Sunday Rant

Hello there! It’s been a long time since I posted anything but it’s been kind of crazy here (trying to graduate and working at the same time… I’ve been getting a lot of hours lately, up to 30 clock hours of teaching per week and it’s been tough). So anyway, I just have a small rant for you today.

Recently, I read a great article titled “Fake Freedom” written by an author Mark Manson [link]. He likes to write about topics such as relationships, the meaning of life, etc. etc. I have been following him for a while, not always religiously – I would just sometimes go to check out some new articles, or something would pop up in my mail, just like this time. The article is an excerpt from his new book “Everything is F*cked: A book About Hope” (which I’m planning to read, I will let you know how it is later). The article mentions how something that might look like freedom to us – having a million of choices, being connected on social media all the time, the constant seeking of pleasurable things – is actually taking our freedom away. We become obsessed with avoiding discomfort and we need a constant distraction, be it from some deeper issues or just because we cannot stand boredom and uncertainty anymore. And there are things that we keep on doing because they’re addictive or maybe because of FOMO, even though we know on some level that they are bad for us, or at least kind of meaningless, like hanging out with people we don’t even like or scrolling through a news feed on social media 10341010 times a day only to find out that there’s actually nothing interesting there.

So obviously when it comes to mindlessly scrolling through things, I’m guilty as charged. However, I’ve already noticed a while back that when I go on Wechat (Wechat Moments, it’s like the feed on FB), 99.9% of the time there’s nothing that really matters to me. I have already done some cleaning – for example, I like it when someone posts pictures from their travels or some funny pictures, but that’s it. If someone spams with selfies 5 times a day, posts ugly pictures of food (or if they only post pictures of food, for that matter), I just unfollow them. They’re still my friends on Wechat, but I don’t see what they post on Moments. So there is not much going on there, but still – I scroll through it many times a day anyway. This is a usual go-to for many people here in China when they have nothing to do, they wait in line, wait for someone, are in the subway or even in a restaurant, when the conversation momentarily stalls – they pick up their phones. I feel the need to do it as well and I try to fight it and use a super boring moment when I’m waiting in line in Walmart to train myself to be more patient.

Put your phone down or I’ll shoot you.

There’s also one part that stood out to me in the aforementioned article. Manson brings up a marketer from 1920s, named Edwards Barneys, who believed “that freedom for most people was both impossible and dangerous. (…) Societies needed order and hierarchy and authority, and freedom was antithetical to those things. He saw marketing as an incredible new tool that could give people the feeling of having freedom when, really, you’re just giving them a few more flavors of toothpaste to choose from.” And then he goes on to explain how in Western societies, the governments didn’t affect the people in such a direct way, but instead, private companies trying to sell us things took care of that (for more, check out the article or the book). And that got me thinking. Obviously, in China, we also have lots of companies trying to sell their merchandise and bombarding us with advertisements and creating demand. However, I think that in China there are generally speaking more distractions, there are omnipresent screens with public service advertisements/propaganda, constant announcements in the subway/bus/trains instead of silence, posters with 12 values of socialism, etc. etc. Of course, they have their political objective, but they’re also creating a lot of noise and distractions, and I think it’s really difficult to be mindful and focused here in China. And maybe that was the point.
Anyway. I think it’s necessary to think about freedom and if the choices we make add to it or take away from it, especially in the modern world filled with constant distractions. One more thing – obviously, social media, Netflix, etc. might all have good sides to them. It’s just that I think it’s necessary to remember that they are here to earn our money and for most of them, that, not helping us out, is the primary driver. And even though they might solve problems we had before, they also sometimes first create problems we didn’t even know we had, then solve those.

What else?

I’m still struggling to graduate. Even though we are supposed to get our graduation diplomas in like 9 days, we still have to correct and resubmit our theses again. There have been some issues with my thesis as well (just my luck) and I think that maybe, just maybe, they could’ve been avoided if my supervisor had read it.
However, the struggles of graduating from a Chinese university deserve a separate post.

Also, I have been trying to live in a more eco-friendly way. To be honest, in China there is a surprising number of cool things you can find (mostly online) to help you live in a more sustainable way. Like, taking a bottle everywhere you go is the norm here (because people want to drink hot water and it’s available for free everywhere), you can find natural cosmetics online (albeit sometimes quite pricey), buy compostable trash bags and find all the ingredients for homemade cleaning detergents (like a dishwashing liquid that I once made and was definitely a fail). So I want to reduce the negative impact I have on the environment and the amount of waste I produce, and I have been using soap nuts for the past two weeks instead of the usual washing powder. When I read online that those laundry nuts were actually related to lychee fruit, which is very common in China, I figured, maybe I could find laundry nuts as well?
And I did, I got them on Taobao, very cheap too – only around 10 yuan for 500g.
I’m still testing them, but after some time I’ll make sure to report on how well they work.nuts

Laundry nuts as I unpacked them.


Also, on a positive note, a big trash container allowing people to classify their trash into different types appeared on my street: container

Finally, I found a place to store all my university course materials after graduation.

The issue I also have is that even if I try to mostly organic waste as opposed to trash that cannot be recycled, I still have to throw it out to a normal trash bin. I mean, I don’t know any place in Nanjing where one could go to and leave their compostable trash. And even if there was a place like that, I wouldn’t risk storing the trash for a long time in my place, given that the building I live in is crawling with cockroaches (and huge ones, on top of that). I’ve never seen a cockroach inside of my apartment (well, maybe just a very small one? maybe it was a baby cockroach) but I’m super freaked out by them and honestly, I wouldn’t store organic waste for a long time just because I’m worried they’d be drawn to it. Maybe to store it in the freezer would be an option, but again – does a place like this exist in Nanjing? And if not, what happens to organic waste when dumped on a regular landfill? Like, even if trash was in a compostable bag, would it decompose among other trash? There are still a lot of things for me to research.

That’s all for today’s rant, I hope you can check the linked article out! Have a nice day!

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