When I was in East Asia there was the rumor that was sort of floating around. It was something to the effect that someone at some school had killed himself and his girlfriend or something like that. The details weren’t very clear, and I can’t really remember it.
What I do remember was this. It was impossible to find out what really happened, and that was kind of enlightening to me. I mean, the news was controlled by the government, and they didn’t really report stuff like that. So there was no way for an ordinary person to know what happened. The only way anyone could know anything was via rumor and hearsay. And that was all likely incomplete and inaccurate.
That was kind of a Eureka moment, just stunning to think about. That in this society there are so many things that most people just don’t know about and can’t find out about for certain. Just an incredible lack of information. It’s probably common in the world, but it’s so removed from the American experience that it’s something I didn’t fully realize until I was there.
I remember I talked with some students there and somehow the topic of sex came up. I think they viewed the U.S. as being a sex-drenched society, which is pretty accurate. Anyway, one of them mentioned how at that university, none of the students had sex. Which didn’t surprise me. They squeeze 8 people to a room slightly larger than a Wilbur double. Where the heck could it even happen?
What shocked me was later, I was talking to another student, and he said most everyone had sex. The figure he gave was like 80%. Which shocked me.
Which one was right? I had no idea of knowing. Both of their opinions about what things were like and what everyone did were limited by their personal experience and because it wasn’t really “open” that’s all they and I had – limited, personal views. I dunno, that really had an effect on me, about how much we can really know about closed societies.
So anyway, nowadays I always take things with a grain of salt when people go to some country that’s much less open than in the West, talk to some people there and come back and say, this is what the country is like, this is what people think/do. Especially if it’s a short trip. Because, their report is undoubtedly accurate, but it’s extremely limited.
And I’ve heard enough reports from people who go to the same place that are totally contradictory. Some say, it’s so closed, especially to religion. Some say, it’s surprisingly open, and they let you do quite a bit. And other stuff. The thing is, they’re both right, from their limited experience. I just don’t know how much you can conclude as being generally true from these limited perspective.
So yeah, maybe I’m stating the obvious, but when I see a foreigner go somewhere and report stuff like, the country is like this, or most of the people feel this way or whatever, I dunno, I think most of the time they have no idea what they’re talking about. Uh, no idea why I’m writing this.