“Bai lan,” or letting it rot, is a new movement sweeping China. The term refers to young people who refuse to make an effort in life because they have lost hope. Ken Fung, director of therapy and counseling at the Jadis Blurton Family Development Center in Hong Kong, told Young Post how this so-called “lazy mindset” could be a good way to set boundaries and share a better and healthier alternative to let it rot.
“Such an attitude towards life is actually a response to a sense of helplessness and indicates that teenagers are not rewarded enough for what they believe they have achieved,” Fung said. He explained that this makes them unmotivated and disinterested in what is happening around them, as they think nothing they do will change their lot in life.
Why Chinese Young People Are Going From “Lying Down” To “Letting It Rot”
The term “bai lan” originated in basketball, where teams would stop trying to win in the face of a losing game. But, according to Fung, Chinese teenagers aren’t the only ones choosing to rot rather than work hard.
“This phenomenon is already taking place in Hong Kong due to several factors,” he pointed out, adding that it has a somewhat similar philosophy to another grassroots movement – “lying flat,” which basically means do the bare minimum to get by.
Why do Hongkongers let it rot?
One of the reasons is the city’s political environment due to the social unrest of 2019, which caused many teenagers to lose faith in the authorities. Additionally, seeing their more affluent peers leave town and feeling like they don’t have many career opportunities in an overcompetitive job market plays a role in teens resorting to a passive lifestyle. .
Even if this attitude leaves something to be desired, it is a way of setting limits so as not to burn out.
“Think of it as a defense mechanism and a way to distance yourself from feeling increasingly unmotivated and incompetent,” Fung said.
He noted the double-edged sword of the academic rat race – how the relentless pursuit of achievement and good performance in school leads to diminished satisfaction. “In other words, the better results you get, the more hopeless you feel because there is no end in sight except for even better results. This can lead to helplessness and dissatisfaction.
The relentless pursuit of academic success can wear you down. Photo: Shutterstock
Side effects of a “bai lan” lifestyle
Although adopting a “bai lan” attitude can bring some short-term relief, Fung warned that this strong sense of dissatisfaction can affect a person’s mental and physical health.
The psychologist shared that common symptoms he has noticed in his patients include frequent headaches, muscle pain or numbness, and pain or discomfort in their gastrointestinal system.
Some people may also sleep a lot more than usual to console themselves for their feelings of helplessness. “It’s fine to take a break and rest when you’re overwhelmed, but sleeping for long periods of time won’t get you anywhere because the more you sleep, the more meaningless life seems to you.”
Face Off: Are Hong Kong’s teenagers ‘lying flat’?
Instead, Fung strongly suggested that teens take another approach to life: living meaningfully. “Again, letting it rot is the result of a feeling of extreme exhaustion, and the only answer is to get back to the roots of this problem,” he said. It means taking charge of your life and reviewing your current lifestyle.
That’s usually easier said than done, Fung said. This might require teens to talk with their parents about taking a break from their busy schedules, which are often filled with after-school tuition, sports, and other activities. Instead, teens should try to spend quality time on things they enjoy doing.
“But once you can free up time and engage in non-academic activities that you are passionate about, a ‘bai lan’ lifestyle will no longer be an option as you will be busy living your life for yourself.”
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