Sunday, April 02, 2006

Maoist Manners

Apparently once a country's been governed by a hard-line Communist dictatorship for well over half a century, that's enough time for people to forget manners and polite social graces.

Beijing authorities issue etiquette guide in hopes of sprucing up Chinese manners
BEIJING (Reuters) - Some 30 years ago, no home in China was complete without the collection of sayings of Chairman Mao Zedong known universally as the Little Red Book.

By the end of this year, Beijing authorities hope etiquette guides, aimed at improving the manners of the city's inhabitants before the 2008 Olympics, will have found a similar place in the capital's 4.3 million households.

Bad manners were a significant threat to the success of the Olympics, He Zhenliang, advisor to the Beijing Games organizers , warned last week.

The series of books go far beyond encouraging citizens to cheer for foreign athletes and not take flash photographs at sporting events.

The "Basic Reader in Civility and Etiquette" is packed with suggestions on posture, crossing the street, ordering steaks and at least one tip that seems to have been plucked from a guide for swinging singles.

"Intimate gazing zones include the eyes, lips and the chest. Gazing at these areas can stimulate emotions and express love," it reads.


There is extensive advice on fashion and formalities, some harking back to a past era.

"Women's underwear should not be exposed and especially should not be worn on the outside... Pajamas should not be worn in public areas," the book says.

"The proper way to greet a person from a Socialist or Marxist-Leninist country is with the term 'comrade'."

Sister volume "Rules and Propriety for Olympic Programs" walks readers through all the Olympic sports -- each illustrated by cartoons with athletes represented as a chicken and a plump panda -- and explains when and how to cheer at different events.

Societies devoid of freedom, where the individual has no value aside from its usefulness to the state, eventually find themselves devoid of purpose and historical progress and significance. People start thinking and behaving like domesticated animals that have no idea what to do without fences and pens and bridles and bits. Like pet dogs, the "owners" have to resort to reward systems and harsh training methods:
City officials admit that book learning will not be enough to get people to change their ways, so the Chinese capital is taking its etiquette campaign to the streets.

The city is mobilizing an army of volunteer "civility supervisors" charged with persuading people to queue for buses and stop spitting in public.

The volunteer patrols will be backed up by thousands of new trash cans bearing reminders to "spit civilly" and warnings that expectorating in public can fetch fines as high as 50 yuan ($6).

Past attempts to free the city of unsanitary habits such as spitting, including a big push when Beijing was in the grip of the SARS epidemic in 2003, have failed to have much impact.

"They spend lots of money on printing all those books but it seems like a waste to me," taxi driver Zhang Jie, a 45-year-old Beijing native, told Reuters.

"There are just too many people in this country. How are you supposed to be able to control the actions of that many people?"

Makes sense to me, Jie. Get too many animals herded into one small enclosure in the barnyard and you find you can't keep them under control nearly so well. Farmer Hu Jintao may have to start culling the herd. Can these people not hear what they're saying?!?

As usual, when these things are held in hard-line states, the Party will make sure things look rosy and proper when the world's magnifying glasses are trained on their city. They'll clean it up and make nice, and move all the undesirable elements elsewhere, out of sight, until everyone goes back home. They've still got two years; a lot can happen in that time.

I grieve for the Chinese people, captured and domesticated by Farmer Mao, groomed and culled by overseers and handlers.

This is not the first time good manners has come up as an issue.
Giving thanks to become new moral lesson in Shangai
Gratitude will become a new moral requirement of high school students in Shanghai when their new semester starts in September.

The educational commission of the municipality issued new regulations on school kids' behavior and moral standards earlier this week, demanding that students "learn to present thanks to others."

"It's very essential for today's youngsters, most of whom are from single-child families, to learn to harbor gratitude to others," said Zou Hong, an official in charge of students' moral cultivation at the educational commission.

The official said the single-child generation, regarded as "little emperors", are egocentric and should learn to be thankful for all that they own and enjoy.

"Only after they learn to be grateful, can they consciously love others and make contributions to society," Zou said.
Love?!? And why should people have a spirit of gratitude when everything's automatically handed to them, and everyone gets the same amount? It's a guarantee, right? Why should I be grateful for something I'm owed? Or rather, for things that aren't really mine in the first place? It all belongs to the government, who can take it away at will, so why should I appreciate anything?

"Moral requirement," eh? I'm sure I won't be alone in my insistence that high school is way, way too late to start "requiring" morals, ethics... or love.

Eventually, guys, you start realizing (like our taxi driver in the previous article) that you cannot hope to control that many people down to the minutia of daily behavior and thought. Marxism fails in that point -- the hearts of humankind were not meant for such governance, and will eventually overthrow their captors in one way or another. Karl Marx did not understand the true nature of man.

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