I have never been a believer in any religion — but that’s because I’m happily neutral, religion-wise. Chez moi, I don’t approve of, oppose, support, or otherwise get involved with religion.
But I have this thing about people who start abusing a religion trying to make money. As of late I have been keeping my 101 kilometres away from two Starbucks in town: that at Tower III, World Trade Centre, and, beginning today, the one at Shin Kong Plaza. (The latter one is a riot: My wife and I nearly fell over when they started testing a new type of “outdoor sofa”, if we’re to put it this way.)
In Chinese, there’s a proverb that makes you look like you’ve done nothing bad — when you’re the thief yourself. The story goes that this guy was envious of his neighbour, so he nicked 300 taels of silver. Just to “make sure” the neighbour didn’t get suspicious, he erected a sign — “Under this plot of land there are no 300 taels of silver” (此地無銀三百兩).
That’s like the perfect give-away!
In both cases, we’ve seen shanzhai Buddhist monks wearing a standard grey dress with the Zen / Chan character at the back. The kind you see at temples for real believers. Guy comes with this kind of Buddhist ornament and starts peddling his wares.
There’s a city law in Beijing banning unauthorised business practices without a permit. This guy never got himself the permit. Either he is trying to sell us suspect commodities or he is offering suspect services (“May I read your palm? I think you’re rich!”, goes the one at the World Trade Centre).
The worst thing about the whole phenomenon is that fake monks trying to sell you shanzhai goods are the least of your worries. I’ve heard worse horror stories. There are people who go to temples during the day time, then head straight into the nightclubs by midnight, doing all kinds of horrible — and certainly unethical — stuff. These are “devout followers” by day, and “devout abusers” by night.
If Guo Meimei has ruined China’s Red Cross foundation, these sham monks are doing exactly the same to Buddhism. I don’t know what the religion exactly stands for, but I’m sure they can’t stand for evil. If China was trying to “save itself” via Buddhism, these sham monks are doing all they can to make Chinese view Buddhism the same way as they view the Chinese Red Cross. In a country where “alternative cults” are banned, religion is severely limited, and freedoms of conscience come with strings attached, the population is left to worshipping nothing — except for money.
When we get greedy — when 1.3 billion get greedy at the same time, all of a sudden — the end is that a nation of 5,000 years and counting will finally meet its makers. (It’ll also get the rest of the planet in a bit of a worry.)
Socialist indoctrination has not worked in China — there is a very visible and sizeable part of the population of people who have deep-seated doubts about what the 7 PM propaganda news show is trying to convince us “is the truth”. When religion and basic morals give way to nothing but money worship — that’s when we’re in real danger.