An email conversation about selfishness

The 《High Tech Low Life》was broadcasting in PBS in United States recently, and available on iTunes now,I am one of the subject of this documentary , lot of US citizens wrote email to me, only few people talk to me they though,that’s great feedback, but most people focus on “selfishness” ,because I was have a short talk with another subject Tiger Temple and mentioned “selfishness “, I think that audience have different background, I want repost a mail conversation to my blog, hope more people understand different angle with different background.

below email from a professor from California.


I have recently watched the documentary in which you and “Tiger Temple” are feature.

I am writing to offer my modest views about your cause.

1.       Freedom of Information

a.       I agree with you that Freedom of Information and Freedom of the Press are important. It is important for a free society for people to be able to freely report and responsibly report about what is happening within their communities and/ or country. Whether the reports are about important social/economic issues more mundane issues, the right to report shouldn’t be curtail or censored. Because of this, I feel that your work is important, whether your reports are mundane or socially important, and you should not be censored. It is clear that  a free and independent media is of great importance to a free, just and democratic country. (democracy here is use as a synonym for equal treatment of the citizens.).

2.       Individual Freedom or Collective Good

a.       In this area I find myself in disagreement with you. It is true that individuality is important. By this I mean, everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed and live well (have a good standard of living). However, I reject the idea of Individuality as selfishness. Individuality means that the society in which a person lives nourishes an individual’s potential. Such potential is important in creating a better society. National governments should foment an individual’s educational capabilities. It is clear that in general a society with a higher average of educated individuals tends to better its society. They should also create an economic safety net integral in helping prospective students in concentrating on their education.  But also, the country should create the ideal environment for its educated population succeed economically.

b.      However such success must be responsible. Here is where your description of individuality as selfishness is, in my view, wrong. The Free market supporters see it the same way you see it. In their view, selfish personal interest should guide the economy, (the management of natural resources). It is this view about economy which creates laissez faire free market ideology. It is this view which creates corporatism.  This view creates oppression of the labor force in capitalistic societies. This view creates the great economic rift between the ultra rich and the poor.

3.       Therefore, I do agree with you that the State should not curtail or censor the freedom of information or Freedom of the Press and that the individual should be respected and valued. However, The individual should not be selfish. The individual should conscious of its role in bettering society and NOT just bettering himself/herself.

4.       Because of your view about individuality and because of how I perceived you in the documentary, my view of you is that your aim is not to improve individual freedom or improve freedom of the press in your country, but your goal is to become “Famous.” I think that the aim should be improving freedom of information and freedom of the Press without regards to whether you become famous or not. It seems to me that that your “Fame” is more important to you than whether any improvement is made in freedom of the Media.

5.       I hope that I am wrong about how I characterize you. Again, I hope you don’t take my personal opinion as an attack on your persona but as a modest and genuine analysis about how I perceived your ideology.


Felix ×××

Below are my reply:

Dear Felix,
Thanks for you email, especial your email take seriously, you definitely really care this topic,Thanks for your time.
this debate is  little difficult for me. English not my first language, hope you can guess my thought. I will try to explain more and hope create common understanding with you:)

first of all ,I am totally agree with you and understand you opinion, but I am not you criticize subject who was hight profile and selfish. maybe there are signal lost by translate to English subtitle in that documentary.

I am not real selfish person, but I have different language background from society you live,  in Communist country , people encouraged and pretend to became a contributer and sacrifice personal interest, and become social cultural, the cultural make higher ethical standards but nobody really follow that except some honest and stupid people.  for example,the Lei Feng  , even recent years, people realize that Lei Feng not real stupid and not honest, he is a Idol  made by propaganda machine, every picture were faked scenes and was a pose.

that why so many Chinese not honest, lie everyday, the social cultural forces them lie but they seek personal interest under the public mask .

that is background, untill now, many people or activist still have the mark or brand from Communist cultural in his deeply mind, they give up family or good job and join social Innovation even social movement, became NGO participators, they think that is a glory, the society also admit it is glory because they sacrifice personal interest.

if someone make sucess and make great contribute,no injuries, and got big famous, the society start critisize he just want famous and ignor no one was hurt. people just want made conflict between individual and collective good, especially in Communist  State, it not make sense.

Do your remember “Tiger Temple” ? he bring brand from Communist contry, he may think the price of became citizen reporter is get away from family, that’s wonderful, that’s amazing,but not many people wish get away from family, it is hard to copy, the ethical standards is too high.

when we put the ethical standards lower, them more people following. personal  interest not take away and Collective Good growing, that is win win.

that’s why I was talk about “selfishness” in the film. my original words is “became selfishness is a start for take off brand of Communist Ideology” “自私是摆脱共产义义意识形态的开始”  “Selfishness is beginning to get rid of communist ideology”,That sentense translate by Google, it may clear:)

back to my issue, I know people criticize me “seek famous” or “selfish” even in western country, I don’t care, I admit it and feel good, famous and selfish not bad in any environment, sometime it help ideas spreading, sometime help debater more sober 🙂

core value not get hurt, no one hurt too,that is a lot of fun, as you know:)

Thanks for your views , hope we made common understanding now:)

Best regards.

3 replies on “An email conversation about selfishness”

I hope you get even more famous because inevitably it will help the cause. I appreciate your viewpoint.

Hi Zhou,

I am an American and I just watched the documentary you mentioned, “High Tech Low Life” for the first time. I realize that years have passed since it was released and it is likely that your point of view concerning many issues may have changed. Time is the great equalizer for us all. As I am not Chinese, I am sure that we have many cultural differences and many of your reflections are based on your experience. One never truly knows a man until he has walked in his shoes.

Having said that all of that, I’d like to send you a note of encouragement and my own reflections.

Much of what I wish to address concerns the conversation you had with “Tiger”. My generation (I was born in 1965) in the USA is often considered “selfish”, much in the same way you explain yourself and your ideals. We often put the individual first, as well. Not just ourself, but the individual-in-general. It is not a bad “selfish” and it leads to many acts of generosity, kindness and even selflessness. Many of us from my generation believe that our government usually does not hold the individual’s best interests at heart. The reasons are many and I am not writing to discuss those issues, right now. I just want you know that beyond our differences, many of us do understand your point of view.

In your discussion with Tiger you said that you do not feel the need to serve the collective as older generations do. I understand that you meant that you didn’t feel responsible to help your government as it stands. I would like you to consider that you ARE serving the collective in what you do, though. Even though you do not have State interests at heart, you do serve the people in general by helping them see the truth.

At first it would seem that you are putting the individual first. However, I would like you to know that in doing what you do, you are truly committing a very selfless act. You risk your freedom and maybe your life to report the truth. That makes you a very valuable servant to the people, if not the government.

Many of us in American feel as you do concerning our own situation. I would say that it is our responsibility to reveal the truth when we are faced with irrefutable facts. Much as you did with the situation concerning the girl who allegedly committed suicide.

I commend you and hope that you never lose your desire to serve.


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