Madayiwei: Tiananmen, Patriotism and Brainwashing in Chinese Education

Blogger Madayiwei (马大一为) wrote an essay about Tiananmen Square, early education and brainwashing, excerpts translated by CDT:

A British man came to China as a tourist. He wrote an interesting essay when he came back. Here are some excerpts:

…When I started to gain a little understanding of China’s situation, I was really shocked.

At the beginning, I thought it was interesting. When I sat on a bicycle rickshaw to go around the Forbidden City, without my asking, the rickshaw driver started to introduce to me everything we saw non-stop. He said: “These are all our pride.” When we passed the Tiananmen Gate, he said again that Tiananmen is so special to them. They all love Tiananmen. When we saw the portrait of Mao, he again told me how much they love Chairman Mao. He also pointed out to me Mao’s mausoleum, and told me that the person lying inside is such a great man.

Of course, occasionally I also can hear people say that Chairman Mao is not who they most loved. Because Mao was “concealed by bad people,” he therefore made some mistakes. But they do not hate Chairman Mao, because “Mao Zedong Thought” was not one of Mao’s mistakes.

They say: “Over all, Chairman Mao is always great and right. Therefore we always love him. They also say that, “Whom we most hated is the Gang of Four.” I listened to them. Later on, I asked a Chinese friend who the Gang of Four was, he laughed and told me that “the Gang of Four were the four people who helped Mao to do bad things.”

This really confused me. In order to clarify my confusion, I went around the Forbidden City for many days. Everyday I heard those rickshaw drivers talking. What’s interesting is that each of them used similar introductions. Their view about things was also pretty much the same. What most surprised me is that, for each story, the emotions they expressed were also about the same.

And I discovered a common characteristic: When they express their opinion about something, they do not say what “I” think, they always say what “we” think. As if each one of them can represent everybody. This really shocked me.

I told my discovery to my Chinese friend. He laughed again. He told me, what you have seen is all superficial, because you are a foreigner. I asked: What’s the real situation then? He thought about it, then said: Let me try something tomorrow. The next day, he came back, and I asked him: How was it? He then played a recording for me.

The recording was about two hours long. In this recording I indeed heard a completely different discourse. I was still confused. In the recording, the rickshaw driver was still talkative, but after I finished listening, I noticed that he did not mention a single sentence about Tiananmen is this or the Forbidden City is that. In the recording, he mentioned life, children, inflation, stock market, cars, and other things, he also recalled the past and expressed his feelings about the current situation, but he no longer used “we” to talk about these things. He also did not use words such as “pride,” “love” etc… During the entire two-hour recording, he only mentioned Tiananmen once. This sentence is so classic, and completely subverted my view of the Chinese. He said: Tiananmen has too damn many people.

Without exaggeration, this sentence made me fall in love with the Chinese, and made me start to understand Chinese people.

Madayiwei then continues the post with his own observations:

When I started grade school and opened my text book, the first page had the following sentence: “I love Tiananmen in Beijing.” Frankly, this was a very sudden sentence. It is a symbol. We all know that early education is so important for a person. We can say that the the basic outline of our consciousness was defined by our early education.

From this example, it is not too hard to forget this sentence or, when one grows up, it is easy to find out the thing instilled in this sentence is absurd. But to completely remove what’s being communicated to your brain behind this sentence, is not that optimistic. If you have been to Tiananmen, you may notice that the place cannot be “loved.” If you happen to be a college student, you may even be terrified by the place. There was a paragraph in a novel which has never been published: He often has nightmares, dreaming that there were lots of dead bodies on the square. Sometime those dead bodies stand up and then are shot down with bullets again. When these bodies fell down on the ground, they were as thin as paper.

[…] The reason I mention this example is not just to criticize Tiananmen. It is to make my point, that our education about “love” was off since its very beginning. They have never explained what is “love.” (Of course this is intentional.) In this example, their motivation is to create a psychology of worshiping the people who are in power. They also expanded such logic to other things.

Therefore the following things also become “love without question” to be imposed on children, such as the five star red flag, public property, national territory, the state etc… Of course, the first thing is to love the Chinese Communist Party, because “without the Chinese Communist Party there would be no new China.” All of this was imprinted on the brain and taken as truth before ten years old. After repeating it so many times, this kind of emotion became constructed truth, and the source of bias even after one grows up. Many Chinese often say: How can you criticize the government? How can you not love the country? This is because they had so much wrong emotional education when they were young.

Taking the five star red flag as an example, I just cannot see why such a rag is worth loving. No matter how you say it, it is still a piece of cloth. Not worth so much emotion. And I have a hard time to understand, why do the schools always like to have a ceremony of raising the flag?

I was bothered by this question for many years. Finally I got it. I discovered that brainwashing is complicated engineering; it cannot be achieved overnight. Therefore, when I saw those slogans in many places saying “education must start from the children,” I now understand it. The real meaning of this sentence is that, “Brainwashing must start from the children. ”

“I love Beijing, Tiananmen”: