This post is part of the Travel Series – reflections and muses based on the cities I have lived in or travelled to. If you are looking for recommendations on food, things to do and the wows of a city, please go to other travel blogs.
A few years ago I went travelling to Southern China with a good friend. We took the plane to Kunming and drove to Dali and then onwards to Shangri – la. I never made it up the Tiger Leaping Gorge for I got ill with altitude sickness and had to be dispatched back to lower grounds. However, the short trip impressed upon me the vastness of China.
We hobbled along on a big tour bus from Kunming to Dali. I dozed off watching the expanse of rice fields from the windows. An hour later, I woke up and still I saw stretches of rice paddies, small farms, and straw huts. A cow stared up from munching dry hay at the roar of the bus disturbing its peace. A chicken or two gawked. Then there were more wasteland, dumps, ditches, and fields.
Hour after hour the same scene repeated itself like a computer screensaver. After a day’s drive, we finally reached Dali and checked into the hotel. Then my friend, Slo and I went for a walk around town. We visited the minority villages and spoke to some local people. We hiked up the ancient village up the stone pavements.
The town felt destitute and dismal. Yet everyone was so happy.
I asked a few children whether they liked to go to school. They said yes, especially writing in the sand with a stick to practice their characters – they had no pencils or paper.
It was then I realized the enormity of this country. China is diverse from south to north, from west to east. Each province has its dialect; each minority tribe has its culture and practices. The coastal cities glimmer in affluence but the inland cry for help and lack even basic resources as clean water and electricity.
How is it then, that one, from across oceans, and have never visited China or speak the language, could judge and tell us how to rule this country? International politics are wrought with criticism for China, its corruption, human rights records, lack of transparency… Countries seek to tell China what to do, and even how to adjust its currency.
Not to condone any of the areas that need improvement, but can one apprehend the complexity in implementing any country wide policy? How can we ask a villager in Dali, who worries only about his crops, to support a universal suffrage voting system in China? It is not practical.
Living in China for a only a short few years, I am not qualified to judge either. Yet, I feel that the Government, for whatever is shortcomings, is doing the best it can to lift the country out of poverty, and to advance development. Bit by bit.
The same when we transport this view to the personal level.
Who am I to judge what others are doing, whether they are right or wrong?
Most of the times I do not know the story behind their actions. I did not know what an overwhelming day a client had when he complained to me about my attitude, only to let of steam and was not personal at me. I did not know when other friends struggled with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and stress. We think others should do this or not do that – but why? We impose our own experience and values on others without comprehending whether it would be appropriate for them.
Equally, others kept telling me what to do to get healthy: eat this, drink that, don’t run on the treadmill / run 30 minutes on the treadmill… Everyone had an opinion. I could not keep up. I should know best for my body and mind.
We all have our experience. Let not others judge us – but let us not judge others either.