Yesterday had lunch with friend and his son, a member of generation 90. The conversation turned to memories of life as an early 80’s college student in Beijing, while son politely played games on his phone.
Me: What interests me about your generation is that although today y’all are friends with your classmates, your children might not necessarily be friends because they are from different classes.
Old Zhang: That’s true. The country (国家) paid for us to go to college so once we were in, everybody was the same [economic] class. Now these young people have a hard time of it. I really feel sorry for them. [laughs] For example, falling in love. When we were in college we were all the same, so all you had to do was find someone you liked and then figure out how to open your mouth. But kids today [son looks up from cell phone], they have to match up everything – the right car and clothes and job and house. Love is just like salt, it’s the seasoning you add for flavor, not the dish itself.
[Old Zhang notices son looking up and continues in another vein]
This is why I’m encouraging him to get religious belief. It doesn’t really matter what. The point is that all our beliefs – in a better society, in the four modernizations, we achieved. There’s nothing left to do. Or, we don’t know what to do. That’s why belief is important.
Me: Or salt?
Old Zhang laughs, son goes back to game.