Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Friend on Lessons Learned from the Cultural Revolution

This is a long overdue post that I have been meaning to write. Now that the July 4th long weekend is here, I finally got the time.

After the New York Times interviewed me in early April, a friend who read it emailed me a comment, in which she says (in translation from Chinese):

The Cultural Revolution kept lots of youngsters out of school, but in a cruel way it also taught a few hard principles.  For example:

-          Stay far away from the Cult of Personality (regardless of its genesis and agenda);
-          Don't easily believe accusations against anyone (especially large-scale, top-down accusations);
-          When it comes to forming opinions on a person or a matter, don't use group thinking; 

How well said! How fundamentally down-to-earth these principles are to every individual. Those born later than our generation, those who are lucky enough to not have experienced the Cultural Revolution – a time when mob mentality played to its extreme – might not get the urgent point or understand the importance of these principles. I dare say, chances are, people will more often do exactly the opposite. It's human nature; it's the kind of human nature we need to be on guard for and fight against.

The friend then adds:

As long as human nature doesn't change, it is possible that the Cultural Revolution will be repeated. If we perceive any sign of that tendency, we must try to stop it regardless of personal dangers.  This is the mission that history entrusts to those of us who were there.

What a courageous thing to say.

On a different but related note, I will be in Berlin on July 13 to participate in a panel discussion as part of the Robert Bosch Stiftung's "Engaging with China" program. The topic is "50 years after the Cultural Revolution – how dealing with the past is shaping China's future."

2 comments:

susan.olding said...

Congratulations on the Berlin trip and panel, Xujun! That is wonderful news.

It was just over a year ago that we met in Beijing. Time goes so quickly.

Xujun Eberlein said...

A year already! I didn't realize so much time has leaked away...