An Imposition Of Ignorance

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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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44 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    The battle with cancer, well, people here in the U.S. hide that sort of thing from their children all the time.

    The death thing did make me blink, though.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      From what I understand, olympic athletes in China are fairly isolated from their family. So it is easy to keep the truth from her. We must also note that the sense of obligation to one’s ancestors is more keenly felt in Chinese culture. We cannot exactly project the gravity of the choice as it would appear to us on to her. If the burdens at both ends are more keenly felt, I can intuitively get why the parents would have not wanted to tell her.Report

  2. I find it just a bit odd that in Chinese culture, one’s surname is stated first and one’s given name is stated second, and a part of me wants to leap to grand conclusions about what this reflects about Chinese culture.

    Just like those damn Spanish-speakers putting adjectives after the nouns the modify. The border needs that electrified fence. (Not fence electrified! U!S!A!)Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      It shows that we Asians respect our parents and that you Westerners have no respect for yours….*

      *I’ve actually heard this being said with a completely straight face. The impression I get from hollywood is that American parents tolerate a lot of back talk and disrespect from their own kids. But I don’t think it has anything to do with the way you put your surname behind your name.

      Report

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    Meh, what do folks expect from a totalitarian gov’t?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Its her parents, not her government which decided to withold the truth.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Yea, is there any evidence that the government was involved?Report

        • Avatar Scott says:

          Are you both really that naive? The parents knew what would happen to them if they interfered with her training.

          “We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us,” Wu Yuming told the Shanghai Morning Post. “I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness.”Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “* I find it just a bit odd that in Chinese culture, one’s surname is stated first and one’s given name is stated second, and a part of me wants to leap to grand conclusions about what this reflects about Chinese culture. Prudence, however, counsels me to do no more than to admit the temptation.”

    I actually think adopting this policy might be the cure that ails us. By putting the family name first and the given name second, the message is, “You are first a member of something larger before you are an individual.” Our way (given name-family name) says, “You are fire and foremost an individual.” I sometimes think we have gone too far in emphasizing the individual, to the point that we have lost sight of our fellow man.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      This is roughly the generalized cultural speculation that I hesitated to make.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        From what I understand, it is a pretty well-accepted difference between the cultures, one I think both sides would view themselves as being correct about. Independence versus interdependence. My hunch is that the naming is a consequence of this cultural value rather than the inverse, though I’m sure it reinforces is however subtle and subconscious. And I’m happy to be corrected if I am misrepresenting Chinese culture, but this jibes with the studies I read on their education system. I’m pretty confident in my assessment of American culture.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Kazzy,
          Great observations on the differences between individualistic societies and collectivistic ones. Some cultures value tradition, family, ancestors, authority, and duty to others. Others value novelty, individualism, the future, “questioning everything,” and freedom.

          In my reviews of the past century, I am not sure I agree with you on which model has done the better job of caring for our fellow man. Indeed their model pretty much screwed the fellow man until they began to adopt aspects of our model.

          Or is this all just luck too?Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Lies American parents often tell their children…
    – A magical man comes down the chimney to give you presents to celebrate the birth of God’s baby.*
    – A magical fairy brings you money for losing teeth.
    – Mommy and Daddy will never die (!!!).
    – Your fish didn’t die. It was doing the backstroke, then Daddy took you for ice cream, and now it is swimming again. Also, it got new stripes in the interim.
    – Masturbate and you’ll go blind/grow hair on your hands/get acne/etc.

    I’m not defending the Wu’s actions. I’m also unwilling to criticize them without knowing more details about the family’s structure and relationships. I am attempting to point out a bit snarkily that the criticism levied here seems to be, at least in part, motivated by the fact that the Wu’s are Chinese.

    * I am NOT saying that the traditional Christmas story is a lie. I am saying that the Santa myth and it’s forced relationship to the birth of Christ is a lie.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Let me stipulate clearly, if I failed to make the point clear enough in the OP, that I do not think her parents acted out of ill intent. I think they acted out of a desire to make a decision that they thought in the moment was in their daughter’s best interests, and under a constellation of pressures that are only imaginable by most of the rest of us. That doesn’t mean that I think they made a good decision. Especially if it is true, as Murali states and as I have heard elsewhere, that Chinese culture places an even higher premium on respect for one’s ancestors than does the Euro-American culture with which most of us are familiar — given the truth of that assessment, that would only increase the imperative that she know what has happened to her grandparents, at least to my way of thinking. But I absolutely do not think these are evil people.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        And I apologize if I implied otherwise. You did duly note that you thought they were well-intentioned. There just seems to be a bit of otherizing or exotification going on. Maybe I’m seeing it where it is not. I probably stated it unfairly, as I’m more wondering IF their ethnicity unfairly informed your criticism and should not have said that it indeed was. There is absolutely room to criticize the Wu’s and there is absolutely room to consider how their ethnicity, culture, and country’s government might have impacted their criticism-deserving decision. There just seemed, to me at least, a bit of an air of, “Look what these crazy people did/do!” going on.Report

  6. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    ” I find it just a bit odd that in Chinese culture, one’s surname is stated first and one’s given name is stated second, and a part of me wants to leap to grand conclusions about what this reflects about Chinese culture. Prudence, however, counsels me to do no more than to admit the temptation.”

    Passive aggressive sniping is so boring. We all know what you want to say anyway, just say it.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I didn’t find out about the (separate) deaths of two of my grandparents until months after the fact. My parents weren’t really keeping it from me–they apparently just didn’t think it significant enough to mention. To be fair, one was already severely cognitively incapacitated by Alzheimer’s and the other by a stroke, so they were pretty much functionally dead already, but still.Report

  8. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    By the way, the parts of Chinese mailing addresses are also ordered from most to least specific, such that the province comes first and the building’s street number comes last.Report

  9. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Apropos nothing, the banner ad I get for this page says, “Has Ann Romney ever worked a day in her life? Vote Now.”Report

  10. Avatar Kimmi says:

    If adjectives come after nouns, then first name comes after last name. This is just a linguistic thingy, not indicative of anything.

    If you wanted to draw some conclusions, you could have a VERY fascinating discussion on the tendency of different peoples to use first names versus last names to identify other people.

    e.g.
    The Japanese tend to use last names a LOT, even among friends. Using someone’s first name is a form of intimacy.
    The Koreans, on the other hand, tend to use first names, or titles, rather than addressing people by last names (I get this from reading Korean entertainment and discussions about medical records). This might be because most people in Korea have one of about ten last names.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      If adjectives come after nouns, then first name comes after last name.

      Except in, you know, all of the world’s Spanish-speaking countries.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      In both Japanese and Mandarin, adjectives precede the nouns they modify, just as in English.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    In Spanish-speaking countries, usually people have two surnames, taken from both the father and the mother. Lots of interesting exceptions to this rule, both in the given name and the surname.Report

  12. Avatar david says:

    One also goes “Smith Mister” or “Smith Miss” in Chinese. Or “Smith John Mister”, etc.Report