The Uselessness of Freedom

該內容僅提供英文版。

Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University
Voices of Protest & Resistance (XXVI)

 

The following speech was addressed to the graduating class of students in the College of Foreign Languages and Literature at Fudan University 復旦大學外國語言文學學院 in Shanghai on 17 June 2019. It was presented by the Dean of the College, Professor Qu Weiguo 曲衛國.

Professor Qu’s speech was recommended to China Heritage by a number of readers, although I am particularly grateful to Annie Ren 任路漫, a Fellow of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology 白水書院, for encouraging me to translate it here. I would also like to thank Professor Xu Zhangrun 許章潤 for allowing me to include this as a chapter in the China Heritage series ‘Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University — Voices of Protest and Resistance’ (for a full list of the contents of the series, see the Xu Zhangrun Archive).

Those familiar with the ongoing protests over academic freedom at Tsinghua University in Beijing will appreciate the connection the speaker makes to the plangent fate of the sociologist Pan Guangdan 潘光旦, as well as the resonances here with the famous guiding principles of what might be called ‘The Other Tsinghua’ — a thought-community that continues to celebrate and defend the immortal lines Chen Yinque 陳寅恪 wrote in 1930 in commemoration of his Tsinghua colleague Wang Guowei 王國維:

The future cannot be known; indeed there may come a time when this Gentleman’s work no longer enjoys preeminence, just as there are aspects of his scholarship that invite disputation. Yet his was an Independent Spirit and his a Mind Unfettered — these will survive the millennia to share the longevity of Heaven and Earth, shining for eternity as do the Sun, the Moon and the very Stars themselves.

來世不可知者也,先生之著述,或有時而不彰。先生之學說,或有時而可商。惟此獨立之精神,自由之思想,曆千萬祀,與天壤而同久,共三光而永光。

from ‘The Two Scholars Who Haunt Tsinghua University’
China Heritage, 28 April 2019

***

After the failed reform movement of 1898, Yan Fu (嚴復, 1854-1921) translated John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty as 群己權界論. In his ‘Translator’s Direction to the Reader’, composed in 1903, Yan remarked:

Freedom of opinion is nothing more than to speak the truth plainly, to search for truth… One is not deceived by the ancients or cowed by those in authority. It is to accept facts as facts even if they proceed from an enemy, and falsehoods as errors even if they proceed from one’s lord or father. [trans. Benjamin Schwartz in his In Search of Wealth & Power: Yen Fu and the West, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1964, pp.131-132]

須知言論自繇 [later written as ‘自由’],只是平實地說實話求真理,一不為古人所欺、二不為權勢所屈而已。使理真事實,雖出之仇敵,不可廢也。使理謬事誣,雖以君父,不可從也。此之謂自繇。[《群己權界論》譯凡例]

In the Wuxu Year of the Dog 2018, outrage over legislation in March that year bestowing ‘terminal tenure’ on Xi Jinping recalled the widespread anguish and anxiety at the coup d’état of the Wuxu Year of the Dog 1898 when the Empress Dowager Cixi stymied the Hundred Days Reform movement that had promised major political and social change in dynastic China. Following the execution in Beijing of six prominent reformers involved in that movement, Yan Fu expressed his grief in a most traditional way, by means of a poem:

求治翻為罪…
燕市天如晦…
莫遣寸心灰。

To search for good government has become a crime! …
The skies over the capital seem to be covered with a pall of darkness…
No one can dispel my profound depression.

