hyperlink to the source text in Chinese: 为热爱自己而斗争。
Translated by @fabiano226
Copyedited by @kRiZcPEc and Michelle Buchanan (@michisle)
Since we were children, and on into adulthood, the educational brainwashing we have received has told us to love the Communist Party, love socialism, love China, but it has never told us to love ourselves. The idea of cherishing our own life has not been promoted; no attention has been paid to safety education–which, by the way, should include not only how to deal with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, or fire, but also an understanding of food safety–because our humble lives are not considered worth it. Those political science textbooks–from sociology to Mao’s works–were all impractical, exaggerated, and stupefying.
Today these textbooks are still being used. These theories are still being taught. This is the result of an education that is not independent from the Communist Party of China, an education that is enslaving us. Thanks to this kind of education, many people go through their life never realizing what a government is supposed to do. Who feeds the government? Where does the money that keeps a government running come from? Most people lack this knowledge, and even a college graduate cannot explain these matters thoroughly. Why is it that even an educated person cannot see the detrimental nature of the existing regime? Is this not a sign that it is truly restricted? And this is not a result of such a person not reading much, but that he has not read good books. Consequently, he misses out on the ability to think about these social issues in a critical way, for the betterment of himself and others. Of course there are people who have gained from the prevalence of this education, and become a part of it; they even become spokespersons and advocates of this corrupt system.
Loving yourself is about cherishing your rights as a human being. And how to gain those rights? The only way is to fight for them yourself; you cannot rely on the mercy of others. Just like in the melamine tainted milk scandal, the best way to show your disapproval of the company responsible is to boycott it. Don’t buy any milk powder unless substantial improvement is made. If you have bought it and become a victim, you should try all possible means to fight for your own rights: gather more people to file a class action suit against the manufacturer, or write down your experience and distribute it, so as to avoid more people being harmed. As a result of you exposing the problem, the harm done by the manufacturer will be lessened, and, as more people stop buying their products, they will be penalized through substantial profit loss. Being a victim does not mean that you can accomplish nothing, or have nothing to do. No matter how powerless one is, there is always a way to fight. While not risking your life, keep fighting, non-stop, for your own rights. When more people wake up, take the same actions, and fight rationally and persistently then still more and more people will be awakened to do the same.
Of course, what I mean by self love is not limited to oneself; no one is isolated in this world. You have your family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and so on. All of your interests are interconnected; the only difference is whether the interconnection is tight or loose. In turn, the whole of society, even all human kind, is interconnected in this way. No one is an island. Any other person’s suffering and pain has something to do with us. When their dignity and rights are trodden down, so are our own dignity and rights. For whatever happens to them today, could happen to us another time. Our support to those victims is, in itself, supporting them to fight for their rights, and, at the same time, an indirect effort to keep our own interests from being harmed. Those who are addicted to harming others should be punished, and the system that harms the interests of individuals needs to be improved so that it serves our common interests better.
So, loving yourself begins with loving others. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, said, after he deliberated on the power of the invisible hand of the free market, that acting in one’s self-interest is the origin of morality, but if you act in self-interest with the aim of benefiting yourself at the expense of others then this type of action must be restricted by law. He said, however, that if you make money with methods that do not break the law, and if you work hard in ways as permitted by law for your own interest, then you will, in a way, help others; you pay taxes; you start a company and create more job opportunities. Indeed, you are benefiting yourself, but, while doing so, you are required to let your workers have their rights; you must have their acknowledgment of the contract, which can be amended if issues arise. While you make money and act in your own interest you contribute to the improvement and development of society. It should not be the other way round: you serve the community first and talk about your own interest later. This is a misplacement of interests. Putting the so-called national and collective interest above that of individuals is a savage and shameless robbery. It dramatically deprives many people of their will and impairs the creativity and development of the community. The limitation of people and their energy can also come from their drive for self-interest, and self-love, so, when actions to serve one’s own interest causes damage to society what we should strive to do is not eliminate self-interest, but let it be under the regulation of the law, and admit that a human being is a creature with limitations. We shouldn’t have wild wishes that a human being be perfect, this is not realistic. We choose a way of life and a system not because it is perfect, but because it is less imperfect.
Written at 8:30 a.m. on September 24th, 2008, in Chengdu, in the pouring rain.