That’s a tough one!
I can’t say that there are any issues in particular that I take a fancy because it’s really just a matter of what I chance upon and what catches my interest. Generally speaking, I like normative issues - your ‘oughts’ and ‘should’ - and questions about ethics. Euthanasia is something that I find fascinating. Also questions about moral responsibility: if you suddenly developed a technology that could actually read minds, you should think about how and where that technology should be used. Just because you have some asset doesn’t mean you should exploit the crap out of it.
Do we owe anything to society?
I also like thinking about equality of opportunity because one of the things that I am really thankful for is having grown up in a society that has the resources to give to those who wanted it. I think it’s something everyone should have - equality of opportunity - but it seems so difficult to truly implement, particularly in your large countries. So I’m interested in how society is able to promote it, which leads to issues related to things like taxation and government spending .etc
I also find economics fascinating, so questions like: how should a society be run? How should distribution of resources work? Why are we at where we are at now? Just because things are ‘the way they are’ doesn’t mean it’s always the best or even the right way.
I like challenging the status quo. One thing that’s been quite interesting recently is the whole idea of university study as no longer being this leg up - so many young people go into university seeing it as the light at the end of the tunnel but many emerge out of it pretty disillusioned about the world. And there are so many graduates now too, leading to problems of academic inflation and unemployment which kinda leads people to think: what is the actual value of a university education and where is it coming from?
And one of my favourite ones is education and learning. I love the human mind and the way it functions. Ideas about ‘nature vs nurture’ (I’m a 90% nurture type of person) and how we tend to define intelligence. I perform disproportionately well in exams but I don’t think it necessarily makes me a ‘smart’ person - in fact I greatly respect people with ideas, creativity and who think for themselves much much more than someone who is a good process learner.
I could probably go on and on but I think I’m just naturally curious about issues in general, and especially things that I feel need caring about - and I’m sure there are heaps that I don’t even know about yet :)
I feel like you're trying to rationalize something that's wrong. Ok like sure, American society is indeed a competitive every-man-for-himself world too, but I don't think it's good enough that 'that's just how it is' in Asia. Regardless of personal sociology, human life is precious isn't it? That might be a very Westerner thing of me to say and exactly what you're criticizing but it's so inexcusable what happened. Responding to a dying girl is nothing like queue jumping.
I agree with you - I’m not saying nor leaving it at “that’s just how it is so therefore it’s okay”.
What I was trying to illustrate was that it’s not a problem of a lack of morality within Chinese society (which is most of the reaction to it), on the basis that:
- It’s a problem with humanity in general, with the disrespect for human life - again, the homeless man in NY, and how it seems so easy for a society to turn its head and be numb to the huge toll count of civilian death of any war waged .etc. If you think about it hard enough, what is the difference between leaving that little girl to die on the side of the street and leaving another child (out of the millions of children in the world who die from poverty-related causes every year) to die? Given that you’re middle class and with some stuff at your disposal, surely you have the resources to do something about both. And if it’s the sanctity of life that we’re trying to preserve, then it shouldn’t matter that one is 5 metres away from our feet and the other is 500km away - because we know about both and have the ability to do something about both. You can draw as many distinguishing factors as you’d like, but if we’re so concerned about the value of life itself, then it shouldn’t be the case that one (the child dying from poverty) is more acceptable than the other.
- My second point was that Chinese people at heart are very kind and compassionate. Some of the most heated responses to the incident was from China’s own population. The reason why people acted in the way they did was a systemic problem and one that definitely needs correction, I agree, but you can’t really put moral fault on a person who doesn’t know the full moral implications of what they did or grew up in a society which normalised it. Take a somewhat trivial example - hugging is something that I regard to be quite normal to do to my friends and even perhaps acquaintances. If I then embrace an acquaintance as a way of saying ‘hello’ but (unknowingly to me) to them that physical contact was analogous to ‘rape’ and considered highly offensive, would you say that I was morally at fault for physically abusing them in that way? Would I be evil, morally devoid, unconscionable? Sure, hugging someone is different to queue jumping as it is different to ignoring the girl on the side of the street, but again, how much moral blame can you really attribute?
- Where is the line drawn? Are we so horrified because it’s a little girl? What about the dying beggar on the side of the street from a blistery winter’s cold? We probably walk past many of these in our lifetime. Does that mean that we’re leaving them to die? My friend recently spun out while driving and crashed into a tree, writing off his car. He told me later that soon after the crash, a woman had driven past, looked at him, and kept driving. And this happened in New Zealand too - what do we say then? Is this inexcusable? And what about when we’re causing the death, by withholding from people as nations and corporations the resources or the conditions that we could provide to them affordably, but we choose instead to chuck huge margins on for our own gain. Isn’t it just that we don’t want to inconvenience ourselves by doing something that would help someone else?
When was the last time we truly thought about the moral implications of every one of our actions? We don’t - we do everything out of habit. That’s why we implicitly accept phenomenons like discrimination every day in our society. We try and be really righteous people but we are, at the end of the day, creatures of habit. Some things need to change, sure, but I’m not blaming you for it.
I would like to tell you that I think you're an amazing writer. You write with such flow and ease, and your ideas are really well thought out and layered. I can read your posts like mini short stories. Such seamless writing.
You are too kind - and I really appreciate you saying that.
I try and make what I write as simple and readable as possible, and I’m really happy to hear that what I write is doing what it’s meant to do!
It’s a bit like that leap of joy you get when you’re little and you’ve drawn a (somewhat unrealistic) picture of a cat and everyone talks about it as if it were a dog until that one person says to you: “hey, nice cat!” :)
As humans, we continually strive to advance because this is what was needed to survive. As an extension, this has led to some of us to relentlessly pursuing success. Generally, these people feel they have achieved something when they see others not achieving the same thing. From this, you see there is a big divide between happiness and sadness in the world, major economic gaps, warfare and oppression. Would the world have been better if we had never existed or we never pursued greatness?
