The Age in Search of Heroes
By Jin Zhong
Whether the times create heroes or heroes create the times is an old question. In memory of the 20th anniversary of the June 4th tragedy, when exploring the prospect of democracy in China, we inevitably find ourselves asking:? “Where are our Aung San Suu Kyi, Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela?” or “Where are China’s Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev and Chiang Ching-Kuo?” Having ruled over the nation for six decades, the CCP’s harsh ruling ideology surpasses all the past dynasties. As Karl Marx said – “It is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism of arms. Material force can only be overthrown by material force, but theory itself becomes a material force when it has seized the masses.”
The CCP has established a major theoretical system of dialectical materialism. Who creates history -- the ruler or the people? This is the key point that constitutes the CCP’s justification for seizing the power in the name of the people. The phrase in the “The Internationale” proclaiming “No saviour from on high delivers” has become an anthem that even the students in the June 4th massacre sang before the tanks and muzzles. Liu Shaoqi, the former President, died miserably without gravesite, leaving behind merely a few words: “Luckily history is written by the people.”
It is greatly misleading – quite on the contrary, the CCP regime was not built upon public opinion, but turned out to be a tyranny that imposed itself on its people with unprecedented despotism. Its most obvious feature is dictatorial leadership. Mao Zedong presented himself as the “great liberator,” even creating the slogan “Long live Chairman Mao!” for the first Labour Day of the People’s Republic of China, but his atrocities exceeded those of his comrades in twentieth-century tyranny, Hitler and Stalin. So where are the people? Today, one billion Chinese people remain subject to the totalitarian regime. Facing the autocrats, the disgrace of this enslavement and mass ignorance has robbed the people of their basic human dignity. The history of Communism in the twentieth century is one of totalitarianism’s trampling on the public will.
In democratic societies, people are no longer enslaved and deceived, but they don’t deny the historical influence of prominent figures. People accord great honour to the wise and accomplished, and even grant them power. Liberty and democracy are not equivalent to anarchy, and hero worship is not the same as superstition or deification. Universal suffrage is a reasonable form for the people to identify their own heroes. Human civilization, through social evolution, has manifested itself in various ways in outstanding people. The mass media cannot survive without idols; the news we read every day is the stories of various heroes who display otherworldly abilities. Our society searches for heroes, manufactures heroes, while many dream of being one. Barack Obama’s dream has come true. If Angelina Jolie wishes to be elected President of the United States in 20 years, she also has a chance.
China’s great social transformation will certainly produce its own heroes and outstanding leaders one day. The failure of the Tiananmen Square democratic movement 20 years ago should not be attributed to the lack of a compelling leader, but rather to China’s lack of maturity sufficient to produce such leader. On the surface, today’s China is overwhelming materialistic; everyone is going to Shenzhen to earn a living. Yet, the growth of China’s modern civilization has over the years been cultivating a group of top talent for the new age. They are silently and diligently working, itching for a try. When the time comes, they will step forward to courageously fulfil the last wishes of the numerous far-sighted individuals who sacrificed themselves in the past century. This is an age without heroes, yet an age where people are waiting for their heroes with great hope.
29 June, 2009, New York
(Translated by Isabella Lam)