The swarm cometh

(All, I will be rather busy for the next few weeks with work, so I doubt I'll be able to write anything else beyond this during this period....pls keep your comments coming....I'm abt to hit a milestone here and I can't apologies for any delay I may have responding to your comments....don't let my absence hold you back!  I will respond...)

Free stuff.  

Free stuff is great!

I remember a clip from an interview Pink gave Brad Pitt many moons previously, where she was just blushing about having received something for free.

Mr. Pitt, with nary a roll of the eye nor a hint of his probable “is she trolling me?” expression didn’t miss a beat, and played along:

“Free stuff is great!”

(Yeah….I just squeezed a reference of BP into a China blog.)

Except I’m not speaking of some guy that can probably only relate to say,  83 people on the planet.


I’m speaking of Chinese that live in America(and probably your country, too).    I’m speaking of a race of people that once again, see no shame, nor embarrassment, nor guilt in receiving something free…well, because it’s free.

Except that it’s not Free.  I paid for it.  So did you.  It’s not free for me, to provide it to you. 

Very recently I wrote about my inlaws, and the near certainty they will at least part time, live in public housing that was designed, created and meant for people that were born here, raised here, a part of here.    People of this dirt, so to say.   They don’t have to be non smokers, or even in shape.   They don’t have to be cuddly, and heaven forbid, they don’t have to be celibate.  But they do have to be of this land.   Of this People, and of this Culture.  I am convinced, as sure as a supreme court judge is of his Forefathers when making a decision, that his decision was their original intent.

While sitting in the office of that “old folks” housing development, showing my inlaws where to sign the final paperwork that would guarantee them not just an abode within our 5000 sq foot house, but a “getaway” from me at a moment’s notice, the mother in law suddenly asked me to translate for her.

I had just explained to her yet again what the minimal rent requirements would be, ie around one third of their monthly income.   Like every other Chinese son or daughter that had successfully gotten rid of their own parents and dumped them on Uncle Sam, my wife would more than willingly pay the $200-300 per month to maintain the serenity we all needed from each other.

But that wasn’t enough for the MIL…..

“Tell them we have no income”, she requested of me.

“I can’t do that.  You need to pay something.  This isn’t for free.”

“But we don’t make anything here,” she replied.  Playing dumb, and knowing full well what the requirements were.   She didn’t care.  This was her last ditch attempt to get her daughter(eventually me) off the hook.   A year had gone by, and still, this person was trying, until the very end, to take as much of a mile from that free inch that she could. 

The obligation, the belief that something should be “paid for”, simply did not, does not live in a person that has grown up as a stitch within a vast Socialist fabric.   To me it was all bad form.  A part of me felt this was past being grateful for another society’s largesse and plain for me to see, was now about seeing how far she could go.   Was it classless?  Of course.  How much could she take before the guy across the counter, with the probable look of disbelief and astonishment,  simply said “no more!”?

But part of me also knew it wasn’t about just pushing the envelope of generosity offered up by your 
Host.   This was also about bragging rights. 

Like most societies, but especially the Chinese, this is about getting something for as little as possible. 

“I got this for free”!   “How much did you pay?”

I remember when I lived and worked in Shanghai.   We had a fellow from our Australian office fly in.   One day I met him at the hotel.   He wanted me to meet him at the checkout desk.    I surmised I was to be his translator. 

He asked the front desk about those nice fluffy shower robes in his room.   How much?  Then to my great surprise he asked how he could hide the price of the bathrobe in the price of his hotel bill….?   The staff at this 5 star hotel were as shocked as I was.    I recall my face turning scarlet as he turned to the hotel staff and continued the conversation in English.

Every country has people like these.   The problem is I see them far more from one certain Socialist Paradise than I do from any other.

I came home angry and promptly recounted the story to China Wife. 

“Chinese always want something for free”, she countered.

To her credit, she was a wee bit disgusted, too.

“Just don’t translate”, she concluded.

Yesterday I took the inlaws to the local immigration office.   It was only an 18 mile drive in the total black of early morning, on a 6 lane super highway.    Still, we arrived 45 minutes early for an appointment to find ourselves the 11th family in line.  

By the time the office opened up the line had stretched nearly around the corner.
I navigated the inlaws through the process; the fingerprinting, the photo, the forms.  (It was time for green card renewal.)

Finally we reached the last stage.  And just before the mother in law was to sit at the desk, with me in tow, she turned around and asked me in Chinese.

“Tell them we’d like food cards.”

It took more than a moment to understand what she was referring too.  

Food Stamps. 


This crazy woman had been told to ask for them.   From other crazy Chinese Mother in Laws no doubt.
Once again, I could feel my face turning  to that all too familiar shade of awkward and embarrassed, pissed off red .  