— trans. Schwartz, In Search of Wealth & Power, p.130

One hundred and twenty years later, a similar lament is heard anew among China’s men and women of conscience, as well as among all those concerned with the future of that extraordinary nation in this new age of extremes.

from Barmé, ‘The Pirouette of Time’
China Heritage, 28 January 2019

***

As part of the coordinated ideological campaign against American influence during the 2018-2019 US-China Trade War, from early May 2019 the official Chinese media has produced a veritable ‘Cornucopia of Anti-Americana’. It includes a logorrhea of high-profile analyses and commentaries published under the heading ‘Studying Editorial Opinion Pieces in People’s Daily: Is the Chinese Economy Up to It? — Clear-eyed Perspectives on the True Direction of the Sino-American Trade Conflict’ 人民日報要論學習——中國經濟行不行?看清中美貿易摩擦大勢, 人民日報, 7 May 2019 and ongoing.

As readers of China Heritage will note, an important aspect of the present propaganda push recalls the first nationwide anti-American purge of 1950 which was aimed at eliminating ‘Admiration for America, Fawning over America and Fear of America’ 崇美媚美恐美. As we noted in our series on the 2018 Patriotic Education Campaign:

Proving loyalty to New China during the blood-washed conflict between the People’s Republic and the United States in Korea took many forms. Keeping a passport might be regarded as a sign of potential betrayal, or mistrust in the new government; foreign contacts would have to be monitored or severed; relatives or loved ones overseas could be a cause for suspicions, and so on. The individual’s guilt was also judged by just how much in thrall they were to the US, and a specific mini-campaign was even launched to ascertain people’s sentiments. It was aimed at assessing whether the individual was pro-, worshipful or fearful of America 親美、崇美、恐美.

From mid 1950, as the Korean conflict escalated, university-based intellectuals, along with their fellow citizens were also subjected to what was called a ‘Three Perspectives Education Campaign’ 三視教育運動. Through mass propaganda activities, films, art exhibitions, books, pamphlets and constant media reports, as well as collective study sessions that focused on reading, discussing and memorising key political texts, everyone would come to understand the true nature of the Paper Tiger 紙老虎 of Reactionary Imperialism; as a result they would finally be able to ‘Hate 仇視, Despise 鄙視 and Belittle 蔑視’ the United States. Because of the deep, long-term connections between many of China’s four million Christians and churches in the United States, believers were also a major target of the campaign.

‘Drop Your Pants! The Party Wants to Patriotise You All Over Again (Part I)
Ruling The Rivers & Mountains’,China Heritage, 8 August 2018

In this context Qu Weiguo’s speech can perhaps be read in conjunction with the thoughts of his Fudan colleague, Shen Yi 沈逸, an associate professor of International Relations. In both published commentaries and interviews Shen has vigorously denounced weak-minded and slavish individuals who ‘Admire America, Fawn over America and Fear America’. (See, for example, 沈逸, 明辨崇美媚美恐美的奇談怪論, 光明日報, 6 June 2019.)

(As a student at Fudan University in 1974-1975, I would observe that the tenor of Associate Professor Shen’s fulminations is reassuringly ‘old school’.)

***

Yet again, I am grateful to Reader #1 for spotting typographical errors and for suggesting improvements to this translation.

We are including a link to Qu Weiguo’s speech in The Best China section of China Heritage. We would also note that Professor Qu’s remarks on cultural essentialism, imposed ideology and theory-driven academic stupefaction are a universal bane and are by no means limited to China’s People’s Republic.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
22 June 2019

***

Further Reading:


Calligraphy by Zongran 宗然 (Xu Jianzhou 許建洲)

***

The Uselessness of Freedom
A Graduation Speech

Qu Weiguo
曲衛國

Fudan University, Shanghai
17 June 2019

translated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

Students of the Graduating Class, Family Members and Colleagues,

各位同學,各位家長,各位老師

Salutations!

大家好!

Let me preface my remarks, as is the annual custom, by first expressing hearty congratulations to you all on behalf of the College of Foreign Languages and Literature of Fudan University. Forgive me for also repeating something else that I say at this event every year:

On behalf of our College allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude to you all for having chosen to pursue your university studies with us, even if you only joined us during the course of your university education. Your choice is why our institute has been able and continues to flourish.

