Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why I believe in Synchronicity

I was sitting on the metro coming home from an extended tour of a bar in Pudong, when I began thinking about China, and people like Gao Chuancai, a true freedom fighter in the Chinese hinterland who risks his life daily for justice, threatening the livelihood of his entire family in the process. His fearlessness in the face of authority is astounding, and to most Chinese sheer insanity.

A time ago I remember being in Chinese class discussing how Western culture was different than Chinese culture. I remember commenting that Western culture values madness, but due to my limited skills I was unable articulate myself well at the time. Confusing, and possibly insulting my teacher. Even when I switched to English, I still found it hard to explain my intuition. What I think I meant was that I thought the West values the activist as an archetype. Whether you think they are loonies or no, activists are an accepted figure on the fringe of our society. In China, this isn’t so. Gao Chuancai is an example of how this is changing.

Just as I was thinking all of this, a fat, slovenly looking man walked into my car on the train and began barking at all the people in Chinese. Most of them looked generally annoyed, and gave him no notice. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, and to be honest, I didn’t try very hard. He struck me as a bum, asking for money. However, as he began to pass me in the car, he stopped speaking in Chinese and began speaking to me in polished English:

Hello sir! Let me introduce myself. I am the fat man on the metro who speaks out against corruption. [As he said this, and everytime he said he was “the fat man on the metro” he slapped his belly.] I go around on the metro lines telling people to stand with me, and declare they will fight with me to work for a more harmonious and free society. I know that if I stand alone, then they will come for me, and will probably kill me. However, if we stand together, then there is nothing that they can do. Let everyone know about the fat man on the metro and tell them to come and stand with me.

It was at this point that I asked him what his name was. He said simply, “I am the fat man on the metro.”

I stood and shook his hand.

At that point, the train stopped, and he quickly moved to another car and began all over again. I sat back down and realized:

I’m not the one he has to convince. Somehow I was already with him before he started talking. But all the Chinese people on the metro around me, were they?

Here’s another account of “the fat man on the metro.”

Here he is at other moments (in Chinese):

posted by ferret at 10:49 am  

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