上海有什么好? – What’s good about Shanghai?

题记:此文写于2010年11月26日(如今时过境迁,随便吃喝之风受到了一定程度的抑制,特此说明),首发于《会飞的鱼的博客》。改定于2014年7月2日,改发于“微信公众号”《唐家弄潮儿》。

 

在合肥工作时的同事因孩子的事情专程到上海,几个熟识的朋友聚在了一起。老同事在单位担任一个部门的头儿,属于整天吃香的喝辣的那种。因为都是朋友,老同事说话也就口无遮拦了。几杯酒下肚,就抱怨起来:上海有什么好?光高楼大厦,中看不中用,房子又贵得要死,堵起车来寸步难行,想办个事儿一点也不方便,不像在合肥,可以随便找到关系和熟人,可谓呼风唤雨路路通。

 

老同事的感觉我很熟悉,曾经也差点沉湎于此,乐不思蜀了(当然,如今很庆幸及时挣脱了束缚)。接过老同事的话头,我谈了谈我的看法:算上读硕博的时间,到现在【指2010年】,在上海生活差不多有15年的时光了。我也曾经问过我自己,上海有什么好?而且,我也曾多次批评过这个城市,如有青春而无内涵,没有一家有影响力的报纸、杂志、电视台、电台,没有创造出一部让人印象深刻(更不要说激动人心了)的电影、电视剧、动漫、文学作品,除了复制以外就是复制,除了跟风以外就是跟风,整个城市都缺失想象力和创造力。对于个体来说,繁华的大都市上海只不过是一个符号而已。

 

虽然如此,可我不得不说,自己越来越喜欢上这座城市了(曾经考虑过到北京去工作,这个年龄还是有一点点“转会”资本的。呵呵。但2006年初在北京一个月的生活经历让我对北京的气候望而生畏,自此打消了此念头)。至于原因,可以用一句话来回答你——“在上海,你可以过你自己的日子”。

 

“在上海,你可以过你自己的日子”,可以从三层意思上来理解:一是如果你有点能力的话,上海的选择机会多,不管做什么,都能活下来;碰巧你的能力还不错,选择的时机也好,机缘凑巧的你可能还能活得很不错。

 

一次与朋友们也聊到“上海有什么好”这个话题时,他们都承认上海“最大的好”就在于它的包容性,尤其是土生土长的底层上海人虽然有点儿计划经济时代孕育的优越感,但他们还是很佩服有能力的人,更愿意接纳有能力的外来人。一批又一批新上海人在上海的各个阶层站稳了脚跟,就是一个明证,这与上海作为东方大都市的见多识广与崇洋却不媚外的文化有很大关系。

 

二是在上海,你过你自己的日子,没有人去管你,不管你的生活是奢华、平淡还是艰难,这是最重要、最核心的本质,这也是很多人到上海读书后就不愿意再回去工作的最主要原因。因为上海基本上成为了一个市场性社会,人与人的关系基本上都原子化了,不像在内地,受人情、功名困扰太多,活在别人的价值评判体系中太深太久;甚至不得不跟人比,比官位、比金钱、比房子、比门道、比孩子出息,就是不比内心心灵的宁静和生活的诗意。

 

内地小城上午上街头发生的事儿,一个中午就传遍了整个下街头,结果自然是满城风雨,虽然上海本地人也热衷于围观,喜欢轧闹猛,但那只是给琐屑的生活增添一丝丝调味品而已。一回到家,关起门来,就是生活自成一统,你想怎么过就怎么过,没人管你,更无须看别人眼色而活得太累。

 

三是上海有一个让你情不自禁地去热盼的本质东西,或者说是提升你平凡日子的品质的东西,这就是大都市所独具的浪漫气质和绝代风华。

 

尽管它离普通人的生活很远,但它时不时搅动你激发你内心深处的一种情怀,或许就是你周末去大剧院或音乐厅看一场歌舞剧,去博物馆近距离接触数千年来文明的流淌轨迹,发一发怀古之幽思;或许就是你偶尔去逛一次南京路和外滩,在滚滚人流中既感叹人生的渺小,又情不自禁地激发将这一切揽于手的雄心;或许就是你全家到红房子去吃一顿西餐,去新天地感受一下夜上海的风情;或许就是你转几道公交车与地铁,来回路上花去好几个小时,目的就是与从外地来的老朋友相会与聚餐,只为那片刻的欢愉......

