Posts filed under 'Quotes'
So much modern art is ugly for the sake of being ugly.
– Mike Adams, artist
Read twenty or so articles on a certain subject, pick out bits and pieces, and then glue them together. This is how we are expected to write mini-papers at teachers’ college. This past semester is the first time I have done this, and also the first time I fully understood what Robert Pirsig meant in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate as the teacher wants, you get a bad grade. Here in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in a way to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand, could get you anything – from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.
Anyone still wonder why inspiring teachers are hard to come by?
If everyone just had one single person in his life who says, “I will love you no matter what”, then we’ll never end up in mental institutions.
– Leo Buscaglia, “Living, Loving and Learning”
I passed by the centre of Oslo today, the day after the tragic events. The streets are fairly full again, although the never-before-seen armed soldiers guarding the parliament building bring people ever closer to what happened yesterday. There is nothing in the news, or on the national TV channel, other than coverage about the incidents. The nation, which had not hated anyone since WWII, has one enemy today – Anders Behring Breivik, the (or at least one) culprit, a native Norwegian who grew up in Oslo, and who is described by his neighbours as being “sometimes overly polite”.
But right now, I’m thinking of Anders Behring Breivik.
Who is he? Did his parents spend time with him, both playing and learning, when he was young? Does his family still live close to him, visit him and laugh with him? Did he, or does he have a mentor he could talk to when he’s stuck? Did he ever meet someone who would love him unconditionally, instead of saying “I will love you, if …”?
I thought of these questions when they said in the news that his schoolmates remember him but have not kept in touch with him. I found out that Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a bomb which killed 168 people in Oklahoma City (Oklahoma, USA) in 1995, did not feel he had a home and was rejected by women he sought relationships with. I found out that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the high school students who shot their fellow students at school in Columbine (Colorado, USA) in 1999, were bullied at school and turned to bullying others as a way out. I wonder what Breivik’s life was like.
Of course, everyone has had bad experiences and some people can shake them off better than others. But as family, friends, and fellow citizens, it is our responsibility to minimize these bad experiences and to help those who have had a bad experience to come out of it. I feel that we, especially those in Western developed countries, are not doing a very good job at it. We are not doing a very good job at preventing these incidents from happening.
Tonight, I’m thinking of Anders Behring Breivik.
While archiving old files, I found this piece I wrote casually after reading the book “The Geography of Thought – How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why” (2003) by
Richard E. Nisbett in September 2003. I’m surprised at how much my own thoughts have changed since then. Below are three topics: first the quote from the book, then my thoughts in 2003, followed by my thoughts now.
Asians are in fact under greater compunction to appear modest (pg. 54) … the Western push to feel good about the self and the Asian drive for self-improvement… (pg. 56)
2003 comment: Not much a new idea, there are endless examples for both sides. I’m sometimes still under such “compunction”. When talking about the macroeconomics final exam with a Canadian-born, we found out we had both taken microeconomics. Thinking of my 89% final mark, I said I didn’t do well on that course; he immediately responded that he did very well. My intuition told me at once that his mark was lower than mine.
2011 comment: I can’t remember referring to a 89% grade as not good, and I probably wouldn’t do the same now. A few months ago a Chinese lady who have lived in Europe for three years warned me that I might not like way people think in Europe, not knowing that I have been much westernized in Canada.
Western parents constantly require their children to do things on their own and ask them to make their own choices. ‘Would you like to go to bed now or would you like to have a snack first?’ The Asian parent makes the decision for the child on the assumption that the parent knows best what is good for the child. (pg. 58)
2003 comment: In a debate with a Canadian-born friend, he insisted that a decision made by a 20-year-old must be the best for himself/herself. But I told him I need consent from parents on important decisions I would make; my parents don’t always think what the kids think is best for themselves is the best; they want to help make decisions because they care about me. He said his parents care about him, but in a completely different way. We were seriously puzzled and found it extremely difficult to understand each other because neither of us read this book at the time.
2011 comment: Since that debate and after conducting some courageous experiments, I have discovered that a 20-year-old is quite capable of making decisions by himself/herself. It’s one of those things like falling and getting up again; one needs to practice decision-making in order to get good at it. Chinese 20-year-olds can surely use a little more trust from their parents and learn how to get up again from a fall.
Westerners teach their children to communicate their ideas clearly and to adopt a ‘transmitter’ orientation, that is, the speaker is responsible for uttering sentences that can be clearly understood by the hearer. … Asians, in contrast, teach their children a ‘receiver’ orientation. … If a child’s loud singing annoys an American parent, the parent would be likely just to tell the kid to pipe down. No ambiguity there. The Asian parent would be more likely to say, ‘How well you sing a song.’ At first the child might feel pleased, but it would likely dawn on the child that something else might have been meant and the child would try being quieter or not singing at all. (pg. 60)
2003 comment: The transmitter orientation is reflected in the way Canadian schools teach children how to write essays – it must be very easily understood. I never had to worry about that in Chinese schools. We got used to analyzing underlying ideas of articles and were encouraged to write essays that contained analogies and to use words with “hidden meanings”. Because everyone was taught the “receiver orientation”, the reader of such an essay was assumed to be able to infer the hidden meanings and to find the essay amusing. I even argued with my first English teacher in Canada that if everything were explicitly expressed, the essay wouldn’t be interesting at all; he didn’t think I making a valid point.
