bookmark_borderHow to read a book

这本书是今年1月1日开始读的,是今年读的第一本书,当然是因为我又定了42本书的目标。书里说,对于 practical book,读完文字还不够,真的读完你还要行动。所以现在我已经读完好几本书了,读书的时候经常想起这本书。概述一下我读别的书的时候想到了这本书的什么建议:

To Be a Machine – 这是一本很烂的书,因为读书会要分工解读和讨论,我把我分到的章节读得比较仔细。不是我分到的章节,一方面我想的是 HTRAB 里面说的,没必要所有的书都精益求精,所以很放松就看得比较快。另一方面,我对自己也比较 aware,明白我最讨厌的地方。HTRAB 里还说,不要过于 confrontational,这个我没做到,因为后面我的一个动力就是去读书会上跟大家说我讨厌在哪里。不过不遵守不要紧。

Blindness – José Saramago & Seeing – José Saramago – 这两本书跟我也没缘分,HTRAB 允许我降低期待,但我觉得并没有太影响质量。另外,HTRAB 对 fiction 的建议是,一口气读完,先感受故事再说。其实对这故事性不是很强的两个小说来说不是很适用?

The Tyranny of Merit – 一个很 striking 的 case 是,HTRAB 里说的 ‘come to terms with the author’ —— 要定义 term。因为这本书的副标题里的 common good,我一开始是以经济学的 common good (一种 externality) 来理解的,看到挺后面好像是作者说了才意识到,以经济学来理解 term 正是作者批评的 technocrat 的做法。

The Rise of Meritocracy – 读这本书,是不是我在 syntopical reading 呀?嗯不是的,HTRAB 里说的那种 syntopical reading 是先列很多书出来,再 inspectional reading,再 analytical reading。我觉得按照一定方法论来做事这个正途根本不适合我。(比如我想了两天的早上七八点起来,写读后感,然后去游泳。这么合理的安排我完全做不到,一定要到周日晚上才能写。)另外,这本书作为一个 fiction,却没有什么情节,看起来像论文,也是 non-comforming。

还有,我好久没有读到特别喜欢的 fiction 了。HTRAB 里面说好的 fiction 比 non fiction 有力很多。我有时候在想象这一点。

还想到一点是,书里说如果你不同意作者,可以想一想是下面哪种情况:你认为作者 misinformed,或者 uninformed。还有一种情况我现在忘记了,但是作者说,要想办法和作者 resolve 不同意见。这个建议让我有点意外,时代变了现在不再想要 resolve 不同意见。

最后说一下,这本书虽然给我不少启发的,但是它是70年代(初版是40年代)写的指导,更适合读经典。我略有一点反感这里面条条框框非常维护权威的氛围。

bookmark_borderThe Rise of Meritocracy

这本书神奇地是虚构未来历史的形式。前言里他有说朗文出版社看了他的稿子后对他说,他们不出版 PhD 论文。如果不是事先知道这是虚构未来历史视角,我不知道要看到什么地方才意识到。这本书是1958年出版的,根据前言,作者投稿被拒了好多次。书里的 narrator 是在 2034 年,和我们现在很近了。这个 narrator 是 meritocracy,也坚定地相信 meritocracy 是正途。在这个虚构作者的思路里,democracy 是 aristocracy 到 meritocracy 的过渡时期。对了,did I mention ‘meritocracy’ 这个词是这本书发明的?aristocracy 的问题是,人的智力没有得到有效利用,聪明人是以差不多的比例分别分布在统治阶级和底层阶级中的。于是 democracy 给低阶层的人上升机会。等到这个筛选完成并且稳定后,democracy 的使命也就完成了。(对了,这些词的 -cracy 都是 希腊语的 rule 的意思;merit- 是拉丁语词源(其它两个都是希腊语词源),所以说 meritocracy 这个词不伦不类。)

这本书本身,大部分在说的内容我都不太懂。因为作者是一个参与政治的人(工党),所以说了很多具体的政策。教育方面 comprehensive school 和 grammar school,我只有模模糊糊的概念,而作者也没介绍(因为他的读者都是懂的吧),我就没怎么看懂。作者还具体说了政府用人(civil service) 和企业用人。因为年代久远,我都没怎么看懂。

作者设想中的未来对 meritocracy 的反抗来自女权主义运动。这是否说明作者很器重女性呢?我想不清楚。meritocracy 的反对者其实经常是 meritocracy 的支持者。但她们写的 Chelsea Manifesto 指向了问题中心。可能我想不清楚作者的女权主义运动设定的意义是因为我无法理解作者怎么会是女权主义者的。。(这是我不好)

The Tyanny of Merit 的读后感里,我写:

我对桑德尔提出的解决办法还是不太满意。他在教育的那一章里提出了建议(lottery)。在工作那一章里他建议对金融交易收高税率的税。这些都是停留在表层的建议。这本书对 meritocracy 的反思,让我得到的结论是,价值观要有 diversity。有些人 value 市场价值,有些人 value 别的价值。只有价值观多元化了以后,才会有真正的尊重。

没想到 The Rise of Meritocracy 这本第一次提出 meritocracy 这个词的书里,就得到了这个结论(而桑德尔的书虽然对现实分析得让我醍醐灌顶,却没有涉足背后的深层,是那本书让我不满意的地方。我经常觉得桑德尔自己的观点很 elusive,他不喜欢下结论,因此很少提这些深层次的结论)。而且,Rise 里面自有一套思路:meritocracy 的兴起是工业革命以及后续的技术革命发展起来的。在这个体系里,一个人的价值在于他的生产力。因为我们太过于专心竞争生产力,才会有 rise of meritocracy。

Since the country is dedicated to the one overriding purpose of economic expansion, people are judged according to the single test of how much they increase production, or the knowledge that will, directly or indirectly, lead to that consummation. … The ability to raise production, directly or indirectly, is known as ‘intelligence’: this iron measure is the judgement of society upon its members.

They [authors of Chelsea Manifesto] oppose inequality because it reflects a narrowness of values. … They seek the equality of man in the sense that they want every man to be respected for the good that is in him.

In the light of this approach the authors of the Manifesto sought to give a new meaning to equality of opportunity. This, they said, should not mean equal opportunity to rise up in the social scale, but equal opportunity for all people, irrespective of their ‘intelligence’, to develop the virtues and talents with which they are endowed, all their capacities for appreciating the beauty and depth of human experience, all their potential for living to the full.

我能不能再自吹自擂一下说,Tyranny of Merit 里我已经独立得到了这个结论,桑德尔并没有说。我还写了和上述引用里 ‘narrowness of values’ 很相近的话,虽然我写得不够好:

我想到了 Haben 书里说的:“Communities designed with just one kind of person in mind isolate those of us defying their narrow definition of personhood.” 我们的价值观被 meritocracy 限定后,也是一种 narrow definition of human value。(完全不相干的东西到我脑子里都变成了一个东西。)

在读桑德尔的书之后,我说我觉得 ‘任人唯贤’ – meritocracy 有什么问题,这个问题不如 meritocracy 在现在世界造成的各种奇怪现象有意义。这是因为我被桑德尔这个不肯下结论的人带跑了。现在 meritocracy 的问题,明显就是:价值观过于单一。任何伦理讨论都要从不能被证明的假设出发,对我来说,‘价值观过于单一’ 是一个不需要被证明的有效 veto vote。当然,我对于辩论它也是有兴趣的,但不在这本书的范畴内。

bookmark_borderThe Tyranny of Merit

为什么传统上支持劳工阶级的欧美的左派如今变成了精英主义?为什么传统上支持小政府自由贸易的欧美的右派变成了关税的支持者?为什么全球化后并没有像本来期待的那样,民主和人权没有发展起来,反而现在是国家主义盛行?打开这本书的时候我完全没想到会得到上述问题的答案。2016年以来我看了无数的文章,听了无数的节目,目睹欧美的左派试图理解川普的当选。“我们要试图理解投票川普的人!” 他们这么说。但是说着说着,抱怨的态度总是潜藏在底下。“他们连事实都不相信,怎么交流?”; “他们完全不愿意收敛自己种族歧视、性别歧视的倾向。”; “他们不相信领域专家,太无知了。”; “大多数经济学家都认为川普加的关税不会让美国人更有钱,相反是转嫁到了美国消费者头上。”。连我也在想,在公共场合都不尊重女人的人,支持他的人真的可以对话吗?

