2010/10/25

My New Intellectual Long March

Many thanks to Xiaolei and Peter! You inspired me to consciously and aggressively take on a New Intellectual Long March. This is not going to be easy. There will be high casualty: I will have to de-construct some of my existing structure and re-educate myself. Many "obvious truth" shall be re-evaluated before being accepted again. But it will be a lot of fun. It will be exciting.

I am now wondering how much of my existing view points are really valid, even by my current judgment. Why am I defensive about certain issues? Where does that view come from? How has my upbringing formed my world view? Should I accept my own "default setting" as the universal truth? Have I really thought about it thoroughly and "internalize" it?

So why have I been turning a blind eye to certain issues? In the end, I am never in lack of reflection. I think it is a matter of "relevance" in different times. At different stages of our intellectual development, we are consumed with different things.

My problem was that there were so many other things to sort out in life that I simply do not have the intellectual CPU to process some very fundamental assumptions. Now I am settled and have been exposed to enough questions and realities, so I can come back and examine those fundamentals. This is probably where I am going to get the worth of a Hampshire education.

Now here I am, ready and pumped, standing at an important crossroad on my way to truth. One year ago, I wouldn't be prepared enough to take on this Long March. So, what happened today proved (once again) that nothing happens randomly. There's a reason for everything incident in life.

This Long March is certainly not the final one. I have to break through a bottle neck. Now I am equipped with the WMD of Logic, so I am more confident in this new conquer.

At the same time, I should not be overly concerned with the superstructure. I still need to keep my finger on the pulse of the real world. The real world is my best laboratory. Here's an analogy: the "superstructure" determines the direction I am going, and the "economic base" is the power of my motor. Without a powerful motor, I can't get anywhere, no matter how correct my direction is. But without a right direction, a powerful motor might be counter-productive, leading me to the wrong destiny. Many thanks to Karl who came up with these useful phrases.

So what is exactly my New Long March? I have been always critical to other people's views, and to some of my own views as well. Now I need to do two things: be even more critical, and be critical to ALL of me. It is not easy to face oneself truthfully. But no matter how painful it's going to be, I am going to do it. Self-reflection is where we are going to learn most. As my friends pointed out, I come here not to strengthen my existing views, but to challenge it. My existing knowledge is not necessarily wrong. I just need to take a step back and check it again.

So what I should do next? I don't know yet, otherwise it would not be as fun. But here's something that I will do for sure, as suggested by my wonderful peers: do readings, do good readings, do good readings well, and do a lot of good readings well. The greatest minds of human history, they won't disappoint their readers, even though they always confuses the readers at the beginning.

When I do these readings, I should be attentive to their logic. See how THEY understand the world, how THEY proceed with their logic. Does it make sense to me? What is their arguments based on? What's the life experience of the author? Answering these questions will give me a taste of critical thinking, for real.

Actually, this New Long March is not really new. For years, I have been trying to understand how the world works. I've been working on my critical thinking. Today is more of a revival of this passion. The great discussion with my friends reminded me why I am here and what I originally set out to accomplish. The discussion also reminded me that I still have blind spots in my critical thinking, a lot of them. I need to be more critical, especailly to existing knowledge. Look at them again!

At the same time of criticizing the system, I still need to advance inside the system. In the end, the best way to understand (and then change) a system is from inside! No matter how corrupted the system is, I need to get into it to have a better look at it. Only when I am inside the system can I make effective change. Changes from outside always come with blood and misery.

So now it is pretty clear what I should do: be more careful with my existing views (maybe they are just prejudices), take a closer look at them, use them to strengthen my critical thinking, and go on with life!

1 comment:

Benny O said...

This looks good, Zilong, but it has yet to be seen if you can put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

I recall what the Red Army did in order to overcome one of its obstacles along the route shaanxi. Already threatened by the guomindang and the Japanese, the leaders of the Red Army were forced to make reconciliations with the local ethnic groups of the areas they passed through. To avoid their antagonism, they promised the groups recognition under a Communist state with a variety of conditions.

Needless to say, when Mao accomplished his rise to power, he firmly stated that things had changed, and broke with all of the allegiances formed during the Long March.

I am not recommending you practice the precedent set by Mao in this instance, rather I'm trying to illuminate the danger of deception embedded within your own choice of metaphor.

-Benny