 

沈从文先生落魄上海时的感言,可为此种情怀做一个完美的注脚:“都会中的女子,认了一点字,却只愿意生活是诗。”

 

或许,人就是在这种欲望挣扎与真实生活、外界喧嚣与内心悠然中来回穿梭,才把多梦多舛的一生过得丰富多彩而又变化万端的吧!

 

当然,上海作为曾经的“十里洋场”,以及各方人士汇聚的移民社会,又是冒险家、投机分子和骗子们的乐园,而市场性社会的本质也为这种乐园的构筑提供了权力—资本—媒体—骗子合谋的土壤。20世纪90年代中期以来上海文坛造就的千古罕见的文化骗子韩寒及其骗子集团,尽管面具已经被彻底撕下,却还能不时蹦跶着继续“风光”,就是这种“为求自保而撇清责任”的“和稀泥文化”的充分体现。自然,这是本人另外一篇“上海有什么不好”将要谈及的话题。

 

套用《北京人在纽约》中的一句经典台词,可以总结“上海有什么好”:如果你爱他/她,就把他/她送到上海,让他/她感受上海的多样性、丰富性与包容性;如果你恨他/她,也把他/她送到上海,让他/她体会上海的艰难性、复杂性与无奈性。

 

(作者系复旦大学国际关系与公共事务学院教授、博士生导师)

Preface:This article was written on November 26, 2010 (now, because of the passage of time, the practice of eating and drinking as one wishes has received a definite amount of suppression, as hereby explained) and was originally published in “The Blog of the Flying Fish”》. It was edited on July 2, 2014, and published in the Wechat public account《唐家弄潮儿》。

Some colleagues from my time working in Hefei came to Shanghai for some of their children’s activities. We were a bunch of good friends getting together. One of my coworkers served as the leader of a department. He was a bon vivant. Because we were all friends, he was just babbling on. After a few drinks he started complaining: What’s so good about Shanghai? Just a bunch of tall buildings that are impressive but useless. The houses are so expensive that you want to die. When there’s a traffic jam, you can’t move an inch. Doing anything is inconvenient, unlike in Hefei, where you can rely on relationships and people you know. It can even be said that one can use magical powers to do whatever one wants.

I was very familiar with my old colleague’s feelings. Once I was almost deeply immersed in them, feeling like I was indulging in pleasures and forgetting my duties(of course, now I’m glad I promptly broke free from those restrictions). Following on my old colleague’s topic, I gave my views: counting my time getting a master’s and PhD, until now (2010), I’ve lived in Shanghai for almost 15 years. I also once asked myself, what’s good about Shanghai? Also, I’ve criticized this city many times,as having youth but no meaning; as not having a single influential newspaper, magazine, TV station, radio station; as not creating a movie, TV series, cartoon, or literary work that had a deep impression on people (much less moved people emotionally). There was nothing except for copies and followers. The whole city was lacking in imagination and creativity. To the individual, the bustling metropolis of Shanghai was just a symbol, nothing more.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but say that I more and more liked to be in Shanghai(Once I thought of moving to Beijing to work. 这个年龄还是有一点点“转会”资本的。Hah. But at the beginning of 2006, having experienced Beijing for a month made me overwhelemed of Beijing’s climate. Since then, I’ve given up on that idea.). As for a reason, I can use one sentence to answer you: “In Shanghai, you can live your own life.”

“In Shanghai, you can live your own life.” You can understand that phrase from three levels. First, if you have some skills, you’ll have a lot of choices and opportunities in Shanghai. No matter what you do, you’ll survive. If it happens that your abilities are good, then your opportunities will also be good. Having opportunities and luck, you might be able to live very well.