首先請允許我像每年一樣,代表復旦外文學院向大家表示熱烈祝賀,我還是繼續重復我每年在畢業典禮上說的話:請允許我代表外文學院的教師對你們最初選擇復旦或中間加入並堅持在外文完成自己的學業表示由衷的感謝。正是由於你們的選擇,外文學院才發展得越來越好。

In years past I have repeatedly availed myself of this occasion to take as my theme the unofficial school motto of Fudan University: ‘The Uselessness of Freedom’. As I have revisited previous speeches, it is sobering to realise that my heart has grown heavier with every passing year.

In the address I made in 2017 I emphasised the significance of the expression ‘non-instrumental’ when speaking about the meaning of the term 無用 wú yòng. In 2018, I found it necessary to focus on re-considering the word-concept ‘freedom’ 自由 zì yóu itself, and that was because whenever the term ‘freedom’ is mentioned people tend to focus on rights that they believe that they should enjoy.

這些年的畢業典禮,我每次都反復絮叨非正式版的民間復旦校訓:自由而無用。遺憾的是,翻看前幾次的發言,我發現我的心情一年比一年沈重。2017年我主要談的是無用,non-instrumental。2018年我發現有必要對於自由好好地思考一番,因為說到自由,大家似乎更關注自己的自由權利。

The Uselessness of Freedom
自由而無用

Last year, in my ‘reading’ of the term ‘freedom’ I made a point of saying that the kind of ‘freedom’ that we strive to vouchsafe is one that is not limited to personal rights and freedoms; for I am of the view that even more important than these is the importance of defending the freedoms and rights of others. That is because — as I noted then — when the freedoms of others are violated own freedoms exist merely in name for they too are threatened. In other words, the crux of the matter is the ‘freedom from imposition’.

去年我在解讀自由時強調說,我們要捍衛的不僅僅是我們自己自由的權利,我們更要捍衛他人同樣的自由權利,因為當他人的自由權利遭到蹂躪的時候,我們的自由實際上也名存實亡了。這也就是freedom from imposition。

Originally, I wasn’t planning to address this subject yet again this year, but a number of things contributed to my returning to this old theme: a few days ago I participated in a formal Thesis Defence and I have also been cognisant of various online discussions. Added to that was the exchange [or ‘debate’] between [the China Global Television Network journalist and anchor] Liu Xin and [Trish Regan of] the Fox Business Network [on 29 May 2019]. All of this made me realise that it was necessary to talk about personal freedom once more; to speak about ‘the freedom of’ — that is the freedom that reflects the expression of individual will and independent thought. These days this kind of freedom has been all too readily hijacked by the concept of ‘collectivism’ and all too frequently we see how the ‘freedom of’ has been used to talk about plurality rather than individuality.

本來今年不想說了,可是前幾天參加的答辯和網上各種議論,當然還有劉欣接受Fox的採訪,我突然發現,也許還是該再說說我們自己的自由,說說freedom of,自由只能是個體獨立意志和思想的體現。現在太多的集體綁架了,大多數情況下我們竟渾然不知freedom of 後面的名詞被換成了複數。

During a formal thesis defense session a few days ago a topic shared by a number of works was that of the cultural differences between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Some made reference to the theories of scholars like Hazel Markus, Shinobu Kitayama and Yuko Matsumoto to argue their case about cultural difference and to press the claim that ‘Orientals’ [東方人 Dōngfáng rén] are ‘collectivists’ while ‘Occidentals’ [西方人 Xīfāng rén] are ‘individualists’.

前幾天參加同學的論文答辯,有同學在論文中談到了東西方文化差異的問題。有引用Markus, Kitayama,Matsumoto,等學者的理論去討論東西方文化差異,說東方人是collectivists, 而西方人則是individualists。

Other scholars like Geert Hofstede and Harry C. Triandis hold similar views. My own research focusses on cross-cultural issues and, for some time, I too accepted the hypotheses advanced by these scholars without reservation. However, as my thinking matured and things evolved, I came to the realisation that reality is far more complicated than theory. Take the so-called collectivism of the Japanese and the Chinese: the two are in fact very different and during a month-long visiting lectureship at Meiji University in Tokyo I was able to pursue dedicated discussions on this topic with Japanese colleagues.

