July 2, 2012
|Crisis: Liu Binyan on being human|
This is both a sequel to yesterday's Crisis: US Healthcare, Chinese changes, North-Korean horror and identifies a fundamental human problem, also addressed in my
On a fundamental problem in ethics and morals
and by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, during the so-called Age of Reason:
Man was made to mourn: A Dirge
Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!
I am using a Dutch Nederlog that dates back to 2005 (*): Liu Binyan, from which I translate two passages from the Dutch translation of Liu Binyan's (<- Wikipedia) 'A higher kind of loyalty'), since I like these passages because they explain a lot, and not just about the Chinese, but about human beings in general, especially if they are ordinary men, or have been forced to behave like ordinary men by state terrorism.
The following refers also to Liu Binyan's (<- Wikipedia) personal history, that is a very brave one, that you also find summarized in his obituary in the New York Times, from which I quote these two paragraphs:
Few intellectuals in modern China were so daring or so persistent as Mr. Liu in publicly attacking and exposing corruption in the party's ranks. And what was perhaps most remarkable about his career is that he did it as something of an insider, as a party member and a writer for official party publications in a country that has a history of very little public dissent.
But for that he paid a heavy price. He was expelled from the party and denounced as a "rightist" in the 1950's, sent to forced labor camps, then labeled a "class enemy," rehabilitated, then denounced, re-expelled from the party and eventually exiled permanently from the country.
Here he is in my translation from the Dutch (not being able to read Chinese, and never having seen the English translation, this is the best I can do now):
"Thirty two years earlier, I had been searching a special kind of human being, humans who saw the world with their heart and through their own eyes and who did not follow the herd, humans who used their own brains, who stood up against injustices rather than only save their own skin. I had been searching everywhere and had asked young journalists to look for them, but we didn't have much success. And during the past twenty years, human beings with such characteristics had been called 'enemies of the people'. Subservience and slavishness became national virtues that were encouraged by the system. (p. 217)
Part of what motivated Liu Binyan was that he had been forced to more than twenty years of discrimination and forced labor camps, namely because he had written articles, as a well-known Chinese journalist, about man's inhumanity to man under the rule of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, and then again under Deng.
I quote from Liu's obituary in The Guardian to show what problems he ran into:
The fearless and outspoken Chinese journalist Liu Binyan, who has died aged 80, had the distinction of being twice named by a senior Chinese leader for daring to speak out. In 1957, he was condemned as a "rightist" by Mao Zedong, and was unable to work for the next 22 years. In 1987, he was singled out by Deng Xiaoping for "advocating bourgeois liberalism", and expelled from the Communist party.
Here is another bit translated from the Dutch version of 'A higher kind of loyalty':
"China was like a monstrous millstone, that kept milling on and on and crushed any trace of individuality in the Chinese character. Every word you spoke, every aspect of your life had to satisfy the norm. (...) you were never allowed to offend someone, not even those who had to be addressed in clear language. (..)
In fact, hypocrisy was made into a virtue. Between superiors and subordinates and in relations with people of one's own level, there reigned a superficial attitude of camaraderie, while behind one's backs intrigues went on. Also, some showed their teeth once they had acquired power.
Even so, the great majority of the people did not consist of political careerists or intriguers, the majority sunk back in being average. Individuality was repressed, conscience was smothered, and human beings followed the rule: 'Safe rather than special'.
After a while a part of the Chinese population turned into a stereotype with a grin on the face, standard slogans on the lips, and a neutral attitude regarding issues they were responsible for. They did their daily work according to a fixed pattern, chose their words carefully and did the best they could to ascertain their own political safety.
Thus being average became a virtue, and incompetence could lead to promotion. If one saw how one group of young, courageous and just human beings after another were destroyed by various campagnes, one couldn't blame others for sacrificing their identities to save their skins?
But one certainly couldn't admire them. They had lost the characteristics of real human beings. They had taught themselves not to get angry about injustice, not to be moved by suffering, not to get upset by a crisis, not to see that their country was in danger, and not to bear responsibility. In short, they had learned not feel bothered by anything but their own position, while maintaining a pure and blameless conscience. (p. 222)
I have treated the subject of man's inhumanity to man repeatedly in Nederlog and elsewhere on my site: In fact, this tendency and the lack of intelligence - especially, but not only - and egoism this is based on together form the basic human problem:
In fact, much of my site is about the consequences of the problem, also for me: ME in Amsterdam. There you also find two files on the subject by psychologists (with Dutch intros but English quotes), to which I added the Wikipedia entries about the authors and their best known works:
People or monsters (<- Wikipedia <<)
I quote from the last linked file (leaving out the notes, that you can find by way of the above link):
A major theme of People or Monsters is the root origins that lie beneath the corruption described. Liu devotes a section to detailing "The Interchange System," and calls it the "root of the matter." In his memoir, he said that the story describes a local "planned economy" that was "in practice, nothing but a continuous flow of public resources in tho the private pockets of the power-holders" and a "network of relationships, that reciprocal exchange of power and cash."
Liu also explores the nature of party affiliation in People or Monsters. Liu was deeply troubled by the fact that all the guilty people were members of the reigning Chinese Communist Party.
Moreover, he raised the touchy subject of whether a "party" of one's
personal cronies is actually the operative institution in China.
Another important theme in People or Monsters is the mood of the nation. He describes "Weakening of the Backbone" as the affliction of the times, and in one of his memoirs he wrote of the spiritual malaise he saw Chinese society suffering from.
The treatment of characters in People or Monsters has the effect of reminding readers of people they know. "What was powerful about Liu's piece was it universality: everyone in China knew people like Wang Shouxin, and it made everyone think of all those who had not been brought to justice."
A major concern of the author was who, in fact, will be lone person to speak out when it is needed (particularly in the face of harsh intimidation). He ironically refers to the villain as "A Heroine for Our Time," but in really hails "Nobodies who Became Somebodies," focussing on two stubborn whistleblowers.
Overall, the style of People or Monsters relies heavily on irony, stressing the many cases in which "the world is turned upside down"and "good people are at the bottom and bad people are on top."
And this is so not only in China! See my A realistic numerical look at human morality for just that: Indeed the bad outnumber the good, and the stupid the intelligent, ever since the beginning of human history.crisis
(*) And am not feeling too well, after a night of very little sleep.
(**) In fact, as can be read in Resisting Authority: A Personal Account of the Milgram Obedience Experiments by Joseph Dimow it says:
Stanley Milgram's biographer, Dr. Thomas Blass, writes that Milgram's interest in the study of obedience ... emerged out of a continuing identification with the suffering of fellow Jews at the hands of the Nazis and an attempt to fathom how the Holocaust could have happened.
On that last question, some more light is shed by
The Stanford Prison Experiment
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understa, but nds ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
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