Sally Jo Fifer
Supervising Producer Amy Shatsky
Edited by Nanfu Wang
Additional Editing Jialing Zhang
Graphic Design Garry Waller
Creative Consultant Peter Lucas
Editing Consultants Carol Dysinger
Digital Intermediate Colorist Will Cox
Digital Intermediate Online Editor Ben Kiviat
Digital Intermediate Producer Caitlin Tartaro
Supervising Sound and Re-recording Mixer Ron Bochar
Sound Editors Sara Stern
Assistant Sound Editor Sarah Streit
Subtitle Translators Vincent (Tzu-Wen) Cheng
Production Assistants (China) Chen Yang
Post Production Assistants (U. S.) Bing Wang
Archival Research Assistants Lei Cao
Production Counsel Gray Krauss Sandler Des Rochers LLP
Clearance Counsel Donaldson + Callif LLP
Sales and Distribution Submarine Entertainment
Bookkeeper Ameena Din
Archival Materials Provided by Jiaoming Pang
Brian Stuy and Long Lan Stuy
Hongjie Ma / FOTOE
Zongjun Du / FOTOE
Original Score by Nathan Halpern and Chris Ruggiero
Courtesy of Copticon Music and Jasper vs Sanchez (ASCAP)
Commissioning Editors for WDR/ARTE: Christiane Hinz and Jutta Krug
Commissioning Editor for BBC Storyville: Mandy Chang
Assistant Commissioning Editor for BBC Storyville: Hayley Reynolds
For SVT Sveriges Television: Axel Arnö
For EO: Margje de Koning and Nathalie Windhorst
For DR Danish Broadcasting Corporation: Anders Bruus
For VGTV: Andreas Fay
Special Thanks Hot Docs Forum
Fiscal Sponsor Independent Filmmaker Project
Investment Support Provided by Bruce and Vickie Heyman
Jason Delane Lee
Yvonne Huff Lee
Our Children’s Earth Foundation
Shari Sant Plummer
Funding Provided by International Documentary Association Enterprise Documentary Fund
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Fund
Original Series Funding Provided by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The National Endowment for the Arts
One Child Nationis a co-production of Next Generation Production, LLC, INDEPENDENT TELEVISION SERVICE (ITVS), WDR/ARTE, Motto Pictures and Pumpernickel Films in association with Chicago Media Project, BBC Storyville, Chicken & Egg Pictures, SVT, EO, DR, and VGTV, with funding provided by the CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING (CPB).
This film was produced by Next Generation Production, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.
Warning: This article contains descriptions of disturbing images from One Child Nation.
Many have heard of China‘s “one-child policy,” a law intended to control China’s population growth by limiting parents to only having one child, which was officially in effect from 1979 to 2015. But perhaps most non-Chinese—and in particular, Americans—have not considered the devastating effects such a controlling policy would have on a nation’s citizens. They likely don’t realize, though in hindsight it makes sense, that such a law would lead to abandoned babies, dangerous abortions, forced adoptions, and human trafficking. That’s exactly what One Child Nation—a harrowing documentary now streaming on Amazon, free to all Prime subscribers—intends to correct.
Directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation—which first premiered at Sundance where it won a Grand Jury prize—is not an easy watch. It is, at times, horrifically graphic—so much so that you’ll find yourself turning away from the screen. But, now that it is absolutely a vital watch, particularly in light of the recent news cycle regarding China’s media censorship.
Despite some of the morbid imagery, One Child Nation never feels like exploitation or manipulation. That’s because Wang—who serves as the film’s narrator, editor, and co-cinematographer, in addition to its co-director—makes it a deeply personal story, too. Wang, who was born in China in 1985, interviews her own family, including her younger brother. Had that brother been a girl, Wang’s own mother says, he would have been abandoned. Wang knows her parents had hoped she had been a boy—and even decided to keep her masculine name after she was born, hoping that she would live up to it.
