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To be a purist in the most essential questions of your faith…

3 Feb

A main function and attraction of religion is how it serves to develop community. It binds people together and makes them feel safe as they are able to trust and work with each other within a common, well-delineated culture.

I have found the arguments for and against purism in religion very murky water indeed to tread. If I were to believe in something, I believe that most of us do have an inner guide that can be developed to foster positive relationships with ourselves and with others. Many people have noted the existence of this inner guide. The monotheists tend to believe that it is the voice of God talking to them, whilst the animalists/spiritualists tend to structure such around a notion of give-and-take/ecosystem perspective of our role on earth.

There is a statement I once heard, which has yet to be proven, but may serve as something worth considering: “Those who are drawn to the study of psychiatry often feel that they have something wrong with themselves that they wish to understand.”

I would say that a similar situation holds true for religion. There are some very kind, thoughtful religious leaders who truly do their best to foster health, peace and love within their communities. And then, there are those who are drawn to it because they feel themselves lacking a moral compass, and perhaps by studying religion this thing called ‘a conscience’ should become clear to them.

The problem is that most of us, at one point or another, feel unsure or inadequate in understanding the scripture. We require leaders to set the pace, inspire our continued sense of shared purpose and feed this vein. This has made authority necessary in religion.

And this has made groups of people vulnerable to leaders who are perhaps not as well formed as they profess to be.

The problem with religion is that, because it is inherently a group activity, majority rules. This applies to various scenarios where group-think (or lack of judgement) prevails: You are in a meeting and someone says something erroneous. You look around, no one is voicing dissent. You leave the meeting and whisper to a friend : “By the way, when X said Y, I think there was something wrong with that statement?” and your friend says “Oh! I thought so too! But I thought everyone agreed…” but the decision has been made.

Often-times, this conversation never happens, because questioning is written into the unspoken creed as possibly blasphemous. And for the average believer, unless authority is gleaned through a life-long study of the holy writ, one does not have the right of  consulting one’s own conscience.

And when it behooves the faithful to be true to the scripture, even the objects within the text that go against our basic, innate conscience MUST be incorporated – often at the cost of our humanity.

I feel (at great offense to some friends), that in communities where the sectarian social mores are less secure, a higher percentage of people look to religion as the moral guide. In places where you feel no recourse to being leered at, from being touched without permission, from being spoken to disrespectfully and having the right to call out people on it… I am also talking about places where authority is abused regularly and is not called abuse – by policemen, by insurance companies, by teachers, by parents. This acceptance of authority poisons our ability to truly respect individuals, nor can we treat each other kindly. For if we cannot hold that everyone can be flawed, then how can we treat each other with charity? It is by suspending belief in the frailty, and strength, that each of us is capable of, are we able to elevate certain individuals over others.

 And if we attribute our own failings constantly to an outside source: “the devil made me do it.”, then we are never responsible for necessary acts of restitution.

You know what makes me happy? Remembering, each day, that I have only one life. You know what pushes me to treat others carefully? Knowing that they, too, only have one life. There are transgressions beyond which I cannot pass, because I would be destroying the opportunities for others to experience their living with as much of the privilege I myself feel in the facts of being human and alive. So mine is not a state of insecurity, staring into the abyss. My understanding of life makes me treasure the very fact of it. My situation in life allows me to be generous and wish happiness for others. This for me is adequate. I do not like to complicate it by attributing acts and intentions to a separate entity, and feel so insecure of my understanding of His/Her intentions that I must seek a middle-man to elucidate what should be spoken directly to my heart. Nor spend my days spreading the message that is spoken to me which I ought rightfully to attribute to my own inner voice, and not mislead people by giving it the authority of a higher power.

And as much as we may all be hypocrites and fail to recycle. We may be able to strive within our limits to keep the sanctity of living intact.

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How I feel about race

1 Feb

Brent Staples, a writer at the New York Times, said that he whistles classical music when walking on the streets at night – to assuage the fears of white people. It sounds funny… and sad at the same time, that even today being black in America still provokes fear or loathing in (what should be) ordinary white strangers. However, I cannot be too quick to judge – I found my own shoulders tightening when traveling in the more ‘predominantly black’ communities of NYC.

