KD-ADS: Expanding Horizons

Cos thinking should never be stagnant...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Thinking Fear

Certainly one may say, ‘Freedom to speak or write can be taken from us by a superior power, but never the freedom to think!’ But how much, and how correctly, would we think if we did not think, as it were, in common with others, with whom we mutually communicate!

Immanuel Kant
Critique of Practical Reason

Today a paralyzing fear gripped me in the afternoon. While I wish it was due to not updating my blog for a week, the reason for the sudden tang of this fienish fear had to do with my reticient acknowledgement that I would soon leave my current residence and return to my home country. It was an ineffable feeling, I was overwhelmed with irate anger, rage, sadness, melancholy and especially hatred that I must return to a place that I could no longer bear living in. I sought for the reasons for why this is so, controlling my querulous disposition to vituperate SP21, and to search for the verity of my reluctance. As I sat down to write vociferously about my intense fear, I then realised that a recent seminar accosted the tension within me. It was a seminar on "What is thinking for?", featuring two philosophy authors in conversation, Alain de Botten and John Armstrong.

1) Thinking helps refine our self-knowledge. Unlike hunger, our self-beliefs and values are not as precise and immediate. They can't be detected as readily unlike when we experience a hunger pang, where we know what we want to eat. Thinking focuses on our internal dialogue, and reaffirms our priorities and values in life.

2) Thinking helps identify ourself within our social environment, peers, family and external world. We are bombarded with a plethora of conflicting excessive information from our external surroundings, that to encounter and wade through this sensory overload is a daunting vexing task. Thinking is our cognitive tool to abscond from the torrent of assaulting information, and to position ourself in this revolving stormy world.

3) Thinking reduces our fear. We hear the common phrase, "you got nothing to fear but fear itself" which we should deconstruct. Fear is the representation of our emotion in reacting to uncertain, inconsistant or an unknown stimuli. We fear for our "future" because we can't predict the future, and we fear our "own selves" sometimes because we aren't sure of what we want or need. Thinking resolves and ameliorates our morose disposition to the portentous events of our life, it reduces doubts and constructs confidence in its place.

4) Thinking alleviates loneliness. The normality of life can be threatening to our internal states, while we no doubt desire for our own seclusion from the obfuscating world, we also panick over the ostentatious soundness of a routine lifestyle. We may be said to have a proclivity for vivaciousness, and thinking, as an antecedent, creates a congruous reception to other people's thoughts which align with ours. Thinking is a cure to the disease of "loneliness", as it reconnects our social needs with the discursive thoughts of others.

I was afraid that my return to SP21, in a word, would obliterate my freedom to think and express my thoughts. It is like a decree to stop "thinking". Thinking would be abysmal, it would only breed ignorance and regurgitate orthodox "truths". I was afraid that my adventure in thinking, not just by myself but with others who cherish the gifts of catholic thinking and rejection of parochial mindsets, would end, rendering a cessation in an utmost prudential task of human well-being. It is only with an incontrovertible tenacity to overcome social barriers that I must continue my quest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The impassivity of a nation?

Came across a letter today in the newspapers and decided to highlight this particular letter. While the crux of the forum letter addressed the failure of reported child abuse cases, I emphasised the following portion:

"...SP21's reluctance to intervene in the affairs of our fellow men, even for the greater good, comes as no surprise.

The fact that we are living in one of the world's most densely-populated cities has ironically caused us to become immune to the needs of our neighbours. In crowded urban environments, the tendency is for humans to retreat into our shells, our little abodes-in-the-sky, preserving what little privacy and space we have. This cheek-by-jowl living has resulted in us living insular and anonymous lives, with an overriding fear of involvement.

Mrs Hillary Clinton wrote that it takes a village to raise a child. In the good old days, we had legions of relatives and friendly neighbours on hand to help out in any trouble. However, ensconced in our little pigeon holes, many of us seem intent on getting on with our lives, beset by our own problems. Our knowledge of and bond with our neighbours have become too superficial for us to help in times of crisis.

I live with three other families on the same floor. Doors are closed most of the time. Our one and only interaction, if you can call it that, happens by chance in the lift or in the lobby.

I am sure that many people have experienced the interminable minutes stuck in a lift with nothing at all to say to the virtual strangers who happen to live in the same block as us. In this state of affairs, is it any wonder that people have grown withdrawn and indifferent to the predicaments of others?

The problems we face are not unique. This situation is emblematic of countless other urban centres. Just walk into any crowded city and you would find the same pervasive anonymity and self-imposed isolation. Is this sense of detachment and isolation from the community an inevitable price to pay for progress and city living?...."

