March 5 marks the 49th anniversary of the “Learn from Lei Feng Day”, a day named in honor of the Chinese soldier Lei Feng, after he died in 1962, for his selflessness and modesty.
Over the past half century, the story of Lei Feng not only continues to serve as an inspiration for the general public. In fact, he has become the ultimate icon in China when people speak of altruism.
While Lei Feng’s name still resonates in China and elsewhere, some begin to wonder whether the spirit of Good Samaritan is still relevant in an age of intense materialistic pursuit and whether the image of helping grandmas cross the road is somewhat outdated.
Indeed, when a two-year toddler was run over twice and ignored by 18 passers-by before she was rescued by a cleaner, China witnessed the most heated national debate in years on “human nature” and “the relevance of Lei Feng spirit”.
Still, others argue that “Lei Feng spirit” needs to be repackaged to square with the changing society: Yes, the essence of the spirit is always the same, but a new face will have a better appeal to a population with different ideas. And voluntary and social work as is practiced in the West is perhaps a good way to start.
How do you perceive the “Lei Feng spirit” in the modern age? Is it really being driven into irrelevance as times change? Or is it in fact always there, just for us to rediscover and redefine?