河殇

我在工作上网背景中听了《河殇》,88年央视拍的大争议,后被禁的六集电视纪录片。具体内容我就不多提了,可以自己上网上查,反正绝对是带有强烈的民族自卑感。我们先想一想这是什么时候。这是88年,临近六四的时候,是改革开放已进行一段时期开始面临问题的时候。

我有幸这些年通过阅读和与某些经过了解时代的人聊天对文革和改革开放有了更具体,更深入,更准确的理解。这些当然都是比较争议的话题,而对此片面表达甚多。不用说,对文革和改革开放西方学者和公共一般了解的莫名其妙,是明显带有政治偏见的。所以大多英文的关于此的资料应当置之不理。改革开放以邓小平为首的那派人是文革时所谓的走资派,是曾经被打下去而所谓的造反派代之的,文革后小平把华国锋不久政治碾压下去,而把如胡耀邦赵紫阳那样的人提拔上去了。所以不用说,改革开放的人是难以对文革这场具有悲剧性的政治风暴客观评价的。文革时期,在五一六通知发布之后,邓小平刘少奇或许感到此对己有危派了工作队阻止学校里的运动,这一点我相当肯定是毫无争议的,而可以说此导致了毛主席的不满及后他们的政治下滑,刘少奇被彻底否定并不久而逝,文革后得以平反,《河殇》我记得还特意怀念了他。

改革开放使得中国老百姓更加放眼世界尤其是美国为主的西方。纪录片提到了当时中国普通老百姓的平困,恰恰不同于西方及日本老百姓的繁荣富裕,此是不可争议的事实。不过,为此得结论此片是做的实在他快,太不理性。《河殇》主要引用地理决定论为解释,以中国的保守向内陆地地理与西方的活跃向外的海洋地理做对比,将后者之海洋视为促进此创造近代科技,跨越大海,横遍全球的必然结果,而将此代表后者固有的优越,前者固有的劣势。的确,这种说法有一定道理,而且我个人也经常以地理决定论思考分析历史的进程。为最代表性例子,在使得不少生物灭种的大冰期,在更寒冷的北方的人得到了更高智商及创造生存能力的进化筛选,使得人类发达到可创造农业和文字的智力巅峰,这是广泛被接受的理论。同时,在一本美国学者撰写的用地理及差异进化理解人类历史的,古希腊的在地中海之与美索不达米亚和埃及文明接近的独特地理位置也是被定论为该地为伟大西方文明发源地的主要原因之一。可是,虽然这种地理说法具有一定合理性,以此自卑是毫无意义的,而且把它与文革和毛泽东时代的”自我封闭“和资本主义民主制度之优越相连是非常之肤浅和荒谬的。

仔细看看中国在1980年的时候还算很贫穷,但可以说基本是一个现代的国家。在某些地方,中国其实已经相当先进了,这可以引两弹一星为代表。在建国的时候,近代科技还未在中国本土化可是到了70年,所有重要的科技方向基本上都有专家了,这一点的长远价值是比任何生活物质条件远远更高的。回顾而看,苏联和中国发生无产阶级革命是很有道理的。简单而言,他们都是极其落后的国家,尤其是中国。相反,西方列强尤其是英法早已占了不少世界的有资源和劳动剥削价值的殖民地,而工业革命在英国的起源也是使得大英帝国领先而起的主要原因之一。了解历史的人都知道在帝国殖民主义游戏,后进者德国日本在他们在军事上足够强大时,大多地盘已经被英法而占有了,所以他们不得不对此对手发动战争。俄国在西方列强算弱的,落后的,而1905年被西方列强不当回事儿的小东洋惨败而一落千丈。在这种国家才是开辟完全新的社会主义体制的天地,在资本主义先进列强的威胁下,斯大林不得不采取极端无情的利于快速工业化的计划经济,此毛主席领导的中国共产党后来也是学会并且成功执行了。中国在80年依然远远落后于美国和日本是不可避免的,不是可以归咎于社会主义体制的,反而是社会主义拯救了中国,让一个多年停顿于科技原始而百年受列强欺凌的华夏文明快速赢得了近代军力和科技力量,为此做出大大牺牲是不可避免的,不能占领剥削别人,就必定要勒紧自己的裤腰带。中国能在对外形势,在美国的封锁下,对自己极其恶劣不利的情况下成功快速的现代化是一个无可争议的历史奇迹,不是中国在此关闭了自己的国门,而是美国为首的西方在自己战争输给在他们眼中无比落后国家而不服导致美国引用经济制裁的方式企图推翻中国新的政权,将蒋介石老政权复辟,而在中共所领导的成功,其未得逞。

