April 30, 2010

Materialism, is communism the one to blame?

The Chinese Dragon, Fu dog and incense compris...Image via Wikipedia

We might have an impression that Chinese people somehow seem to be more materialist than people from other countries. I myself is (still) a Chinese, but I don't deny this fact. It does match my own observation.

However, if people think this materialism has something to do with communism (as I often heard from media, especially conservatives’ propaganda), I would disagree. I believe lots of Chinese people's "passion" for money has nothing (or little) to do with communism, but EVERYTHING (or mostly) to do with Chinese cultural tradition.

Here is what I think. Two of most influential Chinese classical philosophies - Confucianism and Taoism, which dominated Chinese ideology for over 2 thousands years (maybe 3 thousands. Taoism's origin could be much earlier than Lao Zhi's life - the author of Tao De Jing) - both focused on practical issues: Taoism is about individual happiness and Confucianism is about social stability. There is no concept of "God", "divinity" (Monotheism) and "pursuing truth" (science) in Chinese culture. Even later on China had Buddhism come from India, it still focused on personal happiness and quickly made it merged with Taoism and developed some Chinese style Buddist sects, such as Zen.

Certainly both Taoism and Confucianism did not teach people to be greedy, but one important thing that both of these ideas contain is: there is no need to question or looking for anything other than the issues about practical life.

Taoism can be taken in a very positive way, such as obeying our nature, making harmony with our life, but I believe only minority people through Chinese history took it this way (mostly artists and poets), most Chinese people understand Taoism simply as a somatic regimen - they over care about their physical life form, even in a selfish way.

That's why when China opened the door to the world during 80s of last century (I believe that was the second time. The first time was 1980, opium war, China's door was "kicked" open. ), these ancient ideas just could not wait to embrace capitalism, made many people's materialism which had been half covered by traditional morality finally "unleashed".

This is why even though China is under communist government, it could still make such a seemingly "anti-communist" economic system – capitalist markets. And making money to be rich is almost the only life goal to many Chinese people.

About Communism, not only it did not encourage materialism, but also it encouraged a "puritanical" life style. During 50s, China experienced a very anti-materialism social movement - almost everyone lived in very poor material condition but zealous mental enthusiasm (similar middle age Europe) . Of course, needless to mention, it did more harm than good. Chinese people lived in very poor condition until 1980s.

So again, by my opinion, it (materialism) is not communism's fault. It is some seemingly charming cultural heritage's fault. Or, even deeper than that: the nature of greed, which exists in all human being.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

April 28, 2010

"fit in", bully, and culture revolution

English: Chinese poster with Marx, Engels, Len...Image via Wikipedia

I come to this country for individualism. It’s been almost 15 years. Now, I have to say, yes, there is much more room for individualists than in China, but, still not as much as I expected, especially now in teenagers' groups.

Parents in this country worry so much more about kids' "fit in" than kids' interest or curiosity about knowledge and skills. And the tragedies of young kids' being hurt are getting serious (even bully to death). It’s terrible! I have to say, those bullies remind me Red Guards during Cultural Revolution in China.

It seems to me, that both capitalism and communism do not guarantee the good nature of human, and both of them do not bring evil spirit to human either. What really produces man-made disasters from time to time, I believe is the fear of being alone. That's what Eric Fromm pointed out in his book "escape from freedom" longtime ago. He thought that most people didn't know how to enjoy freedom, didn't know how to be responsible to their freedom, instead, they escaped from it, because freedom brought them loneliness. And to avoid loneliness, people could do anything, even killing, because as long as they did in group actions, they would feel “happiness” of feeling “belong”.
I am more and more convinced that Eric Fromm told some universal truth here. And collectivism is always dangerous, no matter it is from communism, or capitalism.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

April 18, 2010

Bullied to death --- a social problem?

Just learned that a 15 year-old Phoebe Prince was bullied to death. Sad!
I have been thinking why there are so many teen crimes and bullies happen in this country and started to believe that there must be serious problems in the way how parents raise their kids.
I come from China, where I believe raising kids has been a historical and cultural problem. It is by living in this country (America) that I learned what is exactly wrong with the way Chinese raise their kids. However, the recent generations of Americans seems to be more selfish and self centered than I expected and I started to doubt the way American parents raise their kids - which I used to adore - has some problem: too much attention been put onto kids so kids don't even know they should respect others.