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Lectures to the Chinese by Alfred De Grazia

PART TWO:  The Eight Goods


Being Happy in China and America

If I were in conclusion to weigh all the bads and goods, and name what is the greatest bad, I would of course name the bureaucratization of America, its movement toward a culture of force. If I were to name the greatest good, it would be the openness of America. If I were to name the one greatest need of the country, I would say "a will for a changed way of life." If Americans once resolve that the old way is gone, that a selfish way is self-destructive, but that a determined, self-restraining, yet tremendously energetic way across the bridge to a modest and decent cooperative world is THE WAY, nothing could stop their movement and the world momentum generated by it. I hope that you will live to see that day.


It costs five hundred times more resources to raise an American child than it does to raise a Chinese child. Is the resulting American superior?

In morals, no. In devotion to parents, no. In industriousness, no. In cleanliness, no. In intelligence, no. In love, no. In soldiering, no. In education, no. In cooking, no. In capacity for happiness, no. In health, perhaps. In ability to deal with machines, yes. In individualistic spirit, yes. In the production of art, science, and literature, yes.

A being from outer space would conclude that some fundamental dis-economy is occurring. Much is put in, but to little effect.

How can an American justify himself or herself? If resources were unlimited, one can could say that it makes no difference-if this person spends so much, and another spends so much less to arrive at the same result, no one is hurt. But everybody knows that resources are greatly limited.

Granted resources are scarce, another logic of justification is the well-known discrimination between rich and poor, found within society as well as between nations: some command resources, and others do not; it does no good to transfer resources from the haves to the have-nots, for the have-not will become no better by becoming a have. The proof is in the ultimate general equality of the average American and average Chinese to which I have referred.

A third line of justification is to examine "the four superiorities": health, superiority in dealing with machines, an individualistic spirit, and creativity. Perhaps it is from these four distinctions that Americans gather to themselves the right to spend five hundred times the resources on a growing person.

However, the first distinction, that of health, insofar as it may exist, result directly from a modest amount of food stuffed into the child. It hardly takes 1/500 of the difference to wipe it out, and its justification is impossible and its existence reprehensible.

In the second instance, if Americans learn to make and manage machines while growing up, and then use this knowledge to transform the materials of the environment into things and services, then do they finally have the right to spend these things and services upon themselves? That is, does he knowledge of how to transform resources convey the right to command the resources?

It may, provided that the Chinese do not offer to acquire that skill and do not demand a right to the resources. But, of course they do specifically make this offer and this demand. Whereupon one is driven back to the recalcitrance of the rich against the poor, which is insupportable. All that one can say is: "I do not believe you can achieve this level of skill, given your form of organization." But still the Chinese have the right to try and therefore a need for the resources with which to work while trying.

The superiority with machines, which has cost so much to bring about in education of the young, can be regarded as the means to the more defensible superiorities. The individualistic spirit is potentially good, but in its own way is as prone to extremity and disease as the collectivistic spirit. As I have tried to show, the Americans' struggle to fashion their individualistic spirit into a viable, balanced, happy, welldeveloped soul has always been violent and uncontrolled. The mere prevalence of this individualism is not good until proven good.

And perhaps the proof of this good lies in the use of the spirit for seeing the future clearly, planning the necessary steps to meet the future, and leading the world by the most humane means possible toward goals of universal value. But does this not mean that the individualistic spirit is only a superiority if it ultimately controls, reduces, and remakes the 500 to 1 ratio? Yes. Moreover, individualism must achieve this in competition with collectivism.

You arrive, then, at the judgment that the level of art, science, and literature in America is superior to that of present day China. Few Americans would assert that this is the only true and worthwhile superiority provided out of their expensive child-raising. But I say it is because it is a more impressive outcome than the machines and the individualistic spirit. It is more lasting. It is composed of human communications of great variety. It gives the only basis for reaching out to others and helping them.

However, the 500 to 1 ratio is grossly excessive for the purposes of creativity. If the Chinese government were rearranged, letting a "hundred flowers blossom," and letting a "hundred schools of thought contend," it would soon perform miracles of creativity. If the American system were reformed, it would continue to let creativity flourish with children who are being raised at a ratio of 50 to 1. And someday it would be 1 to 1.

I wish now to complete the circle for you. The 500 to 1 ratio must very soon begin to diminish rapidly. America must use its only true superiority, that of flexible, innovative creativity, to settle its children with all they need upon a modest new plane of life where, within the generation, they will find themselves in the company of four children. Then, and only then, can one ever look back at the 500 to 1 ratio and say that it had a passing significance that could be justified.


Build on the day, for everyone can measure the day. "We should pay the closest attention to whatever we find is apt to cloud or light up man's day," a French philosopher, De Jouvenel, wrote. The day well spent is of high relative indulgence; an ancient concept is wedded to a modern one. A day well spent is the ultimate practical goal of personality and society.

