Written by (作者): Vincent R. Vinci 魏文深
Photos by (图片来源): posiegrenadine.blogspot.com
The May 4th and New Culture Movements were unprecedented steps in Chinese history, leading to a new birth of ideas – spurred on by a wider acceptance and surge in Western thought and philosophy – that led to many of?the political movements that shaped China as we know it today. Due to the turbulent times and revolutionary movements following the May 4th Era though, this flowering of thought was extinguished. Today, China is a prime?example of the theory of what some call post-postmodernism, the heir to postmodernism born in the internet savvy 2000s, an era whose youth are seemingly devoid of a willingness to cooperate towards a meaningful or righteous cause. China’s youth are an extreme, products of a society obsessed with reacting to what’s current, born of the current use of the internet as a means for the glorification of the receiver of information, not the author. Instead of powerful movements like the May 4th Movement, young people in China are so caught up with their own online worlds that there is no willingness to care about a cause that can make a difference.
Postmodernism is a form of thought expressed through the arts, literature, architecture, and criticism born in the late 20th Century that found irony in the structure of modernism and posited that truth was relative and fragmented, favoring the individual. In a departure from modernism, postmodernism questioned the confines of?reality, allowing people to challenge what was and what could be. In high school and college I was taught that postmodernism was a driving force in contemporary society, but many researchers and critics have been arguing for some time that postmodernism has been replaced by something far more fragmented in nature than its predecessor. The most cited work on the topic, “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond” by Alan Kirby, argues that this new mode of criticism was born from new technologies that restructured the relationship between the author, reader, and the text to the point where readers, or receivers of a piece, can form their own unique opinions or critiques and spread them about the internet for their 15 minutes of fame.
In other words, we are living in a society that has let the relativity of truth go haywire to the point that all works of art, literature, journalism, are done solely for the entertainment and individual interpretation by the recipient. Nowhere is this more evident than China, which has taken the use of mobile and smart technology to the next?level. As with other countries, comments on news stories, videos, and anything online are endless. There are instances though, where these comments have taken center stage. One Chinese video site reportedly changed?things up so that users’ comments on a specific video scroll across the screen while it plays. This way, users are forced to focus on the comments of other users rather than the video itself.
Other instances of the power of the comment can be found in online news reports, where the voices of netizens are constantly used to add a new level to the story. How Chinese youth react to social problems and issues is?quite similar to the reactions of Western youth as well. Causes are so diverse that anyone can follow or be against anything, even if a call to arms or boycott over something is face value only, not the real thing. Indeed, whenever?such causes present themselves, due to the speed of all things popping up all the time on the internet and our newsfeeds, its easy for people just to forget about it, eager to comment on something new, to let their voices shine for a second only to be drowned in the vast ocean of cyberspace. Thus, there is a divergence in youth that grew up in the 80s and 90s in China. Those in the 80s were more in tune with what was happening around them, seeing the need to rise up, but today, this is squashed, as with more things to distract them at a given time, today’s Chinese?youth don’t really have a common goal or cause to stand behind.
Couple this fact, this obsession with what’s new instead of a focus on the greater good, with the immediate editing and eradication of certain topics, and we can see how distractions can immediately curtail such positive movements. This isn’t to say that some people have and continue to legitimately try to stand up for various?groups and who fight against the ills present in contemporary society, but since these stories are easily replaced by what’s new and trending, the word can only travel so far.