Grandmother cops

Grandmother cops November 14, 2012

A reminder that  people can be kept in line (and tyranny enforced) not only by fear but also by niceness.

China’s authoritarianism has many faces, but rarely does it appear in the friendly, grandmotherly guise it has taken over the past week, as thousands of older women have shown up on the streets of the capital, their vigilant eyes eager to ferret out the smallest signs of trouble.

These graying, smiling, energetic women are the most visible sign of the 1.4 million volunteers enlisted to squelch protests, crimes and anything else that could embarrass the ruling Communist Party during its sensitive once-a-decade transition of leadership. . . .

the embodiment of the velvet-glove approach is the collection of older women who turned up last week eager to be sworn in as “Capital Public Security Volunteers.” In all, about 1.4 million security volunteers are at work in Beijing during the party congress, according to state-run media.

“Our duty is to guard our homes and streets and create a deterrent,” explained Zhang Liling, a 68-year-old woman with deep dimples, as she stood with a handful of other women to watch their street corner on the eastern side of Beijing.

After a morning spent with Zhang and others, it is hard not to acknowledge a particular ingenuity to the idea of harnessing the inherent nosiness among some members of this demographic.

Retired with time to spare, the women come to the job with an already highly developed penchant for gossip and zero hesitation about posing prying questions. Throw in free windbreakers and red arm bands that indicate their special status, and you’ve got an instant army of eyes and ears.

“I feel it’s my duty to take on this mission,” said a proud Bao Mianfeng, 62, a former teacher and party member. “No one forced me or any of us into this. It’s something we are happy to do.”

A successful party congress, Bao explained, means “a stronger and more prosperous country.” A stronger country means “one step closer to a well-off society.”

There is something fierce in how she says this, so full of conviction. But it is disorienting, too, hearing her warmth and sweetness in discussing the vital mission of blanket security.

via With a friendly face, China tightens security – The Washington Post.

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  • Pete

    So it turns out that it’s not Big Brother who’s watching, after all?

  • Pete

    So it turns out that it’s not Big Brother who’s watching, after all?

  • James Sarver

    Pete,

    It’s still Big Brother. He just sent his Mom ahead to scout.

    “Grandma, what big eyes you have!”

  • James Sarver

    Pete,

    It’s still Big Brother. He just sent his Mom ahead to scout.

    “Grandma, what big eyes you have!”

  • “Big Grandma is watching you.”

    “War is knitting
    Dentures are strength
    Ignorance is a bridge game”

  • “Big Grandma is watching you.”

    “War is knitting
    Dentures are strength
    Ignorance is a bridge game”

  • Dan Kempin

    I don’t see any humor in this. This is a horrifying story.

  • Dan Kempin

    I don’t see any humor in this. This is a horrifying story.

  • SKPeterson

    Many of these people were part of the cadres actively participating in the Cultural Revolution; busybody nosiness was a cultivated and encouraged activity within this group. Why is anyone surprised that they would continue to be so?

  • SKPeterson

    Many of these people were part of the cadres actively participating in the Cultural Revolution; busybody nosiness was a cultivated and encouraged activity within this group. Why is anyone surprised that they would continue to be so?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dan – this not just about Communism (although that term is not really the right one in the context of China – authoritarian is better). This also has a lot to do with Chinese culture, and the absolute requirement to save face and present a smooth appearance. Maybe someone here with more knowledge of the Chinese mindset could add something?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dan – this not just about Communism (although that term is not really the right one in the context of China – authoritarian is better). This also has a lot to do with Chinese culture, and the absolute requirement to save face and present a smooth appearance. Maybe someone here with more knowledge of the Chinese mindset could add something?

  • Dan Kempin

    This reminds me of the German Gestappo under the Nazis. I remember hearing (or reading–sorry, but I cannot document my source) that after all the dust had settled, they discovered that the Gestappo did not have a network of informants and agents. They simply acted on the information of people who voluntarily turned in their friends and neighbors. And family members.

    This story gives me the chills. Mobilizing and authorizing large numbers of people to “bust” their neighbor for any small infraction does not seem like velvet glove niceness to me. Brrr!

  • Dan Kempin

    This reminds me of the German Gestappo under the Nazis. I remember hearing (or reading–sorry, but I cannot document my source) that after all the dust had settled, they discovered that the Gestappo did not have a network of informants and agents. They simply acted on the information of people who voluntarily turned in their friends and neighbors. And family members.

    This story gives me the chills. Mobilizing and authorizing large numbers of people to “bust” their neighbor for any small infraction does not seem like velvet glove niceness to me. Brrr!

  • sg

    Women showing their true colors; power and status seeking.

    Modern women defend their office with all the fierceness of domesticity. They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm. That is why they do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it.

    G.K Chesterton, “The Emancipation of Domesticity,” Brave New Family

  • sg

    Women showing their true colors; power and status seeking.

    Modern women defend their office with all the fierceness of domesticity. They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm. That is why they do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it.

    G.K Chesterton, “The Emancipation of Domesticity,” Brave New Family

  • fjsteve

    On the other hand, maybe this is a sign of the end of the Communist Party in China? I mean, in the beginning, they target the pliable minds of the youth to overthrow the establishment. In the end, now that they are the establishment, they recruit those same youth, now well-advanced in age, to come to the party’s rescue again. Once Nie Nie and Lao Lao have passed on, will their self-absorbed, only-child grandchildren have the same sort of all-for-the-party loyalty.

  • fjsteve

    On the other hand, maybe this is a sign of the end of the Communist Party in China? I mean, in the beginning, they target the pliable minds of the youth to overthrow the establishment. In the end, now that they are the establishment, they recruit those same youth, now well-advanced in age, to come to the party’s rescue again. Once Nie Nie and Lao Lao have passed on, will their self-absorbed, only-child grandchildren have the same sort of all-for-the-party loyalty.

  • Dan Kempin (@7):

    This story gives me the chills. Mobilizing and authorizing large numbers of people to “bust” their neighbor for any small infraction does not seem like velvet glove niceness to me.

    Oh people, have we already forgotten about Operation TIPS? Yes, that’s right, we already tried something like this right here at home — and brought to you by a Republican President, no less!

    The Wikipedia article there also notes that this was not the first time in the US, either. There was a similar “spy on your neighbors” program in the 60s, run by the FBI.

  • Dan Kempin (@7):

    This story gives me the chills. Mobilizing and authorizing large numbers of people to “bust” their neighbor for any small infraction does not seem like velvet glove niceness to me.

    Oh people, have we already forgotten about Operation TIPS? Yes, that’s right, we already tried something like this right here at home — and brought to you by a Republican President, no less!

    The Wikipedia article there also notes that this was not the first time in the US, either. There was a similar “spy on your neighbors” program in the 60s, run by the FBI.

  • SKPeterson

    I report on all of you everyday even if I have to tell the truth.

  • SKPeterson

    I report on all of you everyday even if I have to tell the truth.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #10,

    True, Todd, and no less chilling.

    (Well, maybe a little less, I mean, the use of grandmothers is really creepy. Still, the principle is the same.)

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #10,

    True, Todd, and no less chilling.

    (Well, maybe a little less, I mean, the use of grandmothers is really creepy. Still, the principle is the same.)