Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Chinese Are Poisoning Our Children — Four Alternate Takes

I couldn't really decide how I wanted to tackle this story. It's a difficult thing to write about because it's so unfathomably stupid and horrible that it really rather needs no commentary. Stories like this piss me off, as an armchair editorial writer. How do you expound on how horrible or how stupid something is when the horrible stupidity is so completely self-evident? The answer, in short, is you don't. There's absolutely nothing more I could write that would convince you that this is any more horrible than you already understand it is, and there's nothing more I could write to make it look even more comically stupid.

The only problem is that I have a compulsion to fill more than a hundred words on the topic, so I'm going to try. I had three different angles by which I could have commented on this situation, but none of them seemed to properly satisfy or inspire me. The loose ideas were floating around in my head, but I couldn't catch any one and forge it into a solid editorial. So I decided to instead offer all three of the ideas in raw form to let you, the reader, decide which one you prefer. Each one comes complete with an explanation why I chose not to expand on the idea. I guess this would be "Take #4," and I like it best. That's why I chose it over all the others.

Take #1
My first idea of a take on this story was to go in the direction of a serious editorial, like a serious admonishment of their actions. First Chinese factories are putting lead paint on our toys, and now they're putting a GHB coating on them. The obvious question here is: What the fuck is wrong with China? Seriously, who doesn't know that lead paint and GHB is generally considered bad for human consumption? Why the hell, then, are they feeding it to our children?

Everyone knows that the main purpose of any toy you buy for your child is to be chewed on. We don't buy children toys anymore expecting them to play with those toys because I think it's been well-proven that America's children are dumb. Anything made of plastic our children believe is to be eaten, and cardboard boxes, CDs, food, guns, and fire are to be played with. Knowing this, it's basically understood that you don't put hazardous chemicals like lead paint and GHB in our toys because our children will ingest it. That's why we inject all our hazardous chemicals directly into our food, so our children have virtually no chance of ingesting anything toxic since they all play with their food and eat their plastic green army men. So China is doing it all wrong. If they want to keep GHB away from our children, they need to coat it on our broccoli, not our Aqua Dots.

This leads us to the most obvious logical conclusion, then, that this wasn't an accident. China was caught not once, but twice coating our children's toys with known toxins, knowing that these toys would be ingested by our children who eat their toys. Sure, Chinese babies might not eat their toys, but that's not the way we do things here in America. We fully expect our children to be stupid, and that's what's created such a fuss about the "date rape drug" coating our toys.

Maybe China knew full well what they were doing when they slipped these toys into America. Knowing as little about China as I do, I still know enough to suspect them of plotting to make a move on something in the world. Their natural resources are running low, and what they have are not up to even poor standards, and they've been getting more politically aggressive over the past couple decades. Maybe they're hoping to weaken or kill off a fair percentage of our children who will grow up to one day become enemy combatants. Our children won't do so well in combat if they develop some crippling neurological disorder from eating lead paint flakes when they were four.

If it was just the lead paint, it could be considered an accident. Like, "Whoops! We got our paints mixed up! See, the acrylic paint goes on the American toys, and the lead paint goes onto our houses." Okay, I think we could let that go. However, when they coat our toys a second time in a year with a completely different and even more deadly toxic substance, it begins to look less like an accident and more like a conspiracy.

Should this be considered a terrorist action? I think the alert level should at least be moved off of green in this regard. I mean, the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, (or SHASTA for short), keeps droning on about how terrorist organizations can coat our consumer products and foods with all sorts of chemical and biological substances, yet we've seen almost zero evidence of it even being considered to happen. Then China just hands us 4.2 million units of children's toys slathered in the "date rape drug," and they classify that as a little whoopsy. God-forbid we claim terrorist actions against any of our business associates. That's an allegation best left for the Mexicans illegally crossing the border.

As you can see, I couldn't quite use this angle because it's bitterly cynical, and throws out wild accusations without really any shred of proof or real idea what the hell I'm talking about. Plus it's boring. No one wants to read about how the Chinese are trying to kill our children. We want to be entertained while the Chinese are killing our children, so I wanted to try for a less serious and more humorous tone.

Take #2
My second idea to editorialize this story was to do a complete spoof of the circumstances. We here in America can all certainly understand what is wrong with putting lead paint and GHB in toys specifically designed to go into the mouths of preschoolers; we have the FDA to dictate to us what we should and should not eat. Celery? Good. Asbestos? Bad. Milk? Good. Lead-based paint? Bad. 1420-calorie "Monster Thickburger" from Hardee's? Good. The "date rape drug"? Bad. Certainly, without the FDA, we'd be putting all sorts of weird and disgusting things in our mouths because we're stupid and don't know any better. Note that the French do not have an FDA, and they eat snails. I rest my case.

