Moral Deficiency and the Making of Chinese Indifference
The latest news where a 2-year-old girl got run over twice and ignored by 18 passers-by has triggered fierce condemnation from international society and again shed light on Chinese notorious state of mind of indifference. The following content is completely translated from a commentary section in ifeng for the purpose of spreading hot topics and opinions on Chinese Internet, and doesn’t represent the opinions and standpoint of the writer or the site.
Famous ancient Chinese doctor Xue Ji once said : first day your skin dies and numbs, the second your muscle dies and can’t feel anything even stabbed by needle. Nothing can stimulate a dead nervous system, nothing can touch indifferent mind. The disease of indifference is highly contagious, one to ten, ten to hundred and so on. But what is the cause of the infection, and why is it raging in nowadays China? The post translated from ifeng tries to approach the issue in the following 4 aspects.
Utilitarianism education takes away the instinct of watching out for peers
Not long ago an old man in Shenzhen Futian village fell and died on the street when he was taking a walk in his community, nobody dared to lend a helping hand for fear of the “Peng Yu Case” tragedy (Peng Yu got sued for pushing a granny down when he really was just helping her). In another case a woman from Hunan fell into water, struggled for a while but no one jump in her rescue, she drawn. There are so many more cases like this. Our education doesn’t foster the ability to love our kind, nor does it teach, encourage the act of helping others, even worse it punishes those who help.
Fudan University’s Huangshan scandal last year couldn’t explain more on the problem of education: Dec 12th last year, 18 students from Fudan Univresity were rescued when trapped in prohibited areas in Huangshan Mountain, policeman Zhang Ninghai fell off the cliff when giving way to one of the students. None of the rescued showed any sorrow over the death of the police, nor did they attended the memorial service held in Fudan University a month later. Instead they focused on how to capitalize on the opportunity of crisis management to become president of the university’s mountaineering club, moreover students on the campus BBS were busy discussing how to use Fudan alumni connections to control or manipulate media.
It seems that in current educational environment, we don’t get to learn the ability to save peers at the first place, then we lose the ability to get saved, occasionally we do get saved but we forget to be grateful, even when we are grateful we would be required to thank the country, not the helper as a human. Such education is scary. No wonder there is no such characters as Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean and Javert throughout Chinese literature history. The society affects literature, and literature affects students. Sooner or later, our education will turn everyone into wolf, sorry, that’s insulting, for wolf, cause wolf watch out for peers.
The transition to stranger society escalates the distrust between people
In traditional society, social relation mainly evolves on the base of consanguinity and territorial connections, it features acquaintance trust aka relation trust. As the country is transforming from traditional society to modern society, the power of urbanization along with industrialization has expanded people’s social circle and socializing frequency, thus people are dealing with more and more strangers, many of them may only see each other once and for all.
In traditional society, trust is mainly supported by relation plus individual qualities like integrity and reputation. However, in nowadays stranger society, relation can barely cover everything, and good individual qualities are no longer effective support. China is in the middle of rapid transition, the old trust mechanism is losing grip while the new one hasn’t been born, leaving a blank in social trust.
Moral practice loses to pros-and-cons
Those by-standers when removed the tag of indifference, are just ordinary civilians. They are not unfamiliar with the belief that nobody is alone and only by helping each other can collective thriving be possible. When they face such news, they would also curse and condemn the lack of the humanity. But once they are part of it, their roles naturally shift from judges to by-standers. Why?
Because of the risk in doing good deeds, you have to think before reaching out your hand – this is the public logic, blaming moral deficiency on the way of the world. People think that learning from the “Peng Yu case” where a good man got punished for saving people, who are still willing to take the risk? Sounds about right, but actually it is a pseudo-proposition. True morality should go beyond materialized consideration. The potential cost of moral practice is no excuse for being indifference.
Absence of religion results in the lack of awe for life
There is an article saying that China is one of few scary countries in the world that doesn’t have religion. It is this lack of religion that leads to overflowing of selfishness. There is no spiritual restriction, no consistent mental support, no consistent sense of morality and truth so everyone is acting on their own will with their own rationalism. But in western world there is the belief in gods that helps save people’s spirit from being destroyed by technological development.
Our old folks always said that you will have bad karma if you do something bad. For thousands of years, this is one pure belief that keeps Chinese self-discipline. But under the guidance of utilitarian world view in recent decades, our society has fallen into an extreme selfish social swirl where religion is absent, virtue is in anomie, trust is no where to find. This is one of the most severe social problems right under our nose.