Sunday, March 16, 2008

Follow the Leader

In India, no one wants to be the class leader/monitor in high school. They have to work hard, cope with insubordination from everyone and have to take the blame from the teachers if anything goes wrong.

Not so in China. Perhaps it is something instilled into every child's mind in accordance with the Communist principle or perhaps it's just the way things are, but leaders are to be obeyed. And obedience here means not questioning their decisions. If your leader tells you that you have to get up at 6 am every morning and have fun doing excercises, you will have fun. If your leader tells you that you have a major test tomorrow, you don't express shock over the short notice... you just rush to the library and bury your head in your books.

Being a leader has more than it's share of perks. Other than the unquestioned authority you have over your minions, you get to talk with other leaders. Even introducing yourself as the leader of a group of five students will win you much respect and admiration from young and old alike. But the hazards are great too. If anything goes wrong they'll have your head on a platter. According to some recent news reports, if you are in a big enough position, this is a quite literal possibility. Leaders make excellent scapegoats.

Nevertheless, these leaders are everywhere; and everything has a leader. Even in our humble settings, we are constantly made aware of this fact.
There are a couple of "leaders" stationed on the ground floor of our dormitories to help us. If there is any trouble, we have a long talk with them at the end of which they say, "We'll talk to our leaders." And we say, "Oh... so you can't do anything about it? Then why can't we just directly talk to your leaders and get something done without wasting our time?"
This is probably a very un-Chinese thing to do. There are four or five levels of leaders you have to get through to, before anything gets done and each level is only supposed to speak to the level right above it.
But after all that has happened here in our university, things are changing. But there is nothing called gradual change here. I guess there is nothing gradual in any of the changes in China. Every change feels massive and radical. Perhaps that's why they need people to obey the leaders... to minimise the confusion.

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