Tuesday, December 05, 2006

熬夜・初雪・A Writer's Responsibility・American BS

(This is meant to be posted last night after my very long ~ day ... Woe to Blogger's technical difficulty, I couldn't post it till now ...)

First snow of the year in Boston. Would be a big stretch to call it "snow." More like sleet perhaps, esp. I virtually missed 99% of it while struggling to wake up after mere 4 hours of sleep and an allnighter at Lamont.


我打了個哈欠,搓了搓已經凍僵的手,心中只有一個念頭:管它是初雪薄雪殘雪 or what not;我,只想睡覺。

走到 lecture hall 和昨天一同奮戰的 TF JH 打了個招呼。"So what time did you stay until last night?" He asked. I think my sudden outburst of frustration at 9:30 pm startled him a bit. "3:45 am ... Gotta catch the last shuttle bus home. Worked on it for another hour and finally crashed."

JH 的眼睛睜的不能再大。

接著是比我更可憐的 JS 匆匆走進。我們以歡迎英雄式的眼光問候他。

"How is it going, J?" Head TF C asked.

Blank smile ... so typical of J. "I ... I feel like crap."

一陣爆笑。Poor guy, stayed up till 6:45 am. The email record testified to his heroic sacrifice. I thought grading 22 paper in one night was bad enough. Poor J, he got 32.

上完課,匆匆又趕去龍應台女士的演講。內容精采、清晰、充分顯露龍女士一貫的銳利與敏銳度。有趣的是 Q & A 的部分。一如往常,中國大陸來的與會人士利用 Q & A 的時間先倡導一下台灣為中國領土之部分,地位同等甘肅、雲南、陜西等等之論述。呱啦呱啦地 ... 五分鐘已過。

"May you ask your question now?",龍女士催問。


"B/c there are other people who would like to ask questions, please state your question quickly," 主持人也忍不住的提醒。

"Ok ... My question is ... I notice that lately there seems to be a change of tone in your writing regarding what the concept of 'motherland' is. I'm wondering if you are still regarding China as your motherland or you've had a change of opinion now? ..."

Honestly, her question was much longer than stated above. The above statement is my own attempted paraphrase.


"If you ask me whether or China is my 'motherland' or whether or not I've changed my view on this regard? I'd say - No, It isn't!

"'China' - to me - is my culture, my heritage, my ancestry. I love China for its culture and its language. So put in the cultural context, yes, China is and will always be my motherland. But if you define 'China' as a state, as the current PRC government, then I'd say - No, China isn't my motherland.

China - as a 'state' - has never been my motherland. I would never agree with a gov't that does not respect my basic human rights or uphold such rights of mine. With such a government I want to have nothing to do with it. So no, if 'China' is defined as a 'state', I'd say, no, it is not my motherland."

(Note: paraphrasing from mere memory)


第三位的提問更加有意思。Again, rather than asking a question as the original purpose of a Q & A session is meant for, this fellow listener used this rare occasion to fully advocate his ideas that Ms. Long has been nothing but an irresponsible writer who - in front of the mainland Chinese writer - only accentuates the strengths and glorious sides of Taiwanese democracy but 'deliberately' hides or glosses over the numerous problems and ills of such an infantile democracy.

"So what is your question?" 龍女士又問。

"I guess my question is ... How could you, as a writer, not present the actual 'truth' to the readers and only present one side of the truth about democracy to the people?"

But his question doesn't end there. For another 3 minutes, he went on and talked about how Ms. Long's writing is irresponsible, one that only points out the ills or praises the strengths but offers no solution to how democracy could in fact 'fit' into the unique Chinese reality and so on.

"As a writer, my job is to point out what HAS NOT BEEN SEEN, not what has been seen. My job is to point out what has not been seen by the Chinese gov't - that democracy in Taiwan isn't a slogan, an ideological difference, but simply a very concrete WAY OF LIFE. As to how the Chinese gov't is going to take such opinion and implement it in its policy-making, that's the job of the politicians, not mine, as a writer," Ms. Long replied.

