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The novelist and memoirist Anchee Min grew up in Mao’s China, during the Cultural Revolution. In our program “Surviving the Religion of Mao,” she described that period, beginning in 1966, when Chinese people were forced into peasant labor camps and told to sacrifice everything they loved for the greater good of the country.

I was taught to write, “I love you, Chairman Mao” before I was taught to write my own name. I never thought I belonged to myself. It was never “I love you, Papa” not “I love you, Mama.” It’s always “I love you, Communist Party of China,” “I love you, Chairman Mao.”

We were taught if you can sacrifice your loved ones, if you can denounce your parents, if you can denounce your favorite teacher, you are capable of greater love for the humanity.

Anchee Min managed to come to the United States in the 1980s, taught herself English, and became a bestselling author in part by writing about the horrors of her childhood. So I was particularly interested in her thoughts about our current economic downturn. Having grown up in a culture of total sacrifice, and then come to a country that so celebrates the pursuit of happiness, what perspective does she bring to this crisis?  She has some hard and challenging answers.

Share Your Reflection



I just listened to your interview and I agree with you wholly. I shall try to do with less in life.
Christel Lessard

I thought it rather hypocritical that she came to this country seeking the freedom to do what she wants, and yet she puts down Americans for that very quality. The fact that Americans aren't totally selfless bothers her, though she's come here to have whatever she wants? Now that she's come to America she is critical because we don't act Chinese. Interesting.

Speaking of faith is something I am really grateful that I happened to have heard about twice recently, first in my church and then on the radio on Sunday when I was heading to work feeling sorry for myself that I could not go to Church that day.
I realized that this and my small discussion group at church are really gifts to replace what I may be missing or more exactly to perhaps provide what I truly need not just what I think I want.
I think I should realize that I am not entitled to go to church just because I have most of my life but I should be grateful for those many opportunities that I have gotten to go. I am also aware that after being laid off after having the same job for over 28 years, in January, I should be very grateful to have a job to go to even if I do have to go on Sunday.
The interview with Chinese born novelist Anchee Min struck me the most. The American sense of entitlement bothers her. It has bothered me for a long time too even though, I too suffer from the condition, often without realizing it or questioning it.
Even so, quite often I feel disconnected from my own culture (perhaps, partially, because of my religions upbringing) and I can relate to how she feels. I’m not sure why exactly, but it was certainly refreshing, to say the least, to hear a different point of view expressed. And I am grateful to her for having the courage to express that point of view.
I guess several of the interviewees on the episode hit on a similar theme of Americans being caught unawares of what we are actually doing. I found it fascinating to consider what Vigen Guroian pointed out about students at Loyola College pursuing business degrees so that they could make money but they weren’t really sure why.
I think the why comes from the fact that we are so driven by advertising and business to need so many different things that we as a culture can become almost hypnotized by it all. We end up powerless to even begin to wonder “why”. Practically all we know is the need to buy, buy, and buy.
I think we have not only the sense of entitlement that Min speaks of but also a very deep sense of need that is indoctrinated in us perhaps not unlike the indoctrination she was subjected to while she was growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China.
Thank you for a wonderful, thought provoking show.

As I listened to your comments I recall what my grandmother once said..use it up, wear it out or go without. During these trying times that is my credo. I also realize after listening to Anchee Min and others that the universe has something else in store for me. I'm letting go the illusion of the American dream, and I realize that for many it's an american nightmare.

I keep from feeling sorry for myself by recalling a bumper sticker I saw yesterday, God bless the whole world, NO EXCEPTIONS.

I was so glad to hear Anchee Min say what I have felt for many years. Especially when she spoke of students. I teach at a middle school level and I see it on a daily basis. Students want something without doing the work. Parents will complain that they shouldn't have to work or they should get the better grade that they haven't earned. Their parents continually give and give without children doing anything in return. At the end of the year we have piles and piles of clothes, shoes etc. left behind because students have the attitude that their parents will buy them another and unfortunately they do. It is so persuasive. I also agree passionately that we are a country that feels entitled and we do not appreciate enough what we have even if we have lost things during these difficult times. I was lucky to have parents that taught me to work hard and even with that at times in my life I have been drawn in to the want, want want when I really couldn't afford it. I am now paying for that mentality. I hope with these difficult times that people will stop and reflect and move in a different direction.

I listened to Anchee Min's interview twice. I wholly appreciate what she has to say and completely agree with her. I'm sick of listening to people complain about dealing with the consequences of their actions, such as the price of gas, yet preferring a SUV to a gas efficient car, or house payments, when they bought a house they couldn't afford,... etc...
I believe that Americans are smart and creative, and that our "can-do" spirit is admirable. Yet, too many people believe they "deserve" things they can't afford. I recently moved from the Midwest to Southern CA - wow, what a change in values. I think both areas have positive and negative values, yet I'm proud of my parents for not giving me everything I wanted, not letting me come and go as I please, and for making sure I work for what I want.

What has made this country great, are just the virtues Anchee Min now rightly accuses the American born citizens of abandoning. History tells us of the newly arriving immigrant coming to these shores with nothing but the shirt on their backs and a few dollars in their pockets, working hard to make ends meet and with each new generation within their families things got better. Recent history, within the last fifty years, has seen a shift to the " entitled " mentality that has been used by political groups to seek favor with their constituents. Promises of free everything, citizenship, food, education, health care, and more makes our countrymen feel entitled because our leaders have told us we are entitled. This has become the United States Cultural Revolution, and unfortunately I feel until we have suffered the same fate as the citizens of China we wont stop this self destructive behavior. God Bless the USA and may he wake us all up soon.

I listened to the interview twice and completely agreed with Anchee Min's perspective on the negative values American society posses. I recently moved from the Midwest to Southern CA, and wow, what a change in values and perspectives. I don't think either culture is right or wrong, but I'm proud that I was raised not getting whatever I wanted, not being able to come and go as I pleased, and having to work for what I wanted.
I'm sick of people not appreciating the consequences of their actions,... I'm tired of listening to people complain about high gas prices who drive SUV or people complain about their mortgage payments on houses they really couldn't afford.
I've been extremely broke in the past, living off of a part time job, going to college, and getting loans for school. I also studied abroad and survived off of the small amount of money I had saved. That was only a few years ago, but I'm doing better now during this crisis then I did in the past four years of college.
I hope the economic issues wake people up to values that fall outside of money and entitlement, such as responsibility, hard work, and ingenuity. I believe Americans still hold these things are important, but I think they got lost at the wayside of an explosion of economic growth.
I'm staying positive and thankful for the abundances I do have.

As a teacher of American literature, I was very interested in hearing Anchee Min's remarks and hope to integrate them into my lesson on the American Dream. Fifteen year old girls can be extremely self-centered, and I'd like them to hear the immigrant view of the American Dream and American character.