Wang, now living in New York City as a filmmaker, returns to her hometown in the Jiangxi province of China as a new mother of a baby boy. She speaks to her mother—her father died when she was little—and some long-time residents of the town, who describe how the one-child policy was enacted. The picture of fear and government propaganda that comes together grows more and more disturbing the wider it gets. The Chinese government used a special task force to enforce the new law; families who didn’t comply would lose their homes and possessions. Pregnant women were forced to have abortions they didn’t want while fertile women were forced to undergo sterilization. Wang speaks to a midwife who performed some of those abortions, who says she performed some late-term abortions by inducing labor and killing the babies after they were born. In dumps, one artist attests, you could find bags and bags of fetuses, and he has the pictures to prove it.
Rural families like Wang’s were allowed a second child if their first child was a girl, but urban families were not. As a result, some families abandoned infant baby girls on the street. Wang speaks to people who spent all their free time driving up and down the streets, rescuing babies — which, in some cases, led to horrific networks of black market adoptions and human trafficking.
The story that Wang and Zhang so expertly unfurl is raw, horrifying, excruciating, and infuriating. Your blood will boil as the film comes to a close and Wang compares the government propaganda that was once used to promote this devastatingly destructive policy—”One child is best!”—to the new slogan, now that policy has officially ended: “Two children are best!” This, Wang explains, is to address the growing crisis of too many aging parents and not enough young, healthy children to care for them.
Not everyone Wang speaks to shares her anger—in fact, many, many Chinese citizens believe the one-child policy saved their country from economic despair. Wang also makes clear that China is not the only nation that exercises authoritarian control over women’s bodies; certainly, the United States can’t claim to be holier than thou on that front. That’s an important takeaway from the film that should not be overlooked. One Child Nation is by no means arguing for pro-life causes—in fact, quite the opposite. It’s to hold an institution accountable for a policy that oppressed millions, women especially and ruined more lives than is perhaps possible to calculate yet. You might, as I did, find yourself crying as you watch it. I can’t think of another film more deserving of your attention right now.
Watch One Child Nation on Prime Video
How Napoleon created the nations of Europe • Arzamas
Kurskak to understand the painting of the 19th century. Electrical materials
A brief guide for Greek philosophy
The necessary minimum knowledge about the philosophers of the archaic, classics and Hellenism
Brief textbook on the Russian avant -garde
The main achievements of the avant -garde thought of the 20th century in the seven arts of art
An elementary guide to the philosophy of the 20th century
9 German, French and Anglo-Saxon traditions in the philosophy of modern times
History of Japan in 20 points
The most significant dates and events for understanding Japanese history
A game familiar from childhood, but interactive and with Mayakovsky
Recognize the writer from a childhood photo
How to read and understand haiku
Translator about the poetry of three lines, its history, translations and why it is beautiful
Find chairs at home
Test your knowledge of architectural trends by furnishing houses with furniture
Memory with the Romanovs
Play a game and find 12 repeated portraits of the Romanovs
How do you understand the Japanese?
Test your understanding of Japanese facial expressions and gestures
Assemble the avant-garde from pieces
Put together five famous paintings of the Russian avant-garde correctly
How Napoleon created the nations of Europe
Historian - about the emergence of nationalism, the image of the enemy, Mamluks and Cossacks
All the isms of the 19th century
Painting trends from classicism to post-impressionism
Arrange fashionistas in chronological order, do you know how they dressed
men from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century?
Not always clear names of architectural details in pictures
Naum Kleiman talks about the main Soviet “defense film”
Why are dandies needed
What daffodils and dandies taught contemporaries and what they left for posterity
Who’s who in the epic world
Guide to epic characters
Restore gaps in verses by dragging icons into them
Why history is falsified
The historian Ivan Kurill
explains how to organize a duel
What if you are a Russian nobleman and you insulted
Pasternak's poetry: a guide for beginners
16 Poems for the first acquaintance with a poet
Who is a medieval person
Medievist Oleg Oleg Voskoboinikov on how a person in the Middle Ages differed from modern
What is the difference between Maya, Aztecs and Incas
Who knew the wheel, who chewed coca, who built Machu Picchu and whose leader is Montezuma
Chronicle of relations between culture and power in the era of stagnation
Events without which it is impossible to imagine the cultural picture of the world of the 20th century
Why the Book of Veles is a fake
10 reasons why it cannot be genuine
How to read Karl Marx
The artist Gutov talks about the philosopher Lifshitz, one of those who understood Marx correctly
9 myths about Lermontov
Knowledge that urgently needs to be forgotten
Pushkin's spree with gypsies
Is it true that the great poet lived in a camp and fell in love with a gypsy woman
A very brief history of architecture
The adventures of building structures
European theaters of the 16th-17th centuries
What you need to know about the theaters of Spain and Italy of the Renaissance
Shakespeare in dates
The spread of forks and other events that influenced the development of the English theater
Adam and Eve from the point of view of genetics
How linguists helped biologists find out from whom all of humanity came from
Are Russians Scythians?
