‘Grown-up ba­bies’ harm­ful to so­cial har­mony

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS - The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. wangy­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

As usual, fa­mous literary pe­ri­od­i­cal Shuowen­jiezi re­leased this year’s top 10 Chi­nese hot words ear­lier this month. Among the 10 words most fre­quently men­tioned in the me­dia and on the in­ter­net, ju ying (lit­er­ally a “gi­ant baby” but more pre­cisely a “grown-up baby”) has trig­gered heated dis­cus­sions among the pub­lic due to a series of in­ci­dents in 2018, and also be­cause it is not a new term.

The term ju ying was first used by con­sult­ing psy­chol­o­gist Wu Zhi­hong in 2016, who has au­thored a book in which he de­scribes and an­a­lyzes the ir­re­spon­si­ble and immature (rather child-like) be­hav­iors of Chi­nese adults – that is, phys­i­cally grownup but men­tally immature peo­ple.

Later, me­dia out­lets and ne­ti­zens ex­ten­sively used the term to de­scribe a cer­tain type of peo­ple — who are not only un­rea­son­able but also rude and an­noy­ing in so­cial life.

These peo­ple are al­ways self­cen­tered and self­ish, lack so­cial con­scious­ness and have an in­her­ent dis­re­gard for rules. They al­ways try to use every pos­si­ble means to achieve their own goal vi­o­lat­ing even the ba­sic so­cial norms and ig­nor­ing other peo­ple’s feel­ings and con­cerns. And if they can­not meet their de­mand, they sud­denly lose their tem­per and use ag­gres­sive means to achieve their goal.

“Grown-up ba­bies” have come in for much more crit­i­cism this year, af­ter a few of them caused sev­eral se­ri­ous in­ci­dents, which went vi­ral on the in­ter­net. In Au­gust a video showed a man oc­cu­py­ing an­other pas­sen­ger’s seat by the win­dow in a high­speed train from Ji­nan, Shan­dong prov­ince, to Bei­jing and shame­lessly re­fus­ing to shift to his al­lot­ted seat. Which prompted ne­ti­zens to se­verely crit­i­cize the “grown-up baby” for his rude, ob­sti­nate and anti-reg­u­la­tory be­hav­ior.

An­other “grown-up baby” was re­spon­si­ble for a far worse in­ci­dent, a fa­tal bus ac­ci­dent, in Chongqing on Oct 28. A woman pas­sen­ger, an­gry at not be­ing able to get off the bus at her des­ig­nated stop, fought with the driver forc­ing him to lose con­trol of the ve­hi­cle and plung­ing into the Yangtze River. Fif­teen peo­ple lost their lives in the ac­ci­dent.

On Baidu in­dex, the Chi­nese search en­gine’s big data plat­form, ne­ti­zens’ search for “grown-up baby” peaked this year af­ter the cause of the ac­ci­dent was an­nounced on Nov 2.

From un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ences in so­cial life to dis­as­trous ac­ci­dents, peo­ple be­gan re­flect­ing on why there were so many “grownup ba­bies” in our so­ci­ety.

Some said the “grown-up baby” syn­drome has some­thing to do with par­ent­ing, and at­trib­uted the preva­lence of the phenomenon to China’s one-child fam­ily struc­ture. This view sup­poses that an only child hogs all the at­ten­tion and care from the fam­ily mem­bers and al­ways gets what­ever it wants. As a re­sult, such chil­dren re­main un­ruly and be­come less re­spon­si­ble af­ter grow­ing up.

But the “spoiled child” hy­poth­e­sis may not hold much water, as not all “grown-up ba­bies” are the only child of their par­ents. Iron­i­cally, adults who be­have like stub­born chil­dren — such as oc­cu­py­ing other peo­ple’s seats in pub­lic trans­port ve­hi­cles, jump­ing a queue or even at­tack­ing bus driv­ers — are al­most al­ways mid­dle-aged peo­ple or se­nior cit­i­zens, who are very likely to have sib­lings and thus might not have been pam­pered by their par­ents when they were kids. Some ne­ti­zens have even made fun of such peo­ple say­ing they are essen­tially “bad guys grow­ing old”.

But per­haps a more ap­pro­pri­ate cause of the “grown-up baby” phenomenon is so­cial in­flu­ence. The “grown-up ba­bies” have lit­tle or no re­spect for rules, be­cause our so­ci­ety has much to im­prove in mak­ing rules and strictly im­ple­ment­ing them.

Har­mony forms the core of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. It is good for so­cial de­vel­op­ment and co­op­er­a­tion, but it could also prompt peo­ple to fo­cus more on hu­man, rather in­ter­per­sonal, re­la­tion­ship than stick­ing to rules. Some peo­ple there­fore lack the nec­es­sary sense of limit — and some “peace­mak­ers” un­con­sciously or un­wit­tingly blur the line be­tween right and wrong to achieve the so-called peace­ful re­sult.

In a so­ci­ety, sound rules and reg­u­la­tions are not enough to main­tain har­mony, as peo­ple with weak moral val­ues will ex­ploit the loop­holes of law en­force­ment to get what­ever they want through ir­ra­tional and ag­gres­sive means. Many peo­ple say there ex­ists a phenomenon in China in which re­sources are dis­trib­uted based not on need but on how shame­less a per­son could be.

Be­fore Chongqing’s bus tragedy, a count­less num­ber of in­ci­dents in which un­ruly pas­sen­gers at­tacked bus driv­ers had been re­ported, but many of the of­fend­ers didn’t re­ceive any pun­ish­ment or were only de­tained for a few days de­spite se­ri­ously en­dan­ger­ing pub­lic se­cu­rity. To some ex­tent, these “grown-up ba­bies” use the pre­vail­ing so­cial en­vi­ron­ment to act the way they do.

Yet the so­cial anger di­rected at “grown-up ba­bies” re­flects the im­prove­ment in Chi­nese peo­ple’s moral val­ues, and peo­ple’s in­creas­ing aware­ness of the im­por­tance of fol­low­ing the reg­u­la­tions and laws.

This year marks the 40th an­niver­sary of re­form and openingup, and one of the most valu­able les­sons we have learned in the past four decades is to re­spect rules. I am op­ti­mistic that the hot word of the year will grad­u­ally be­come his­tory as the rule of law is strength­ened in China.

MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY

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