Every society has its norms for a people who wish to know what to do with themselves. Usually, the well-spent day is passed subconsciously, and the end of it carries only some slight buoyancy of spirit, which incites this idea, and every culture has its philosophers who will tell their people "this is a day well spent." It may be a day of high productivity in output per man-hour, a day of successful agitation of other souls, a day of prayer a day of winning a gamble, or a day of unexpected good fortune, a day of lusty pleasure, a day of curious learning, a day that someone you respect says is a day well spent.

What is to be our standard of a day well spent? Without this norm, how can we steer ourselves, regulate ourselves, praise ourselves, concern ourselves, reward ourselves, and criticize all and sundry? We need the standard.

You will know a day has been well spent when it has taken from you those things related to what man needs which you can best provide, and gives them to yourself and others. If you or your groups need direction, but you give diversion, you did not spend the day well. If you needed rest and were agitated in spirit, it was badly spent. If you, acting through your extended roles, lent yourself to envious behavior, then you did not spend the day well. If you needed help (because you are poor in intelligence, money, skill, or power) but did not ask for it , then you did not spend the day well, for you kept others from their duty and failed to realize your own destiny.

You spent the day well when, by some slight or striking token, the world of your expanded ego quivered like a gauge's needle toward registering a fortunate direction or movement. At the end of each week, month, and year a person's progress may be considerable. In a generation the world will be vastly different; a revolution will have taken place. It will be a world in which at least half of its people will feel favorable movement in most of their days, and most of the people will enjoy the basic goods and exclaim, not only for the movement but for the absolute achievement: "It was a day well spent!"


If it appears to you that the problem of America is absorbed into a higher sphere of humanity, your notion is correct. Contradiction and its handling are everyone's problem. Destiny is in everyone, too, so that a tour de force of destiny is of universal interest. Just as we would not recognize life if we were without death, we could not have good without evil. This is yin and yang, and the spirit of the yin and yang is in Mao's doctrine of contradiction: "The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought."

Carrying the principle of yin and yang into the new theory of contradiction, Mao has given a modern dynamic form to an ancient structural principle of the universe, clarifying the nature of today's world. "The human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another."

I have explained America in the form of its contradictions, choosing eight major pairs of bads and goods. I have shown how all of these circulate as if the famous disc of yin and yang were in perpetual global rotation. "The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other. struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other." The goods not only oppose the bads, but also provoke them.

According to Marxist dialectics, the feudal regime suppresses the bourgeoisie overthrows the feudal regime and oppresses the farm and factory workers; the workers overthrow the bourgeoisie, and a new classless society emerges.

This has not happened. In one part of the world, the bourgeoisie is overthrown by the proletarian revolutionaries; but the beneficiary is not a classless society, nor is it a proletarian society, it is a society of civil-military bureaucrats, a force society, the society of Lord Shang, executioner of liberties. So Mao has thundered against the bureaucrats' becoming the successors of the proletarian revolution.

Now if the workers acquire bourgeois status, as in the U.S.A. and Britain, they become middle class. But they too bring on the bureaucratic society. And this was what the young Italian theorist Gaetano Mosca asserted as his law of transformation in 1888: the liberal state and the socialist state both end in the bureaucratic state.

Thus a third, unexpected force emerges out of the resolution of the contradiction of classes. Is the principle of contradiction wrong there? No, it is not wrong.

What is wrong and has been wrong since the Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 is the naming of the parties to the contradictions as the middle class and the workers, and giving these names a reality that hangs in the air like the grin of the Cheshire cat, long after the cat has disappeared. The real contradiction was and is between the practices called the free culture and the force culture.

The contradiction, furthermore, is never to be dissolved. It is not in the nature of contradiction to be dissolved. The force culture is the necessary "disloyal oppositions," a shadow, at best, of the free culture.

The object of politics, then, should be the strengthening of the components of the culture of freedom. As I have set forth, this is done by the proper raising of the young, by the exercise of universal constitutionalism, and by farseeing pragmatic politics.

The contradiction of the two cultures of force and freedom is not be arbitrated by destiny. It is endless. Destiny has its own way.

However, humankind has its way, too.

Mencius said:

Though nothing happens that is not due to destiny, one accepts willingly only what is one's proper destiny. That is why he who understands destiny does not stand under a wall on the verge of collapse. He who dies after having done his best in following the Way dies according to his proper destiny. It is never anyone's proper destiny to die in fetters.

We shall all die one day, as individuals. Whether the humanity that we represent is to die is not at all sure. That we do not wish our fellow human to die with us is, in a way, the highest compliment that we can pay to them.

It is not that we see humankind in a false light. Rather, simply, there is nothing better around. Not the animals and plants: even as our wonder and affection for them may grow, their single-mindedness is not as ultimately beautiful as the bewilderment of people. Nor the great waters and rocks and sands. Nor the stars. Not even the gods, because they are within us; the divine exists because we are its tools. Then we must strive for humanity. This we do when we practice our future freedoms.


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