持這些觀點的當然還有Hofstede, Triandis等大學者。我的研究涉及跨文化,有一段時間幾乎也是毫無保留地接受這種假設。後來隨著研究的深入和形勢的發展,我發現現實比理論複雜,如日本人和中國人的collectivism就非常不一樣。我在明治大學講學的那個月專門和日本學者討論了這些問題。

As a result, over the past few years I have developed an aversion to mainstream hypotheses about cultural difference. Superficially, of course, such ideas appear to be grounded in an underlying respect for the differences that exist between cultures, but the reality is that such claims lead to certain particularities or specific achievements of human civilisation as a whole being ascribed to one or other specific culture. Thus, what appears to be an open discussion is in actual fact a ‘discussions of denial’ and it allows for the stripping away of the legitimate rights of humanity as a whole.

這幾年我開始討厭起文化差異的假設了,首先,這種假設咋看起來是出於對不同文化的尊重,但實際上卻把人類文明的某些特點和成果全部劃歸到了某一文化之名下,看似開放的討論,其實是discussions of denial,是對人類共享資源正當權利的剝奪。

Another thing is that, although discussions of cultural difference may appear on the surface at least to be an academic or intellectual exercise, the reality is that more often than not they also form part of quite a particular and practical calculus. That’s because of an inconvenient truth: when people talk about ‘culture’ what they are actually discussing is ‘ethnicity’. By all rights, such questions related to ‘ethnicity’ properly belong to the study of biology.

其次,文化差異的討論表面上是形而上的思考,但實際上更多地是形而下的算計,因為大家不方便明說的是,所謂的文化實質上指的就是族裔,而族裔的認定基本是生物學的事情。

If we accept unquestioningly commonplace assertions related to cultural difference then it is hard not to end up mired in pessimistic determinism: that is to say, our biology determines our cultural particularities. It follows therefore that certain ethnic groups simply cannot have developed to the stage that they have on the basis of their own intrinsic abilities, but that flies in the face of historical reality.

如果我們接受這類文化差異假設,那就難免要同意其中暗含的一個悲觀的宿命結論:我們的生理構成決定了我們的文化特性。有些族裔是不可能靠自己的力量發展到今天這樣的發達程度。這完全無視歷史發展現實。

Anyone with even the most rudimentary historical understanding can appreciate the fact that all ethnic groups develop on the basis of mutual influence, something summed up in the term ‘hybridity’. All too frequently the mutual interplay of cultures is the result of violence and imposition, something that results in change. It is a kind of change that ruling elites are generally forced to undergo.

稍有歷史常識的都知道,不管哪個族裔,任何發展都是靠互動的。互動的一個結果其實就是hybridity,雜糅。文化之間的互動發展常常是暴力的,因為互動的結果常常意味著改變,而被改變一方里的統治者基本都是不情願的。

The Transformative Impact of the Norman Conquest
諾曼征服徹底改變了英國語言文化發展的軌跡

In my survey course on the English language I noted in summary that the Norman Conquest [of England by William the Conqueror in 1066] had a fundamental and transformational impact on the development of English culture as a whole. Norman French [which was the language of the conquering elite] transformed Old English; in the process a new language evolved as did English culture. Would the English-language culture of today be the same without the impact of the Norman Conquest?

我在英語通論這門課上也簡單地提到過,諾曼征服徹底改變了英國語言文化發展的軌跡。如果比對古英語,我們可以說諾曼法語幾乎重構了英語和英語文化。沒有Norman Conquest,能有今天的英語文明?

