Translation: Where Will the Fear End? A Talk that Could Not Be Delivered

Where Will the Fear End? A Talk that Could Not Be Delivered

by Ran Yunfei

[from one of Ran Yunfei’s blogs – at )

November 4, 2008

Ran Yunfei note: This is a talk I had planned to deliver at the invitation of some friends in at academic meeting at Hong Kong University. Since I was not able to go there to deliver it, I wrote it and gave it to them as a journal article. Actually when I take part in a colloquium or give a talk, I never write out an outline, even less do I write out a speech before I give it so that I could think it over carefully. I admire those who when they do things can get get every little detail right, and can write out their speech word for word before they give it. As for me, I feel that doing that detracts from the spontaneous nature of a speech and will make the audience feel like they are just listening to a recording, making it less interesting. These are my thoughts for sending along by means of the web, blogs etc., please let me have your comments.

November 4, 2009 6:40 at Chengdu

In my childhood I lived in the Dawulin mountain district. When I read Tao Yuanming’s “Peach Blossom Spring”, I thought the place described there was very much like my home area. The sky, the limestone caves, the underground river, the stalactites and the karst formations — they all felt like home. Naturally my home town of Xiyang County, Chongqing City and Changde County, Hunan Province as well as some other place argued constantly that they were the true origin of this imaginary “Peach Blossom Spring”. The two areas fought it out for top billing. Naturally commercial motives for this were far stronger than any desire to learn about the past to understand the present or any scientific motivation.

I myself didn’t care just where the “Peace Blossom Spring” originated from, what really interested me was taking part in the exploration of those limestone caves, row on those underground rivers, and climbing up towards the sky. I wanted to experience what Wang Anshi said in his “Traveling in Zen Mountain Chronicle” — “The greatest beauties and wonders of the world, extraordinary views, are often in dangerous and distant places, and so seldom visited. Therefore only the ambitious ever reach them.” One time a group of us children, large and small, lit a branch and squeezed into a big, dark, silent cave that had many passageways. Bats were flying around and we didn’t know just how far it went. The timid turned back, while the braver ones pressed forward. Later, even the bravest lost their confidence and felt they had to turn back. But we had lost our way. Everyone was reproachful of each other but didn’t say a word. Hopelessness and fear was spreading, our torment felt like how after having been bitten by a poisonous snake, the numbness spreading little by little across the entire body and then breathing becomes difficult. We felt that a great calamity had befallen us.

As time passed slowly by, we still couldn’t find our way to the exit. Everyone kept quiet, the air was stifling, and then a few of the children started to cry. The crying, catalyzed by that pitch black darkness and our helplessness, spread the feeling of helplessness and made us feel even more afraid. I and another of the more reckless children said, “Cry, cry, what good is crying going to do do you?” We wanted to keep walking but every little while we took turns yelling out. Staying depressed and quiet and not yelling out our feelings will make it impossible for our families to find us. This certainly true, since a voice carries much further than the light from a small flame. Not long afterwards, one part of the group of people looking for us children came found our group of tired and hungry children. Nearly all the children started to cry softly, enjoying their rescue and feeling that they have gotten their lives back.

Yes, you may have guessed it — I want to use this experience of misfortune from my childhood to explain to everyone why I have been writing a blog for a long time, and have been adding an entry to it every day. If I don’t keep on speaking up, if I lose confidence that we will be able to save ourselves, and the rescuers do not know where we are, and do not join efforts to organize themselves, that we will suffer a great calamity in the alone in the vast darkness. If everyone speaks up, no matter how weakly, then the weak will able to help one another. We can all light a candle in the darkness and so enlighten more people and make the fear that everyone feels recede a little. If nobody will speak up and all the people are muzzled, that that makes the job all the easier for those in the habit of making isolated information islands, covering things up and hiding the truth, and doing violence to the personal interests of individuals. I make an entry in my blog everyday just to continue to call out to the outside, that there are people in this great darkness, come save me. Or so that someone else in the darkness will say, “I am here too.” and more and more people will respond that I am here too. After all in the darkness there are many friends like me who are willing to raise their voices and so plans to save ourselves and to save others gradually coalesce than move gradually into action. Yet all this depends upon creating a foundation of the free flow of information, creating a diversity of views, and a diversity of methods for it to be gradually implemented.

