Thursday, November 24, 2005

You don't deal with rejection very well
~ Shub.

Very very true. And I think this has something to do with my cry today, after bible study, that God may grant that I be submissive to the utter depths of His calling. I am stuck by the harshness of the calling to be a christian and how it grates against every satient concept of the sensible. A lot of things are good, but are they biblical and Godly? Tolerance (i.e. blindness, not loving understanding), Agency, Personal Lord and Saviour. Things that our modern christian faith is built on and that we do not question. Where in the bible did God ever sanction what we believe in.

Get down and get dirty.

So in my high-wired caffinated state, the butterflies in my intestinal tract lead me to sprawl out before God in prayer asking for it all. Whatever that means, it's not like I'm big enough to define the mystery anyway.

So today was highly disappointing, and faith wrenching. The professor that I am trying to negotiate with wrt to a personal project of mine seemed to underestimate me, or perhaps, I am in the wrong programme. Seeing that I do not sweep through the corridors of Buchanan with the decorum that demands you all relinquish your natural rights to me and hail me as the Souverign, I would probably fit better in the discipline of Interpersonal Relations. Maybe I should stop school, go to a village and have babies.

And I'm also not going back to Singapore for christmas. Nuff Said.

So disappointment abounds and I have to learn that indeed, life rarely goes the way you want it to. The will and the imagination are existential party-poopers, and while my rational mind tells me that I am up for disappointment no matter what, my fluffly lil' heart decides to sail of anyway, having decided, quite spontaniously, to file a divorce against reason.

But at the end of the day, life patters on. And until I stop trying to forge myself against the will of the cosmos, I will end up confused, betrayed and disillusioned, with no one but myself to blame.

Existential curve ball thrown at me. what if what if what if what if?


Nothingness and everythingness bumbled together in a great big balloon of HERE AND NOW.

In the eye of the storm WHERE IS THE FREAKING VOICE?

Shhhhhhhhshhhh shhh...

Chinese now.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

RE: Being Scottish

I didn't realise that I had three comments wrt to my post on being Scottish. I have a ton of other things to talk about but I really wanted to deal with some questions. The notion of being Singapore Presbytarian, Singaporean Baptist etc etc etc and not knowing what the vaious denominations stand for could mean one of two things.

1) That the congregation's relationship with God is based on the person of Christ as opposed to the doctrine.

2) That there is a general unawareness of what the congregation is built upon and that cultural Christianity has seeped in.

From my experience in Singapore, I am tempted to say the latter. Not that the former isn't in the equation at all, but that it is wraught out of unawareness. I just am a sucker for knowledge (in a warped focoultian way) and I believe that the decision to engage in a certain code of conduct would be all the richer if it were based in some sense of knowledge.

It is true that what defines us denominationally is more practise and periphery then anything else, but it is exactly that which is built on European culture and context. And we don't seem to know what that is. I haven't been to many chuches in singapore, but I do not see a great distinction between liturgy in and out of different denominational settings. It seems that that's becuase nobody today really knows why we worship the way we do.

At any rate, there is value to be wraught from understanding the history of the church, and from there, cultivating perhaps a denomination that engages the congregation in Singapore from its socio-cultural context, with its own litury and sacred symbols. Either that, or do the Packer thing and desert all symbolism.

And excuse me, I am culturally Singaporean hor. Prease don't look me no up and say I jia kan tang only okay? I know I sibeh angmoh pai one, but I still am very much atuned to my identity as a Straits born chinese.

And identity... yeah, i guess it's importance is deemed when one recognizes that it isn't important. Only in understanding who you are in the greater context of things does one have the ability to give that all up to christ.


The Hands that Built America... and the rest of the liberal world
For Poli 367

�if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse

~John Donne

In the Jacobean era, John Donne presents his theory on the interconnectedness of man-kind, a grating contrast to the spirit of the age that was to come: A spirit that would hail isolation over integration, individuality over community. Since the French Enlightenment, modern Liberal thought has developed and grown to be the dominant paradigm in the global framework of existence, with international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund bearing the ideological effigy of this framework in their policies and dealings with global actors. The Liberal paradigm is characteristically fraught with optimism and seeks to achieve an inter-dependent, inter-connected global society, or (God-willingly) a world community. However, one cannot ignore the possibility, or even desirability, of ideological alternatives to the positivistic, liberal notions of the society that we have now. This epistemological framework is the cradle of mainstream political philosophy and international relations theory, constructing notions of reality and truth that serve to perpetuate the existing ideology of the individual�s relationship with greater humanity. The principles of such liberal thought has profound implications on both society at large and the discipline of international relations. As noted by Kwame Anthony Appiah,

It may do us good to think about the principles, the values and ideals that underlie our agreement [on liberalism], not just to make the consensus more intellectually secure, but also to explore consequences we haven�t noticed (306).

Hence it is pressing to address the conceptual conundrum of the individual�s relationship with community.

Liberalism for purposes of this essay will include notions of �Liberal democracy� and �Liberal capitalism� (ala Adam Smith). It will not be restricted solely to their pure theoretical concepts, but will be dealt with as �Social Imaginary� or �the ways in which people imagine their social existence� (Taylor 106). This does not mean that it stands apart from the theoretical definition, rather, social imaginary is the result of the popularization of social theories that were originally held by the intellectual elite. Liberalism, in its socio-cultural definition, strives for individual liberty and autonomy, both economically and socially. Politically, this entails minimal state intervention with the government�s sole purpose being to enforce the rule of law and individual legal rights. This discussion will examine the assumptions and foundations upon which Liberal ideology is built, and the effects that this paradigm has on both society and International Relations as an academic discipline. This essay will then seek to uncover the dangers of this liberal conception of the individual�s relationship with community in the context of establishing a world community.