For 6 months of the year I put up with you.  Your insults, your “never good enough” attitude towards me, your sense of entitlement.    The unrepentant expectation of largesse from others you do not know.   From others you look down upon, whom you share no values with. 

Natural rights. 

In the West we are stubborn about these kinds of things.  The “right” to speak your mind.  The “right to assemble as one”, as we all know power is nothing if not used in an organized fashion.  Which is why China bans it.  The “right” to have a right. 

And though try as we may, many of us do believe that a natural right includes the ability to live without fear of want, or hunger, or shelter.  It should be given to all nations, within its power to do so, to its own people.   Which is why I continuously wonder with awe how “poor” countries such as China have so much money in the bank?    Yes, economists have been kind enough to explain to me oh so ad nausea this “whole mountains of foreign exchange thing”, and still I admit I cannot understand how a centrally planned economy can afford to buy the Waldorf Astoria why not affording within reason to take care of its people at the level they deserve. 

(feel free to hit me with a sucker punch here, I can take it:  the same reasoning can be applied to the military expenditures of America at the expense of God knows what here)

And this goes back to Face. 

China has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure in Beijing, Shanghai…all cities China has long since figured out that will be the first impression of China Western tourists receive upon visiting the Heavenly Kingdom.    And yet millions of students still go to class with no heat in their classrooms, let alone books, or an environment conducive to future success.  You wouldn’t know it, because you’ll never see them.    They are far, far away in a galaxy also ever so far, far away.  The deep hinterlands of China.     And in my view, while a modicum of progress has been made, the stratospheric  success of coastal China(and of Sichuan), has made the lack of progress in places the roving laowai eye will never see all that depressing.

China’s middle class is huge.  They buy things.  They will buy things.  A hundred million strong.  But the overall Chinese population is what?  At least 1.5 billion….because we know Chinese just love to hide their kids when the people counters come along.   So what about the others??    It means an over whelming number of people still have problems “paying the bills”, so to speak.  Smaller than before, of course but when one talks poverty we don’t like to talk in ratios, but in absolute terms.
It is the natural right of an Honest People to enjoy these basic privileges.   Yet….if you cannot get them in your own country, what to do? 

Dare I say go to some other country that will give them to you? 

Civilized “harmonious” nations(oh the irony) do not distribute blankets, or shelter, or green cards or housing or even food stamps based on color, sex or…….even nationality.

My response is I agree, with a caveat you may not want to hear:

“This is not a way to run a business”.

Countries cannot act like businesses, and I wholeheartedly agree, except it’s not true.

Countries all have governments, and all governments all have departments and all departments all have that scandalous word we call a “budget”.

We as a People eh, I mean Nation need to make hard choices about our benefits and how we distribute them.   And I’ll readily admit I never thought too much about this side of things until I saw my own father(and soon mother) being impacted by how we distribute benefits to people whose sole right of eligibility is to have a son here…..

As a nation, we have fallen into the “China trap”.   We have created rules that were great before the “rise” of China….and now that China has pulled a Lazareth on us, we have to go and rethink, revisit, all these damn rules.  Because the impact of China on our social systems is only just now hitting the beach.  This is the first wave folks!  The vanguard if you will. 

Wait until their middle class grows beyond the measly 7% it is today. 

What the fuck will we do?  What the fuck will Norway do?  Or Japan?  Or anywhere a local Chinese population flourishes…..!!

The concept of "natural rights" is obvious enough.  But will it go out the window when its application becomes more and more not for its intended design?   Chinese talk.   More and more they know how "good" it is here.  (Food stamps everybody!  Free housing!)

 When a system is "abused" what to do???  When I'm an old man will I be able to get a seat on the "social benefits bus"?

Will the natural rights of all still apply?

(We will probably need to study Canada)

I refused to translate for my mother in law to the immigration official.  I told her we can take care of you and that only the poorest of the poor receive food stamps.  I used language I thought she would understand, ie

 我会丢脸” and her unhesitant reply was,

 “You would lose face but we would not”.

It’s bad enough the worst is yet to come.  When there is no shame or humiliation in asking for such, it’s worse.   There are poor people in this country who are “too proud” to ask for food stamps.   But in China it is considered the obligation of the State to provide such things.   No pride is involved. 

How will we act as a nation when twenty, thirty years from now we find all of our senior housing and other societal benefits being “sucked up” by the inevitable mass of Chinese Humanity? 

What the hell will I do???


  1. Because socialism is a regime that takes rights away and it becomes more problematic when there are too many people. This is more apparent in the Chinese community but it happens in other ethnicity as well.

  2. Or rather as a formerly Socialist Society, there are still generations expecting something at low cost, and have no shame asking for it.


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