The story of one myth from Catherine II to Alexander Blok
"Dog" or new Pushkin?
What did Emperor Nicholas I say when he learned about Lermontov’s death in a duel
Lermontov’s unknown obscene text
The first publication of an unpublished story with a commentary
Potemkin villages that did not exist
Did Potemkin II deceive by decorating Catherine’s villages?
Two centuries of disputes about the authenticity of The Tale of Igor's Campaign
From Pushkin to Zaliznyak: a chronicle
5 misconceptions about matriarchy
Why there is no scientific basis for the idea that in the past women were more important than men
Who surrounded Russia
List of neighbors of Russian lands in the 9004 3rd century Fake Russians in fake Crimea
Famous historical falsification in comments
Where is Delacroix?
Game: find young Eugene among the characters of the Raft of the Medusa
Why love Surikov?
Art historian Galina Elshevskaya explains
The main directions of the avant-garde
The minimum conversational limit for conversations about Russian art of the 20th century
Seven myths about Gorky
Lenin’s friend, Stalin’s victim, the defender of peasants, the father of socialist realism 9003 and other lies Rome": the history of speculation
Why the idea of a special Russian path is not as ancient as it seems
Zabolotsky in 10 minutes
A selection from Alexander Arkhangelsky
Nine myths about Yesenin
A naive boy from the village, a drunken poet, a murder victim and other lies
What do we know about the Last Judgment
How to read annals
Four problems that a person who studies annals must solve
What does the building of the Moscow City Hall say about
St. Petersburg art historian Vadim Bass “read” the most Moscow building
Vladimir the Red Sun — a coward and an alcoholic
How does the prince of Kyiv appear in epics
Who invented the ancient Slavic gods and why?
How Russian mythology was invented in the 18th century in a Western manner
Epics are not a peasant genre
Debunking a mass delusion
What is a "housing paranoid"
Who coined the term "Silver Age"
How did the familiar term come into use
How well do you know Soviet life?
Identify items from the collection of the Polytechnic Museum
Who are the Cumans?
What you need to know about the mysterious people
The founders of symbolism: The Best
A whole era in 10 poems
The Strugatsky Philosophy
tells literary critic Ilya Kukulin
All plots of Russian epics
as growing, they gain strength, the army is collected by the army. , marry, fight and die heroes of epics
Game: how to change a light bulb in a toilet
Can you negotiate with your neighbors in a communal apartment?
How to educate a postal pigeon
Instructions for a novice pigeoner
How to sell the serf
Instructions from the historian Igor Kurukin
How to protect yourself from the plague
Historian Olga Tom - about the precautions tested in the Middle Ages
how to write birch bark
Instructions from Ancient Russia
Seven tests for knowledge of everything
Test your knowledge of history, literature, painting, cinema and music
23 myths that annoy scientists
Battle of the Neva, the noxious West, "Luka Mudischev" and Dantes in bulletproof vest
Historian Nikolay Promyslov explains why the state creates the image of an enemy, how Napoleon made the Catalans, Castilians and Aragonese feel like Spaniards, and what is common between the Mamluks in a Goya painting and the Cossacks in French caricatures
From the end of the 15th century, the Spaniards were subjects of the Spanish king, but considered themselves primarily Catalans, Aragonese, Castilians, and so on.
