This entry expresses my own opinion. It could be interpreted by some as political. Read it at your own risk 🙂
Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney are in tabloid headlines lately. Their high profile divorce has captured the imagination of many people, especially with Heather’s alleged allegation of abuse and account of her exploits prior to their marriage. It appeared that Sir Paul ignored the good council of his daughter Stella and made a really costly mistake. That reminded me some other news that they made awhile ago. That is, they vowed they would never step on Chinese soil because of animal cruelty in China.
I actually felt a little offended by their comments. Not that I would deny the existence of animal cruelty. It does exist, it is appalling, it is gruesome, and it needs to be condemned. In fact, it is one of many, many issues that exist in China that need to be addressed. (The same can be said about many other countries, but that does not make it right.) Nor do I object the fact that people express their opinions. Furthermore, I do not wish to promote political-correctness where people have to express their thoughts in coded language. The thing that I object to is their condescending attitude and prejudice: look at me, I am so good and have such high moral values, you are so bad and disgusting, I do not want to have anything to do with you. When people have this attitude, no matter how noble their objectives, it can only alienate the public at large (because only a very small percentage are guilty as charged in any culture) and have a negative effect to the cause they are promoting.
Allow me to digress here a little, because it actually brings a good question on how to deal with outside opinions.
I think there is no need to be defensive on an objective outsider’s account and analysis of one’s own culture and society. Rather, it provides a good vantage point for people within to reflect on many assumptions and customs that they take for granted, learn from it, and make appropriate adjustment for improvement. This is easily said than done, and different people have different views on what is objective and what is not. But ultimately, I think that is the right attitude to deal with objective outside opinions.
On the other hand, I think it is sometimes appropriate to ignore comments and opinions from outside. In some cases, it is also important to put out a different point of view to counter them, if the stakes are high enough to warrant such act. This is especially true for developing countries. The western mainstream media, especially ones from the US, are controlled by surprisingly few corporations. Because the economic power it has, those media outlets can spread their views easily across the globe. While doing that, they also get to define the context of issues at hand, which is just as important. In the US, some reporting and opinions of mainstream print and TV media can be skewed and grossly misleading: the pre-Iraqi war and Middle East reporting in general are perfect examples.
Therefore, it is important to take outside news/opinions/comments with a grain of salt. If it is good and objective, accept it and learn from it, and don’t be defensive about it. If it is wrong and misleading, analyze the stake first and then decide for a right response. Sometimes US mainstream media can make the victim look bad for making a fuss out of what it calls a small offense, because public relation from the developing world is usually not as slick as western world, due to language, cultural, and economic reasons. So a creative response and sometimes simply ignoring it may not be a bad idea. But if the stakes are high, it is important to put out a different view to counter it.
PS. To be fair, third world countries, including China, lack much, much more in press and personal freedom and have a lot to learn from the west in this area and many others, but that does not mean propaganda and government manipulation does not exist in a democratic society (paying off newspaper columnists, selective leaking or suppressing intel for political purposes, passing propaganda video as news source, planting questions in news conferences, etc., the list goes on and on). I guess my point is that we need to learn the good things from others. But equally important, we also need to learn from the mistakes of others. Don’t let your judgment colored by blind admiration. Be pragmatic and realistic. I say this from personal experience, because I was a blind admirer of everything West/American for a long time.