NO PHOTO!!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Saturday, November 20, 2010

The comparisons with Japan continue, partly because it is difficult to imagine two close neighbours with such opposing cultural values. The latest comparison is with the self-regulating, self-policing nature of Japanese culture and the total lack of respect for authority on the part of the Chinese. In China the law-enforcers are totally resigned to the futility of their given task and have a total disregard of the law-breakers unless they're selling something interesting. We have seen a huddle of police officers haggling with a street trader for the price of the ripped DVDs in their hands.
Think a little for the poor guy with a cap, a whistle and a flag trying to enforce red lights at a major intersection, the traffic streaming either side of his profitless waving. And spare a thought for one particular guard at the Panda Breeding and Research Centre. We were queueing to take our pass by the viewing window, the viewing window through which we get our chance to see, wait for it... the baby pandas...BEING FED!! Aaarr!!
But we are queuing inside a pavilion with signs everywhere saying NO PHOTO. There are pictures of cameras with a red cross through them. There is a banner under which you pass as you enter which reads NO PHOTO. And there is a man, a morose, solitary man with a cap whose job it is to keep the lines moving, to keep the lines of weeping girls moving on, and to remind people that photographs are prohibited. This is the whole crux of the entire institution, he says to himself, This is the whole purpose of our mission here, of the international mission for the preservation of a critically  endangered species, and these baby panda, these precious five that we are able to successfully raise represent the pinnacle of our achievement and are our most valuable asset. Surely you understand that when we say NO PHOTO, we say NO PHOTO for a reason.
"NO PHOTO," he repeats out loud, "NO PHOTO."
And so what do all the Chinese visitors do? Of course they get out their cameras and take a few shots. And these are not sneaky shots of espionage, they don't even feign to be. They are blatant and when our man taps them on the shoulder and says, as if for the first time, "NO PHOTO" they turn their heads and chatter for an unrepentant time, all the while keeping their lenses trained on the bears taking more and more photos or perhaps even a short film.
The total disregard for authority is staggering - as staggering as the unrelenting self-policing of the Japanese.

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