Not Relevant to Me

As I read Sara Ahmed’s article, the first thought that came to mind was from a poem.

Ill. 1: “First they came …” is the poetic form of a 1946 post-war confessional prose by
the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). [1]

It has been translated into several languages, of which the Chinese version I read is:











——马丁·尼莫拉牧师 1945 年 ” [1]

The original text is:

“ They came first for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me –

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

——Pastor Martin Niemöller 1945 ” [2]

This poem was written by the poet in his later years during his confession, when he simply wanted to speak out about his wrongdoings back then. But later generations carved it on the inscription not only because of the wrongdoings but because of the poem’s profound meaning.

In the chapter “on being stop” of Sara Ahmed’s book there is a story: A junior female scholar of color was warned by a senior professor: “You are a young scholar, and if you do this now, you will be known as a complainer, so let it go.” She was advised to “let go” so as not to be known as a “grouchy person” or “someone with a grievance”. This is because people in academia believe that not complaining is a virtue, and that those who offend this virtue will be forever ostracized from the circle. Academic circles do not tolerate complainers, so many scholars have no choice but to hold their tongue when they suffer injustice. This example shows us that the pressure of public opinion and circumstances can cause complainers to eventually choose silence. Sara Ahmed elaborates on this point in her book, and it is the reason for so many wrongdoings by Pastor Martin Niemöller, moreover, the meaning behind this poem.

This poem seems to me that it sums up very profoundly the dialectical relationship between the individual and the collective in society. And demonstrates a common phenomenon: Many of us dodge and dodge, choosing to be silent or to be silenced when making choices. By choosing to step back, we appear to have made a choice, but in fact, we cede the right to choose.We must choose to stand forward. Only then will there be truth and the things of the world will come to fruition.

On the contrary, the reasons why this is becoming more and more common can often be interpreted in the context of different national political contexts and the social state we live in. In Sara Ahmed’s article, it is also mentioned several times that complainers end up “silenced” due to various circumstances. We are in a state where the more we speak up and the more we ponder, the more silent we become. Our hearts still believe in the world, our hearts want to be a voice for ourselves and a voice for those around us. But when what we support will eventually be distorted to prove that it is immoral or unjust, our voice is like a sharp knife stabbed at the so-called righteousness and justice. Under the pressure of public opinion and the environment, will this sharpknife, which seems to be in our hands, also pierce the most vulnerable part of ourselves. I can’t help but begin to wonder this.


[1] Wikipedia contributors. “起初他們…” 维基百科, 自由的百科全书, 6%E5%80%91%E2%80%A6%E2%80%A6&oldid=64402682 (accessed February 20, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “First they came …” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,…&oldid= 1059945909 (accessed January 14, 2022).


Ill. 1: Martin Niemoeller (Life time: 14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984), “First they came…”, 1950s. This is the “First they came…” poem attributed to Martin Niemoeller at the Holocaust memorial in Boston MA, USA


Ill. 1: Copyright expired because the work was published without a copyright notice and/or without the necessary copyright registration.


The circle and hierarchy of power

The circle and hierarchy of power looms over universities and government departments.

In China, there are hundreds or thousands of people competing for every civil service or university lecturer position, and the barrier to entry is high.

When entering a university or government institution, people have access to resources and power that are not available outside, so many people are eager to enter these institutions. After such fierce competition, those who have already entered the university or government sector will value their positions extraordinarily. In order to protect their jobs, resources and power, internal staff will form their own circles and unite to protect their privileges from outsiders. Over time, the circle becomes ubiquitous, and everyone must fit into it or be isolated and driven away.

This situation is very common, which is why many of my Chinese friends choose to stay in the European workplace.

When you work in a university or a government department, your superiors directly determine whether or not your subordinates will be promoted. There is a clear hierarchy in these institutions. If someone doesn’t behave himself, his career will be ruined by his superiors. This is the Chinese officialdom, and only those who can adapt to such rules can climb higher.

The complainers will not survive long in this circle and hierarchy of power. In such a rule, people who ask questions are only seen as deviants and are wiped out.



Many people are good at hiding their true thoughts with different actions that make the complainant think their complaint is being listened to carefully. The head-up and head-down actions seem to tell the complainants that their complaint is not only accepted, but accepted well. But in fact, if the complainant leaves feeling that the other person has accepted her complaint and is not going to continue with it, the nod serves its purpose, which is to shut the complainant up. All this makes me shudder.



