On Observing Others Compete

On Observing Others Compete

Recently I was able to participate in the regional VTCCTV English
Speech competition. Not falling in the range of elementary to
university ages, instead I was asked to sit on a panel of judges. Here
are some of the brain waves that resulted…

•No Speaking English
While I was inking numbers down on each group's score sheet, I was
struck by how little was actually requires of me. At no point during
the several hour ordeal was I asked to speak or even remotely
demonstrate my ability to stutter out a few malformed phrases in the
language most familiar to me. To complement these thoughts, I imagined
any ol' person sitting there, regardless of their actual capabilities,
fulfilling the same end effect, as long as they were able to write
numbers in the range from zero to one hundred. Even with negligible
qualifications, this imaginary person would certainly enjoy it no
less.

•Judging Like You Mean It
While the spirit and integrity of the competition was intact
throughout the whole event, I did have the smallest of suspicions that
the judges, well circulated in the local English speaking sphere of
influence, already had a few favorites in mind before the event had
started. Banter among the judges and inter-judge consultation followed
by enthusiastic agreement beckoned me to ponder what hope had the
underdog or unknown in this circumstance.

•Pax Americana
Frightening it was to see the low-grade popular cultural exports
regurgitated by young Chinese who have no clue what a 'disco stick'
might be referring to. Like small particles of nuclear radiation they
are slowly being absorbed; the accumulated effects will be as
devastating long term though perceptibly negligible in the beginning.
Perhaps that's the intention of American propaganda- exporting a time
bomb of trash-value culture in the guise of treasure. I mean why
export positive, productive cultural gems lest the competition get
ahead, right?

•Atheist Sister Act
One youth's performance was a reenactment of Whoopi Goldberg. While
her skin tone was a few shades lighter than the original, the nun
outfit costume made up for any shortcomings. Like previous
performances, the songs message may have been sent, and may have even
fallen, on deaf ears. While there are streams of religious declaration
in China, they seem far and few between. My best hypothesis is that
this is an example of accidental cultural mutation.

•Quoting an Alaskan
As if my eyes and ears hadn't seen and heard enough, a competitor had
decided that the judges needed to hear an even worse rendition of one
of Sarah Palin's speeches. I cringed at the brainless sheeplike
bellows of MLK's I have a dream speech, if only because it's played
without mental application to the situation here in China. I cringe at
the repetitions of Obama's now cliche 'Yes we can!'. And if my face
scrunched up just a bit more, seemed a bit more perturbed than usual-
can you blame me? The thought of someone actually wanting to emulate
her and her words sends shivers down my spine…!

•When Monologues Are Just No Fun
The final item on my list made the list out of sheer astonishment.
During individual performances competitors had to display their
English speaking abilities, a good percentage of them being dialogues
between, yes, one performer. These performances came so natural that I
almost fantasize these competitors have split personalities off the
stage too. It leads me to wonder about the psychological health of
these youthful, people.

And to conclude a poem about my experiences:

In our humblest human nature,
We all strive to eat, drink and sleep.
Only in the warped mirror of culture
Do we find our differences run deep.

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