I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve always felt like such an alien living in the United States, and I think it’s because I received a fundamentally Chinese upbringing, thanks to the fact that my dad is Chinese and my mom is Mormon (a very socialistic, authoritarian worldview). I was raised to believe:
– That you can trust the gestalt to provide order, stability, and care
– That you must in turn provide stability and care to the gestalt
– That interdependence is the key to greater social wellness and personal happiness alike
– That self-sacrifice to all others is fundamental to these goals
– That you can also expect all others to make the same sacrifice to you
– That order is not only good, it is essential for all to function or to trust the social contract
– That justice should be uniform, blind, universal, and swift
– That personal “dreams” are mirages whose karmic (for lack of a word) value is often negative
Really, deep down, I think I believe all of these things. I want to sacrifice myself for (again for lack of a word) the state, and I want the state in turn to promise me food, housing, and family. Note that the state in this case is not a faceless government, but is really the collection of all others, a manifestation of the caring of each citizen for every other — of the willingness on the part of each to sacrifice self for the betterment of all.
But this is the worldview of the former Soviet Union, or of past Chinese regimes. Certainly it bears little resemblance to anything practiced or believed in here in the United States. Here I feel betrayed by the gestalt and by nearly all individuals within it because none feel any responsibility toward me, and I feel paralyzed in my own behavior, unable to develop the initiative to sincerely want to transcend the gestalt and act purely in my own interest. I so very deeply wish that I could feel that others were comrades and have them in turn call me the same.
I simply do not want to act in my own immediate self-interest, nor do I believe that I should act in my own immediate self-interest, yet in this culture no-one but me is ever going to look out for my immediate interests. In fact, here it is seen as fundamentally impossible for someone not to act in (or want to act in) their own immediate interest; it is something contrary (goes the dogma) to human nature and human will.
I don’t know. Maybe I don’t think all these things. Maybe this relentless self-analysis is just destructive. (Maybe?!) But it remains true nonetheless that there is some fundamental paradox in my being and context that remains central nearly 30 years into my existence.