There are some envisaged assumptions about the brusquely chores of urban living. The author conjectured that modernistic-dense environments propogated a pernicious self-inflicted conscription of anonymity and isolation. Such a claim should not be construed as tacitly inevitable but be reconsidered as an endogenous growth within our own community. To consternate that all urban societies (who are heterogenous with different socio-cultural norms and value systems) engender this anomie perpetuates a fallacy. Similarly, one can ask the author to acknowledge her agonizing disenchantment and liberate herself from her own "self-imposed isolation" as she stated. Don't ignore the agency involved in members of a society, thats how societies change and evolve (hopefully for a positive egalitarian cause). Rather one should impugn such abject capitulation with solemn parlance to effect amiable solutions.

Incidentally, I don't wish to embellish my own blog with derogatory rhetoric of "moral decay", rather my objective is to expunge and parlay all these negativitism for positive collary with a prudent analysis, as I promised. These insight pieces, unfortunately, will be sporadic, considering the favourable circumstances to scribe and debrief them.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Book Review

Book Title: The Age of Consent: Manifesto for a New World Order
Author: George Monbiot

If anyone still thinks that the world is living on an equal distribution of wealth, a just economic system (or that economic systems are unbiased and objective), or otherwise severely ignorant of current world order, this book shatters every illusion you had. This is quasi-essentially a manifesto advocating a radical change in global political-economic systems, where a reigning hegemony by rich nations dictate the austerity in the poverty of poor nations and abet a sordid oligopolistic hierarchy that expedites the wealth of rich corporations/nations by "sucking the resources of defenseless nations". It is hard to criticize a book when one lacks the expertise but there is no doubt the ideas presented have been carefully thought of, considered and palatble (except to rich nations) to anyone who is wont to changing the insensate abuse by politically incorrect nations.

There is one question left unanswered, though not necessarily in this book. That is, why should we care? The last chapter makes a seemingly urgent call/harangue for immediate action, which is the missing ingredient in this global war for fair political-economic trade. Even for many enthuasists, the author notes that an insufficient participation by many unconcerned is an incipient problem. This abject condition exculpates any moral conscience for change.

I am left to wonder, how can I systematically propose a moral philosophical argument for the formation of a social conscious to care for the people of poor nations. Suffice to say, now I am ostensibly relying on an intuitive moral propensity to care for people even despite never knowing them. How can one convince others to imprecate a similar investment? This question I will answer another day.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Emotional Development of a Society?

Being out with a few classmates today, we eventually engaged into an interesting debate regarding the emotional development of children or rather adults who have reached a plateau in developing into emotionally mature individuals. While I was not an active participant in the discussion, the commentaries and statements struck a chord with me, which I shall now conjecture.

The general hypothesis exegesis was that in relative to the older generation (i.e. our parents, grandparents and above ancestors though no exact limit was stipulated), the current generation of today are not as "emotionally mature". Bereft of personal emotional maturity, today's youngsters are boor, coarse, licentious, sordid, corrupt and just plain "immature". The underlying factors were attributed to a growing concentration of focus on intellectual development (c.f. the knowledge-based economy), lack of parental support and the changing modern capitalistic society (although no reference in the conversation specifically indicated "capitalistic", they considered the capitalistic nature of the work environment as the factor).

This comparison to previous monuments and societies in our past is certainly idyllic, and claims were adduced that a real important change/shift in emotional politick or economy was drastically called for. It seems that these intuitive comparisons suffice on some phenomenological grounds, simply, people may simply "feel" that others are not as emotionally developed as before. Since a study on scientific validity is impossible, we should reflect on a possible palpatable interpretation form of history.

Strangely, we do find that perhaps our history demonstrates little resolve in our ancestors' emotional maturity. We have come from the disasters/crises of racism, sexism, two World Wars, genocidal conflicts and certainly a few other "moral crises" we can easily sum up. We could be said to have learnt and repent for our past mistakes, but that doesn't absolve or palliate our own crimes. Consider how societal members have reacted together as insurgents towards a "moral crisis", such movements have picked up a faster pace than before, and collective trepidation from our own quietude has forced us to develop an emerging moral conscious. We are heading somewhere but the road won't be easy.

