If there is one country whose social policies make me say "Right on!" it's China. It's like at some point the Chinese read that H. L. Mencken quote about how no one will ever go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and they said to themselves, "No one will ever say that about China! Not on our watch." (Of course if someone did actually say that, they could simply be jailed as a dissident-ha ha!) What China has done is to brilliantly legislate all of the stupid right out of their population. Any time an opportunity arises for some hapless dummy to accidentally become interested in Falun Gong or confused by a movie, the government steps in and gently removes it. This is an example all of our governments could learn from.
Take, for instance, the social ill of poverty. In backwards countries like Canada, the government has set up all kinds of welfare programs to help needy families. In a word: "inefficient." First, you have to decide who gets benefits. Then you have to find a way to hand them out. Then you have to listen to people whine about how they don't like how you're handling things. Bored yet? The Chinese government wisely realized that a leading cause of poverty is having too many mouths to feed, so it made having more than one baby-yap per family illegal. Boom, done. An elegant solution.
How about that constant, irritating scandal-mongering that comes with a free and independent press? It's all so annoying that you can barely hear yourself govern, right? The lazy American solution is to slowly erode the public trust in the press by paying for favourable coverage of unpopular policies, rewarding friendly media with privileged access and planting operatives to lob softball questions during press conferences. At the rate all of this is going, America will still have a First Amendment ten or even fifteen years from now. The Chinese system of simply outlawing any non-approved speech and throwing those who protest into jail is so effective, so awesome, that even American companies are joining in on the fun.
So it's clear that the Chinese run a tight ship. The population is under control, negative nellies are behind bars, the economy's looking up ... even the religious strife that is threatening to tear rifts in societies around the world has been kept out of the People's Republic. The people are happy. At this point, most governments would simply pat themselves on the back and call it Tsingtao-time. Not the Chinese, though-that's why they ended up with the Great Wall while all we have to show for ourselves are Hot Topics and a couple of Starbucks.
The Chinese government is always looking for ways to improve the lives of its citizens with helpful laws and statutes. When Babe, a movie about a talking pig, was released in 1995, the Chinese banned it so that citizens wouldn't become confused. It makes total sense to me-pigs can't talk! I wish my government cared enough to protect me from Hollywood's black lies. More recently, the Chinese banned movies that contain both live actors and animation. Though the primary goal of the ban is to promote homegrown animation, I think we can all see the wisdom of keeping shows like Blue's Clues and Teletubbies from the impressionable eyes of youngsters. Not only will they get all confused and depressed when they find out that Blue the Dog is actually a drawing, but everyone knows that watching Tinky Winky will turn your kid gay.
Obviously those of us living outside of China's benevolent firewall (no, not you, Taipei-nice try!) have a lot of catching up to do. It can seem overwhelming sometimes the amount of thinking and deciding the average citizen is required to perform. Don't let it get you down though, comrade-with the help of big business, activist judges and big government, we'll get there. If we're lucky, soon you American ladies out there won't even have to worry your pretty heads about your reproductive choices anymore. Uncle Sam will make sure you don't get confused and accidentally commit murder in the eyes of the Lord.
In the meantime, when you feel bombarded by conflicting information and don't know where to turn for solid, government-issued advice, just take a deep breath, grab a Coors and turn your TV to Fox News. Ah, can't you just feel all that scary freedom draining away? Heaven.
Audrey Ference tries her darndest to keep up with what the kids are into these days. Her column appears every two weeks. Read more columns by Audrey Ference.