To Your Heart's Content

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The generation gap and cultural revolution in China

Was reading an article from CNN about the generation gap between Boomers (in their 40s now) and Xers (b. 65-79), who seem to be more quixotic and short-term minded re: long-term commitment in the workplace, and how to overcome differences. Well, the last sentence had this to say: "Compared to the generation gap in China, what we have here is nothing."

So true. I never cease to be amazed at how those people who lived or were brought up during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution (often with siblings) differ so much between their children (all "Little Emperors", or single children). The former conserve and save everything, don't waste a shilling, a drop of water, a piece of plastic, or a grain of rice. The latter inherently believe that everything should be done for them, that they have little responsibility, and that they are entitled to this right, among other things.

Though the gap is HUGE, and arguably the older generation does have some comendable qualities, there are some other aspects of the cultural revolution that just ruined China as a civilized country. Take for example this news from an article in a Chinese newspaper regarding "The official Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee's 'Campaign to Promote Civilized Chinese Travelers'" :

"The committee cited some Chinese tourists' lack of concern for appearance, hygiene, courtesy, the law, the environment and public infrastructure, as damaging "the image of China as a civilized country" and generating "widespread attention and criticism domestically and overseas.

Many tourists clear their throats loudly and spit, take off shoes aboard planes and trains, squat and smoke in public places, and often appear uncouth," the China Daily said.

I am convinced that it was the cultural revolution that literally turned China upside down for just one decade that precipitated one of the largest reversals in at least some aspects of the culture in China's recent history. For a wonderful, even psychological, account of the intricacies how this happened, read the enchanting, engaging, and touching book, "Wild Swans", written by the first Chinese woman to get a PhD in Britain.


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