The person did not seem convinced. The remaining 5 mins of the Q & A session became more of a personal dialogue (or debate?) between the two.

"That is precisely my point - b/c it is your job 'to write' and Mr. Hu's job 'to govern,' when you govern a state and a vast country like China, you cannot simply look at the good ends of democracy ... What you need is audience, what politicians like Hu needs is 'votes'," the person continued.

"Mr. Hu needs votes?" Ms. Long cuts him off and asks.


"My question is - if Mr. Hu isn't happy about my writing, why wouldn't he respond by writing me back? Why does he resort to closing down Freezing Point?" She asked.

"B/c ... B/c that would simply be impossible. He's the chairman who needs to govern the country. How could he possibly respond to every single writer?"

"Why is it impossible? Why is it possible for him to close down publications but impossible for him to respond to a writer?"

(Honestly, at this point, there's such much quick cross-firing from each side that it was even a bit hard to hear the exact words/phrasing of each).

"As a writer, my job is to write and to present a different opinion or voice not yet heard. As for how to actually implement a policy, that is Mr. Hu's job. More precisely, that's the job of his advisory board. As a writer, I do recognize that, the power of my pen remains limited." Ms. Long said, 為她今天的演講做一個總結。


I do not doubt the sincerity of the person who raised his questions to Ms. Long. I also do not doubt that beyond his quick firing of comments and questions dressed up in such fluent British English or intellectual articulation is a sincere heart that wants the best of China - whether under the current system or under the so-called Taiwanese democratic experience. Perhaps underneath his facade of criticism is a heart that wants the greatest of peace, stability, and progressive development of China secured - the EXACT SAME THING that Ms. Long wants for as well. Perhaps underneath his seemingly righteous defense for the PRC gov't or Chairman Hu is an overwhelming sense of fear that democracy - when given to a populace of 1.3 billions of people who have never experienced it nor practiced it - would suddenly result in chaos, factionalism, sheer political struggles, or even something as catastrophic as any major social, political turmoil of the past century under the glorious names of "Cultural Revolution" or "The Great Leap Forward."

Even Liang Qichao thought that it was best for the Chinese to be run under autocracy or political tutelage before the people are mature enough to study the books of Rousseau or understand the spirit of Washington. And Liang had thought about it 100 years go.

I can understand where he is coming from. But I also agree with Ms. Long - it is not her job to think of the concrete ways through which how democracy may one day be practiced and enjoyed by Chinese people. Chairman Hu has a huge advisory board whose members are hired to do exactly that.

Otherwise, Ms. Long might as well abandon her penmanship and run for the next presidential election in Taiwan.

Stepping out of the talk, I went on with my day, fulfilling my role of being a petty TF at Harvard.

4 pm, my last section of the day. The topic of the day was on the history of KMT and CCP and the students were asked to present a 90-sec speech in the context of imaging themselves to be KMT/CCP members of the 1930s/40s and rallying for public support - both urban and rural. I gave students 7 minutes to prepare in group and then asked each one to stand up and deliver the speech in 90 secs.

Then was the turn for a student from Singapore who was trained in the British system and now getting her master's education in the U.S. She stood up, held her hastily written speech in slightly trembling hands, and said the following with a slightly blushed face:

"Oh gosh, 90 sec ... I'm really not into this American bullshit ..."

The entire class laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed till my tears started to trickle down and stomach started hurting.

"Sorry about the American BS assignment. A disclaimer - I didn't write up the section assignment ... Although, sometimes, learning about American BS would certainly carry you far in this country ..." I said.

Or even other places?

梅ちゃん at 8:00:00 AM



at 12/8/06, 5:03 AM Anonymous amy said...

lucky you, getting to meet 龍應台! i've seen her at a public lecture at Taida, and once around the streets of Shida, but never in person.

interesting that the two Q&A episodes you narrate are the same ones reported in the press.

and, on a final note, that 90-sec speech assignment sounds like it belongs in high school.....;)


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