The Precious “Consciousness of Others”
The Precious “Consciousness of Others”
The Chinese style “collectivism” of the middle of the last century had broken up by the end of the century and returned to the respect for individuals and individual entities. Since the moment when a system that safeguards individuals’ rights and interests was preliminarily established, the term ‘we’ – a frequently used word during the era of planned economy – has been replaced by the more commonly used ‘I’.
I like to use “I” and therefore also appreciate the other ‘I’s. Had there not been the recognition of ‘I’ or the cooperation among the countless ‘I’s, the ‘we’ would inevitably be empty, fragile, like a hollow shell that can be destroyed by a single blow.
Nevertheless, between the ‘I’ and the ‘we’, there is the concept of the ‘others’ to connect the two. It is because of the existence of the ‘others’ that the ‘I’ becomes ‘I’ and the ‘we’ becomes ‘we’. When we excessively intensify and amplify the ‘I’ and overlook the ‘others’, the ‘I’ will be left in a besieged and isolated position.
In our culture, the idea of the ‘others’, under most circumstances, is merely a tablet of the dead only being worshiped at important occasions. This is evidenced by the Chinese idiom that “to use your neighboring country as a ditch to divert the floods” and it is also evidenced by another Chinese saying that “people sweep away the snow at their own doorsteps only, and couldn’t care less about the snow accumulated on the tiles of other homes.”
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。
Even at the peak of the moral education of collectivism, the idea of the ‘others’ did not become spontaneously conscious in the Chinese people. Instead, it was often associated with tattle-telling, betrayals, alienations, dangers and estrangements, etc. The collectivism under such a system had eventually led to the devastating result of “Hell is other people,” where the ‘others’ became a fearful term that terrified everyone.
It was probably because of this fear of the ‘others’ that after the Cultural Revolution, the concept of the ‘we’ immediately collapsed and the ‘I’ became the dominating and prevalent idea, while the concept of the ‘others’ has retreated from the public eye and been reduced to an insignificant empty word and become a vague area of civil morality.
With the exponential population growth since the 1950’s, the living space of the Chinese people has been extremely reduced: the excessive population growth has been a heavy burden to economic development and public health for a long time, whereas the promotion of family planning is still facing strong resistance in the rural and less developed areas. ‘I’ raise my own children; mind your own business! Do people have the consciousness of the ‘others’ over the population issue?
餐馆大肆收购、杀戮、烹煮野生动物为牟取暴利；食客面不改色食用野生动物以饱“口福 ”或炫耀财富；官吏不惜以野生珍稀动物作为最高规格的宴席；“贿赂”上级领导为自己铺设升官晋级的阶梯——在这个破坏自然生态的“人链”中，可有“他人” 的位置么？
Restaurants profiteer through the procurement and mass killing of wild animals and by selling them to their patrons, who enjoy the exotic parts of wild animals not only as delicacies but also a way to show off their great fortunes; officials outrageously pick wild and endangered animals to embellish the extravagant banquets that are used to bribe their superiors in order to climb up the ladder – in such an environmentally destructive chain, has anybody ever considered the ‘others’?
For a long time, the public health system in both urban and rural areas has never really been accorded sufficient attention: the unsanitary and disarrayed offices, the maintenance and the lack of disinfection of the public areas, the washing facilities in public restrooms, the treatment of wastewater and the disposal of household trash, etc. However, the regulators and regulatees of public health share a surprisingly similar mentality: this is not just my problem. Is there any consciousness of the ‘others’ at these forgotten corners of public health?
日积累月的 民众生活卫生习惯中，沉淀下多少恶习陋性——随地吐痰、随地大小便、随地抛弃果皮塑料袋、就餐分餐制难以推行、酒后驾车、公共场所吸烟等等……“我们”的 传统文化是“不患寡，患不均”——在这利益与灾祸均享均沾、“同甘共苦”的行为惯性中，可有愿为“他人”避免灾祸而自控自律的一份责任感？
How many despicable unhealthy habits have been passed down generations after generations – littering, spiting, urinating and defecating at inappropriate public areas, the resistance towards individual meal servings, driving under the influence, public smoking and so forth…our culture has a traditional egalitarian philosophy that “even distribution trumps poverty” – in such a behavioral inertia of “sharing the loss and gain” and “sticking together through thick and thin,” can you find a sense of responsibility of restraining himself for the sake of the others?
It seems we have been unconsciously clearing out a way as a preparation to welcome an age of ‘zero distance’. Nevertheless, in the public domain, ‘zero distance’ is actually harmful. Distance is all about ‘others’, and ‘others’ means civic etiquette. That is because on this planet, aside from the ‘you’ and the ‘I’, there are many more unknown ‘he’s and ‘she’s – ‘other people’, as well as ‘it’s – the dear animal friends who cohabit with us.
It is for the sake of our own safety and freedom that we should not be ‘self-centric’ or ‘anthrocentric’ and acknowledge and show our concerns and affections for the ‘others’. The unrestrained freedom of the ‘I’ will inevitably deprive the freedom of the ‘others’. Only with all the ‘others’ having their freedom, then the freedom of the ‘I’ will finally be complete.