Authoritative voice still needed for a sober society

The series of crises concerning food safety in China have led to the most dramatic episode so far. In Jiangsu Province, a wave of watermelon explosions shocked farmers that are facing serious economic losses.

Some media attributed the story to the excessive use of chemical addictives speeding up the growth of melons. Thus, horrible images of exploded melons lead to a not unpleasant conclusion: Thank goodness! These chemicals burst before they could threaten people.

Under such circumstances, media reports defined this incident as another food scandal caused by barefaced industrial techniques, based on the sole fact that melons did explode and some chemicals were used, with no conclusive evidence linking the two. On the other hand, some follow-up reports suggested that the melon explosions were due to weather conditions and that the use of chemicals were commonplace among farmers. Some experts further claimed that the chemicals involved are harmless to human health, which was scorned by the public.

It seems melon bombs can divide opinions. Maybe this is a common occurrence but was only now picked up by journalists knowing little about agriculture. Maybe the chemical has had an essentially pernicious effect on us for years, and the truth is truly obscene. Maybe, it is just an artificial hoax to further sensationalize the food safety problem.

There are many “maybes” but not even a single “definitely.” It seems that skepticism has prevailed and authoritative voices have died away. There is no surefire way of answering such a simple question that the public surely wants to know: Were the melons really poisoned?

One entity that could provide the answer is the government. But what if it says the melons exploded because of bad weather and are still edible? Many people will still refuse to believe, simply because the government is not saying what they want to believe. Obviously, the public cannot be abruptly swayed by any kind of authority. Is this a good thing?

Some people might feel authority is quintessentially evil and that a state of anarchy is preferable. This is absurd. After all, society sometimes has to work out a decision quickly, such as to judge whether something is fact or fiction.

Today, the government usually retains its authority. But generally, in a time of modern public management, the government has become increasingly functional and less authoritative. Its authority will be partly shifted to society, with a consensus over which party should represent authoritative voices. Society may pay a high price for the failure to forge a social authority.
 Confusion over melon bombs only serves as an inconsequential example.

This chaos does cost money, sometimes provokes panics. Disbelief makes society unmanageable. And without a clear direction, society could easily go astray.

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