Where’s China?

pushpin001I’ve gotta smile every time I watch that commercial where an employee is asked to put a pushpin in China on a world map and, after pointing at Greenland and other not-even-close countries, the guy accidentally-on purpose trips, grabbing and tearing the map as he falls. There goes China, wherever it is.

The sad fact of the matter is, that phenomenal geographic ignorance is not so far from wrong. And although I hope Morgan is never in a suit, in an office, in a meeting being asked to put a pushpin in China, I do want him to know where it is. Why?

Well, if you asked M what he knows about China, with some prompting, he’ll probably tell you about Macro Polo traveled there before Columbus didn’t discover America. And he might show you the paper “scratch-&-sniff” Chinese spice rack that he made when we were studying how trade brings new ideas.

But he won’t remember that Polo was born in Venice in 1254. Or the emperor of China, Kublai Khan. Or that the Chinese had invented a way to print paper. But he will remember they invented gunpowder and that China was a pretty happening place compared to damp old Europe.

And that’s about all I can ask for. Dates he can look up. Concepts he needs to figure out.

We play the “Where do you think this was made” game when we buy stuff. M reads the manufacturer’s labels and discovers a lot of that stuff comes from China. Including our frozen organic corn! International trade continues 700 years later.

“Is that always a good thing?” I ask.

I dunno. Ask the ”Look for the union label when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse” ladies. Or GM assembly line workers. Or the Susquahannock Indians, if there were any of them left.

But we like our clothes cheap and our corn organic. So what’s an American consumer living in a global economy to do?

Maybe Marco Polo could have lived out his life merrily paddling around Venice, never knowing the wonders of the Orient. And maybe M can live out his life equally content, never able to find China or Japan or Korea or Vietnam or even Europe on the map.

But somehow, I suspect, both lives would be a lot less spicy.

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