Why is the free origination and dissemination of information so important? This is because only the free origination and dissemination of information can create for everyone a foundation for making their own rational judgments. Only by living in truth can enable people to be more reasonable in their thinking and not be influenced by the lies and deceptions of officials. Only through the free dissemination of information will we be able to form free associations based on our own thinking, and to help each other drive out the fear that has been naturally created because we are all on our own so weak and small. These forces that were not previously aware of one another will then have the opportunity to come together and join forces.

Why is it that the totalitarians want to block the free flow of information? It is not simply to preserve their own monopoly on information, to be better able to carry out their idiotizing-the-people rule, and to reduce the costs of suppressing resistance to their swindling away the interests of others. No, more important than those things is to make everyone be along on their own isolated information island, putting everyone in their own dark room of information isolation. There unable to communicate, unable to know or respond to the isolated resistance of others. Each is made painfully aware of their weakness in isolation. They are unable to work for their common interests and more easily split off from others, to be humiliated, and made to live or die alone. To put it another way, we are like potatoes sent in our own individual sack, with each having its own vague memories but forever unable to transform the pain for their own oppression into joint demands to protect their own interests and so unable to make strong pressure on the people and organizations that are oppressing and exploiting them. That is one reason why I use blogs to join into the free flow of information.

Yes, for sixty years we have suffered much and had to endure hellish calamities. I think it is depressing and unjust. I don’t remember what old man told me that I want to live an ordinary live, like that of a dog or a pig, so that I can be a witness. This wisdom moved me very much. Unfortunately, this kind of wisdom is rare in China today. We have suffered many disasters, many of them extremely tragic. There should be a very developed witness literature, but there has not appeared anything comparable to the witnessing like that of the writer Elie Wiesel after the holocaust that the Jews suffered. Naturally, I could never write a great work of witness literature like Mao Dun’s “Midnight”. We cannot keep silent after we have lived through disasters or else we will simply continue in our slavery. This witnessing is an indispensable resource in our efforts to gain freedom.

Looking at from a broader perspective, our suffering becomes the midwife of freedom and a harbinger of democracy. You may not dare to be an historian like Si Maqian, fear standing against the tide of the times, because it is very painful and [castrated as he was] he was not able to know the pleasure of sex. But you can leave behind some historical materials for the historians for the future, so that those people who suffer in the burning of the books and the scholars are not lost to history. If sufferings are not recorded, that is slavery because if they are not recorded, those sufferings will not serve to reduce or eliminate the sufferings of people in the future. In other words, we need to learn from our mistakes. But we have made many mistakes and fallen down many times become more foolish each time. That is because many of us have have suffered and then drank the [the brew of forgetfulness] or Mengpo, goddess of the wind. A healthy society needs to make sense of past disasters so as to prevent their recurrence. Just as the scholar Xu Bi said, “We need to emerge from the shadows of the disasters of history, achieve social reconciliation, we need to not take into account past grudges but we need to remember them. We must remembers our past disasters in wounds not in the spirit of settling accounts or in the spirit of “a tooth for a tooth” but so has to get a proper understanding of history for the sake of building reconciliation and harmony. This will enable use to build new, righteous social relationships. Getting apologies for the mistakes of the past is not a matter of determining responsibility and guilt. It is rather making a promise in the name of the entire society that we will never make that mistake again.” (from “Why People Should Remember”, p. 1)

Human beings have many fears. For people without religious feelings, death is a final fear that hovers around them and just won’t go away. However, since we generally have to go through several decades of life before this fear looms before us, when we are young we are aware of but don’t think about death. If some disaster should suddenly occur, well there is just no predicting that and no time to be afraid so we don’t then feel the psychological affliction and drawn out torment that fear of death can bring. The kind of suffering this long drawn out torment can bring can even exceed that of physical suffering or even death itself. We often describe this people tormented by fear as suffering a fate worse than death. They have no dignity or person hood, they may not even have food or clothing. Might these people be called the living dead? Everyone please open your eyes and look around you. How many of these living dead are there? There are so many living dead around because of organized intimidation that has put great psychological pressure on people.

