Thursday, 6 October 2011

Life and death in the Science Museum

Here is an observation I can make about Chinese culture. It has a great capacity for romanticising, fantasising and bringing a rich poetic imagination to the ordinary of everyday life. It's like a huge generosity of character.

You should see the landscape paintings in the Art Museum! Those unrolled scrolls of brush and ink are like spiritual journeys of great passion, where everything around us is loaded with meaning. Water is strength, mountains are nobility, rocks are your endurance.

But it's mixed with a hard, unpoetic, ruthless streak. This is the way things are, get used to it. Daily, there is a casual disregard for others, a refusal to engage in social sensitivities, a turning away from recognition of emotional states, and a casual brutality of life. Any encounter can be peremptory and dismissive. Really? Your child is sick? Goodbye.

I consider these twin states again today as I bring the kids home from the Science Museum. Shark has played a computer game in the animals gallery. She has taken the role of a Kangaroo Rat, and must escape from a predator: the hungry snake, hunting dinner. Shark has choices. Do you fight the snake, kick and scratch him? Do you jump into a hole in the ground and hide? Do you run, as fast as you can?

Shark chooses a hole in the ground. Behind her wriggles the snake.

Game Over.

Out comes the happy cartoon snake, fangs piercing a Kangaroo Rat, a trail of digital blood squeezing from the rat's broken neck. The eyes are crossed out. Didn't you get the message? The computer can help, in case the six-year olds missed it: You are dead. You would not survive as a Kangaroo Rat.

3 comments:

Nora said...

That does seem rather harsh, but it does fir the impression I had already gotten from the Chinese. Too bad it's true.

Helen of SJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen of SJ said...

Yikes! Well put. I totally agree with your assessment. Quite an interesting (maybe disturbing) paradox. It seems that they (and I'm not sure what I mean by "they"--it'd be too easy to stereotype and say "the Chinese", isn't it?) have managed to split the person into two isolated spheres: the soul belongs in the art museum, while the body moves in the MTR stations. I'm inclined to dwell on this for the rest of day to come up with some sociological explanations.