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Keep Others in Mind: A Consciousness That Should Be Treasured
Since before the end of last century, which witnessed the gradual dissolution of the Chinese-style “collectivism” that prevailed in the middle of the century and the restoration of respect for individuals as well as the initial establishment of a system that is geared toward protecting the legitimate rights and interests of individuals, the most frequently used pronoun in the era of planned economy, i.e. “we”, has been replaced by “I”, a pronoun that is enjoying an even wider circulation. I like to refer to myself as “I”, and am therefore ready to appreciate the “I” of others. Without the establishment of “I” and the ensuing cooperation of innumerable “I’s”, the entity referred to as “we” is necessarily void, fragile and hollow and cannot withstand even a single blow.
然而，在“我”和“我们”之间，是以“他人”作为连接点的。“我”因“他人”而成为“我 ”；“我们”因“他人”而成为“我们”。当“我们”过度地强化、放大“我”，而舍弃“他人”的时候，“我”便处于四面受敌的孤立无援之中。在我们的传统习性中，“他人”这一概念，更多的情况下，只是一种被供奉的虚设牌位。我们的成语中曾有“以邻为壑”一词，可以佐证；有“只扫自家门前雪，哪管他人瓦上霜” 的谚语，可以证言。即便在集体主义理想教育最为鼎盛之时，“他人”不仅未能成为国人的自觉意识，“他人”反而意味着告密、背叛、异己、危险、离间等等。这种体制下的集体主义文化，终于导致了“他人即地狱”的严酷后果。闻“他人”而心颤，近“他人”而丧胆。也许正是由于对“他人”的恐惧，“文革”之后，“我们”迅速土崩瓦解，“我”自仰天长啸——而“他人”却不得不退出公众的视线，淡化为一个可有可无的虚词，成为公民道德的模糊地带。
But between “I” and “we”, be it noted, stands “others” which acts as a connection point. It is in relation to “others” that both “I” and “we” derive their respective identities. When “we” excessively strengthens and magnifies “I” while at the same time showing no regard for “others”, “I” will find itself in an isolated and helpless position beset by enemies on all sides. In our tradition, the concept of “others”, more often than not, is nothing but an empty term to which we do not attach the slightest importance, as attested by such idioms and sayings in our language as “use your neighbor’s field as drain (shift your trouble onto others)” and “let every man sweep the snow from before his own door, and not trouble himself about the frost on his neighbor’s tiles”. Even in the height of collectivistic education, “others” not only did not become part of the people’s self-consciousness, but became a synonym for informing, betraying, alienating, jeopardizing and estranging etc. The collectivistic culture fostered under this kind of regime eventually led to the harsh consequence of “Hell is other people”, where you would feel a chill down your spine at the mere mention of “others” and you would never approach “others” without due precaution. Perhaps it is precisely out of this dread of “others” that after the political chaos caused by the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976), “we” rapidly disintegrated and fell apart, followed by “I” being given free rein while “others” withdrawing from public sight as an empty word void of substance and becoming a blurred field of civic virtues.
The rapid growth of population since the 1950s has caused the high density of our living space. The population pressure has long become a heavy burden on the economic development and the healthcare system. Birth control in some rural and remote areas is still confronted with numerous obstacles. It’s none of your business how many babies “I” chooses to have! On the issue of population, can there be seen any consideration for “others”? Restaurants procuring, slaughtering and cooking wild animals for staggering profit, diners relishing with an easy conscience these “delicacies” either for the food’s own sake or just as a way of showing off their wealth, and government officials deeming wild-animal food as an indispensable component of the banquet given in honor of their higher authorities with an eye to winning their favor and having quicker promotions: in this “human chain” that causes damage to the natural ecology, is there any position reserved for “others”? For a long time, the public health systems in the urban and rural areas have never been given serious attention, as witnessed by messy office environment, neglected daily disinfection of public places, unavailability of hand-washing facilities in some public lavatories, poorly-managed sewage treatment, and scattered household rubbishes etc. But, strikingly, what underlies the attitudes of the administrators and the public alike is the same mentality: It is not my sole responsibility. In this neglected corner of public health, can there be seen any concept of “others”? The corrupt customs developed and accumulated in the course of time from folks’ bad living habits are simply beyond count, including, among others, spitting on the ground, defecating and urinating all over the place, littering, stubborn preference for dish sharing rather than the more hygienic practice of separate dining, drunk driving, and smoking in the public place. Given the traditional culture of “we” in which one concerns himself not with scarcity but rather with uneven distribution, in this conduct norm of sharing benefits and burdens equally and staying together for better or for worse, who would take on the responsibility of exercising self-control and self-discipline to prevent disaster from befalling others?
We seem to have been unwittingly paving the way for the realization of this prospect. In public field, however, “zero-distance” is harmful, because distance means “others”, which in turn means civic virtues. In this world, besides “you” and “I”, the earth is populated by multitudinous unfamiliar “others”, including other people and other animals that co-inhabit the earth with human beings. It is precisely in the interests of the safety and freedom of “I” that, please, renounce egoism and show more concern and care for “others”, because, while the freedom of “I” is the termination of that of others, giving freedom to others will ultimately fulfill the freedom of “I”.
[ Last edited by chienl at 2009-7-1 02:17 PM ]