2021-06-19 14:06


Lying-downism, a New Trend Featuring Giving Up Went Viral

A new expression called lying-downism or went viral on Chinese social media including Weibo and Wechat. Lying down, as indicated through the words, resembles a status of lying on the bed and doing nothing. The phrase basically means a laissez-faire and low-desire attitude towards life and in some cases it involves just giving up on everything.

(An illustration about the relationship between lying down and free from exploitation)1*

To many, this can be seen as a latest response from or involutionwhich refers to a situation where competition under a certain topic gets fiercer but the payoff is decreasing. Many hold the belief that Now that I cant gain much from the struggle, why not just lie down and enjoy a life without fierce competition? 

However, not all people are satisfied with their answers. Weeks ago a hashtag called Tsinghua professor reckons that Lying downism is not a responsible attitude*2 has stirred heated discussion on Weibo and let more people know about this phenomenon.

(The original post about lying down, note that more than million people liked this post)

While the middle-aged and the senior believe that young people can only acquire experience through sometimes continuous hard struggle, they often neglect the time difference and that situation changes right now in this fast growing society. But this attitude is nothing new,actually, similar expressions and even philosophical theories have a long history.

The Origin of Lying Down

Not surprisingly, in terms of anything related to relax, we can always firstly refer to Laozi(). Indeed, two of the essential ideas from him arefollow what nature does and achieve good governance by doing nothing. Unlike those in his era(roughly 530 B.C.) who thought about pursuing fame, expanding the territory of their nations all day long, he led a plain and simple life. By living a life without fame and the financial pursuit, he got happiness and great wisdom from nature.

A comic illustration of Laozi on his mount, note that he wears a natural and cozy expression*3

In modern days, there are also examples from Japan, where economist  Kenichi Ohmae once put forward the concept called low desire society. In the book of the same name, he describes this phenomenon as: young people dont want to take risks, raise kids, lose the desire for consuming and struggling, which is very much similar to lying-downism. *4

When the economic bubble broke down in the late 1980s in Japan, it caused a series of social impacts and among which was little room for social mobility. When young people see little hope for a shift in social hierarchy or wealth, it wouldnt be surprising that they just give up.

(The book:How to Ignite the Low Desire Society by Kenichi Ohmae)

As one may see from these two examples, if we say that in ancient times avoiding competition was just an occasional behavior of several philosophers, in recent days it gradually became a common practice or at least a common hope for millions of youngsters to avoid fierce involution and find their true interests and happiness. But what really spikes this huge transformation in thoughts? Why does it only take a little more than a few decades to transform from If you struggle, you succeed to Lying down is our hope?

I kind of understand now but...

Why do you want to lie down?

To be honest, there are a great number of factors, directly or indirectly, that lead to this phenomenon. Ill pick up three of the major points to let you get a better understanding towards this topic.

We start with the instinct one. Why do I want to lie down? Its because I want to avoid involution. As is mentioned before, involution or is spreading across the major cities and affecting more and more major careers in China. Students and laborers rush to the fore to get the opportunity for better resources. On one hand, quality resources are limited but the number of applicants is rocketing. People gradually understand that however they struggle, the situation and standard of living wont improve a lot. So its fair to say that this is a rational choice, considering their payoff doesnt meet the expense of their labor.

If you come, well tutor your kid. If you dont, well tutor your kids competitors.

Oftentimes this decision is made because of others, your social relations and identities. You see, young people are not only themselves, they carry social expectations: they are expected to work hard, they are expected to stand out from others. Seldom have they wondered why they have to do so. They might be told that In order to achieve your value, in order to realize your dream, you must do this, you must do that... 

But after all, are these things exactly the same to what they actually have dreamed of? Ive seen countless examples, where young people struggle to achieve a certain goal. However, these are their dreams only because they suffer from something else or they might have regrets to someone else, in other words, these so-called dreams are a special kind of debt carried on their shoulders. They live, in fact most of us live under the social and cultural construct.

Yet, again lets go back to the original question, do young people actually lie down and do nothing? The answer might not be what youve thought: Actually no. They are still doing their work, probably 24/7; they are still struggling to pay the debt and they are still solving all the unexpected problems right now. Life still has to go on despite all these difficulties. 

But lying-downism to them is definitely not just a slogan. We can fairly say that its the return of self consciousness. They began to think about what they should be, what they really are. They also learn an important thing: theres no reason for meaningless struggle. Their own value, the value of the society. Its a rather optimistic result in this restless society. Just as what was written in the Manifesto of Communist Party centuries ago: the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. 5









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