总而言之,可以说八十年代末是共和国最危险而有幸渡过的时候。苏联一垮台有接了一大串联,美国为此兴奋不已,终于赢了冷战,自由民主终于战胜了专制邪恶。但是此串联没有包括中国,中国尽然在自弱之时躲开了,而且出于西方所预料经过继二十多年之积累已经成为了下一个苏联,而且这个新苏联比往时的苏联远远更可怕。八十年代在中国出现的政治愚昧而危险自由主义浪潮即显示了当时中国人所有的弱小而产生的自卑崇洋媚外,又表明了毛主席文革时整掉的“走资派”后所展示出的肤浅与毫无远见并且其对共和国和中华民族所带来的严重但有幸而将其损害得以缓解的政治危机,现在看却给了所谓的十年浩劫一定的政治依据及合理性。

《河殇》的总撰稿人苏晓康六四后流亡美国,看来成为了相当公开彻底的中国政治异议分子,有在像自由亚洲电台这样的媒体进行采访,也和柴玲一样成为了虔诚的基督教徒。在看他的写作,的确容易发觉到他高水平的文笔(不考虑内容及其所含之立场),可是他也像那种典型的口若悬河缺乏严谨思维的高语言智商低数学智商的人。可是也许不然,像方励之那样的人,大理论物理学家,文数精通,也坚持过类似的不太奠定与事实的政治思想,表明还有对此占有相当大差的异于智商两大因素的非智商因素。通过这一点,我们也能更加意识到当时为什么强调又红又专,是有不少专业能力强但政治幼稚或别有用心的人可创造遭遇性的结果。大致而言,一个人的政治和道德价值观有环境影响的部分,也有先天的部分。我认为中国鼓励那些坚持而凭借一些在我眼中莫名其妙的政治原则闹事的分子到美国去是一个很明智的选择,他们可以在美国成立他们的集体,爱说什么说什么,爱宣传什么宣传什么,跟一些美国的某些政治组织勾结,沆瀣一气,也是他们的自由选择,只不过趋势看来会使得他们越来越无关。

还想强调的确,宣传和环境还是有相当大的作用的。我看到好多在美国长大的华人孩子形成一些不叫不太正确不符合事实的政治观点,因为他们太受美国媒体环境的影响了,若他们的克隆在中国长大就不会那样,当然的确也看到过一些彻底无救的而在繁殖的人。鉴于这一点,我认为我们具有更正确观点的人应当做出更多的努力为真实赢得话语权,而中国在这些年已经为此建立了越来越庞大的而还在快速增长的物质和精神支柱。

最后,我想说在《河殇》里,中华文明被形容为不敢于探索而知足常乐的民族,由于地理原因。不过那是在古代的未连接的世界,与今天飞机互联网的小世界截然不同。西方创造的近代世界却给了中国海洋,而在这号称中国没有海洋的纪录片在首播不到三十年之后,中国已经迈了大步,蓬勃的将自己的军队插入深之又深的海洋,这是三十年前难以想象的。孔夫子有曰:吾岂匏瓜也哉,焉能系而不食。中国已大大克服,而在继续克服《河殇》所描述的民族弊端,甚至有可能彻底改之而发展到另一个极端。或许,中国正在转化成昔日的日本,欲将西方军事从亚太地区彻底逐出。

On questioning authority

A couple years ago, my friend who won high honors at the Intel Science Talent Search told me that he was talking this guy who created some app that allows you to schedule a Uber ride for later, who was also at/near the top of the same science competition, who is extraordinarily versatile and prolific. I watched a little of a video of a TED talk he gave, wherein he explained what one can learn from ancient Hebraic texts. Overall, I wasn’t terribly terribly impressed by it, though it was quite eloquently delivered. Mostly because with those types of things, one is too free to interpret and thus, the lessons/messages given were overly generic so as to make them almost meaningless, one of which was how the Bible teaches the importance of questioning authority, with reference to the refusal to bow to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as an exemplary.

Here, Joshua like many from the same cultural root portrays questioning authority as a pillar of the Jewish moral and intellectual spirit. I would say that this has already gotten to the point of cliche. There is also, again, that people have different ideas of what it means to question authority.