另一方面,我忘记是在什么时候什么情况下发现了 meritocracy 这个词的,是最近几年的事情。我能直觉它的问题。春节前我冲动买了这本书来看。因为一直并不太喜欢桑德尔,也没抱很大期待。没想到,这本书提供了四年来左派百思不得其解的问题的答案。我也是左派,读这本书让我感到自己理解了反精英潮流,甚至觉得我自己也有类似的 sentiment。

任人唯贤是好事,那么 meritocracy 有问题吗?它代替的是世袭制度、裙带关系。和这两者相比,meritocracy 是好的。我们仍然在克服前者的问题,因此后者的问题是我们的盲点。读书的时候我一直抱怨感觉书的说理不够清晰,下定决心自己写博客记录的时候要简要清晰:先回答 meritocracy 根本上错在哪里了,然后讲一些具体现实。然而,我憋了很久都没有写出来。我发现这个问题无法如此清晰地去分析。因为这里的问题是我们对这个倾向完全没有反思过,而我们的很多问题都是它带来的。就像古代人没有反思过 ‘君权神授’ 之类的概念,现在看来很落后。我们没有质疑过 meritocracy,是一样的愚蠢,至少是五十步和百步的关系。也许所有的伦理、社会学问题,都不能完全从理论上去分析,而是要从各种方面来描述。Meritocracy thinking,不仅解释了上述现在最让人困扰的 populist backlash 问题,而且还串起了很多别的看起来不太相关的问题。

Market 是不是万能的?在 2020 年的 Reith Lecture 里,主讲人就提到了一个问题,我们的市场 value Amazon 公司高于 Amazon 森林,这能反应它们各自的价值吗?这个讲座我翻来覆去听,有些部分听了几遍。最后我也没有明白主讲人觉得可以怎样应对市场无法把资源调节给最有价值的地方。主讲人是前英格兰银行行长,所以是个 technocrat。但是他的讲座里提到了一个 anecdote,是有个什么国际会议的时候,和他一起开会的一个欧洲国家的央行行长还是财政部长之类的人对他说,当我们觉得任何一个东西是万能的的时候,总是会出问题,市场也是。

亚当斯密的无形的大手,可以有效地分配资源到需要的地方,从而产出更有效,公民可以享受更多财富。从里根撒切尔时代开始,欧美推行自由贸易。左派的政党也拥抱这个说法。演变到了奥巴马时代,统治变成了专家的事情,经济学家和政府政策调整各种 incentive。书里说,专家统治,使得政治讨论被 outsource 给了市场。这个批评我觉得很犀利。比如我举例展开一下:给女人公平的职业环境,变得 less about 男女平等,更关键的是利用女人这个 talent pool,对经济有好处;再比如说现在新闻里一直说,第一世界的国家抢光了新冠疫苗是不好的,因为只要有国家的人没有疫苗,疫情爆发打乱经济秩序的可能性就在——这里,分享疫苗不是为了人道主义,而只是为了经济;这些说法本身并没有错,也并没有忽略 moral argument。问题在于,这样一说以后,结果好就等于和它相关的 moral 出发点也好,其实削弱了 moral debate。我们不再是从原则上支持男女平等,而是市场推动我们给女性同等机会。作者以奥巴马最喜欢说的一句话:it is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do,概括了这里 technocracy 和 meritocracy 的联系。这种说法本来一部分原因是想要回避 ideology 辩论,让右派也同意。结果就是回避造成了没有辩论。奥巴马还最喜欢说一个词是 incentivize (我很喜欢 的 Russ Roberts 也会喜欢这个词的我觉得),这个词是整个 technocracy 的浓缩。然而这样做实际上 disempower 了普通公民——他们不再自己做判断和辩论。

作者介绍了两派经济学家:free-market liberalism: 海耶克认为没有必要重新分配财富;welfare state liberalism: 罗尔斯认为有必要重新分配财富。我本来觉得我一定会更同意后者的。现今世界的贫富差距这么悬殊的确没有道理,海耶克的解释是,财富和 merit 没有关系。然而罗尔斯则认为在一个公平的社会里,有钱人只能有钱到一定程度,需要分给穷人一些。他的分配也不是完全平分,而是有 deserving poor 的概念,你穷是因为 chance 还是 choice,公平的社会里要消除 chance 的部分。我听下来感觉罗尔斯的这一套其实也是一种 meritocracy。而且一个人的 chance 和 choice 选择并不是那么容易 disentangle 的。我反而更加同意海耶克说的,任何形式的再分配是 coercion,一种强加于人的东西。然而我还是觉得应该要消除一些贫富差距,海耶克对这件事并没有兴趣。

Meritocracy 本来是 social mobility 的工具。但是看现在的欧美,social mobility 并不高,特别是有着 ‘美国梦’ 的美国。你可以说阶级移动可能性减小是因为大家同一起跑线这个事情并没有达成。但是现实是,大家还是有倾向认为,在 “只要有才能又努力就能实现美国梦” 的美国,你如果穷和社会地位不高,是因为你不行,没有才能或不够努力。这比 aristocracy 更糟糕,因为在穷和没有地位之外,还有一层羞辱。

对这个话题的讨论,还有一个点是,meritocracy 思想还造成了对健康的偏见,或者说,对病人的 stigma 和 victim blame。作者说了这个想法的宗教来源,但和所有的宗教解释一样,我觉得不需要宗教人就有这种倾向。我过得好好的,你生病肯定是你过得不够检点/清洁等等。书里说 Whole Foods 的老总曾经说,你肥胖或者怎样的是因为你没吃健康。很多人无法吃健康,过去我们对艾滋病人的 victim blame(谁让你是同性恋的),到现在我们对新冠病人的 victim blame,没想到也有 meritocracy 思想作祟。

另外一个不太相关的点是,作者提到宗教改革的时候,新教其实是反 meritocracy 的。路德是认为,上帝对人的宽容是既定的,上帝不会整天看着你,计算你做错了什么然后惩罚你。我记得我当时看宗教改革的书的时候,看到这个地方觉得自己肯定没看懂、理解错了。我心里模模糊糊的新教,是清教徒那样的,一定要通过对自己严格反思来面对心里的上帝。作者说,新教虽然最初教义是这样的,但是一展开,立刻变成了相反的极端 meritocracy。我觉得这说明 meritocracy 是有 overreach 的倾向(主要是因为人类,从原始社会祭祀祈求丰收开始,从来没有质疑过这件事)。海耶克说市场价值和人的 merit 没有关系,但是,实际上人们还是会联系在一起。这和新教的这个情况很像啊!

另外一个没想到的联系起来的点是,作者对 rhetoric of rising 和 right side of history 这个说法的批评。这和前面的 outsourcing moral and political judgement to markets 是一脉相承的。“历史必然” 也是一种 techno talk,和经济学相比,可能缺少一点科学性。马丁路德金说过 history’s arc is long but bend toward justice。作为 inspirational talk 没问题。但是实际上并没有理由认为历史有一个注定的方向。(我觉得如果有的话,也许更有可能是毁灭的方向。)美国政客对此的过于相信让他们错误判断了世界。他们相信 globalization 会增加国家间的 interdependence,从而减少战争和民族主义,增加民主和人权。苏联解体是他们信念的强有力支持证据。但是如今的世界又偏离了那个 vision。新冠一爆发,国家间的 interdependence 变成了致命弱点。而世界上的 nationalism 现在也都在增长。战争更是没有停止过。我是一直很讨厌那种 end of history 的说法的,虽然我还没看福山的书。爱因斯坦说如果真的有一个大发现,发现了所有科学理论,那他宁愿生活在那个发现没有达成的年代。对于 end of history 我也是这样想的。

那么最后一个点,也是我感触最深的,就是 meritocracy 抹灭了很多普通工作的尊严。你有没有惋惜过现在勤恳朴实的工匠精神变少了?你说,现在社会气氛不好。实际上这也是 meritocracy 的锅。市场 reward 金融多于实业。这消磨了生产工作(和别的普通岗位的工作)的尊严。而比起收入少,更 discourage 人们的是前面说的加在收入少之上的羞辱。(另外我想到 The Mandalorian 里我最喜欢的角色 Kuiil,就是超级感动他对自己用自己的手艺和劳动换来自由这件事的骄傲。剧中对他的表现是一种老式过时的态度,也和我们现在觉得这种类型的人只有过去才有是一样的感觉。大家对这种感觉不够珍惜,第二季好像已经没人记得他了。)

另外这里说我一直在想的事情,就是金融的价值仅在于把资源调剂到市场需要的地方。我觉得纵容金融业的高收入的,也是前面批评的 “市场觉得你可以多赚钱你就厉害” 的思想。况且,金融业对市场的分配,结果是 Amazon 公司的价值大于 Amazon 森林这样的,并不让人满意。

Even at its best, finance is not productive in itself. Its role is to facilitate economic activity by allocating capital to socially useful purposes—new businesses, factories, roads, airports, schools, hospitals, homes. But as finance has exploded as a share of the U.S. economy in recent decades, less and less of it has involved investing in the real economy. More and more has involved complex financial engineering that yields big profits for those engaged in it but does nothing to make the economy more productive.