Being ethnically Asian, I do feel that I am better off than my darker skinned peers, who are clearly distinguished, and frequently emotionally discriminated, upon sight. In several studies, doctors have been shown to diagnose and prescribe medication with racial bias… until asked to reconsider whether race had influenced their decision. Time and again in the justice system, racial bias has put more African Americans in jail than normal conviction rates would suggest. (In this article, authors Lilienfeld and Byron suggest ways to prevent that).

Xenophobia is ingrained. In his book The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond cites studies that show people who grew up among mono-ethnic societies frequently find difficulty later on in life to distinguish individuals from different races. Thus my favorite Stormfront quote “…besides, [Asians] all look the same.” I have the same difficulty: growing up in two different communities – one predominantly Taiwanese and one predominantly White (with some Hmong), I frequently have difficulty distinguishing one black person from another. In the beginning of dating a black boyfriend, I had some trouble picking his face out from his friends at first, which I covered up with myopia. Xenophobia is ingrained, but not impossible to overcome. With time, it is possible to rewire your brain to see these distinctions, as I had.One seems to need to be continuously reconditioned, however, when taken out of the environment again. Such as: When I see Bollywood posters, I still cannot readily tell that the leading female is a different one in the other movie, despite being able to do so while I was in India for a month.

Diamond also mentions studies that show we have a preference to mate (and marry) people who look like the people we grew up with, which may be why mixed children (and communities, chicken and egg?) are still not as prevalent in such a diverse country as the U.S. as one might expect from random mate choice.

In dealing with the dilemma of my natural biases, I may overcompensate: When narrating incidences in my life, I am intensely focused on not mentioning race, or descriptive words relevant to race, instead focused on obliterating the need to mention race at all. On ‘my own people’ or Eastern Asians I am less concerned, and readily make distinctions between Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese. However, I do not make clear distinctions when it comes to Filipinos, Indonesians, Islanders…etc. Besides knowing less about them from a cultural perspective and feeling the need to tread cautiously on such distinctions, Taiwan is a place where many migrant workers come from these nations, and they are frequently discriminated against, which makes me more cautious not to do. In actuality, some of my friends may find this disrespectful, as they may feel they are quite proud as a Filipino or Indonesian. For me, I change the tact according to listener… if I suspect that my distinction of the nationality may make my listener think less of the subject, I would do away with such national distinctions altogether, instead saying that he/she is a ‘foreigner’, and or qualifying a description of them with the great things that they do.

In a way, rewording the narration in this manner has helped me see strangers in a different light, and helped me realize that I still frequently function by racial biases – without being aware of it. As in many things, it takes work to overcome yourself and live consciously.

Design for people: K-mart and a park

17 Jun

It’s interesting to note a shopper’s sensation upon first entering a store. There used to be two huge retail branches in my town – Walmart and K-mart. In comparison, K-mart did very badly financially. And why was that? For one, a customer ‘perceived’ that K-mart’s products were more expensive. For another, the entire layout of K-mart invited a headache. I would go 2/3rds into K-mart and come out shaking my head, wondering why I was getting a bad vibe from the store even though they sold basically the same sort of products that Walmart sold. Another thing came from when they were going through their ‘closing shop sales’ period. When I walked into the store, though many of the items were marked down, I felt disinclined to buy them because of the way they were placed – haphazardly, crookedly, as if they had no value. Now, K-mart could have substantially upped their sells during that period if their employees would step in at every other moment and fix things that a customer had just mussedup, but the employees were probably feeling very demotivated at the moment with their looming unemployment. Another store I would like to compare this to would be Target. Target had basically the same problems as K-mart – their products were more expensive, and the store organization was not thrilling. But target made up for all of it with one thing – color. Target was a master at setting up bright, cheerful colors, making sure that there was no dust on the merchandise or the racks, and making sure the lighting was bright and cheerful. Target employees wore red and white and smiled a lot.