Fear is buried all around us in our everyday life. It can emerge at any time to grab a hold of us. This is a description of reality and is no exaggeration. How can we rid ourselves of this fear? How can we get rid of this Sword of Damocles that hangs over our heads? This will be a long difficult process that will require great efforts. I have no idea myself how long this process will last. This is like that long walk in the darkness when I was young. I felt that the darkness stretched boundlessly before me. I had not idea just where that long, dark passage would end. Many people like to ask me, what good does it do to do what you do? You have be a critic for so many years, but has society changed? I don’t want to exaggerate my role, it would not be accurate to say that it hasn’t done any good. I believe that in the view that life is a journey and don’t believe that one should be short-sighted and not a partisan of the power struggles in which winners are then called kings and losers are then called bandits. So do not apply your poisonous standards of success that violate good conscience to measure me. I won’t swallow that poison. All humans have the seven emotions and the six sensory pleasures. All people are limited but it is important that people hold to their ideas and maintain a basic sense of decency.

I agree completely with Chu Anping’s view that under the Kuomintang freedom was always a question of a greater or lesser degree of freedom while under the Communist Party it was a question of having some freedom or none at all. Many people look back fondly at the freedom of speech, press and association that they enjoyed before 1949. This is completely understandable. But this was not due to any kindness on the part of the Kuomintang. Rather it was because at the time there were many forces that constrained their freedom of action. For example that was the armed force of the Communist Party and opposition parties like the Youth Party [Qingniandang], privately owned media and publishers (as well as the freedom of intellectuals to discuss and express themselves), and the educational freedom of private and religiously-based universities. The dictatorship of the Kuomintang was a timid one. Oftentimes it was not that it did not want to suppress but it was unable to do so. This of course is no argument in favor of a more capable dictatorship.

After 1949, press freedom suffered a disaster and intellectuals were completely emasculated. Today we cannot establish relatively free newspapers, publishing houses, political magazines or apply to open up a new newspaper office when the old one has been closed down like we could in the time of the Kuomintang rule. But at least I can after you close down my blog immediately start up a new one. To a certain extent, the existence of the Internet brings us back to the time before 1949 when media would be closed and then reopened again, and this can be done by lone individuals. Luo Yonghao, manager of the Bullblognet was mocked by the journalist Wang Xiaofeng as the “Beijing King of Being Shut Down and Opening Again” is an example of this. I am merely reviving on my blog the spirit of those pre 1949 newspapers that we closed but still re-opened. I write an entry each day, thirty a month, comparable to a small magazine. Each days I have at least a few thousand readers and even more on a monthly basis. Actually, setting up a blog is fairly easy and combined with the emergence of micro-blogs like Twitter the forces available to spread information and engage in social criticism are getting much stronger. Although there are not many people who think like me, there are more and more of us like Chen Wanying, Chief Editor Chen Gang, and book “China’s Fierce Bloggers” by Zhai Minglei who prove this point.

“A thousand sailboats pass by the shipwreck and ten thousand flourishing trees stand before the diseases tree”. That [Chongqing dialect] expression is too passionate and too fool-heartedly optimistic for me to use, so I won’t use it. I would rather say that I have the kind of optimism that sees a great wind starting from small things as it gathers its forces. With a call to action, a group gathers, perhaps subjectively the time is not right, but in the encounter with reality, pushing day by day, finally it is achieved. My hope is that our efforts will pay off in the end and that we should not give up. The introduction to my blog is called “Pushing day-by-day until it is done”. I didn’t make it up, but it is the invention of a friendly adversary.