我有时候在想,我对对错的判断其实都是主观的。实际上罗素也说过,伦理方面的任何判断都是建立在无法证明的前提条件下的。所以这本书的 point,并不是给你证明 meritocracy 是错的,而是给我联系了这么多点。我本来是模模糊糊觉得不喜欢 meritocracy。我记得我被喝茶的那一次,警察曾经想要从这个方面来教训我:“你是不是觉得你很有文化,所以比那些外卖员高一等?” 这个批评他们找错人了。因为我一直觉得我的工作对世界没有好处,我没有给人带来什么 benefit,除了给商业机器搬数据,等着数据的人看了以后理论上可以更好地卖商品。我觉得这个 benifit 并没有给我送快递的人对世界的贡献大。书里也说,人们普遍同意父母的经济情况决定孩子的学习以及后面的就业、收入等等,是不公平的。那么就算剥离了父母的财产,一个人的 “成功”,就是他/她自己的吗?帮助过他的老师朋友、value 他的 talent 的社会,这些不都是他 “成功” 的前提吗?你不可能剥离这些东西。我甚至觉得,人类社会的分工决定了给我提供食物的农民、食品供应链上工作的人、超市店员、物业清洁工等等等等,我的一切也都要归功于他们。

世界上的问题也是如此。我最近几年一直觉得,世界的问题就在于,好像人没法做任何东西来改善。比如塑料垃圾,你不能怪个人买东西产生塑料垃圾,需要政府和大企业来改善这个情况。但是大家好像又都受制于一个无形的东西,namely —— 无形的大手。我现在明白,这种无力感,就是书里说的 technocratics disempowers ordinary citizens。当我打开这本书的时候,我只是想要看前面说的 “我对世界贡献没有快递员大”。但是没想到一口气获得了这么多这几年百思不得其解的问题的串联。这本书算是我最近读书非常特别的一次经历吧。

That said,我对桑德尔提出的解决办法还是不太满意。他在教育的那一章里提出了建议(lottery)。在工作那一章里他建议对金融交易收高税率的税。这些都是停留在表层的建议。这本书对 meritocracy 的反思,让我得到的结论是,价值观要有 diversity。有些人 value 市场价值,有些人 value 别的价值。只有价值观多元化了以后,才会有真正的尊重。

我想到了 Haben 书里说的:“Communities designed with just one kind of person in mind isolate those of us defying their narrow definition of personhood.” 我们的价值观被 meritocracy 限定后,也是一种 narrow definition of human value。(完全不相干的东西到我脑子里都变成了一个东西。)


这篇读后感憋了很久。本着 done is better than perfect 的原则终于写出来了。这本书改变了我看任何事的眼光。我发现我听的新闻,比如比较右派的经济学人,还有我订阅的很多 podcast(大多数都是偏左派),现在我听了都很想在后面修正一下。哎我觉得意识到现在这么多问题的根源的人还是很少。美国的左派并没有真正尊重被 globalization 抛弃的人。所以他们还是可以美国的极右利用。这个问题不解决,川普还是会得势。

bookmark_borderSeeing – José Saramago

因为看到勒奎恩给好评,同时又有点好奇,所以尽管我不太喜欢前一本书,还是去看了这本续集。

不得不说这本书我完全看不懂。我无法理解情节。首先,我不明白投 blank vote 的人是怎么想的,他们想要得到什么、得到了吗?然后,我不明白政府为什么对此感到惊慌。既然投票人可以引用法律条款说我怎么投票是保密的,政府也可以引用法律条款说,给你投票机会了,所以我们是合法政府。我也不没有失明的女人和 blank vote 有什么关系,或者说我不明白告密的人和政府觉得有什么联系,还是政府只想找一个替罪羊?因为实际上并没有关系,暗杀了这个人之后 blank vote 的问题并没有解决。最终,我不明白这一切不合逻辑的情节,是不是故意的荒诞写法。哦对了还有,我不明白没有标点符号这件事,除了给读者增加困难还有什么意图吗?

前一本书让我感觉,如果你真的想看残疾或者世界末日,现实都更加有意思。这一本书让我感觉,如果你想看荒谬的政府、假冒的民主,看新闻就可以了。我记得2018年废除两届连任限制的时候,有人大代表投了弃权票,这种弃权票就比小说中的更有意义(我想不仅是它对我更有意义,而是这种情况下投票更危险)。你看看委内瑞拉、白俄罗斯的新闻,就可以看到更有意义的假冒民主的故事。你看看香港、泰国,就可以看到更有意义的 leaderless 的大规模反抗活动。也许是因为我生活在魔幻国家,在荒诞故事方面起点比较高,所以看不上这个故事。

bookmark_borderJoss Whedon

看了一下我发现我喜欢的的分析 BtVS 的节目的主持人欺骗和操纵他的 cohost 和妻子,然后非常难过,那时是 Joss Whedon 的前妻 Kai Cole 发表文章后一年多了。当时我写

一年多以前Joss Whedon前妻发表的文章让我很困扰。但他们没有公布什么细节。我还是可以生活在朦胧美下,继续崇拜Joss。

“对妻子不忠”的问题也许可以不影响我欣赏其人的作品,但是Alastair欺骗、操纵人,他的意见对我还有意义吗?(我有点想知道他到底是什么心态。但我这种好奇,是不是一部分也是侥幸心理想看到洗白?当Alastair说他最欣赏Joss的作品里一切行为都有后果(他说过好多次),他对自己行为的后果怎么看?)有没有可能Joss本人实际上也有我无法承受的缺点?如果有的话我还能欣赏他的作品吗?

最近 Joss Whedon 的新闻,我没有太难受。可能因为当时读的一个听众的博客里写的这句话我已经 internalize 了:

I can’t hold on to the idea of a person just to make myself feel better, when someone else experienced deep pain because of them.

回想我的心路历程,这件事上我一路上都是希望维护 Joss (和那个主持人)的。在有情绪需要的时候,理智真的很难发挥作用。Kai 的文章发布的时候,我想过 ‘夫妻之间的事我们不要管’ (但是理智一想,夫妻之间的事情,Kai 当然比我们更有权威)。一个朋友当时说,还好没人指控他 sexual misconduct,我们想相信和其他爆出丑闻的影视界权贵相比,Joss 的问题不那么严重。这更说明受害者的困境。

另外一些想法:我觉得这件事和 JKR 还不太一样。我觉得 JKR 是 honest mistake,而 Joss 的严重很多。

我还是相信我看到的剧组成员之间的互相赞美是真实的。Marti Noxon 这次站出来了。但是她之前对 Joss 的赞美应该也不是虚构的。还有 Firefly 片场的互相喜爱(著名的 Mal 一把抱住 Kaylee 的镜头)我觉得是真实的。这次 Firefly 剧组成员比较沉默。但这不说明 Joss 没问题。Alex 说的对于偏心的老师,不同的同学的体验是很不一样的。我还是觉得 Firefly 剧组的 toxic 比较少。但这也许是因为我还需要相信一些东西。

