Unequal valorisation

We got back our results for our summer school modules last week and the quiet people who could write but did not party got good grades while those people who were loud and mingled a lot did not. This is a generalised statement (I’m assuming the louder ones were not as good writers), but this is true from the few people I heard from. I had wondered how the professors would grade the course. There were some sentiments but nothing definite: we want you to get out of your comfort zones, human geography is about interactions and forming relationships rather than grades, etc. I wish everyone would just get an A. It really doesn’t make a difference. To me, at least?

I was working with someone very different from myself and I think it wasn’t necessarily a bad team. We were very dominant in our different talents. One to socialise and collect/ask for information, the other to record, think and make coherent thoughts. That does not mean that one is more important than another. But the value we ascribe to different talents is very different.

This differentiation of value is natural? What is the point of doing research and finding out a great many things if you are unable to record it, to communicate your findings to other people, to make what you have found useful/apply it to situations? But at the same time, if you merely thought and did not find out information/your data is flawed due to limited understanding and interaction, what good is your research as well? (This idea can be applied to many things like in our capitalist society – we value services more than real goods, but this definitely doesn’t mean that real goods aren’t any less important. We value leaders, but a leader is not powerful without followers).

I think this unequal valorisation is precisely why the idea of communism cannot really work (or at least my idea/the convention idea of all people being equal, greater equality; I don’t mean the dictatorial kind of communism that we see in certain places) – ah, I had a stronger argument, but I lost it. Maybe I will write it as a comment if I remember, another time.

It’s about us VS them, it’s about hierarchies and seeking differences. It’s the differences that draw us closer together as communities (being able to bitch about the same person draws people closer together. It builds trust, a common identity, stuff like that). It’s natural for us to seek out these divisions and to say that one is better than the other? (That’s how divisions – of labour – came about? Is there anything wrong to say one is better than another? It’s necessary, isn’t it?)

I’m not really bothered by this difference in value; I guess I just see it as life, I don’t see the need to create a more equal world. Things about the gender wage gap, how I am doubly discriminated as an Asian Female (but not really, here in this part of the world, where I am the dominant race, although the gender thing MAY be an issue). I’m just tired of being calculative – there is no end to counting my privileges nor my dis-empowerments.

But ‘uncertainty doesn’t mean ignorance’: I should still dream of a better world. It’s just the question of ‘How do I make the world a better (more equal?) place’?

The accessibility of our writing

I learnt to humble myself. I thought about how much people know, and that they know more than they tell. I think about professors who don’t tell us everything that they know, wanting us to find out more for ourselves, to think, research and read more. To have a hunger for knowledge. We mistakenly think that because they don’t say anything, they’re not very intelligent.

I watched this video about ‘statistics about Trump’: while he says stupid things, he has a high IQ, is very monetarily successful. Making money takes skill and at least some intellect. These ‘supposedly dumb’ people make it to prestigious universities – they must have at least done well enough in high school to make it there. I think about the guy who has a phD in literature and gave a talk which annoyed me: I felt he was immature; the things he said about his family and history.

Both of them say the most inane things and act like they’re stupid, I thought that you don’t need to be intelligent to (get a phD/be successful), you just need to be hardworking (or other relevant traits). But I’ve come to question that: what you say doesn’t reflect how ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’ you are, just the impression that others have of you. Perhaps we can also question what we mean when we call someone intelligent or not – he may excel academically but may not be able to think (debates about AI and how we value certain traits in academia over others – I hope to write about it soon). Maybe it’s also because we have expectations of these people: they have titles (President, Doctor) and if they don’t act in a respectable manner or say insightful things, we think them dumber than they actually are/ than the average person.

I guess I’ve been thinking about this since week 1 of school has passed and I was a little disappointed to not have been amazed in class.

In uni, I feel like I’m caught in extremes, sometimes. There are some uni students who impress me greatly with their writing skills. They use excellent vocabulary, speak eloquently and offer ideas that I never thought about before. Yet there are some whose work I read and I wonder if they even put effort into it – their writing is stilted and haphazard.