I do wonder why Walmart stores place the sewing related merchandise at the back of their stores; and, if there is a gun section, all the hunting and gun gear at the back of the store as well. If I recall correctly, most larger gardening and lawn appliances (BBQ stands, lawn mowing machine, lawn chair…etc) are always placed on the left of of the store. I wonder why?

 

————————————————————On to elsewhere—————–

I was walking through our renovated community park with my dad tonight, and noticed that the old problem had started up again — older people in my community were bringing in their own chairs, and leaving them in the park. The chairs they brought in were either very cheap, or outdated – which guaranteed both that no one would want to take them home, and that it looked like an eyesore.

I was originally glad that they had renovated the park. The original park was basically divided by this massive monument that had steps leading up to it. Since the park was shaped like a triangle it meant that it was hard to walk straight through the park, one had to walk around the monument or over it to get through the other side. The way the bushes were designed also made it difficult to clean out litter, and there was a constant swarm of insects.

The new park design has a central fountain that spurts every hour. They minimalized the space that the monument uses and lowered the entire structure, removed bushes, and put in plenty of benches and some picnic tables as well. There’s even a small tent-like space in a corner where old people can bring in their own chairs and tables and do the chess, hangingout, smoking thing that they like to do. It has become a much more palatable location for the better-to-do families who just like to walk (or jug) around the park and bring their children to play in the fountain. But looking today, I noticed that most of the benches are not being used – because that’s not the way our community functions.

1. The benches are lined along the park. It looks very pretty in a design concept, but in reality bences are used when people want to a) rest, or b) enjoy some privacy. The park is not large enough for the joggers to feel an overwhelming desire to rest, and the placement of the benches allows for no privacy. It would be better if the benches were designed as gazebos, or placed along the path facing a view (like the fountain or playground) with their back to a tree or a fairly spaced plot of plants or running water.

2.  Like smokers who don’t like designated smoking rooms (besides freedom, they find each other disgusting), the older people in my community don’t like to be boxed off in an ugly tin-roof tent in a corner of the park facing the traffic. So they bring their own chairs to supplement the existing benches. Taiwanese people don’t use picnic benches either – because it’s square, and so high (our usual tea tables are only slightly taller than our knees) it constitutes an obstruction to conversation. So we see a ringlet of tattered looking chairs surrounding a bench. It’s a community activity, sitting under the cool shade of trees, talking.

Now if we can find a solution to the pet-owners who like to treat the park as a soil fertilizing project.

Individualism and Collectivism – On societal restraint

18 Sep

I was reading David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he’s a writer who does mild satire. What I found interesting was a narrative of his stay in Japan.

 

I was in the school break room with Christophe-san yesterday, and the two of us got to talking about vending machines, not just the ones before us, but the ones outside as well. “Can you believe it?” he asked. “In the subway station, on the street, they just stand there, completely unmolested.”

“I know it,” I said.

Our Indonesian classmate came up, and after listening to us go on, he asked what the big deal was.

“In New York or Paris, these machines would be trashed,” I told him.

The Indonesian raised his eyebrows.

“He means destroyed,” Christophe said. “Persons would break the glass and cover everything with graffiti.”

The Indonesia student asked why, and we were hard put to explain.

“It’s something to do?” I offered.

“But you can read a newspaper,” The Indonesian said.

“Yes,” I explained, ” but that wouldn’t satisfy your basic need to tear something apart.”

Eventually, he said, “Oh, OK,” the way I do when moving on seems more important than understanding. Then we all went back to class.

I reflected on our conversation after school, as I hurried down a skyway connecting two train stations. Windows flanked the moving sidewalks, and on their ledges sat potted flowers. No one had pulled the petals off. No one had thrown trash into the pots or dashed them to the floor. How different life looks when people behave themselves – the windows not barred, the walls not covered with graffiti-repellent paint. And those vending machines, right out in the open, lined up on the sidewalk like people waiting for a bus.