Firefly 的一个作者 Jose Molina 说,Joss Whedon 是 casually cruel。前一阵看到一个推说,现在再去看 Firefly,觉得里面 Mal 一直叫 Inara whore,现在看起来很不舒服了。这可能是因为我们无法安全地认为这么叫没有恶意了。我觉得管 Inara 叫 whore 很符合 casually cruel。

最近听一期 Evil Genius 说达尔文对动物很残忍,然后说,他们‘爆料’名人,如果一个名人的缺点和他主要做的事情相关很近,这个 backlash 会更严重,因为相近让人觉得名人的成就是虚伪的。他在说的是达尔文和动物。我想,Joss Whedon 的作品和他被指控的事情的关系比达尔文和虐待动物的关系更近。

另外,我还有一种想法,不知道是因为自大还是还需要往好的方向想 Joss,我觉得越是尊重 Joss,就越是不该为他就我们不知道的事实辩护。现在公开的事实有:Charisma Carpenter 的指控是他恶意不接受她报告自己怀孕的事情。SMG 说她不希望自己的名字永远和 Joss 的名字联系在一起。Michelle Trachtenberg 则说得有点 cryptic,说剧组有个规定是她和 Joss 不能单独在一起。这里有猜测的空间,最坏的猜测真的很可怕。Amber Benson 说 BtVS 剧组是 toxic 的,源头来自顶部,他们二十年后还在 process 当时的事情。当然,还有 Jose Malina 说的,Joss 会惹女编剧哭。

当时看 Kai Cole 的文章,我最介意的是他故意隐瞒自己的外遇。现在看来,他的外遇从 BtvS 剧组开始的。这些公开的指控至少是 consistent 的。

bookmark_borderBlindness – José Saramago

如果没有 Audible,我可能无法看这本书。wiki 上写原文就是这样找不到句号、对话没有引号的大段落。朗读的人还是比较有目的性,让我能 get 谁在说什么。这本书是 1995 年出版的。1997 年作者获得诺贝尔文学奖,这本书是获奖提到的作品之一。是不是只有这样莫名其妙的文风才能得奖呢?

也许我对虚构作品的欣赏太肤浅,只停留在情节和人物上面。和之前看的电影 Perfect Sense 一样,我感觉 2020 年的现实让以前的 speculative 作品都显得苍白(唯一的例外是 Years and Years)。不管我对这部作品理解为 speculative 是否正确,我是当作世界末日科幻来欣赏的,可能因为我只有这一根筋。那么我觉得按照一般科幻来理解的话,我觉得这里对人类社会的崩塌揭示得不够深入。书里略涉及了一些我觉得挺有深意的地方,比如 Doctor’s wife 说,what is right and what is wrong are simply different ways of understanding our relationships with the others. 还有 Doctor 一开始进入隔离的时候的感慨:This is the stuff we’re made of, half indifference and half malice. 实际上很多感慨我们本来都是有的,虚构作品该做的事情不是让里面的人物感慨这些,而是以情节展现这些甚至超越这些,让读者来感慨。我没有觉得这个小说超越了我对世界末日的想象,特别是 2021 年的现在来读,感觉都没有超越现实。书里对失明症蔓延的描述,仅停留在恃强凌弱方面。

我们人类真的是非常弱,失去了已有的社会运作(更不要说已有的社会运作这么烂和荒诞),就连饱腹都很难实现。我们的 humanity 能让我们应对灾难吗?(如果不能,要它干嘛,humanity 只是负担吗?)说实话,我在现实中就有比书中更高的答案,就是 Haben 这本书里看到的,对残疾人的包容提高了人类应对多样化问题的能力。这一点,2011年的电影 Perfect Sense 里做得就更好,电影的情节是人们从失去嗅觉开始,失去味觉,后来有人失去听觉的时候,一些人已经开始练习适应失明。看过 Haben 的书让我知道,人类的适应能力很有潜力。我简直觉得这位诺奖得主没有 research 过现实社会里的盲人(当然,他写作的年代和现在不一样,也许 research 没有这么容易做),我想象中如果发生了传染性失明,那些帮助现在失明的人活动的人会很有帮助,而书里只有一个本来就失明的人,还是个反派。

我可以忽略小说对失明这件事的描述不够深刻,如果小说的意图是表现社会秩序的崩塌。现有多数人的生活方式如果真的崩塌,世界会怎样?或者,小说可以通过一些人物来表现作者觉得应该怎样。小说里的主要人物,医生的妻子,采取的行动,要我说是非常不可持续的。也许突发灾难下没有别的办法。但我还是小人之心地觉得作者这么安排是因为,他自己知道自己最后会让人复明的。

前半本书关隔离,后半本书世界末日生存。人类社会运作的时候(前半本书)是官僚和粗暴的压迫;人类社会不运作了(后半本书),大家衣不蔽体食不果腹。最终只能靠上帝(作者)来解救。我最近读的 How to read a book 这本书里说,好的 fiction 比详细扎实的 non fiction 更有表达力。那我觉得这本书在这个意义上,现在看来不是很合格。

我最近读的 How to read a book 这本书里说,好的 fiction 比详细扎实的 non fiction 更有表达力。那我觉得这本书在这个意义上,现在看来不是很合格。

bookmark_border这种文体到底有谁会愿意看?

To Be a Machine – Mark O’Connell

transhumanism,是我有点感兴趣的话题的。对此的讨论可以很有意义,即使得不到什么结论,提问也可以很有意义。所以当作者一开始就显示了他很可能研究完还是很困惑,我不是很当一回事。没想到越读越觉得,我的天啊,这种也可以出书?还有人资助他飞来飞去参加会议?

关于文体,英语不是我的母语,很可能我的感想不成立。这个作者是英语文学教授(我在哪里看到的忘了,刚才搜了一下也没找到确认),为 NYT 和卫报写过东西。但是,我很久没看到这么难看的文字了。举个例子:

这里在说“电脑模拟大脑(以便保留这个人,或者移居机器)的行业里,说起话来用的都是电脑术语,比如这里作者看到一个宣传语说 ‘rewrite the operating systems of life’:

This language struck me as strange and unsettling in a way that revealed something crucial about the attitude toward human experience that was spreading outward from its Bay Area epicenter – a cluster of software metaphors that had metastasized into a way of thinking about what it meant to be a human being.

上面带下划线的部分(’-‘ 之后的半句)是要说的实质(用计算机软件用语来描述人脑),但是在说这个意思之前,先说了一串长度是后面这句实质的两倍的定语(?)。如果前后文已经把问题说得蛮突出的了,那么这里先来一大段说明这个实质部分的意义的定语,就不太要紧。但是前后文组织结构很随意。

这段话可以改写为这样,先说是什么,再说你的感想:

The language used among the mind uploading business and researchers often employs software metaphors that metastasized into a way of thinking about what it meant to be a human being, which strikes me as strange and unsettling in a way that revealed something crucial about the attitude toward human experience that was spreading outward from its Bay Area epicenter.

或者更简短一点:

I find it striking that the language used among the mind uploading business and researchers is often directly borrowed from software terms, which reveals their attitude of treating human existence as computer.

当然,这样写了以后更清楚作者觉得 striking 的是使用电脑术语背后的那种把人看作是计算机的态度。这些 startup 使用这种语言,我觉得很大程度上原因是他们就是这么看人的;也有可能(或者一部分)原因是这样描述可以让客户或者投资者比较容易理解;(甚至或者,就是在使用 buzzwords 吹牛)。到底是什么原因呢,上述这些深层的猜测对不对呢?作者已经转移到下一个话题去了。这个文体 frustrates me to no end!

再举个例子,这里作者去采访研究 cyborg 的人,他先花了一整页描述了第一个人 (Tim) 的衣着(!!!),和 Tim 交谈了两句,然后他把文笔转向另一个人,Anne:

Anne emmitted a perfunctory laugh. She seemed uncomfortable, and I wondered whether this discomfort was a reaction to the way in which Tim’s language seemed to lay bare the mechanistic principles of the QS movement, its view of the self as reducible to a set of facts and statistics that could be interpreted, and whose interpretation thereby informed the activity of the self, and thereby the generation of further data – the human being as a feedback loop of input and output.

看到这一段我惊讶得要呆住了,第一句 she seemed uncomfortable 之后,全部都不是 Anne,而是作者的臆测。这也能写书??

