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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

De-deification of Lei Feng will promote his appeal

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

10:09, February 27, 2012

As Lei Feng Day on March 5 draws closer, debate over the significance of the iconic figure becomes fiercer. A PLA solider who died in 1962 at the age of 22, Lei was remembered for decades as a role model for his selfless attitude, patriotism, and modesty. But currently widely circulated photos online of Lei in his actual daily life might change people's previous impressions of him.

The photos, which showed Lei in fashionable outfits, sporting a trendy hairstyle and riding a motorcycle, demonstrate a different look than the image remembered for decades. In the past, the public only saw pictures of him helping others, working hard or living plainly, showing his positive side as a moral model. His sudden appearance as a fashionable and romantic youth challenges that image. Should a model like him also follow the fashion?

Going against tradition seems to have been the least acceptable trait of any role model in the past. They should hold the highest moral standards, many times, in the most unbelievable way.

Among role models, many have been hyped for their pursuit of the public good at the expense of sacrificing private life, taking extra work shifts for an important project, neglecting a sick family member, and so on. Role models were also usually depicted as overly self-controlled and lofty to the extent of being like gods.

Qiu Shaoyun, a Chinese solider who died in the Korean War (1950-53) in the 1950s, Lei Feng in the 1960s and Lai Ning, a middle-school student who sacrificed his life fighting a fire in the 1980s, all fall into this category. There is too much emphasis on their selflessness and devotion, but little reference to them as human beings with their own feelings.

But a multidimensional Lei Feng shown in this way can help people, particularly the younger generation, understand the real Lei as a human being of blood and flesh and hence draw moral power from him.

Nowadays, values are becoming more diverse in China, and so are the targets of adoration. Many worry about declining morality and call for the power of moral role models. But it is no longer that easy to build an icon who can be adored by all. And role models that were depicted as larger than life in the past are fading and even being thrown into oblivion as time passes.

People need to be more in touch with their role models to be affected. For example, compared to social elites and stars, many people find more resonance with grass-roots celebrities like Zhu Zhiwen, a farmer who became famous nationwide for his vocal gifts.

In this sense, the "de-deification" of Lei Feng may do more to enhance the Lei Feng Spirit.


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