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When Lei Feng Spirit Encounters Rational Egoism

Popularity 5Viewed 6269 times 2013-3-5 19:28 |System category:News


For China in March, when chilly winter walks away, delightful spring dances in, so does precious Lei Feng Spirit! Just as buds appear in the branches of spring, so living Lei Fengs pop up on the streets.


Along the main roads, beside the crowded square, can you always find rows of stands covering slogans such as ‘One more Lei Feng, one more convenience’ (多一个雷锋,多一份关爱), ‘Learn from Lei Feng, uphold Lei Feng Spirit’(学习雷锋同志,弘扬雷锋精神). Behind these stands are charming smiles of volunteers, mainly consisting of college students, cadets, and some clerks of state-run institutions. They are ready to offer you any warm help you need, ranging from gas charging for bicycles, giving road directions, law counseling, to government policy propagandizing.


Not only on the streets, you can also find Lei Fengs’ stories and articles on newspapers, TV programs, and web news portals. Lei Feng-commemorating parties, meetings, and seminars will be held across the country. Year after year, one March after another, on is the show. The show is a fad, and as March, the month of Chairman Mao’s initiating the Learning-from-Lei Feng campaign in 1962, comes to an end, nearly all the voluntary activities will call a stop.


Of course, it is not necessary to worry about the stop at all. In our every life there are still numberless of living Lei Lengs available when in need of help. It is owing to these Lei Fengs that our society registers a peaceful and well-being socialist picture.


However, on the other end of spectrum, complains such as ‘Lei Feng has been dead’ can be heard of from time to time. Reports of offering no help for the needy or even adding more insult to the misfortunes keep torturing the kind-hearted folks again and again. The well-known ‘Little Yueyue Incident’ (小悦悦事件) is a typical case in point. At 5:30pm, Oct.13, 2011, in Foshan city, Guangdong Province, a mini-van crashed into Yueyue, a two-year-old girl, and run away without taking any move to save her. And then two pedestrians turned a blind eye to the still living hit-and-run victim. Following that, another van rolled over the poor child again without a stop. In the next five minutes, none of 16 more passers-by offered a hand to the helpless until a rubbish collector picked up the crashed little kid and helped her find her mom. But too late it was! The pathetic girl died in the hospital later on.


The two drivers had broken the law and should assume a legal liability. The legal level is beyond the current discussion, so let’s leave it at that. Let’s stick to moral field reflection. What’s wrong with each of these 2 cruel drivers and 18 stony passers-by? Why are they so far away from our Lei Feng spirit of ‘selfless service for the people’?


It’s reasonable to speculate that all of them, among other by-standers, must have learnt from Lei Feng. Some of them might have been enthusiastic fans and loyal followers of the spirit.


But, as economy develops, as money talks louder and louder in our society, Lei Feng spirit is tainted by anther thought-----so-called rational egoism, which justifies an action on whether it maximizes one's self-interests. As for the people of rational egoism, if you’d like him to be a helper, all right, “what can I get in return?” It seems the way every one of them is asking. No sacrifice, no devotion, only their own interests! Sure, you may argue that some of the by-standers didn’t offer a help hand not because they only cared about profit of their action, but because they were afraid of getting involved in troubles, which proves a quite common phenomenon in our current society too. It’s a kind of self protection, for which there is sure to be no ground to blame.


However, thinking deeply, we may easily conclude that if all the members of our society should take the rational egoism as their action principle, how horrible our life would become: lonely, helpless, cruel and dark, as that of Shylock, a character in Shakespeare’s novel The Merchant of Venice. No love, no warmness, no caring and affection, and then, no life per se!


It is evident that great pleasure derives from helping others, for the reason that, if you help the other, the other is also helping you, and then you’re helping yourself. This way, the society is full of sunshine, and we can live a comfort and well-being life. Therefore, let’s consciously fight against the rational egoism, which prevails in western capitalist society as core of individualism. As for the above mentioned worries about getting involved in troubles, technological means such as installing as many as surveillance cameras, together with legal actions such as legislating laws against frame-ups will play a role of an effective deterrence. At the same time, if helping each other becomes a routine way of action, frame-ups will find nowhere to take place. Let’s just join together and do a favor for the needy around us, which, be it small or great, will make a great difference. 


Shylocks only account for a small portion of our society. Lei Feng spirit will surely be always taking the upper hand, and Lei Fengs will be always found around us.


Lei Feng spirit blossoms in March and flourishes all the time!