整本书的采访都是这个感觉:先读了一段作者赶往开会的城市的细节,然后对采访的期待总是落空,感觉作者根本没有理解被他采访的人。这和我们一般工作中,业务方和技术方沟通隔阂有点类似:非技术的一方对开发人员在接近技术的方面完全不交流,然而转头又吐槽技术人员思路太极端。开发人员也是有问题的,经常觉得不懂技术的人无法沟通。我觉得这本书里被他采访的人里面可能有一些是这样的。这不完全是作者的问题。

书里唯一可读、有信息量的采访是 Please solve death 这一章里的 Laura Deming。可能因为她是唯一一个被采访的女性科学家。她的研究是延缓衰老方面的,她小时候忽然意识到祖母年纪大了不能和她一样奔跑玩耍,而没有人在想办法治“老”这个病,就下定决心要做这件事。她十几岁就跑到 MIT 为有突破研究成果的 Cynthia Kenyon 工作,后者曾经通过改变基因使一种一般寿命是20天的虫子活了120天。Deming 在采访中说,她不跟投资者说 life extension 这个词,觉得听上去是一种 cult,会吓走投资人。她说觉得那种想法可怕的人是不够了解科学。终于遇到了一个肯跟你说人话的科学家,作者有没有感恩戴德地总结她的意思呢?作者的评价是,她的想法和那些 radical 的人没有本质区别,虽然她 downplay 会给人造成激进的印象的用语很聪明。

我不想以 “作者是文学专业的” 来原谅作者,我对这本书最后的尊重就是不以 “文科生” 来降低标准。

关于 transhumanism,我其实蛮有兴趣的。几个想法:

  • Transhumanism 的目标好像是永生(以新的存在方式)。永生本身是不是值得追求的目标呢?我认为不是的(虽然 Laura Deming 好像不这么认为),然而我认为人类要获得了永生才会意识到永生使所有事情都失去意义了。
  • 关于 cyborg,人类现在已经用眼镜、助听器来 augment 自己。未来可能会慢慢增加机器介入。我甚至觉得,未来的人类身体被增强的方式会每个人不同。就和现在每个人的身体不同一样:运动员体能更强,钢琴家手指特别灵活,司机对运动物体的判断更准确,而我们普通人,则被 condition 成最好的韭菜:卖命干活、不停消费,擅长维护社会秩序。未来人类要变怎样的 cyborg,一个重要的前提是人们明白自己最想要什么,为自己找到定义,或者,被这个社会定义。
  • 至于人脑能不能被机器模拟,这个问题可能无解。真想多思考的话,可以读读 GEB。我觉得,人脑可能不仅是处理信号,还有控制生物体的功能,我们的脑子和身体是这样进化而来的,感觉光复制信号处理还不够。
    • 这里作者说有一个悖论:这些相信可以用电脑模拟人脑的人,一方面认为意识和硬件是可以分离的,另一方面认为如果他们搭成了硬件,意识就会复现。我一开始都没有明白为什么这里有悖论,正是因为可以分离所以可以把意识转嫁到别的硬件上嘛!不过想了一下还是明白了悖论的点。有点意思。
  • 书里还有一个被采访的人改变了我的观点。虽然我还是觉得关于 Singularity 的预测不太靠谱,但是书里有一个人说,我们有这么多很厉害的人在研究 AI,但只有极少数人在研究 AI 的安全性,就好像研究核变却不研究 containment 一样。感觉很有道理啊!(唯一可以质疑的是,AI 是不是这么危险。AI 的危险可能没有这么直接,所以需要有人研究。)
  • 作者描述中的 transhumanist 让我有些讨厌。在于很多这方面的研究者,是右翼 libertarian,他们觉得有必要耗费世界的资源来保存他们。虽然我们每个人都是在耗费世界的资源活着,但是我是一直带着一点歉意的,我产生这么多塑料垃圾、我的碳排放,我要做点什么才能 justify 这些消耗呢?书里的一些 transhumanist,绝大多数都是白人男性,可能以为人类的生活足够好了值得无限延长它。我不由地想,能不能先让绝大多数人的有限长度的生命变得值得一过,让和我们共同生存的生物好过一点,然后再考虑怎样延长人类的生命呢?

另外说一下,Years and Years 里面有 transhumanist,RTD 还是功课做得很好,好多都点到了:cyborg, mind uploading etc.

bookmark_borderSinica Podcast – “liberal” Chinese Trump supporters

这个问题困扰我很久。之前我埋头看了一坨文章,然后自己写了一个心得。我的结论是,liberal 理想是很困难的,很多人没有真正接受 liberalism,出了个川普就感觉解放了,因此当他是救世主。另外 liberalism 我感觉也是个 spectrum,并不是非黑即白的,对于一些人不够 liberal 的方面,应该予以帮助,但是 cancel culture 很容易 alienate 他们。

前周的 Sinica Podcast 讨论这个问题,听得我感觉醍醐灌顶。在此记录一下节目里说的。

Yao: 中国的 liberal 支持川普现象,不是 “敌人的敌人是我朋友” 策略,因为他们支持川普的时候贸易战什么的都没开始呢。也不是 neo-liberalism affinity,你看像郭于华这样的为劳工争取权益的教授,你不能说她是 neo-liberalist。这个现象要用灯塔现象解释:

Political beaconism: 中国的自由派,以美国为榜样。他们其实是有意无意地 sanitize 了美国的情况。结果现在美国左派不给中国作榜样,尽在自我批评,这让中国自由派不能向中国人宣传民主了。所以看到川普批评美国左派他们很支持。

Civilizational beaconism: 清朝末年中国人最早接触西方的时候,和先进科技一起接受的是当时的殖民主义思想。你看梁启超的文章可以看到白人至上主义。然后经过一个世纪的战争和政治动荡,中国的人文学科没有得到发展,中国的思想界从来没有反思(甚至意识到)殖民思想的问题。因此很多中国知识分子支持西方的右派,觉得穆斯林移民到欧洲是很可怕的事情。

林垚还分析了白左这个词的用法。他以《三体》的读者推广了 “白莲花” 说法,指出中国人反对 political activism 经常是和厌女联系在一起的。白左这个词还有一个隐含的意思就是要搞这些只有白人可以。(因此在网上用来骂中国人很有效。)

我觉得他的分析太有道理了。虽然我常常看到 “白左”,我没有想得这么清楚过。另外我有时候会看见 “灯塔国” 这个说法,一直不确定它的含义和来源。“白莲花” 也是我偶尔会看到感觉是对女性不友好的词,从来没有查过是什么意思。我对网上的用语的理解一直是很脱节的,后来有了 GFW 之后我被迫不太上外网了,渐渐对一些词熟悉了一些。但是我的理解果然还是很缺乏。林垚这样又理解,又能以正常讨论的思路分析的,实在太少见了。他是怎么做到能呆在微信群里看 pro Trump 阴谋论而不和人争论然后爆炸的呢?


下面是我的……这是什么?这不是 transcription,是不够精准的 transcription,反正就是记录吧。

主持人:K – Kaiser Kuo; J – Jeremy Goldkorn. 嘉宾: Y – 林垚; I – Ian Johnson.

K: What is Liberalism in the Chinese context?

J: Liberal in the US context means a range of people from Joe Biden to Chomsky (?). But in the rest of the world it has a much limited meaning.

I: In the US, liberal often means dissidents. But simply being against the CCP doesn’t mean you are a liberal. You can be against the government for a number of reasons. It can simply be the love of freedom, and less government control, which is the classical liberalism. One of the things that unites a lot of these people is contrarianism. They are skeptical of the perceived wisdom. They want to support the person who is most troublesome. They think there is always another side to things.

Y: In Europe liberal has a more right leaning meaning than in the US. In China, ‘自由派’ basically we can define it a bit more broadly. In China, I think generally liberalism consists of a few beliefs: belief in constitutional right, belief in competitive multi-party electoral system. I think these two are shared among all Chinese liberalism. There are other particular beliefs, aversion to Mao-ist planned economy, they believe in the market economy, but still thinks some government control is necessary. Another trait of Chinese liberalism is being against narrow-minded or military Chinese nationalism, who assert that it’s China’s time to rise etc..

J: What are some egregious examples of Chinese intellectuals actively favoring Trump now? Who are some of the critics of the CCP that are in favor of Trump?

