butt-talk public administration

Yesterday, in the midst of a bout of competitive reminiscing about personal experiences with Party corruption, Western misperceptions of China, and general human idiocy, one of my friends emphasized how ridiculous the world was by saying, “That’s when I finally understood the phrase butts decide the topic (屁股确定话语).”

This was fun. My friend had been telling a story about post-earthquake reconstruction in Wenzhou. Apparently, all the funding, including international relief, had been directed to specific villages, leaving roads between villages nothing more than rubble. However, when word came down that a Canadian official was coming the next day on an inspection tour, suddenly local officials leapt into action, working together to repair the stretch of road between two villages in one night. She clapped her right and against her left palm, emphasizing the unfortunate reality of butt-talk public administration.

I glommed that butt-talk didn’t mean “talking out one’s ass”, which seems closer to the phrase, 胡扯. Pleasantly distracted from the larger issue of first hand experience with absurdity, I asked, “What does butts decide the topic mean?”

She explained, “Where you sit determines what you think is important. For example, those leaders just cared about keeping aid money coming. So they had to impress the inspection delegation. You sit in a leader’s chair, you have leader’s concerns.”

Everyone laughed because our butts were seated around a coffee table, gossiping.

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