By Mark Mackinnon. Globe and Mail, October 18, 2011
China’s rapid economic development over the past two decades is something to celebrate. But after the display of horrifying indifference that some Chinese showed toward a bleeding two-year-old girl – in a video watched by millions around the world – the country’s leaders acknowledged Tuesday that the country’s “cultural development” lags behind its other accomplishments.
The official report released by the Xinhua news agency at the end of the annual gathering of the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party made no mention of Wang Yue, the toddler who was run over twice and ignored by 18 passersby as she lay in a pool of her own blood in a Guangdong market last week. But it was hard not to see a connection between the jarring incident – which has provoked widespread soul-searching among Chinese Internet users – and the Central Committee’s call for a shift in focus from the country’s booming economy to addressing the voids that success has created.
After a four-day closed-door meeting, the 200-plus member Central Committee issued a communiqué calling for the country to build a “powerful socialist culture” that would involve “significantly improving the nation’s ideological and moral qualities.” Earlier, senior Politburo member Li Changchun was quoted as saying “venality, lack of integrity and moral anomalies” were on the rise in Chinese society.
Little Yueyue, as the girl is known here, remained in intensive care in a Guangzhou hospital yesterday, clinging to life, breathing with the help of a respirator. Local media quoted the hospital’s head of neurosurgery as saying the girl will likely remain in a vegetative state if she survives.
Everyone agrees that this is a horrible story, depicting a degree of detachment, disengagement and even neglect with which we can all identify. However, rather than pointing fingers at the people in China, the world might pause to consider just how clearly this story exemplifies the commodification of everything and everyone and thereby the reduced value of human life, not only in China but around the world.
This story, in its essence, although the degrees of detachment and disengagement and neglect would vary somewhat, could have and still could be repeated anywhere. At least in North American culture, there is a tsunami of violent video-games attracting millions of mostly male participants, inducting them into a culture where physical violence is the norm. In professional sports like football and hockey, violence, including deliberate fighting, is considered the norm. In political discourse, there seems to be no limit to the violence of the language used to destroy opponents...and all of this occurs under the protection of what we might call social immunity.
Little Yueyue's permanent vegetative state, should she even survive, could potentially become a STOP sign for the abuse of power, the neglect of humanity in the global pursuit of power, money, profit and dominance.
Some artist, somewhere, will create a monument to this shattered, driven-over, and passed-by little girl, in the hope that its very existence will serve to remind us all that the incident should never have happened, and must never happen again, anywhere.
Little Yueyue could become a rallying cry for the Occupy Together movement, in its impetus for a more humane, more compasionate, more caring and more liveable and survivable existence in all countries. Her name, her story and her potential to bring new life, not only to the Chinese official pursuit of "cultural change" but also to the world's attempt to bring some sanity to the discussions in governments, corporate boardrooms, athletic locker rooms, university lecture halls and yes, even church sanctuaries is within the grasp of everyone everywhere.
Just like Gabriel Giffords, the Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona whose life changed by the shots fired by a madman while she conducted a meet-and-greet for her electors, this little girl's life can remind us all of the fragility of each of our lives, and bring some sensibility and some sensitivity to our discourse, to our attitudes, to our competitions, to our ambitions and to the direction of our impulses for an enhancement of our world's culture, the essence of which is the way we value relationships and each other.
It was then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Massachusetts Congressman Tip O'Neill who commented, "All politics is local!" to which we now add, 'and local embraces the whole world, given the digital access to instant information, making the world one large neighbourhood'...So any discussion of a single moment in a small town can and does become a single moment for reflection in all towns and cities everywhere.
When cars stop to permit pedestrians to cross Water Street in St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador (as they do regularly), that is part of the culture of "the Rock" that all who experience its expression can share when they return to cities where such courtesy is missing. The culture on that island is not gained only from its exported comedic gifts; it is far more integrated in its capacity for compassion and consideration of "the other".
And to cite this example is not to pump Canadian chests full of false pride; it is merely to say that such conditions can be created anywhere, where there is the conscious and determined will of the people to create them.
With her parents, and the people of China, and the government of China, we all mourn this tragedy; and with them, we hope and pray that such incidents will serve to remind us all of our common and fragile and intensely precious thread of life, that can be snapped, driven over and neglected so easily with impunity, if we are not all engaged in its protection.