Be sceptical

Imagine you live in North Korea, would you be sceptical about what you see every day? Is the Kim family regime the greatest god in the world? Is South Korea a terrible place because of evil America? Shall people be grateful for this dictatorship?

It is hard to imagine life in North Korea until watching the interview of Park Yeon-mi, who is the author of the book To Live, written about her real experience as a North Korean defector. You may already know North Korea nowadays is a hell of a human world, but you could not use pure intellectual to comprehend the terrible situation as a piece of knowledge with only facts and numbers.

Instead, you need compassion to feel the pain, put yourself in the shoes of North Korean who has a completely different world view from you in the first world. You need to understand there is no electricity, no freedom of speech and no freedom of the press.

If you were born in this closed environment, would you be sceptical before believe in this parallel universe? I hope not. Because if you do, your life could be worse. If you ask why the Kim family regime deserved the power, you may get punished by putting in jail. You, your daughter, and the next generations would be in concentration forever.

If you wonder why during the nighttime, on the other side of the sea in China, the light is always bright versus North Korea is always in darkness, you may get in trouble from this curiosity, especially if you secretly managed to watch the TV shows or music from other countries. Your neighbour could report you as a betrayer together with your friends who can be trusted either.

If you are sceptical and thinking how to sell items at a higher price to get some basic income for food to survive, this could violate the ideas of communist already as a capitalist. Your act of selling is illegal because everything is supposed to be state-owned. Even you go to the bathroom, your poo is owned by the government and you need to contribute it as fertilizer.

If you are sceptical in that situation, maybe you would try to escape. It would be a difficult choice and life could be terrible, but at least it could be real. You may be shocked to discover everything is a lie. There was a time before Kim’s regime with human revolution with thousands of years of history. There are many new concepts in the world, like gay marriage, freedom, democracy and even bank accounts, all of these would never exist in your original vocabulary.

Even if we are fortunate to live in a first-world country, we should not stop being sceptical. Simply ask why, willing to challenge something that does not seem right, listen to other people’s opinions, and be ever-ready to accept new truths, if the evidence is there.

For example, how would you know the vaccine you are taking is safe? How would you know the ideology you believe is correct? How would you know the post you saw on social media is real but not fake news? If you are unsure about the accuracy of any of the answers given, please take the time to research for a fact check on any doubts.

Keep an open mind, it is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows. If anyone can prove and show to me that I think and act in error, I will gladly change it for I seek the truth. And do not be satisfied with mere learning, for as time passes we forget and end up doing the opposite. I must go out and live out what I have learned and test it out.

If you go to the circus, the performer would demonstrate practically that the seemingly impossible like swallowing swords as possible. Similarly, my factual knowledge about the world could be completely wrong. Data could have proven to me that many of the changes I thought will never happen have already happened. I should awaken my curiosity about what is possible, which could be different from what I believe, and from what I see in the news every day. I need to realise how wrong my intuitions can be. I should be sceptical about the world.

If not because of the Chinese communist party support, the North Korean regime would not still exist, then North Korean people life may not still suffer and die from hunger. Outside of North Korea, many Chinese people believe in everything educated in the modified version of history.

If they are sceptical, maybe they would wonder how many people died during the cultural revolution due to the wrong decisions made by Mao in politics. If they are sceptical, maybe they would wonder if their government did the morally right thing to support the North Korean regime or not. If they are sceptical, maybe they would ask whether it is possible to have an alternative political system, such as democracy and rules of law.

I am not writing to debate on what is right and what is wrong. I am writing to emphasise the importance to have room for scepticism. We should educate the next generation with critical thinking, let them ask why, debate and look at the pros and cons of each side, before committing to belief. This is not allowed under tyranny. The dictator must be right. The authority’s decision must be correct. How could that be? The history could only be written by the winner, so could everything written in the version of history you read be trusted?

The room to sceptical is smaller and smaller when there is a politically correct answer. In the Western world, people are afraid to publicly discuss the topic such as gay marriage, race equality, people you could not challenge the politically correct answer. Otherwise, you would be labelled as racist. We should allow freedom of speech even that could be an unpopular opinion. At least, let them ask the question why instead of oppressing people from speaking up.

I could be wrong, so do you. Self-explaining can give voice to impulses of curiosity that may otherwise remain unexplored. It is about asking ourselves the question, Why? You want to explore and able to deal effectively with life’s challenges. Be sceptical then nobody can cheat you.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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