a) Centre for the Houston Rockets? b) director of the House of Flying Daggers? Or c) the cute Chinese guy who sells the Herald at the corner of K'Rd and Pitt St? Most importantly, what does he think of the John Tamihere affair?
Yao and I chatted this morning as he took a break from his busy regimen of NBA training/muse-swapping/newspaper-holding.
'What do you think about all this?' I asked, gesturing to the front page.
'I don't really care about politics.'
'Don't you have an opinion about it? You sell this stuff every morning - you read it right?'
'Yeah, sure. But I think it's all pretty dumb. There's too much democracy here; people can say whatever idiotic thing they want.'
I have to paraphrase the rest of Yao's fine explication of comparative politics. Why?
a) The Chinese Embassy may be reading?
b) My Mandarin isn't so hot? Or
c) I didn't take notes because Yao had me in hysterics by frequently exclaiming that New Zealand politicians 'look like idiots!' and are 'so stupid!'?
Our Shanghai man on the street thought politics in China was less embarrassing, because there is less democracy and more agreement. It's hard to argue - democracy is pretty damn embarrassing. There are serious drawbacks to living in one-party states, but at least you get to be properly afraid of your government, rather than just shamed-out by them in front of international students who sell you the paper.
Which of these things are embarrassing yet still worth doing?
a) Talking to cute guys in a language you're no longer fluent in?
b) Finding out that someone, somewhere, has once referred to you as a 'frontbum'?
c) Parliamentary democracy?