You and I Can Make A Difference

I was thinking of stopping doing translation of blogposts by mainland bloggers, because frankly, I just couldn’t shake myself loose from a dejected feeling about the more and more severe censorship of the Chinese internet lately.

Then I came across Hecaitou’s post. Not only was I moved by his unremitting perseverance in making his and others’ voices heard through his blogs despite all, I actually felt ashamed of myself for making lame excuses for my laziness.

Compared to the countless obstacles that he constantly faces, I enjoy an uncensored platform with no technical snags and I can pretty much say whatever I want on this platform (despite attracting 50-cent gang members occasionally). Yet for all this ease I still wanted to give up transmitting those voices that always run the risk of being muzzled anytime, voices that need to be heard not only within mainland China but also outside of it in the interests of better understanding for those who care about ordinary folks living in the mainland.

Here is my translation of Hecaitou’s post titled “The Ups and Downs of My Mood”:-

“The blog ‘Tree Hole’ (樹洞) (www.Shu0.net) was forced to go offline after existing for 24 hours. This is a blog that has the shortest lifespan in my experience. It was not closed down. It’s just that the IDC server was not prepared to support a domain that had not been registered. So, I can only provide a link to somewhere else, and then use the IP address http://219.235.1.35/ to access the contents while waiting for the domain registration to complete.

Due to the reopening of ‘Tree Hole’, there has been a lot of mail in my mailbox. Many of the messages say how depressed the senders are. This got me thinking: if they changed places with me, what would happen? If you were in my position, where two blogs got censored in one night and the number of visitors dropped from 18,000 to 1,800, and Baidu cleared out all the cached pages, what kind of mood would you be in? Then you open a new blog and apply for the required registration in compliance with relevant regulations, but after 24 hours, your blog is closed again. What kind of mood would you be in?

Well, I am in a good mood. Because I knew this would happen. I also know that within the confines of such a country, if you want to accomplish a task, even a very small task, it is possible that you would have to expend great efforts and do a lot of hard work. So, I don’t have time to care about my mood, or more accurately, I cannot afford the luxury of caring about my mood. Through RSS, my blog is still sending out messages to 500,000 subscribers. Through email subscription, I’ve been able to add 5,000 more readers in one month. Through having 19,000 Twitter followers and 20,000 Sina microblog fans, I’ve been able to turn the loss of my 16,000 blog readers into an almost 40,000 microblog audience. This is the attitude that I’ve chosen to take. When I see a mountain, I dig a road through it. When I see a river, I build a bridge across it. In one’s life, coming across obstacles is inevitable. But if you just stand up and do something about it, you will suddenly find there are a number of paths open to you.

There are people who wrote to suggest that ‘Tree Hole’ need not be separated from Hecaitou.net and that setting up a sub-domain under it would suffice. There are also people who think that if ‘Tree Hole’ were separated from Hecaitou.net, then less attention would be drawn to it. You know what, this is exactly what gives me a bad mood.

The domain of Hecaitou.net is already on the black list. If the main domain is already blacklisted, how can a sub-domain survive on its own? I am not saying that the suggestion is a stupid one. I’m just trying to say how difficult it is to do things on the internet in China. When I want to do something, the first thought is not about how many viable options there are, but how many non-viable options. Only after eliminating a series of non-viable options can one begin to think of something in an extremely confined space. Is it really true that Chinese people lack thinking capacity or creativity? Of course not. The Chinese may not be any less creative than the Americans. But, after we, like the Americans, have considered issues like technical problems, capital, product analysis and user experience study, we still have to worry about many other factors that are totally unrelated to those issues. In order to determine how far a conceptual idea can go, it is often these latter factors that are pivotal. Having two layers of burden on our back, how can we ever outrun a country that only has a single layer?

This is life. And it’s no use to fret. All we can do is to carry our burden and go forward in the hope of accomplishing something. However, when I see that ‘Tree Hole’ cannot survive on its own, I cannot help feeling that my past efforts are like building castles on sand. ‘Tree Hole’ is a platform where ordinary folks tell their own life stories. I think this is the blog’s greatest value. When a person starts to express himself (herself), he (she) cannot be far from being able to think independently and finding his (her) true identity. If this kind of self-expression platform cannot survive without the support of Hecaitou.net, then it is equivalent to a denial of its worth. If self-expression has no value, why did I even bother to open such a section within Hecaitou.net in the first place? When so many people are so skeptical of the value of an individual’s self-expression, it is actually a denial of the individual’s own worth. If you are bent on becoming one piece of brick in the Great Wall, then no matter how loudly I scream out my thought, it would still be useless.

We cannot spend our lives waiting for other people, waiting for them to act, waiting for them to speak up, waiting for them to actively spare some room for us. If it weren’t for me or Hecaitou.net, would those stories of distress posted on ‘Tree Hole’ become any less true? Would they then deserve less to be told and be heard? If other people are waiting for me, then whom am I waiting for? It’s just like whenever Han Han’s blog gets updated, a group of thirty-somethings or forty-somethings would scramble to herald the news, announcing that Han Han is saying such and such. Doesn’t anybody feel that behind this scrambling there is not only a kind of tragic cowardice, but actually a kind of downright shamelessness? Why don’t you say those things yourself? Why do you have to park your mouth on someone else’s blog? If one day human rights are bestowed equally on every individual, what good will it be to such a cowardly group?

I can give you a sword, but I cannot give you courage. I can give you religion, but I cannot give you faith. If a person belittles himself and doesn’t even believe in himself, then not even all the gods in heaven can save him.”