Friday, April 12, 2013

Cynicism in China

I was discussing some issues about Chinese students coming to America, with a friend of mine from the States who works at a major American university. As I wrote out my email to my friend, I realized that I'd adopted the same cynical assumptions about my students that they have about each other, and about their own local institutions.

As an American, I think the best thing our country brought to the world was idealism — not to mention the contents of our ideals, such as individual rights and freedom of expression — so I'm alarmed to find my own idealistic view of humanity tainted and fading.

Please, students, come forward and remind me of your unsophisticated and non-manipulative passion for studies. Even if you can't do philosophy, you don't know the history of China's exploitation of foreign countries, you don't know the first thing about subtle literary analysis — at least, just remind me of how fresh and open you can be.

Your bosses (which basically means everyone who used to be you, until they got thrust unprotected into the vicious world of Chinese business), will all be crass and evil monsters. But for now, while you're wearing little sweatshirts with bunnies and panda-bears stitched into them, you can be sweet and safe and protected, and I can help you develop yourself as much as is possible in this country's educational system.

And oh, God, how I wish I could send you all to study in America, where your naive innocence could be — not exactly preserved, but also not completely shattered by the evil of life around you. It is still possible in my country, I think, for a good person to live a good life and receive a good living for it, without too many evil hawks and vultures plucking it from him. In China, I'm sorry, the hawks and vultures win.

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