Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Democracy makes Chinese kids cry!

"Why Democracy" was a documentary assigned for one of my classes, but it kicked so much ass that I decided to blog about it.

A grade school in Wuhan province takes an excursion through the democratic process by allowing a third grade class to choose their classroom monitor. This is unprecedented, as classroom monitors are chosen by the teachers, but this time the students are given the chance to vote. The candidates are 8-year-olds Cheng Cheng, Luo Lei, and Xu Xiaofei. In under an hour we learn that democratic candidates everywhere -- even in socialist China -- face the same pressures, and grade school kids (when given a goal) are often driven to succeed by their helicopter-hovering parents (parents who take it into their own hands when it comes to undermining the opponent, giving voters incentives, and bolstering their kid's ego).

My first impression of the gutsy chubby Cheng Cheng is "maaan, this kid is proper Chinese Tai Lo" (gangster) because he's so coniving, but as the documentary rolled and Cheng Cheng aggressively campaigned my impressions grew from "saboteur!" to finally "you sneaky little shit!" This KID, oh man this kid, I swear if he were my kid he'd see the beating end of the rotan cane more often.

[Cheng Cheng. Look at him! All confident and smug. I wanna punch him].

Xu Xiaofei is your typical grade school girl: soft spoken, sweet, has her little girlfriends and doesn't have terribly strong presidential aspirations.

Now, Luo Lei is a kid after my own heart. The first thing he says when his parents tell him he should use tricks and techniques for votes is "I don't want to control others, they should think for themselves." Give this kid a dumpling! He is so cute! His little round face shone with honesty and if I were 8 years old I would totally be crushing on him because as aforementioned HE- IS- SO- CUTE! When he's having fun with the kids he's taking their pictures or sharing the megaphone his dad gave him (initially intended for Luo Lei to show off, but the kid actually LIKES sharing, unprompted!). It was all I could do from squeezing my monitor whenever Luo Lei's face popped up because I WANT TO SQUISH IT!

[Luo Lei: I want to eat him, aww!]

It's highly amusing to see the kids attempt to master the elections-- between pressures from their parents and classmates, each kid makes their own way through the confusion, guided by their sense of what is right. Although I love the kid to death, I think Luo Lei ran because he just felt that it was the right thing to do and that he was the right kid for the job (he'd been class monitor for two years prior the elections). Cheng Cheng ran because he's competitive by nature, and the idea of "controling the kids" appealed to him. Poor Xiaofei, I think she thought the elections were a game you played and you got people to whisper to each other campaign secrets.

Why did I crack up? Because there was so. much. CRYING. OmG. Xiaofei cried because Cheng Cheng got the class to mock her during her speech, Luo Lei cried because Cheng Cheng blamed it on him, Cheng Cheng cried because he's a big meanie, and all the other kids cried because democracy hurts their socialist upbringing! Oh man, I died laughing and laughing and laughing (I would make a horrible mum; unless my kid is Luo Lei) and when I couldn't laugh anymore, I wheezed and wiped away the tears.

[Xiaofei: I honestly did feel bad for her and my maternal instincts called out to her and shiz, but then the situation just degenerated into a classroom of kids crying and I couldn't help but laugh at that point. Sorry Xiao-Xiao].

Definitely a must-see. I highly recommend it. If you like kids, psychology, politics, China, twisted social experiments, then this is the documentary for you. Below is the first 10mins of "Why Democracy", courtesy of youtube.