At the beginning of 1808, the old King Charles IV was in endless negotiations with Napoleon and at the same time fought with his own heir Ferdinand, constantly inviting Napoleon to the role of arbitrator. In the spring, the French peacefully entered Madrid in order to install Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, on the Spanish throne. The Spanish troops did not understand what to do. Both Charles IV and Ferdinand ended up on French territory, in Bayonne. The French, on the other hand, began to behave like invaders towards the local population. On May 2, 1808, the people in Madrid revolted. Some parts of the local garrison joined him, street fighting began. Joachim Murat, who commanded the French troops, was a professional military man, he had skilled generals (in particular, General Emmanuel Grouchy, who commanded the cavalry, had repeatedly suppressed various popular uprisings in France and Italy). Therefore, the uprising was suppressed very quickly and very harshly, despite the fact that Grushy himself later wrote: "Of course, we ourselves are to blame for the fact that this uprising arose." The city was again in the hands of the French.
But the rebellion, and especially the brutality with which it was put down, had unexpected consequences. Actions began in the provinces, juntas began to gather Junta - in Spain at that time an assembly, association, union., who declared that they would not recognize any Bonapartes as their royal dynasty. An armed struggle began. Napoleon almost won a victory in it, but in 1809 Wellington sailed to Portugal and began to act. Gradually, the British, together with the Spanish troops, began to retake the Iberian Peninsula, and in 1813 the French were expelled from it, and in 1814, British troops under the leadership of Wellington entered the territory of France and moved far to the north, towards Paris.
From the point of view of the Spaniards, it turned out that the Spanish people resisted the enemy and - with English help, but nevertheless - defended their independence. Moreover, it was the Spanish people, without a monarch: Charles IV himself abdicated and gave the crown to Joseph Bonaparte, who came to his land with a weapon in his hands, that is, in general, he betrayed his country. Back in 1812, in the city of Cadiz, free from the French, the Spaniards, without any king, adopted their first constitution, which introduced a constitutional monarchy in the country.
In France, the phrase "French nation" has been found in texts since at least the 16th century, but as a result of the same wars - the revolution and Napoleon - the French began to feel their solidity much more strongly. Here, an important factor was the introduction during the revolution of universal military service in August 1793.
Before that, in European countries, the army was either hired or, as in the Russian Empire, recruited. Recruitment is, in fact, for life: a person left and disappeared forever from the life of his community. Now, in France, they began to serve in the army for a relatively short time: from three to five years. A person leaves for five years, and then returns after seeing the world; during this time, soldiers from different provinces inevitably develop a common language and common cultural values, which they then carry home. Thus, in France, the broadcast of certain unified This is what made the return of the Bonaparte dynasty possible in 1848: the soldier who went on the attack with Napoleon, upon returning, will be faithful to him and will raise his children in the same way ..
These attitudes include the new idea of the supreme sovereignty of the nation: if earlier the “French nation” consisted of the subjects of the French king, now it itself has become the main and, in fact, the only source of power, it has begun to consider itself a more important entity than the monarch. Therefore, Napoleon held a plebiscite, albeit a formal one. The referendum that made Napoleon emperor from consul for life took place in November 1804: he bore the title "Emperor of the French" - formally with the consent of the whole nation. And therefore, when Louis XVIII returned to the throne, Louis XVIII arrived in Paris on May 3, 1814, he quickly realized that he could not help giving France a parliament and a constitution. And no matter how later he and Ferdinand VII tried to liquidate this representative body, they did not succeed.
The same thing happened at that time on the entire European continent, and almost everywhere it was the Napoleonic Wars that became an important milestone for this movement. After all, what is a nation? A certain community that separates itself from others. War is a very convenient moment for such a branch.
This national unity has always gone its own way. Thus, the idea of creating a unified state in Italy is attributed to Napoleon himself: before him, there had been no single Italian kingdom on the map since the time of Charlemagne.
Another example is the Czechs, who lived for centuries under the rule of the Habsburgs, maintaining either more or less autonomy. There were a very large number of Germans in this territory, the entire so-called Czech aristocracy consisted of people who bore German surnames. At the end of the 18th - the first half of the 19th century, the idea of the Czech nation, which opposes the Germans, appeared there for the first time.
If nation building occurs during wars, one convenient way to separate yourself from others is to develop a stable image of the enemy. In many countries at the beginning of the 19th century, the French became such an enemy.
