of submission and changing the world…

Last night had dinner with friends and learned (1) that Marxism in Mandarin means “materialism”; (2) rumor has it that the Party is promoting Buddhism as a way of preventing the growth of Christianity, and (3) submission empowers us to change the world.

[update Jan 16: realized last night that what I am interested in is a continuum of engagement — surrender-resignation-acceptance-submission. I skipped over the resignation bit in discussion below and that is where I should have headed. Instead, I jumped directly into the differences between surrendering and submitting. Nevertheless, am leaving original post, MAO]

About Marxism: I had been used to thinking in terms of “the dialectic” and “socialism — change the world”. However, when YQ made a joke about China being more Marxist than Marx, the Chinese laughed and I did not. One of my friends asked, “But you’ve read Marx, right?” Me nodding. “Well then you know about 唯物主义 (dialectical materialism).” Apparently, the joke is that Chinese materialism is no longer dialectical just in your face materialistic.

About buddhism, which links to recent post on Hongfa Temple. Friend’s neibu (内部 insider, but specifically within the Party) information is that there are two many Christians in China and, as a general rule, they are more frightening than buddhists. Reference to the Boxer Rebellion. Another mentioned that buddhists accept (接受) reality.

I gleaned three things from this conversational logic. (1) Christians (unlike materialists) change the world; (2) Buddhists are harmless, and; (3) 接受 in this context is surprisingly close to the English idea of submit. When I checked my handy online dictionary, however, I learned that submit is usually translated with 屈 plus another character (从 or 服, for example). Now, here’s the cross cultural rub: 接受 is good, leaning toward receive; 屈 includes the sense of being wronged (委屈). In contrast, my sense of submit is that the action is neutral. At stake is who we submit to. Thus, I think of submission as voluntary and surrender as forced, which seems closer to the meaning of 屈.

My reconstruction of last night’s conversational logic is that submission (to the Christian god or Socialism, for example) gives strength to change the world, while surrendering does not. One surrenders to the materialist deluge? Meanwhile, I’m hoping that buddhist practice is also a form of submission that empowers non-violent engagement with the world.

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