I feel sad when I am uninspired to do readings or listen in lectures. This is knowledge that I think I love, this is the fruit of people’s passions, why am I not feeling it? Why does their enthusiasm not show through in their work? (Are they writing too many papers, without heart? I am afraid that I write too much as well, I want to create quality pieces).

Often I am bored/don’t understand things shared in uni. I am uninspired.

  • Ideas shared are too difficult
  • Ideas shared are too simple; dumbed down
  • Even if the ideas shared are seemingly difficult, I am even more disappointed when I take time and effort to unpack it only to realise that the idea is not profound, it’s merely using complex terminologies to describe things that have already been written about extensively. I don’t know if the author feels that it’s new and hence is excited and wants to share it, or is s/he simply pressured to keep writing papers. The vocabulary can be bombastic and the phrasing long-winded and roundabout. I wonder about my contemporaries who are weaker in English. How do they get through the readings that I’m finding difficulty with? (Somatic, fulsome, ‘a lightning rod for disciplinary critique’??) But I can also understand the authors – perhaps English is not their first language.

I often question why and whom I write for. And though I do it mostly for myself, I hope that my writing is accessible and understandable. I hate it when we talk too much – we talk but we don’t understand the full implications and meaning of what was shared.

Because they are right

THIS VIDEO is so good. My thoughts phrased eloquently. It is precisely what bothered me/what I thought about since I starting thinking more in… 2015? But things got worse/better/more thinking the past year.

There is still The Problem though: truth is out there right in front of our eyes, but we are choosing not to do what is right. It is not like we are oblivious/ignorant. Sure, some may argue that this isn’t truth (cough, lame excuses). Examples like: we need to sustain the current lifestyles that we are living because people’s livelihoods depend on things that are destroying the environment/causing problems. Plastic creation, cattle rearing; vegetarism or environmentalism isn’t a perfect solution – monocropping occurs, lack of biodiversity, etc. It’s easier to live how we are living like now.

Two points:

  • Uncertainty isn’t ignorance

A quote I heard from a TED talk: just because there is a lot of problems with trying to find out ‘things’ (our very very flawed understanding about ANYTHING in the world basically, from finding out about the impacts/effects/even existence of things like climate change, to understanding people, understanding diseases and illnesses etc), we have to admit that we know at least SOMETHING. There are some undeniable truths: Ceteris paribus, doctors washing hands before doing their medical practice is a good thing. Ceteris paribus, if more people become vegetarian it’s a good thing (the scale of more can be debated).

  • Real or imagined resistance? Laziness or lack of support?

Singapore’s plastic bag debate balloons at Jane Goodall lecture

“There are plenty of ways we can all reduce plastic on a personal level. But until there is a structural and policy change, the impact will be insignificant,” she said, which prompted enthusiastic applause in the packed auditorium of 1,500 people at Mediacorp’s MES Theatre.

To this, Lee replied that if plastic bag policy was greeted with the same enthusiasm at every forum where the issue was debated, “the battle would be won.”

He stressed that the responsibility for tackling the plastic bag issue was not the government’s alone.

“The question is whether we are able to change our lifestyles, and advocate for change among our loved ones and friends. Policy change is coercive, and can be done. But I think it’s important to make sure that we’re out there, everyone of us in this hall, speaking up for this cause,” Lee said.

I don’t know, but if everyone agrees that climate change is a bad thing and high plastic bag use is a bad thing yet no one wants to limit their plastic bag intake because of the ‘tragedy of the commons’/fear of losing out if people don’t take plastic bags or whatever, then… shouldn’t the government step in? It seems quite obvious to me that there is no ‘lack of support’ should the Singaporean government decide to implement a plastic bag ban? Sure, people will not like it and complain about it, BUT I don’t think that the backlash would be significant. After all, we know that despite the inconvenience, the rewards reaped are much greater, right? I think people are mature enough to be able to ‘delay gratification’.