In conquered territories, every soldier needs food and a roof to sleep under. During the Napoleonic Wars in the French army, everyone except the high command was forbidden to put up tents: they must be put up, stretched out, then assembled. It takes time. At the same time, the French fought mainly in Europe, and there, as the command reasoned, there was usually where to stay, since these are very densely populated territories. But in reality, everything began to happen a little differently. During the Napoleonic period, the French troops were no longer too religious. XVIII century, revolution - in general, respect for religion has fallen, and this has affected even the very bottom of society. And military units, entering a village or city, began to stop for the night in a church, since this is usually a large building, many people fit there, and in the event of an enemy attack, it also serves as a fortification.
If the army did not have enough food, theft began. Of course, mostly the local population was robbed. According to the military code of the Napoleonic army, theft from the local population was the easiest kind of theft, which was usually not paid attention to: the commanders believed that if they could not feed the soldiers, they should not interfere with their search for food. But there was also internal theft. During the war, a horse is a very valuable asset in the army: it will save and bring food and ammunition. Therefore, the French protected their horses. And horses also began to be brought to churches for the night.
This happened both in Spain and in Russia in 1812. In Russia, moreover, settlements are rare and small. Wooden buildings that did not die during the fighting were dismantled for fires, and only stone buildings were left for the soldiers to spend the night, and these were most often the same churches. Seeing this, the people naturally felt offended. A horse in a temple is a common folklore motif: infidels will come and put horses in a temple. In Spain and Russia, where the people were very religious, the horse in the temple was a sign that the Antichrist had come, and you can fight the Antichrist by any means.
Of course, it is better to represent an enemy who threatens the very existence of your state, and even an atheist, as alien as possible. In the visual arts, this task was hampered by the fact that outwardly the French soldiers did not differ much from all the others: of course, the regular troops in Europe had different uniforms, but in general it was possible to distinguish one from the other only by color. Even bearskin hats, which were first worn by the French generals, eventually began to be used by the British. Therefore, they tried to make someone who also differs in appearance as the personification of the enemy. In Spain, one Mamluk squadron turned up very successfully for this - literally a few people who were among the French troops who occupied Madrid. The Mamluks look different, besides, they are Muslims, with whom the Spaniards have been at war since the Reconquista Reconquista - lasting 800 years (from the 8th to the 15th centuries) the reconquest by the Christian Pyrenean states of their lands captured by the Arabs ..
In addition, the Spaniards, like all other emerging nations, experienced in the 19th century a special interest in their own (though very idealized) medieval history. Thanks to this interest in their own past, during this period, scholars begin to publish numerous historical sources and medieval literature recorded on national languages (as opposed to Latin), collect folklore and objects of material culture, compile dictionaries of folk languages, and so on. the idea of “us” and “them” did not exist at all, the overlord in each case decided for himself which side to take). The same was true of the Reconquista in Spain. So the Mamluk squadron came in very handy here: the uprising on May 2 in Madrid could be portrayed not only as a struggle against an external conqueror, but also as resistance to the eternal enemy of the Christian faith.
The French were also looking for a way to make their enemies look as less like themselves as possible. Therefore, the image of Russians in the form of bearded Cossacks became widespread. And this image remained relevant in Europe until the First World War. This is especially typical for cartoons, and a bear often appeared next to the Cossack. The fact is that at the beginning of the 19th century, the Cossacks were supposed to have a uniform that was different from the uniform of other cavalrymen, but in reality it was never enough. Therefore, they walked in their clothes - unified, but completely different from the military uniform, as the French imagined it. And who fights without a uniform? Only savages.
Nikolai Promyslov — Candidate of Historical Sciences, researcher at the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the International Napoleonic Society. Engaged in the history of the Napoleonic Wars and the mutual ideas of peoples about each other.
19th century Expert France Spain
Fulcrum Podcast Why is love stronger than death?
Culturologist Anna Shmaina-Velikanova continues her story about what the authors of the biblical books thought about death, love, suffering and other things that worry us today. In the third edition - the most loving book of the Bible, Song of Songs
Do you want to know everything?
