When one of the co-founders of this blog first set up an account on a social networking site using the "modernleifeng" moniker, he quickly received a message from an "old China hand" who had a very weak understanding of Lei Feng and what the Chinese think of him. The debate about whether the Lei Feng story is true or simply a myth and the propaganda machine that built him into a hero during the Cultural Revolution is completely meaningless. When we chose the name "A Modern Lei Feng", it was in part influenced by our Dongbei roots and, of course, the song, but also because we like what Lei Feng stands for. Perhaps its a lie, and its definitely propaganda, but its much like George Washington and his cherry tree, but even more important.
March 5th marks the day the Chinese government set up to honor and remember Lei Feng. To do so, school teachers across the country encourage their students to go out and do small tasks to help other people or hold educational programs promoting social responsibility. This message isn't only important for the kiddies, but for all of Chinese society.
If the spirit of Lei Feng can be co-opted by Chinese (and western) hipsters, pun rockers, why can't it also be used by those who are trying to promote volunteerism and environmentalism. Volunteerism is significantly lacking in China. A self-serving interest and desire to take part in a once in a lifetime event motivated millions of Chinese to apply as volunteers at the Olympics, but the same people are the ones that push in front of you as you're getting on the bus, ignore the lost foreigner, or throw their garbage on the ground instead of taking a few steps and finding the garbage can.
Why can't patriotism be about more than just hating France and feeling insulted from time to time? There are people battling to do the right thing on a daily basis, there are "angels" around Chinese cities and the countryside who are dedicated to helping others or who see someone in need and feel its their civic duty to go and lend a hand. These people are rare, they need to be celebrated. Patriotism isn't only about raising a riot when faced with a (perceived) insult, its about devotion to your country, one of the best ways for most of us to show that devotion is by helping those around us and doing what we can to help the environment.
Honoring the spirit of Lei Feng should be like Mother's/Father's Day and Valentine's Day. It shouldn't be an afterthought once a year, it should be something we live by on a daily basis.