Giving 'face' is the Chinese expression for respect and civility. In everyday society, it is common to 'give face' to people, even those you don't like or respect – not exactly fawning, but courteous: frosty but polite, one could say. Face-giving is essential in business relationships, where a single act of disingenuousness can cost years of relationship-building effort.
When you break it down, giving face equals not saying what you really feel.
Recently, in America, a law was proclaimed that underscores the supposed importance of 'face'. In May, 2016, President Obama issued a decree outlawing the words 'Black' and 'Oriental', used to describe those of such origins. The law is ostensibly designed to prevent or eradicate ingrained racism toward such persuasions. 'Asian American' and 'African American' are now the correct terms. This move was heralded in China as an advance toward civility, one that other nations should adopt.
Civility is apparently no longer a social more but a matter of law?
True enough: change the words, change the meaning, as in this example. “You have a face that would stop a clock!” - meaning: “You are so ugly even clocks break when you look at them!”. Said another way: “When I see you, time stands still” alludes to the clock being stopped (by ugliness), but the sentiment is much less offensive. The logic follows that changing the name of certain races/ethnicities might have the same effect, right?
What has that new law done for America? Since November 9th, when Donald Trump was declared the winner in the presidential race, hate crimes against those of other races have flared: more than seven hundred instances in the past 2 weeks, laws regarding civility notwithstanding. People of racial/ethnic origins other than white are living in fear of attack. In the streets, in schools, on college campuses: no one is safe.
On a college campus in Michigan, a student wearing a hijab was threatened because of her religious garb: “You can't wear that here anymore. Take it off or I'll set you on fire” the accuser said, brandishing a lighter.
Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/13/university-of-michigan-student-wearing-a-hijab-threatened-to-be-lit-on-fire-police-say/
That young man did not wake up, the day after the election, suddenly deciding to harm other individuals because of their beliefs. Such prejudice is ingrained! It takes years of conditioning to arrive at the conviction that one has the right (the duty?) to offend and threaten and harm others because their beliefs are divergent. To believe that one is absolutely in the right, simply because of their race or ethnicity.
Britain has also seen a spike of racially motivated crime since Brexit. Figures show a 41% surge of racist or religious abuse in the month after the UK voted to leave the European union.
Standing at a bus stop, a Brazilian-born man was speaking to his Mexican wife in Spanish when a woman approached them: “Do you speak English? Can you understand what I'm saying? This is our country. We are leaving the EU. We will stop having so many people like you over here.”
Read the full article here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37640982
How can mere words change so deep a prejudice? What law can be made to prevent such hate and disdain? How can anybody think that 'face' is going to stop people from hating and fearing what they do not understand?
And that is the danger of 'face'. Not just concealing your feelings from those you wish to direct them to, but the fact that those feelings and ideas are left to fester and grow like the very worst social cancer, eating civilization from the inside out, one person, one family, one generation at a time, and nobody sees it until it explodes onto society, virulent and rampant.
Bernie Noel, a man in Britain who runs prison gyms for the inmates, puts the fallacy of 'face' succintly: “(... in the 1970s) you knew who the racists were – they were shouting their heads off. Now I look around and think, well some of you are still thinking those things but I don't know who you are anymore.”
Read the article here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37924448
And that is the sad truth of 'face'.