Subscribe to our newsletter, you'll love it. We promise to write rarely and in the case of
Read by Ilya Doronchenkov
How an artist rose on the wave of patriotism and created a standard of civic valor
“Medusa raft” Theodora Gerico
as sensational shipwreck, overpricated by political and universal meanings
, Ilya Dorongchenkov
as a sensational shipwreck has risen by political and general human meanings
“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix
How abstract freedom was embodied in a living half-naked beauty
Reading by Ilya Doronchenkov
As an abstract freedom embodied in a living half -naked beauty
“The execution of the rebels” Francisco Goya
as an artist stopped a moment in front of the execution and made a historical event
reads Ilya Dorongchenkov
as the artist stopped the moment before the execution and made a historical event out of the dying cry
“Ages of Life” by Caspar David Friedrich
As a melancholic nature broke into a differential of
, Ilya Dorongchenkov
as a melancholic nature broke into an omnipit
“Morning of the Streletsa execution” Vasily Surikov
as an artist wrote the main tragedy of history, divided the people and the state and became Russian pride
Reads by Ilya Doronchenkov
How an artist wrote the main tragedy of history, divided the people and the state and became Russian pride
“The funeral in Ornan” by Gustava Kurba
as Parisians, the province was shocked by the unknown, immense and not -painted
Reads Ilya Dorongchenkov
as Parisians, unknown, immense and not -painted
The Bar at the Folies Bergère by Edouard Manet
How to break the laws of space, turn a girl into a commodity and teach everyone to love modernity
Reading by Ilya Doronchenkov
How to break the laws of space, turn a girl into a commodity and teach everyone to love modernity
Do you know 19th century painting?
A simple test according to the course of Ilya Doronchenkov
Ilya Doronchenkov: “Artists are an order that understands each other”
What computer art history can do
Remove an extra Apollo from a picture and recognize Van Gogh by a brushstroke
The artist David is an inventor0004
Where are the upraised hands in the painting “The Oath of the Horatii”
How the sleep of reason began to give birth to monsters
Gloomy Goya has re -sounded a cozy genre of Capriccho
“Funny in Ornan”: who are all these people
Interactive scheme of the picture Kurba
as Napoleon, the nation of Europe
Historian - on the emergence of nationalism, the image of the enemy, mamluks and Cossacks
All the isms of the 19th century
Painting trends from classicism to post-impressionism
Alternate History of 19th Century Paintings
Eight Very Strange Paintings
Burning Art Director enemies of the people
Patriotism according to Jacques Louis David
“They won’t force me do something
Confessions of David's uppity
The Louvre in 554 seconds
Heroes of Godard, Bertolucci and other participants in the museum run
What did not get into the picture of classical history of David as a sample of Roman patriotism
The death of "Medusa" in numbers
Human lives standing behind the picture of Gerico
As a Parisian salon performed the fate of artists
scandals, intrigue and invention of entrance for input
goddess of freedom
History of the actress, which became the symbol of the French Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830 in ten scenes
The story of the Three Glorious Days
Where is Delacroix?
Game: find young Eugene among the characters of the Raft of the Medusa
Goya's life in self-portraits
From court painter to elderly emigrant
How to get rid of melancholy
Medical advice from 1621
The rules of life of a German romantic
Romantic friendship German artist with a Russian poet
Zhukovsky and Friedrich
Tracks that could be in the player of Byron and Hoffmann
Why love Surikov?
explains the art critic Galina Elshevskaya
What prevented Surikova from writing a normal picture of
How the housing question ruined the “Morning of the Streletsky Execution”
Russian riot in 18 paintings
Uprising of Pugachev, Khovanshchina and other bloody events of Russian history
“My God, my God, my God. how ugly!”
Shocked critics about Gustave Courbet
Funeral at Ornans among the largest paintings in the world
How to be modern
What to do in order not to lose the feeling of fantastic life: Baudelaire's advice
Which is right, Monet or Manet?
