And how I wish I weren't the only person out there that despises cowardice and smallmindedness. But it's too easy to just criticise. Not to mention unproductive. Things might change if more people actively and constructively encouraged others to show some backbone. But that isn't the norm in China.
After experiencing life in China, I've become very disappointed in Chinese people, which makes me extremely worried about the future of China. People here are very SHY, to put it in a cute way. If I were talking about a 4-year old girl clinging to her mommy's skirt, then that's a scenario that warrants patience and attention. But I'm talking about the entirety of the adult Chinese population!
They cling to family, friendships, coleagues and other relationships, and this behaviour is the norm here. But the harmful side effects of cowardice become more apparent when they are displayed by adults. Claims of honesty and principals become very hollow when spoken by cowards. I have come to understand that the expression "Are you calling me a coward?" has much more depth to it than just merely a catchphrase for oafish bar-brawlers.
First of all, a lack of personal confidence makes many people pessimistic about their own skills. They seek to secure safety through bribes and nepotism rather than work on their own ability. Education has become completely pointless (see my teaching rant blog), despite the high regard it has in Chinese culture. The society seems to be focused on safety and stability rather than morality and fairness. Safety and stability are the main priorities of women with families (or family plans), but the rest of the people should be paying attention to morality and fairness. There is no balance of priorities here at all. Even the rule of law is just seen as a loophole from which civil servants can extort money from the system.
Secondly, the ways in which cowardly people seek comfort from the collective to borrow confidence are very harmful to society. Think of the people who stare at you on the streets because you're different. Think of people who point and laugh at each other, or just take photos instead of help when others encounter misfortune. Think of how the group despises those less fortunate than them, singling out the poor, ugly, non-locals or anyone who isn't solidly part of the in-group. It's an automatic reaction that displays very little thought or consideration toward others.
And since there is no condemnation of cowardice, it has become the norm here in China. People talk openly, even brag about their family conections. They are ashamed to work hard and do things themselves, preferring to show off how easy their lifestyles are. People even pretend to be lazy and incompetent, to put further emphasis on their success, and show how accepted and safe they are in the in-group. It's sickening.
The level of cowardice displayed by many locals here is below tolerable levels for a functional society. Nobody cares about the consequences of their behaviour on society, only their immediate needs and those of their own families matter. To clarify: I don't believe this is necessarily an innate trait of Chinese or even Asians. Rather, I think that recent history (Mao's Cultural Revolution) has served to instill fear and conformity into the population, and this trend of social degeneration is very harmful.
Unfortunately, this behaviour is contagious. Even a brave person can't make a difference if everyone else is resigned to being a coward. It's like taking a stand against the Mafia *alone*. How can people make a stand in such a destructive cycle? The only hope I see, is people's innate desire to want a good life, and very few people can enjoy a good life in such a situation. Western media is slowly trickling in, and despite the cherrypicked stereotypical movies, Chinese people are slowly being exposed to the moral confidence and values that westerners have managed to incorporate into their personalities. And yes, I know how arrogant and preachy it sounds, but I can't think of a nicer way to put it.
If only it were that simple, though. It all depends on whether the Chinese gov't deems courage to be a good quality in its population. I think it much prefers a cowardly, corrupt, uninformed, thoughtless, xenophobic, self-aggrandizing mob. Any progress is quickly undone by news stories of human cruelty. Perhaps if Chinese learned to be skeptic of news reports and other stories that base their credibility on authority... but that might even be harder to learn than courage!
Tags:Relationships Language & Culture Expat Tales
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Yeah, it's like their personalities are geared towards nihilism, and they're setting themselves up for tragedy. Japanese also have a reputation of being too negative. If they all just set aside their inflated pride based on unquestioned 'facts', they could be honest about themselves, and cultivate some proper (western?) dignity. There is no shame in apologizing, being poor, being a citizen of not-the greatest-country-ever, etc.
Dec 05, 2013 16:19 Report Abuse