These Days I Can’t Believe Anything You Say

Posted on May 7, 2009

The Sichuan government indicated once again that it would not pursue the issue of quality construction in the schools that collapsed during the earthquake. Their reasoning is that, in earthquakes of magnitudes exceeding the earthquake-proofing standards of the collapsed buildings, all losses are natural. The seemingly rational grounds to this argument are enough to allow those behind the tofu-dregs engineering to collectively exhale a sigh of relief—in the name of “scientific development” and “shouldering the power to build a party that serves the interests of the people,” more than two thousand Chinese architectural experts wrote down some of their wise assessments in a marvelous document. 

If you don’t understand, I’ll put it this way: if you were on a sinking ship, and someone murdered you, everyone would be guiltless, because you were going to die anyway. Or in another example, rape would naturally be just a form of recreation during the Nanjing massacre. Their verdict is that, owing to the high magnitude of the earthquake, those tofu-dregs schools, which lacked steel supports or acceptable-grade concrete, collapsed as a matter of course. This is not an issue worth investigation. “Not worth investigation” means there is no blame. And that’s not criminal logic? 

What has never been clearly explained is: of more than one hundred schools scattered around the severe disaster area, only fourteen schools could claim a death toll in excess of one hundred due to collapse. Even though this was an earthquake of magnitude 8, the remaining ninety schools did not topple. Yet, among the fourteen schools that did, there was no unified pattern of destruction: rooms with larger widths collapsed, and while some of the classroom buildings were left unharmed, the dormitory buildings fell. Towers that had fallen into disrepair for many years remained standing, but newer buildings had collapsed. Identical teaching buildings came down, but not administrative buildings. Surrounding the areas where the most students were killed, at the Beichuan and Juyuan Middle Schools, many buildings were left standing. Thus, interpreting a magnitude 8 earthquake as a “spicy hot pot” (where everything has a different flavor going in, but comes out tasting the same) is evidently a crude explanation. 

And then they emphasize the different architectural standards and earthquake defenses in different eras. The dead perished under institutional rules, and no one will take the blame. What they haven’t clarified is, among those buildings that toppled, which structures reflect the standards of what era. Is this really that complicated? 

There is another version that says it is impossible to collect evidence because rescue workers disturbed buildings in the collapse zones. This is like saying, if you’ve been raped, you must lie on the bed without moving, or face a lifetime without retribution. 

Once again, the Sichuan government has ruined itself in front of the entire nation. Once again, it has deviated from the sacred meaning of “scientific development.” Considering themselves above facts, morality, and justice, and obstinately rejecting the idea of redeeming the public trust or amending their declining honor, they are once again smearing the artificial shades of a fabricated reality onto a heart-breaking natural disaster. 

One year later, a reluctantly speculative number of 5,335 disaster-stricken students still remain nameless, there is a lack of information, the facts are insincere, unconvincing. They shirk responsibility, evade discussion, and forgo the public disclosure of information for fragmented facts—what could be lurking behind the obscured portion of truth? 

Today, it’s not that I would believe what you say. I don’t believe anything you say, so go ahead and say it. 

When a government’s explanation is insufficient to convince even its own people, and those people reject falsehoods and refuse to forget, whose turn is it to grieve?