Confusion, scandal, search for money: details of the relationship of homophone artists
How to become an art historian
Eight books, without which it is unthinkable to study art history
Semiotics of the revolution
Dictionary of rebellious symbols: from the rooster to the Marseillaise
"Beloved of my soul"
...": five letters of Goya
Five letters from Goya to a childhood friend in love with him
"Black painting" from the House of the Deaf
The history of Goya's most unusual paintings
Prostitutes, cats and grandfather Durov
What to do in Folies Bergère if you are Manet or Zola
Find ten differences
Cannibalism, mourning and other approaches for The Raft of the Medusa
Genesis of the painting by Géricault
Hands, heads and other waste of the artist's work
Sketches for The Raft of the Medusa
Childhood, adolescence, adolescence
Picturesque subject "The Ages of Life": Friedrich and beyond
From Delacroix to the "Motherland"
Infographics: a journey from a female warrior through an image art
What should I do to avoid losing my subscription after Visa and Mastercard leave Russia? Instructions here
Nation and morality - Alexey Aleksenko - Science and technology - Site materials - Snob
Postmodernism is over, playful headlines no longer work. Let's get back to straightforward seriousness: the title of this article, in our humble opinion, worthily continues the tradition established by Triumph of the Will and My Struggle. The topic, in general, is also close ... however, let's move on to the point rather.
The question we are about to discuss here may seem banal to some. It can be formulated, for example, as follows: “Why are the so-called “braces” always national?” Someone here will not even see the question: for them it seems natural that morality is when people stick to their roots, and to break away from the roots, on the contrary, is immoral.
But if you think about it, it's not at all obvious. After all, someone could have said this: “We here in Russia are mired in liberal depravity, but let's take an example from Ireland, where a woman cannot just go and have an abortion without permission! Let's discard the Russian tradition of atheism and live like in America, where 90% of the population goes to church every Sunday! Or let's forget our roots and live like in Denmark: it's impossible to buy contraceptive pills without a prescription in a pharmacy, and divorce is such a complicated procedure that it's easier to spit and die in hateful monogamy. Let's discard our national custom of permissiveness and debauchery, let's stick to foreign models of spirituality and chastity! No, no one in the whole world says that for some reason, and this is an interesting phenomenon worthy of the attention of scientists.
And scientists really paid attention to it.
About fat men and trolleys
Surely you know this problem: you stand on the bridge and watch how a heavily loaded trolley rushes along the rails below, breaking away from the train. Five children are playing on the rails. Even if you jump under the wheels, you won't be able to stop the cart with your weight. But next to you on the bridge there is a fat man, his weight would definitely be enough ... Maybe push him under the wheels? Is the life of a fat man worth five children's lives?
Psychologists have been playing this cruel game for quite some time now, asking similar questions to various subjects. Some, turning pale, doom the fat man to death. But most of the subjects usually believe that it is unacceptable to dispose of someone else's life - it does not matter, one or hundreds, and let everything go as it goes.
Curiously, people respond differently to variations on this task. For example, those who are not ready to push a fat man under the wheels with their own hands often do not mind turning the switch on the tracks if the fat man - or even a child, but only one - is on a siding. For some reason, managing other people's lives with the help of a railway switch is not as scary as doing it directly, feeling the last warmth of a doomed body under your hands.
There are many variations of the trolley problem. This type of moral dilemma so fascinates the public that there is even a Facebook community where more and more heartbreaking memes with wagons, rails and arrows regularly appear. Familiarize yourself at your leisure with the fruits of these fantasies. Here is just one example:
Psychologists do not play these games for fun (although, actually, who knows...). They claim that in this way they can penetrate into the essence of the mysterious matter of "morality", namely, into that part of it that opposes reason. Reason tells me that it would be better for one person to die than five, and if something depends on me here, I must make just such a decision. Morality replies that it is immoral in itself to listen to the voice of reason in such matters. “Listen only to me,” says morality. "And why?" - "But for no reason."
I wonder how she herself knows what to tell us in such difficult situations?
On the dangers of foreign languages
Albert Costa of Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona was far from the first psychologist to offer subjects a solution to the trolley problem. In his experiments in 2014, this problem was formulated in the very simple version with which we began our article: to take the life of an innocent fat man of your own free will, or by inaction to cause death to five who, through no fault of yours, ended up on the path of the car?
Costa's experience was unusual in another way: the native language of his subjects was either English or Spanish. At the same time, they were fluent in another language - Spanish or English, respectively. And the problem of the trolley was put before them either in one or another language.