But this progressive appraisal won't reach its zenith if countered by the forces of industrial economy. In a micro-environmental sense, my classmates' comments were centred on the social family structure and its evolving mutation. Since parents now work on full-time jobs, we don't expect them to vivaciously spent time with children, depreciating them from emotional growth. Further, the responsibilities of parents' have dissolved into childcare centres, nannies/maids, guardians and etc. While research is still young on the consequences of alternative practices of child-care development, nevertheless a salient decisive link between biological parents and the child's socio-emotional development retains as very critical in the childs' personality development. Lest we misconstrue this as indicative of derogating female's rights to work, the father is also a significant role player in the process, albeit the mother with her maternal instincts is inexplicitly sancrosanct.

Thus, it seems in a very intuitive sense that there is no hiatus in confering my classmates' beliefs on the rising "despondent" generation, or what they dubbed the new "pragmatics". Especially discerning is the observation that these comments surmised from the citizens of the SP21 country. As I quipped in this remark, they inconvertibly absconded themselves as culprits but clairvoyant outsiders who knew the truth about SP21. What became most alarming was when one of them ratified SP21's policies as prerogatives, thus insisting that the decline of moral or emotional development was "inevitable", which suffused a heated rebukement from the others that this must be "changed".

In summary, and to simplify the debate, they saw humans as lacking in emotional development compared to our ancestors. The nuance in emotional (and perhaps moral) development might be the capricious side-effects of modern societies, especially industrious nations. While I agreed that perhaps on a microlevel, this is what they are experiencing, but on a global scale, I hopefully expect this form of social-moral-emotional consciousness to grow. I also believe that a glaring omission in the discussion was individuals as "active participants" in the process. Social, cultural values does influence us to a greater degree than we like to believe, but we are not "blank slates". WE can enact and reinterpret social messages to sculpt our own "world".

Now when one of them was willingly to sacrifice the lack of emotional maturity for economical prosperity, that was obstreperous to me, she was essentially saying, "nothing should be done, society will evolve further into less emotional creatures, and this is fine." This statement may not be as impactful until she defended her belief that SP21 is "just like that". It shouldn't be changed, nor does it need be.

This superfluous example was not ephemeral, as I alluded to in my earlier post, it is an exemplary of an ingrained mindset that should be struck with enmity.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Search for Truth

Quote of our time

If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things.

Rene Descartes
Discourse on Method

The 21st Century Police State

When one is present in a new environment, one is reminded again of his/her origins. One's own idiosyncratic identity is reinforced and salient in novel surroundings, and one must then purge the etiology of his own beliefs and upbringings.

There is a place, and I shall dub it the "Policed-State" (abbreviated to SP21) for now. Why this label or perhaps epithet? This place has been labelled other unique names, such as the "air-conditioned island", "benign authoritarian" but I think the "policed state" is of the best fit. Because we are dealing with a place, where I belonged, which will evolve sooner or later into the perfect epitome of a rigidly-structured, closely surveillant island that will micro-manage every aspect of its citizens' lives. Note that this is not a extremist view, its one meekly accepted by its own citizens, in fact perfectly acceptable, because there is no other options, no remotely fathomable alternative than to capitulate to the status quo, authority and power just to cage the "chaos" citizens themselves are afraid to risk. The "Policed-State" doesn't care about salvagable options, it doesn't concern itself with petty emotions and humanity, it expects results. Thats how the "Policed-State" runs, and as movie taglines say "Failure is never an option".

What particular characteristics do we expect from a modern "policed-state"? What can PS21 offer to tell us about future, modernity, technology, morals, tradition, culture, humanity and most importantly, social life? A lot because if we expect individual autonomy to be subscribed to the norms of state's institutions, and never anything less or otherwise, we expect the fine mechanics of a well-oiled machine. A perfect machine, one might say, churned by input and output, knowing no other duty. Below are some of the features we should find:

1) Authority is unquestioned, unrepentable, unrefutable and unapologetic. It makes no mistake, because authoritarianism doesn't allow any other form of power, except its own. There will be no discourse or current of power, because it will dissemble any collective effort to modify it. Contrast with the police agency, they also are assigned power to be used, and to overcome any other power that runs counter to it. Neither does the police question its own power, they simply must enforce it.

2) Loss of individual autonomy. When one observes a social group (e.g. a group of friends), one will find shared effort to achieve goals. But there's also one important element for such dynamics to be shared. Individual autonomy is still retained in such projects, and perhaps encouraged because harmonous social groups will attend to the needs of its members and engender a solution accepted by most. A policed social group will elevate a goal to its top priority, while rendering other interests obsolete, possibly crashing with other reasonable expediency. When we expect the police to act, we expect the same cursory vacuity, that loss of autonomy to make decisions not of your own but prescribed by rules (e.g. the law, proper conduct, etc). The "policed-state" would expect its citizens to follow this protocol.