Y: For example 郭于华, a professor of Tsinghua University, who I admire very much, has supported Trump since 2015 since he announced his running for the presidency. She has been fervently critical to the CCP for many years. She isn’t someone you would describe as neo-liberalism or conservative because she has been advocating for worker’s rights, independent worker’s unions, greater transfer of wealth to the lower class for many years. Another example, Xiao Han, a legal scholar at 政法大学, who recently came out as pro-Trump. He said the turning point is the Hunber Biden hard drive, which made him think the US media is covering up things. Those are the two examples that come to my mind.

K: 郭于华 is a staunch support of 许章润, so it’s very surprising.

I: Yes I know her pretty well. I did a Q&A with her for the New York Review of Books. I was also surprised. I think in her case, there is a little bit of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. She and people like her think that at last the US is awake. Anything that deals the CCP a body blow is good. I think I sort of understand her. But also I don’t understand why she supports someone who is fundamentally anti-democratic. You can support his policies towards China, but you don’t have to support him stock and barrel. The thing that is the most troubling or perplexing is the need to go in whole and hard in support of someone.

K: May I ask a question: why does it matter that some many Chinese intellectuals disproportionally favor Trump?

I: It says something about the intellectual discourse in China, about the poverty of debate in China. Of course you have so many people support Trump in America. Many smart American also voted Trump. (K: name me one.) Maybe also it says a degree of desperation to see people like 郭于华 support Trump. There are other things. Love of conspiracy theories, and also a perverse contrarianism, in some way it’s healthy but also destructive.

Y: I think it matters at least in two ways for China and for the US. Intellectuals are important agencies for public discourses. They invent the terms, set the agendas of discussion, they legitimize certain concepts and ideas, and they steer the direction of the public’s social and political thought. In China, when public intellectuals speak in favor of such a failure, they quickly undermines liberalism in China. For example the ordinary Chinese citizen/netizens, seeing the complete failure of the handling of the pandemic, have been quick to mock the Chinese liberals who are in favor of Trump. In the future if there is opportunity of change in China, the younger generation can ask the liberals that why should we support you who support a destroyer of the US democracy?

J: A pretty good question.

Y: In the future we may face a choice of the CCP on the one hand and on the other hand the degenerated liberalism who supported Trump. For the US, I think it is also important. Part of the effect we have seen this year we have seen the Epoch Times and Apple Daily spreading misinformation. How that began can be found in the larger transformation in the Chinese public discourse. A lot of 自媒体 has internalized the misinformation and join force in report the US election this year and maybe be recruited by 郭文贵 or the Epoch Times. The effect shows. So I think the butterfly effect of the Chinese intellectuals is really huge. We may haven’t seen its full effect at this moment but a few years down the road it will be disastrous.

J: Can you talk about the various explanations you have put forward and why you find them unsatisfying? Let’s start with this, Yao, what is insufficient about the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’? I can understand that it is satisfying to hear Trump say ‘the CCP is the devil’ when previous administrations would mince their words.

Y: It is one of the hypothesis that I rejected in my paper. I don’t think this tactical explanation is satisfying. If you look into the early endorsements by the Chinese intellectuals since 2015 and 2016, you realize that they were not talking about Trump’s attitude towards China, or the trade war which hadn’t happened yet. They were talking about political correctness, that BLM had gone too far. 孙立平 another sociology professor at Tsinghua University wrote an article comparing Trump with 邓小平 in the late 2017 or early 2018. He says there are two greatest political experiment in human history so far, one is 改革开放 which saved and revived China, the other is Trump’s anit-political correctness war, which will save and revive the US.

K: So you are saying prior to China becoming an issue at all, they were already on board with Trump. Another explanation is the neo-liberalism affinity argument – those who don’t want planned economy finds affinity with neo-liberalism. There is a really important paper by Yiqing Xu and Jennifer Pan that look at how these ideas cluster, how in China and other countries that there is a clustering of certain political values and pro-market values, which is classic neo-liberalism. Why is that not a satisfactory explanation for this pro-Trump phenomenon we are seeing?

—[end of sitting one]—

Y: Yiqing is my friend and I like their work very much, but I disagree with that conclusion. Their questionnaire is designed by random netizens including myself. We put the questions to ordinary citizens, therefore that questionnaire cannot be used in analyzing intellectuals, who might have different understandings and better able to decouple different dimensions. If the conclusion is that Chinese liberals are neo-liberals, I think only some of them have the pro-market attitude from their lived experience, but it cannot be over-generalized. For example 郭于华, 孙立平 are not neo-liberals. 孙 wrote many articles advocating northern Europe model welfare system. Even for those who says we need more privatization, we need to understand how they are neo-liberals. Maybe their support for Trump is the same reason for their becoming neo-liberals.

J: Ian, let me put a question to you. It seems that the neo-liberalism argument might come from a sense that what we are seeing now with these Chinese Trump fans is a lot like what we saw in Poland and Czech Republic and then Slovakia after the cold war, where many of the liberals who enjoyed support of the US turned out to hold some surprising beliefs that did not sit so well with the notion of the golden liberals of Chapel Hill. You also saw this with some of the Russian dissidents. Ian, you were reporting from Berlin at the period. Does that strike you as similar?

I: I think it’s hard for people including us to escape the thinking we are brought up with. I think among the Chinese intellectuals, a lot of the arguments are very ad-hoc, not tested very well. What I’m saying is very unproveable hypothesis but it has a real effect on someone if they’ve never read or have a reliable benchmark information on stuff. I think it’s hard for people who even come up with a coherent argument. If you think of 郭于华, who is a very intelligent person and did some first rate work. But sometimes the lack of reliable facts at their disposal because for them everything is up in the air, open for debate. There is no real hard facts they feel they can rely on, so it leads them down these weird blind alley I find. (K: it sound like you are describing American Trump supporters.) Yes I see a huge similarity, these people don’t read newspapers, and someone tried to advance that, there is no reliable information. If you are in China, what is the reliable newspaper you are going to read? If you are in the US, well you can read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, read a couple of other things to get different points of view. Of course they are all biased, but there is some basic factual basis to them. But in China, what are you going to read? What newspaper is based in reality and decent fact? Everything is swimming in a sea of bullshit. You use intuition to figure things out, you triangulate things against your lived experience. It’s hard for [the Chinese intellectuals] to get real information, and it it leads them to this weird intellectual gymnastics.

K: Yao, your paper says it’s not tactical, it’s not the neo-liberalism affinity, it’s actually this phenomenon of ‘beaconism’. You talk about ‘川化’. You talk about two types of beaconism, the political and the civilizational. What are these and how they work at this metamorphosis?

Y: Political beaconism is the kind of psychological mechanism that grows out of Chinese liberal’s collective lived experience of Maoism and later the collective memory of it. At the time of Reforming and Opening, they had already suffered so much during the Cultural Revolution. They were opening their eyes to the western world. They internalized this black and white contrast between China and the West political regime. They intentionally or unintentionally internalized the rhetorical strategy that sanitize the actual western democracies. The US is the major contrast point. By sanitize I mean they allow small problems in the US democracy as no system is perfect, but they do not admit any major failure on the US part. So when the US self criticize, for example the systematic racism, the Chinese liberal intellectuals recoiled. Such self criticism can be taken advantaged by the CCP. How can they preach democracy to China if the US has systemic problem? Because of their experience, the Cultural Revolution is the most readily available vocabulary for them. When they see BLM tearing down the confederacy monuments, they see the CR ‘破四旧’. Political correctness is of course ‘狠斗私心一闪念’. They reconstruct the US events with their CR vocabulary, which distorted their understanding of the US politics. They are frustrated with the US intellectuals for their owning of the issues. With Xi, the Chinese intellectuals are feeling more and more suffocated. They hoped the western intellectuals would do something. But they are prioritizing self criticism. And they sided with Trump in their criticism of the western intellectuals.

K: What about civilizational beaconism?

