Values of human, human values

“In Twana society, individuals gained prestige and social status not by hoarding up their surpluses, but rather by generously giving goods away, in a manner that signified the incorporation of other people.” (The value of a river – Lansing et al., 1998)

How different is it from our society, where we ascribe worth to the rich? Sure, there are philanthropists, but how much are they talked about, how much are they celebrated? While we say that the people who give their lives away are admirable, we don’t really want to be them. Selfishness, the traits, is deemed better. We may be disgusted with other’s selfishness, but maybe we are secretly jealous of their unashamed self seeking ways.

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How free are you?

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 2 Peter 2:19

Perhaps I’ve been reading/studying too much Foucault and hence I’m asking all these questions, and feeling this way. But honestly I would say that these are long standing issues which I’ve struggled with for quite a long time now, just deciding to textualise it now after today’s triggers and depressive phase.

Once again, how free are you? Are you slave to your emotions, diet, mental state, to God, to laws, to obligations? To real things, people, systems, or yourself? Your body, your budget, or what? Insidious things which trap you and you don’t notice, you simply obey.

I am trapped by my future anxieties. I wrote about this before: even if I decided to drop out of school today and be jobless, I will not starve, I will not die. I could bum off, I could be homeless, and honestly I’ll be ok – I can sleep on the streets, I can eat leftovers if need be, I can beg. The only thing I lose is my privacy (but being a ‘child’ honestly I can bum in my parents place. I could leech off them).

I am trapped by the system. I learnt stuff about ageing landscapes today: there is discrimination, yes, in economic landscapes (not hiring old people, ageism). But more than that how our landscapes are rigged to cater to young people – think hipster cafes with narrow corridors and steps, hindering mobility. Disabled people? Or even people of minority races – think eldercare in Singapore, there is easy socialisation for Chinese people (speaking in Mandarin, dialects), how about old Malays and Indians? Convenience of halal options in eldercares and elderly socialisation opportunities/entertainments?

More personally, stuff about the system. We learnt this last week in public housing landscapes and I felt REALLY uncomfortable. This links to Engel’s housing problem: capitalists/governments build homes for us. We want these homes. They are good for us. But they trap us as well. We are trapped by our desires? We end up having to work for these capitalists who precisely make us these houses. Or in Singapore, as the government (mandates) public housing, they collude with capitalists to chain us to work for these capitalists, being responsible citizens who work for companies in order to pay for our houses. What have I done? Are there alternatives? Sure there are, but being homeless doesn’t sound like a nice one. Neither does selling away much of my life paying for a house. A good 30 years of my life?

I’m trapped by people. Filial piety, Asian values. I would like to give back, yes, I believe my parents have done a lot for me and I love them, but it still doesn’t take away the fact that I feel stifled. Relationships, friendships, yes I am meant to love all of you, and indeed I do, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I have a responsibility to you. And I am greatly uncomfortable. What if I were free from all of you? How would my life be like?

I remember getting REALLY ANGRY at this paradox: I was telling my friends about how I am stressed out by expectations, of others, of my own expectations which stems from what I think others will expect of me. Friends who love me tell me not to care about what people say. I wanted to shout back at them, I wanted them to see their selfishness: while they tell me not to care about what others say about me, they want me to consider what they said about me. I am not meant to prioritise what other people expect from me, but I am meant to listen to what they have to say and meet their needs/demands of me. Give them my time. Energy. Myself. Where do I fit in this picture? Am I made up to meet people’s needs? How much of myself belongs to me?

I feel like running away sometimes. To leave everyone behind. To leave all these things behind. I’m frustrated at how I’m ‘comfortable’, how I am living the typical Singaporean life. I did all the right things, I’m following the right path. I’m successful. I can see the rest of my existence and it seems bleakly banal. Sure, I could do other things, but I am trapped by stifling fear as well. What lies beyond where I am? Uncertainty. And what if I wanted to come back here? Having left, would those who loved me before still love me? They may say so, but truly I doubt it.

I’ve been thinking about unconditional love as well. About how God loves us, and how we are like me, in feeling trapped and escaping by cheating (idols, serving other things). The concept of unconditional love: allows the other person to choose to leave, but still loving them even when they are with someone else. But even though the cheater comes back/or is away, the faithful one still loves. No matter what. It’s just that the faithful one demands that the other remembers that the faithful one is perfect, and they are ‘superior’ to the cheater. There must be submission of the cheater to the faithful one.

So, honestly, how do I get free?

