Thursday, July 11, 2013

They eat their phlegm

Chinese spitting
Notice the spittoon on the floor between them
A Chinese farmer, in his eighties, complains about the rapid pace of westernisation in the country. He thinks China ought to be selective in adopting western culture confessing he has never been to Macdonalds or Starbucks. He believes burgers and coffee are bad for his digestive system.

However, the farmer believes the worst habit from the west is eating one’s own phlegm.

“Do you know what western people do with their phlegm?” smoke bellowing from his bamboo pipe.

“I was told they clear their throat, and then silently eat the phlegm” squinting his eyes adding more wrinkles to his weathered face.

“I find that habit vile” loudly clearing his throat and spitting the contents into a porcelain spittoon.

During the historic meeting in 1982 between Deng Xioping and Margaret Thatcher, Deng would often expectorate loudly into a spittoon strategically placed between them. In the polluted Beijing air, Margaret Thatcher was reported to have caught a cold and in the duration of the entire meeting coughed to clear her throat. She never used the spittoon. I wonder what Deng would have thought.

Had she used the spittoon and not ate her phlegm would the course of history change? Would she have kept British sovereignty over Hong Kong for another 150 years? Instead she conceded to handing Hong Kong back to the Chinese in 1997.

In today’s global community, to expectorate loudly and openly is considered uncivilised not to mention unhealthy. To the west it’s considered vile, a habit that is bred out of children at a very young age.

What then is the alternative?

There are only two options, silently and in private spitting it out OR simply swallowing. Most would choose the latter as place and time often does not permit doing the former. The problem is close to 1.3 billion people in the world find the latter vile and this Chinese farmer is one of them.

What then do we do? Loose the sovereignty of a nation or just do what the masses do?

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