Once when my friends and I were discussing what’s great about Shanghai, they all conceded that the best thing about Shanghai is its inclusiveness. Even though the native Shanghainese were full of feelings of superiority from the period of the planned economy, they still admired people with abilities. They are very willing to accept outsiders with skills. Wave after wave of new Shanghainese people, in every social class, found their footing. This was clear proof that there is a big connection between Shanghai’s status as a large, East Asian metropolis, full of experience and knowledge, and it’s culture of admiring foreign things without pandering to them.

Second, in Shanghai, you can live your own life, and no one will bother you. Regardless of whether your life is luxurious, ordinary, or difficult, this is the most important, most central quality. This is also the principal reason that many people are unwilling to go back to work after going to school in Shanghai. Because Shanghai basically turned into a marketplace society, relationships between people have basically become atomized. Unlike on the mainland, to receive friendship and recognition, the troubles are many. Living in the value-judgment system of others is too deep and long. You can’t help but compare your job, your money, your house, your skills, your children’s prospects. It’s just that you don’t compare the tranquility of your thoughts and feelings and the poetry of life.

In any small mainland town, if something happens in the morning on one street, by noon it has spread to the whole next street. This naturally results in a big scandal. Although native Shanghainese are fond of gathering around to see, and like to gather around and be lively, that’s only to add seasoning to a life of trivial things, nothing more. Once they return home and close their doors, their lives became self contained. You can live however you want to live. No one will bother you. And there’s no need to tire yourself by worrying about what others think.

Third, Shanghai has an essential item that you cannot help but long for. In other words, Shanghai will raise the quality of your a good you use every day. This is the unique romantic quality and peerless magnifacence of a large metropolis.

Even though it’s far from the lives of ordinary people, it sometimes stirs and arouses feelings deep in your heart. Maybe on the weekend you go to the theater or concert hall to see some music and dancing; or you go to a nearby museum to touch the flowing path of a culture of several thousands of years, and feel the meditations of nostalgia. Maybe you occasionally stroll down Nanjing Road or the Bund, and, in the rolling stream of people, lament the insignificance of a life, but also be unable to resist the ambition to seize everything in your hands. Maybe your family goes to the Red House to have a Western meal,or goes to Xintiandi to experience Shanghai at night. Or maybe you make transfers on the public buses and subway, and spend a few hours on your return trip, and then meet up with old friends from out of town for a meal, all for just a moment of happiness . . .

When Shen Congwen was down on his luck in Shanghai, he made a perfect observation about this kind of feeling: “The women of this city are barely literate, but they are only willing to live a life of poetry.”

Maybe people - in this life of desire, struggle, and reality – go back and forth between an outer world of noise and an inner world of peace, which allows them to take a life of dreams and misfortunes and live richly and transform in many ways!

Of course, the Shanghai of old was a bustling cosmopolitan city, and a society of immigrants where all types of people converged. It was also a paradise for adventurers, opportunists, and cheaters. The essence of the marketplace society helped build this paradise by providing power – and capital, and media – and soil on which to conspire. Since the mid-90s, Shanghai’s literary circles produced the rarely seen cultural cheater Han Han and the cheater’s group. Even though the mask has already been completely torn off, they still occasionally bounce around and be well regarded. It’s a full embodiment of a kind of culture that tries to smooth things over by defending oneself by disclaiming responsibility. Naturally, this is another topic I’ll discuss in the future regarding how there’s nothing bad about Shanghai.

You can sum up what’s good about Shanghai with a classic line from “Beijinger in New York”: If you love someone, send them to Shanghai. Let them feel Shanhai’s diversity, richness, and tolerance. If you hate someone, send them to Shanghai. Let them experience Shanghai’s challenges, complexity, and helplessness.

(The author is a Fudan University professor of international relations and public affairs, and a Ph.D. supervisor)

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A digest of online China – 22 Sep – 26 SepMarco Polo Project blogreply
November 11, 2014 at 11:14 am

[…] life in a first-tier city just a source of constant stress? Not so, says Tang Yalin in What’s good about Shanghai? , because ‘in Shanghai, you can live your own life.’ digest geopolitics […]

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August 3, 2018 at 4:45 am

Original translation by Margherita Perco

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