3) Discreet Surveillance. The police do not watch over your every step, move nor breath, but that doesn't mean they aren't able to. In fact, the "policed-state" will never be able to manage such a ambitious tumultous task, but since it can't overtly watch over everyone, it will do so covertly. Readers of George Orwell's 'Big Brother' forget that the individuals in the totalitarian society are aware of their invasion of privacy, but to fund such a flagrant inclement project is impossible without rebukement from the citizens. Thus, surveillance is best met by discreet practices, while clandestine activities are mobile.

4) Potent Indoctrination. This deleterious side-effect produces itself, while not incipient within the process, it systematically presents itself. It is is germane to the process of institutionalization and militates the individuals caught up in it. However, the system is widely cast to every micro-aspect of social life, thus individuals are inevitably annexed into the process. The police and any other orderly organizations can't function without some degree of indoctrination of norms and rules, even if it is a iota of concedence to the dogma.

5) Progress is the top priority. There need not be any explanation, nothing else matters but progress. But progress is confined to specific discourses or fields, and here we meet abysmal goals. Avarice remains the key word to describe such behaviour, while the balderdash of morals and values are wont to their capricious manipulation. Which leaves the last important feature, the crux of the dynamic process:

6) Manufactured Consent.

In the course of time, I will reveal the intricacies of this social-political process. While I understand that I made some prejudgmental statements on my own country, I am not impugning nor vilifying the place. There are trade-offs, and positive outcomes have emerged from such a system. My question is how far do we pay for these benfits, are they unattainable from other forms of action and how much do we wish to give up for the "perfect" parismonious tutelage of a 21st century modernistic home? Because this place is no longer an ostensible stationary, numb and insipid environment, but become the very concotment of a very breathing robotic metaphysical entity that may be virulent in us all.

A question of morals

Ever since the release of the Iraq prisoner abuse in the Abu Ghraib prisoner (where US soldiers perpetuate the same horrific tortureous practices of Saddam Hussein), there have been two kinds of outcries. One is especially prominent and common, which has been the questioning of the motives of the "Coalition of the Willing". This ubitiqious denouncement is one of aghast, at how US soliders could be just as dehumanized as the very same villians they were trying to dispose of. The other kind of outcry, while not predominantly stricken with moral insinulations, is that such abuses are only "rotten apples" and that the quest still continues for the liberation of Iraq.

The details of such criticism and discussion is enveloping in many media channels, this anyone is left to his/her own discretion to read and dissect. However, this issue of morals, who is justifiably right or wrong, who deserves to wield such use, as is evident in the excuse of "routine practices for interrogation", and lastly, are morals really unsound and indiscriminated here? This isn't so much of a moral dilemma, anyone knows full well that any civilized society wouldn't condone such behaviour, rather this is a calamity of emotions, at seeing for once, how individuals very similar to us (or perhaps not), at how the social conditions of war (and a highly contestable one) are irrefragible contingent and powerful to tranform what seems "our trusted comrade" into the beast we thought we vanquished.

In my perspective, anyone who is half-witted enough shouldn't expect any better, in fact nobody should be surprised. War is as such, just as in a time of occupation, nothing extraordinarily different should be expected, The impetus is on us, and our interpretation of the consequences in this current fiasco.

Note: My next entry will coincide with my previously mentioned subject in the first entry.

An invitation to a broader domain

Considering that my tv broke down, that I am bored shit, that my wandering mind is restless, and thoughts should not go to waste, I've decided to built a secure (?) habitat to pen down what seems to be vestiges of a life one can't concretely grab and hold.

It is of great absurdity to write down the personal happenings or observational experiences in this web blog, it merely exacerbates the boredom of a routine life, and demands no exhilaration or effort. Instead, it is only of selfish ambition to pen down the thoughts of analytical subjects, not as narcisstic vainglorious demonstration of intellectual skill (for anyone else can perform such an innate act), but to perforce crack open a closed parochial mind, to break frontiers in a social world, and to ascend higher modes of thought. Thus my subtitle: Expanding Horizons. Thinking is a gift that we should spare no costs, an activity not for the leisurely mundane but must be enforced as a univeral concept, not too cheap nor too extravagent for anyone to spent. It demands our dexterity and spontaneity.

Tomorrow onwards, I shall start. And my first subject belongs to an important subset of social life: where I belong.