My Earliest Memory — A Critique of Dialectics

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Please excuse my absence from this blog for the past couple of weeks. Been doing some other stuff lately like volunteering as a reading tutor and critiquing Confucius or something. Who knows?

Between anime reviews and Ivory Tower dialogues, it seems that I haven’t written any philosophical editorials inbetween, so I think it’s time to resurface that before I move on to other writing projects.

For the next couple of days, I’m going to focus on dialectics as it relates to my own philosophical platform. Brief explanation: dialectics are a feature of continental philosophy that, in essence, bridges the supposed divide between reason and romanticism. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is often credited for bringing dialectics into the limelight of Western philosophy, but its methods and style have been used pretty much across the entire span of philosophy.

Now the thing is, Hegel may have made dialectics a huge deal, but I don’t really know anyone who learns or even uses dialectics strictly through the lens of Hegel. Most scholars will apply Hegelian principles such as dialectics through philosophers that came after his time. But let’s be real: you’re not going to understand anything out of continental philosophy unless you have wrestled with (at least part of) Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, the literal book on dialectics. You might see memes of Hegel across the Internet for how dense his work is, and those who have read it have a love-hate relationship with it… kind of like how dialectics actually work.

I’d go on to do a long, neatly-cited thought piece on dialectics that references everyone from Hegel to Gadamer, Du Bois to Anzaldua, who knows? But you didn’t come to this blog for a lesson in academic formalities. And part of my philosophical platform is to bring all of these past thinkers together and construct my own ideas out of them! And if you’ve read my other works on this site, you’d know that self reflection is a HUGE deal in how I conduct anything in my writing!

So instead of explaining dialectics to you, I’m going to offer a model for how they have worked for me. For the next two days, I am posting two reflections on my earliest memory. One thing you will probably notice is that both of these accounts evoke different feelings about the same events, and in some view, yes, they are separate accounts. However, as the author, I purport that both of them are in fact true, and both accounts hold value to the whole of my message from this earliest memory.

memory-1

My Earliest Memory

Some people have really good memories, recalling events from their distant past, as if it had happened yesterday. Me? Memories of my early childhood are but a void of unknowns, with mixed emotions and long, forgotten contexts that can only be resurfaced by family members that are old enough to remember what I was like when I was super young.

But of the few events that I can remember from days gone by, they are vivid, not necessarily complete with specific details of what happened, but how I felt about them.

This is a memory from when I was about 8 or 9 years old.

I attended a summer school for enrichment purposes once or twice, outside of my regular school. I can’t remember if it was public or private. It didn’t matter. What I do know is that this was my earliest exposure to being surrounded by mostly white and Asian kids. See, even though I was Asian myself, I went to schools where the majority of students were black and brown.

Since this was a summer school, my classes weren’t your typical Math, Literature, and Science. There were a multitude of classes that I could pick from, each with their own specific focus. From painting and drawing, Greek mythology, to putting on a dance production at the end of summer session, there was a lot to choose from. Naturally I grew attached to a science-based class that revolved around science experiments that I could do at home. Making onions taste like apples just by smelling one and biting into the other, making my own sun-dried fruit, watching celery stalks turn beet red as they absorb water with red food coloring, and the ever so popular concoction of baking soda and vinegar… stuff around the house had never been so fun!

I never really made any friends at this school. It wasn’t like I was going to see them again anyway. But I do remember meeting this one girl who had been in several of my other classes. She was about my age, which was hard to find, considering that this summer program didn’t separate children by grade, but by whatever themes of classes they chose.

She was kind of aloof, but she was really smart. Some of the other kids told me that she may have been a genius even! Rumor had it that she learned how to write in cursive when she was only 4 years old, which doesn’t sound impressive nowadays, but to me, it was a smart kid’s rite of passage at one point.

And I was jealous.

I was jealous because cursive was still fairly new to me at the time, like I literally just learned it in school that year! I felt like I was held back from other smart people at other schools, being at my own, crumby school!

And the funny thing is, this wouldn’t be the last time I’d feel this sense of jealousy. I became so fed up with my peers in middle school that I desperately wanted to go to a private high school. I hated not getting a chance to advance to 8th grade Geometry when my school only went up to Algebra I. The private school kids I knew at my church back then would tell me about the classics they were reading for their English classes like Homer’s Iliad or Tolstoy’s War and Peace, while I had to stick with modern stuff like Housseni’s The Kite Runner or Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate; books that I would later appreciate in life post-high school. Ended up reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto, or Beckett’s Waiting for Godot on my own, out of spite that stuff I read just wasn’t “smart” enough in my opinion.

The fact that I wouldn’t be as advanced as this smart kid I just met in the summer made me angry, and yet no one else at my regular school even seemed to care! At least, not how I perceived it.

Looking back, I will say that it was silly of me to think that something as silly as writing cursive would somehow get me ahead in life. Sure, there are people out there who still think it’s fancy, but most people agree that it is an obsolete practice that probably should just go away as time goes on.

But the fact remains that the jealousy of historically oppressed groups of people wanting to be more like their privileged counterparts is still very much a real thing, and in my advanced years now, I totally get why my former classmates would have felt that way in the capacity of other means. Although our experiences are different, I don’t have to be black or brown to know that these subtle forms of oppression do continue to persist, even to this day.

It’s probably better that I didn’t go to that private school later in life. Given some of my other history, I probably wouldn’t have survived in one anyway.

That being said, this is only one part of a two-part reflection that I have scheduled on my critique of dialectics. Tomorrow I will be back to retell the events of this same early memory, and in spirit of dialectics, the tone will sound very much different as the one you just read.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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