Dictionary.com explains this self-deprecating phrase, which means you are conscious of your own shortcomings, with, “Don’t imitate my behavior but obey my instructions.”
The reason I am writing this post is because of Faithful Monuments, a piece I read in the May 2011 Smithsonian Magazine, which has nothing to do with China.
However, there is a connection to China with the “Do As I Say” phrase.
In Smithsonian, Jamie Katz quotes Shirley Macagni, a 79-year-old retired dairy rancher and great-grandmother of seven, who is also an elder of the Salinan tribe that inhabited California’s Central Coast for thousands of years.
Macagni feels, “It is unfair to judge 18th century attitudes and actions by contemporary standards,” and says, “They (the Spanish) didn’t deliberately say they’re going to destroy people…”
Macagni is referring to the Spanish conquest that brought Western civilization and/or Spanish cultural values including the Church to the Americas forging an empire in blood for gold.
John Selden’s phrase, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say,” may be applied, with some revisions, to China. “It is unfair to judge Chinese attitudes and actions by contemporary Western Standards.”
In fact, Western and American civilization may also be judged by the standards of other cultures such as China.
Consider that contemporary Western standards underwent a drastic metamorphosis starting with the Industrial Revolution. This change altered how parents raised children, resulted in child labor laws, the building of national education systems, the rise of labor unions, and the liberation of women, etc.
Then the West decided to import these new values to the rest of the world even if the rest of the world was not ready or did not want them.
Henry Kissinger touches on this Western/American behavior in On China, where he says, “American exceptionalism is cultural. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world.” In a CNN interview, he said, “So how to conduct ourselves in such a world – it’s a huge test for us… It’s a big challenge.”
In 1970, sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler published Future Shock and defined the term as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies and what happens when there is too much change in too short a period.
Toffler argued that these sort of drastic changes overwhelmed people leaving them disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”. He said, “The majority of social problems were symptoms of this future shock.”
When we take what Toffler says into account, we have an explanation for everything that has taken place in China over the last century since the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The shattering stress and disorientation of future shock (forced on China by the West) led to China’s Civil War and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, etc.
Of course, when an individual is culturally and historically illiterate, it may be difficult to face this challenge Kissinger talks of – especially when we consider what Chris Hedges writes in America the Illiterate.
Hedges says, “We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth.
“The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth,” which may explain why so many in America and the West suffer from Sinophobia, a hostility toward the Chinese, Chinese culture, history and/or government, and a stubborn unwillingness to listen to the facts/truth and attempt to understand them.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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