I’ll always be grateful to Hu Shi and want to be like him in making freedom the idea that I cherish and uphold all my life and in my daily life. Naturally, since I am of course just a being of flesh and bones, and the demands are too great but perhaps in some future life. People need to be able to live with some fear in their lives but with regards to our political lives and our freedom, we do have the right to demand that the government create for us an environment in which we do not fear, in which we will have freedom from fear. We cannot live under organized intimidation, under a system of intimidation. We need to work hard to eliminate this fear that threatens the freedom of our bodies and minds.

Chengdu, October 18, 2009 first draft, October 19th second draft.


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十一月 4, 2009

冉按:这 是应朋友之请,将我未能前往港大参加学术会议的一个小演讲,专门写出来,供给他们杂志的文章。其实我做交谈或者演讲,从来不写提纲,更不用说在演讲之前弄 成专文,以昭慎重。我佩服那些做事一丝不苟,演讲前要弄成专文的人,但我认为这样丧失了演讲的即兴色彩,会使得现场好像成为一种录音效果,不够好玩。这是 我网络、博客、传播等方面关系的小思考,请大家指正。2009年11月4日6:40分于成都

我 从小生活在大武陵山区,读陶渊明《桃花源记》时,想这样的地形在我们周围比比皆是,天坑、溶洞、暗河、钟乳石等卡斯特地貌所具有的诸种形状,应有尽有。果 然我家乡重庆酉阳和湖南常德等地,都因争这个子虚乌有的“桃花源”发祥地面红耳赤,两地用尽各种手段肉搏,以决雌雄。其中的商业勾当,远胜寻古觅今、探幽 索微的科学劲头。我对“桃花源”的归属并不感兴趣,我要分享的是我曾经探溶洞、趟暗河、攀天坑的经验,仿佛王安石的《游褒禅山记》里所谓“世之奇伟瑰怪, 非常之观,常在于险与远,而之所罕至,故非有志者不能至也”。有次我们一帮半大小孩带着照明用的亮槁,钻进一个岔道极多且非常幽深的暗洞,蝙蝠飞舞,不见 有底,胆小者促返,胆大者依旧要继续前行。直到后来连胆大者也感到无望,无奈只好往回走,返程中竟然迷路,于是大家互相抱怨,有的甚至一句话都不说。绝望 和恐惧正在蔓延,其心理折磨像被毒蛇猛咬过后,全身一点点开始麻木,呼吸困难,感觉灭顶之灾就在眼前。

时间慢慢过去,仍然无法找到出口,大家依旧不说话,空气很沉闷,有人开始小声哭泣。哭泣在漆黑的夜里和无助这“催化剂”的作用下,其无力感传递开来,使得大家更为恐惧。于是我和另一位胆子比较最(读zui二 声,野的意思)的孩子就说,哭!哭!哭有个求用(四川粗话,就是没什么用)啊。走还是要走,但隔一阵即让一个人发出吼声,大家轮流吼。闷声不出气,会让来 寻找我们的家人也没办法找到。的确如此,因为声音比小小火光传得远而快。过了不久,数支寻孩子的队伍中,其中的一支就发现了疲惫而饥饿的我们,几乎所有的 孩子都瘫软地哭开了,享受获救而又劫后重生的幸福。

不 错,我是想用自己小时历劫的一点人生经验,来向大家说明我为什么要长期写博客,且每日一博。如果我们不持续发声,我们不葆有自救的信心,那么营救者也不知 你在什么地方,不能使多股力量有效地组合起来,那么在黑暗的深渊里我们会遭遇灭顶之灾。每个人都发声,哪怕微弱,弱小者也能得到互相鼓励。暗夜里的一点烛 光,我们把它点起来,就可以照亮更多的人,使得大家减少一点恐惧。所谓同声相应,同气相求,就像衣衫单薄的人,在大冬天挨着互相取暖,减少寒冬的威力。如 果所有人都不发声,万马齐喑,将会让那习惯制造信息孤岛,搞人为遮掩和消灭真相者,剥夺起你的利益来更容易得逞。我每日一博只不过为了持续地向外界喊话, 说这个深渊里有人,大家救救我。或者深渊里马上有人回应说,“我也在这里”,更多的人也慢慢回应说,我也在。原来一起在深渊里,愿意与我共同发声的朋友还 不少,因此自救或他救之策渐渐成形,并付诸缓慢的行动,但这一切得建立在信息自由流动、观点多元、方法多样的基础上,才能逐步实现。

