OPINION> Liu Shinan
Three younglives riseabove death
By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-28 07:42

I have written several columns on today's high school and college students, expressing my worries over their being pampered by parents and their susceptibility to hedonism. Though I have never doubted the moral quality of the majority of the youths, the heroic deed of three university freshmen, who sacrificed their lives to save two young boys from drowning in the Yangtze River, still humbled me.

Fourteen students from Changjiang University in Jingzhou, Hubei province, had assembled for a get-together on one of the banks of the Yangtze on Saturday morning when they saw two boys falling into the river. They, including several female students, immediately jumped into the water and joined hands to form a human chain, and tried to pull the two kids from the swift currents.

After one of the boys was pulled to safety and the other was approaching the bank, a strong current broke the human chain. Three winter swimmers, all in their sixties, happened to be nearby and came to the students' rescue. They pulled out six of them, but could not save the other three. All the three were 19-years-old and had enrolled in the university only two months ago.

Hundreds of thousands of people have posted comments on websites, paying their respects to the students and the three old men. Many have mourned the snuffing out of the three young lives.

But some people have questioned the rationality of the students' action. They ask if it was worth saving two boys at the cost of three university students' lives.

Such doubts stem from the thought developed over the past three decades of economic reform that the rationality of any move should be judged in terms of economic value and the efficiency it generates.

For quite a number of people, money and other worldly benefits have become the only criterion of judging an action. It is this mindset that prompts the doubters to claim that the life of three university students is greater than that of two young kids. Therefore, they argue, the move of the students is respectable but should not be encouraged.

This is ridiculous logic. It is tantamount to questioning the nobility of the heroes. We do feel sorry for the three students' families. We sympathize from the core of our hearts with all their loved ones. But we also share the pride of the parents for giving birth to and bringing up brave and selfless children.

The three heroes' sacrifice is even more precious because it defies the current mindless trend of self-centeredness.

When the students jumped into the cold water, they did not think about how the world would judge them. They did not have enough time to think about the potential dangers either. They acted only out of instinct, the human instinct of saving another human. This instinct is nurtured by our parents and teachers. It is the result of the culture rooted in our soil.

It is reassuring to know that our tradition of valuing and admiring a sacrifice has passed on to the present generation. It is also reassuring to see that the concept of "protecting one's own life is far more important than fighting a crime or saving another life", which has developed in recent years, is not the motto of all our youths.

We should be grateful, too, to the three students for carrying forward the spirit of humanity and the nation. And we should not forget the selfless act of the other students who, too, jumped into the river and were saved by the sexagenarians.

The incident teaches us a vital lesson: We should be prepared for any eventuality in life. Unfortunately, most of the students did not know how to swim, and that may have made them vulnerable. I remember when I was in college in the 1960s, swimming was a compulsory part of our physical education course. That's why a netizen's remark deserves special attention: "Very few college students are interested in swimming nowadays. On the contrary, we see too many youths roller-skating on the streets."