Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Matchmaking Morality

I'd thought that enough was written about the matchmaking show "If you are not sincere" (also referred to as "If you are the one"), until I got the following questions from a reader: 
Why do you think these remarks set off such a firestorm? More than a half century ago Marilyn Monroe could sing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" in Hays code Hollywood and no one got too upset. Are the woman's comments troubling to you? What do you think about the government move? Is it a noble effort to try to encourage virtue or a hopeless attempt to impose an ancient moral code?  Does the government have any role to play in shaping public morality?
Actually, I was equally curious about who in particular ordered the censorship.  Was it from some sanctimonious leaders in The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), or from higher authority of the Party central (e.g. Hu Jintao)? The latter possibility is certainly more worrisome.  I have written in this space before that the Party nowadays, though still active in political censorship, seemed to have left people's lifestyle issues alone. The return of such control is not a good sign.

Does the government have any role to play in shaping public morality? It certainly did in the Mao era.  Not only "shaping," the government (which was the Party itself) defined morality for the public and the public sincerely followed its rules. However, that sincerity largely came from people's belief in Communism.  This is to say, administrative command alone wouldn't have been so effective.  But Communism as practiced by Mao suppressed human nature (e.g., desire for a better material life) to an extreme and thus was doomed to be short lived. The destructive Cultural Revolution, in a sense, was a violent release of suppressed human nature.  Consequently, the belief in Communism collapsed after the CR.  Now the situation is that the administrative command may be obeyed, but not sincerely.  As an observant reader commented on my previous post, "The woman from the Party School is totally superfluous, and people on the show seem to be protesting silently."
The "mammonism" being scolded upon today is actually a consequence of an earlier notion of Deng Xiaoping's that "to be rich is glorious," which, to my understanding, was a  hypercorrection of Mao's collective-poverty policy.  Now the government seems to be quietly trying to re-correct Deng's correction, probably motivated by concerns about social unrest caused by the ever larger wealth gap.  But as long as the wealth gap exists, there's no way to eliminate the poor's desire to catch up the rich.  The censorship itself seems laughable and, without sincere beliefs to back it up, can only result in a new immorality of hypocrisy.  This is a post-Communist dilemma that the authority must deal with.  Stop issuing such stupid commands.  If you are sincere, do something about the wealth gap. 

I should also add that, from the pre-censorship episodes of the matchmaking show I've watched, I only saw two women (among hundreds) who openly placed wealth as the top criterion for choosing a mate.  Both were, from time to time, mocked by Meng Fei  and Le Jia in a good-natured way.  Most women apparently considered the men's character and personality first, and economic condition second (certainly not ignoring it).  One thing that particularly touches me is that the majority men and women have mentioned as a condition for a prospect mate:  "Be filial to my parents." You often hear a statement like "It's my biggest happiness to make my parents happy."  This is sincerity. This is morality with "Chinese characteristics." 


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Anonymous said...

In fact, the new show is better than what it was...