A professor in China’s top university said that 99% of the people who traveled all the way from their hometown to petition their unjust treatment in capital city Beijing have mental issues. He later apologized for the statement. I am sure he was not alone in despising those “adamant” or “stubborn” petitioners, whose actions might bring them nothing other than jail time or, worse yet, lockup in the mental facilities. Yet, this criticism is just another example of the nearsighted (or maybe cowardly) nature of the viewpoints of the naive intellectuals or commentators in China. They simply don’t, or dare not to, ask a further question: what makes these people crazy?
Let me begin with an example. Meet my imaginary son Roger. Roger is 5 years old and he has never had any contact with the outside world, because I wouldn’t let him to. Instead, I lock him up in a 6 feet by 6 feet cell in the basement, with no window. I feed him with dog food everyday, and instead of Transformer toys, he gets to play with rats. (Someone told me there is a Korean movie with the similar plot.) Now, when Roger reaches age 20, I release him to the outside world. I don’t know what he would become: a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or a serial killer. Actually I am pretty sure that he will become something very close to a serial killer. The bottom line is, that Roger is pretty crazy; he has some serious mental issues. There is no doubt about that. Yet, should inquires stop there? Should the world feel content to say “yep, he’s crazy alright.” People would probably ask what causes the mental problems of Roger: is it the 20 year long life in a dark cell? the rats? the food? a manipulative father? or the combination of all of the above? Most of the people would come to the conclusion that I, as his father, should be responsible for creating a monster.
The people who claim that the petitioners are crazy should ask the similar questions. When those (supposedly crazy) people would have to flood into the capital city of the nation to informally petition their unjust treatment elsewhere in the nation, something must not be working. Is it the anything-but-independent judiciary? Is it the anything-but-free media? And they should also ask themselves this question: if their only house were torn down, their life depending land was converted into a nuclear power plant with little compensation, apart from becoming a true Buddha or cutting off their hands so that the severe pain can distract their hurt feelings, what would they do? Remember, they have to also suppose (suppose? or is it the reality?) that they cannot sue the governmental officials, or protest on the street, or go to the media in the hope that they will broadcast some “voice of the people.”