Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taoism and Inferno

The scare approach had often been used a method to prevent mass-believers to abide by morality rules, in both the East and the West. For people with intellect, this has never been necessary. A typical modern man is with intellect, like a typical reader of Dan Brown's Inferno who will find its plot more interesting than its reference to Dante's Inferno. Nobody can arrest and torture you indiscriminately and a religious leader has no power to decide who goes to Purgatory amount almost to the same thing. The scare approach does not work for the modern man.

Before it gets better it has to get worse is an intellectual insight rather than part of a scare approach.

I enjoy reading Dan Brown, primarily because of the excitement of his plot together with his mastery of the English language. Not blank business language, not everyday mass-spoken language and not "get-ready-with-an-encyclopedia" poetic language. His cannot be considered as literary, which makes for both good and bad reading depending on one's mood at the particular moment. He covered most (if not all) popular themes. He even talked about martial art in Inferno with Sienna Brooks being an expert in Dim Mak! Since this is not a book review, I will not be dealing with every single theme he visited. Besides his coverage of each theme is superficial at best, though it saves readers a lot of money and time when compared to reading popular book authors like (intentionally omitted) who uses a single theme for a complete book; the chosen theme being of no real significance but is just there to reassure the readers they are smart - having a best-selling author sharing the same view as them - and therefore they can get back to work tomorrow free from frustration. A dosage of psychological healing for the common folks.

One theme, however, I found most interesting, Brown's mentioning of the concept of context in popular debates. Context can also be understood as assumptions or more usually value assumptions or moral framework. In our debates with people sharing the same context, we take the context for granted. We seek a better option under the same context. And it creates no intellectual problem. However, when a debate is between people who might not share the same context, one needs to clarify the nature of our debate: whether it is a debate on different contexts or a debate on difference in opinions under the same context.  Brown made the point succinctly, in this case a debate on context is required. In this case the characters were talking about a debate on the ramification of genetic engineering in the form of a air-borne vector virus changing the genome of a portion of humanity - for good or for bad:

...any meaningful debate about.....will require context. ....(they) will need to develop a moral framework to assess their response to (this crisis).

Recently in Hong Kong, there is a heated debate on the implementation of universal suffrage in the city in 2017. On the surface there is the central government approach of selecting (by the government) of 2-3 (definitely loyal) candidates for HK people to choose from and there is the pan-democrats' approach of allowing open, or civic, nomination. The underlining context is that the former believes that Hong Kong people should only be given rights to make money while the latter believing that Hong Kong people should also have political and human rights of a modern democracy. The former aligns with the authoritarian context in mainland China while the latter aligns with the context of universal human rights currently upheld in modern democracies of the industrialized West.

Needless to say, both kinds of debates (on context and on options) are conducive to human progress.

Readers who are interested in the Hong Kong debate can read this interview of 17 year old student activist Joshua Wong in CNN . Incidentally the central government is using some form of scare approach...

Joshua Wong

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