Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Between "公僕" and "領導"

When I was young, when dad was still serving in the government, I would visit him in his office from time to time. Next to his office, there was a grand auditorium with a stage in the middle, a podium in the center, and rows after rows of sofa chairs that were so big and wide that on which, my still short legs and small feet just couldn't help but to dangle - an involuntary gesture that, of course, always invited a silent yet firm look of "No!" from mom.

I had been in that auditorium many times, not for the press conferences for which the room really was built for in the first place, but for the periodic screening events of the films that received production subsidies from the government. It was in that grand auditorium that I watched Ang Lee's very first film, Pushing Hands. It was also in that grand auditorium that I was first introduced to the wonder of art and film.

But beyond the spectaculars that I saw on screen, what always attracted my attention - for kids seem to have this peculiar thing about taking interests in some of the most mundane things to adults - was not the stage, nor the podium, nor the congregation of adults, but the couplet of words that were printed in gigantic wooden blocks and nailed to the side of the stage:

"不要問國家為你做了什麼, 要問你能為國家做些什麼"

Before and after the screening, when the adults were busy giving grand speeches or greeting one another, I put all my attention on the couplet ('cuz really, there wasn't much for me to do, while sitting quietly on that big and wide sofa-like chair was the only thing permitted by mom). Over a number of years, I went from studying just the calligraphy of the writing (before I could recognize all the words), to reciting each word of the couplet slowly (after I could recognize all the words), to finally thinking and pondering what the couplet really means.

But even when I was finally old enough to be wondering about the meaning of the couplet, the couplet puzzled me greatly. "Why couldn't we ask what our country has done for us? Isn't the country by default so much bigger and greater than our individual power and wisdom?" I thought.

Till one day, dad, somehow getting the chance to excuse himself from all the dignitaries at the event, came over and started pointing out the couplet to me - "You see that couplet on the side? That's the famous saying by J.F.Kennedy, a former U.S. President - 'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country'".

"But dad, why can't we ask what our country can do for us? Isn't everyone asking you everyday what the government, the Premier, or the President is doing for the people and the society?" I finally popped the question, a question that had troubled me for a very long time.

"Well, because more than expecting your country to solve all the issues and problems, wouldn't it make more sense for us to share the burden and responsibility by starting from where we are and asking what we can do?" Dad said.

"If that's the case, why do we need people like you in the government?" I asked again.

"But May-yi, even for people like us, who work in the government, we are still just regular human beings. So just like everyone else, we still need to ask ourselves the same question - 'what can I do for my country and people everyday' - not what others can do for us. That is why we are called the 'public servant' (公僕) - to be here to serve, not to be served," dad replied.

Years later, whenever I heard of the word "公僕" in Chinese, that conversation with dad somehow always flashes back to my mind. In my little 9 or 10-year-old mind, I still couldn't associate the word "公僕" with its literal meaning - "公眾的僕人/the public servant". But for some reason, from that day on, I seemed to have a sudden understanding of what dad's job was all about, why he had been so busy, and why he always seemed to be dealing with a sense of urgency of having too little time for too much to do, too much to solve, too much to implement.

Fast-forwarding to today - 20 years after I had my first lesson on the meaning of "公僕" with dad - I came a land for which I thought I could somehow live up to my parents' lifelong teaching of "serving those who're most needed". Yet, the word that has again and again been preached to me about the meaning of what I do, or the model to look up to, is not the word "公僕", but the word "領導".

So today when one of my students asked on FB what in the world is a "領導" for when he/she is no where to be found when needed, I made a comment saying, "My understanding and perception of 領導 has been completely transformed since I arrived at this school".

And her answer, which really made me chuckle, just so perfectly explained why I said what I said - "In fact, my understanding of '领导' has never transformed since I was born ... 领导 is the person who does nothing but owns all the priority over others, including those who are really working hard for students and teachers".

Mom and dad taught me to live a life asking about the interests and serving the needs of those in underprivileged position. Now I'm at a place where I'm told and expected to ask about and serve the interests and needs of those in overprivileged leadership.

How about finding the middle-way by inventing a new Chinese word for "servant-leader" and restart from there?

I invite all of your suggestions.

梅ちゃん at 3:55:00 AM

2comments

2 Comments

at 12/4/16, 6:17 PM Blogger hitaakademi said...

Ankara'nin en iyi kurye sirketi olan
kurye ankara hizmette
sinir tanimiyor...

 
at 12/16/16, 5:05 PM Blogger Nhavui said...

nice blog!
Nha vui
Cong ty nha vui
Thiet ke nha vui

 

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