Objecting

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Dog Days (IV)

‘I Object’ is a poem that circulated on the Chinese-language Internet following the Lunar New Year. It appeared around the time that Beijing announced a proposed revision of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China that would open the way for the unlimited tenure of state leaders (see The Real Man of the Year of the Dog — Dog Days (III), China Heritage, 2 March 2018). Online expressions of outrage and objection were swiftly quelled.

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Due both to the timely appearance as well as to the tenor of ‘I Object’, we are including it in our 2018 series of Dog Days (for more of these, see below). My thanks to Linda Jaivin for suggesting ‘I object’ for wǒ fǎnduì 我反對.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
5 March 2018


I Object
我反對

Anonymous 無名氏

Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

: weapons, to kill (Warring States era); later similar in use to the perpendicular pronoun ‘I’ in English, and ‘me’

 

I object to the north wind
I object to pollution-haze
I object to wet, rainy mornings
I object to the darkling despair of dusk
I object to the confusion of the seasons
I object to these topsy-turvy times
I object to curtains and security doors
As well as to intimidating walls
I object to roads that smother flowers and trees
I object to the ponds where they raise swans
That are enclosed by barbed wire
I object to ill-fitting clothes
And to shoes that are too small
As well as to their uninspired colours
I object to men who hit women
I object to parents who mistreat their children
I object to cruel departures
I object to betrayal
I object to disappointment
I object to smug laughter
And shrill cries
I object to self-indulgent weeping
I object to those vile faces
And to the mouths that sing crap songs
As well as to the promotion of those songs
I object to grass that yields to the wind
I object to myself, too:
My stupidity and craven timidity
But I don’t object to writing a poem
To record my objections
I object to the white noise of the world
I object to the pretense of equanimity
I object to the eradication of greatness
I object to self-justifying truths
I object to blatant ignorance
I object to the tomorrow that’s been promised
I just want you all to join me in shouting:
I OBJECT

我反對北風
我反對霧霾
我反對落雨陰濕的早晨
我反對晦暗頹廢的傍晚
我反對錯亂的季節
我反對顛倒的時辰
我反對窗簾 反對鐵門
還有那些高聳的牆
我反對生不出花和樹的水泥路
我反對圈養天鵝的池塘
和塘邊的鐵絲網
我反對不合身的衣服
反對咯腳的鞋
和染在上面的單調的色彩
我反對打女人的男人
我反對壓迫孩子的父母
我反對無情地轉身離去
反對背叛
反對辜負
反對得意的笑聲
反對尖叫
反對無力地啜泣
我反對醜惡的嘴臉
和那些嘴裡唱出的惡俗的歌
我反對散布這歌的風
我反對隨風倒的草
我也反對我自己
反對我的蠢笨貪婪和怯懦
但我不反對自己寫這一首詩
寫我反對
反對世界的喧囂
反對故作鎮定
反對偉大
反對消泯偉大
反對自封的真理
反對赤裸的愚蠢
反對被承諾的明天
我只想你們和我一起大聲說
我反對

 ***

Source:


Objectionable Poetry

 

The acquiescence of the multitude
Can’t compare with the refusal of one

千人之諾諾
不如一士之諤諤

Sima Qian (司馬遷, 1st century, BCE) quoted in
Simon Leys, The Chairman’s New Clothes (1971)

 

Despite its relatively breezy tone, ‘I Object’ brings to mind the stark imagery of Liao Yiwu’s ‘The Howl’, a samizdat work recited on tape for covert distribution in the wake of the Fourth of June 1989:

The toothless old machinery of the state rolls on toward those with the courage to resist the sickness…

from New Ghosts, Old Dreams (1992)

Liao’s work itself resonates with Allen Ginsberg’s 1954-1955 poem, Howl. Readers of China Heritage might also recall We Are The Wooden People 我們是木頭人, published on Christmas Eve 2017. For students of modern Chinese literature, however, ‘I Object’ surely brings to mind Bei Dao’s 北島 The Answer 回答 from 1976:

Baseness is the password of the base,
Honor is the epitaph of the honorable.
Look how the gilded sky is covered
With the drifting, crooked shadows of the dead.