It is interesting to consider the fact that ethno-nationalists who obsess over what is nothing more than an imaginary concept of ethnic purity ignore a basic principle of biology: inbreeding leads to a decline in genetic diversity. Aren’t the consequences similarly dire for a culture that chooses to cut itself off from the outside by imposing a closed-door approach to the world? In reality, these days it’s all but impossible to speak of anything approaching ‘cultural purity’.

有意思的是,那些一心一意徒勞地在想按照生物界線維護族裔純真的民粹分子竟然忘了生物學里的一個簡單道理:近親繁殖會使物種退化。閉門鎖國文化發展的後果難道不是如此?文化發展到今天,實際上已經很難有純真了。

During that Thesis Defence session [mentioned earlier], I fear I overstepped the mark when I asked one student: surely your mother and father think about things differently and they approach life in their own distinctive ways, and daresay the same holds true for your grandparents. So, tell me this: in your opinion, which of them is more ‘Oriental’ and which more ‘Western’?

記得那天我在答辯的時候,很過分地問那同學:你和父母思路很不一樣,看問題的角度不同,你父母和爺爺奶奶也有差異,那誰更東方,誰更西方?

These days, I’m simply sick and tired of discussions about ‘cultural difference’ and that’s because the work of well-intentioned scholars is now all too often expropriated by those who use it to justify their own unreasonable positions.

我現在厭惡文化差異的討論還因為學者善意的差異討論常常被別有用心的人利用,成了某種不合理方式的存在依據。

Even Confucius Didn’t Have a Clue
孔夫子也沒想到啊

Frankly speaking, it doesn’t take all that much to realise that if we truly accept the basic principles of Materialism, that is to say, if we honestly believe [as the Communist Party advocates] that the Superstructure [of ideology and the political, legal, culture, educational systems that reflect it] is determined by the Economic Base, then how can we also believe in the relevance of some body of thought that dates back thousands of years [like that of Confucius and Mencius], or for that matter one that even has a history of a few hundred years [such as that of Marx and Engels]? Scores of people might prattle on about ‘Amazing China’ [the name of a hyperbolic 2018 feel-good propaganda film], but if we truly are that amazing then why do we still rely on Confucius who lived in an age without WeChat to guide our present-day behaviour?

其實,稍稍動動腦筋想一想,如果我們是真心認可唯物主義的基本原理,認為經濟基礎決定上層建築,那幾千年前的思想或者一兩百年前的思想怎麼可能適合今天的社會?許多人口口聲聲地說厲害了我國,但如果我們真的厲害了,為什麼還要靠幾千年前沒有微信的孔子來指導我們今天的實踐?

Those who manipulate and distort discussions of cross-cultural difference in order to serve their own agendas want to promote the idea of the Clash of Civilisations so they can dissemble about the internal cultural contradictions and clashes that are occurring within their own culture. They oppose external cultural hegemony primarily as a means for covering up the reality of their own cultural dominance. If we really want to pit ourselves against cultural hegemony and promote autonomy, then we have to do away with the repression between and within cultures.

別有用心的人篡改跨文化差異的討論基本前提是有想法的,他們企圖用文化之間的對抗來掩蓋了自身文化內的矛盾和衝突,用反對他文化的強權來遮掩自己的強權。如果真的是反對強權,尊重獨立,那文化之間和文化內部的壓迫,我們都應該一律摧毀之。

What then is the connection between my ruminations here and the unofficial motto of Fudan University: the Freedom of Uselessness? What I’m trying to say is that: be it either in our research work or when we are pursuing our studies, all too often our minds aren’t nearly as free as we would like to think. In fact, it’s often extremely difficult to maintain one’s intellectual independence when being overwhelmed by complex intellectual currents, as well as in the face of brazen ideological pressures, not to mention the lure of narrow self-interest.

