“Poverty,” Yang sighs, “is the great undoing of democracy. When people are poor and struggling to simply put food on the table and a roof over the heads of their loved ones, then all of your high-minded western ideals about ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ mean nothing.” You have all grown up in the west. And most of you have never personally faced the scourge of starvation up close, first-hand.” Yang pauses. “I have.”
Well, on this count, the Chinese man, from whom I’m getting increasingly serious Mussolini vibes, is right. Back in the States, I grew up in the Midwest, went to school and worked in the Northeast, and never once in my life ever even entertained the prospect of not having enough to eat. Sure, my folks were seldom at home growing up but there was always a Hungry Man in the freezer that I could pop into the microwave to nuke (3 minutes and 45 seconds for the Salisbury Steak) that instantly gave me dinner. Such was the beauty and victorious success of the United States. America had waged war on poverty and kicked its ass.
But Yang has a point. Hungry Man had not disseminated as successfully to the rest of the world. In fact, most of the rest of the world didn’t even own microwaves. Or refrigerators. It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to know that the majority of the world population outside the States lived on less than two American dollars a day.
“So for that simple reason,” Yang finishes, “democracy will never succeed in China. At least not now. Our tech, finance, and manufacturing billionaires and trillionaires would just paradrop rice and free televisions to the masses in return for their votes. Is that the world you want? A country run by the richest and most powerful?”
Katherine frowns. “Well, how exactly, pray tell, do you describe what you have now?” she asks. “With the Xi regime?”
“Well, to be sure,” Yang says, “Xi hasn’t always been the paragon of good leadership. But he’s undoubtedly better than whatever we would’ve had in his absence in a democracy– that is to say, the uneducated mob.“
The skinny black guy is quiet, though it’s unclear to me if he’s been convinced. Personally, I suspect he’s not. In my experience, when people grow quiet, it usually means that they’re unswayed and that they’re often just processing. They’re racking their brains to see what anecdote or Snapple factoid that they can cherry-pick in order to formulate a rebuttal that’ll succeed in a public forum. Succeed, in the sense, of convincing the rest of us that they’re right. That’s all most people care about these days when exchanging ideas with strangers: Being right.
Yang turns to Katherine to finally answer her question, a question we all had on our minds. She’d just been the first to put it into words.