I just read a translation of a great essay responding to the People’s Daily’s recent article “The Post-80′s Generation is Dispirited: Early Decline Cause for Alarm”
In the essay, the author describes his own experiences trying to survive the difficulties of bureaucracy, incredulity over corrupt officials’ influences, institutional lies from his schools, despair over having any chance to carve out a successful career, and other common maladies of the modern PRC society. Whether stated directly or not, he is indeed saying “You [the Party] caused these problems!” With my own eyes and ears I have witnessed the reality of this emotional “dispiritedness” which I would further characterize as a damaging loss of spiritual health leading to decaying forms of personal identity and self-worth. There is a desperate cry for help which we must be able to answer and provide.
And, we’re not just talking about young kids, or even college students. This extends to those currently in their thirties as well.
To think that all this well-grounded criticism in the response essay doesn’t even begin to touch the issues of what these generations of Chinese will learn about the formation of their modern identity when they begin to access more freely the information of what happened from 1950-1975 (famine and widespread violence). They do not know their own modern history. They only know the history of the Party.
That’s why I encourage young Chinese I meet in China to talk with their grandparents about what life contained for them when they were young. Every one of the students I’ve asked about this has never asked such questions of their grandparents, mostly because they already sense that it is something no one wants to talk about. But they must, for their own good.
Thinking back on what the original article said, it’s hard to understand how the position of the People’s Daily can be “it is the duty of the younger generation to address this problem.” They cannot do it on their own! They lack the resources to do so. Even their teachers cannot give students what they need to navigate the problem, because the teachers generally lack the emotional resources as well. I have seen this firsthand while delivering teacher training in Changsha and Shunde. The People’s Daily assertion is another example of shortsightedness and evidence of a complete lack of real wisdom among Party officials.
But why should we be surprised at that? After all, who taught them to be wise? We must be able to provide good answers for them if and when they ask us for help in answering questions such as “what do we do now?”
To quote a elder Chinese associate, “My great grandfather hated foreigners, my grandfather hated the Guomindang, and my father hated Communists. But hatred cannot save China. We must change our attitude from hatred to love.”
How can you do that when an entire people have not been taught or shown any love, hardly at all? “To grow rich is glorious” is now falling apart as the empty promise it was. Our answer should be to demonstrate and model real love, and work diligently to avoid sowing more distrust through behavior that takes advantage of their poor emotional/spiritual health. This is part of The Tai Initiative’s mission to foster a civil dialogue about the worth of American and Chinese civilizations.
Let’s end here with some good news: several associations are already at work to provide more education and access for this Chinese generation to learn how to form positive self-perceptions and personal identity. The International Red Cross is one. As a result, a tiny but growing percentage of Chinese youth are learning how to live a full and rich life.
Are you living a rich and full life? Do you know why? Share that wisdom with a Chinese youth in your area, please. And tell us about it here!