Four Feet Under — A perspective contains life

With Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, waiting for the bus turns into a curious investigation about the narrator’s life, who previously worked in a law firm and never liked his job. I was the only one sitting on the bench. Shortly, a guy came with two big bag of collected bottles. His hair greasy, his hand slightly shaking, his clothes dirty and smelly a bit, and he is stunningly skinny. That’s all I could collect as the tell-tale information about this guy before he starts to talk.

He opened a bottle, drinking avidly. Seconds up, I found myself not really reading Murakami.

“Excuse me ?” He said to me, in the meanwhile, taking tobacco out of his back pocket, trembling.

“Yes?” I answered.

“Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) As asking, he seems to offer me his tobacco.

I shook my head, hoping not to get involved in the conversation, and certainly I don’t have any lighter.

“Do you speak English? ” He smiled and asked again in a nearly perfect English accent. His voice low and reserved.

“Yes.” I answered.

“Can I smoke here? ” He asked me.

“Yes.” I answered.

He smiled, and said “I just want to know, do you mind if I could smoke here?”

Here? In an open-air bus stop with nobody around? No-one has ever asked me this question before. Or no-one cares about it. Wait a sec. Does he want to start a pick-up conversation by saying that? I thought, waiting for the next question. There was nothing. He started to smoke.

It was pleasant for me to be asked, to be considered. It was a quite gentleman gesture to ask, but on the other hand, I was judging him by his appearance. Perhaps, he is homeless, drunk and not polite. No, he might be none of those.

Getting on the bus, I started to think about a crowdfunding project I backed month ago — Four Feet Under. A crowdfunding book project on Unbound, non-fiction. The author collects stories from homeless people in London, taking photos of them, getting to know them, telling their stories. Haven’t read the whole book yet, but I know that among them, there are business man, orphan, and so on. The title comes from their perspective, meaning that they see the world from “Four Feet Under“. But aren’t we all are, sometimes? We judge people from four feet under? We judge them by brand, clothes, professions, social status? Is “Four Feet Under” their perspective or ours?

It was always my dream to talk to homeless people, regardless where. I knew they all like us, carrying stories, burying pains. But I never have done so. Not sure what’s the reason. It could be a lack of courage, or simply couldn’t careless. Things and thoughts got buried easily by time. The author did what I have always wanted. Hoping to read it soon.

(This post is not sponsored by the crowdfunding project Four Feet Under. Simply some personal thoughts.)

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To Rathaus civil servants in Siegen Germany

I doubted several times for writing it to the public, but today I could not hold it back anymore. Upon receiving a letter from Rathaus (city hall) Siegen, I know that I need to change my student residential status to job seeker status. Normally in Germany, student could get a 18 months jobseeker status. However, my passport is valid for about 16 months for now. So I called the Rathaus civil servant who signed the letter to me, here, pay attention, my question was only this — “do I need to renew my passport in order to get 18 months job seeker status, since my passport expires in 16 months?” In other words, I wanted to know whether issuing the job seeker status is in compaliance with the valid dates of passport, or say, whether it is necessary to renew my passport. 

Instead of answering directly “yes, it is according to your passport valid dates, so if you want 18 months, please renew your passport”, she said “If you don’t find a job in 16 months, I don’t think you could find a job in another two more months!”

Shame on me, I repeatedly said I understood what she meant, meaning, from her humiliating answer, I understood that it is according to my passport valid date. How simple could an answer be? And how low could I position myself in this situation? No one wants to have a word with them. But I wonder why should she stand on the moral high ground and judging people, making unnecessary judgements towards a situation that no one could literally tell? Who gave her the power? People?

I know it’s civil servants’ daily fun. When we complain about tea sipping, newspaper reading civil servants in China, in the Kafkasque castle sitting the same people, waiting to tell you how worthless and pathetic you are to be in a place that ranks high in all index world wide. 

This is not the first time, neither the last time I will come across this. In Rathaus, foreigners keep heads low, sucking on whatever they could give. Certainly, she doesn’t believe on the two months miracle.

But is it possible to ask these civil servants to open a tiny bit their mind? Not me, or any students, or any refugees deserve this. My wish to have a more improved situation is always there, alas, it’s not coming yet. It is disappointed to hear these words from civil servants, or civil serpents.

Perhaps, I’m writing it out of anger, out of revenge. It’s normal emotions echoing the “two month miracle” issue. Still, does it make her feel better for judging me not finding a job? I assume it does, otherwise, what kind of sick job disease is this. 

Proud of myself being polite from beginning to the end in the phone call. God bless the hollow statement “all people are created equal”. 

Happy ending or happy editing?

img_1882I have never been a big fan of any zoos. As a kid, zoos are more like a stinky place to go, and the animals are either not moving or too far to see. I especially remember one panda in the zoo in my city, reached a pretty old recordable age — thirty six if I’m not mistaken — always had his/her butt to the fans, admirers or visitors. I was not amused. Zoos in China never cultivate me any enthusiasm about caring animals, the myth of them and so on, rather, I name the stuffed animals every time I got after the zoo visiting. You know, just to make them human, and create a happy ending.

But today, “culling” as a keyword stuck into my mind after reading the article in New Yorker “Killing Animals at the Zoo“. I didn’t know about it, that they are killing healthy animals in the name of culling, and when Parker writes the reason to kill the healthy male giraffe is “genetically unnecessary”, I felt the coldness of words, of how human brain works. The logic! I saw machines that made by people, functioning. Surely as they state, surplus animals could be exchanged but there is no fairy-tale world, once there is the birth, there is the death. But did the baby Marius got the right to choose his euthanised death? No. Genetical engineers had it. It reminds me an article also from New Yorker I read years ago, it was about an institution called BGI in China, I think, about genes and research. Is it really soon that we could edit life and death, starting the practice from animals?

On the other hand, there is a public dissection including school kids. While the newly wed are talking about how to educate their future children about where do they come from or about death, kids are displayed with dismembering a dead animal scene. Yes, it’s a more direct introduction. Is it good ? Maybe Danish people are right, as the first country to legalise pornography. They are as open as we could ever imagine, but still, I hold my opinion on it. Being exposed to such an act, even with the purest scientific purpose, the seed of cruelty could emerge and grow. Is it because “science” has been unlimited exaggerated, and “feelings” have been neglected? Maybe a balance could be better.

More and more often, I see photos on a Chinese media mobile portal from car accidents suicide sites and so on, bloody photos have been published with few blurs. When these have been normalised by the media, people’s gonna “tolerant” more bloody photos or scenes. It’s like a training. And once the education is missing in this specific part, it is not a promising road.

Somehow, I still believe in happy endings, and this is under the condition of knowing there could be as much cruelty as I don’t know in the world. I still feel cold-blooded toward the words “genetically unnecessary”, when rare and precious in the mammals world is the top priority, they could edit a precious giraffe, and kill the un-wanted ones, what if once again, we think Hitler is unique, will the moral boundaries be set up towards it?