In China they now have a huge graduation-like celebration for you when you turn 18 and when you graduate. Cap, gowns, and everything. A huge ordeal. Since they can't throw those huge ordeals for every single individual in high school, they group birthdays togethers by months or so to get a large enough group that it makes sense to spend all the time/money into throwing that event.
I was told earlier this week when I arrived in Shanghai, that my cousin was to have hers! I was excited to go. Still excited as I walked into her auditorium and took my seat, I finally got a little dissapointed as it started. It was person after person, speech after speech. Admittedly, I drifted off a little at one point.
As an American-born Chinese with only a few years of Chinese school under my belt at the ages of 5-7, I could still pick up enough words to get the general gist of what was going on. After giving listening a try, that's when I started to get intrigued again...
I started really paying attention to what they were talking about and I heard them emphasize family, country, and traditions. OK, well that wasn't too troubling..
But then... all the newly crowned 18-year-olds stood up and began speaking an oath. From what I heard (and confirmed with my Dad sitting next to me) part of their oath was a long pledge to remain true, loyal, and supportive to the Communist party.
Then, surely enough, one-by-one cohorts within the 18-year-old class started screaming out oaths in synch with each other. Practiced, rehearsed, brain-washed. All the good bits. It felt really reminiscent to the Hitler Youth videos I see on Youtube.
And this was all supposed to be a celebration of the kids turning the ripe age of 18. But I couldn't stop picturing in my head a room full of top Chinese officials saying, "Hmm... OK we how can we brainwash these kids?"
"I have some great tactics we can use. Saw Germany use them successfully."
"Ok... now how do we get use them without being too open and getting criticized?"
"Hmm.. oh. Let's bring it to every school. Have a 'celebration' and do it then! And how can they criticize when we block ALL the things. lulz."
Oh right. That's the other thing. Along with the brainwashing, even if someone cared enough to talk about it they can't! All major social networks are blocked and the only one allowed (Weibo) is highly regulated by the Chinese government!
It was really hard for me to see all that happening and realizing they couldn't do much about it. Noone could really get their voice heard that effectively even if they wanted too. I'm sure many people have thought about it, but realized rallying would be really tough.
And I talked to my Dad about it and he agreed the celebration was clearly a ruse to mask the brainwashing of these kids. And when I told him to bring it up with my Uncle, my Uncle agreed too but was very hesistant when talking about it. Not normally a shy person, he seemed that way when we brought it up.
My guess on it is that they've realized how badly the Chinese government is forcing their hand into their lives and how they have almost no say in it. So it's tough to face that fact, and easier to just try to pretend it's not happening.
My dad told me a lot of Chinese are sympathetic to the censorship and brainwashing, because they feel it's the only way to main peace with such a large amount of people. Not only did I tell my Dad that's BS and that maybe the government should just act in the way that would not inspire riots, but also mentioned that it could clearly be a symptom of Stockhold Sydrome.
Anyways, today was a very eye opening experience. I'm really unsure about what it will take to fix these issues in China. Or if they ever will be fixed.
I told my Dad it's going to take a Ghandi of China - someone who can inspire a mass following, but who is not in it for the power. Because if someone likes power too much and gets traction, then it will just be another oppressive government taking over the old oppresive government.