I’m currently in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, and you can find dog meat here. The idea of dog meat was once abstract. You think of the dogs that you’ve come across in your life; maybe you were lucky enough to have one growing up. You can’t imagine those dogs dead, let alone turned into bits of cooked flesh for human consumption. You really, really can’t imagine it.
We go to a business lunch today with a factory inspector from Shanghai. This is a big deal so we go somewhere that’s supposed to highlight the local flavor. We pull up to the restaurant and I get out of the car. My heart drops. Right beside our car is a dusty old motorcycle with two cages strapped onto either side of the bike. In one cage, a dog with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen; in the other, two dead ones, mouths agape, teeth bared.
I forced myself to look away. I bluntly said to my father, “We’re not eating dog.” He assured me we weren’t and that he had no idea the place did this kind of thing. We walk inside and I see a massive snake in a glass container of rice wine. I looked for a long time as People’s Liberation Army officers filtered in for lunch.
I look out the window of our private dining room and see that the live dog had been transferred to another cage. The motorcycle has left with no sign of the dead dogs. I see another dog standing in the driveway. This one has a black coat. It’s curious. One of the restaurant workers brings out a large bone and presents it. The black dog gets closer. My father tells me to look away. I’m telling myself there’s no way they’re doing what I think they’re doing. I return to my plate, intensely studying my food, not recognizing what’s actually in front of me.
I soon hear the dog crying. At first it’s a soft whimper. They must have just grabbed it. Then the cries get louder and louder, more and more urgent. The dog is screaming. Then nothing.
The rest of the meal was much less eventful. My father and the inspector discussed the recent B-52 flyover by the Americans, both in agreement that war was on the horizon. I sipped my tea and ate nothing, occasionally messaging Helen or James about what I had just witnessed with the grace of someone that had just been shot.
On the road to Jingdezhen; a seven hour journey west. Looking out the car window, all I see is factories and towns and more factories, blanketed by smog, the ever present evidence of this place’s progress. The smell of the stuff seeps through into the cars interior. We stop by a McDonald’s just like I would on the drives from San Diego to San Francisco and back. Riding in the passenger seat, truly, I’m on the other side of the world.
I just found out that this guy I met at a dinner a few weeks ago, through mutual friends, has the English name ‘Hitler’.
Chinese people usually pick their own English names. It might be more common now for parents to give their children a Chinese and English name but, for people around my age, it’s usually a choice. Hitler was, by my friends account, very politically outspoken when he was younger. He admired the more famous Hitler for being able to take on the established order. I don’t think he cared much for the details (genocide for instance.) Like most other societies, youth culture tends to gravitate towards going against the established order. It’s no different here in China and it is probably even more true here than anywhere else. The Chinese government have done a lot to stamp out what might be perceived as civil unrest, going so far as to employ over two million people to police the Chinese web. This is a society with zero political participation by its citizens and where political dissent is muffled.
Throughout dinner, trying to make new friends, I tried to engage Hitler in a discussion on politics. Again, I did not know his name at the time but my friend had told me he was interested in politics when he was younger. We had an awkward five minute conversation where we spent more time looking at our friend, who was translating, than at each other. In the end, the gist of what he had to say was that he felt he was a small powerless person and that he was no longer interested in politics. I asked him about what did interest him now. He said “models and manga.” Seeing a breakthrough, I asked him who his favorite models were now. He replied “Gundam figurines.”
So dispiriting to see Hitler reduced to an introverted otaku.