Metropolitician Gets It
Michael Hurt wrote a great piece on something that I’ve been up on these days. Here’s a quote:
In the end, it’s quite arrogant to assume, as a foreigner and a newbie, that after 2 weeks of thinking about the subject, all social problems would be solved if people just thought like you. It’s also arrogant to keep stubborn and unwavering opinions without having done much thinking about the subject, nor any background reading, anything. You just sit there at the bar with your beer and have the answer.
In the end, what is more arrogant than a spot diagnosis by a naif? This attitude, I suspect, is something we are hard wired for. That’s how we’ve managed to adapt to so many modes of life in so many different places, we form assumptions about how the world works, which often turn out to be correct enough. Not correct, but correct enough to get by. We are the product of a million systems that work just well enough. You get a bunch of educated westerners to come to Korea, an urbanized, industrial society that superficially resembles their own. This limits the scope of differences and calls them into starker relief. Then they apply their own perspectives to the problems they perceive in Korea. The answers pretty much write themselves, which is why the solutions that these armchair sociologists come up with are so uniform. No creativity required, and practically none brought to these questions. Everyone’s simplistic, uninformed prescriptions conform to a facile approach to the world they think they know.
Everyone’s simplistic, uninformed prescriptions conform to a facile approach to the world they think they know.
Of course the less you know about something the more simple it often looks. And then you learn a little bit and you think you know a substantial amount, because you know a substantial amount more than you did before. But you actually know an insignificant fraction of what there is to know.
At a certain point, if you’re smart, you come to the realization that you will never really know. You never really stop trying to understand, though. You just stop trying to convince yourself and those around you that you do understand.