You ask: why are they acting like a bunch of lunatics? They think: we’re the incarnation of restraint.
You ask: why can’t they tell black from white, fact from fiction? They think: we’re telling it like it is.
You ask: why are they interfering with murder? They think: we shamefully let our brothers-in-arms down.
You ask: why all the cover-ups? They think: everything’s in the open.
You ask: why are they so irretrievably corrupt? They think: we’re hardworking and plain-living.
You ask: why are they so infuriatingly arrogant? They think: we’re the incarnation of humility.
You feel like you’re the victim. So do they. They think: during the Qing Dynasty, no one had television. Now everyone has a television. That’s progress!
They think: we’re building you all this stuff, why do you mind a few bumps in the road? Why should you care who it’s really for, as long as you get to use it? The train from Shanghai to Beijing used to take the whole damn day. Now you’re there in five hours — at least when there’s no lightning. Why can’t you be grateful? What’s with all the questions?
Every now and then, there’s an accident. The top leaders all show how worried they are. We make someone available to talk to the press. First we say we’ll give the victims 170,000 yuan apiece (USD 26,000). Then we say we’ll give them 500,000 (USD 78,000). We fire a buddy of ours. We do all that, and you still want to nitpick? How could you all be so narrow minded? You’re not seeing the big picture. Why do you want us to apologize when we haven’t done anything wrong? It’s the price of development, for crying out loud!
Taking care of the bodies quickly is just the way we do things. For the relatives, the earlier they sign, the higher the reward. The longer they wait, the smaller their compensation. Our buddies in the eviction and demolition department taught us that one. True, burying the train cars was pretty boneheaded, but the guys upstairs told us to do it. That’s how they think: if there’s something that could give you trouble, just bury it.
Anyway, the real mistake was trying to dig such a huge hole in broad daylight. And not talking it over with the Propaganda Department beforehand. And then of course not getting a handle on all the photographers at the site. We were busy, OK? If there’s anything we’ve learned from all this, it’s that when you need to bury something, gotta make sure you think about how big it is, and make sure you keep the whole thing quiet. We underestimated all that.
They think that, on the whole, it was an exemplary rescue operation — well planned, promptly executed, and well managed. It’s a shame public opinion’s gotten a little out of hand, but they think: that part’s not our responsibility. We don’t do public opinion.
They say: look at the big picture, we had the Olympics, we scrapped the agricultural tax, and you guys still won’t cut us a break. You’re always going on about these fussy little details. What happened to the can-do spirit? We could be more authoritarian than North Korea. We could make this place poorer than the Sudan. We could be more evil than the Khmer Rouge. Our army’s bigger than any of theirs, but we don’t do any of that. And not only are you not thankful, but you want us to apologize! As if we’ve done something wrong.
There are people with means, and those without. There are people with power, and those that have none. And they all think they’re the victim. In a country where everyone’s the victim, where the classes have started to decouple from one another, where it’s every man for himself, in this huge country whose constituent parts slide forward driven by the forces of inertia alone — in this nation, without further reform, even the tiniest decoupling will make any derailing hard to put right.
The nation’s not going anywhere because a lot of these guys still go about their business as if Stalin and Mao were alive. So they’ll always feel like the victim. They’ll always believe they’re the enlightened ones, the impartial ones, the merciful ones, the humble ones, the ones under attack. They think the technological drumbeat of historical progress is of their own making.
The more you criticize them, the more they long for autocracy. The more you harass them, the more they’ll cling to the memory of the Great Helmsman.
A friend in government said to me: nothing’s ever good enough for you. Forty years ago, writers like you would’ve been shot. So you tell me, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?
I said: no, you’re the ones for whom nothing’s ever good enough. Ninety years ago, that kind of thinking would have gotten you laughed out of the room. So you tell me: have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?
Original title: 脱节的国度
The post disappeared quickly from Han Han’s official blog, however it is in his blog’s RSS stream. So any doubts about its authenticity are unfounded.