Unseemly responses to the Lamma ferry disaster fill the press today. Jumped-up amateur politicians demand that the government should make it compulsory – right now (bang fist on table) – for all children to wear lifejackets at all times on boats that are painted blue sailing within one nautical mile of Yung Shue Wan on public holidays, so such a tragedy can never happen again. And the authorities wheel out generous numbers of emergency service workers at a press conference to give teary-eyed accounts of plucking injured toddlers to safety. It would be less unpalatable if the aim had truly been to honour the rescuers, but the effect was more ‘unpopular executive branch hastily jumps on reality TV-type bandwagon in hopes of reflected glory’.
So I find myself flicking through the Hong Kong edition of China Daily, where politically correct life goes on. Such is the weirdness of our times, I find myself nodding in agreement with the deranged fanatical freak that is mouth-frothing patriot Lau Nai-keung. Chinese people’s assumption that sit-down toilets are modern and civilized and squat-type ones are inferior is wrong, he says. He then links this up with the West-worshiping anti-traditionalism inspired by the May Fourth Movement.
His technical points are 100% spot-on: squatting beats sitting, end of story. While we’re at it, we can add that washing after evacuating the bowels is vastly better than using toilet paper. British and American tourists giggle at French bidets and view the hosepipe next to the squat pan in Southeast Asia with disgust. They think foreigners are backward for being cleaner. Lau’s motives might be duplicitous and political, but he is right to denounce Chinese and others who unthinkingly fall for the Anglo-Saxon commercial world’s marketing scams.
After mocking French bathrooms, English-speakers snicker at French women, who are semi-savages because they don’t shave their legs or underarms (or at least they didn’t until they finally succumbed to Gillette’s campaigns to convince us that fur on female humans is abhorrent). The list goes on, from absurd cosmetic products to things like junk food and the fad for MBAs. Brought to you by the English-speaking world to exploit your innocent belief that it must be good because we made it and you didn’t. And can we interest you in these very civilized and advanced microwavable ready meals and frozen pizzas?
However, Lau is not coming from a rational and humanist mindset. His point (OK, I’m putting words into his mouth) is that gwailos are not only evil but inferior, gifted only in misleading Chinese who are left gullible by centuries of imperialist abuse. This is the Diaoyu Islands-in-toilets. Xenophobia and nationalism is easier than establishing a constructive and positive case for perpetual one-party rule. Especially when the party is based on the failed European ideology of communism and has done more than any bathroom fittings to destroy traditional Chinese culture. Still – he’s right about the toilets.