 

And another passage:

…people cover their books with patterned, decorative jackets so you can’t see what they’re reading. In the rest of the world, if you’re curious about someone, all you have to do is follow him for a while. Within a few minutes his cell phone will ring, and you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know. Here, of course, there’s a considerable language barrier, but even if I were fluent it wouldn’t help me any. After three weeks I have yet to see a single bus or subway passenger talking on a cell phone. People do it on the street sometimes, but even there they whisper and cover their mouths with their free hands. I see this and wonder, What are you hiding?

 

I’ve never really thought about the fact that there were not many out in the open vending machines in the states. Well, I lived in small towns while I was there so crime wasn’t a major issue… and commercialism wasn’t as blatant in the cities so it’s rare to see vending machines anyway. What I wonder about is why there would be such vandalism in Paris an New York. This is not a major problem even in Taipei, a much more stressful and metropolitan city than Kaohsiung, where I currently reside. I can’t really fathom beginning to vandalise a machine – well, I can, since I’m prone to imagine all things criminal in proximity to possible objects of crime when I’m not otherwise occupied – but I can’t imagine acting on it. Besides the trouble, and being innately unable to keep up a lie (If I even think of putting jelly in my brother’s shoes, I start giggling so mad he looks at me and hides them), I simply don’t think of it as a meaningful idea. And this is not only a personal trait – I believe most people in Taiwan would find vandalism to a vending machine loser behaviour. Make your mark on historical buildings, possibly, but smash up someone’s shop? Never!

 

I believe it takes a major break from your connection to society to find such acts feasible. That would be either 1. individualism, as it is so lovingly called, or 2. being in a system that distrusts its individuals. I find some western societies a combination of both – a distrust of the individualism it so lovingly espouses. The distrust is reasonable when we look at the recent koran burning incident. But one has to admit that the temptation quota of a vending machine greatly increases when 1. One feels little affinity for the industry that stands to profit from it and 2. it’s locked up. In our society we are understanding of the trials and tribulations of merchants. I feel guilty for not buying something from a sales lady if she’s been so kind to me. In fact, that is why even though I like the idea of walking into a high-end store and trying on impossibly expensive clothes just for the heck of it, I’ve only done this once.

 

In our society, people are cajoled into obeying the law because of how it would inconvenience others. In America, people are cajoled into obeying the law because you would be fined and arrested otherwise. It makes me wonder whether individualism and the rule of law goes hand in hand. I’ve heard a law major say that Taiwan isn’t a society that goes completely by the rule of law. Look at how many people here get out of a traffic ticket by being nice to police officers. If you’re a foreigner here you might even get out of a ticket by being friendly and claiming ignorance. And that’s just minor example.

 

This is why imposing an American system of law and order on Iraq has been so difficult. There was a spate of articles a month back that  talked about the extreme difficulty of developing a police system in Iraq. The reason cited was too little funding for training, so that training sessions were packed into a few months and that is not considered adequate. I should think, that besides this, the simple fact that Iraq has a more collective society is also the reason. It is not a society that can readily accept that one must act impartially when on duty despite personal relationships. In fact, in these societies, the survival of an individual is considered so dependent on his/her immediate society that relationships are considered more important than law, and a commoner would be understanding of a police officer for preferring his family member over himself even though it’s not right. So I believe even with more extensive training, there is no guarantee that all the effort will disintegrate upon a short while of commencing duty.

 

What the Americans can not expect is to be able to make their form of law and order work in Iraq. The way society functions there is completely different. Instead, Americans must learn (and I bet many of the more effective policies taking place there are already using this method, though off-the-record) to accept some ‘corruption’ in these nations that they’re working with. Be it a goodwill gift and long sessions of seemingly meaningless talk with the elders in a village — you cannot expect to ‘get it done’ in Iraq just because you think it’s good for them. They know what’s good for them, you don’t get to decide that.

 

ps. Also possibly why this (http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2015481,00.html) has shown to work very well in asian societies.

