A guide to reviving the Lei Feng spirit

By Gong Wen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 28, 2012
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Lei Feng, a model of wholeheartedly serving the people. [File photo]

Lei Feng, a model of wholeheartedly serving the people. [File photo] 

I read in a local newspaper that Qiao Anshan, best friend and army comrade of Lei Feng, is going to give lectures on Lei Feng spirit, and I was reminded that March 5 – Lei Feng day – is fast approaching..

This year is the 50th anniversary of Lei's passing. Our paragon for altruistic acts has moved and inspired several generations of Chinese. To some degree, Lei Feng has become a cultural icon of selflessness, good deeds and dedication. In Chinese "Huo Lei Feng," or "a living Lei Feng," has become a term referring to anyone who is seen as selfless or is always helping others.

Although official media and school educators still tell us that we should learn from Lei Feng and always be ready to assist others, many have become lost in materialistic pursuits as consumerism thrives in the Chinese society. Even simple questions like "should we help the fallen old" become a national debate. Forum messages such as "Lei Feng has already disappeared" or "Lei Feng is only a name for us now, his spirit is not carried on in today's society" populates the Internet. These remarks may be too pessimistic, but they partially reflect a moral crisis the Chinese society is now facing. In this sense, Lei Feng spirit is still of vital importance for the moral restructure of the Chinese society.

Three approaches can be adopted to promote the recognition and revival of Lei Feng spirit.

Legal protection for altruists

As in some Western countries, altruists and good Samaritans should be protected in our laws, especially in possible cases of disputes. For example, both the U.S. and Canada have Good Samaritan laws which "protect those who choose to serve and tend to others who are injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated." Similarly, the principle of "duty to rescue" is also included in the laws of countries with civil law tradition.

Cases of Peng Yu, Yueyue and the bus driver in Nantong have exposed the shortcomings of China's laws in this regard. The legal system protects the bottom line of morality, and Chinese legislators should pass laws to hold the bottom line. As psychology professor Hu Zhenzhi says: "Establishing such a law could standardize human behavior and help people in need."

Volunteer system

Volunteer programs in China have seen rapid development in recent years, but a complete and reasonable system still has not been established. The number of citizens who participate in volunteer programs is still much lower than that of developed countries and Hong Kong, where 20 percent of citizens are volunteers for different organizations. Different from the system of Hong Kong, volunteer programs in the Chinese mainland mostly answers to the government or para-governmental organizations. The role of NGO should be enhanced in the future.

Innovative ways of promoting Lei Feng

The cultivation and revival of Lei Feng spirit cannot depend solely on political propaganda any more, since great changes have taken place in Chinese society and young people hate to be sermonized. In order to reach the heart of the younger generation, we have to talk in their language, in the ways they are interested in. Although the essence of Lei Feng spirit is always there, we must find innovative ways of promoting it.

Gong Wen is a visiting scholar at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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