Monday, October 19, 2009


Regulars to this blog (both of you, at last count) may have noticed I've kind of drifted from topics pertaining to philosophy, science and politics and in the direction of more mundane, happy things. There's any number of reasons for this, and I suppose I should explain myself.

On the front of politics, frankly, I'm fed up. On the local (still Malaysian) side, I skim through the papers daily to check for any sign at all of real progress. I find none. Nothing more than empty platitudes, cheap propaganda and, with dismayingly increasing frequency, outright backsliding. And the thing is these wonderful specimens were in fact democratically elected, which does not speak well for the intellectual capacity of the Malaysian public at large. As such, I've nothing more to say about Malaysian politics, but will continue to keep a weather eye out for any sign that it might crawl out of the hole it's digging for itself.

As for politics elsewhere, I'm not really paying much attention, to be honest, though I do keep an eye on what the Yanks are up to. I think it's a worthwhile exercise, because I suspect that today's Republican party represents a stance that guarantees the destruction of the human race, or at the very least a profound decline in one's standard of living. They chant the praises of freedom and faith when in fact it is merely a mask to justify ruthless social Darwinism (thanks to their special brand of capitalism) within, and a foreign policy based on fear and loathing without, all against a background of unbridled consumption at great cost to the environment. It is difficult for any thinking man to look upon the antics of such figures as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and their ilk with anything other than revulsion. But the fact remains that these people have risen to their positions of influence. Why?

Because deep down we're all really selfish, and we all want as much as we can gain for ourselves and our kin.

Because anything different from us is obviously wrong and must be wiped off the face of the Earth.

Because Democrats have been too busy pussyfooting about while the Republican propaganda machine marches on.

Because we're monsters.

Because we're human and that means that, for all that we've created for ourselves over our history, we are animals inside. We have passions and urges that drive us, many of which most people don't really understand nor do they care to understand. I suspect it is this blind acceptance of certain ugly aspects of our psychological makeup which, to paraphrase Russell, makes the stupid so cocksure. Most of us understand that there is usually more to be gained from patience and discipline, yet we are, at some base level, inexorably drawn to instant gratification. A lack of self control in enjoying material goods leads to rapacious consumption. A lack of intellectual vigilance allows the mind to be tainted with all manner of useless myths concocted to comfort the weak.

I have little doubt that the next great step forward in human endeavour will be the spiritual conquest of the human animal*. It will not be easy, and, if the Republican party is any indication, there is still a great swathe of humanity who knows too little and is sure of too much. While I've great faith in humanity's resourcefulness in surviving, particularly in times of great adversity, I can't escape the feeling that we are blithely bumbling onward to a great adversity of our own making.

On philosophy, what can I say? I was educated a physicist, and as such, find myself sympathetic to logical empiricism. And that's that. I suppose at some point I'll write something about my views on A J Ayer's principle of verification, but for the most part, I'm totally with Ayer and Russell in writing off metaphysics and theology as a lot of pseudointellectual mucking about.

On the popular science side, I've been slacking a bit on that front to focus moar on my Jap skills. I've been more fascinated by language than ever these days, not least because for me, studying the Japanese language involves:

1) consuming large chunks of Japanese culture to make sense of the vocabulary. This in itself is a subject to cover many books...

2) thinking about the contrast between English and Japanese and how it affects one's thinking.

I consider myself to be reasonably well acquainted with the English language, i.e. I have almost no trouble expressing any thought that comes to mind. In the process of learning Japanese, I find myself quite enthralled by the process of new words and sentence structures clicking into place. A lot of the time, I try to think every sentence that pops into my head in English a second time in Japanese. Obviously not with this blog post, else I'd be here til November. As my skills with Japanese improve, it feels like a 2nd brain is growing in my head. Ultimately, I hope to reach the same level of skill with Japanese as with English, or at least be able to read this.

So, that aside, I'd say that I'm more satisfied than I've ever been about my understanding of the human animal. I'm not sure if I'll quite have the fire of some of my previous posts again, but I consider that a good thing. Precisely how much of this understanding I'll divulge on this blog is, as yet, unknown to me. My grasp is still a bit hazy, and the subject matter is immense. As I think more, and more becomes concrete to me, I'll lay it down here, I suppose, 'ere the ravages of old age claim my hard-gotten spoils.

Until then, I'll be puntuating this blog with random natterings on various things that happen to entertain me. I'm in total agreement with Russell on many, many points, not least being:

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time ."

I am led to wonder if Bertrand Russell would have revised this opinion on encountering Facebook. Anyway, until the next post, here's a cute little kitten to "Awwww!" at:

* More on this later, you can be sure of that!

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