Does the Nation Have a List? 

Posted on July 28, 2008

The headlines this morning read: “Wenchuan has announced it will establish an earthquake memorial.” 

The Vietnam War had a profound effect on the United States; it caused the kind of pain that cuts deep; and ten years after the conclusion of the war, they erected a memorial bearing the engraved names of more than 58,000 departed soldiers on a field of grass in Washington, D.C. As for the affairs here, all we get is a statement from the top such as the one above, and the excited clamoring of a pack of expert bastards kicking up a fuss. As you can imagine, this memorial isn’t preparing to accurately record the actual events. Historical facts were altered even before they were allowed to run their full course. Even more impossible would be holding a memorial service for those who died as a result of carelessness. A dessert course of covering errors and singing praises will follow this feast of a disaster. The casualties are countless, except for one “tenacious pig” who emerged after surviving under quake rubble for forty days. No one asks about the shoddy “tofu-dregs engineering”; instead, we blindly accuse “running teacher Fan.” 

Nationalism is only a fig leaf for the feeble-minded, a tricky maneuver that prevents everyone from seeing the complete picture. As for those who have perished in the calamities over history, their survival or their deaths will only be forgotten, and forgotten in disgrace, even though such disgrace is more deserving of those who survived them. Justice is only selectively upheld, and tears may flow only seasonally. Hypocritical and exaggerated tears add to the charitable contributions, but cannot in the slightest amount abate the penetrating numbness and ignorance that comes with life, they cannot pardon the hypocrisy, those despicable things that course in their blood. 

How many people were actually killed and wounded in the Wenchuan earthquake? How did they perish, and who should shoulder the blame? Confronted with this question, the responsible Ministry of Education and Ministry of Architecture are refusing to answer, they want to eternally play dead. 

The parents of those school children are helpless, even though everyone now knows what happened, and why death descended upon those children. All this was predestined, this was their reality, the only reality they might encounter. In their reality, there is no alternative fate, no other voice or alternative hand that might lead them on the path to fairness, or extend to them even the slightest bit of justice. They are saying, “It wasn’t just a natural disaster,” but who pays attention? The response is: We cried our eyes out when it was time, we donated with all of our strength, what else do you want? 

Pain comes not only from the loss of flesh and blood; it can also arise from an indifferent world refusing to help, or from the enormity of a hypocritical social hierarchy. In this hierarchy, personal feelings are negligible, are powerless victims of a necessary sacrifice, unrelated to the severity of the loss. Helplessness arises from the neglect and mocking of personal feelings, public opinion, morality, justice, and rule of law. 

In this world, there are only two kinds of history and reality, two kinds of institutions and governments: the ethical and the nonethical. The standard for evaluation is the attitude with which we treat life. In a society without democracy, there will be no space for the masses to speak their minds, and no possibility for safeguarding the power of the people’s livelihood—the result is a deceitful and degenerate reality. The masses don’t need pity after injury, they need even more a strong institution of self-protection, they need to know the facts, and they need action, the power to participate and refute. 

It’s easy to say that democracy is good; it protects the weak. Within any other system, the majority of weak populations has difficulty gaining protection. Only in democratic societies is it possible to return power and dignity to the weak and impoverished. Don’t make decisions on behalf of the people; let them take their own initiative. To give them back their rights is to take responsibility and return their dignity to them. 

Who will answer for China the question of exactly how many students died as a result of these tofu-dregs schools? And to the villains in Sichuan: Does this really require concealing state secrets? Is it really so hard to tell the truth, about even such things?