Social Movement and the Adverse Effects of Heroism

Regarding to the Tiananmen Crackdown, my point of view is that: the mindset of Angry Youth and the Pro-democracy activists were actually the same. Those who said “We must unify the country at all costs”, or “A revolution is not a dinner party”, were based on the same mindset as the Angry Youth. That is, the advocating of bloodshed, only to get scared when it became a reality. (Note: this comment points to the statement once made by the Pro-democracy activist leader, Cai Ling, “What we hoped for was bloodshed”, during an interview with a U.S. journalist). You will see that these people often show contempt or mock on peaceful social movements.

What they hope for and what they admire is a revolution with violence. Peaceful revolution without bloodshed is often regarded as something mockable, impossible and unrealistic.

Such belief in the power of violence and the impotence of non-violence lead to no way. If you hold such a view, you will first realize that as a civilian, you get no violence. This kind of belief can only lead to a cynic conclusion: no political view is rational, and there is no more rational strategy than joining in the establishment, which monopolizes violence. This kind of thinking leads you to nowhere but to produce a cynic.

Why such belief is prominent? It is the result of “heroic education” in China.

The education in worship of heroes leads to radical reactions. The reason why the students in the Tiananmen Incident acted rather radically was more or less the influence of such kind of education.

They had no contingencies at the planning stage. They thought that provided that their cause was righteous, and that they were on the right side, they were the heroes who would win anyway. Therefore, there was no need for contingency plans. This could be very attractive to the supporters, and that was why they were at a state of ecstasy for a period of time. What they thought of was not to bargain, but to achieve an “ultimate victory” through bargaining. But what precisely is the “ultimate victory”, they could only give obscure answers.

It must be wrong to blame them as selfish. The truth was that, at the time that they showed contempt to any activities to seek for self-interests, they did not realize that setting a realizable objective as way to maximize self-interests is a rational activity. Only such kind of people knows the timing to make a deal and to reach consensus.

The Pro-democracy activists were not working on realizable “interests”. They were working on the achievement of an obscure “victory”. They were trying to win, instead of trying to get something concrete. This made the incident hard to resolve. No one knew what they want precisely, and so did they. They even didn’t think of what they wanted. They were just looking for the feeling of victory. But the question is, how to define “victory”? There must be some measurable yardsticks. No, they got none. That was the effects of heroic education.

Those who say “unifying Taiwan can strengthen China” today are not much different from those who said “China will be better off with democracy”. The former ones have no idea of the functions of Taiwan and what to do after unifying Taiwan. Their view is “Let’s think about it only when the unification is realized”.

For the latter ones, it is quite the same. How can democracy wipe out corruptions? Their view on democracy is the same, “Let’s have democracy first, and we talk about the rest later on”. They have no idea how to implement it, but just to leave this problem to others, that is, the Communist Party, to deal with it.

Their emphasis was therefore not to achieve anything concrete, but to feel that they win. That was why they were in a state of ecstasy and commented on everything. Their ideals were just too obscure.

If you ask the Chinese people, “do you advocate the liberation of Taiwan at the cost of lives of 100,000 people?” I believe many will say yes. But if you add a condition in the question, “How about if you and your family and friends have to take the guns to take the beachheads?” , I doubt how many of them will nod without hesitation. That was the same question put to the Pro-democracy activists at that moment. Revolutions are often bloody, yet they were too late to realize that, and who was to shed his blood. This sounds ridiculous, but was common to the participants.

That was not the problem of the leader. In contrast, it was more the problem of the followers. If they had put someone on the position of leader with the willingness and ability to make a deal, the situation could have been better. But the question was, were they satisfied to have this guy be the leader under such state of ecstasy?

That is why they had Cai Ling.

If there is another Tiananmen Incident, will the result be better? Well, I don’t think there will be much difference for the students. But for the Chinese government, it may be different.

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