我的這些嘮叨與復旦自由而無用的校訓有什麼關係?我想說的是,即便是在研究或學習中,我們的思想其實常常不是我們以為的那樣自由。在繁雜思潮的影響、無恥強力的壓迫和各種利益的誘惑的夾擊下,捍衛自己的思想自由變得非常困難。

We like to believe that studying can make us stronger, but in the process of reading and studying our independent will and freedom to think may either consciously or unconsciously be undermined. Although everyone believes that study and reading are in and of themselves a good thing, yet if your independent mental processes shut down when you are reading or if you set aside your freedom of thought in the process, the actual upshot might be worse than if you hadn’t started reading at all.

In ‘On Reading and Books’ Arthur Schopenhauer said that although many people spend every spare moment reading it may be the case that ‘they have read themselves stupid’. You are all students who have devoted your energies to the pursuit of knowledge, so I believe that it is extremely important for you to be aware of the importance of this statement.

‘Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.’ — Arthur Schopenhauer

[Professor Qu is quoting from the following passage:

In reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of some one else’s thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal — that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk. Such, however, is the case with many men of learning: they have read themselves stupid. For to read in every spare moment, and to read constantly, is more paralysing to the mind than constant manual work, which, at any rate, allows one to follow one’s own thoughts. Just as a spring, through the continual pressure of a foreign body, at last loses its elasticity, so does the mind if it has another person’s thoughts continually forced upon it. And just as one spoils the stomach by overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost. Indeed, it is the same with mental as with bodily food: scarcely the fifth part of what a man takes is assimilated; the remainder passes off in evaporation, respiration, and the like.

From all this it may be concluded that thoughts put down on paper are nothing more than footprints in the sand: one sees the road the man has taken, but in order to know what he saw on the way, one requires his eyes.]

我們通常相信讀書能使自己強大,但在讀書過程中,我們的獨立意志或思想自由常常會有意無意地被綁架。大家都認為讀書是好事,但如果讀書時獨立意志停擺,沒有了自由思想,結果也許比不讀書更糟。叔本華曾在On Reading and Books一書里說:許多人分秒必爭地讀書,都讀傻了:they have read themselves stupid。你們都是如飢似渴的好學學生,明白這道理非常重要。

According to Schopenhauer, we all too often mistake reading for thinking. The reality is, [as Schopenhauer puts it] ‘When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process.’ His analysis of the process of reading is extremely insightful and the most famous statement he makes in this regard is:

‘But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of someone else’s thoughts.’

按叔本華的分析,我們常誤以為閱讀時我們在獨立思想,其實,閱讀過程中大多數是別人代替我們思想,我們只不過是重復他的思維過程。When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process。叔本華對閱讀分析最精彩的、也是最有名的一句話就是,如果不注意,我們讀書時會把自己的腦子變成了別人思想的跑馬場:

But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of someone else’s thoughts.

I sincerely hope that you remember this line. How can we avoid such a tragic scenario? For graduates of Fudan University, I believe that one way is by keeping the unofficial school motto in mind. The prerequisite for freedom is its uselessness. In discussing the concept of ‘uselessness’ in 2017 I said something to the effect that the ‘uselessness’ of Fudan is not that of [the third-century BCE Taoist thinker] Zhuangzi, who spoke about the uselessness of the serrate oak [or ‘Tree of Heaven’, 樗樹 chū shù, from which nothing utilitarian could be made] and commented that ‘Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there’s no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?’ [as translated by Burton Watson]. Rather the ‘uselessness’ which I’m talking about here is that of Immanuel Kant who reasoned that humanity was an end in itself [something related to his views on ‘Ding an sich’] and not merely a tool to be used for some other purpose.

真心希望大家能記住這句話。怎麼防止出現這種悲劇呢?復旦人還得記住復旦的民間校訓。自由的前提是無用。我在2017年討論無用時,曾說過這樣的意思:復旦的無用不是源於莊子的思想,不是像他說的,使自己變成無所可用的樗樹,從而能「不夭斤斧,物無害者,安所困苦」。它是康德堅持的人非工具而是自身目的的意思。

In reading we should aim for the kind of ‘uselessness bestowed by freedom’, in other words, we should not read to fulfill the purposes of others, but rather to enrich our experience of what it means to be human. We read not to find answers for questions posed by others, but so that we can enjoy even greater intellectual freedom ourselves.

