CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


Introducing 'The Little Critic' | China Heritage Quarterly

Introducing 'The Little Critic'

The Little Critic column was launched with the publication of an editorial essay, which appeared in The China Critic, III:27 (3 July 1930): 636-637. It was signed L.Y.: Lin Yutang.—The Editor

In view of the fact that the world 'little' may give rise to various serious misapprehensions, we may say a few words here to remove them, in lieu of the formal foreword. It would seem that in the eyes of editors of the 'big' papers, they have a monopoly of all the serious topics of human affairs, from the London Naval Conference to the progress of Nationalism in China. When respectability must have a word to say about the summer weather or the importance of unity for China, they say it, and when somebody must offer reproductions of official war dispatches gratis, they offer them. In return for their services in reprinting and distributing official war news gratis, they are allowed the privilege to exist and render service to society by becoming a system of Want Ad. exchange. The price respectability pays for this strange privilege, however, is quite considerable. Mr Christopher Morley has shown in his delightful little book Where the Blue Begins that respectability always wears a dog-collar. The thing has gone so far now, that they have put a few censors to see that a few natural human barks issuing from the dog-collar be neither so loud as to disturb the extremely sensitive nerves of the censors' masters, nor should they take place when all villadom and officialdom are getting ready to sleep. The net result is, of course, extremely disgraceful. Such low, inaudible whining and wheedling is really unbecoming for grown-ups, and now they have lost even the capacity to pronounce a 'damn' as humanity ought to pronounce it. We do not mean to say that we are going to bark louder, but let us bark more humanely. After all a man can be quite a human being when he takes off his dog-collar and his stiff shirt, and comes back home sprawling on the hearth-rug with a real relief. In our un-buttoned moods shall we speak.

With the advent of the summer weather, all this talk about the dog-caller, both in the figurative and the literal sense, is becoming very real. He would be a rare bird indeed who did not utter a few curses while trying to put on a 'fourteen' collar with big drops of sweat coursing down his spine. One begins to develop real sympathy for the Chinese editors who must be suffering in spirit something very skin [sic: akin] to this. Is it not time that we learn something from the coolies? Must a man's bust be considered obscene and a secondary sex-appeal just because he makes over a hundred dollars per month, while those of the rickshaw coolie and laborer are considered socially presentable because they earn less than a hundred? There is no doubt that in this respect the foreign gentleman and the Chinese ladies are the worst victims of the dog-collar, while Chinese men and foreign ladies have won a measure of freedom for themselves. There is no sign whatever that our prim and priggish Shanghai Chinese missie is going to be sensible and let down her high and stiff dog-collar. Why all this talk about mankind having a proportionately so many times larger brain than the chimpanzee? I begin to see that Lord Balfour is right: the human mind, being a product of struggle for existence, is essentially a food-seeking system and no more necessarily a truth-finding apparatus than the snout of the pig. If mankind—and womankind, ever uses his or her brain, the occasion is rare indeed. The Arabian woman considers the upper part of her face presentable while the lower part is obscene, and now we have the Shanghai missie telling us that she has not enough courage to expose the lower part of her neck just because no other lady of her class does so! Well and good: why talk about the larger issues concerning the emancipation of women and other such rot?