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Wisdom is seeing life for what it really is

Updated: 2015-01-14 15:47
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

This kind of statement derives from at least two sources: One is the tendency to blame a whole village for something done by an individual. A report of a serial killer would elicit a wave of responses saying that only a place so vile would spawn a creature like this. And a second possible source is the critical self-evaluation of scholars who scrutinize China's cultural soil for elements holding back its progress.

The problem is, online denizens tend to accept the academic conclusions without delving into detailed analysis. The urge to generalize is so tempting and fits so neatly into the fast-food atmosphere of Internet expression that few have the patience to go through the travail of supporting one's arguments with evidence or rationalization. Online, the world is either black or white, with no room for shades of gray.

That goes for both China and the United States as topics of contention. Especially China and the US - two countries used as points of reference for political grandstanding. If you are pro-China, you must be anti-America; and vice versa, or so some believe. It has become so simplistic, partly because of the 140-character limit of most arguments, that the best parts of a public discourse, the parts that involve new information or factual nuances, tend to be left out or ignored.

For me, the four photos showing a detritus-cluttered Times Square were hardly surprising. Any place that had just packed in a million people would leave jetsam and flotsam of garbage - even under the best of circumstances. I'm not oblivious to factors such as cultural impact, educational levels and social backgrounds, etc. A typical American crowd that scientifically represents US demographics would probably litter less than a typical Chinese crowd. Within China, an urban gathering would heed public sanitation more than a rural assemblage. This has nothing to do with race, but lots to do with education, especially the teaching of civility.

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