信 息的自由发布和传播为何如此重要?那是因为只有信息的自由流布和传播,才能给大家理智判断的基础,活在真实中才能使人有更加理智的思考,而不为官方的欺骗 所左右。有信息的自由流播才有可能在思想上结社,互相驱除各自因弱小而产生的天然恐惧感。那些曾经互不知晓的力量,才有机会融合起来,共同发力。极权者为 何要阻挠信息的自由流通呢?不只是便于他们搞信息垄断,好实行愚民统治,减少巧取豪夺他人利益时的反抗压力与成本。更重要的是,让大家处在信息孤岛中,每 个人都被关在被阻隔了的信息黑屋子里,没法在信息上互通有无,使个体的反抗不能得到他人的应和,显得势单力薄,不能形成共同利益诉求,便容易像被切割的原 子个体,受尽屈辱,却只有自生自灭。换言之,个体被紧蒙双眼,作为像被麻布口袋扎紧单独运送的土豆,大家朦胧地略有所知,但却永远无法将自己被盘剥而造成 的伤痛,形成共同的利益诉求,对压制和剥夺你的人或者机构造成强大的压力。这就是我为什么要用博客来加入信息自由流播人群的一个原因。

是 的,六十年来,我们遇到了不少的迫害,看到了许多如地狱般的灾难,我们感到沮丧和不公。不记得是哪位老人曾告诉我,我为什么要如猪狗般活下来,就是为了做 一个见证人,我认为这样的心智高贵且令人感动。遗憾的是,这样的心智在中国并不多。我们有很多灾难,不少灾难可谓惨绝人寰,本该有最为发达的见证文学,却 至今没有诞生过像经历过犹太大屠杀后而不懈见证过去苦难的作家威塞尔,自然无法创作出像《夜》这样不朽的见证文学。历经苦难不能缄默,否则会变成一种继续 奴役,而要变成一种争取自由不可缺少的精神资源,在更高层面上看,苦难就变成了自由的助产士,变成了民主之嚆矢。你不敢当司马迁,怕去掉大势,因为那很 痛,那样便不能享受性福生活,但你可以给司马迁留下史料啊,让那些焚书坑儒的人在历史的真实里无处藏身。苦难如不被记住,那便是奴役,因为这样的苦难不能 使将来的人减少乃至免于苦难。换句话说,我们应该吃一堑长一智。但我们吃了很多堑,栽了很多跟斗,却越来越愚蠢,那就是因为我们许多人受了苦而喝了孟婆 汤。一个健康的社会,应该总结灾难的过去,避免此种灾难再度发生。正如学者徐贲所言:“走出历史灾难的阴影,实现社会和解,是‘不计’前嫌,不是‘不记’ 前嫌。记住过去的灾难和创伤不是要算账还债,更不是要以牙还牙,而是为了厘清历史的是非对错,实现和解与和谐,帮助建立正义的新社会关系。对历史的过错道 歉,目的不是追溯施害者的罪行责任,而是以全社会的名义承诺,永远不再犯以前的过错。”(《人以什么理由来记》P1)