I think ‘advancement’ is something that stands alone from moral judgment in the sense that it is necessary and occurs everywhere. Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics to stay alive and doctors hate them for it, but that’s not something which we regard as wrong. I suppose to the extent that it is natural, our ability to pervade and conquer every corner of the living (and non-living) world possible is just another consequence of that.
Most people view happiness as a comparative and I agree with that. My sister and her competitiveness serves as a constant reminder of the fact that it’s not what mark we attain, but how that mark scores relative to everyone else. Scoring 99% does not feel satisfying when everyone else scored 100%. A $200,000 salary sounds incredibly excessive to me now, but I’m sure when my friends start hitting their million dollar paychecks, I’m going to feel pretty ‘poor’ relative to the people around me.
And by the same vein, there would be no role for the highly prized (and viciously contested) alpha male in the primate social structure if they didn’t have hierarchies that strictly placed all other males below them. It grants them access that no one else has - we crave for that feeling of being special and set apart. The very nature of a pecking order underlies our ambitions to become smarter, richer, stronger and better looking. Having achieved material wealth, many then go for power, status and fame.
Humankind has achieved some amazing things. I’d like to think that it’s because of our incredible ability to be completely fixated on, and consumed by some end goal. Sometimes it’s out of sheer determination, other times it’s out of desperation. You see it in technological advancement, in the tactical logic of the battlefield during times of war and in protest movements through history.
Would the world have been better if we had never existed or we never pursued greatness? I don’t think it’s really a question because at the end of the day, the world is an ecosystem of many, many living things. We are one of them, and just happen to be very good at being a parasite on the world’s resources, killing things (including people) that get in our way and exploiting things for our purpose and gain.
My cat liked to play with mice by letting them go and then chasing them - she’d do this repeatedly until the poor little thing died. Our attempts to put bells on her or release the mouse were pretty ineffective because she’d just get better at being stealthy or just find another mouse or bird to play with. After getting angry and upset with her over the first few incidences, I came to the realisation that she’sjust a cat. She doesn’t understand what ‘cold-hearted murderer’ or ‘torture’ means in the mind of a young teenage girl.
The fact that we have these developed brains that make us very good at ‘adapting to survive’, whether in the physical world or in the commercial world, isn’t a good or bad thing. It just is.
But what differentiates us from my cat is our awareness which I believe imposes an obligation on us to make an active decision. Sitting and doing nothing is one such decision.
One of the reasons why the world seems to be digging itself the same repetitive holes is that we often fail to question whether that end goal we are so great at attaining is really the ‘right’ one. We suck at understanding and questioning ourselves. We have the ability to make the inquiry and we have the ability to reroute the course - yet in so many instances we fail. We are so fixated on our goals that it’s only with hindsight that we realise we were chasing the wrong piece of pie.
Everyone by their ‘nature’ wants to do the very best for themselves (and their family) and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I do think that we need to constantly challenge ourselves as to what ‘greatness’ is and whether what we are chasing is a worthy goal. The inquiry does not end at “what is best for me?” because the fact that we’ve come into societies means that we, somehow intuitively, know that we should be asking the question “what is best for us?”. And right now, more than ever before, ‘us’ is not a concept bound by race or nationality or gender.
I remember hearing this great analogy: the world’s population are passengers on an airplane, with the richest at the front and poorest at the back. The state of the world right now is as if the tail has caught on fire. It’ll be burning the poorest first, but it’s only a matter of seconds after that before the entire plane goes down.
And that’s not just referring to climate change and the environment - it includes financial and economic instability, the threat of war and societal upheaval. Sure, we are capable of greatness and are not really constrained in what we do expect by our own mortality, but there is more to the equation than just our own personal gain.
If incentives is the only thing that will get people off their feet, then sometimes I feel like shouting up to those at the top who never really think to look down: if you’re screwing them over, at least know that you’re screwed too.
And now after all that, I feel like I’ve missed the point of your question…
stumbled across your blog while reading a friend's a while back. followed it ever since, coz I can really identify and relate with your posts,and you are an intelligent, awesome writer. hope this does not sound creepy or stalkery! felt like commenting here due to your latest post-thanks for that! events in the past year have turned my life completely upside down too-your post resonates,puts things into perspective,given me things to think about. askbox too short to comment more. but yeah thx!
I am incredibly humbled by all the responses - truly, thank you. Always good to know that I’m not talking to myself out loud sometimes :)
I see that you do some writing in your blog, I have two blogs. One, for writing, and one for random posts. How do you balance the personal writing with you other post? Are they as popular? I, personally love your last post about growing up.
Hello! thank you for your question, and your kind words :)
I guess to me all my posts are really the same - something has popped into my thoughts during the day and I wanted to express it in some way or another. Most of the time it’s in prose, saying it out exactly as it is in my head. Other times I feel that the words ought to be used in a slightly different way (and that’s where the poems and occasional photo come along I guess!). And sometimes I’ll come across a post that I just can’t resist reblogging, even though I try and avoid it as much as possible.
I don’t know very much about the art writing at all - I basically write what feels, and sounds right. And I’m very surprised that people seem to like the posts just as much as everything else.
I had a look at your blogs and I think you’ll find that people actually really appreciate original work. I found it difficult putting it all out there initially (for fear of giving too much of my thoughts) but I suppose your worst critic is always going to be yourself :)
Your paintedperspective blog is really good! The most important thing is perseverance - as long as you keep writing, there will always be people who will keep reading and enjoying your words :)