From the Past to the Future

This morning I left the city that had a lot to do with my past to a city I believe will have something to do with my future. Beijing is the seat of government of a country that is likely to own this century. As someone who would like to have a say in the political and policy future of her own country, I’m sure there will be lots of Beijing in my future.
After dragging all my worldly belongings (the summer version) yet another time across China (going south-west to north-east this time), I arrived at my hostel down the street from Tiananmen Square. I decided against squeezing in with Chloé’s family at the last minute because I didn’t want to inconvenience them. However, I started regretting my decision as soon as I realized how impersonal my hostel was. As some of the reviews on the booking website noted, this was a hotel that stuck bunk beds into some of its rooms to become a hotel-hostel hybrid. The location was superb and the cleanliness was admirable. However, its top floor bar lacked the gather-around-the-fire convening power of a common room and the middle-aged staff behind a high counter didn’t ooze the same exuberance as young hostel workers who are backpackers themselves. Worst of all, because this was also a hotel, there were “normal” travelers staying there and some of them are disgusting old men who think they can pick up young women with their money. If I were for sale, you can’t afford me if you are only staying in a three star hotel in China.
When I was in Canada, I read about this concerning trend of young women deciding that marrying rich is a better investment than education. During my comparatively extensive stay in Shenzhen, Max told me how her classmates in the dance major used their womanly wiles to marry rich, older men. In the same time period, the decent young male employee who drove me for my frequent hospital visits complained about the difficulty of finding a mate (“The prettier women are long on the arms of rich men and even if you find one that isn’t, you constantly fear she will leave you for a richer man”).
I think these problems stem from the rapidity of China’s economic development. People who happened to be associated with the right industry (construction, for example) shot to instant wealth but not all of them are deserving of it. I applaud wealth-building but only if it is based on merit and not mere coattail riding. The wealth-generating idea should improve humanity, the individual should have laboured over the idea, the scale-up of the idea should already benefit the community in the form of job creation and the wealthy-building cycle should be completed with philanthropy. Only in this way would the wealth be sustainable, substantial and respectable. Usually, the individuals who become rich through such trials are hardworking pioneers of high integrity and are the natural leaders of their community.
Given China’s rapid development however, many of the currently wealthy didn’t have to go through this natural cycle of wealth-building, which would’ve ruled out those with a faulty moral compass. Meanwhile, those who do have a moral compass feel disheartened at their comparatively slow rise following the natural, solid, step-by-step process of self-improvement. I think this is why some women forgo an education and their own careers for the pursuit of a rich husband. The faulty reward system of a society causes its own disintegration.
When I asked Max isn’t it more certain to earn things yourself than depending on someone else to give it to you, she responded by asking me if it’s easier to conquer one man or conquer the whole world. That is, the man goes through all the toils of conquering the world and by controlling the man, the woman controls the world through him.
I don’t know.
It might be a little easier to control the hand wielding the pen but I prefer having my own signature on the contract/constitution/treaty etc. so someday it could be hung in a museum for future generations to revel at. I won’t settle with just “The wife of …”.

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