Monday, March 24, 2014

Living With Others

Having defined exactly what and who we are as individuals, how do we live with other individuals?

Most, if not all, individuals interact with others because they each have something in common with the others.

In the family, it is this idea of blood being the common and members of a family are compelled to take care of each other. In traditional societies, the extended family is the welfare state and the challenge of each family against another family is to see whose family will last the greatest number of generations. (There are also those who are quite happy to annihilate theirs right within the current generation because to them life is suffering and not worth keeping.) That is why some families leave behind commercial and political empires on earth.

In society in general, there is a tendency to pursue a uniform way of life. Traditionally, these have been dictated by folk festivities which surrounded the agrarian economy, as there is a season and time for work and a time for play. Eventually, these get supplanted by religious commands which tries to replace communal or tribal authorities. The struggle for power between the political and religious continues until today. So long as religious power overwhelms political power, there is a tendency for one religion to try to dominate the rest. If political power is in control, the tendency is for one race to dominate the others.

There is also a battle between political power and economic power. Political is often derived through the exploitation of economic power, as businessmen back politicians. Economic power can be pursued with economic power, as businessmen gain political power and re-configure the economy according to his or her advantage.

Against this confusing array of conflicts in human societies, Plato suggested the Philosopher-King or the Benevolent Dictator - one authority who knows what to do in the interests of all individuals and for society as a whole. For this to be plausible, there must be a common elements in all that is otherwise very messy among human colours.

Of course, the common element in all societies of human beings are human beings - and their right to exist on this earth. It is this protection of human lives and the assistance given to the poor and incapacitated that has influenced our thinking on how to live together with each other and with others. We may be look different, eat different, talk different, but we should be able to recognise ourselves as fellow human beings.

It is only when human societies are not properly organised and when some unfortunate ones who are left out of the mainstream that some troubles might start - such as stealing to feed oneself and one's family. The challenge is simply to find things for people to do to feed themselves and to keep themselves occupied, apart from being occupied by non-action as would be through meditation.

But the greatest wisdom could be that there is a place on earth for each and everyone and somehow one should be able to live, the degree of comfort or pleasure may be determined purely by our own expectations of ourselves. Living in confidence is probably an important first step for living well with others, so that one is always prepared to share with one's neighbours which can only be easy when one has no worries about tomorrow.

To be able to live happily in the here and now is critical for living well with others, no matter who they may be.


Anonymous said...

Treat everyone fairly. Nobody should be discriminated against because of skin colour, race, religion or culture. Domination and hegemony is out. Quite impossible in Malaysia as the majority is seeking to impose its religious values and practices on the minority.

walla said...

J: How should we live with others?
K: There are as many answers to that question as there are people in the world.
J: But as a yardstick?
K: I don't see how having yardsticks won't create artificial divisiveness. They tend to clump people together which means others are seen differently. What we should do is to rephrase your question. It should be how should we live with differences in others?
J: Errr.. go on anyway.
K: If we ponder our lives carefully, we will find nothing much in it that won't finally make us pretend it's otherwise.
J: How so?
K: Dig as far back into your memory bank. What do you remember clearly the most in your youngest days?
J: Well...ok, the smell of comic ink, the sound of swallows chirping from the corner eaves of old shoplots, the colorful tiles on the walls of prewar homes...
K: Now take that as one bundle of memories. How many bundles do you have with you now?
J: Yikes. Only a few. Faces, names, relationships, some experiences, places and sensory perceptions. Some thoughts. That's just about it.
K: So we go through our entire lives accumulating these few select bundles of memories. Each of us. Others do the same even if the quality and quantity of their bundles of memories may be different. We are all just bundles of our respective memories.
J: You forget the now of existence.
K: No i didn't. There was this documented medical case of someone whose hippocampus was injured. He could only remember very recent events. He would write something he had done in his diary and then scratched it off because he couldn't remember having done it, and then he would write again the same thing.
J: So if someone has a hyperdeveloped hippocampus, he would have many bundles of memories, wouldn't he?
K: Not necessarily so. We filter the things we want to remember and bury the things we don't.
J: What causes the differences in the filtration process of one from others?
K: Individual perception.
J: How do we enhance our perception paradigm?
K: Education and the K-factor.
J: What is the K-factor?
K: The non-educational bit.
J: But what is it?
K: I don't know. Wisdom?
J: How do we get wisdom? From experience?
K: From the processes of experiencing percolated as conclusions and beliefs into the memory bank.

walla said...

J: But there must be something beyond us humans that will enable us to live better with the differences in others?
K: Rational compassion sustained by a noble attitude towards life whether of one's own or others.
J: And how do we acquire that noble attitude?
K: Back to education and wisdom. Note that by education i don't mean the mechanical assimilation of knowledge. By education, i mean something out there but also in me which cannot exist independent of wisdom.
J: You mean applied knowledge?
K: No, something deeper than the feeling one gets from say deriving a complex equation in seventeen pages in twenty minutes. Something that reaches for the unreachable.
J: So that we can have something to pretend about?
K: That may be so. We may have to course through our lives amidst others trying to scale to something we know we will never know. The art of attempting to achieve the impossible. If we see our respective journeys like that, we can then learn to live more easily with the differences in others.
J: It comes back to our own efforts based on a rather sad state of our existence, doesn't it?
K: Whatever the case may be, we shall have to tend to our own gardens, smell the roses, and be kind to all but rationally and sustainably. What else can we do?
J: Do you think a Plato or a Mill or a Confucius would have agreed with your assessment in their constructs of a humanistic society in an enlightened nation state?
K: What i think is immaterial. What people who can do something about it is more material. Victimizing someone in a wheelchair over a trumped up charge of ridiculously defined sedition is hardly humanistic, for that matter enlightened.
J: Do you think we can ever improve away from all the bad things happening that is like some dark ages?
K: Who doesn't know the answer and yet can blithely hold back the solution?