I was reading the chapter “on being stop” when I came across this story: A junior female scholar of color was warned by a senior professor: “You are a young scholar, and if you do this now, you will be known as a complainer, so let it go.” She was advised to “let go” so as not to be known as a “grouchy person” or “someone with a grievance”. This is because people in academia believe that not complaining is a virtue, and that those who offend this virtue will be forever ostracized from the circle.

This kind of thing is very common in Chinese society, and even has been deeply rooted, my friend has also been in such a situation, She is an aspiring art teacher who has done a lot for her students, But when the students achieve something, there is often the so-called more senior people than her to take it all away. She chose to be silent because it was traditional education and she could only be endured in silence, alone. I once urged her to be brave and speak her mind, but she just chose to stay away from trouble, to do things alone in the future, to bear the burden alone. She asked me if she would become a misfit in the future, I couldn’t answer, I knew she wasn’t originally like this, it was society that turned her into this.

Institutional fatalism tends to be mentioned when things happen, and I couldn’t agree more with the author on this point. By system fatalism, I mean that the system refers to the environment in which people live, and it will always have some problems, and you shouldn’t try to change them, or you will have a miserable ending. Many people emphasize fatalism, which is very malicious. They want to use this theory to make the complainants feel afraid, because if the complainants feel afraid, then they are likely to stop complaining and end up with nothing.


Fake Freedom

Many times we try to believe what we see with our eyes, but in fact the truth is not so. In China, as a student, I tried to find a course I really liked, or a direction I wanted to try, but because of the university system, I was not qualified to be in any class that was not related to my main major. This is not common in European art universities, but in China it is a hard rule, we don’t have a lot of space to communicate, our needs are ignored and we are buried in a lot of homework every day. Yet university is still regarded by many parents as a synonym for freedom. The university’s complaint channels are always open, appear to be very liberal, and are willing to listen to different voices. Everyone is allowed to complain. This gives a false impression, but in fact, the university will only stop you and tell you not to do so, so that it does not match the group, out of the group is a mistake. Complainers at the university are usually warned and there are consequences. That consequence is the cost of complaining.


Complaints about Anti-Asian racism

After reading the chapter “Hearing complaint,” I was deeply felt by what Sara Ahmed was going to talk about. Through her own experiences and testimonies she has collected, she exposes the injustices that women, non-white people, gay people and other disadvantaged groups are subjected to in all aspects of society. And I, as an Asian, have a deep appreciation for such injustice. My name is Xinyue Yu and I am from China. After being treated unfairly, I and very few people will be brave to complain and appeal to the authorities. Because the traditional education in China is to hide the bad parts and show the healthy and good sides. If not, it is not good for the family and the society.

In China, I often heard the news about racial discrimination in the United States or European, but I didn’t have a deep understanding of it at that time. But when I came to Germany, this horrible thing really happened around me. A Chinese female student of mine was harassed on the street in Berlin and was called a Chinese pig. She went to the police, but the police were very perfunctory, saying they had no way to investigate without video evidence, and it was over.

Meanwhile, the clever powers-that-be have found a new way to silence complaints about racism by buying off the Asian elite and getting them to promote the legitimacy of racism. Recently, after the outbreak of the epidemic, the Trump administration blamed China for all of their country’s problems in preventing the epidemic, and Chinese Americans received discrimination and blame. So the Chinese people had to take to the streets in protest. However, a profit-oriented Chinese American politician, Andrew Yang, in order to get the support of the white American political party, publicly published this article in the Washington Post, saying that the accusation of Americans under the new crown epidemic made them feel ashamed of being Asian, and called on Asian Americans to show their loyalty to the United States as the Japanese Americans did in World War II, and prove that they love America so they won’t be seen as a “virus”.

The stereotype of Asian Americans in American society is that they should work hard and not complain too much, so Asians are not considered to be able to attack racism. In order for Asians to continue to silently accept this stereotype, the U.S. government has come up with the idea of having Asian elites take the lead in calling on Asians to accept this stereotype. If the leaders of the Asian community say so, then ordinary Asians will have no way to oppose it. Such a sinister approach is one of the ways that Americans are dealing with racial discrimination and maintaining a white supremacist society.It reminds me of what the Roman Empire did when it ruled Israel: corrupt the Jewish upper elite, make them puppets of the Romans, and then through them call on the entire Jewish people to submit to Rome and keep the Jews in servitude to others in their own land.Asian American complaints about racism have always existed. But under the guidance of the American government, the American media, this complaint cannot change the reality and has been ignored. Because of this, whenever we see an Asian on the political stage, it is inevitable to speculate that it is another white-directed American political show, in order to show the American racial integration and diversity that is only embodied in slogans. The Asians on the stage are just the puppets of the whites.