Life changes

Is it difficult for you to tell your parents that you want to change your religion? Those people whom I’ve met who find it hard to confess this to their parents would be those brought up in Christian/Muslim families.

I don’t think I’ll find it difficult to do so. Then again, I don’t think I’m the kind of person who is vocal and explicit about sharing my life with my family. Rather, I let them know by showing them. For instance, I’ll just stop going to church. Or in the case of my current lifestyle, I’ve just simply stop eating meat (I still won’t say that I’m super strict about it; I mean, I do eat biscuits and bread which may contain milk and eggs, or I’ll just consume whatever makes me happy. But it’s always nice for people to know and offer the alternative). I’ve not told my parents when I did well or badly in school, be it academic or other things like co-curricular activities.

A senior of mine went to Sheffield on a student exchange and had a conversation about religion with a local student. He said that he found it amazing how ‘Asians own their religions’. We don’t inherit our religion from our families; he stated the example of how there were many British people who were Protestant because it was their family’s religion, whereas in Asian you’ll find a lot more families with mixed religions, of first/second generation Christians/Muslims/Buddhists/Taoists etc., basically, a much greater variety. Religion is something personal to the individual, a choice. What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead. Who do you want to marry. How do you want to die, and where do you want to go after that.

Do what you want to do.

Contradictory Character

“A paradox to most observers, INTJs are able to live by glaring contradictions that nonetheless make perfect sense – at least from a purely rational perspective. For example, INTJs are simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics, a seemingly impossible conflict.”

I feel like I am a bundle of contradictions, I don’t understand myself. I remember struggling to answer the question ‘who I am’ since I was younger; at 15?

I am definitely an introvert, but at the same time I am a ‘circumstantial’ extrovert – I can make myself talk if I have to, people may not call me shy; I’ve been put in leadership positions and it’s hard to be a leader and an introvert (I know, these little inconsistencies in character don’t make ‘me’. Just because I lie once doesn’t make me a ‘bad person’, to be labelled a liar; it is not my dominant identity. But still, I despise inconsistencies in people, and I hate that I have them too). I dislike math, science and technology, but at the same time I think I could do it if I really had to. It confounds me, but at the same time it’s so interesting/useful (I can’t understand trigonometry, logarithms? What is the relationship between the trigonometry graphs and the triangles?). Sometimes I’m nice and patient to those around me, and suddenly I am absolutely terrible and mean and impatient and say the most cutting things; I can be hot and suddenly cold and people have commented about this. I would like to think that I’m a consistent person, and that the times I lash out is due to all the pent up annoyance within me that I decide to release at that particular point in time, but I know that’s not really true. Why am I irked some times more than others? I like reading, writing, being alone etc, but I am unsure if I really enjoy these things. I find it very tough to say I like something. Usually what I like is what I hate the least/a mild preference, favouring, rather than an enthusiasm and joy. I don’t mind, but I don’t like.

(Contradiction is what I think makes human anger imperfect, as compared to ‘godly’ anger haha. Or at least one aspect of it. The standards/threshold of when we get angry differs, unlike the absolute standard of ‘godly’ anger. So He is angry when we sin, but we get angry at each other at varying levels of wrong done to us. Ok this is badly phrased but I hope you get my point.)

Sometimes I feel of about using plastic and trash, but other times I get very triggered by what I am doing – so much waste, so much for creation care. Sometimes I am in an absolute depressed state, other times hopeful (never lasting for long) and most of the time absolutely bored with existence. It sometimes seem like I fluctuate between depression and (mild?) mania.

These inconsistencies make me stumped when asked to describe myself to others. It’s difficult to condense people’s complex characters into words. I don’t think I’m experiencing an identity crisis now (because I simply don’t think about who I am as a person). The main problem is trying to 1) explain myself to people, and more importantly 2) trying to figure out my place in the world (actually, more like finding out what I want to do with my life. There are endless possibilities of what I can do, who I can become, but I don’t know what I should, what I would like to do. And time seems like it’s running out sometimes. Life is short.)