So here I was thinking of writing out a satirical story based around a hypothetical conversation between the chief operations officer of a major American toy company like Mattel and the head of one of their Chinese manufacturing plants. I thought it would be hilarious to put this on the Chinese, like they have no clue as to why this would be a problem. I could picture the Chinese businessman on the phone, calmly stating his case to an agitated American COO. This would be sort of a one-sided phone conversation, in the classic Bob Newhart style, because Bob Newhart is a heavily underrated comedic genius.


"What do you mean we can't put lead paint on the toys we manufacture? Lead is good for children.

"Oh? Oh really. Oh wow, that's pretty bad, huh?

"Okay, well, yeah, we'll stop that right away.

"Yeah, I do have one more question for you, though. This is kind of an odd, left-field kind of question. Are you ready? Okay, let's just say, completely hypothetically, we had some extra gamma-hydroxy butyrate just laying around and discovered that it really adds that extra shiny, protective sheen to your Aqua Dots?

"No, no, this is purely hypothetical. No, no of course not! Ha ha! Oh. Oh wow. Really? You call that the what in America? You're kidding me! Wow! No, seriously, it does all that? Okay, okay, no, it was just an idea the guys in the board room were kicking around.

"No, of course we won't. No, you have my word. Okay, talk to you later."
At this point, he hangs up the phone and pinches the bridge of his nose.

"Christ."
He then presses a button on an intercom to speak to the production foreman.

"Huang? Halt all production immediately. We have a problem."
I thought this would be great because I have virtually no understanding of Chinese culture, and I don't think most Americans do either. I know there's several billion of them, and they all walk, and all their children work in horrible factories making all our shit for pennies a day, and I know they kill their babies. I'm fairly certain they're still Communist, but I have no idea if Chairman Mao Zedong is still in charge or even still alive. Yet I am somehow still eerily aware of their political objectives and military capabilities.

For all I know, the Chinese could think lead paint and GHB are good for kids. They could feed their children spoonfuls of it every morning for breakfast and wash it down with some MSG. I think that's why I find it so amusing, because it's so completely absurd, but with as much as I know about Chinese culture, it's not out of the range of possibilities.

Unfortunately, this option never panned out because to do that, I'd have to write, like, a story with descriptions and stuff like Zack Parson is so good at, and with me knowing virtually nothing about Japanese culture, I had no idea how to describe anything. Would this factory chief be situated in an office or a pagoda? Is a pagoda even Chinese? Would he be wearing a suit or robes and one of those funky, straw cone hat things? These are all questions for which I just don't have answers readily available, and I don't really have the time to look this stuff up if I wish to publish this article by the end of the day. Essentially, with this option, the entire post would have just boiled down to the phone conversation, pretty much as listed above, which wouldn't have been the hallmark of brilliant writing in and of itself. So as much as I liked the humor aspect, I ultimately had to scrap the idea.

Take #3
The third idea I had was to draw a cartoon with a far more condensed version of the above one-sided conversation. Maybe something like the Chinese man yelling over his phone, "What do you mean we can't put lead paint on your toys?! Next you're going to tell me we can't put GHB on them! Really? Aw, crap!"

Unfortunately again, I couldn't execute this idea either because having absolutely no experience at it, I discovered very quickly that I couldn't draw a Chinese man. It's not anything I ever had to draw before, so my hand isn't trained. I couldn't even picture a Chinese man in order to draw one. How does a Chinese man differentiate from a Japanese or Korean man in silly cartoon form? This isn't me being racist; it's just that, generally as a cartoon, there's really not as much difference between the various Asian races as there are in real life. It's kind of like, how do you draw the difference between an Irish woman, a Scottish woman, and an English woman, particularly without the use of a flowing red mane of hair to distinguish the Irish one?

Essentially, you just draw "Generic Anglo-Saxon Woman #42" and tell people she's Scottish. Probably the assumption that the "Generic Asian Man #4" is Chinese would carry over in translation, but really the only type of Chinese man I could picture ceased to exist circa the 15th Century. You know, robed in the Ming the Merciless cheongsam, bald head with a single ponytail, and the long, wispy moustache, lots of rings and long fingernails. Okay, now that is admittedly more racist. The point is that it's hard to draw a modern Chinese businessman when the only thing you can picture is one that hasn't existed for upwards of five hundred years.

Then the other problems arose, as was listed above. How do I decorate his office? Does he have an office? Or does he work in a hut? I am virtually retarded when it comes to Chinese culture, and for that, on behalf of the greater population of the United States, I formally apologize to China. We suck.

Then again, at least we aren't poisoning your children. Apparently
you're doing that very well all by yourselves.

np: Saviour Machine - "Ten - The Empire"

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