秀才遇到兵, 有理說不清 is a Chinese idiom that summarizes one of my greatest fears. Translated literally, it means “a scholar meets a foot soldier - cannot reason with the soldier.” The implication is that it’s impossible to communicate with an ignorant person, since soldiers in ancient China were usually not well-educated. Recently, I learned about an equivalent phrase in English, stated eloquently by Martin Luther King Jr. as “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
We can find many examples of “soldiers” wreaking havoc throughout history. For example, during the Cultural Revolution, scores of student Red Guards burned artifacts and murdered “anti-revolutionaries” as unsuspecting pawns in a political power struggle. I have no doubt that they truly believed in their mission and felt justified for their actions, hence “sincere” in their ignorance and “conscientious” in carrying out their mission.
Even today, we see examples of climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers who act out of misguided beliefs, putting their own lives and the communities around them at risk. The worst part is that words and reasoning from the “scholar” usually breed animosity between the two groups rather than changing minds.
This is why the “scholar meets soldier” scenario scares me - I would hate to be a helpless “scholar” trying to reason to no avail, and I’m even more horrified of unknowingly being a “soldier” on topics that I’m not well-versed on.
I think having an affordable, accessible, and high-quality public education system is the long-term solution to creating a well-informed society and reducing the number of “soldiers.” In the meantime, I need to constantly remind myself to stay updated on current issues and not be dismissive of other people’s views without deeper thoughts, or risking becoming a “soldier” myself.