tirsdag, juli 01, 2008

Resistance and rebellion

Blind iconoclasts deserve no praise and receive no encouragement, except that gained through persistent propaganda and campaigns that serve as political machinations of duplicity. There must be good reasons of sufficient strength for our burning fury, for our strong anti-establishment sentiments - only then can we justifiably hope to be regarded as astute observers rather than mindless rebels. Our unhappiness must have a valid cause - this dissatisfaction should only arise through unbiased analyses of the current state of affairs - the conclusions of which depress us and rile us. Thus begins the accumulation of contempt for the autocratic government that rules us, for the institution that stifles us.

While it is imperative that our anger must have a rational foundation and must take root in sober reasoning, can we always trust rational means to achieve the realisation of our enamoured ideals? Of course sensible methods are always preferred over impulsive behaviour, but a cursory glance at other countries - whose laws we may regard as articles of endorsement for supposedly irrational action - perhaps tell us that certain so-called irrational expressions of our frustration may actually achieve more than what we can ever expect from rational conduct in the long run, given the present conditions of the our society, where constructive criticism is seldom heeded - much less rewarded - and where dissent is quickly suffocated without hesitation or exception.

Demonstrations serve as an excellent example. There is a notable number of people who support the abolishment of strikes, because partaking in strikes is simply not a rational or cost-effective course on which to embark - it greatly upsets the economy, for there are temporary cessations of businesses; in the presence of violence, it disrupts social order and drastically increases the crime rate, resulting in serious unrest; it interrupts daily life, as everyday operations and activities are disallowed to proceed smoothly. But perhaps the biggest offence to rationality is this: The outcome of such endeavours is completely unpredictable, and chances are not negligible that these protests will fail miserably, and that the participants will be heavily punished for their blatant disobedience - they may end up being condemned to suffer in even more dire straits, as the administration introduces more oppressive measures to quell opposition. With no absolute guarantee of success, engaging in marches appears to be a counter-intuitive decision for a rational community ultimately motivated by its own self-interest.

But, in exhilarating moments of success, large-scale revolts have been able to contribute much to the liberation of abused peoples, to the advocation of human rights, and to the promotion of various forms of freedom. When amicable dialogue is impossible, rebellions become a channel through which grievances are articulated. In times of unbearable desperation, staging a protest seems to be the only option that promises hope for a brighter future. Engulfed in a bleak atmosphere pregnant with sheer pessimism, what more can you lose, when you have nothing left? Upon furthur rumination, perhaps taking part in demonstrations is the most rational choice to be made - the stakes are never too staggeringly high for those who are utterly devoid of life, and an insurrection of an immense magnitude carries their voices far and wide.

When it comes to the personal level of the individual, the lonely detractor who fails to find understanding in his fellow countrymen will perhaps choose to covertly challenge various regulations implemented by the regime, and every successful attempt at this that goes undetected equals a little victory for him, a tiny battle won against his enemy, a small cause for some pride. This sense of smugness may be incomprehensible, and even ignominious, to others who do not share his view, but the dissident is not bothered - he seeks only to convey his thoughts, to make clear his own stand, and he does so in silent contempt for his rulers, in staunch defence of his own private judgment of right and wrong.

Doing so is highly irrational (even though his displeasure undeniably has a rational basis), for he may eventually get caught and become worse off, or his behaviour may lead to even more undesirable effects. But humans are seldom rational anyway, and sometimes, just sometimes, it is such wilfulness, such resistance to circumstances, such quiet defiance, that makes life so surprisingly charming and enjoyable.

[This entry was hastily written in response to this post as well as the comments it inspired. Thanks for reading.]

11 kommentarer:

SirWhale sagde ...

Very well said.

Anonym sagde ...

I'm sure we have all seen this heart-breaking picture and news reel before: http://www.worldsfamousphotos.com/tag/victims

Our actions all yield consequences which must be evaluated with the costs in mind. Terrorists after all, are merely protesters without costs. They believe they are struggling against a powerful, evil Western empire backed by a media biased against them, which leaves them little choice but to commit acts of terror. Every American soldier blown apart by an IED, or hostage beheaded, no doubt equals a 'little victory' for them as well.

The choice to protest or not is one which I do not contest. I do not support it, but neither do I say I will deny any the right to. Ultimately, it is the individual's choice to choose his stance on issues in life; it is just consequences one will have to accept for these choices.

Again, I do not stand against the right to protest. All I can implore is this: with such wrenching tragedies, whatever one does, please do not forget to consider the consequences that definitely stem from every action and decision, and to pity and spare the innocents who happen to stand in the line of fire.