(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (7 comments)

Reply Report DSseeing 2013-3-6 13:18
Well-said. But I have some doubts. First, could be be possible that Leifeng's story is some sort of propaganda?
Second, Rational egoism prevails in western capitalist society? That's a bit assertive. That's not what I found when I was in New York.
Reply Report MichaelM 2013-3-6 13:51
Westerners abhor harmful treatment of women and children. It isn't tolerated. A medical doctor who I know quite well here in China, recently returned from his first trip to America . I asked him what part of American culture was most shocking to him. Without hesitation he said, "The kindness I felt from the people."
Reply Report ALittleBoat 2013-3-6 17:06
DSseeing: Well-said. But I have some doubts. First, could be be possible that Leifeng's story is some sort of propaganda?
Second, Rational egoism prevails in w ...
As for the 1st question, i think that, given the morality eruption of the whole society these days, every March the commemorating activities launched by governments can be called a kind of propaganda, aiming at stirring up the moral consciousness, and hence lifting the moral level of the whole sociaty. it's run and dominated by government. Can't we say it a kind of propaganda?
the 2nd question, you're right. the statement is assertive. In fact, a more accurate and justified word should goes like this: rational egoism prevails in the early stage of western capitalist society, when morality got rotten much like what is taking place in today's China. Do you think so?
Thank you very much for your critical comment!
Reply Report ALittleBoat 2013-3-6 17:19
MichaelM: Westerners abhor harmful treatment of women and children. It isn't tolerated. A medical doctor who I know quite well here in China, recently returned  ...
MichaeIm, i confess that i am kind of  assertive  in talking about rational egoism in capitalist countries.
In fact, talking about morality in terms of ideology as such is not a clever practice, because it's hard to say the people as a whole in socialist countries own higher morality than the people in capitalist ones.
As your experience shows, be it here in China or in your native country, the States, we can feel the kindness from the people.
More comments are expected. thanks a lot!
Reply Report 易水寒2006 2013-3-7 16:56
Reply Report huaren2323 2013-3-8 08:51
The Yueyue incident is really sad and disturbing. Although many kindness and community spirit still exist (mostly in rural areas and secondary cities) I can only say that if we ourselves ought to begin by showing kindness, compassion, and community spirit so that one day it becomes spontaneous. I believe that it would bother the drivers and the passing bystanders many many nights as much as it bother even me while reading this blog. Let us each be the litlle candlelight that show as example that other may be "SHAMED" into conformance of common decency. I have mentioned Hong Kong Taiwan were just as chaotic in 1950s and morally deficient but now they appear civil and decent.  That is a hint there is hope. I will remember March 5 as Lei Feng day and honor him by my action accordingly the best I can. Thank you Mr. Wang for your narrative. It is very effective in drawing the meaning of Lei Feng day...on both the end being human being with conscience inside us we know what is right and what is wrong... deep inside
Reply Report huaren2323 2013-3-8 09:38
I am back Mr. still bothers me...I was raised as 1 of 8 children in my family in Southeast Asia and then in Canada. When I was a kid we studied (a) Chinese Phonetics <po, phe, me, fe etc> and basic chinese characters (b) geopgrahy (c) History <from viewpoint of Taiwan as Chinese materials are banned (d) arithmetic (e) sociology <Confucius/Buddhism> (f) music. My parents also enrolled me in Catholic English schools in the afternoon so we had the repeat of history from viewpoint of western civilization, arithmetic, geography, BUT now it includes RELIGION and Good manner & RightConduct. Being kids I am naughty and gets punished for dishonesty, rudeness, violence. When we get home we also learn to be cooperative and sacrifice a la Confucius  < I wear my 3 older brothers' clothes that my navy blue pants turned grey from washing and folded at hem to fit my short height. We are to eat together and never scoop food but pick with our chopsticks. Being male and aggressive my extra energy were spent in sports like self defense and soccer foortball. When we are in high school level, we were taugt sex education and pregnancy prevention. We learn how to become rich within the laws with another subject <commercial contract & punishment> . I am very curious about the education in China during elementary and junior high if they include Humanities and Moral Right Cionduct? My uncle in Fujian was a very senior cadre on the Deng Xiao Ping line. He hated his children who put him in prison during the Cultural Revolution. He was later rehabilitated and restore with vast powers but remain hating his children. He picked me up with a 6 door Benz at The Guangzhou airport right at the ramp. The same generation in 1975's university crop are now 60 years old and are in high government offices. They are the one who got away from the excesses of the Cultural Revolution so they and the victims when they see material wealth, nothing else matters to many of them I think. It seems that many Chinese thinks to get rich fast regardless of others and they may be right because they are now rewarded with material plenty. I had my general manager who was a cultural revolution activist who tricked me to entrust him with my company chop that I do not know can be used to withdraw money from the bank even without my signature. Well this one did not get away and still in prison. But the rest, I am worried, Could a old chinese saying be true that when you nurtured a seedling to be crooked once they become a tree they remain crooked no matter what? This is a tough reform confronting China...I think due to one child (tendency to spoil the one child...i have seen with my own eyes in parks and public transport how nasty a single child can act) and rapid development (promoting indifference..I do not think people in big cities like Shanghai knows their neighbors or they care about them, except if the plumbing is not working or someone park their cars in their spot. I know this for sure in Shenzhen because no one is originally from Shenzhen..this is really tough...and a big challenge for all the Lei Feng and one like me who shall try to emulate/honor him.

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