China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

The San ge Pengyoumen

Totally Awesome Picture of the Week 32

For those of you who don’t speak Chinese, that’s “the three pengyoumen.” Much like their American counterparts, the three Amigos, these men are comically out of sync with their surroundings. But, this time the roles are reversed. It is the location that is a processed pretender of perfection. These men are not actors but real basket-wielding vegetable hawkers with high expectations for the certain and quick heroism of this sparkling locale.

But alas, these backwards misfits know not even the basic rules of this organized civilization. Used to the fields, they look neither left nor right before crossing the four lane road, humorously timing so as to be trapped straddling the center line, baskets swinging precariously amongst buses, bikes, cars and carts at the change of the light.

What will come of their plight? Will the city come through for these bumpkins? Will they reap the benefits of this so-called civilization?

As ridiculous as this picture and alleged situation may sound, it is entirely relevant. Yichang, the closest city to the Three Gorges Dam, has literally flooded with former farmers whose lands are now underwater or will be soon. The city itself is rapidly pushing for civilization, developing at an impressive and worrying speed.

At the onset of spring many of the roads in our area were ripped up and buildings knocked down. Locals inform us that Yichang is vying for one of the prestigious “Civilized” awards, which would bring people 1,000 Yuan (about $145 USD) bonuses at the end of the year. The facts surrounding this stipend are unclear. People who used to live in the countryside, our three basket toting heroes for instance, commonly make less than 1,000 Yuan a month. A bonus of that proportion could substantially up their quality of life. However, the likelihood of the bonus reaching beyond the upper echelons of the public employee pool is very slim.

Al Jazeera, a popular slightly more conscientious international news source, has created a compelling two part series on the area. The videos are short and enlightening with relevant interviews and imagery and can be found on Youtube: Part One and Part Two of People & Power – The Yangtze Tales (About 10 min each).

The local people interviewed in The Yangtze Tales are not happy with the destruction of their homes, which is happening both in rural and municipal areas. Though the government claims to provide stipends and other benefits to those displaced by progress, the people continue to find their lives severely lacking with the change and many claim to have received no financial support.

This Ridiculous World’s category Traces of Progress illustrates our area, Yichang, in its race to become civilized. From piles of dirt where roads used to be to apocalyptic building sites, the evidence of destruction is abundant. So far, at least, the evidence of improvement – future or otherwise – lies mainly in etiquette posters which are placed in obscure places around town so as to not offset any advertising profits and a few brightly colored high-rise buildings.

As for the fate of our Three Pengyous, well, they made it to the other sidewalk safely, but there are hundreds more crossings between them and their soggy fields. For now, I suppose the best action is to lay our focus in line with theirs – on the bright, scintillating potential of civilization – and hope that everything will work out in their favor. After all, hope is the current rhetoric of champions, so why not lend a little pop culture flair to the struggle of the Chinese proletariat? In fact, I’m telling you now, my tres pengyous, “Yes you can!”

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