I recently came across this short essay at MITBBS and found the original at bbs.cnxz.com.cn. It was written by a forum user, “马丁” yesterday. The essay raised a bunch of questions for me. How far do we push ourselves in pursuit of fame and fortune? Here is the essay in Chinese followed by my translation. What are your thoughts? Also, I hope someone helps translate the text at the very bottom (too hard for me).
“Being Chinese is tiring, being Chinese abroad is even more tiring”
This age-old question may take a whole novel to explore, so I only want to express using few words; neither do I have much time to type something lengthy nor do you have much time to read.
Many Chinese (not all of them) pursue perfection (wanting everything, including fish and bear’s paw), love comparisons (compare local, foreign, students, co-workers, child, wage, education, position, social benefits, housing, car, wife, husband, lover, Chinese food, Western food, air, water, TV size, phone features … comparing to no ends, however long one lives, compare to the very end), cannot decide, worry about outcomes, whether this mountain or that mountain is taller; isn’t being tired inevitable?
In the China-U.S. relationship: 30 years ago, students managed to study abroad and return were like champions (状元 is the scholar who scored the highest in the Chinese official examination system tradition and is accorded power and fortune); a regular student having returned from Houston could manage to snatch up a popular movie star in Shanghai, get her to quit her career and stay at home as a house wife. Nowadays, are there still returning students that capable? Beautiful local girls have long been pursuing high-ranking officials and successful businessmen.
This reflects enormous changes that have taken place in societies on both sides. I don’t say which side is better, and I don’t want to compare. At least it can be said there is a large increase in the number of wealthy Chinese while putting aside how they obtained wealth and the issue of equality. Plus, with the U.S. economic crisis and rising unemployment, those Chinese who love to compare, will they find inner peace?
So, some people come up with various “perfect” approaches to exploit both sides: get a green card or citizenship or both and then return. They will send the child back to be raised in China while one separated abroad earning money (plus extra-marital affairs). The net result is uncertain. One will have to sum it up by one’s self.
Being Chinese is tiring, but being Chinese abroad is even more tiring. They have more to be compared with and exacerbated with even more opportunities. To not be tired, one has to change the habit of thinking, that is, not seek perfection, compare less, listen to the heart, and do what one really wants. Calm down, you will find your bearings and the direction you must take.
I think there is truth to what “马丁” says. That “bar” is certainly much higher today. Having a Western education alone is no longer a guarantee of success in China.
His main point still is that people should stop comparing. People should find content in what they truly want to do. In this context, he thinks the Chinese abroad having more in material wealth (and opportunities) are worse off.
Recently on NPR, I heard a talk given by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute (believes in small governments) where he discussed about what makes people happy. His conclusion was that people are happy when their spent effort achieves success. They will not be happy, even given free money. He cited this based on massive data collected around the world. (By the way, AEI believes big governments are there to take money from the wealthy and redistribute to the poor. Since people are not going to be happy given free money anyways, there is no point for having big governments, so their argument goes.)
Certainly, an outlet for what “马丁” laments, especially for those who cannot find contentment on their own, perhaps may want to get their governments to more equally redistribute wealth.
Then, looking to the situation in the West, including the U.S., there is a great deal of comparison for sure. In the U.S. it is the obsession with comparing to a “rising” China. There is also a comparison to a U.S. before the financial crisis. The talks of forcing China to revaluate her currency and the rounds of “quantative easing” is really about “redistributing” some of the world’s wealth to America, isn’t it? Individuals and nation states are not that dissimilar in the pursuit of more wants.
Perhaps nation states ought to heed 马丁’s advice. Listen up, world. Find contentment within yourself before greed lead you down a regrettable path!
A comment left at MITBBS was rather interesting too. But this is too difficult for me to translate. Maybe a reader could translate for us and leave it in the comments.