The Fundamentals of Progress

Perhaps, that is the answer. That is the thing that I’ve been so frustrated over. The area that I wish to contribute to, is not to give China an answer, but to open up their options through self-discovery and inquiry. That is what needs to be worked on: the fundamentals of what it means to improve the lives of the Chinese people, and the groundwork for things to grow and flourish, even if it means uprooting and tilling the soil. When I debated with Y over the meaning of ‘improvement’, what I was getting at was a questioning of fundamental ideals. To Y, it was more important to set a standard and move on to improve things, while my methodology was to figure out the standards before you move on. Because the standard itself is something that needs to be developed too. If standards are fixed, then even over time, you would only have moved one step, because you already set a predictable goal. Neither am I saying not to have any standards, but the more important thing is to be flexible and be open to development.

It is a different type of growth when one already has a vision in mind, as opposed to developing the fundamentals from within and letting it manifest from the bottom up. Just like in studio practice, professors never tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, they only facilitate thought and exposure, giving us a little push in the direction that we seem interested in. What happens in the end is ultimately open-ended, because professors never really taught us anything; they only taught us to teach ourselves.

Perhaps what i was also advocating was not to focus too much on the material growth of the Chinese people, because that might not be what everyone needs, even in the rural villages. What might be more important could be of a spiritual or psychological matter, helping them develop their own way of life, facilitating their thought process. When one takes away universal standards of living, one also starts feeling less pitiful about rural villages. The idea of ‘helping’ rural villages can sometimes be dangerous, because even though we come with good intentions, by giving them donations, teaching them new ideas, but what we are also doing is making them more like us, and ultimately making them want to go to the city. Again, I’m not saying not to offer charity to the countryside, but what I’m saying is to be careful and understand fundamentally how we are actually making things better. We don’t want villagers to become city-dwellers, but yes, we do want them to be happy. We don’t want them to feel that they are ‘unprivileged’ , but to accept themselves for who they are, and teach them how to make things better with their own hands and mind.

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