Security Theater

China seems to love being a safe country. There is something to this; I am fairly sure that I will never live in a country that is safer. At least, safer in terms of physical violence; the poor hygiene among the population leaves me convinced of a coming cholera epidemic, the air tastes of cancer, the food will finally make you understand what the 1980’s game Oregon Trail meant by you have died of dysentery, Donald Trump may force the government to put all US citizens in an internment camp, an indifferent driver may text as he plows you over at a cross walk, and the sexual education here is so poor that every tryst is a Bergman-esque chess game with the shadowy reaper. So in terms of other dangerous this country is rife with peril, but I have yet to find a neighborhood to walk around in that made me uncomfortable or concerned. You hear the occasional story of people getting hit with bricks by the masked men lurking just out of the ATM, but that always happens out in the countryside.

China is a safe country. We can tell this because their are security officers everywhere.

If you think the American TSA is bad, hop on over to China, where every metro station has a great number of guards. I am not sure what they are guarding against, but they are there for the safety of everyone involved. Part of me suspects that it is just some kind of New Deal-esque employment scheme cooked up by the government. I fostered this suspicion when I noticed that the guards at the metro seemed particularly checked out. But if that were the limit to the incompetence, maybe I could rest assured. Often when you get into the metro in a major city like shanghai you are greeted with two guards holding those metal detecting wands. I personally stopped taking them seriously when I noticed that the bright orange light indicating that it is on was not working on most of the wands. On a few glorious occasions the guard working simply forgot their wand at home, and either tried to scan my bag with an open hand or with a rolled up newspaper. These guards were clearly not terribly educated.

After this tier of security you get to two more guards by an x-ray machine. You are requested to take your bag off and have it scanned. Requested is the operative word here; its not like when you are requested by the police in America to do something. Here it is very much optional, as I learned from a friend who would simply plow right through them without a second thought. They did nothing to stop her, which at first I thought had something to do with the fact that she was a foreigner. Upon further observation, I noticed a god number of people who would simply plow right through. The guards present would do nothing more than hold up a limp arm to try to block them. They didn’t seem to care enough to move from their post. I still do remove my bag to have it scanned. I feel like maybe I will teach someone something about how polite society works. You follow rules, even when they are rules for the sake of rules.

Who am I kidding. I hate that shit.

You see this at train stations too. In the US it is a constant shock to me just how little security their is in train stations. Here, you get the full treatment when you get to the boarding area. First, you have to walk through one of those metal detectors things we all know and love from the airports. Normally those things go off simply because you look like you may have some metal somewhere in your ancestry. Not here. I often travel with my keys, many coins, and my phone in my pocket and I have not once managed to set it off. I don’t think they actually work. I have no proof of course, short of the bomb that went off at the Shanghai train station a week before the G20, but that is a different story. Well, after the metal detector that likely isn’t even plugged in, yo encounter those said same kind security guards from the metro station, who are ready to pass their metal detecting wands over you. But of course, the wands pick up nothing. But this is a train station, and thus the guards are much more thorough and give you a loving pat down before sending you on your way. It isn’t over yet, because of course there is the third tier of security too. There is the ever important x-ray machine, helmed by a diligent guard busily staring off into the distance and neglecting whatever it is that the machine should have picked up.

China is a safe country, all jokes aside. But it is not because of their security. Maybe, it is because of their theater.

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