Calling for an Awareness of Others
Shortly before the turn of the new century, the collectivism that had been haunting China since the 1950s went bankrupt, giving way to respect for individuality, and the protection of individual rights was initially institutionalized. The plural form “we,” used ubiquitously in the era of planned economy, has been widely replaced by the singular form “me.” I love to talk about “myself,” and I have learnt to admire those other “selves.” Without the assertion of individuality, without the cooperation of a vast number of individuals, the idea of “we” is bound to be meaningless, fragile, and vulnerable.
However, “others” form the nexus between “me” and “us.” It is through others that I become myself. It is through others that we become ourselves. When “we” over-emphasize and magnify “myself” at the expense of others, “I” will end up defenseless, exposed to all kinds of slings and arrows. Our tradition, more often than not, only plays lip service to the idea of “others.” For evidence, we can cite the idiom “Divert the flood to the neighbor’s courtyard,” as well as the proverb “Mind your business and pay no heed to the rest of the world.”
Even when the indoctrination of collectivism approached its climax, respect for “others” never infiltrated into over awareness; instead, the word “others” often implied betrayal, alienation, danger, and estrangement. This institutionalized collectivism ushered in disastrous consequences, as expressed by the catch phrase “Hell is other people.” Therefore, we shudder and panic at the mere mention of “others.” It is probably due to this phobia of others that the hegemony of “us” collapsed overnight after the Cultural Revolution. Each one now asserts himself aggressively, while “others” step out of the limelight, reduced to being an empty word, an insignificant particle, at best of questionable moral value.
五十年代以来，人口的高速增长，造成生存空间的高密度化；人口压力长期形成经济发展与卫生保健的沉重负担；部分农村以及偏远地区的计划生育仍然阻力重重。 “我”生我的娃，关你什么样事？在人口问题上，可有“他人”的意识么？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；
Since the 1950s, the nation’s fast growing population has resulted in a further comprehension of our living space, imposing heavy burdens on the nation’s economic development and health care. In some rural areas and remote hinterlands, the birth-control policy is still hard to implement. “I” decide to give birth to “my” baby, and what’s all the fuss about that on “your” part? On this matter, do we have any awareness of “others”? Unscrupulous restaurant owns rush to procure and slaughter wild animals so as to serve them up as delicacies for exorbitant profit. With typical sangfroid, customers feast on wild animal meat to gratify their curious palate or to flaunt their wealth.
Government officials, to secure a quick promotion, typically choose to bribe their superiors with sumptuous banquets featuring wildlife meat. In this Great Chain of “Human” Beings designed to destroy our natural environment, can we find any consideration for “others”? For quite a long time, urban and rural public hygiene is much neglected: dirty, disorderly and ill-maintained offices become the norm rather than the exception. Everywhere we look, there is a lack of hygiene in public toilets, not to mention the decrepit sewage system and household waste scattered all about — the list can go much longer.
However, both the administrators of public health and the general public share one view in common — that for such matters, personal effort makes no difference. In unvisited corners overlooked by public health workers, can we ever find a caring thought for “others”? Yet, how many bad habits are still embedded in our time-honored customs? Spitting randomly, urinating and defecating in public places — just name a few. Out tradition teaches us that “not paucity in provision, but unequal distribution, is the source of anxiety.” Does this blind faith in equal distribution, or feckless and torpid communitarianism alternatively, leave any room for self-discipline and a sense of responsibility towards others?
In fact, we seem to have been building up, quite unwittingly, the royal road to the apocalypse. Nevertheless, “zero distance” is harmful in the public domain. Distance implies an awareness of others, which is the foundation of any public morality. In this world, besides “you” and “me,” there exist an infinite number of others, both human and nonhuman, including our animal neighbors. Therefore, for the sake of the security and freedom of all individuals, let us curb our egocentrism, and try to show your concern for others. Remember this sobering truth: the reckless freedom of one’s own leads to the destruction of the freedom of others, without which no real freedom is possible for all.