The Ice Age is over now,
Why is there still ice everywhere?
The Cape of Good Hope has been discovered,
Why do a thousand sails contest the Dead Sea?

I come into this world
Bringing only paper, rope, a shadow,
To proclaim before the judgment
The voices of the judged:

Let me tell you, world,
I — DO — NOT — BELIEVE!
If a thousand challengers lie beneath your feet,
Count me as number one thousand and one.

— Renditions (1983), excerpt

Mu Dan’s 穆旦 Performances 演出, also written in 1976:

Impassioned protestation, indignation, eulogy, laughter
Eyes in the dark have long awaited
These performances, the latest cast
Compounding anew its grand emotions;

Actors and audience grown so accustomed to the sham
That innocence and nakedness seem strange,
Unaccountable discords.
‘Prune ’em away, hush ’em up, revise, revamp ’em!’

To achieve abnormality every wit is strained,
Each form polished and perfected.
‘This is Life’, and violates the laws of Nature,
Despite the actors’ artful artlessness.

And countless hearts of gold have been betrayed.
A counterfeit coinage circulates,
Buying, not a true response,
But numb indifference beneath assumed applause.

— Seeds of Fire: Chinese Voices of Conscience (1986)

Sun Jingxuan’s 孫靜軒 1980 A Spectre Prowls Our Land 一個幽靈在中國大地遊蕩:

… Have you seen
The Spectre prowling our land?

You may not recognise him,
though he stands before your eyes,
For like a conjurer,
master of a never-ending transforming,
One moment in a dragon-robe of gold brocade
He clasps the dragon-headed sceptre,
The next in courtier’s gown
He swaggers through the palace halls;
And now — behold — a fresh veneer!
The latest fashion! And yet
No mask, no costume, no disguise
Can hide the coiled dragon
branded on his naked rump…

As well as P.K. Leung’s 梁秉鈞 Cauldron 鼎, written in 1996:

The proclamations sit heavy on the stomach,
destroy the appetite;
the table is altogether overdone.

May I abstain from the rich banquet menu,
eat my simple fare, my gruel, my wild vegetables,
cook them, share them with you?

Is there a chance
your pomp and circumstance could ever change,
evolve
slowly
into a new motif,
some new arabesque
of beauty?

— for these last two works, see also
Cauldron 鼎, China Heritage, 1 July 2017

***

Behind them all lingers The Shadow’s Farewell 影的告別 written by Lu Xun in 1924. That prose-poem was the prologue to my Cutting a Deal with China, a speech made in December 2016 at the launch of this website:

If a man should sleep to a time when time is no more, then his shadow may come and bid him farewell, saying: 人睡到不知道時候的時候,就會有影來告別,說出那些話——

There is something about Heaven that displeases me; I do not wish to go there. There is something about Hell that displeases me; I do not wish to go there. And there is something about your future Golden Age that displeases me too; I do not wish to go their either. 有我所不樂意的在天堂里,我不願去;有我所不樂意的在地獄里,我不願去;有我所不樂意的在你們將來的黃金世界里,我不願去。

What displeases me is you. 然而你就是我所不樂意的。

Friend, I do not wish to go with you. I will not stay. 朋友,我不想跟隨你了,我不願住。

I will not. 我不願意!

Alas! Alas! Let me drift in the land of nothingness. 嗚乎嗚乎,我不願意,我不如徬徨於無地。

— Seeds of Fire (1986)

Cutting a Deal suggested ways to prepare mentally for China’s coming decades under ‘One Party, One Volk, One Leader’.

***

The introduction to We Are The Wooden People quoted T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’. In light of the irresistible apotheosis of China’s Leader, by way of conclusion we repeat those lines here:

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

— The Editor, China Heritage


The Year of the Dog in China Heritage


Translators:

Bei Dao, The Answer, by Bonnie S. McDougall
Mu Dan, Performance, by John Minford
Sun Jingxuan, A Spectre Prowls Our Land, by John Minford with Pang Bingjun
P.K. Leung, Cauldron, by John Minford and Can Oi-sum
Lu Xun, The Shadow’s Farewell, by John Minford with Geremie Barmé