Y: When we look at contemporary Chinese political thought, we need to go back to the late Qing Dynasty when China first encountered the western world. The Chinese intellectuals were shocked by how scientifically advanced the western world was. They wanted to learn from the west. They gobbled everything the west offered. Unfortunately it was also the time when colonialism was on the rise in the West. If you look at Chinese intellectual at the time, for example 梁启超 wrote that the white is the best, the black is the worst, the yellow people can be as great as the white people. Over the next century the development of social sciences and humanities in China has been largely stalled. There has not been the reckoning of the racist past. Fast forward to the present, the Chinese intellectuals both liberals and non-liberal nationalists still have colonial racism internalized. They think the European countries shouldn’t take muslim immigrants because that will destroy the western civilization. So MAGA really hits home for them. There is a small distinction among Chinese intellectuals between the liberals and nationalists. The Chinese liberal thinks the west is the best, but hopes that China will rise and join the west and be the best civilizations in the world, and keep the inferiors (blacks and muslims) in check. The non-liberal nationalists fantasize a moment that China could replace the west to take the top of the hierarchy. But they don’t want the west to be brought down by inferior races.

K: You don’t have to look at May Fourth era to find Chinese liberal being racists, look at 1989 He Shang you will still find it. Let’s talk about political correctness. Ian, why is political correctness such a fixation for Chinese intellectuals?

I: I think many people see this as a way to force people to have certain viewpoints that you have to do things a certain way. In China many people are told to think in a certain way. For Chinese intellectuals think this is a fundamental problem. They want to break free of these straight jackets, the correct way of thinking and doing things. For example in the American academia, you have to have a tag in your email to tell people how to refer to you. You are under pressure to do that now. It’s a typical issue when you take your own experience and apply it elsewhere.

J: Before we get into Yao’s piece, let’s talk about 白左. What does it mean? How is it used? Why is the anti-白左 congregated around 知乎? Yao could you give some background on this?

Y: 白左 is literally white lefties, I think first used on 知乎 to describe the social justice activism in the west. Those who cared about the plight of the refugees. I think the term was first popularized in 2015 during the European refugee crisis. 左 is derogatory in the Chinese context, meaning that you care about equality without any consideration of feasibily etc. 白 white has a connotation in Chinese slangs meaning pure but naive 白莲花、傻白甜. Also 白 has a racial connotation that the white people can be naive because they are white, the political agency of black and brown people is eliminated by using this term. Every social justice proposal must come from white people. However naive they are, they are the people who have the ideas and agencies, they can act, they are coming to save the black and brown people. But they save them in the wrong way. They make it worse.

K: 白 in 白左 alternatively means 白痴, a matching term by the conservative is lib-tard.

Y: I think that was later added. Before it was popularized, it means white people. Also 白莲花. If you read 三体, which popularized the image of a woman Cheng Xin, who was designated by earth people as the savior but was so naive and innocent and inadvertently destroyed the earth. The real hero was some male guy. Readers of 三体 quickly invented a term 白莲花 to describe Cheng Xin. It is obviously misogynistic. This attitude against social activism is tied to misogyny in the Chinese discourse.

K: And 白左 is no longer used to describe white people, it is now also used against people in China.

Y: Yes.

I: I wanted to add something. When I hear this criticism, it reminded me also when I was living in Europe, just after the refugee crisis, I went to the US and talked to some Trump voters who said, what a disaster this refugee crisis is, letting these refugees in. I felt it really wasn’t actually a disaster. I sensed something almost like jealousy, that you are able to do something that we are not able to do. There seems to be some parallel here.

J: Shouldn’t we talk about the piece you wrote for 澎湃思想市场? It is translated and published by David [] “Reading the China Dream”. Your piece is about the conversation in Shanghai involving four public intellectuals discussing the BLM movement. Can you give us a sense of how prevalent this is even among people who do not support Trump? [你们 show notes 怎么网站上没有啊,apple podcast 网页上也没有。]

Y: Yes. Among four professors in China who are anti-Trump, who you might call true liberals in China, they have been taking in and using the term political correctness and they have been falling prey to this way of framing public discourse. I think that is one of the defining features of the Chinese internet. People keep talking about those terms and framing discussion with them. Political correctness, cancel culture etc. despite the vast difference between the Chinese and US context. Political correctness is on top of their minds. Whenever there is and argument on the internet, one party is quick to accuse the other to use political correctness to suppress the other side’s opinion.

K: Ian, what explains the eagerness so many Chinese intellectuals use this term? When they see tearing down statues they say ah they are red guards. What strikes me is that so many of their arguments are directly from the US. They are quick to take in Jordan Peterson and American Alt-Right websites. Cultural Revolution experience isn’t sufficient to explain this.

I: Yeah, it’s always interesting what one culture takes from another. When the Chinese look at our culture, they seem to take the least convincing part of it. They don’t take the brightest from the west. Look at Ai Wei Wei, the snarky way of taking down people. Of course it is all around the world. There aren’t peer review journals or magazines where reasonable opinion makers will debate issues. It’s all in social-media-sphere now. So if you can poke someone in the eye, that’s the only way to win argument. It comes across well. It’s a cocktail party debate.

J: We’ve already talked about watching them watching us. Let’s add another layer. Ian, Yao, you must have got quite a lot of response from Chinese or Chinese Americans about your recent work on this topic. What do they say about what you said about what they say about American politics?

I: I can tell you one thing. I interviewed for my piece Li Rei’s daughter Li Nanyang before. She’s a real pro-Trumper. I’m probably the perfect example of 白左 in their eyes. White, 傻瓜 type of guy, which is probably true. 🙂 That is one reaction I got.

K: Li Rei was a long march surviver, who was quite high in the political life in China and became sort of a dissident.

I: He championed the history of China and was one of the patron saints of China through the Ages. His daughter sort of kept the flame alive. She’s living temporarily in the US but she’s a Chinese citizen. She is somewhat representative of the Chinese left thinkers.

J: What about you Yao? Because we can’t blame your whiteness.

Y: I’ve been receiving response of two kinds as you can imagine. One kind is like “thank you so much for explaining this. this has been puzzling me for years, and finally I see a convincing explanation”. The other kind is “you are a piece of shit, you are wumao sent by the CCP to defame the great Trump. When Trump is reelected, you will get deported”.

K: In your piece you said the outcome of this election will determine whether the political beaconism or the civilizational beaconism is stronger. What is your conclusion now that the election result is known?

Y: Now the pro-Trump intellectuals are falling into two camps, they are even fighting each other now. One camp says that let’s accept the lost and uphold and support American democracy. The other camp which I think is much larger still refuses to accept the lost and circulating conspiracy theories. I’m having a lot of fun as I’m in several pro-Trump groups to just observe what they are saying. They come up with a different theory every day.

K: One more question for you before we go back to Ian. You say that younger Chinese will be less persuaded by Trump. But they are more nationalistic. Did you coin that phrase ‘civilization vindictiveness’? [Y: yes] What will the balance be?

Y: I will be cautiously pessimistic. I think within the liberal camp, younger liberals is less receptive to Trump. But the liberal camp is shrinking. Not only because of the disastrous performance of the liberal camp this time, but also because of the larger environment, the indoctrination from very early on in primary schools, and censorship etc.. You can see the rise of wolf warrior generation, who are also tech savvy, and they know how to appropriate the liberal top points and turn them into backing nationalist policies and ideologies. I think in the future we will see less this bizarre liberal supporting Trump phenomenon but a strong illiberal camp firmly against liberalism in China.

K: You are absolutely right about the appropriation. Cui Zhiyuan did that.

J: Ian, a big question for the future, what will dissident intellectuals do now given that their support for Trump will not endear them to the Biden’s team. Do you think they will change with the change of the political administration?

I: I don’t think they will change. Trump may fade in a year or two, but they are too … to change. That poses a question for the Biden administration, who they are going to help? Obviously there are victims of human rights violations in China, the Uighurs etc.. Some of the affinity is no longer there.

K: It’s going to be 滕彪 and 滕彪 and 滕彪. He’s the only one there now. That’s not true. There are still others. Like Yao for example.

K: Thank you both for this conversation.

Yao’s recommendation: book by Chen Yinghong, racism in China (correspond to my civilizational beaconism). Antonin Scalia and American Constitutionalism. How American conservatism used legal rhetorics to advance their partisan goals.

Ian’s recommendation, an article in Vanity Fair about political elite with Clinton, the corruption that explains the rise of Trump. Forbidden Memory, Tibetan during the Cultural Revolution, photos accompanied by long essays.