人 类有许多种恐惧,对于没有宗教情感的人而言,死亡是一直萦绕而不散的终极恐惧。但由于这恐惧大约要经过几十年后才到来,当人年轻的时候,对死亡视而不见。 若是突降灾难暴亡,你因无法预知,更无时间去感受,所以不曾承受恐惧带给你的心理袭击和反复折磨。这种折磨越是漫长,对你造成的伤害越是不亚于肉体的物理 伤害乃至生命的消亡。我们常常形容那些被恐惧折磨得生不如死的人,没有尊严没有人格,甚至连基本温饱都没有保障,这样的人是否可谓活死人?请诸位睁睛观察 一下你的周围,这样的活死人有多少?活死人如此之多,就何处是恐惧的尽头:一场未能进行的演讲是因为有组织的恐吓,带给人们巨大的心理压力。恐惧在我们生活的四周埋藏,随时都可能蹦出来收拾我 们,这是一种现实描述,并非夸大其辞。我们要怎样才能去掉恐惧,我们要怎样才能把悬在我们头上的达摩克利斯剑取下来,这当然需要一个漫长的努力过程。这个 过程有多长,我本人也没有个时间表,这就像我们小时候走夜路,感觉到黑暗无边,经过黑暗的隧道时不知何处是尽头一样。有很多人喜欢问我,你做这一切有什么 用?你批评了这么多年,这个社会有改变吗?我不能夸大自己的作用,但若说一点用处也没有,那又不符事实。我服膺人生是个过程的说法,而不是急功近利、成王 败寇的信徒,所以请你不要拿类同于毒药的、昧着良心也要追求所谓成功的方式来衡量我,我根本不服这包药。人都有七情六欲,是人都有局限,但重要的是,你在 按照自己的理念做人做事,坚持有底线地活着。

我 完全同意储安平说国民党的自由是多和少的问题,而共产党的自由是有和无的问题。有很多人怀念四九年前的言论、出版、结社自由,这我完全能够理解。但这一切 都不是国民党的慈善行为,而是因为那时有诸多制约力量所致。如有武装力量的共产党、在野的青年党等反对党,有私人传媒和出版社(包括知识分子的议政和言论 自由)、有私立和教会大学等形成的大学教育自由。国民党独裁无胆,很多时候不是他不想,而是他确实没有那个能力,这当然不是为了给那有能力的独裁辩护。四 九年后的言论、出版自由可以说是惨遭摧毁,知识分子也被阉割得一塌糊涂。我们现在不能像民国时候那样比较自由地办报纸、出版社、同仁杂志,也不能你关一家 报馆,我们明天便去申请注册一个而重开。但我至少可以在你屏蔽乃至关掉我的博客后,立马就又开一个。就某种程度而言,由于互联网的存在,像四九年前的传媒 那样开而便关,关而复开的事,用个人之力完全可以办到。牛博网的经营人罗永浩被记者王小峰调侃为“北京开关厂厂长”就是这个道理。我也只不过是将四九年前 那些办报纸,关了再办的精神,移植到博客写作上来罢了。你胡适先生可以集朋友之力办《独立评论》,我可以每天写一篇,一个月三十篇,也相当于办了一个小型 杂志。至于说读者,每天少说几千,一月下来不会少的。事实上,由于建立博客相对容易,加上微博客如推特等的诞生,其发布信息、批评社会不公的力量大为增 长。有我这样想法的人虽然不多,但也在持续增长中,陈婉莹、钱钢主编,翟明磊著的《中国猛博》就已然证实了此点。

“沉 舟侧畔千帆过,病树前头万木春”,这过于肝筋火旺,乐观得甚于无由头的诗,我就免说了吧。但风起于青萍之末的乐观,我还是有的。振臂一呼,应者云集、天下 景从的臆想是不当有的,但脚踏实地,日拱一卒,不期速成,功不唐捐的理念,我们不应放弃。我的博客上有句介绍性的话,叫做“日拱一卒,不期速成”,这不是 我的发明,而是得自于一位微笑的反对者、我终身都会感激的胡适先生,让我们像他一样把自由当作自己的生命和日常生活的理念来坚守。果能如此,起死人肉白 骨,要求太高,但身心再生也许是可以做到的。人活着就得忍受一些恐惧,但从政治生活和自由空间来看,我们有权利要求政府为我们创造一个免受恐惧的环境,我 们有免于恐惧的自由。我们不能在有组织的人造恐惧中、在制度的威逼下生活,我们要为去掉如此威胁我们身心自由的恐惧而努力。


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