I feel rejuvenated and inspired. I’m 42, and it’s been the best year of my life. Things are happening, and I understand my purpose. I play guitar every day because it’s the battleground in which I can fight my demons. Man has fought the devil with a guitar for centuries now, and sometimes we even win. I like my chances.
Suddenly, a video was posted on social media, and all of China and the world were discussing a violent attack in the Northern Chinese city of Tangshan. Basically, a drunk creep approached a woman in a restaurant. She told him to go away. He grabbed her, and she pushed him. Then he and a bunch of his friends, instead of apologizing for his behavior as a drunken fool on his birthday, instead joined in as they all violently beat her and her girlfriends. I got that from my friends- I find that kind of footage too upsetting to watch. So all of China discussed in millions of chat groups, “what would you have done if you were there?” Sadly, many people I know, even many of my ex-pat friends, said they wouldn’t do anything- that it would be suicide to stand up. That martial arts are useless, one or two of them said. That all we could do was run. Or eat our BBQ with our heads down while a group of men beat a woman nearly to death. No, I said, stand up. Whatever happens, you have to stand up.
It reminded me of one day, a long time ago, shortly after high school. I woke up and had the sudden urge to visit an old friend from math class. I popped over, drank some tea, and we were in the middle of a chess game when he got a knock on the door. It was a crowd of folks led by a troublemaker I recognized from my teenage days hanging around the local mall. The guy would steal designer shades or clothes from people I knew, and I’d tell him to give them back. He saw me and told me that these thugs had shown up to rob my old friend. Someone had told them he was a rich kid, and they were after some easy money. I remember to this day, looking at him cooly in the eyes as he told me that I could take off, that I didn’t have to get involved. I imagined leaving that house and how craven I’d feel as I knew my friend would be robbed, maybe beaten, who knows how badly.
No, I said, and I smiled at him slowly. I was a guest here, and here I would stay. He was the one that should leave, as I didn’t believe he’d been invited. He quirked an eyebrow, unnerved by my apparent lack of fear (or good sense). I said, “Look, Mike, you think I’m trapped in here with you? You’re trapped in here with me. Now get out of here before you get hurt.” And he and his ten friends all turned tail and ran. Because bullies are usually cowards. I never forgot that lesson, and it’s served me well.
So what could we have done in the restaurant to help the woman? Stand up, yell, and get people involved. If not, then take the hits. Be a man. We debated all day until Xiaolin yelled at me to put my phone away.
It was COVID March 2020, and the mask debate all over again. Too much debating lately. Actually, I haven’t been on Facebook in weeks and am mostly just playing my guitar and writing and finishing up a school year. But I felt very discouraged that I was alone in the opinion that, of course, I would get up and yell at them to stop, to gather the crowd’s support, to stand between them if I must, to take the punches instead of the woman because That is what a good person does.
Perhaps this is not wise, perhaps this is dangerous, but I know that bullies thrive on fear, the idea of people wanting to avoid pain. If everyone stood up and said, ‘You’ll have to go through me first,’ bullies would just run away. Whether in the schoolyard, or the criminal cartels that rule Mexico, they thrive on fear and people not standing up. If someone attacks a kindergarten with a knife one day, don’t run and don’t be scared- throw your jackets on them and pelt them with milk boxes until they fall and surrender. I hope that we can all, as a society, work hard to keep China the safest country in the world.
People asked, who are these guys that felt so emboldened and acted so violently? There are many stories, many theories. Some say they’re gangsters who’ve grown bold because they’re protected. I heard that the police came by with some of them, offering the girl 600,000 RMB not to press charges, to cover her hospital bills—the story goes she even accepted, but who knows if she was intimidated under duress, but after the video went viral, the men, all 8 of them were hunted, arrested and face years in jail. Good. Some people say they must’ve been sheltered by local police or officials. Perhaps a larger cleanse on corruption is needed to clean the house. So we see what one brave person can do when they stand up to bullies and criminals. Fear must never win. Sometimes people get hurt being brave, but when people stand up for what’s right, society evolves, and evil and bullies fall flat.
It’s definitely worth mentioning that all attempts to deescalate should be made. Violence should only be in self-defense, as a last resort to protect yourself or someone in harm, and proportional to the threat. I would not fancy getting in a fight in China, as kind as it is to me, it’s a foreign country, I’m a foreigner here, it would not be a fun thing to deal with the law after, and I hope they would see my efforts as for the common good. As such, I left some group chats that made me argue too much, and I find my days are much more peaceful now. Guitar, work, write, editing, five new books on the go, guitar, exercise, eat, sleep, rinse, repeat.
In the news on June 22, the public news WeChat channel Expat Hub reported that a deputy district commander was dismissed from his post following the violent gang attack on a woman in Tangshan and as a response to widespread public outrage. An investigation has also singled out five other officers, including the district chief, which is ongoing and overseen by the provincial disciplinary watchdog. In an official notice published last Tuesday, Hebei’s discipline inspection and supervision authority said it had “carried out in-depth investigations into untimely police dispatch, irregular law enforcement and serious violations of discipline and law” – which Expat Hub says ‘is commonly used as a euphemism for corruption.’ Five officers, including the Lubei district police chief Ma Aijun, had been placed under investigation, and Ma’s deputy, only identified by his surname Li, had been dismissed from his post.
When we stand up, anything is possible.
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