New concept of individualism applies

Updated: 2014-06-18 07:29

By Zhu Yuan(China Daily)

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Confucius himself set a lot of requirements for a person with moral integrity. Such a person should reflect on what he does and says three times a day to see whether he has failed to honor his words, betrayed his friends or failed to practice what he has learned. Such a person should use caution in speech but be swift in action. He should be inclusive in dealing with others but without compromising his principles, while a mean person will do otherwise. He should show enough respect for those who disagree with him while a mean person will do just the opposite.

The qualities that Confucius individualism with Chinese characteristics requires of a virtuous person are hard to practice but they indeed set a necessary goal for a person to pursue in reasonably adapting himself or herself into a civilized community.

This individualism epitomizes the ancient sage's idealistic aspiration for a harmonious society, in which the majority of people know where to toe the line when it comes to the relationship between individuals and that between an individual and a community.

Individualism with Western characteristics renders more emphasis on the principle that all men are created equal and they are born with the rights they are entitled to. Such rationale is absolutely justifiable and everyone should stand up to defend his or her rights they deserve to enjoy when they are infringed upon.

Those who know only to cultivate the qualities that a man of virtue should have without ever thinking of defending their own deserved rights and interests can likely turn out to be a slave of a tyrannized society and play into the hands of a tyrant. That is the tragedy that quite a lot of virtuous scholars suffered in ancient dynasties.

If a person knows only to claim his deserved rights and interests without ever thinking of how he should cultivate his moral character to better adapt himself into a community, he can be nothing more than an egoist.

What we need, particularly in present-day China, is individualism with the awareness of both the cultivation of moral character and the imperative of defending one's deserved rights and interests.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.


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