讀書堅持自由而無用,這就意味著我們讀書不是為了用於他人所規定的目的,而是為了自己獨立的生命體驗。讀書不是為了尋找他人給出的答案,而是為了自己能有更大的思想自由。

People who read only one particular genre or a specific kind of writing, or those who offer their loyalty merely to a single authority are in effect using books and their minds to build a prison for themselves. Perhaps this gives us a clue as to why our ancestors designed [traditional cloth-bound] books in the form of a brick?

任何只讀一類書、只效忠一個權威的人基本是在用書壘砌成一座關押自己思想的囚牢。祖先把書設計成磚塊狀,抑或也有這層意思?

And this leads me to recall a famous statement by Mr Pan Guangdan, one that offers a perfect explication of the ‘Fudan motto’ — ‘the freedom of uselessness’ [which we also translate as ‘the uselessness of freedom’] — that is:

‘The self trained in a free educational environment is simply the Self of and by Itself; it is my Self, not a Self that is beholden to Family, a particular Class, the State, the Race, a particular Religion, Political Party or a Profession.’

We should keep this in mind; we study to become ourselves.

寫到這裡,我想起了潘光旦先生。潘光旦有一段話非常著名,是對復旦校訓里「自由而無用」絕妙的注釋:「自由教育下的自我只是自我,自我是自我的,不是家族的、階級的、國家的、種族的、宗教的、黨派的、職業的。」這話真是我們應該記取的。我們是為了好好做人而學習的。

It’s a most regrettable fact that, although you will probably be familiar with the name [of the famous anthropologist Fei Xiaotong [費孝通, 1910-2005], you probably don’t know his teacher, Pan Guangdan [潘光旦, Quentin Pan, 1899-1967]. Pan was a remarkable scholar whose learning straddled both East and West as well as traversing past and present. Following undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College he earned a doctorate at Columbia University. Regardless of all of that he was subjected to barbaric and inhumane torments by his Red Guard students during that Cataclysm, one that no small number of people are now trying to have re-evaluated. The Red Guards [of Tsinghua University who persecuted Pan] were the same age you are now and many hailed from the ranks of the best students.

遺憾的是,大家都知道費孝通,可能不一定知道被費孝通稱為老師的學貫中西、博通古今、卓然不群的學界泰斗潘光旦先生。這位本科在Dartmouth, 研究生在Columbia的學者在那場今天居然還有不少人想翻案的浩劫中,受到了紅衛兵學生野蠻、非人的折磨。這些紅衛兵和你們一樣的年紀,其中有不少是飽學的高才生。

What was particularly insidious about it was that those Red Guard students had given up their independent will and they had fallen prey to the manipulations of others; despite their intellectual potential they ended up violent criminals. I get emotional at the mere mention of Pan Guangdan’s name. At the time of his final persecution [he had already been denounced as a ‘Rightist’ in 1957] Pan was approaching seventy; by all rights he was a master in the world of Chinese letters. Yet his Red Guard persecutors forced him to pull out weeds like some ruminant animal in the grounds of Tsinghua, a once-academically renowned university. They did this to a man who was already disabled [he had lost a leg in his youth].

悲催的是,失去獨立意志的紅衛兵學生為他人所用,博學睿智的他們墮落成了打砸搶的罪惡實施者。每每說起潘光旦,我都非常激動。年近七十的潘光旦,這位中國學界的泰斗,在紅衛兵的逼迫下拖著殘廢之軀,在清華園,我國最著名的高等學府里像動物一樣爬著除草勞動。

In 1967, already afflicted with grave health problems, Pan was denied medical treatment; he was even refused access to painkillers. In his agonies he composed a Final Testament that was simply made up of four English words, all of which started with the letter ‘s’:

  • surrender;
  • submit;
  • survive;
  • succumb.