 

The Philandering Gene

12 Nov

Let’s play with a hypothetical question concerning genetics and philandering, if we may. Let’s also use time frame rather liberally, and say that the prevalence/allowance of abortion in society preceded the prevalence of divorce.


In the pre-abortion and contraceptive period, this gene would be allowed greater license to spread as males sow their seed in many different women and women have no choice but to give birth to these children, with the males bearing this gene.

Because the pregnancy and nurturing period for women is long and eggs limited, we understand that the amount of offspring women may have is considerably limited. We also know that this gene would not affect the population ratio when it exists in women due to this fact – women who sleep with multiple men could not have more children than women who have only one mate each.


However, for men, this is different. Men who have a tendency to settle with one woman would be disadvantaged progeny-wise compared to men who do not feel such an impulse. A society pre-abortion/contraceptive would be conductive towards increasing people with the philandering gene among the entire population.


Then abortion and contraceptives came along. This gave men and women the choice of not having children.  Women can now decide to abort children they cannot support on their own, who are not the progeny of their husband, or never conceive them in the first place. Philandering men usually  don’t bear in mind the goal of having a lot of children, so they are likely accept contraceptive use as well. This would be inductive towards increasing the non-philandering gene from males in a population.


However, assuming that divorce as a widely acceptable practice came along after abortion, the balance would be tipped back again. Men with the philandering gene are less likely to object to marriage since it is not a constant. In marriage, women don’t tend to object with having children. When men with the philandering gene decide to leave their legal mates and form other mates, they increase the chance of spreading their gene with a new family/woman. We must consider this with the fact that philandering men tend to go for younger women, this quality usually means they are physically more capable of having children. We might say that the wide acceptance of divorce in society increases the spread of the philandering gene.


Of course, philandering may be a polygenic inheritance (an additive effect of two ore more genes on a single phenotypic character), not limited to the Y chromosome, multifactoral (triggered under certain environments), or cultural rather than genetic.


On another note, we don’t have to follow the time frame (birth control predates wide-spread divorce) set in the hypothesis to follow the logic of this.

On the loneliness of leadership and lessons from International Relations class

29 Oct

  The wisest do not think of themselves as wise. The best to lead do not think themselves capable enough. Lack of pride/consciousness in the value of self prevents one from being too content in what one is capable now. As a leader, this trait is doubly important due to the dynamics of problems and hard decisions that leaders must face. Thus it is that the best to lead must have character enough to sustain their own morale/happiness, for they can derive no pleasure from a following.

  Neither Mother Teresa nor Einstein were faking humbleness when they said that their work is not great. It is a backwards approach to tell people they must be humble if they wish to achieve greatness. When we consider such matters of prestige, we lose sight of the pleasure in following our dreams, in doing what we believe is right, in expressing what we think. We are constantly observing the reaction of others and how they should view us. We are fighting to maintain this privilege. We lose because it’s not the point.

  So the best rarely feel pleasure at their besting of others, for it is in their work that they are occupied with, not in the gloating.

  However, the challenges today are such that leaders can not be purely good leaders to be where they are. If they do not manipulate, if they do not negotiate and threaten and accept monetary support from institutes with interest (which their opponents are accepting), if they do not leave out information to appease a highly diversified crowd, they will not gain office.

  Thus, the means has crushed the goal. While we feel gleefully powerful in our supposedly equally wise discernment as we each cast our vote, we are actually gambling – hoping that the one we chose has his/her interest in serving the people, because we cannot hope for one who’ll do it for a strong sense of responsibility. Through our dream of a system of equal rights in choosing the wise, we have instead breeded an industry of unproductive (economically speaking) lobbyists, campaigners, PR people. 

  In my International Relations class my teacher was talking about an ad he had seen.

  “Greed is the engine of Progress.”

  He asked us to consider the relationship of value and price. “Who is the happiest during father’s day?” Mr. Lee asked, “Who’s encouraging you to pay your filial piety to your father?”

  The class, as usual, was silent.

  “The salesmen.” Mr. Lee said. “The capitalist system makes you give values a price. Dad is driving a van, the whole family is going out on a trip, they’re happy because they’re together in this spacious van … quality family time means buying the van.”