Zhan sagde ...

you forget one more reason why people ( or at least I do anyway) do the things they do that does not make sense in both rational or irrational terms ( however that makes sense)

because it's bloody fun!

admit it there is certain thrill in jumping that gate.

albeit small but feels like mission bloody impossible sometimes yes? oh the little pleasures we take.

Anonym sagde ...

By the way about the al-Dura footage, there's talk going on about its authenticity. But nevertheless I'm quite sure scenes like these are really played out.
(I'm the person who posted the 2nd comment by the way)

president of singapore sagde ...

your powderful england always has me looking up the dictionary

Miao sagde ...

SirWhale: Thank you. You've just inflated my ego.

Anonymous: I acknowledge the necessity in weighing all possible consequences before undertaking any course of action, and I also strongly believe that there are values that should be universally embraced and upheld, that transcend any particular religious or cultural creeds in importance and inexorability. I do not think that terrorism should be condoned, and I feel that there do exist other ways that will allow us to promote our own causes without undermining human/animal rights (consider how Burmese monks marched peacefully in the streets, and contrast that with the Taliban). Anyway, the main point of my post is really to say that humans should not be assumed to be completely rational, rather than to advocate total (ir)rationality.

Zhan: The fun factor - I haven't forgotten that. I practise it in my ordinary boring little life.

President of Singapore: Start paying me school fees!

Anonym sagde ...

No, humans are not completely rational. But we must strive to be.

Protests are not necessary irrational, and by irrationality I do not imply one's personal interests. Certainly, I would perceive the reactions of Burmese monks as a rational response to the crises faced by the country. But it would not be a rational response, if these monks were to burn down food storage areas in argument that these were government properties. I would term this as irrational as this is done with no thought of the consequences (many would starve).

We have so far been bringing up rather straight forward examples. A more ambiguous focus point on the consequences of protests can be examined in the protests in Thailand, leading to the military coup which took Thaksin out of power. Thaksin is accused of corruption, but the law (and indeed the majority of the country apart from the cities) gives legitimacy to his premiership. Is it right that the grievances of a minority (city dwellers) should have the right to impose their protests (that led to the military coup) over the entire country?

Certainly, the military coup was unexpected. Nevertheless, just as you said, the results of large scale demonstrations and protests might be totally contradictory of expectations. It might not have to be either the authority or the people winning or losing: it could result in both suffering. Did the protesters expect a military takeover? Probably not. Should they have considered the implications of their actions? In my opinion, yes.

P.S: I just learnt a new term in my political science module, called the Baumol's Disease. It may explain why salaries of civil servants increase to keep up with salary rises in competing sectors (such as finance). I'm not sure if you have read of it (you should have if you took political science introductory module). You can read more of it at the link below. I think it is important to note the differences between the civil service and the elected politicians. They are two different institutions and groups of people, and should not be confused.


P.P.S: My purpose in bringing Lord of the Flies was to show the dangerous slope seemingly small acts of irrationality may slide into. As such we must always be vigilant against this irrational side of us and ensure that it never takes control of us. If not, even children can commit such terrible acts of evil, much as terrorists can commit acts of terror. What separates Ralph and and the tragic Piggy from Jack and his hunters is their rationality, and probably is what separates humans from beasts.

Miao sagde ...

Hi Anonymous,

I am currently working now, so I will check out the article on Baumol's Disease during my lunch break. No, I did not take any political science module. Never considered it as a major, but I might take it some day. Anyway, if our local politicians really decide their salaries according to the Baumol's Disease principle, then it is very interesting that they should demand the same pay as CEOs working in private competing sectors when they do not share the same burden of accountability (CEOs get either sacked or demoted when they commit grievous errors, you know; but look at Wong Kan Seng, who has committed a string of appalling mistakes, and who unsurprisingly also happens to be a cousin of Ho Ching - a.k.a Lee Hsien Loong's wife and chief of Temasek Holdings), and that they do not implement policies in other areas also according to verified principles, e.g., taking deflationary measures when prices are rising, etc. Gan Kim Yong even argued that the salaries of commoners should not be increased because it would lead to an inflationary spiral, when he and his dear colleagues just received a fat pay raise a few months prior to his statement.

What I've said may be irrelevant to your point, but I just want to rant. I'll browse through the article later.

Anonym sagde ...

Hm...the lecture today about the economy and the government is quite relevant. You might be able to ask SirWhale to elaborate some details/look at the lecture through IVLE.

Miao sagde ...

I asked SirWhale to elaborate, but he said that he does not see any relevance. Pffft.

Anonym sagde ...

Hahaha, I would recommend taking the introductory module for political science if you have enough credits. It does shed some light, I feel, on better understanding political structures not just local, but global as well.