Thursday, July 16, 2009

Possible Consequences of Mutual Goodwill

NYTIMES: "The first batch of Uighurs, 40 young men and women from the far western region of Xinjiang, arrived at the Early Light Toy Factory here in May, bringing their buoyant music and speaking a language that was incomprehensible to their fellow Han Chinese workers.

After the melee, the 800 Uighur workers were moved to an industrial park not far from the factory, guarded by the police.

“We exchanged cigarettes and smiled at one another, but we couldn’t really communicate,” said Gu Yunku, a 29-year-old Han assembly line worker who had come to this southeastern city from northern China. “Still, they seemed shy and kind. There was something romantic about them.”

The mutual good will was fleeting.

By June, as the Uighur contingent rose to 800, all recruited from an impoverished rural county not far from China’s border with Tajikistan, disparaging chatter began to circulate. Taxi drivers traded stories about the wild gazes and gruff manners of the Uighurs. Store owners claimed that Uighur women were prone to shoplifting. More ominously, tales of sexually aggressive Uighur men began to spread among the factory’s 16,000 Han workers."

...

"I began my lectures this year with the onerous topic of the utilitarians, but the utilitarians are quite right. They are countered with something that, in effect, only makes the task of countering them much more difficult, with a sentence such as "But, Mr. Bentham, my good is not the same as another's good, and your principle of the greatest good for the greatest number comes up against the demands of my egoism." But it's not true. My egoism is quite content with a certain altruism, altruism of the kind that is situated on the level of the useful. And it even becomes the pretext by means of which I can avoid taking up the problem of the evil I desire, and that my neighbor desires also. That is how I spend my life, by cashing in my time in a dollar zone, ruble zone or any other zone, in my neighbor's time, where all the neighbors are maintained equally at the marginal level of reality of my own existence. Under these conditions it is hardly surprising that everyone is sick, that civilization has its discontents.

It is a fact of experience that what I want is the good of others in the image of my own. That doesn't cost so much. What I want is the good of others provided that it remain in the image of my own. I would even say that the whole tiling deteriorates so rapidly that it becomes: provided that it depend on my efforts. I don't even need to ask you to go very far into your patients' experience: if I wish for my spouse's happiness, I no doubt sacrifice my own, but who knows if her happiness isn't totally dissipated, too?" (Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis)


2 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Now that the "rice bowl" is broken, minorities have to compete for jobs. Before there was work, however meager for everyone.

The national question is ultimately a question of bread.

Renegade Eye said...

See Carnival of Socialism at my blog.