Money First

          Because I was born in a developing country, the People’s Republic of China, I was taught the aphorism, “落后就要挨打”, meaning the laggard gets bullied, so I learned how to arm myself with knowledge, money and social skills. But in the U.S., schools teach kids respect, love, cultural diversity and all other moral virtues. In the classroom, students are encouraged to show their personal potentials and talents, embracing the uniqueness of individual, just like in the Renaissance, when people studied humanism, paying particular attention on individualism, including discussing personalities, developing personal genius and achieving personal virtuousness (McKay, 413-414). In the book, Humanists and Reformers, Bard Thompson points out that “with the Renaissance, came an increased sense of individuality and a celebration of uniqueness and individual self-determination” (Thompson, 2). Humanism focuses on the individuality of human beings, celebrates cultural and academic diversity and uniqueness. I do agree that humanism is cherished by human beings, but how are the people who struggle for warmth and yield from the harvest able to have the desire to achieve personal morality and prominence? Humans must learn to survive before aspiring to humanism.

As I travel between mainland China and the United States, I find an economic pattern that seems to directly influence the moral civilization, particularly in the level of cultural diversity and individuality. In the past century, mainland China has suffered from crises including multiple revolutions and party turmoil, and the government during the warfare was dictatorial. But as the Chinese economy recovers from the crises, Chinese people have become open minded and shifted the focus of education from survival to the development of personal interests and genius. The society has begun to encourage diverse voices and ideas. I find humanism only emerges under a thriving economic environment.

The Renaissance followed this pattern as well – economis success first, studies in the humanities second. Florence, the culture center of Renaissance, must have achieved great economic success (McKay, 408). Julie Sikkink, a faculty member of history department in Oregon Episcopal School, explained to me that secular humanists originated in the wealthy society,

Late Medieval trade Route

especially in cities like Florence and Venice. She insisted that it was the prosperous Florentine economy caused Florentine to pursue individual talents and political power, and eventually devised Humanism (Sikkink). She convinced me that, “Italy, in the start of the Renaissance, became wealthy from trading,” and then “when people are not only interested in survival, they wanted to pursue culture.”

Italy’s geographic position seemed to be the key to its economic success. Locating at the intersection between East and West Europe, North and South Europe, Italy links together Byzantium and the Arab world. Florence initially imported luxuries from Levant, Arab. But by the end of fourteenth century, it began to export its own designed luxuries, including silk, ceramics, soap and glass, back to Levant and the rest of the Europe (Goldthwaite, 30-31). The important geographic advantage provided Italy the early opportunity to recover from trough in the late medieval world.

GDP per capita of Chinese provinces

Based on my knowledge, geographic advantage is usually the key to the cultural development, especially in a developing country like China. Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, three biggest and most international cities in mainland China, all locate close to the east coast and enjoy the advantage of trading. They are the centers of modern Chinese culture, latest science technology, and politics. But in the west and central China, somewhere hidden in the bleak mountain regions, people are ignorant, their communication with the outside world is limited, and corrupt customs, like male chauvinism and “pig cage drown (Jin ZhuLong)” were remained. Every time I saw news about the lives of people in extreme poverty, I could not help myself from meditating on the conflict between poverty and humanism, and ways to solve the problem. I remember one time after watching Touching China together, my father sighed, “humanism might help, but it does not solve the problems caused by poverty. It can change some people’s lives but does not change a society.”

Works Cited

McKay, John. A History of Western Society. 9th. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.

Sikkink, Julie. Personal Interview. 2.2.2012.

Thompson, Bard. Humanists and Reformers, A History of the Renaissance and Reformation. Grand Rapids: Wm.B.Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1996. eBook.

Goldthwaite, Richard. The economy of Renaissance Florence. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. eBook.

Image URL

Late Medieval Trade Route –

GDP per capita of Chinese Provinces 2010 –



  1. harry242424

    It was a good insite to hear your own personal stories and opinions on both your Chinese and American cultures. If you had to choose strictly one or the other, which do you think would be the best for you and for the best of the world to adopt and become more like?

    • avaz121

      Still, i will insist my opinion: Money First, Education Second. Undeveloped regions must focus on keeping people alive, and after the living condition reaches the basic line, education is the key to improve cultural diversity and economic development. Thus, China is on its way becoming a country like America. In fact, it is a way that every country has walked or is walking on.

  2. amandagowithit

    I do like what you had to say about people thrive off of economy, and I, in someways believe the same thing. I’m still confused in reading in some comments from before, how do you earn money if there was no prior education? In some cases, like I’ve heard in China that the education doesn’t seem as fair, since they do take bribes? Or at least my parents do tell me that, so that could be somewhat what you are referring to? So beliefs could have been developed off that idea?

    • avaz121

      By saying “education second”, I meant “Studies of Humanism”, not education in a regular sense. Indeed, there are some bribes in Chinese education, and they are mainly due to the stress caused by the competition in the society. Schools want money and parents want kids to receive the best education, hence there are bribes.
      China certainly is taking time to reconstruct the society with strong sense of morality and Humanism. But I hope that day is not too far.

  3. kristin888

    This is a very intriguing post and it was nice to learn about your opinions on the effect of the economy on education. You said you pondered about the conflict between poverty and humanism; what ideas did you come up with regarding this problem?

    • avaz121

      As my father signed, “humanism might help, but it does not solve the problems caused by poverty. It can change some people’s lives but does not change a society.” In my understanding, humanism is a bonus on an acceptable economy situation. Studies of Humanism enrich the moralities of people, so that the society ascends to a higher level where there cultures are diverse and personal thoughts are encouraged. However, Humanism cannot solve the problems caused by poverty. Under poverty, people need to learn how to make money through receiving education before discussing Humanism.

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