in Britain, but I was surprised you are having trouble in.. Liuzhou, right? Seeing your blog (via a proxy - wordpress has its own China blocking issues too) was the first time I had heard of Liuzhou, and you thought that you were ignorant of places outside your cocoon...