Outside the Castle Walls

The lute player played late into the night, and the peasants danced and drank until they were filled with merriment. They knew their master would follow through this time and that everything would be better now. They had hope, and this hope filled their hearts with joy.

As the sun arose the next morning, I peered into the castle from afar. But to the surprise of the people within the walls, nothing had changed. Everything was just as it always had been. An eerie familiarity crept over the people as their elation slowly faded into the morning mist and memories of promises broken.

Even the minority who had wished for a new master were shocked, for they had drifted off to an anxious sleep expecting chaos and death to take them in the night. Yet they, too, awoke to find that the stone walls were still standing, just as they had stood throughout the reign of countless masters prior. The only considerable damage that had occurred was in the spirits and relationships of their fellow peasants.

Good intentions, swept up in masterful theatrics, had been transformed into vicious support for one of two nearly identical brands of continued servanthood. Passion and fervor blinded rationality and threatened friendships with the flick of a strawman or a tu quoquo. And now that the selecting was over, the peasants fell quickly back into the routine of their busy lives, never to think of the atrocities that had been, and would continue to be committed in the name of a lesser evil.

Gazing in, I felt saddened. I wanted others to see the beauty of the world outside the castle walls.
A world where all interactions and exchanges are made peacefully and voluntarily.
A world where good ideas don’t have to be enforced with the edge of a sword.
A world where violence and murder are never justified as a method of achieving peace.
A world where people don’t choose between a greater evil and a lesser evil, but between love, peace, freedom, and evil.

As the days pass and reality once again sets in for these hard-working, good-willed people, I hope those who become disheartened begin to peer outside the castle walls. For once they do, I believe they will see that their economic problems, the continual wars with neighboring kingdoms, and the immoral laws they are forced to obey cannot be fixed by placing a new master on the same throne, but that the system of masters, majorities, and rule by swords itself is what is flawed.

I understand that gazing beyond the walls is frightening. And I know that curiosity about what lies beyond is discouraged, even condemned by the master, his council, the lecturers, the enforcers, and even your family and friends. But I hope that you will look outside and find this other world as I did. I hope that you will join me, for there is a peace, a freedom, and a beauty here that exists only outside the castle walls.

 

Welcome to China, Lǎo Wài: Round 1… Fight!

I realize my most recent post was about the Chinese New Year; therefore, this post is actually chronologically backtracking. So if you’d like to some additional context before reading what follows, read the post below titled: Cholo Jeans, Dragon Shirts, and Rainbows: An Oregonian Lands in Shanghai – dated January 21st.

After my friend Steven picked me up from the Shanghai airport on Friday the 13th, we ventured through the subways of Shanghai until we came to the stop near the Holiday Inn Express I had booked for us (using my free hotel nights, of course). Finding the hotel was an adventure in itself, but after finally making our way there and checking in, we decided it was time to get some food as it was already after 9:00pm. What happened next, neither of us could have anticipated, but I’ll try my best to concisely explain the events that followed.

After stepping outside the hotel, we noticed a group of people pushing each other around in front of the businesses across the street from us. We decided to cross the street to get a closer view of the action. As we began crossing the four-lane street, I noticed a drunken woman kicking and clawing at a few drunken men. As we got closer, one of the men ran up behind the woman, dove through the air, and tackled her to the ground. At this point, Steven and I rushed across the street to get a better idea of what was happening. As the man and woman rose to their feet, the man held the woman back from trying to kick the other men in the group. Since there were pedestrians all over, we walked up a bit closer to get a better view of the action.

I pulled out the new camera my mother had just bought me as a parting gift and started filming the scene. Soon after, the man pulled the woman off around the side of the building while the other men continued to shove each other around and exchange words. We followed the couple around the corner and Steven suggested we get a bit closer to film the scene, so I handed him the camera and trailed him as he stepped a few steps closer.

We were quite amused by the situation, and as a bit of commentary, we began singing Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl.” We joked with one another for another minute when the woman suddenly spun her head around and noticed we were there. Within a second, the woman had transformed into a zombie from Dawn of the Dead and began screaming and running at us. She first ran toward me so I quickly jumped back and held my arms out suggesting, “I have no beef here… chill out.” She grabbed at me for a moment, and when I pulled away she turned her attention to Steven who was jollily jogging away and laughing. She then returned to zombie mode and sprinted after him until she caught up to him and ripped the hood off his jacket. I then began walking at a brisk pace toward them as she was clearly not in nearly as jovial a mood as we were. As Steven turned to look for his hood, the man who was previously restraining the woman (the same one who dive-tackled her to the ground) sprinted up from behind Steven, and without warning, performed the same WWE flying-tackle on Steven.

As the man and Steven tumbled to the ground, I realized crap was getting real and that these drunken people were in state of complete irrationality. My brisk walk became a sprint and I dove onto the man, ripping him off of Steven’s back in a headlock. As we rose to our feet, Steven pulled the man up by his collar and cocked his fist. In that moment Steven made the critical decision to let the man down without laying waste to him, but by this time the camera was in the woman’s hands as it fell to the ground when Steven was tackled. I tried to regain the camera, but the woman was incoherently drunk, and she completely crushed the lens attempting to access the photos on the camera. She gave the camera to the man, who demanded I delete the video. Since she had broken the camera, it was impossible to delete anything from it. We told them they owed us money for the broken camera but they refused to reimburse me for the damage they had done to it. They then said they wanted the SD card, so I offered to sell them the SD card alone. Once they refused my first offer and demanded I simply give it to them, I doubled the price. That was definitely their first economic lesson in supply and demand.

After additional struggling over the camera, I convinced them to let me take out the SD card. Once I removed the SD card, Steven regained control of the broken camera and I put the SD card in my pocket. The man then began calling over toward the rest of the group of drunken men and tried to convince Steven and me to walk over there with him. We stood our ground and refused to further engage with him. Within a minute, the woman was back over attempting to attack the men in the group again, distracting the attention of the man who attacked us. We used that opportunity to disengage and leave the situation, a few scratches, bruises, and one broken camera later.

My camera didn't necessarily look this bad, but its functionality was uncannily similar.

My camera didn’t necessarily look this bad, but it functioned similarly.

I’m happy that the rest of the men were too drunk to be aware of what was happening between the couple and us, for I fear that things could have escalated much further if that were the case. We managed to escape the attack with minimal bodily damage, but I definitely learned to never underestimate the savagery of drunken, morally undeveloped people.

Thanks for reading this far and keep checking back – my next post will be about some of the eccentricities of living in a completely different culture. I’ll find a way to include something about Oreos in there, so it should be quite a bit lighter than this post.