Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fragment 209

In 1934 the Nationalist government, worried about the growing numbers of Chinese switching their allegiance to Communism, instigated the New Life Movement. Largely the brainchild of ├╝berbitch Madame Chiang, the movement was designed to provide an alternative ideology to the persuasiveness of Communism as an intellectual system. Presented as a ‘gift’ to the Chinese people from their beloved Generalissimo Chiang Kai Sheik, the New Life Movement was part of the a general trend towards totalitarianism thought structures which were the most salient feature of the 30s. However, while Communism provided a complex, internally consistent system with its own history and (often bitterly) contested schools, (the semblance of) intellectual rigour, a discourse in which one could participate, and a lofty, noble aim, the New Life Movement was simply a series of decrees aimed at changing behaviours, at improving social mores; essentially it is a list of manners, a manual of etiquette.
The slogan was thought the best means for promulgating the New Life Movement.

Clothing should be tidy and clean.
Buttons should be well buttoned.
Hats should be worn straight.
Shoes should be worn correctly
Food should be eaten in an orderly manner.
Sit upright.
Do not throw food on the ground.
Bowls and chopsticks should be set in order.
Do not make a noise while eating and drinking.
Rooms should be kept clean.
Do not write on walls.
Furniture should be simple.
The home should be tranquil.
Walk and sit with erect posture.
Be punctual for appointments.
Speak after others have finished eating.
Help you neighbour if a fire breaks out.
Do not laugh when others have funerals.
Try to mediate the quarrels of others.
Aid others who have fallen.
Keep silent in meetings or at the theatre.
Do not scold, swear at or hit others.
Do not laugh or talk loudly on boats or in buses.
Do not call out in restaurants or teahouses.
Be polite in conversations.
Keep to the left when walking down the street.
Do not overtake others while walking.
Stay in line at the station when buying tickets.
Stay inline when entering a public place.
Say good morning to others every morning.
Say goodbye when you leave your friends.
Do not gamble or visit prostitutes.
Do not smoke opium.
If you pick up something on the street, return it to its owner.
Be careful of public property and try to make use of scrap materials.
Salute the national flag when it is raised and brought down.
Stand while singing the Party song or the National anthem.
Salute your elders.
Be polite and courteous to women and children.
Help old people, women, and the weak in getting off boats and buses.
Be filial to your parents and love your brothers and sisters,
Take off your hat in meeting places.
Do not wear your hat indoors.
Be loyal to your friends.
Be fair in business transactions.
Reduce the number of meaningless parties or gatherings.
Be frugal at weddings, funerals and festive occasions.
Go to bed early and rise early.
Keep your face clean.
Keep your mouth and keep your hair clean.
Breathe fresh air.
Comb your hair.
Cut fingernails frequently.
Clothes should be kept clean.
Holes in clothing should be patched.
Bedding should be frequently washed and dried outdoors.
Children should be kept clean.
Sweep and clean your rooms frequently.
Drain ditches and gutters frequently.
Keep windows open as often as possible.
Keep tables and chairs clean.
Keep bowls and chopsticks clear.
Keep bathrooms clean.
Exterminate flies
Exterminate mosquitoes.
Exterminate rats.
Dump garbage in garbage cans.
Do not throw waste paper on the street.
Do not throw fruit peel on the street.
Do not post advertisements everywhere.
Get vaccinated.
Keep bus stations and docks clean.
Keep parks and theatres clean.
Restaurants, hotels and tea houses should be clean.
Bath houses and barber shops should be clean.
Every household should clean the street in front of its door each day.
Everyone should keep himself clean all the time.
Do not eat snacks.
Do not eat unclean food.
Do not drink unboiled water.
Do not get drunk.
Do not smoke.
Do not spit on the ground.
Do not urinate as you please.

What interests me about this list of slogans, is that they unwittingly reveal the texture of ordinary life in China during the 20th century; what the Nationalists wanted to change; and that they thought they could achieve it by means of slogans. (Mental flash here, image of thousands of people marching through the streets chanting Buttons should be well buttoned). The list also reveals the KMT ideology, a strange mix of Confucianism, paternalism of an almost Nazi breadth and depth, and Christianity of the YWCA variety, the sheer mad bossiness, remnants of which still underpin the social fabric and legal framework of Taiwan, and which is only now starting to dissolve under the pressures of modern materialism.

And how reliable can any truth be that that is got
By observing oneself and then just inserting a not?

W.H.Auden

2 comments:

James said...

I am struck by the similarity of many of the New Life decrees to the growing paternalism of our own government. We seem to be headed backwards - one wonders at the trend.

Murr said...

There are indeed many similarities between the personal ideologies of Chiang Kai Shek and Little Bush, as they call him here: naked lust for power masked by a muscular Christianity.