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NBC reports that worldwide, China’s high school students scored highest on the international exams, and within China, Shanghai’s schools were the top of the heap. Best of the bunch. Simply the best. Better than all the rest. Better than anyone. Wow.
Lauren Mack has a nice write-up about the recent case of a 2-year old child who was run over, three times, and left to die by over a dozen people passing by. It’s a sad tale, undesired by many, but not entirely unexpected.
Lauren says: “It’s understandable that people would be apprehensive to help total strangers…”
It is no such thing. It is conceivable that one person passing might be so cold-hearted that they would ignore the case, but to the western mind (I’m American) it is nothing short of appalling that over a dozen citizens(?) would do the same. (To say nothing of the truck driver who ran over her TWICE. He stopped, thought and then proceeded. Don’t even mention the OTHER, second, driver.)
Here in Shanghai, there have been several attempts to explain this beastly behavior recently; perhaps the most accurate is a reference to long-held cultural beliefs regarding family and relations with others. Confucius’ rule regarding the treatment of strangers which we know in the West as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is in fact “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” That is, far from being an encouragement to do good for your fellows because that’s how you would enjoy being treated, the admonition is one of not doing harm to others or they might harm you. The difference is telling.
In between doing good and doing harm lies doing nothing at all. 18 people followed their understanding of Confucianism, ingrained for centuries here.
In practice, this permits most others outside of your own family to be considered non-persons; no ill will is meant, but no kindness is shown, and none is expected, for the most part.
Before you dismiss this idea, look at other evidence of this behavior in China. There are notorious people jams at the subway every time, on every train, because no one wants to wait for anyone else. No one feels the need to say “After you!” But, no one argues about it either. No offense is taken by the pushing and crowding because it’s being done by Other-Than-Family — that is, by non-persons. How can you offend a non-person? Anyway, no real hurt is caused.
The same situation exists on the street, in traffic. The traffic jams are legendary, but the actual accidents are few. Red lights are taken as advisory indicators at best. Drivers go where they want to, yielding only to superior forces of number or size — woe to the pedestrians. But it’s not because they’re mean-spirited. They just don’t care, having been brought up not to do good to their fellow man, but to do no harm.
This vast apathy is cultural. Fascinating. Watch your step.