Sunday, December 5, 2010

My First Devastation and Cynicism

My paintings, often made commentaries on societal affairs, have perhaps revealed that I, though not without compassion, can be quite cynical at times.  I have mentioned before of my "education" in general terms, which surely had contributed to my unsentimental world view, which in turn was reflected in some of my paintings, such as the example below - Devils' Dance, which was inspired by a passage of Tin Drum by Günter Grass, whose depiction of book-burning under Nazi regime was not so distant a memory in China when I grew up.  However, there was a particular event I remember clearly which laid the first foundation of my cynicism.

When I was about to graduate from my five-year elementary school, my head teacher of three years called me aside for a tête-à-têtes.  Anticipating a congratulatory speech on my admission to a highly competitive middel school, I prepared my obligatory gratitude silently.  Instead, she offered me an unsolicited piece of advice, which turned my world up-side-down.  I was so unprepared that I fell silent but furious inside.  When I got home, I cursed her with utmost vehement and all my very limited vocabularies of dirty words.  That piece of advice instantly opened my eyes by shedding lights on the dirty world of grown-ups and the treacherous roads I'd tread upon and would be forced to choose, repeatedly perhaps.   

The piece of advice she gave me was that in the future, I should not continue my certain practice, a practice she initiated and had so far encouraged during three years' time she was my head teacher.  What I, along with several chosen "good students", had done was keeping a record of misdeeds of other students, and reported to her what had happened when she or other teachers were not around.  We had performed this task diligently, with great self-regards and pride -- a head teacher's trust was very seductive to elementary school pupils.  Considering that our record keeping had not been really a secret, it perhaps gave us, the bookkeepers, a gratifying sense of power and self-righteousness.  We had strongly believed that what we had been doing was for the common good and should be most lauded.

In the end, however, in my head teacher's one sentence, I realized that what we had told to do, was despicable and should only be conducted in secrecy, out of sight of light and decency, and by creatures with no self-regard and consciousness.  We had been delegated to the same class as rats.  Naturally, when my usage to her came to an end, the motive behind her giving me such advice was her care for me, but apparently her care for me was not big enough to eclipse her need to use us, her convenience of three years, paid with the high price of the innocence of several children.

No serious harm had been done to any other students - what we had reported were only mere travilaties, such as who whispered in class, who looked out of the window when a plane flew by, and who copied other people's homework, etc. - except to me, and any other such bookkeepers if who was as sensitive as I was. 

I vowed not to be a cat's paw again and will adherent to my own judgment and my good conscious, and remain dignified and not to yield to seductions of trust of the powerful and easy praises.

From then on, I mistrusted any authorities and always question the motivations of the influential, and tried to observe the world with open cold-eyes. 

Devils' Dance / 魔鬼的舞蹈 / Teufels Tanz

>> My Path, Part V: My Two Christmases in China
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