Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cause and Effect

I've been keeping half an ear on the news from China about rampages in schools. This is the latest article - As School Knifings Continue, China Does Some Soul Searching.

The natural horror one feels at attacks on children is just. It is pretty much in the top three of worst things you could do. But given China's "One Child" policy, these attacks must be devastating on an entirely deeper level as well.

The article blames China's terrible mental health services combined with China's terrible legal system which triggers these attacks. The schools are "soft targets" and these mentally ill men with unresolved legal grievances attack them.

Which is a reasonable interpretation except when similar situations happen in the US, the target is usually the source of the grievance. The employer, the place of business, the US post office, etc. Very, very rarely is it a school. Indeed, US school rampages are more likely to have be effected by students and not grown men with no connection to the school.

My point is that blaming mental illness is fine. Blaming unresolved legal conflicts are fine. But this dodges the real concern, China's "One Child" policy.

The article states:
Part of the reason schools have been attacked is that they make easy targets for a deranged assailant hoping to inflict as much harm as possible. "They hope that people will pay attention to their misfortunes when they bring about pain and horror in society," says Ma. In China, where private firearms are banned, attackers are limited to using simpler weapons like knives. That helps explain the grim logic to why the recent attacks were aimed at schools. They are a soft target, where an assailant armed only with a knife can still inflict great harm. "It's the most effective way to achieve popular shock," says Ding.
What greater way to inflect harm on society than to attack its women and children? And in a society where women can only have one child, and/or are forcibly sterilized after the birth of their one child, how much greater is that harm?

While these attacks do not appreciably diminish the child population of China, I do believe they are a symptom of of China's weaknesses. Without just law, without decent services, and with draconian population controls, China's foundation has deep and profound cracks.

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