At a meeting of designers
THE WORLD’S TOP designers flew into Hong Kong for a meeting. Your humble narrator arrived at the conference and immediately received a baffling piece of written information:
"You will not be available. Prof Martin Smith will take his place."
I stared at this, trying to make sense of it. Why was I not available? Why was Professor Smith taking my place?
Then it clicked. "You" is a common name in parts of China. The note was telling me that a person named You was not available.
At that moment, one of the organising staff breezed past and told me that You was here after all. I was going to reply "Yes I is" when I realised what she meant. Mr or Ms You had made it.
I turned back to the notes, which said: "He will be speaking first." I blinked at this. Who will be speaking first? Prof Smith? Or me? Or You? I crosschecked my notes with the conference schedule.
Mystery solved: the first speaker was a man named He. It wouldn’t open with You or Smith or me but He.
Lucky guy. I wish my name was He. What a cool name. It is impossible to write anything about a guy named He without making him seem like a god. I mean, read the following: "Upon arriving at the office, He ate a donut, He blessed his followers and He ascended unto heaven." See what I mean?
The conference started. The theme was design and education. Prof He Renke was interested in designs from traditional cultures, and told us about the Tongdao people of China, who are among the poorest people on earth, yet also the most law-abiding.
In other countries, poverty drives people to crime — but not the Tongdao.
"There has not been a single crime in 20 years," the Professor said.
I was amazed. I’ve lived in places where we can’t manage 20 minutes without a crime, and that’s just in the kindergartens. I get a constant stream of "dumb criminal" tales from readers.
Earlier that day, a reader sent me a news cutting about an incident in Lagos, Nigeria. "Police are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery," it said. Witnesses saw a pair of criminals trying to steal a Mazda 323 car. When confronted, "one ran away while the other turned into a goat". He apparently used black magic. Lagos police arrested the goat.
At the end of the day, one of the delegates asked whether I was enjoying the conference. The conversation went as follows.
ME: "He really made me think."
HIM: "Who did?"
ME: "He. You was good too."
ME: "Not you, You."
Is it just me, or does everyone’s conversations sometimes sound like Abbot and Costello screenplays?
I caught up with Professor He and told him I had enjoyed his talk. He said he did not know why the Tongdao people had no crime. But instead of teaching them, he found himself learning from them.
So there we have it. In unspoiled tracts of rural China, people have created a money-free, crime-free society. While out here in the modern world, we are arresting goats.
Life: there’s really nothing quite like it.
ONE OF THE GANGS was talking recently about the bottom of the sea being an interesting location for a hotel – and Fardel sent this photo in to show that such things are now under construction.
The bad news – it’s in Dubai. Oops.
That means it may never get finished.