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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Don't Expect More from Me

Hyperlink to the source text in Chinese: 不要期望我更多
Translated by @dissenter2020, proofread and edited by @krizcpec

Many people want to know why I publish a blog post every day. Actually, if you have read my previous posts, you wouldn’t ask this question at all, you would have found a pretty satisfying answer long ago. I think if you want to know somebody, you would use the search engine to find and read as much about that person as possible; you would compare, analyze, and formulate an idea of how that individual is like in general. Nevertheless, you'd better not jump to conclusion yet: human being is complicated and has many faces. Just like my blog is only a very small part of my life. Judging by my blog posts, you may find me to be too serious; but if you drink with me, then you would know a different Ran Yunfei. I would talk about literature and art appreciation—you may assume I do not talk about these as they are seldom covered on my blog. No, on the contrary, I feel most comfortable when talking about my feelings of literature and art. It is writing commentaries on public affairs that makes me wary and afraid. for I am with David Hume's view of "[it is] fruitless to dispute concerning tastes", my choice of words and style when writing literature and art review cannot be more different from commentaries, those who have read some of my other books may prove it. I do not agree with Mr Hu Shih’s being somewhat objective when reviewing literature and art. Since in my opinion, the appreciation and views of literature and art is more of a personal matter. It doesn't involve direct and extensive public interests. I admired very much Mr Hu's composition and demeanor concerning public affairs, yet when he spoke about literature and art, I think he was too “scientific”. His reviews were really too inartistic, lacking savor, and without the amazement of "O, so that's what it is!"

The problem with commenting on public affairs is that I have to control my expressions as best as I could. Surely I often failed to do that the way I hoped, but in this country where there are so many social problems, I am fully aware how painful it is to exercise restraint. All sorts of disasters happen day to day, they drive me crazy. But when putting pen and paper, I have to be as calm as I could on the grounds that these are about public affairs. Although I only have little influence, I still have to try to make the effect of my remarks more in line with my relatively calm attitude. I appreciate approaches in public domain that are pragmatic, calm, rational, upholding a bottom line, and protecting the freedom of speech. But for me, just like every one with limits, to fit these requirements is not easy. Therefore, this is for me something to pursue and this itself is a long learning process. In other words, there is difference between my private self and my public persona. Privately, I swear, too. But I would not do that in public. That said, I do not blindly oppose swearing, there are instances when people make spectacular use of foul language, or criticizing others in an artful way, leaving people with deep impression and lingering memories. That’s to say, it’s okay to swear, but one should learn the art of swearing first.

To elaborate further, you cannot stop people from swearing. This is also part of free speech. Yet if you cross the line when doing so, it would involve certain related legal issues then. But there would not be such a problem if you criticize the government. The government is not a personal entity; it has no immunity from being criticized. This is crucial for respect for the freedom of speech. Likewise, officials, as they are supported by taxpayers, have become trustees of public interests and must accept oversight and even moderate criticism from the people. They have to pay the price of losing some of their privacy for the many gains they have in public domain.

Finally, I find it necessary to make clear that everything I do stems from purposes of self-love and selfishness. It is not my intention to become spokesperson for any group or anyone, I am up to that task, and have no desire for it. Because of my self-love and selfishness, I could not stand the human behavior of harming others, especially when those are done kind by the government and officials unto others of their kind. This is outrageous. This is something I could do nothing about. Yet rage does not make someone a better person, it only makes him or her appear not to have good bearing. But with all the bad things in this country, I'd really like the saying from Lung Ying-tai, “Chinese people, why are you not angry?”

