Learning from Lei Feng

Lei FengToday, March 5th (I know, for those in China, its a day late, dollar short), is the day designated as "Learn From Lei Feng Day" in China when school kids are taught a bit about Lei Feng and then go out and do menial tasks around their campus and the city to show that they are full of the spirit of Lei Feng. Danwei spotlights the fact that a surprising number of school children in China don't really know who Lei Feng is and includes an interesting essay which issues the call to forget Lei Feng and "Lei Feng Spirit" and do more to promote the values he stood for.

We at Modern Lei Feng have always felt it important to help others (especially those less fortunate), care for our fellow man, and promote selflessness. When talking about Lei Feng, that is what I want to highlight more than anything. It isn't about doing it as part of a campaign, but doing it because its what you really believe in. Its a spirit that really needs to be promoted in China because, though its improving over the past 10 years or so, for the longest time it was truly dead. The Cultural Revolution killed that spirit, making neighbors fear neighbors and turning everything into a rat race where personal survival was more important than anything. After that, the reform era made people focus on money and opportunity and memories of the CR were too fresh to bring people to help others. Maybe in Beijing, at least, 1989 changed some of that as people gave up caring, if only briefly. Since then, there are a lot of people out there who are working selflessly for the improvement of China in a lot of different areas, but much of the time they do so anonymously.

I would love to see Lei Feng's spirit come alive once again. It's not like China is short on causes that could use assistance. Think about it. Migrants, the environment, the disabled, animal cruelty, spousal abuse, AIDS, etc, etc. All these areas (some of them more controversial than others) are areas where independent charities or just caring people willing to do something would do a lot to make people's lives better. There are already groups that are doing a lot, like Hui Ling and Bethel China which do a lot to help disabled people and blind orphans, respectively, in Beijing and whose work goes unoticed. Even organizations connected to the government like your city's Disabled Federation would probably be open to foreigners who are willing to help out or teach English.

Personally, I've tried to do as much as we can for the blind, and disabled in general, in China. While education conditions are slowly improving (though even a rich city like Shanghai is in need of funding for books), mainly due to pet projects in cities like Shanghai, it isn't helping because once these students graduate, they face so much prejudice in the job market which only sees them as piano tuners and masseurs. We know an individual who is blind, majored in English at Shanghai Normal (he was in the class that was the first blind students to attend regular classes at a university in China) and having graduated with a degree in English, he can't find a job because nobody is willing to take a risk. Unfortunately, this isn't the exception but the norm. Too often, even in the face of a hard working and accomplished person (and without that person being protected by an American ADA-like law), disabled people are rejected solely because of their disability and a boss who "doesn't want to take a risk."

If this comes off as a rant, that's not (totally) what its meant to be. I'm trying to highlight one problem that, to me, is very important and also trying to get people to help out more. It may be discouraging to think what 1 person can do in such a huge country, but there are a lot of positives that people who are willing to help for the right reasons can achieve. That kind of spirit is infectious and others around will be happy to join in. Also, for those who are foreigners, it can often mean that you'll be thrown into situations where you're amongst people who don't really speak English, while it may be intimidating at first, its also a great chance to really practice Chinese. Hopefully, more people in China can rediscovery the values that are a part of the "spirit of Lei Feng" and work to improve society around them.


Anonymous said...

I think that the principles practiced by Lei Feng need to be spread worldwide. I would love to make a contribbution to the book program in China. Perhaps have a link to it for other like-minded citizens? ;)

b. cheng said...

thats a good suggestion, I'll get on it!

nancy said...

it's sad to talk about how the 文化大革命 has distort chinese people's traditional inner-beauty. when foreigners were progressing forward, we stopped and even took a major step backward. i can't forgive Mao for what he has done, but there are still many people worship him as GOD. another big problem emerged during that time is the baby boomer...china has way too many people that it has became a insurmountable problem... even the abled body, freshly grads have such huge difficulties in finding a job, who is willing to spare a chance for the disabled? anyway, my point is, Maslow has this 5 hierarchy of human's needs. the two basic ones are food and security, then it comes to the third level, which is to love and be loved. if you want people to have spirits of LeiFeng, you get to satisfied their needs at the lower level first, then they will be able to think about helping and loving others. just my opinion though.

b. cheng said...

I think you are exactly right. With so many people who are "xia gang" in China and recent grads struggling to get jobs, it is impossible to imagine China being able to adopt something like the US' ADA laws.

As for the other stuff, again, you're right on. When so many are so focused on the everyday rat race, trying to earn money and survive, its impossible to think that they'd be willing to care for others. Hopefully that will change, but in many cases, people are doing far better than they ever were before, but selfishness and greed keep them obsessed to get more and not be satisfied.