Lin Yao’s podcast 时差.

bookmark_borderAin’t I a Woman

偶然看了 Aileen 硬盘上的视频,知道了 bell hooks,瞬间被她吸引住了。非常吸引我的说法是她发明了一个词叫做 white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,用来概述我们世界的 ‘interlocking systems of oppression’。是这种说法忽然打开了我的脑子,让我意识到了什么,还是她说话时温柔的神态和语气迷住了我,我说不清。所以我找来了她的书来看,希望能够理解更多。

她的第一本书,出版于1981年的 Ain’t I a Woman,让我觉得有点失望。这本书概括一下说的是:黑人女性想和白人女性一起要女权,但是发现白人女性有种族歧视;黑人女性想和黑人男性一起要种族平权,但是发现黑人男性有父权。主要篇幅在说大家都不好,列举了美国从殖民时代开始的各个历史时期,引用了很多事例和别人的说法。白男是一切的罪魁祸首这一点不说了。黑男在奴隶时代就比黑女好过,在争取种族平权的时候经常 evoke patriarchy,自觉向往和利用白人的父权社会结构,系统性厌女、贬低黑女。而白女争取女性投票权的活动者中虽然有一些废奴主义者,但是美国的历史把她们浪漫化了,而且即使是废奴主义者,她们往往反对的只是奴隶制,而不是支持黑人和白人享受平权。当黑男先获得投票权的时候她们有倾向仇视黑人。而黑女因此无法和白女同盟,生活在黑男的父权下。

我觉得她写的这些事情很有必要。比如如果我没看这本书,我会很美化女权主义。书里引用了我大学时最早读到女权活动的人物:Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony。她们都是白人女性。我还记得大学时外教老师塞给我们这些阅读材料的时候,一腔热血地跟我们说,以前,女性没有政治权利,而现在你们正在目睹另一个人群获得认可(他指的是同性恋)。十多年后的现在,我深深认识到女性根本没有走出困境,种族平权也远远没有达成(想一想去年的 George Floyd)。为什么呢?我还是觉得读 bell hooks 也许能得到答案。从这本书来看,我觉得她心里的答案是,要一起来,不能为了种族平权忽略(甚至利用)性别歧视,也不能因为性别平权忽略(甚至利用)种族歧视。她甚至在书里还略提到 class 差别也要消除。我对这本书不能打五星的原因,就是她没有怎么强调这个结论,而我觉得这可能是她最根本的结论。instead,书里主要是这个群体不好那个群体不好,这个学者不好所有学者都忽略了黑人女性。这些批评本身我都同意(我不觉得指出所有的学者都忽略了黑人女性有什么不对,这个判断是对的,也是值得指出的),但是破然后要立,才能让人读得爽。

另外不得不提,读这本书的时候看到了无数无数无数的 parallel。虽然书讲的是美国、黑人女性,都和中国情况差很远,但是 parallel 真的多得数不过来。随便举一些例子:

  • 黑人男性说女权是白人的事情。parallel:民主是西方人的事情;女权是境外势力。
  • 在美国的语境中,黑人指黑人男性,女人指白人女性。黑人女性消失了。parallel:有一阵豆瓣上有很多人讨论男人没有性别(因为默认说人的时候指的是男人,要说女人得特别指出)
  • 奴隶制的时候,黑人男性经常被允许有家庭,在小范围内可以支配女性,让他们反抗的可能性变小。后来,美国的资本主义在压榨普通男性工作者的时候洗脑了男人,让他们觉得压榨女人可以让他们重获自我,而这是让底层男性屈服的最终手段。parallel:引用 Betray Big Brother:只要政府还允许底层男人迫害女人,在家(家暴),在公共交通上骚扰,或者在工作环境里骚扰和压迫女性,那么这些男人更有可能接受一党专制。
  • 基督教认为女性是 sin 的来源。parallel:(其实不需要基督教就可以厌女)女人被强奸是因为她穿得少或者走夜路。
  • black power movement 要黑人强大起来,但并没有改善黑人女性的出境。parallel:中国要复兴这个最近几年的口号,是伴随着打压女性的大环境进行起来的。
  • 很多黑人平权领袖都是男权主义者。parallel:在 Betray Big Brother 里,也引用了国民党男革命者的梦想,是和西方(男)人一样有尊严,有财产,在他描绘的理想里,他漫步在自己的花园里,身边还有妻子和儿女。

接下来让我对 Yann 的批评 做出回应:

作者在适合她需要的时候可以用相反的论证,总之不管怎么做都在歧视黑人女性。比如:叫女的做苦力是在打脸对女性能力的歧视;不叫女的做苦力是在证实对女性的歧视。比如:男黑奴可以不在田里干活当司机是优待,但是女黑奴不在田里干活去当女佣是增受精神之苦。

不管做什么都是歧视黑人女性,我觉得这是事实。做司机比做女佣舒服也感觉很正常。

作者引用很以偏概全,经常以一个人的经历得到很普遍化的结论。

要说以偏概全,现实世界几乎全是反过来的以偏概全。以《乱世佳人》里面黑奴的状况暗示黑奴没有很苦。以人类回避痛苦回忆的本能来看,这样的以偏概全恐怕多得多了。

作者还很习惯judge所有学者,经常说他们 ‘fail to mention’ 之类的,是一种道德绑架的感觉。继而给人感觉读了那些学者书的人没觉得他们忽略了黑人女性的读者也是在歧视黑人女性。把黑人女性的经历写得这么苦,给人感觉书没资格和这么苦的人争辩。

我理解这种感觉似乎再进一步就是 cancel culture 了。但是 again,说他们 fail to mention 是事实。现实就是,所有人都忽略了历史的真相,不能因为会冒犯所有人而不纠正

作者一直以责问的口气把问题归咎于一个目标群体,这个目标群体在不同的议题上会变化,但是却好像都是提前相互串通好的。

这个批评我觉得无法反驳。Aileen 也说不该把一个群体的人绑在一起说。比如我们可以批评 bell hooks 根本没提 gender fluid 人群呢?

另一方面,这个 ‘提前串通好的’ 的感觉我一开始也很惊讶。比如书里提到 male bonding。好几年前,花姐曾经说,男人很团结,遇到女人会一起骂。我当时在想,男人没那么有觉悟要团结吧?看到书里说的 male bonding,是一种男人习得的,在父权社会里互相确认自己地位的一套态度、说法和习惯。她这么一说我忽然理解了!小时候我就发现,有的男生会嘲笑某个女生,然后别的男生会加入进来,有时候我觉得这种嘲笑非常随机。另外社会上还有江湖义气什么的。甚至你的校园 bully。。我觉得这些都是男性建立 patriarchy 的行为。甚至有的女性也会加入进来(我曾经提到过一些女性是依附于男权的)。而男权社会的 rhetoric 就是 pit women against each other。男权设定了女人之间是竞争关系。我们有 ‘朋友妻不可欺’,但是没有 ‘朋友夫不可欺’,这实际上就是男权设定。这是故意的、提前串通好的吗?这也许不是精心设计的,但是是 organic 生长出来的,感觉更加牢固更加难以察觉。

这本书,读的时候感觉并不是很好。但是回想起来,感觉她很对而且很重要。我还期待读更多她的书来理解更多。作为一个中国人,我深知鄙视链的问题和复杂性。人类还远没有从殖民思维恢复过来,更远远没有从父权社会中解放。

PS:bell hooks 说 racist 这个词不好,因为感觉是白人的事情。white supremacist 这个词就比较好,因为每个人都可以在里面找到位置。如果你是一个崇拜白人的黑人,你也是 racist。我觉得同样的 patriarchy 这个词就比性别歧视好,因为一个女人也可以依附于父权。所以我觉得她说的 white supremacist capitalist patriarchy 这个说法真心好。这么一个说法,真的让我觉悟很多,看清了自己在这个压迫的世界中的位置。如果我和男人一起骂女人,或者忽略女人,或者怪女人穿得少,那么我是在利用 patriarchy 欺负人;如果我只看白男的作品,那么虽然我是黄种人,我还是 white supremacist;如果我对外卖员很苛刻,那么我是在协助这个不公平的世界欺负人。

PS PS: 放一个那个视频里说 white supremacist capitalist patriarchy 的片段:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUpY8PZlgV8