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How to Break the Habit of Provincial Thinking

August 16, 2013, 7:00 AM
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I'm a citizen and I want to know what my government is doing because my government is supposed to represent me, so I look to the news to find out what they’re doing and to form a judgment on whether I think that is right or whether I think that is wrong.

If I think it’s wrong I'm going to try to express my opinion.  I'm going to try to communicate that, not just through my vote, but maybe through various forms of political organization or expression. So if I'm looking to find out what is the case with the war and whether the war is legitimate, I'm probably not going to be fully satisfied with the New York Times or the Washington Post or Fox News or CNN.  I'm going to want to get on various sites that allow me to see how the same events are covered in other countries, how the political values of the war are being openly debated and I'm going to move from site to site to see what happens to my thinking as I move through those sites.

I'm a professor of comparative literature among other things, so I'm able to read in a couple of other languages and I understand that not everyone is, not everyone can, although it is quite stunning how many people do read Spanish in the United States, but moving between languages is also extremely helpful. 

Events that get covered in the US one way are not very important elsewhere or are given a completely different slant and one needs to have a kind of comparative way of thinking in order to arrive at a judgment that is not completely provincial, that doesn’t end up ratifying one’s own national perspective and hence, one’s own national agendas. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

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