I’ve never shoplifted. I’ve seen a few friends who have shoplifted. I didn’t say anything.
I want to stand against authority, but I also don’t want to be an asshole. I’m still in that mindset of “If I steal from the store, the employees will get punished…” Maybe they do. But the morality that holds me back isn’t so clearly defined as that. It isn’t just about feeling bad about the workers. It’s something more vague; more innate.
My parents are like this. Got that sense of “Asian duty” that pervades all through Asia – something about a sense of community, and trust, and honour. Not that everybody Asian follows this doctrine. When you go to any public place in China, you’ll see nothing but the opposite. Kids have their junk lying out – there’s just a hole in their pants. It’s intentional – ease of access, yeah? But I feel like the “ease of access” is overshadowed by the fact that they’re literally shitting and pissing all over the place.
When I was visiting the “Bird’s Nest” stadium, there was a kid pissing right behind a pillar. Like, he was just doing it. Right by the Olympic stadium. No respect.
I was raised in the city. I wasn’t rich, but I still was relatively well-off. IBM was doing pretty well for itself, but my parents weren’t IBM. They were just IBM’s jockeys. The extent of our wealth was being able to eat takeout every single meal, and have family dinners at restaurants every few days. We didn’t have to eat beans everyday.
But it didn’t really “test my morality,” yeah? You don’t get high-and-mighty just by being able to eating fried chicken every night. Privilege doesn’t make you feel bad for Walmart employees.
I probably got most of my morality during elementary school. In grade 2, I got my first taste of bullying – both ends of it. But it wasn’t really the “typical” type of bullying. Actually, I’m not sure if you could classify it as actual “bullying.” Me “getting bullied” was just me getting frustrated at translating everything for some Chinese kid. I started to cry at one point, but I don’t think that counts. He didn’t really do anything; I was just a little bitch.
Me bullying the other kids? Yeah, I teased a guy too far. It was “bring your own hat to school” day. My friend was Japanese, and he brought an army hat. A Japanese army hat. It was a cool hat, and I was an idiot that had no sense of personal property except for my own, so what did I do? I took it from him.
It was recess. I was getting him to chase me around, but he wasn’t fast enough. And then…
I don’t remember it clearly, but I threw his hat into a puddle. It wasn’t a muddy puddle or anything – it was on the pavement. But then he started crying. And the kids around me that were laughing at him before fell silent.
This was one of my first experiences with this phenomenon of “rapid changes in mood.” I had never felt this kind of guilt before. I’d scribbled on some dictionaries, and my parents got angry at me before, but it was nothing compared to this.
I thought my heart was turning black. I wanted to wrench my heart out of my chest. I was devastated.
He kept crying.
I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Luckily, a teacher came along, and snapped me out of my stupor. She gave me a mild scolding, but it was nothing compared to the wrath of my conscience and my imagination. I thought about what his parents might say. I thought about what my parents might say. I thought about what he might say afterwards. I thought my life was over.
He forgave me afterwards, “since it just got a little wet,” he said.
But I learned my lesson.
I learned about myself: I will never be able to live down a regret – I can only forget about it temporarily. So I must do no wrong, lest I remember again.