Monday, June 01, 2009

Notes! Notes!

As I have been doing nothing but read random articles online, I am reviving my label 'Interesting articles of note' with these gems I stumbled upon today.

First up, 40 Examples of Christian Privilege. I find these particularly notable:

It is likely that state and federal holidays coincide with my religious practices, thereby having little to no impact on my job and/or education.
I can travel without others assuming that I put them at risk because of my religion; nor will my religion put me at risk from others when I travel.

It is likely that I can find items to buy that represent my religious norms and holidays with relative ease (e.g., food, decorations, greeting cards, etc.).

I can be sure that when someone in the media is referring to G-d, they are referring to my (Christian) G-d.

From In Character, a reading list of classics on the virtue of Honesty. This part struck me:

Why was civilized life so overgrown with artifice and calculation, so lacking in wholesome simplicity; why have “our souls become corrupted in proportion as our arts and sciences have advanced toward perfection?” His answer, in his first publication, A Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750), was radical: because the rules of civilized life are, at bottom, a defense of the indefensible. The sophistications of manners and morals, of law and theology, exist to justify (or, better, obscure) privilege, with all the comforts and pleasures privilege entails. “Where do all these abuses come from,” Rousseau wrote, “if not from the fatal inequality introduced among men by the distinction of talents and the degradation of virtues?” In a complexly unjust society, simple honesty decays.

What think you of that? Also, as I think of myself as something closer to a Quakerish (or probably utilitarian) than a hedonist, this part, in reference to French novel Dangerous Liaisons, also struck me:
The French word “honnête” has, along with “honest,” the sense of “plainspoken,” “unsophisticated,” “uncalculating,” and even a hint of “slow-witted.”

From the same online magazine, a reading list of the classics on justice, yield this insight:
In the late 1870s, when he was perhaps the world’s most admired writer, Tolstoy recognized that he was what he called a “nihilist.” He had no deep beliefs, no moral compass. So he reread the Gospels. The electrifying thought occurred to him – as it has to surprisingly few others, before or since – that Jesus meant what he said; in particular: “do not resist evildoers by force,” “do not retaliate,” “do not be angry with anyone,” “love your enemies and your country’s enemies,” “do not become rich.” He announced this discovery and pointed out its consequences – “Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government”...


And know the difference in intensity among 'empathy', 'sympathy' and 'compassion' here.
Compassion, according to Aristotle — the first thinker to propose a theory on how it is (or is not) generated in human beings — involves a three-step process. We must see that the suffering is significant, that it is undeserved, and that the sufferer could just as easily be ourselves. (“There but for fortune go I,” as the folk singer Phil Ochs put it.) Without these three conditions in place, the heart remains locked.

So practice of real compassion entails experiencing suffering? Does this mean without suffering one cannot truly be compassionate? The other article hints at an answer:
Compassion is a wonderful thing, human comfort in times of trouble. But it should be built on our suffering with others, not on feeling smug about ourselves. In this, etymology is destiny.

As many Filipinos live in varying conditions that can only be described as deplorable, Compassion, above and beyond all other virtues, should be the first thing we look for in 'public servants.'

On current events is the entertaining shenanigans of Republicans in the US. Sotomayor's Seditious Syllables mocks the conservative party's attacks on Obama Supreme Court appointee Sonia Sotomayor, dipping so low as to imply that there is something fundamentally offensive with how the appointee pronounces her last name! A conservative commentator bearing the name of a real Anglo-sounding last name Krikorian writes:
"Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English...and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to."


And last, China's pollution problem going global. Here are interesting tidbits from this article:
In a mere two and a half decades, China has awakened from Maoist stagnancy to become the world's manufacturer. Among the planet's 193 nations, it is now first in production of coal, steel, cement, and 10 kinds of metal; it produces half the world's cameras and nearly a third of its TVs, and by 2015 may produce the most cars. It boasts factories that can accommodate 200,000 workers, and towns that make 60 percent of the world's buttons, half the world's silk neckties, and half the world's fireworks, respectively.

China is by a wide margin the leading importer of a cornucopia of commodities, including iron ore, steel, copper, tin, zinc, aluminum, and nickel. It is the world's biggest consumer of coal, refrigerators, grain, cell phones, fertilizer, and television sets. It not only leads the world in coal consumption, with 2.5 billion tons in 2006, but uses more than the next three highest-ranked nations—the United States, Russia, and India—combined. China uses half the world's steel and concrete and will probably construct half the world's new buildings over the next decade.

And obviously, a potential market of a billion consumers will want to have their commodity-fetishes fulfilled.

The growing Chinese taste for furs and exotic foods and pets is devastating neighboring countries' populations of gazelles, marmots, foxes, wolves, snow leopards, ibexes, turtles, snakes, egrets, and parrots, while its appetite for shark fin soup is causing drastic declines in shark populations throughout the oceans; according to a study published in Science in March 2007, the absence of the oceans' top predators is causing a resurgence of skates and rays, which are in turn destroying scallop fisheries along America's Eastern Seaboard.

China's new predilection for sushi is even pricing Japan out of the market for bluefin tuna. Enthusiasm for traditional Chinese medicine, including its alleged aphrodisiacs, is causing huge declines in populations of hundreds of animals hunted for their organs—including tigers, pangolins, musk deer, sea horses, and sea dragons. Seeking oil, timber, gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, and other natural resources, China is building massive roads, bridges, and dams throughout Africa, often disregarding international environmental and social standards. Finally, China overtook the United States as the world's leading emitter of CO2 in 2006, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Since Deng Xiao Ping's pronouncement that 'to get rich is glorious' the Chinese have promptly copied the development model of the richest country in the world.

for what the Chinese are chiefly guilty of is emulating the American economic model. From the 1980s on, Chinese policymakers went on foreign-study missions to figure out how developed countries fostered economic growth. As Doug Ogden, former director of the Energy Foundation's China Sustainable Energy Program, puts it, "It's not surprising that the lessons the Chinese drew from their international experiences are often based on sprawl development and private automobile ownership and highly energy-consumptive practices," since the economies they studied all possess those features.

One of the Chinese officials' most fateful choices was to promote the automobile industry as a pillar of China's economy. The decision must have seemed obvious. After all, cars are the foundations of the American, Japanese, and South Korean economies, generating jobs and economic activity.

It's a long read, but please slog through five pages. Its worth it!

And here I always thought that the Chinese, in embracing this economic system to the full, just might fulfill its historic role - that of destroying Capitalism. And bring the rest of us along with it.

Now wait til the Indians really get their act together.

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