2007-06-14 / Sam Bari

And you think we have problems

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

Far be it from me to criticize other countries for their shortcomings. How can I do so in good conscience when I make a living questioning a system that I believe was designed to not be understood? However, this story is beyond comprehension.

It all started with our crack research team, the Googlamaniacs, working overtime and taking virtual nanoseconds out of their cherished lunch hours to find something weird for me to write about. Well . . . let me tell you, they hit the mother lode. When it came down to crunch time, the team came through with the weirdest of the weird. This actually happened in a country that is the supposed up-and-comer of the industrialized world. I'm talking about China, in their capital city of Beijing.

According to Reuters, a highly respected worldwide news service, this is the actual headline as found in a Chinese newspaper: "Two Held After Bridge Built by Blind Man Falls."

The article went on to say that according to the official Xinhua news agency, a Chinese court jailed two officials after they let a blind contractor build a bridge that collapsed during construction and injured 12 people.

Apparently, Huang Wenge, township head of Bujia in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, and colleague Xia Jianzhong were sentenced to 18 months and one year in jail, respectively, for not stopping the project. The court ruling charged Huang Wenge and Xia Jianzhong, who were in charge of road management and supervision, with "not asking the contractors to provide certificates guaranteeing their proficiency."

"When they knew the bridge was being built by a blind contractor, they did not stop it," the court declared, adding the contractor had changed the blueprint without getting a professional to look at the design.

The Xinhua news agency did not explain how the contractor was able to run the project considering his inability to see.

Well duhhhhh . . . seems like a no-brainer, wouldn't you say? However, before we start criticizing someone else's system that isn't so easily understood, let's take a look at how the same case might fare right here on home soil.

I'm certainly not an attorney, but I believe that one of the first things an American lawyer would question is the wording of the law. Did the law require the contractor to pass a vision test? I seriously doubt that "the contractor must have the ability to see" was clearly stated in the writing of the legislation concerning building contractors. Maybe it's a standard item in China, but I've also never heard of a "certificate guaranteeing proficiency" in any kind of contractual arrangement.

Undoubtedly, the responsible parties engaging the contractor asked for references and evidence of other jobs that the contractor completed. But nowhere were they required to ask if the contractor could see. Perhaps the contractor was only recently blinded due to an accident or unforeseen illness. For all we know, he had only been blind for a month. The length of time he had been blind was never established according to the newspaper report.

As weird as it sounds, the news report could be a result of incomplete information. Nevertheless, let us say the incident happened exactly as reported. It is really not any weirder than incidents that have occurred in this country that have completely baffled the courts.

For instance, in the State of Florida not too long ago, police stopped a motorist for weaving and driving erratically. He failed a field sobriety test. However, a Breathalyzer test did not measure any evidence of alcohol consumption. As surprising as it may be, the accused had a perfectly legitimate reason for failing the field test. He was 94 years old and too feeble to stand on one foot without falling over. He also couldn't close his eyes, tilt his head back and touch his nose with his forefinger without getting dizzy.

Was he drunk? No. Was he impaired in any way? That is questionable according to the way the laws were written. The case was tied up in court for so long that the man died of old age before a decision could be made.

In another case, a motorist was stopped by a police officer, again, for driving erratically. The officer asked the woman to step out of her vehicle and the woman used a cane for the blind to walk with the officer to the back of her car. She was totally blind in one eye, and had seriously impaired vision in the other. Yet, she had a legitimate driver's license. In the state where the incident happened, drivers were allowed to renew their license by mail, and a vision test was not required.

The aforementioned scenarios all prove that we are not alone. People around the globe live in systems they can't understand.

Return to top