Understanding self-harm

When I say ‘addiction’, what do you think of?
Gambling, smoking, taking drugs, video gaming.
Do you think of things like drinking? Perhaps not, but I think sometimes we are accepting/we overlook certain evils: drinking and smoking can be social activities, it is done not out of harm but rather as something fun, something enjoyable and it’s ok to engage in them. There is always that blurred line of things done in excess or not.

I’ve been thinking about common self-harm techniques; I can understand some of them, but others confound me. I’ve just been challenging the concept of self-harm: things that we may not think are self-harming, but are. Things like overeating (I read a book about it – when one eats such that eating is no longer enjoyable, but she eats because she is anxious, nervous, afraid. She stuffs herself even though she feels so full. It is discomfort, it is self-harm, a form of distraction). I suppose I can understand why people self-harm in certain ways: e.g. overeating – eating is generally pleasurable, so one eats when one is sad, but some do it in excess since they feel that food is their drug (consume more and you will be happy). Same with alcoholism – you self-harm by excessively drinking because you think that drinking will help take away the pain (when you get too drunk to remember anything). I can understand under-eating as well – people self-harm this way because it is ‘productive’; under-eating can help them lose weight, make them look better, help them save money. I can understand things like excessive running/exercise – you run to escape your thoughts, it helps you not think, it gets you in shape. (All these things done in excess is self-harming) There is rationale and reason to these forms of self-harm/addictions.

I don’t quite understand the concept of cutting though. Why do people do it? What is it meant to accomplish? It isn’t productive, it isn’t ‘pleasurable’? It’s painful? (I can’t understand why do people do things like bite their nails/peel their skin until it bleeds when they are nervous; same kind of self-harm). If you’re nervous, why not tap the table or pace or something? I hear that people cut to ‘let their internal pain be something external, something that they can focus on’, but I still don’t see the logic behind it. Sure, I can understand how people may feel deserving of pain (that may be why people self-harm in the first place; they don’t feel like they deserve rest and hence overwork their bodies), but why not hurt yourself in a ‘beneficial’ way – for spiritual reasons or health or idk something else.

Would love to hear some thoughts about this.

Everything is political

The realm of politics is a difficult one. I question why people can’t be honest and say things as they are instead of thinking of how to phrase it. Yet I know that shooting your mouth off can lead to disastrous consequences – communication is not just about what you intend to say but how other people take it. Language is fraught with manipulation – all kinds of language: spoken, body, even mathematics/statistics. I think about how politics work, after coming back from my trip: the politics of resource (what I’m meant to be learning), the politics of people (social politics, naturally learnt after spending such an extended time with others).

I question its study. I mean, it’s good to know about how politics work since it has a great influence on our lives. Yet, it’s kinda. Useless? Politics doesn’t change anything, it’s all about power plays, getting people to see your point of view (soft power), persuasion, how much people can or cannot see that they’re getting swayed. How much free will do people actually have?

I’m more interested in making REAL differences: new ideas, new policies, leaving the politics for other people to fight over. It’s good enough to simply know about its existence.

But maybe it’s just part of my personality. While I seem rather assertive, I think I’m pretty easy going with most decisions, even though I ‘may be at a loss’ (e.g. project groupings and how people made a fuss about it. But I think I’m generally ok with teaming up with ‘weaker’ people/being at a disadvantage or other situations like this). There will always be conflicts of interests and people will always try to sell their popular ideas/agendas to each other. But I think it natural and alright. As long as the decision is done in the ‘spirit of excellence’, and something is being done in the first place.

[I guess it’s like how I cannot fully understanding the aims of things like ISIS/wars and stuff about people being oppressed. Perhaps because I’ve never felt that FULL EXTENT of pain, I don’t know. To me, we all search for happiness and there are just too many factors that influence that. Just because you attain ‘freedom’/whatever your goals are doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy. The pain it takes to get there may be too much. Then again sure there are causes worth fighting for – for the benefit of the future. Fighting for women’s rights that kind of politics. Anyway.]