Is Confucianism alive and well in China — to such a degree that it’s a source of moralizing criticism of Charlie Sheen? So it appears from a recent op-ed in the English-language web newspaper Global Times, at least until one starts to read between the lines. The satirical opinion piece by one “Hao Leifeng” is quite hilarious, and seems actually to be aimed at excesses of contemporary Chinese society. This earlier essay by the same author is equally biting (and amusing). (Jeremy Breningstall’s blog has a bit of analysis.)
this satire is also relevant to our own society, I think. Part of what is so “shocking” about Charlie Sheen of late is not that he’s *doing* all of the things he is, but that he’s so open about it. Sheen’s lifestyle is likely the norm in Hollywood (we occasionally see behind the facade of respectability when Hollywood types are caught in “scandals”, etc.)–what’s not so normal is the way Sheen has *publicly* embraced this lifestyle, rather than presenting a respectable front like many Hollywood figures. Insofar as Hao Leifeng is criticizing the inauthenticity of moral posturing in Chinese society, I’d say it applies every bit as much to American society.
Nice point, Alexus. This recent post of Sam’s, on a short Chinese film extolling filial piety, is also relevant.
The emergent subversion, or inversion, presented in Hao’s essays creeps up and surprises. Enjoyed them very much, as I did the phrase ‘Gaokao Gone Wild’!
Quite right, Alexus, that his criticism of the inauthenticity of moral posturing in China is applicable here. Perhaps you were implicitly referring to what moral conservatives might be saying about Sheen: pot calling the kettle black. Ted Haggard and all that, for example. What you’re gesturing at might be thought as the absence of the power of social shame to modify behavior in the US, or amongst certain social elites.
This put me in mind of an episode of This American Life, one interesting to Confucian thinkers. It discussed a Florida judge’s attempt to punish and deter two repeat shoplifters by sentencing them as follows: they were required to wear placards saying something like ‘I shoplifted at this store and got caught’ and stand in front of the store for x number of days. The judge mistakenly thought shame could motivate a renewal of moral behavior in these two. Didn’t happen. They actually enjoyed it, so it seemed. TAL rolled tape of the pair greeting and laughing with customers, etc.
(Being a Southern Californian I wanted to add a small cavil about the stereotyping of LA. Sheen’s lifestyle would appear not to be the norm in Hollywood. The reason he (and no one else in the industry) acquired a million twitter followers in 24 hours (if Hao is right about that) is, I take it, because he’s so very abnormal.)