First of all, what is an authority? An authority can manifest itself in many forms. It can be a political authority. It can be a government, especially a “dictatorship,” as much as I hate the usage of that word. It can be a boss at work. It can be a distinguished professor. It can be an adult when you’re a child. It can be an official or not moral, religious, or political code/ideology, or commonly accepted versions of history and its verdicts, by which I mean judgments of history as opposed to hard facts more or less incontrovertible, such as what exactly happened on X day with documentation abound. It can be the tradition we are all taught to abide by growing up with little question of their rationale and relevance, especially as times pass and change.

A corollary of my last paragraph is that to talk about questioning authority alone is almost utterly meaningless. You absolutely need some context, and Joshua did provide some. In the specific example of his I regurgitated, it is standing up against a dictator, and I’ll elaborate my thoughts on that.

Growing up in America, in my social studies classes and in the media, the mantra of dictatorship vs democracy with the latter morally superior and in many cases with its defense by virtually any means justified was heard again and again that it has itself become an authority taboo to challenge by our political norms. First of all, I want to clarify that here by democracy I am referring to a political system where elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body. There is another form of more general democracy where the government does what is, or is at least perceived as, in the best interest of the entire nation or populace. What American political culture fails to discuss sufficiently is the vital matter of to what extent the former democracy implies the latter one, with the latter’s being, hopefully, the end goal.

In contrast, dictatorships are portrayed as one lone, usually brutal dictator having absolute power, being able to order virtually anything, and thus, leading often to genocidal regimes with mass murderers such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. This image may be tempting to many but it is in reality rather ridiculous. Yes, a dictator has enormous power and stays at the top often for decades, in contrast to the four year term system in America, which is very frowned upon in our culture, but surely, a dictator is not politically omnipotent. He has plenty of people underneath that he needs to satisfy, and though he may have a cult of personality within the propaganda, people are basically free to ignore him and go about their own business. He is also a human too, just like you, with very human interests, though sure, he may be a psychopath of some sort. There is also a vital point that almost always for a dictator to come to power, he must have a high degree of support from a large number of people, and thus, dictators in practice have little incentive to work against people’s interests, with getting people to like him being largely in his interest. Ironically, dictatorships can be very good at motivating people to achieve great things and providing certain continuity and long-term perspective difficult within a system where the people can easily choose to elect a new leader. In fact, if I have someone pressuring or forcing me when I don’t want to to do what is good for me (like waking up early on a weekend) and good for the society at large (like not being a parasite), I consider that to be a very positive thing. On this note, talking with someone in China recently, that guy was like: China now has 10 year terms for leaders, and maybe it should be gotten rid of, because it’s too little time for a leader to do anything serious, as he would have to pass the torch before he can be finished. Maybe Xi Jinping should try to extend his presidency past his 10 year term. Even in America, during WWII, Roosevelt was president for 16 years.

I personally love reading and watching controversial and sensitive material that most people dare not to. I’ve read plenty of material in Chinese banned in the mainland (but of course, still easily obtainable there if one really wants), most memorable of which was the very well-written, of high literary quality, autobiography by 巫宁坤 (Wu Ningkun). I’ve watched an anti-Semitic Nazi movie and also a North Korean movie out of sheer curiosity of certain places so smeared by our media. I also think that Soviet music is some of the most beautiful music out there. I have also, not surprisingly, watched some PRC (propaganda) movies from the 50s and 60s, which I felt were very well-made. The scariest and most grotesque movie I watched was one on the WWII Japanese human experimentation camp, Unit 731. A few weeks ago, I also had the pleasure of watching Saving Private Ryan, which I also much enjoyed, though surely it’s, as a Hollywood movie, more or less well-accepted here on our soil, unlike some of the previous ones, for which many would think I’m crazy, which I’m obviously not, for watching. I would say that this is out of a combination of my political intellectual curiosity and a distaste for certain oppressive, intolerant mainstream views and norms in America. Shaped by these explorations, I am of the belief that people should be more tolerant of differences and more politically and culturally open-minded. Be emotionally insensitive and let others be who they are. Also, be reasonable, precise, and stick to the facts. This is a concrete and substantive characterization of how throughout my life, I have challenged and questioned authority in the political intellectual domain.