  “Capitalism is about competition, often unfair competition. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. This problem was already seen less than two hundred years ago by Karl Marx. The rich, of course, want to maintain their wealth. How do the rich maintain their wealth? Somebody answer me.”

  There was silence. I thought. I shook my head. I raised my hand: “By changing the laws.”

  “Society is a system of games. The games with the most holding power is legislation. Who sets the laws?” Mr. Lee answered himself, “Legislators. Parliament. Anyone wondering why there’s so much money involved in legislator voting?”

  People drew in their breath. Some chuckled. I chuckled. I wrote in my notebook:

  The more money a politician spends on campaigning, the more careful you have to be about supporting them.

  Mr. Lee continued.

  “Recall that when I asked last time whether you believed that one ounce of hard work means one ounce of reward (一分耕耘一分收穫) and only two people said they believed in this? What does this signify? <pause> It means that in the society we live in now, reward is not equal to hard work. Some people don’t have to work so hard for what they want.

  “Strong polarities between capitalism and socialism is going to draw dissidents. You belong to the impoverished class in a Capitalist world. You go into a shopping mall, there’s all this merchandise that you can never afford. You’re smart, independent spirited, but poor. You seek out other smart, independent people like you and you strive against the system. When peaceful means don’t work, when you can’t fight legislation, you start using violent means.”

  I wrote down in my  notebook:

  When the smart and independent are impoverished under a capitalist world, a turn towards socialist ideals is inevitable. (Smart as in equally educated, which puts me in mind of Finland and the efforts they made towards making higher education available for all. Is that the reason they have more socialist laws or is it the cause?)

  “What does Capitalism stand for? Creativity and freedom. What does Socialism stand for? Equality. Do these ideals contradict each other?”

  No. I mouthed.

  “Cannot these systems co-exist? I want you to think about this, and not be bogged down by preconceptions of what should be. When we keep fighting for one ideal over another, we must remember what our goal is, and consider both sides.” Okay, I was a little woozy from lack of a nap during this last sentence, so I may be a bit inaccurate here.

The temptations leaders face

23 Oct

What does it mean to have power? It is to have all things made easy for one to compensate for the heavy responsibility conferred. People strive to please, to rid for you nasty obstacles, to affirm your edicts…etc. No wonder many who have tasted power become egomaniacs.

  And the way one acts as a leader is also dictated by situation. If you were to appear less firm in your decisions, to consult others too frequently, to wish to make life easier for your subordinates, you would be disrespected, giving your power to those whom you consult too frequently, unable to make speedy decisions (counselors may squabble or have goals of their own), and doing everything yourself.

  So leaders are forced to rely on their own imperfect judgments, take a stand in issues where it is wisest to be moderate, be somewhat tyrannical and dictate work to others. Turning to democracy may make the leader aware of his responsibility to the people for a longer period, but also fosters leaders who know how to please but not necessarily to lead, who cannot make long term plans for the country for they cannot be sure that their plans will not be superseded by the next president.

  If these leaders are easily persuaded, then they are not likely to abstain from being authoritative while in office, because the environment is so eager to please.

  Leader are human. Good leaders may be deserving of credit, but in general leaders will fail us if we worship them (or at least the group about him worships him). They are expected to see a panoramic view of the nation’s wants, but that would be wishing for too much.

  Everyone would like to believe they are special. Being a leader puts you at risk for believing that you are a cut above the normal breed and exempt from faulty decisions.

  Taiwan’s leadership faces a cultural challenge that makes it extremely difficult for leaders to keep their environment free of fawning subjects. We must treat those who have done us favors with kindness. So even if our secretary is a little too agreeable, we cannot fire them on the grounds that they work for us without judgement. The vice is the virtue. The virtue must be rewarded, however little good it does to our future ability to keep on our toes.

