Success At An Odious Cost

Here is my translation of the article:-

“According to a news report, 834 university students from 33 colleges were involved in ‘pyramid trading scheme’. Many of the students have been recalcitrant even after the case was cracked, and they are raising money to hire a lawyer to defend the head of the scheme in the hope that he will once again be their mentor in entrepreneurship. This is indeed eye-opening!

It is only logical to assume that university students should possess basic legal knowledge and rational judgment. Yet it turns out that in no time they fell prey to the lies of the scheme head, held hostage by the entrepreneurship fairy tale, and got enmeshed in a criminal case that is a noxious money scam, as proven in countless precedents. Even more ludicrous is the fact that they haven’t sobered up even after the case was brought to justice. In this respect, our university education should be blamed. Just as culpable is our social culture as well as the ‘success culture’ that was so popular in the prior époque.

We all know that participants in such trading schemes have to go through a training program. These so-called training sessions are in fact a brainwashing process. According to reports on the aforementioned case, female university students who had attended these training sessions dared to stand naked, unabashed, in front of an audience to give a speech. This is because their head had told them that in order to be successful, not only does one have to be vile and shameless, one also has to openly act as such.

After having watched some of those DVDs of the training sessions, I couldn’t help feeling that that kind of mass hysteria, the hypnotizing rituals and the ‘one-on-one’ style of so-called cooperation are all deja-vu. Then I recalled that the success culture forums in the previous epoque were conducted in similar fashion. I think you will probably remember that not long ago, those success therapists from Taiwan, Hong Kong and even some western countries all landed here. Their thinly-leaved discussion notes would cost thousands of dollars. It would cost thousands of dollars to attend one of those seminars. If you wanted to take a short course with one of the experts, you probably had to pay tens of thousands in fees.

What did they talk about in those expensive courses then? In form, the courses were almost exactly the same as the trading scheme training sessions – the same kind of mass hysteria. The contents might be a little different – the courses used a lot of western management theory jargon, and also quotations from western management studies and success recipes. But the core content for both can be summarized in a few words that originate from China’s old times: ‘thick skin and black heart’ plus power manouevring. To debunk it all, it is how the scheme head uses some mixture of domestic and foreign jargon to brainwash believers, i.e. vileness and shamelessness plus a devious scheming mentality packaged into a deceiving presentation. The so-called success recipes are nothing more than a process of thoroughly destroying all sense of shame via inciting mass hysteria and applying one-on-one pressure. Then they say success is in the works.

In actual fact, the imported success recipes and what-nots are something that has been in existence in China for a very long time. Regarding power manoeuvring, there is the Sun Tzu Art of War (孫子兵法), the Thirty-Six Strategems (三十六計), there are Japanese comics as well as domestic theories that can be copied and transformed into business strategies, political strategies or even courtship strategies. The theory of ‘thick skin and black heart’ originates from 李宗吾 of the era of the Nationalist Government. The theme is that in order to succeed one has to have thick skin (meaning no sense of shame) and a black heart (meaning wickedness). When thickness of skin and blackness of heart are mingled with power manouevring, the blackness becomes infinite, which means that the bottom line of being a human, i.e. the innate sense of shame, is totally lost.

In our society, not only do we have a success culture, we also have cases of successful application of such a theory. Be it in the business arena or the public service arena, shamelessness is a common trait. Those who are blatantly shameless are the ones who are most successful in their public career and in their businesses. When their stories are told to the public, the first time may draw some sneers, the second time will draw admiration, and the third time outright accolade.

For the university students who are under the influence of such a culture, especially for those who come from poor families and who are anxious to rid themselves of the fate of poverty, the brainwashing technique of the scheme training sessions is only a matter of transforming the success theories prettily packaged in familiar jargon into some naked slogans, which are to the point and compelling. If the students get hooked and conned, why would it surprise anyone?”