It would seem, what's the difference? If a person understands the language enough to realize that five is more than one, and the decision must be made immediately - what is the problem that the conversation is not in their native language? It turned out there was a problem. In their native English, less than 1/5 of the English-speaking subjects preferred to push the fat man onto the rails. And when the task was set in someone else's, learned Spanish, the “utilitarian” choice (to save more lives) was made by a good half.
And this is not because Spanish grammar somehow disposes to rational callousness: exactly the same ratio was among the "Spaniards", but, on the contrary, it was a foreign English language that prompted them to act "utilitarian". In their native Spanish, they preferred to follow the dictates of emotions: "not to play God" and let the situation take its course.
Even nicer is the experience of Janet Geipel and her colleagues from Italy. These psychologists decided to do without trolleys, dying children and fat people. The tasks offered to the subjects were much more perverse and Jesuit in nature. They were told stories of a completely innocent nature, in which no one harmed anyone.
For example, a story about an owner whose dog, unfortunately, died under a car. The heartbroken owner brought the still-warm body of the dog home, butchered it, cooked it, and ate it.
Or another story: about twins, a boy and a girl who loved each other very much and had sex tirelessly, taking every precaution.
It can be assumed that after these two paragraphs, our readers still felt something tremble, something unpleasantly rolled up their throats. Unless, of course, our reader is a Martian who has flown in to study human culture by immersion. For a Martian, there will be no problems: well, he ate a dog, so what? You can have a cow or a chicken, but not a dog? Sexual love between twins - what's wrong with it? Inbreeding, risk of defective offspring? But they told you - the guys were protected.
Janet's subjects were not Martians, but some of them listened to these stories in their native Italian, and some in someone else's English. And those who heard the stories in a foreign language treated them a little Martian: “Just think, brother and sister!” (in fact, Janet asked the guys to give moral assessments to what they heard, and in this group the assessments were restrained). But those who were overtaken by the news of the eaten beloved Bug in their native Italian felt exactly what our esteemed reader feels. Their assessment was categorical: "Fu, an abomination !!!"
This fall, Janet and her colleagues published a follow-up to that work. From nauseating perversions, this time they moved on to more realistic plots. In a new batch of stories, it turned out that either good intentions led to bad consequences (an old woman gives a homeless man a new warm coat, and on the same night his companions beat him to death to get an expensive thing), or, on the contrary, from dishonest intent, a good outcome (a family adopts a disabled child in order to receive state benefits). And again, two languages and a question to the subjects: is this act good or bad “from a moral point of view”? For non-native speakers, everything was simple: an action must be judged by its result, because an action does not have any properties other than the result. And the carriers again got confused: it doesn’t matter, they say, what came of it, what matters is a good intention. Who cares?! Why is it important? No answer. ..
Rodion Raskolnikov and the Russian Cossacks
The bottom line is that morality is really connected with “roots” and “soil”, and not at all because some people dressed as Cossacks like both.
There are many ways to explain all this. It is possible with a slight Freudian accent: in our native language, they say, we keep early childhood impressions about our own Wishlist and the taboos imposed on them, about mother's shouts and praises - that's the whole morality. You can also give Jung his due, referring to the collective unconscious, non-rationalized experience of generations. It is not for us, the ignorant, to practice in such formulations, and that is not why we started talking about these matters.
No matter how you explain it, the fact remains: if we didn't have a native language, ethnicity, background, homeland, roots, and similar attributes, our ethics would be much simpler and clearer. Make it so that the result is better than it was - the rest can be deduced logically. Someone (and probably the author among them) will say that this is actually ethics, and the attitude not to eat your favorite dog is more of an aesthetic (if for some reason you decide to do without the word "religion") . But the point is not where you personally draw the line between ethics and aesthetics, but where most people draw the line between "good" and "bad."
And this majority usually finds it bad to kill an old pawnbroker with an axe, period. And with a rational approach, as we remember from the classics, this problem turned out to be much more difficult.
Only one question remains: what to do with the rootless cosmopolitans? Are they doomed to the loss of moral foundations? No, they're all right. There was another interesting point in Costa's experiments: he compared the ethical judgments of the Spaniards, who spoke English to varying degrees. It turned out that the better the language proficiency, the smaller the difference between the moral assessments given in this language and in the native language.