My wife and I found ourselves stuck in traffic in the southeast expressway
tunnel- a familiar scenario. And I thought of a song by Peggy Lee called “Is That All There Is?” Yes, the Zaikin
Bridge looks nice when lit up at night, but the Big Dig was waste of
time and money. Radio talkmeister Jerry Williams warned about it in the late 1980’s. Today it stands as a monument to
kickbacks and corporate welfare, a grotesque 15 billion dollar reminder of Boston’s
substandard public transportation system.
Have you been
on the T lately? A uniquely unpleasant experience indeed. They should rename it “the Four D’s” – depressing,
dirty, disgusting and dangerous. Not to mention overcrowded and obsolete.
I n China last
month, I rode on a magnetic levitation train which takes passengers from downtown Shanghai to the airport, a distance of about
25 miles in 7 minutes. It’s cheap and clean. It goes 300 miles an hour and the ride is so smooth that seat belts are
not needed. And I thought what if, instead of the preposterous Big Dig, we had invested in a system of maglev trains? Imagine
getting from the Merrimack Valley to Boston in seven minutes. Or New
York in 45 minutes. Or Montreal in
heavy traffic. Everybody hates pollution. But so far the government’s answer to gridlock is widening roads, which only
encourages people to move further away from the cities and create even more gridlock. People say a train like that would be
a great idea, maybe someday there’ll be one. In Shanghai,
to their credit, they said, “Let’s build one.” Final cost was 1.2 billion dollars.
Much has been
made China’s “One Child Policy.”
Urban planners and social engineers here like to point to China
as an example of how developing countries can control their populations. But the policy should be renamed “Forced Abortion Policy.” Let’s say a married
couple has a child and the wife gets pregnant again. How does the couple “bump up” against the system?
A Chinese tour
guide explained to it me. Every neighborhood has a “Neighborhood Committee” composed of people, mostly pensioners,
who have nothing better to do that ingratiate themselves with authorities. And so if a mother appears a few months pregnant,
a neighborhood committee member reports it. The police then pay her a visit, just to verify that she has made arrangements
for the abortion. If the couple refuses, the child can neither go to school nor get a social security card.
is no safety net for elders, the Chinese want children so that somebody will take care of them in their old age, which means
they want boys, not girls. Girls tend to be either aborted, or put up for adoption to foreigners, which produces yet another
problem. Now there are too many young men arriving in the cities. They want wives,
but there are no women for them, and this means trouble. Drug addiction and crime are getting started in the big cities.
This is the
dark shadowy side of China, of course.
And while every country has a shadow side including ours, there is much of value too. Their everyday life is characterized
by cheerfulness, safe streets, a strong work ethic, reverence for nature, and respect for elders.
said, “Let China sleep, for when
she awakens she will rule the world.” I hope he was wrong.