[His prized student] Fei Xiaotong bewailed Pan’s fate: ‘At his side day and night, yet powerless to succour; in these pitiless times, I fret yet to what end?’ He held his teacher in his embrace right up to the moment that Pan breathed his last.

他1967年病重時,他們竟然不准他看病,也不給止痛藥。就在那年他疼痛難忍,用四個s開頭的英文單詞留下淒慘的遺言:surrender (投降)、submit (屈服)、survive (活命)、succumb (滅亡)。也就是在那年,費孝通仰天哀嘆「日夕旁伺,無力拯援,淒風慘雨,徒呼奈何」。他抱著老師直至他停止呼吸。

Pan Guangdan with his wife, Zhao Ruiyun 趙瑞雲, celebrating the founding of Tsinghua University, April 1947. Source: 潘乃穆, 憶母親趙瑞雲——兼記父親潘光旦

It is easy to see the importance of ‘the freedom of uselessness’, but it is also crucial to be aware of how fragile it is. ‘The Freedom of Uselessness’ can allow us to enrich our unique human experiences, it can also keep us degrading ourselves to become the tools of criminality. It is the first line for humanity, or perhaps it should be called our last line of defence even though, in reality, it is the one and only defence.

可見自由而無用是多麼重要,但它又是那麼地脆弱。它不僅僅能使我們追求自己的生命體驗,它更能防止我們墮落成犯罪的工具。它是人性的第一道,或者說最後一道防線,實際上也是唯一的防線。

Can we maintain this defencive line? Although most of us probably can’t be like Pan Guangdan, yet we can still be ourselves. On the way to school this morning I was in a crowded subway car in which people were so tightly packed that we could barely move, yet just about every young person I saw was staring at a phone. Despite the repressive environment or the zero space that remains today, regardless everyone was finding their own way to enjoy enough freedom to surf the net.

守住這條防線可能麼?我們大概做不了潘光旦,但我們能做自己。今天上午來學校正值上班高峰,擁擠的地鐵使我們每個人的身體動彈不得,但我看見幾乎每個年輕人都拿出了手機,在這麼壓抑的空間或者說零空間里居然爭得了一小片任意網游的自由。

Maybe it’s because I’m making this speech that I suddenly feel a little overwhelmed by emotion. The point is that freedom is not something bestowed on us by others, it depends on our own will. ‘You can lock up my body but you can never imprison my will.’ [This is a gloss of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous line: ‘You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.’ — trans.]

也許因為要畢業典禮發言的緣故,我突然感動了。自由不是靠施捨獲得,它靠的是我們的意志。You can lock up my body but you can never imprison my will.

But I really must bring myself to a halt. Thank you, one and all and please allow me to leave you with some words from Edward Everett Hale [1822-1909], a sentiment that I regard as my personal motto:

‘I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that [I ought to do,] I can do.
[And by the grace of God, I will.]’

該打住了。謝謝大家。末了還是一如既往和大家一起共享我人生的座右銘、Edward Everett Hale的名言:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

This will be the last time I address a graduating class as director of our institute. That’s probably why I’m having some difficulty drawing my remarks to an end. Long is the way ahead, and heavy are your burdens. Let me add one more line; it’s an admonishment made by Edward Everett Hall [in his Lowell Lectures]:

Look up and not down.
Look forward and not back.
Look out and not in.
Lend a hand

這是我最後一次作為院長致辭了,突然有點欲罷不能。你們任重而道遠,再加上一句吧,還是Edward Everett Hale的囑託:

Look up and not down.
Look forward and not back.
Look out and not in.
Lend a hand

I thank you, one and all.

謝謝大家。

***

Source: