Pitfalls of being pragmatic

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-21 19:23:01

One word that is sometimes used to describe Chinese people is "pragmatic."

This refers to the trait of choosing the option that is practical or advantageous for any situation or problem, rather than be guided by set rules or ideals. I think in many aspects such as making decisions, day-to-day behavior or even the nation's international relations, there's a strong sense of pragmatism. This does have benefits such as flexibility. On the other hand, it also brings about negatives.

First, take the issue of how people often treat each other in society. From dishonest housing agents to people selling food made with dirty oil, one can always experience unscrupulous behavior regularly, maybe daily.

Yet many of these same people often treat their family and friends very well. What it comes down to is pragmatism - help your own kin and friends, be subservient to your bosses or superiors, but don't waste an ounce of consideration for strangers.

Even love isn't immune. There's a prevailing notion that having loads of money is a key factor for a lot of girls looking for a mate, as well as owning a house and a car. There's even a well-known term to describe the desired man - gaofushuai or tall, rich and handsome. There was a famous example a few years ago when a girl on a dating show proclaimed she'd rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle, indicating her preference for an unhappy relationship with a rich man than a happy one with a poor man. Of course, this is materialistic and superficial. However, it stems from a pragmatic reason - in a competitive society where social resources (urban housing, good health care) are scarce or expensive, women need men who can easily provide for them and their offspring.

This can definitely be seen with arranged marriages, still common in many places, that try to pair up men and women whose family backgrounds, education and job status match well. Whatever the scenario, the prioritization of practicality over romanticism leads to a lot of unhappy relationships or worse, the lack of relationships when people can't find anyone "worthy" enough.

Being pragmatic is not always a bad thing but perhaps it's time to reconsider its merits. We could do with a lot less pragmatism in a lot of areas.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion

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