I’m really not writing about traffic troubles. This is about a cultural orientation that affects all social behavior in the Far East. For all the talk about collectivist culture, the predominant public behavior is profoundly, and often illogically, self-absorbed. Collectivism is an imposed overlay in response to extreme individualism in the public arena.
Confucianism favors personal shame (face) over imposed law. Yet over the centuries, personal shame has proven to be a ‘short range’ social motivator, and not a ‘long range’ motivator. When China was essentially a country of small farming villages most of the population never ventured further than the next village, short range social forces served well.
However, it breaks down in the vast, impersonal society that is today’s China. The response has been to lay a collectivist doctrine over the whole society to compensate. It works to the extent that it can be enforced, and then it stops.
That’s the lesson I took from the traffic jam on Mid-Autumn Festival eve.