The following is a translation of an essay posted to Ai Weiwei’s blog today. There is no specific author attributed, which leads us to believe the author may be Ai himself. The essay is vague, perhaps vague enough to slip through the censors, but also damning and bitter in a way we haven’t seen on Ai’s site in the past.
Such arrogance, believing stolen power could change reality, could change people’s wills. Such weakness, believing that a different voice could destroy a vast army.
Because they don’t believe, when people really do have the power to vote they’ll still write their unglorious names on the ballots.
They have already lost hope for themselves. They don’t want the people’s voices heard, don’t want the people to hear each other or realize that other people like them exist.
You can think, but you can’t speak. No one else knows your thoughts, so your suffering and hopelessness are yours alone and there’s no way to compose a threat. Of course, it’s best if you don’t have the ability to think for yourself; that will be safer and more harmonious.
If there’s no way for you to improve your own reality, you can only destroy the reality of others so as to maintain balance. If we didn’t know about Sanlu, didn’t know about Weng’an, Longnan, Tibet, Beichuan, of course we would be even more tranquil. Suppose we don’t understand the world, the world then becomes a lot smaller […] If we don’t understand our rights, we’ll just believe our “liberators”: death comes, as it ought to, and we should be just be grateful for life, CCTV isn’t low-down and none of these things are crimes. If we did understand, we would imagine the world could be another way and then it might be possible for some people who were not evil to hold power.
Think, you don’t know anything, the world is however they tell you the world is. This way is like selling you; you won’t suffer and perhaps it helps with money a bit. Indifferent to pain, happiness, and gloom, without imagination or sympathy, without the desire or possibility for change, you are a perfect supporter, bearing the weight, an excellent modern slave. You won’t make inquiries about the world. You can eat and drink, bear and raise children, obey the law and pay taxes. Nourishing those who look at use as useless, their main task is to squander your wealth while sternly ordering you to keep secrets and misleading you to preserve your unhappiness. Because your misfortune is their great fortune, well, this question’s a bit complicated and it’s better if you don’t know.
Without your own voice and the free interchange of information, the people, the working class does not exist, the common interests of humanity do not exist, you do not exist. We’ll never have real social change, the first step of real social change must be the right to freedom of speech. A society without freedom of speech is a dark society whose underbelly cannot be seen, so dark that everything actually appears bright.
Teacher Ai, you’re still online this late? Take care of your health!
I support you, you are my single thread of hope in the darkness.
The country is everyone’s country, and people have the right to make others hear their views, even if they are views I don’t agree with.
I not only believe them telling me the world is this way, I work hard to safeguard everything I believe. Moreover, I’m still totally willing to put myself under pressure, and I despise and disdain those who overrate their abilities trying to stir up thoughts in my brain. This way, I am safe, and I feel comfortable with things, I feel full of justice and confidence.
Who dares to say I’m not free?
The soul of the Grass Mud Horse must reawaken!
Hopefully it comes through in the translation as well, but the frustration and bitterness in the original is palpable. One can’t help but wonder if this isn’t somehow related to the government’s recent release of an official number of deaths for students in the Sichuan earthquake, which may have been intended primarily to undercut Ai’s project.
What may be more interesting to watch is whether or not there is any response to this. On the one hand, it’s vague enough that were government attention to fall on it, Ai might attempt to plead that he was talking about the whole world and not just China, but it seems unlikely many officials would buy that line. If they don’t, can they really let someone as prominent as Ai Weiwei get away with public saying things as harsh as this?