Re: (teach) Re: Cuture boo-boo
- Willboots@... wrote:> <<> the etiquette of eating at the chinese dinner table - a rich topic in itself.>>>>>
a beggar woman approached me. I gave her a 10 RMB note. The poor lady kowtowed and wanted to kiss my feet. ............ Later my T.A. & some of the class politely admonished me for rewarding her begging ............ they said she should have offered me some service/product first ................................ she
kowtowed because she was ashamed she had not provided a product or service.
Do you think the students' explanation was the full story? In my experience (and the literature - don't ask me which specifically!) people are not always the best judges of others within their own culture. And that means all of us, too! I usually start to tune out when people begin saying "We (Chinese, or whatever group) do/think/ etc ..." in the face of evidence of behaviour to the contrary.
Sure, many do or think X or Y on account of what they have learned within their environs, but it is not always the only factor. I'm sure we have all baulked at expressions like unAmerican, un Australian etc. The matter of poverty and begging, tends to bring out strong arguments that no doubt we have all heard and had (the rich professional beggars, those who deform their children etc.).
I have been admonished in China for giving to beggars too. In Addis Ababa I have been told by some that they are just lazy people, whereas I also observed most people on the street sympathetically giving something to each beggar who asked. I know someone from Calcutta who says the poverty there is a myth - just lazy people who come in from the country-side looking for an easy life. I was told that there are no beggars in Asmara (Eritrea) but I saw heaps - they are just more discreet because it's illegal. Objectors to giving usually say it is unnecessary as the beggars are provided for in special places they are taken to if picked up by the authorities.
I think it is sometimes more a question of national pride and wishful thinking than reality. I think the lady's response to the huge donation of ten kuai could have been her professional routine - traditionally often a prayer of blessing in many places including China. But the students were clearly ashamed on her behalf.
> Yup, me to. I had my class in a campus park one day and a beggar woman
> approached me. I gave her a 10 RMB note. The poor lady kowtowed and
> kiss my feet. I was most embarrassed. Later my T.A. & some of the classI think they may have had reasons for admonishing you that remained
> politely admonished me for rewarding her begging.
unspoken. Even in Hong Kong I give coins not notes, as do other HKers.
You gave a lot, thus highlighting "poverty in China", already to the
fore by the mere fact that there were beggars around. It's possible
that your action was seen as 'embarrassing China'.
>The next day I made this aregarded as
> class discussion subject. I explained in the West this would be
> an act of kindness, charity & compassion for one that was in need aswas so
> obvious with this lady.There are plenty of people in the west who regard giving to beggars as
foolish encouragement to the lazy, idle and workshy. (I'm not among
them, even though I'm aware of con artists begging.)
> The summation I got in a nutshell...... It was OK for the woman tobe needy
> but she must not beg for help. I then asked how she was supposed toget help
> without asking/begging. They said she should have offered me someshe may
> service/product first and then if I elected to give her something
> maintain her dignity (face). They explained further this was thereason she
> kowtowed because she was ashamed she had not provided a product orservice.
What service did they expect her to offer? I give more to buskers who
entertain but there are some who have nothing to offer. The armless of
Shenzhen are a particular case. Those maimed in industrial accidents
get very little compensation, especially now the lawyer who took up
their cause has been forbidden to practice. It doesn't solve the
problem but you might as well give a bit and forget all question of
face, even if it is highlighting some of the unpleasant sides of
'capitalism with Chinese characteristics'.
Old ladies shouldn't have to beg. She might be conning, willing to
lose face for riches from a foreigner, she might have no family to
care for her, she might have worked for the country all her life and
now be getting no pension or help from her government. In all these
cases her existence is an embarrassment to the country and to
acknowledge her presence is to make it worse. I think Don was in a no
win situation. If he hadn't given he'd probably have been thought a
- I am often being admonished for giving to beggars by
my Chinese friends and especially one in particular.
One day when we were in the park a man with one arm
came up to me. My friend tried to stop me from giving
him any money, when I pointed out to him he had only
one arm and it would be difficult for him to find
work, he replied that he was cheating me, looking
closely at the mans stump, I asked how could that be?
Most people I talk to are quite willing to give to the
disabled and the ederly.
Somedays I just give how the mood takes me, I really
can't be botheres over going through the moral and
social questions about giving 5 rmb.
--- fshdt <fshdt@...> wrote:
> > Reply:
> > Yup, me to. I had my class in a campus park one
> day and a beggar woman
> > approached me. I gave her a 10 RMB note. The poor
> lady kowtowed and
> wanted to
> > kiss my feet. I was most embarrassed. Later my
> T.A. & some of the class
> > politely admonished me for rewarding her begging.
- Whoa! Terence, you certainly misread me.
I admire the Chinese values IMMENSELY & would never instigate anything to corrupt them.It is the main reason I enjoy teaching because they are such good people & can teach the West heaps.
My students are between 20 to 22 years old & all the subjects below are here in China, so I see no reason why a balanced discussion can not be held.
----- Original Message -----
From: Terence Egan
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2003 4:22 AM
Subject: (teach) Re: Cuture boo-boo
This kind of discussion is a waste of time in my
opinion, one may do whatever one sees fit in this
What difference does it make? Whether the old lady
needs or not is not an issue in my opinion.
So give whatever your heart desires no matter what
YJ Chang, Ph.D.
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