Monday, 23 May 2011

Who Holds the Power?

Last night the power went off at midnight. Which is nothing to get too upset about, except that no-one knew anything about it. Televisions and clocks reset, computers ran out of power, electrical appliances went uncharged, and freezers leaked all over the floor. About two minutes after it happened I angrily stormed down stairs to find out what was going on.
The security guard was sitting there, reading under candlelight. I asked if this was unexpected. He said that he knew it was going to happen due to engineering works. His supervisors had told him. It just so happened that him and his colleagues had not bothered to tell anyone else. Whether out of laziness, unwillingness to enter into conflict and anger, or orders from above; we were left, well, in the dark.
And what a marked difference this is from the UK, where a letter is sent out months in advance of any power cut (in fact this is a legal requirement). British Method: Warn before, deal with the consequences and complaints, then cut the power. Chinese method: Give no warning, cut the power, then shrug off the consequences and complaints saying that what's done is done and there is no going back.
Still, there were rare advantages. It was incredible to see all the student accommodation plunged into blackness; but even better still was to hear all the student accommodation plunged into silence. No televisions, no microwaves, no air conditioning, no speakers, no computers. Just the gentle brushing of the wind across the trees and through my window.

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