Are we living in a better world today?
Every day, flooding news and commercials are drowning us with promises to make the world better in all possible ways. But how come we are still painfully suspicious of this high-tech world? Well, maybe it is because some well-equipped media editors, who wouldn’t hesitate to tap people's phones and put their lives in danger, feed us with not only information but horror. Or the fact that the the world greatest fun-maker, Apple Inc, is also making phenomenal “contributions” to environmental pollution. And please don’t get me started on our domestic scandals. I only have four minutes.
What is exactly going on with our world? More advanced? Sure. More convenient? Yes. But better? Is it possible for the world to become “better” for anyone, when we no longer bother to make ourselves better human beings?
To become better human beings, to explore our good potentials both intellectually and morally—this is the kernel of humanistic spirit. Bertrand Russell has summed it up beautifully: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind—these three passions should be the governor of our life. Indeed, such sacred humanistic sentiments are the anchor of our soul. Without the “sweetness and light” offered by this spiritual GPS, the express train of technology can only speed us into the abyss of destruction and emptiness.
The truth is simple. But the voices telling it are being drowned by the uproar of utilitarianism. I am not speaking of the chaos in commercial field alone. Check the climate of our family, school and social education. It’s bad enough that we no longer give enough emphasis to moral integrity and humanistic knowledge. But what is much worse is that even when they are advocated, the message usually goes like this: “People, pay attention to virtue and humanistic knowledge, because they will make you become more successful than others in the long run!” Genius!—advertising humanism in the formula of utilitarianism. No wonder real academic masters are almost extinct—we have become strangers to the pure passion for knowledge! No wonder our moral integrity is so fragile—we forget that the supreme value of virtue lies in nothing else but in itself!
In fact, sometimes I seriously doubt our right to condemn the so-called profiteers. When we turn a blind eye to strangers in need, or cut corners for academic or whatever achievements, we are doing pretty much the same thing: sacrifice virtue for convenience. Eventually, we no longer know or care about who we are but are obsessed instead with what we gain. There is a familiar Chinese allegory: “getting the casket and returning the pearl”. More often than not, this is exactly what we are doing with our life.
What can we do, then, to restore the pearl of humanism to its rightful place? To be frank, I do not have a clear clue, but one thing I do know: it is not enough just to lament. Zhong Daoran, a straight-A student from Renmin University, recently published a book named I Can't Forgive. I understand his anger and disappointment at university education. But even if our universities do fail to be the catchers in the rye, we still have ourselves to count on.
Well, thanks to the modern technology, we now have easy access to the greatest humanistic minds in history. Enrich ourselves with their art and works. Give ourselves ears for music, eyes for beauty and hearts for goodness and love. So when we are old, at least we can say: I have dedicated my entire life to becoming a better person. And by doing so, I have done my part to restore the rightful role of humanism and make a better world for all of us.