What is freedom? Suicide is the ‘best’ answer: you’ll stop thinking about this shit. There will be no boundaries because you just cease to exist. But it’s obviously (I hope) not a resolution/answer you’ll consider.

Are younger people getting smarter?

‘You’re so clever!’ – That’s something common that I hear the older generation telling the younger people. And perhaps that’s why I think that we’re always getting smarter. We talk about the education system getting harder – adults are unable to do math questions meant for 12 year olds. I thought I was more intelligent than the previous generations. But when I went to university, I realised that all the ideas that I had were all thought of before, by people many, many, many lifetimes ago. Centuries. We have not really progressed in thinking, not TOO much, have we? We’ve only progressed in math and sciences. Philosophy remains more or less the same? Expect that ideas spread more easily now, more variations of the same thing.

My mom reminded me that we’re not really ‘cleverer’ than previous generations. (Of course, the debate of intelligence is something to be considered here as well. How are we defining intelligence) But I want to highlight that we’re not really smarter, not at all. It’s just that we’re raised in different circumstances. I have a better command of language. I can do math better. That’s all because that’s what I learnt in school. That’s what I was taught and she was not.

Death and Dictatorship

Do you wish to die?

How natural is this idea of wanting to die? If we see depression as natural (sure, it can be influenced by circumstance and all, but it has existed for all time, yes?), surely it is not instinctive to want to live. Suicidal thoughts are scary, and I hope that you never have them, but sometimes I do think about the uselessness/fruitlessness of life and perhaps life just feels too overwhelming. After all, ‘meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless’.

I guess I’ve just been pretty upset and depressed these past few days. Emotional repression. I really hope this doesn’t get out of hand again. But I don’t think it will. I hope.

Entire community involvement. The need for dictatorship?

I remember a conversation I had with a friend who promoted this idea of all girls having to do national service in Singapore, to go through the same physical training that the boys do. I could not understand what she meant at first when she said it ‘must be mandated’ for the full benefits to be felt. My perspective was that if you think that physical training is good, go sign up for it yourself. I neglected to see the community aspect of it. But recently I was thinking about how I really, really despise this surveillance world. I hate to be looked at. And I realised that it’s more than just my insecurity about my physical self (if I do have it); it is the fact that we tend to oversimplify when we look. We judge, which is natural. I don’t like being a zoo for people to gaze at. And so I was thinking of the liberation of wearing a burka: 1) no surveillance. All the thoughts about privacy and stuff; this is a great solution. 2) People will judge you less on how you look, because, there is less to judge? Or so I hope. I mean, you still can judge. Eyes. How you walk/carry yourself. Height, etc. 3) you will spend less time caring about how you look: you have a uniform, you don’t need to wear make-up and stuff.

But if someone told me that I can decide to do it by myself and not make it a mandate, I won’t do it. Because ironically, by shielding yourself, you actually get more attention. So that’s why I dress like everyone else in my environment. I hope to fit in and be unnoticed.

 

Discernment

Stumbled across this video as I was trying to understand what critical theory is. I’m a little doubtful about the content of this video, but it’s always good to question. I think he was talking a bit more about the liberal arts education (which is a bit leftist? Do the sciences teach this stuff? I think not?)

But it was precisely what I was discussing with my mom: thought about Singapore’s past when we had that whole ISD thing – 1987, Untracing the Conspiracy – we seem to be so afraid of this leftist thoughts/ideals, but it’s so predominant in school/academia? I felt the academics overcompensate, I was wondering what’s the point about studying SO MUCH Marx in school; I get that we’re meant to question what society has taught us (the other extreme), but is it ok if we studied Marx and little else?

I’m not sure what Walsh has in mind (I honestly can’t dream of another alternative, that is good), but I suppose I would like to find out more.

How do you teach people how to think?

Nothing is ever new

I use the language of returns to suggest that what is new (as in different) about the something/happening in cultural geography is a product of repetition –  turning seemingly familiar matters over and over, like the pebbles on a beach – rather than a product of sudden encounter or violent rupture. Just as importantly, what is different or innovatory about these materialist returns is generated as much by the technologically and politically molten climate that informs cultural geographers’ intellectual investments and worldly involvements as by any academic repositioning. In this case, I think there can be little doubt that the materialist returns of cultural geography today are bound up with the proliferation of what Bruno Latour calls ‘matters of concern’ and Michel Callon calls ‘hot situations’ associated with the intensification of the interface between ‘life’ and ‘informatic’ sciences and politics.

Whatmore, 2006