Stuck in the Past

There is neither a point nor structure to this article, but I want to voice some of my concerns with my home countries- Vietnam and America.

China invaded Vietnam about 2000 years ago, and we’ve been salty since. From the dynastic ages to the semi-centennial of Communism, the Middle Kingdom held an especially dark spot in the hearts of the Vietnamese. Many Vietnamese refuse to “share the same heavens” (translated) with China. I remember the cornucopia of pleasantries directed toward our northern neighbor when I returned to visit my mother country.

Yet, despite these tensions, Vietnamese culture is very similar to that of China. We share such similarities as the monosyllabic tonal language structure, spirituality, delicious cuisine, a strange obsession with Feng Shui, and the major holiday of Tết. But nationalism blinds us to these cultural influences because, well, everything about China is bad. Obviously.

I’ve heard many Vietnamese malign Chinese people, but this observation is purely based on personal experiences with tourists. What we don’t know, or rather, ignore, is that most of the tourists are of the uneducated proletariat. The actual majority of China are well-educated and well-mannered. We forget that China has always been the cultural quintessence of East Asia—of the world—for a long period in history. They were even so nice as to introduce us to some cool guys like Confucius and Buddha!

Psychologically, this continued distaste for everything China can be explained by two psychological phenomena- Confirmation Bias and Group Think. Confirmation Bias can be defined as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of our preexisting beliefs or prejudices. Once we have a negative bias against something or someone-in this case, China- we will perceive anything they do as negative regardless of their intentions. Group Think is when one’s beliefs are placed in a group of people with similar beliefs, causing them to become much more extreme. When combined, especially in a group, these two negative thought processes can prevent anyone affected from keeping an open mind. Now imagine that “group” is a whole country. Should I say more?

Vietnam recently lent a few sections of land to China—similar to how China lent Hong Kong to England a century ago. Obviously, the Vietnamese are blazing furious with the matter, saying this is the government selling the country. But what if the government’s intentions were good? What if they intended to improve the economy? I mean, look at Hong Kong in present day. They’re a huge economic hub! The older generation will probably lynch me if they hear my opinions on this matter, but hey, most of them can’t read English! I think I’ll be alive for now.

One last issue I have is the over-reliance on spirituality for daily life. I’m not saying spirituality is completely bad; it can provide solace to many people. But it should be saved for questions like “what is life” or “what happens after death,” not for scientific questions. When someone is suffering from a mental illness don’t call a shaman or priest, call a psychiatrist! When someone has cancer, go to a doctor! “Heavenly Water” has no medicinal value besides providing placebo.

For example, it’s come to my attention recently that there’s this novel—I repeat, a fictional novel—translated as “Journey to the East” by author Nguyen Phong. Long story short, a group of British scientists went to Asia to look into mysticism and ended up becoming monks. The masters had powers that defied the laws of science, like levitation for example. The physicist in the group was baffled, obviously, and forced to reconsider his whole existence. People actually think this was a true story, my own father included.

What people don’t know is that this book is based off of the book “Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East” by Baird T. Spalding, which actually refutes mysticism. The interesting and slightly disturbing thing is that the publishers of “Journey to the East” printed Spalding as the author instead of Phong. How interesting.

I just think, as a collective whole, we should be more objective. We can’t jump to radical conclusions without examining all of the facts from multiple sources instead of solely from limited biased networks.

I could also say the same to many Americans as well. We as a country are becoming increasingly polarized politically. If you don’t believe in what I believe in, you’re dumb, stupid, evil, immoral, and every other pleasantry one can come up with. You don’t believe in the gender spectrum? You’re ignorant. You support the gender spectrum? You’re a social justice warrior. It’s a double-edged sword out there!

All I hear from the media are liberals this and conservatives that. Why can’t we work together, like we have decades before, on commonalities instead of arguing over differences? Imagine how much we could do, how many issues we can solve!

In my opinion, mainstream news networks like Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC are poison to the American political opinions. They pander to confirmation bias and isolate people from the objective truth. Combined with group think, people who identify with a certain party will become more extreme in their views. The further left or right we are, the less we can understand one another. Compare two people standing 4 feet apart to people who are standing 4 yards across. The former group would be able to hear and understand one another better than the latter group.

Just have an intellectual conversation instead of arguing. Hear what the other has to say and discuss the issue in a civil manner. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Why would they think this? 

In the end, I just feel that the world is becoming increasingly divided, so I wanted to write this article to voice my concerns.