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Beware of lectures by fake elites
There is a group of people in this country who regard themselves as the "elites of society".
[ 2008-06-18 09:59 ]

 Beware of lectures by fake elites

There is a group of people in this country who regard themselves as the "elites of society". They take themselves to be the most advanced part of society in China's progress toward modernity. They always try to distinguish themselves from the public by saying something special. Their most favorite tactic is to publish an opinion that challenges the masses' common sense. They are best at exaggerating a situation to produce a sensational effect.

A recent event gave them such a chance.

Fan Meizhong, a middle school teacher in Sichuan, ran away from a soon-to-collapse classroom when the earthquake struck, leaving his students behind. His act provoked widespread criticism on the Internet and in the media. Most critics remarked that he had violated the professional ethics of a teacher though his involuntary dodging of danger was understandable as a human being.

Meanwhile, quite a number of people expressed their sympathy for Fan. They placed more emphasis on the need to forgive the weaker side of human nature. They surely have reasons to hold this opinion. And it is reassuring to hear a different voice in the unanimous criticism against Fan, for it represents an effort to create a democratic atmosphere in the circle of critics.

Some people, however, went too far in defying the public sentiment. They challenged the mainstream opinion by accusing it of "moral autocracy". One of them published a commentary titled "Can we become more noble by defaming Fan"?

The commentator, who gave his surname as Cao, said the critical remarks on the Internet forums "generally demonstrated an excessively excited sentiment of moral trial". He debunked the online criticism as a "moral campaign the pseudo moralists and young radicals have waged in order to erect a chastity arch (to honor themselves)".

These words show that Cao was targeting at the whole community of Fan's critics.

He based his argument on the assumption that everybody has the same "weakness" in his/her innermost soul as Fan displayed. Therefore, he said, people should not blame Fan but should instead regard him as an excusable pal and "reflect on the human weakness together with Fan". He urged Fan's critics to "approach him rather than abandon him; understand him rather than wantonly vilify him".

Cao was wrong in his argument at least on three points. First, not everybody will behave the same way Fan did, as suggested by Cao. This has been proved by thousands of people who bravely saved others in the quake risking their own lives.

Second, the fact that most people have the same human weakness does not mean that they are not eligible to criticize Fan. People condemned him out of their understanding of what is morally right and wrong. Do they need to do something heroic before they start criticizing Fan?

Third, Fan's critics did not blame him for being afraid of death but for ignoring his students' safety and claiming that he would even abandon his mother in the same situation.

An ugly behavior was made known to the public and the public expressed their disapproval, or even anger, at the behavior. This is only too natural. What traces of "autocracy" can one find in the critical remarks? It is true that some of the critics used harsh words in denouncing Fan. But such unwanted expressions are understandable, given Fan's shameless showing off of his behavior. They are far from "brandishing a moral club" to "kill" Fan, as Cao alleged them to be in his commentary.

Like other "social elites", Cao "imagines himself as a safeguard of justice" - to quote Cao's own words in his criticism of Fan's critics - and tries to teach the public a lesson about democracy and human rights. Regrettably, the public do not want to hear their garrulous preaching; they have seen through the hypocrites.

E-mail: liushinan@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 06/18/2008 page8)



About the author:

刘式南 高级编辑。1968年毕业于武汉华中师范学院(现华中师范大学)英文系。1982年毕业于北京体育学院(现北京体育大学)研究生院体育情报专业。1982年进入中国日报社,先后担任体育记者、时政记者、国际新闻编辑、要闻版责任编辑、发稿部主任、《上海英文星报》总编辑、《中国商业周刊》总编辑等职。现任《中国日报》总编辑助理及专栏作家。1997年获国务院“特殊贡献专家政府津贴”。2000年被中华全国新闻工作者协会授予“全国百佳新闻工作者”称号。2006年获中国新闻奖二等奖(编辑)。

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