Thursday, May 28, 2009

Keeping Patriotism Alive

Today is duanwu jie (端午节) or Dragonboat Festival holiday that remembers a patriotic official named Qu Yuan (屈原).

The scholar and minister, known for his loyalty, served the King of Southern Chu during the Warring States Period.

In the legend, the King of Chu fell under the influence of corrupt ministers who slandered Qu Yuan.

He felt he had no choice but return to his hometown and wrote poems expressing his love for his state and concerns for the future.

Then the story goes that he was so depressed that he drowned himself in the Mi Luo river.

When they heard the news, fishermen rushed out in their boats to save him; and to prevent fish and evil spirits from eating his body, villagers threw rice into the water.

However, his body was never found and today we commemorate him by eating zongzi (粽子) or rice and other ingredients wrapped in bamboo leaves.

It's interesting how, despite the advancement of society, technology and education, somethings are still the same.

Today the Chinese government is still battling corruption within its ranks. It also had trouble reining in the almost invincible power of local officials who, in many instances, ignore central government directives and instead concentrate on generating their own power base and wealth.

There is also the problem of officials who are demoted for disasters that happened on their watch, from the tainted milk scandal, to coal mine floods and explosions, or polluted lakes and rivers. These people are removed from their post soon after the incidents happen to quickly appease the public, but later on these people resurface elsewhere -- sometimes even promoted.

And when that happens, they use their newly gained status to try to make sure no more news on these catastrophes ever get out.

This explains why only six children were reported to have died after drinking tainted milk, and only 5,335 students officially died in the Sichuan earthquake.

When will the government stop the constant rotation of officials? When someone is found at fault, they must leave public office immediately, and even be legally punished for their faults. There are so many other young talented bureaucrats who earnestly want to help their country so why not give them a chance.

The perpetuation of this system shows the government isn't really determined to clean up its accountability -- which is all the more important that we remember Qu Yuan and what he wanted to do for his state and the people.

1 comment:

ks said...

In modern terms this type of suicide is not really an exhibition of patriotism rather a form of cowardly act. We feel Qu Yuan should be more proactive in rallying public support and sentiments to his side. Thus it will influence the decisions of the emperor. What does it achieve by killing oneself?