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It¡¯s Not That I¡¯m Stupid
   2015-07-16 17:08:25    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu


                                                                                                                                                                          Illustrated by Cui Chaoqun

By Liu Yan (About the author)



I¡¯m not exactly an expert on Cui Jian, who is widely considered ¡°father of rock music¡± in China, but I do know that he is a genius, because way back in the 1980s, he already wrote a hit song called ¡°It¡¯s Not That I¡¯m Stupid¡±. More than two and a half decades later, the lyrics are still as relevant as ever, especially this zinger: It¡¯s not that I¡¯m stupid, it¡¯s just that the world is changing too fast!


That pretty much nailed my reaction when I first read about the ¡°slap in the face¡± story everybody was talking about this week. In case you haven¡¯t heard, it happened in Harbin, northeast China¡¯s Heilongjiang province.


An old man in his 70s got on a crowded bus. As no one stood up and offered their seat to him, he walked toward a girl and started scolding her for disrespecting elderly people. He then forced the girl to give up her seat. The girl did do that, but defended herself a bit by saying, ¡°I was playing with my cell phone, and I didn¡¯t see you there. You shouldn¡¯t force people to give up their seats, and you definitely shouldn¡¯t verbally attack anyone.¡±


For some reason, that sent the old man over the edge. He went completely bonkers and slapped the girl in the face. He then grabbed her clothes and tried to hit her, but was stopped by fellow passengers on the bus. Even as he sat in the seat, he kept cursing like nobody¡¯s business, as if the girl he slapped was the most despicable person in the world and that he was doing everyone a service by teaching her a lesson.


Seriously? I can¡¯t wrap my head around this. I¡¯ve never seen anyone from my parents¡¯ generation act in such an immature manner. They¡¯ve been through some of the darkest days in contemporary Chinese history, they were never the only child excessively doted on by everyone in the family, and by now, they are mostly septuagenarians and beyond. As the old saying goes, they¡¯ve eaten more salt than most of us have eaten rice. So how can anyone in that group not have the foggiest idea what ¡°proper behavior¡± means?


Cue music: It¡¯s not that I¡¯m stupid, it¡¯s just that the world is changing too fast!


Now, before anyone gets hot and bothered, let me make it very clear: I¡¯m all for respecting elderly people. It¡¯s a traditional Chinese value, and a very good one at that. In this sense, it would be ideal if a younger person could offer their seat to an older person, regardless of the latter¡¯s physical condition. It¡¯s like saying: You deserve respect and this is my way of showing it.


But then again, it might not be that ideal. What if the older person is still very fit, and takes the offer as some sort of insult: What? You think I¡¯m weak? I don¡¯t need your seat! I¡¯m fine standing up, thank you very much. (Never underestimate the power of pride. I have seen real examples.)


So I actually think it¡¯s a good idea for elderly people to directly ask for a seat if they want it. Number one, there¡¯s no shame in that. Number two, it saves others from playing the guessing game. However, the key thing is, ask nicely and don¡¯t take anything for granted.


Respect is a two-way street. If you don¡¯t respect the other party, why should that party show you any respect? It¡¯s like taking and giving. You can¡¯t just take, take, take and never give. If you do, you are being abusive.


Using this logic, ¡°respecting elderly people¡± is all relative. Why? Because elderly people are still people, first and foremost. When it comes to respect, they should be subject to the same standards as everybody else. They can¡¯t just take, take, take and never give. If they do, they are being abusive. In other words, they are taking advantage of this lovely tradition known as ¡°respecting elderly people¡±.


And that¡¯s exactly why I steadfastly refuse to defend this cranky old man who slapped the girl on the bus.


Granted, most netizens have criticized the old man and taken the girl¡¯s side. But still, there are quite a few who think the girl is at fault here. Apparently, the minute the old man got on the bus, the driver reminded those who had a seat to ¡°offer your seat to the elderly, if possible¡±. Presumably the girl heard the reminder. (Because later, she only said she didn¡¯t see the man.) If she had followed the driver¡¯s advice and stood up, none of the following drama would have unfolded.


I¡¯m sorry, but that¡¯s just laughable. First, what if the girl truly didn¡¯t hear the reminder? As many passengers witnessed, she was playing with her cell phone. If she could miss an aggressive man inching closer to take her seat, she could miss a radio reminder for sure. Second, even if she heard the reminder, it was just a suggestion, not a requirement. If she chose to offer her seat, great. If not, so be it. She paid the bus fare, and it was not one of those special seats reserved for elderly, weak, sick and disabled people, so she had every right to sit there and not move. To borrow a popular phrase, no one should ¡°morally kidnap¡± her. It is her duty to be a law-abiding citizen, but it is NOT her duty to be Mother Teresa.


Speaking of which, I¡¯m pretty sure verbally and physically abusing someone is NOT law-abiding behavior in China, or anywhere for that matter. This old man should consider himself lucky. If I were that girl, I would sue his sorry ass.


Pardon my French, but hey, as I said earlier, respect is a two-way street. If I can¡¯t be disrespectful to a giant douche, then I can only say: It¡¯s not that I¡¯m stupid, it¡¯s just that the world is changing too fast!


About the Author

Liu Yan is a best-selling author specializing in English learning and popular culture. Among his published works are English - The Real Deal (1 & 2) and Hold On, Sit Tight, Let's Enjoy This Cinematic Ride Together. He is also a long-time columnist for such esteemed magazines as English Language Learning and JoyRide English. In addition, Liu Yan is a commentator on social and cultural issues. He wants people to think of him as a trusted friend who can inform, educate and entertain all at the same time.

The opinions expressed here are only personal, and do not necessarily represent CRI's official policy.

Read all opinion stories by Liu Yan



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