Blogger: To Whom Should I Be Grateful?

Wandering through the Chinese blogosphere, one never knows who you will encounter. Here is a blog titled “Love of Nature,” which contains social commentary mixed with personal memories. Its author did not reveal gender, name, age or other personal identity, but it is clear from this post that the author is near 60 years old. The following post reveals candid inner thoughts that could not be published in the official press. Translated by CDT’s Lunjun Fan:

Gradually, my generation of Chinese is only left with a past. We don’t feel we belong to the present era of the country, nor the future one. I often think that a person should at least have a good understanding of his own life. His life is more meaningful if he could also has a good grasp of the times he has lived through. Many of our parents’ generation have passed away, leaving behind too much bewilderment to us, and to our offspring. Perhaps this kind of situation has always existed in the past several thousand years of Chinese history. But it has been more widespread in recent decades.

People tend to recall their past when they reach a certain age. Recalling one’s past has no larger meaning if it’s just a way to pass the time. Because of my chaotic and confusing past, I don’t like dwelling in memories. Instead, I prefer to reflect on them and to assess them from a fresh perspective. This might be a trait that’s shared by many in my generation who were born before 1949 (when the established a new government). In the current degenerate and sensuous society of China, which is also in the beginning of an enlightenment era, people tend to have critical thoughts, consciously or unconsciously. Some speak out. Others hold their thoughts silently in their minds, because of various restraints.

Like most people, I am an ordinary human being. I have neither foresight nor exceptional courage. I fervently followed Mao and believed in him. I didn’t get the chance to play a prominent role in the political movements due to my unfavorable family background. Thus I didn’t do anything evil that I am ashamed of now. However, my ideas and way of thinking, which were shaped by years of indoctrination in Mao’s times, are typical of that era.

My reflection (on Mao’s times) started a couple of years before the fall of the “Gang of Four.” My thoughts were limited to literature and the arts at first. Later I expanded my reflection to a wider range of issues, with the general liberation of ideology in the society. But I did not cast my doubt on the Party and the State, or the communist revolution. I was still grateful that I lived under the “red flag.”

I was accepted by the as a member in the mid 80s, despite the fact that I no longer believed in any -ism. I joined the party just to get better career opportunities. However, a group of young scholars endeavored to reflect China’s history and culture in a new light during that time, and their works such as Prosperity and Crisis, and River Elegy, had a significant impact on me.

My ideas took a sudden turn during the June 4th Incident. I stood on the side of the protesting students wholeheartedly. But I was worried that there was no independent political force to support their effort. I reminded my colleagues to be aware of the reality and take precautions against unexpected incidents. The third day after I talked to them, tanks rolled onto the streets and students were arrested. Fortunately several of those who listened to me survived the ordeal.

The situation completely changed in the 90s. Internationally, the confrontation between the two camps in the Cold War ended (as the Soviet Union collapsed). Domestically, corruption went out of control. During this period, I kept going upward in my career and made some remarkable achievements, as far as satisfying personal desires is concerned. However, I also witnessed from within the decay of the old system and experienced it intimately, which propelled me to reflect on it in a profound way.

In the new century I was so disgusted by officialdom that I gave up all promotion opportunities. I turned to pursue my real interests, spending most my time and energy in reading and thinking.

Like many others, I realized that China has lagged behind the West in technological, economic and social development since the arrival of modern times. But I found out that the root of China’s backwardness went beyond the recent Ming and Qing Dynasties when I searched for the causes of it from philosophical and cultural perspectives. This understanding enlightened me significantly. But I was mainly interested in academic thinking, driven by the desire for knowledge. I didn’t reflect on political doctrines or systems, nor was I aware of the ideological system of democracy and freedom. I had not learned how to surf on the Internet. Recently when I reviewed what I wrote during that period, I saw obvious limitations on my thinking.

My political views changed completely a couple of years ago when I turned my reflections on history to the realities of contemporary Chinese society. I am able to expand my knowledge across national boundaries thanks to the Internet. I often ask myself the question: Who has helped me to become a self-reliant, independent-thinking and knowledgeable person over the course of my life? To whom should I be thankful?

To tell you the truth, I was grateful to the Party not too long ago. But I gradually realized that the common people would always seek to make a living and try to educate themselves, no matter which era they live in. These are their basic human rights. What has the Party done for the people? Does it deserve our respect? It promised democracy and freedom when it first mobilized countless people to rebel, calling on them to sacrifice their lives and property to establish a new government. However, it monopolized power after obtaining it, and designated itself as the representative and the savior of all people.

It did whatever it wanted, censoring different opinions, causing famines, persecuting innocent citizens, and destroying opposing parties. It resorted to “Reform and Opening-up” when the state was about to collapse. And then the offspring of party leaders became millionaires or high-ranking officials. Why should I be thankful to such a Party, one that maintains its rule by force and dictatorship? There’s no reason.

Looking back on the past several decades, they could have built the country into a democratic, fair and diverse society. But they didn’t. It’s not because they are ignorant, but because they don’t have the virtue or merits to do so.

To whom should I be thankful? —-Perhaps my parents who struggled long and hard to bring me up, the ordinary people who contributed to my well-being, and the universal civilization that taught me the meaning of humanity.

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