Chosing a leader

  A democracy is the expendition of greater resources in the political process in order to foster a sense of equality. For this generation, it is handed to us on a golden platter. We, who have never shed a drop of blood for its deliverance. Some of us, knowing that we must choose wisely, neglect to vote simply because the task is too daunting – politics had become a complex affair, and it’s hard work trying to look past all those campaign tricks to see true competence. We neglect to vote, while those more naive stand in line to pick one who has once shook their hand, smiled into their eyes, or promised a retirement pension the government couldn’t possibly afford.

  Politics has become a matter of charisma over ability, money over integrity. We are dazzled by fine choices and crippled by no choices; Plagued by the question: Which is the lesser evil?

  For myself, I have a few rules in choosing a candidate:

1. If he/she gives you money, take it and vote for the other guy.

2. Do not vote for candidates who attack their opponents more than they talk about their own policies.

3. Do not vote for candidates who are unrealistically idealistic.

4. Do not vote for candidates who throw money at every policy – it’s your money.

5. Do not vote for candidates whose supporters act like rabid animals.

6. Do not vote for candidates who allow their supporters to act like rabid animals.

7. Do not vote for candidates who focus a great deal on their own disadvantaged upbringing. Poverty does not equal virtue.

On the curious account of the delegation of power according to charisma

20 Dec

If, for a class, it would be beneficial to create “English speaking days” during which all everyone spoke was English, and there were one or two individuals who spoke English exceptionally well and might prove useful to the endeavor, what would prevent the class from commencing such a venture?

1. It takes effort to speak a foreign language.

2. It would re-delegate the social dynamics of the class.

With languages the more capable one is of mastering it, the more power one wields in society. Communication is a key factor in relationships, whether the tools are oral or visual. People who find themselves charming in Chinese may be deaf and dumb in another language, causing frustration and loss of self-esteem. It takes tremendous effort, and it costs them their status in society, however temporarily.

When some go down, other go up, particularly those proficient at the new tool. Witch doctors and ancient leaders became powerful because they claimed to wield an exclusive capability to communicate with the spirits. Likewise, being proficient in English when you are required to speak it puts you at an advantage when others are rendered dumb.

People are innately aware of this phenomenon. If, for example, one or both of the good English speakers in the class are not popular or even liked, then people would be less willing to give them the opportunity to rise in status than otherwise. Thus they would neither commence such an activity, nor practice with the capable subject(s).

In conclusion, it would be safe to assume that the lack of charisma in people efficient in English would, in a manner, hinder the entire class’ natural achievement in that area.

—————————————————-

note:

This reminds me of the dynamics in “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris”, where they decided not to give the charismatic and very deserving Mr. Strange knighthood since it would mean that they would have to give Strange’s mentor, the decidedly uncharismatic and exclusive Mr. Norris, knighthood as well. Sometimes one can lose the recognition one might reasonably expect from a society due to the fact that one associates with the less popular. that is why a whole class may mistreat an innocent individual when the few influential members in that class renounce the person. No one wants to line their name with the loser. The demerit of the castoff may simply be a clash in values with the popular people, not due to any accusably bad behavior on their own count. But people simply fear being associated with the loser, especially since the opinion of the popular sound loudest and appear to be the class’ consensus. This is why movies/ books about a new personality entering an environment and completely transforming it sell well – because that rarely happens.

Not heros, but men

17 Sep

I do not believe in hero worship of political persons. They are merely civil servants. This does not mean that I suggest we despise them. Although it is true that some are better at their service than others, our vote, not our autograph books, is all the encouragement they need.

If we worship a political figure, we put undue pressure on them to be what they are not. We distract them from their duty and make them consider themselves. Disinterest in self is necessary for good service. Soon they will no longer be able to perform with efficiency the capability they were lauded for. All men are mortal; we have more public office spaces than there are men who can overcome the temptation of power. Don’t put on into a situation you yourself cannot resist.

Treat them with the attitude that you expect them to do their duty – criticize them, give them suggestions, vote for them when they’ve done well. A truly good civil servant will appreciate this, a mortal civil servant will be kept in line by this, a conniving power monger will be turned off by this.