2011 comment: My 2003 comment is still valid as it was related more to a fact than an opinion or attitude. My own writing style has since become clear, concise, and straight-forward. I have even beat hundreds of other students and won an award for a report I wrote in my last year of university (2006) in Canada. The degree of assimilation is astounding.
During the intermission of the 1993 Superbowl in Los Angelos:
“Today we stand together all around the world, joined in a common purpose, to remake the planet into a haven of joy and understanding and goodness. No one should have to suffer, especially our children. This time we must succeed. This is for the children of the world.”
Then he started singing “Heal the World”.
This is a speech taken from the last few minutes of the controversial TV-series that aired in China in 2003. The speech was reported as not being aired. It tells a dream of Sun Yat-Sen a century ago, and a dream of many today still.
I know you are all very worried. Zhang Xun restored the emperor; the Congress cannot meet again. I know. But this is not what I’ve been worried about. I have been thinking a lot these days:
It goes without saying that we are a republic, but why do things feudalistic and totalitarian emerge again and again! If this problem is not solved, the restoration of a dictatorship will be inevitable and the republic will always be a bubble.
The concepts of the Republic are Equality, Freedom, and Universal Love. But what have we seen during the six years of the Republic: All levels of government officials neglect the law. The people are still enslaved.
The Republic should be a country of freedom! Freedom is a right granted by God. But what have we seen during the six years of the Republic: Only the politicians have freedom; the more powerful have more freedom, the less powerful less freedom. The people have neither power nor freedom.
The Republic should be a country of universal love! Everyone helps me and I help everyone. But what have we seen during the six years of the Republic: There is only the people’s fearful love towards the politicians and the politicians’ false love in their speeches. The kind of honest and sincere universal love, we cannot see!
The Republic should be furthermore a country regulated by law. But what have we seen during the six years of the Republic is that the executive power unscrupulously intervene with the legislature again and again: If you don’t do as I say, I will pay you off; if you don’t obey, I will arrest you, or even murder you. The legislature has become a prostitute that the government officials ravage at their will.
What is the executive then? The executive should be the president, along with his entire administration system, working for the citizens and executing the policies of the Republic. But what have we seen during the six years of the Republic: It is a country ruled by one family hidden behind a republican flag. Under the executive of this family-ruled country, we cannot see transparent executive processes, not to mention a monitoring system. How did those government officials spend people’s hard-earned money? How much money did they stuff in their own pockets? You don’t know, do you? I don’t know either.
We all know that the justice system is a referee. What is this referee’s principle then? It is a constitution of the Republic empowering the people. But during the six years of the Republic, we have not seen such a constitution. Even the immature Provisional Constitution has been raped again and again.
Someone said…no, not one person, some people said: The Republic is merely a label. These things you Cannon Sun (a nickname given for the confrontational nature of Sun Yat-Sen’s speeches) speak of are too illusory, too remote, unsuitable for our country. It’s like a balloon: It looks beautiful, but once it goes up in the air, “bang”, it blows up. I would like to ask you: Do we not want a republic? Is republic really wrong? If republic is wrong, then freedom is wrong. If republic is wrong, then equality is wrong. If republic is wrong, then universal love is wrong! The republic we have been pursuing is not wrong. Of course, it is not yet perfect. That’s why we need to perfect it bit by bit, even if it requires us to pay a price!
Right, my outfit today is a little strange, isn’t it? Even the tailor said it was very peculiar. But if I say it is to perfect the Republic, would you still think it strange? I want to say, this is the republic, this is a republic jacket. On this side (pointing to one of his cuff’s), I designed three buttons; the ideals of the Republic are Equality, Freedom and Universal Love. On this side (pointing to the other cuff) there are also three buttons: nationalism, democracy, and social welfare.
What about the Constitution? I’m not talking about the Three-Power Constitution. I invented a new term: Five-Power Constitution. (Pointing to three pockets on his jacket) In here is the legislature, here the executive, and here the justice. You are all familiar with these three powers, called indirect democracy. What I most favour is direct democracy. The average citizen needs to have the right to directly participate and debate in politics.
In here is the right to write exams (pointing to the fourth pocket). Ever since the ancient China, we had had the tradition of selecting politicians based on their performance in examinations until we abolished the imperial examination system. Of course, the abolition was good for the spread of modern sciences. But one didn’t need to pass exams to become a politician anymore. This is not good. It was like throwing out the baby with the bath water. During the six years of the Republic, what kind of people have been used in the government? All of them are from Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang Army. So we need to return the right to write exams to the people. From now on, all government officials must be selected based on exam results, no matter who they are.
Another one is the right to impeach. There is no pocket left (touching all four pockets). Don’t worry; it can go in here (unbuttoning his jacket, pointing to the pocket inside): the right to impeach. Why do we hide it inside? It’s the people’s secret weapon. You never know when it will break out to impeach you. That’s why you need to be cautious in your position as an official, dutifully serving your people.
I think by now some people will be ever more determined to say I’m a madman, eating the republic and dressing the republic. What else do you know, Cannon Sun? They are right. I know only this one word; my whole life is devoted to this one word: Republic. Many of our patriotic friends have given up their lives for a republic. In my lifetime I wish for no other but this: That republic is not only a terminology, an empty word, or a formality, but it becomes our lifestyle in reality and it becomes our unbreakable faith. Republic is the choice of all people under the sky, the trend of the whole world. The world trend is mighty; the adapting prospers and the opposing perishes. I, Sun Wen, believe that we, the Chinese people, will definitely realize the republic. I firmly believe it.
(Translated from original version in Chinese to English by L.R.C.)