Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Ending irrational acts in society

By Wang Liemin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-16 08:07

Efforts should be pushed forward on income distribution reform to reduce social discontent caused by the wealth gap

At a panel discussion of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, in March, a deputy expressed concerns over the severity of yinao, a term to describe disputes, sometimes violent ones, between patients and medical staff.

In response to such concerns, the State Council made a special revision to the Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang to the session, adding to it such words as "efforts will be made to build a harmonious doctor-patient relationship". However, a week after the closing of the session, a knife-carrying cancer patient burst into a hospital in Shanghai where he was being treated and wounded one doctor and two nurses. This violent event once again highlighted the need to stop the escalation of disputes between doctors and patients in recent years.

As a matter of fact, the occurrence of endless yinao events is only a result of the "irrational behavior" that has been on the rise and spreading throughout the country. Dominated by a lack of reason, it is not rare for us to see the escalation of minor disputes into big ones, such as a fierce quarrel between two commuters arising from their scramble for a seat, a row and even a fight between two drivers after a minor traffic accident, and even deaths triggered by a trivial neighborhood quarrel. In July 2013, a 45-year-old cerebral thrombosis patient in Heilongjiang province set fire to a local carehome for the elderly where he lived just because he suspected a roommate stole 200 yuan ($32) from him. Eleven people died in the fire and another two were injured. Many disputes in recent years could have been resolved through normal means if the parties concerned had exercised self-restraint.

The spreading of such contagious reason-lacking sentiment poses a serious threat to the normal social order and has also caused public panic. It has become a consensus that any extremist individual behavior should be severely punished according to law. However, while meting out punishments to those who violate the law, we also need to reflect on why some people have become so irrational and so lacking in self-restraint.

To check and eradicate the irrational behavior that is now prevalent in society, the government should push forward reform of the income distribution system in a bid to reduce the gap between the rich and poor. According to studies, the wider a country's wealth gap is, the stronger the sense of inequality and discontent among the disadvantaged. With social, political and economic development, there will naturally be ever-growing political demands and expectations.

In China, there is a millenniums-old psychology that people do not worry about poverty, but rather about the uneven distribution of wealth. In today's society where the wealth gap has been widening, the sense of anger among the disadvantaged toward the uneven wealth distribution could easily escalate into a deeper hatred toward the whole of society.

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