I’ve always liked 龙应台’s articles a lot. Straight forward, passionate yet logical, always meaningful and up-to-date. My parents mentioned this article when I called them last night, saying that 中国青年报 published this one and naturally got bombasted by the Party.
I thought I’ve got used to, like billions of Chinese seemingly have, the bleak reality of China, where almost everybody is content with blaming everything on 资本原始积累 and not doing anything about it, the best world-leading technology is Internet censorship, countless professors and “Ph.D. Mentors” are corrupted to the gene, numerous private coal pits collapse every week to make those workers and their families more misearable than they already are, all while the whole nation is mesmorized by the copy-cat “Super Girl” competition.
One thing that particularly struck me in her article is about personal freedom as the cornerstone of the struggle and accomplishment of the democracy movement in Taiwan. It has always been my naive and simplistic view that personal freedom is the one and only thing that matters in a modern society. Everything else follows. Democracy has lots of inherent problems, but as long as freedom is the ultimate goal and ruler, we can deal with them. This principle was actually told to me by Li Yang, whose pursuit of freedom ironically (or somewhat inevitably) led to God.
I was browsing the super-thick (1365 pages!) Europe history book we bought before our Italy trip. The beginning of its Renaissance chapter is quite interesting:
There is a strong sense of unreality about the Renaissance… It somehow contrived to be the most remarkable feature of the age and yet to be divorced from the main aspects of everyday political, social and cultural life. It was untypical and unrepresentative, yet immensely significant. Like the wonderful figures of Botticelli (manifested in Primavera and Venus Rising from the Waves)… its feet somehow did not touch the ground… The term Renaissance was a Latin calque for a Greek theological term used in the sense of ‘spiritual rebirth’ or ‘resurrection from the dead’. The essence of the Renaissance lay not in any sudden rediscovery of classical civilization but rather in the use which was made of classical models to test the authority underlying conventional taste and wisdom… The prime quality of the Renaissance has been defined as ‘independence of mind’. Its ideal was a person who, by mastering all branches of art the thought, need depend on no outside authority for the formation of knowledge, tastes, and beliefs. (bolded by me).
I think I’ve read something like this many times, maybe even in the most crooked high-school history textbook. But after all these years, and particularly traveling to the heart of Renaissance (Florence and Rome), it means something fresh. I was shocked to learn from Michelangelo’s biography that he constantly fought with the popes who sponsored his works, even fleeing for months or taking part in a revolt against the pope in Florence. Imagine that in China, any time in the history, present, or future: a gay artist who revolts against the emperor or the Chairman, living his life to the fullest extent possible without being in jail for one day, leaving his legacy for the whole world to worship till the end of time. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!
PERSONAL FREEDOM, BOTH OF THE BODY AND THE MIND, IS THE FOUNDATION OF PERSONAL EXCELLENCY AND A PROGRESSIVE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE.