The "Investigative Report Into the Ills Besetting Today's Society" posted on the People's Daily discussion forums, lists 13 social issues "most complained about by the general public."
In first place is "loss of faith."
Does loss of faith count as an "ill"? We can't generalize, but instead must look at it in its social context.
Probably the most universal belief held in human societies is the idea that those who do good will be rewarded, while evildoers will be punished.
Such a widespread and popular belief is inseparable with the practicalities of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior in real life.
During the Ming Dynasty, corrupt officials were a dime a dozen, derided by ordinary people as those who raise murderers and arsonists to the heights of glory, while killing scripture-chanting vegetarian monks in cold blood.
In such a sick society, it would be surprising if there wasn't a loss of faith in the belief that the good will be rewarded and the bad punished.
Lenin's dictum that concrete problems should receive concrete analysis, and that everything is contingent on time, place and circumstance, still works in this case, so that the loss of faith here isn't necessarily pathological.
Therefore, a loss of faith isn't always a symptom of sickness. It might be a normal psychological reaction, a healthy defense that has become widespread in a sick society.
We also could make the point that expecting the good to be rewarded and evildoers to be punished isn't a matter of faith. After all, the only article of faith recognized by the People's Daily forums is the sound of cannons from the October revolution that brought communism along in its wake.
I think we should let the facts speak for themselves here. The idea that the salvos of the October Revolution brought communism in their train has long been abandoned by the leaders of the (ruling) Chinese Communist Party.
Mao killed communism when he allowed tens of millions of people to starve to death, and Deng finished it off when he sent in the army to fire on unarmed civilians. In doing so, they killed of the last of the people's faith in communism.
And yet in refusing to repudiate Mao's or Deng's actions, the Chinese Communist Party has validated them.
So much for the highest levels of leadership. What about the articles of faith espoused by our leaders at the national, provincial, municipal, county, township and village levels?
The report doesn't go into that, so no one else can analyze it.
As for the sensitive topic of whether or not the small minority of tigers and flies who have been trapped still believe in communism, that's probably best avoided.
To get back to the topic at hand, I have only one thing to say: the loss of faith in communism has its source in a huge shared trend, which is the refusal of the central leadership of the Communist Party of China to repudiate its former leaders.
There is nothing sick about it; the people's reaction is normal. The loss of faith doesn't come from the pathology of the people, so no medicine is required. They won't be needing surgery either.
The "vast majority" can't, in the words of the report, be blamed for this.
So why talk about pathology at all? I suppose there are some advantages (to some of the ills in the report):
"The habit of suspicion" is better than a habit of submission.
And "social anxiety disorder" is better than sleepwalking through life, although even that is, to a certain extent, forced upon us.
"The psychology of ugliness" (or the reverse psychology of those who see everything that stinks as beautiful, and everything good as rotten) is definitely forced on us.
Despite having been declared a disease, "Internet addiction" is clearly no more pathological than an addiction to quotations by our leaders, or dependency on (state-run) CCTV. It's just that the last two are considered right and proper, even though there are plenty of Internet rumors that are more credible than either of them.
Then there's "ostrich mentality," which can't, of course, be right.
Because our leaders want everyone to wake up, to stop dreaming, and to open our eyes, right?
As for "fear of thinking," it's nothing more than the fear of committing an act of independent thinking. This fear was forced on us by the illegal tyranny and the violence of the anti-right movement and suchlike.
The problem of "fear of thinking" will be solved the moment that [propaganda chief] Liu Yunshan announces that everyone has the right to think for themselves.
A person who tells people not to be afraid to think for themselves when he's holding a sword to their throats is seriously ill—possibly schizophrenic.
The content of this report is rich and informative. I think it's better to investigate such things than not to investigate them, and it's better to allow them to be published than not to allow them.
All of the ills listed by the report are manifestations of our current social consciousness. They are true and thought-provoking images of our society, and of our values.
The following is particularly deserving of reflection by the citizens of our republic: “Voyeurism."
I don't know whether it's tragic or comical that the masters of a republic should become voyeurs. Maybe someone will find it funny, but there will definitely be tears.
Alas, for true democracy! Alas, for freedom of speech, and of the press and publication, and for the freedom to protest!
In the absence of true freedom or direct elections, the people are relegated to the role of spectators in their own republic.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.