July 28, 2013

Disappointment And A "Period"! -- My Battle With Confucianism Is About to End

Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother's meal
Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother's meal (Photo credit: Claremont Colleges Digital Library)
It has been frustrating. After I initiated two blogs and one facebook page for Su Li's Day (a day for remembering a girl who was tortured to death by her own mother, also for all child abuse victims in China), a netizen friend suggested that I should write a petition (a joint signed letter) to legislature in China, to appeal for actions in Chinese government to concern this issue, to establish a more executable law and some organizations for children's protection. I thought this was such a great idea. Though I knew this may not work out, I wrote a draft nonetheless, just to see how far this could go. However, after I posted the draft in the forum of CND (Chinese News Digest) and another Chinese popular website, asking for advices or suggestions, and support (by sending me their "signatures", basically just names), the responses were very disappointing. Only a few people responded, most of suggestions were neither geniune, nor relevant. And needless to mention some of them were scornfully discouraging. Even though dozens of people supported the idea before I made draft, only two people sent me their signatures after 3 days since I posted draft.

In 2011, some school activity: washing parents' feet. Serving 
parents (like "slaves") is the primary teaching of Confucianim. 
Personally, I do not believe China has much hope from within. If we want to see some progress in humanity in this society, some fundamental cultural ideology has to be changed, even eliminated, but very few Chinese people would agree on this view. Many people (include some none-Chinese) might see China appears to be very strong now, but please be aware, that the recently decade of soaring economy was promoted by international markets, together with all imported technologies. Under such glowing surface, the disparity of rich and poor, the degeneration of morality accelerated by the same speed of economy rising. And for solving moral problem, again, Chinese society turned to Confucianism, an ancient outdated yet lifeless ideology based on ancestor worship. This ideology was superficially "destroyed" by Mao, especially during Cultural Revolution, but after economy "prospered" during recent couple of decades, Confucianism not only did not weakened, but revived. I was saddened a few days ago when I heard that "24 Filial Piety Exemplars", a notorious traditional Chinese moral teaching text, virtually nothing more than a book of child abuse, again appears in some elementary schools' textbooks in China.

After being disappointed by all of these, I realized, that this open letter I drafted, which nonetheless will be read by some people, would be a "period" of my over ten years serious thinking about this subject - how the widely spread child abuse in China relates to Chinese tradition. As an individualist, I have no interest, nor energy to involve in any social activities, writing this petition letter was completely motivated by my own personal conscience. And I am fully aware of that this petition will be like a water drop in ocean, soon disappears without any trace of it. I am just fine with that, because I understand, when facing such a stubborn tradition, the real solution lies in collective effort. And if the society doesn't make any effort, or if the collective effort went to wrong direction, the solution would have to rely on some natural/historical mechanism, which doesn't always favor human-interest (if you know what I am talking about).

Yes, I am disappointed, but not personally unhappy, because my interest will move on, from this "Chinese problem", to some much more fascinating "human problems". (Oh boy, I am certainly not a problem solver, but a problem finder. :-))

*The illustration above is one of 24 Filial Piety Exemplars which tells a (adult) son lying down on icy surface of river, using his body temperature to thaw the ice, in order to get fishes for his mother to eat. So please don't be fooled by the beautiful art style, the content is sticky!

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  1. Barely a 100 years ago, Indian women were being pushed on their husband's funeral pyre in a custom called 'Sati'. The barbaric practice was rooted out by tireless efforts of eminent social reformers. It will indeed be a monstrosity, should the practice were to be restored. However, China clearly seems to be regressing to their Dark Ages.

    Your efforts are commendable and need of the time. Please don't stop.

  2. Ocean fills drop by drop. World stands on hope. When there is a will, there is a way. I only say Yun Yi “Don’t give up, keep going.” Rabindranath Tagore said “when no one is following, walk alone.”

  3. Yun Yi, I applaud your efforts to raise awareness about child abuse and expose the oppressive nature of filial piety. It's amazing that an entire culture readily buys into that ideology. I hope your letter will prompt some folks to think for themselves.

  4. yunyi, I've come to the conclusion that the only solution for free spirits is to live their own lives and not waste their time or energy trying to change or reform the world. Perhaps their example will serve as an example to others, and perhaps not. But there's really not much one can do to overturn traditions and values which are so deeply ingrained in a society or culture. As you said it usually takes some form of collective effort, and even then, in the long run, the results are dubious at best.

  5. @Uma, thanks! I know about "Sati" and glad it was rooted out! Child abuse in China seems more "latent" "evil" than "Sati", it has been "practicing" in so many different forms. Anyway you are right, it takes time.

    @Ravish Mani, thanks! I''ll try.

    @Kris, thanks! I too hope this letter will help someone, more or less.

    @Marty, in some other cultures or different period in history, I would insist that reformation is important and can do its job, however, in condition like current China, I do agree with you, that individuals with free spirits better appreciate their own lives by live their own precious lives!

  6. Yun Yi, this is a common thing in society. Everyone will support you at first but when reality kicks in and it's time for action, you'll find that not many people have your back. The amount of causes I have supported over the years only to find that I'm the one knocking the doors, I'm the one chasing people, I'm the one doing all the letter writing, all the phones, all the emails. I've learned harsh lessons that way.

    Nowadays, I make sure that the fight is mine, and I fight for things that affect me. I do my best to make a good stand. If people want to join in then that's fine, but I don't take on other people's fight like I use to. It will drive you mad. When people feel truly oppressed and have had enough, mark my words, they will get up and fight. If not, they will die where they eat.

    You did well to stand for what you believe was right. Don't give up Yun Yi.

  7. RPD, you are right! I should take this fight "personally". I will carry on. Thanks for your understanding!

  8. I admire your courage! My heart breaks anytime I see a child being abused, either on the news, the internet or when it happens near me! So what do I do? I scroll faster, change the channel and change the conversation. It's just unbearable to me and sometimes I feel so hopeless... Again, you are truly courageous, my respects and admiration to you!

  9. @Glenda Pagan,
    Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! Truly appreciate it.