Joshua is obviously promoting his own Jewish culture in that TED talk. On this, I’ve come to note that Jews in America are for the most part entirely unashamed, if not eager, to display and extol their culture. This is in contrast to Chinese who grow up here, many of whom try to distance themselves from their roots. Well, I guess there are self-hating Jews (like Bobby Fischer, who I feel I can understand much more now, with where he’s coming from) as well, but overall, they seem far less conspicuous. I believe the latter is out of a combination of their lack of self-confidence, the gross bastardization of Chinese culture in America, and the difficulty of learning the Chinese language in an American environment even when parents speak it at home, especially the written aspect.

There is the cliche saying that Chinese people in general, due to certain elements deep-rooted in Chinese culture, are very deferential to authority, which stifles creativity and innovation. I’ve surely thought about this and my views have evolved over time the more I’ve learned and seen. It is obviously too simplistic a notion presented by those of meager and often incorrect understanding. I do believe that Confucianism had and still has a strong element of the phenomenon described, but so did Christianity, just of a very different character.

Personally, I have to say that the more I learn, the more impressed I am with the fearless and pure spirit Chinese people have displayed in questioning and challenging authority, especially in the 20th century. I have written here before that I believe China has the richest revolutionary history of the 20th century of any nation or culture, with that of course much owing to the circumstances. China in the 20th century, being in deep trouble, had a dire need for revolutionaries, martyrs, and heroes. With this, the Chinese led by the communists essentially created a new Chinese culture on top of the traditional Chinese culture that had Confucianism as the guiding ideology. There is now a rich tradition and culture of Chinese communism, especially in military and social science, that has become holy in some sense, as is Jerusalem, which became so also out of certain formational historical events, that is very revolutionary in its essential spirit. However, the Chinese being materialists view all this as a force of nature rather than a force of God, a key contrast to holiness in the Abrahamic religions.

Another essential difference is that while Jews have more or less based themselves upon the Western system, having taken great advantage for themselves of the Western imperialism that came out of the discovery of modern science in the West, which they are also in service to politically, with reliance on it, the Chinese have more or less created an independent system from the West without kowtowing to pressures to conform, which has proven to be a correct decision, one that took much political courage and belief in oneself. The foundation for modern China was built largely in the 50s and 60s with little direct exchange with the West, if one excludes the Soviet Union from that, and in certain cases direct confrontation, with the freeze in relations owing to that in the Korean War, the Chinese challenged the Western authority successfully in a military setting in a way unimaginably shocking. It is only now very much in hindsight that while that inability to trade with the West for a few decades very much delayed China’s economic growth in certain respects, it brought about the creation of a very distinctive political culture and system deeply embedded that remains distanced from the mainstream in spite of reform and opening up, of a nature that may well be an advantage for China in the long term if not already. In this respect, Chinese culture has produced a feat and tradition of questioning authority that will forever live in our historical memory.

Another that I have noticed is the upright dedication to truth exhibited at large by Chinese scholars in the often corrupt and political social sciences that become authoritative, relative to those in the West. It is a reflection of good judgment of the Chinese people on who to promote in that arena. It does have much to do that China has in modern times been humbled by and learned so much from the West, the source of the most unprecedentedly radical and explosive growth in human history, but I also dare say that it is an indicator of very high moral character of Chinese civilization. In Chinese intellectual and media circles, bullshitting and falsifying history for political motives seems much more frowned upon. I believe that in this respect, history will eventually look at what the West led by America, that is heavily influenced by Jews in the social sciences, has done with utter disgrace, with various facades unlikely to continue indefinitely.

Speaking of truth, in terms of scientific truth, Chinese civilization has, however, contributed very little in comparison, though surely, Chinese produced a good number of revolutionary scientific breakthroughs in the 20th century, especially later in it. I find it somewhat odd how it is seldom said directly in the West that modern science is a product almost entirely of Western civilization with Greek roots and later Islamic preservation and expansion. Because scientific achievement requires so much in the way of the quality that is the subject matter of this article, surely the Confucianism based Chinese civilization has experienced a dearth of it of a nature that was only learned from the West later on. Now, Chinese are indeed quite relieved and also proud that in STEM, they have been increasingly successful and are now on the verge of reaching a world leading position, with much more to contribute to the world.

I’ll conclude with the following message. If Jews value questioning authority so much, they should let their authorities in media in America be freely and openly challenged. They should let their majority representation among Ivy League presidents and senior administrators be questioned too. In anything that is not terribly meritocratic and more connections and reputation based, their gross overrepresentation often well over 30%, so long as is objectively there, ought to be seriously questioned.