Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yushu Earthquake Donation: Compassion or Tyranny?

An email from China, received today:

[in translation]

This morning I routinely turned on the TV, and was startled to see every channel broadcasting only CCTV1's news program. At first I thought my TV was broken, then I suddenly remembered today is the "national mourning day" for the Yushu earthquake, and all entertainment activities must be suspended.

The government seems more formalistic than ever. Mourning is a natural mood from one's heart, what has it to do with enforcement?  Why must they make good taste go bad?   Every channel broadcasts only one thing; every person before the camera passionately agitates "transform sorrow into strength, tomorrow will be better!" Such a rolling-broadcast every 30 minutes is capable of causing you a nervous breakdown.

Now it is already 9 pm. I turn on the TV again; every channel still has the same picture and the same language. This is probably something that can only be achieved by China's and North Korea's governments. 

A few days ago a public servant friend said that, for the Wenchuan earthquake last time, at least the employees had been "mobilized" to donate; this time they simply had our salaries docked. The boss hypocritically notified everyone: Whoever doesn't wish to donate, come talk to me in my office. Who dares to go to his office and say "I'm not willing to donate"? Unless one doesn't wish to live!

For the previous Wenchuan earthquake, my friend S donated 1000 yuan voluntarily. This time 100 yuan was directly docked from his salary. He said it didn't feel like he donated, it felt like he was being robbed.

Nowadays the earth environment is so poor, if there are a few more tsunami or earthquakes or floods or droughts a year, wouldn't one's salary "be donated" completely?

Of course a work unit docking employees' salary is because they have no alternative; a red-title official document has come from above. It assigns a quota of donation, and each work unit has to deliver the money to above for aggregation, so that the CCTV can claim "the whole nation unites like one heart, the unity constructs an insurmountable wall, and so far people have actively donated this many billions. It fully demonstrates our fine tradition that all ethnicities are as dear as one family, and one place's disaster receives aid from eight sides," et cetera. 

There are also articles in newspaper ridiculing this "be donated" thing. China has so many natural disasters; when problems occur, isn't it the government's responsibility to solve them? Whether people donate or not, is their own business. Since when does it become a quota?  This has nothing to do with consciousness or compassion; it is simply procedural tyranny.

There are also enterprises that turn donations to an advertising expense. In a charity performance, a man from a company holds a big check and grins like an idiot before the camera. The program host hawks with full gusto, So-and-so gives a hundred million! Wow a hundred million! A man from another company is not willing to concede and jumps up, I give two hundred million! The program host shouts madly, So-and-so's offer goes up to two hundred million! If you didn't know you'd thought it was a field auction.

This recalls a story of an old neighbor of mine. The old man in his eighties was half paralyzed. He had the habit to sit at his door listening to the radio. He only listened to Kunqu opera, and he always turned the volume to its highest. It drove his neighbors crazy. But because he was old and ill, the neighbors couldn't bring themselves to complain. Only his young grandson grumbled whenever coming home from school, "The noise is killing me!" The old man pretended he didn't hear. Then one afternoon, as the old man generated the high-frequency noise as usual, the young boy returned home again. He charged to his grandfather with a loud shout, "Wenchuan earthquaked! You are still listening?" The boy then righteously switched off the radio. The old man was at a loss. The boy covered his mouth and ran away.


Anonymous said...

Here's my 'conspiracy' theory:

Because of the large number of Tibetans in Qinghai, the last thing the government wants is to be seen as uncaring to Tibetans, given the sensitive nature and high international profile of the Tibet issue. Thus, donation numbers have to look good.

Unknown said...

It is unfortunate the way that donations are being collected. Fortunately many are willing to donate without being forced to do so. Tibet Collection is donating 10% of all its sales until May 1st to the Earthquake Relief effort. Please visit our site to find out the many different ways you can help.

Anonymous said...

In times of crisis, when lives were lost, hearts were broken, when everyone's sincere and trying to do their bit - sympathy or donation, you express sarcasm... democracy is the name of your game, humanity is ours...

Anonymous said...

Although I appreciate the Chinese government's gestures and efforts in mobilizing private donations for the Yushu earthquake victims, but donations should be voluntary and from one's heart and not something like tax as it seems to have been done as stated in the letter. Anything which is not given from your freewill can not be called donations. The donors or givers do not reap the full mental satisfaction and benefits. Chinese citizen must raise this issue with your government so that it does not do the same thing in future as natural disasters of same kinds are bound to happen in future in a country as big as China.


Xujun said...

Good points, Ngodor. You make a lot of sense.

Anon #2, learn some basic distinctions, will you? For example:

formalism ≠ humanity
humanity ≠ tyranny
opposing procedural tyranny ≠ unwilling to donate