It is okay to be angry. But after the anger subsided, one would still have to solve problems rationally, one would still have to learn to compromise, negotiate, bargain, and take the road of game that seems particularly difficult. I do not approve violent actions. I do approve rational improvement. I am only writing out some of my thoughts, I cannot guarantee that my views are correct on everything, I am not that conceited. Why do I allow all sorts of criticism on my blog, and not delete them, not even those abuses? This is, rather than a sign of forgiving others, of me being a person with good bearing, only a sign of self-pity I would say. That is because when I read remarks of some officials, I too feel the impulse to lash out at people. Without a doubt I am not a government official, my speech comes not from the compulsion of power. While state media would not let you criticize or lash out at government officials, leaving your with no channel to take out your anger, I allow you to question me on my blog at any time. Hence, you are not under my compulsion. You can write lengthy comments to criticize me, or create a blog specifically for that purpose if you like.

[When it comes to making myself a better, wiser, more capable person,] this is how I do it: when you feel someone is not good enough, the only option for you is not to look to him but to take action yourself. For example, if you think that person does not write well, then you learn to write and surpass him, do not expect others to progress as your wish. Or when you feel a person does not cook twice-cooked pork well, you try to cook it yourself to outdo him. Maybe you cannot achieve it, but you will come to know that twice-cooked pork is not an easy dish. And so you would come to maintain a fair understanding of why he doesn't cook that dish good enough. You may even sympathize with him for that. People have their limitations, so it is right and proper that we have understanding of other people's mistakes. Since those mistakes do little harm and affect only a small circle, they deserve forgiveness from others, especially from those who have been offended.

However, this is not applicable to an unrestricted government that does not correct its mistakes, which have far too serious consequences, involving interests and dignity of too many people. We all know that the government is formed by people. Organizations that are formed by people are bound to make mistakes. Whether or not a government reduces mistakes, apologizes for them, makes compensations; whether it can effectively prevent making the same mistakes again; or if it can minimize mistakes systematically; these are the criteria we use to assess if a government fails its job.

There are people whose thought is so impoverished that they keep saying [to me] all the time that you wouldn't do a better job than the current government even if you take over its office. In my view, this way of thinking is indeed very indolent. First, I won't do it at all, I know what I am capable of; second, I have no interest in that, I have no desire to be in power; third, if those [running the government] are not good enough, vote them out of office and let people with more caliber to take the positions. Do have faith in people's rationality. Of course, they may at times turn out to have the mob mentality; but overall speaking, the time that people are rational is more than when they are not. People may fall, but they eventually learn how to walk. Except the mobility impaired, I haven't seen any individuals who would fall all their lives and not able to walk normally.

I admit I am a sensible man whose blood is boiled with passion (this sentence may sound self-contradictory, yet it can describe how complicated I am). But whatever I do, I take into consideration the balance of corresponding matters. Just like if you ask me to go to disaster area everyday to participate in reconstruction, then sorry, I don't have that much energy and time. My family is a more important part of my life. I do not believe in the idiotic saying of selflessly serving the greater good of all, and I wouldn't put it into practice. Those who advocate this idea have never managed to do it themselves. But if you ask me to make use of my comparative advantages, my spare time to do things that are beneficial to the community, then I would be more than willing to comply, I would do so happily and untiringly. This was the intrinsic motivation that propelled me to do something with my Earthquake Weekly. Likewise, if I need to spend more than two hours in writing blog posts, than I couldn't stick to publishing one on a daily basis. I have to read, write, and strive for a living, I have to make my family feel me a man with some sense of responsibility, and not just a person that so selfishly disregards everything else for his own sake. I once wrote an article ("Use your change as a testimony/用你的改变作见证") that suggested the most effective approach to life would be to start changing with oneself, because change in oneself is something that everyone has control and one would have full understanding of how easy or difficult that is. Those who expect more from others is being lazy themselves (Please see also my article "Don't be indolent, think! / 别在思考上偷懒"). On top of that, they would feel disappointed, develop resentment toward and slander others as a result of their idealistic expectations. This would be interference in the lives of others. This would be the basis on which despotism comes into existence. And this should be something that we all guard against.

Written at 9:00 am, on Feb 28, 2009, in Chengdu

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