In The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa and Chen Village Under Mao and Deng, the authors write about times of change and reform in Japan and China, and how individuals of different backgrounds, education levels, and wealth classes cope with and respond to these changes. In Chen Village Under Mao and Deng, a Chinese village experiences great deals of conflict when the government sends a group of representatives called a work team to break down whole structure and set up a new, modern, and stronger government within the village.
In Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, the narrator is a scholar who takes trips to America and Europe as a studier to gain knowledge on their ways of life to help improve Japan. However, at that time Japan was filled with an anti-foreign attitude because the country felt exploited by other more advanced countries and wanted to show that it could industrialize and improve on its own. There are three main reasons why someone would rebel or conform: fear of being persecuted, possibility of gain/loss in status and protection for self or the one’s they love.
In both books, a fear of being persecuted is solely the reason for conforming and adapting to the change. Typically, a sense of power in numbers or strength causes many of those opposing a group to conform. When Yukichi came back home he wrote about how he felt that Western culture could and was helping Japan, but he did not really speak up because of the anti-foreign attitude that was instilled within the minds of the majority of the country.
As a matter of fact, he actually feared for his life and states it in this passage: “Until now, this anti-foreign movement had only been something existing in society, separate from my personal life…even some of the merchants engaged in foreign trade closed up their shop for fear of these lawless warriors…I thought if I avoided all dramatic utterances and behaved very cautiously, I should escape the ire of the ronin” (The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa 141-142). The reforms that the country was making towards foreigner tolerance caused many to just go with the flow and join arms.
Some did not want to be seen as weak or unchanging. Similarly, many changed their beliefs after being overwhelmed with those who are advocating a certain belief or idea. For example, Yukichi writes about how his friend Murata went back to Choshu and had become a fervent supporter of anti-foreignism. Him and his friends were shocked that their friend- now opposite them- had once held the same views and were puzzled whether he was just pretending to hold that attitude for fear of attack from his clansmen or had converted to the other side due to the heavy influence there (The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa 159).
Murata illustrates a person conforming to change for fear of persecution because of the number of people supporting the belief. There are common instances of persecution in Chen Village as well. Many of the villages attitude on 82-83 sum up the how important it was to have power on one’s side: “Peasants and cadres alike did not like being hectored by a band of righteous youngsters. Many of the villagers were not enthusiastic about restraining their personal and family interests in favor of the collective’s.
But no one dared criticize directly the sacred messages of Mao thought” (Chen Village Under Mao and Deng). As expressed in this passage, many of the peasants and cadres did not fully agree with the reforms that were taking place, but feared of being persecuted by the work team, who had the power of Mao on their side. Fear of persecution is not the only feeling driving people to rebel or reform. In a different way, when a person in a position of higher status sees a possible gain/loss of status could result from the new changes, he or she must decide to conform or revolt.
For starters, the cadres in the village were getting greedy with power, enjoyed special privileges, and mistreated the people of the village (Chen Village Under Mao and Deng 47). However the narrator described the submissive attitude the village people had: “Most of the masses were afraid. The cadres were like emperors…If you complained about them, they might want to take revenge, something very frightful“(Chen Village Under Mao and Deng 47-48). The narrator then goes on to say that the villagers started accepting the advantages that a cadre had because of is post and it became natural.
They had adapted to the change that had taken place, but had a negative feeling towards the cadres. When the work team arrived, it threatened the power and position of cadres. In response, some of the cadres conformed and cooperated with the work team in hopes that their good behavior would help them retain their positions. Next, Qingfa is a perfect example of someone who suffered and succeeded because of change and reform. Initially, he was considered the village emperor, but when the work team arrived, he quickly was dispelled of that position.
However, he responded negatively towards and challenged the work team by continuing to use his power to force those below to perform favors for him. Another big example of a personal gain motive is the sent-down urban youths. They were a group that ushered in change and struggled in their relationships with the other villagers. The bottom line is that most people do not want to change unless they are positively sure it results in some sort of gain for themselves and their families. Even when they know it will better them, they still want to change as little as possible.
People become so infatuated with the world they live in and become so consumed by the daily routines of their lives that change sometimes scares them. The last example is the actions of Longyong. He had served as a step down from Qingfa and used his strength of character, along with knowledge and skills. to gain the support of most of the village. As a result, his relationships with the commune’s cadres suffered because they knew that with all the support of the village he had that he would not easily be ousted. In the same way, Longyong ruined the relationship he had with Shorty because of his position and support.
He saw Shorty as an opponent for high positions in the village and needed him lowered. So, he spread a rumor that Shorty had an affair with another woman, therefore crushing his credibility and image. Anybody in politics knows that you will always have people oppose you no matter what you do. Lastly, force and violence have grown to become a common demonstration of power and persuasion in a person achieving their goals. Most times, the realization of harm coming to loved ones or yourself is enough to conform or give in.
Starting off, Yukichi decided not to discuss any social or political matters with anybody he did not know well and lived as discreetly as possible, while still translating and writing (The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa 143). Although he didn’t necessarily conform, he gave in to the power that the anti-foreign movement in Japan had and did not rebel. Similarly, a passage in Chen Village discussed how Longyong had learned that it was impolitic to oppose higher political levels on any issues that were pushed by the national party (Chen Village Under Mao and Deng 101).
Longyong finally realized that the force behind the national party was to powerful to fight. On the other hand, threatening someone’s family could cause rebellion too. When a new collectivization method was started by the work team in Chen village, a lot of the families did not work their fields because what they would produce would be siphoned out to be split with other village member families, but in the end they were forced to join.
As a result, the poorer families, whose assets were fewest and situation most precarious, were getting a break at the expense of the middle and upper class families (Chen Village Under Mao and Deng 23). It was a waste to jeopardize the hunger of the family for the betterment of the village. A similar situation took place when the radically new agricultural techniques that the work team proposed were met by a healthy reluctance by the peasants because they could not afford to risk their basic food crops in experiments (Chen Village Under Mao and Deng 95).
The leaders of the family rebelled because they did not want the family to starve. Family matters most in the spectrum of political and social turmoil. In summation, change and reform are necessary parts of any society and happen eventually, one way or another. Personal relationships can be jeopardized or even lost, people can be hurt and those in power will most likely succeed. Those too weak to stand up for what they believe in will conform and turn their backs on the few brave enough to fight.
In addition, personal gain/loss will be a major factor in whether or not someone will conform or revolt. With this in mind, a person considered family and loved ones over anything else when making the decision to conform or revolt. What it boils down to is how much a person is willing to lay on the line in order to maintain their way of life.