John Locke (1632-1704) has been touted to be the father of Liberal thought having laid the foundation for individualism with his �Natural Rights Theory�. This was accompanied by notions of Reason and Rationality, a faculty that was shared by all men and hence, the basis of their equality. Locke retained religion in his theory, but as with all other facets of humanity, Liberalism as a form of political thought would be shaped by events in the future particularly, the French Enlightenment. The Enlightenment revolutionized the world more in ways than one. On a social level, the Enlightenment was a seething attack on the fundamentals of Christianity and on religion as a whole, attacking �its clergy, its hierarchy, its institutions, and its dogmas� (Allen 67). It removed theological accounts of ontology and shifted authority away from the notion of �God the Creator�, to �Humanity�, hailing human reason and rationality as the sole authority of human life. This created a radical transformation in the intellectual language, and hence intellectual structuring, of the age. The shift brought with it the idea of endless progress, intellectually encapsulated in the category �Modernity� which �promised mass enlightenment while reconstituting values and ideas away from a God-centered universe to a human centered one� (Rappa 221). This social age was instituted via this notion of endless progress coupled with an eager confidence that positivistic, empirical undertakings will eventually solve all problems, or at least, allow us to avoid them.

The step toward humanism was instrumental in instituting the Lockean postulation of �life, liberty and property� into social theory. The Enlightenment and its banner of human rights were underlined by a sense of universal humanity that was defiled by inequality. Hence, �Social disparity became the most direct evidence of denial of rights, with rights now being interpreted as the power to acquire comfort in this world� (Allen 68). The quality of one�s existence was not only determined philosophically and metaphysically, but was increasingly being qualified materially, as exemplified by the argument made by Adam Smith that social order is most secure resting on tangible distinctions, rather then on the invisible qualities of morals and values (Taylor 101). Modernity, working in concert with the ideology of human reason and rationality, ushered in the dawn of capitalism, an imperative to the liberal paradigm. Capitalism is a function of the overriding positivistic attitude characteristic of the system and the prioritization of empiricism that rejects, whether systematically or unconsciously, normative values, concepts and ways of dealing with the world.

Perhaps the greatest repercussion of capitalism was the creation of the printing press and the institution of the �novel� as a literary genre for mass consumption. With the onset of print capitalism there came a new way of engaging the world and understanding existence, this in turn �deeply shape[d] modern man and guide[d] even his most strictly philosophical efforts�(Ryn 11). This new way of engaging the world is through imagination, a mode of thought that stands in stark opposition to Myth, or Mythos. While neither Myth nor Imagination have any reference to a concrete material reality, both induce the individual to conceive himself in radically different ways. Myth projects images of the past, bearing stories of origin. As demonstrated by Plato who, in book three of Republic, prescribes spinning a magnificent myth to ensure the loyalty of the citizens in the polis (Plato 116). Myth gives the individual a sense of collective identity, of heritage and belonging. This establishes, within the individual, the on-going process of �taking the disconnected elements of [his or her] life and pulling them together into a coherent story that means something� (Houerwas and Willimon 53). Imagination, however, projects images of the future, of desire, of what one could be. This usually stands apart from the collective and is ego-centric. This imaginative mode of thinking unveiled itself as �a mood of daydreaming [that] develop[ed] into a richly orchestrated theme in the cultural life of the west.� What started as a form of entertainment and relief �expands into elaborate and permanent visions of life transformed� (Ryn 14-15). Like a microcosm of the shift from a Theo-centric ontology to a human-centric worldview, imagination brings individual desire to the forefront of his identity, displacing pre-modern notions of moral order, be they based on the idea collective identity or of divine hierarchy (Taylor 94).

Private property, together with the conceived �rights� of a human being and print capitalism, solidified the notion of individualism as opposed to collective identity: The community no longer defines personal identity. This thread of thought finds its heritage in Kant, who conceived the notion of autonomy: �the idea of a person�s being self-governing, ruling him-or herself rather then being ruled from outside� (Appiah 331). This thread of thought has found its way into America�s Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution: �At the heart of liberty is the right to define one�s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life� (Little 27). This not only means self-expression, but also contains notions of rejecting external influences in one�s life, or else ignoring the role that one�s external social context plays in shaping his or her identity. This ideology has found its way into the modern education system, the effects of which are felt most acutely on �pre-modern� communities undergoing western development projects:

I think of [education] as a device whereby the enemy is out to make people forget what they already know. The device where by he destroys our age-old wisdom, by making it impossible to pass it down to the younger generation (Dahl and Megerssa 59).

Here in the throes of neo-liberal development programmes, the separation of the individual from his community, and its detrimental results, is markedly beheld in the eye of the bystander - He that is foreign to liberalism as a framework has identified the danger that comes with the spirit of individualism: The alienation between the self and the community. Appiah labels this �the problem of the unsociablility of individualism� (Appiah 319), and it is this from of unsociable individualism that is found in the liberal paradigm.

The inability, or refusal, of the individual to be sociable impacts the condition of his individuality and liberty. By rejecting and disassociating himself from external influences of identification, decontextualization commences, the most obvious example being that of the demise of religion: �when a man no longer believes in God, it is not that he believes in nothing but that he believes in everything� (Little 29). Liberalism in this sense is the harbinger of Postmodernism, or otherwise, it is the germinating seeds of Postmodernism sown in the fertile soils of Enlightenment thinking. Within the discipline of International Relations, the movement towards decontextualization has created what Holsti quite superciliously calls �Identityville�: the path of subjectivism and identity politics that is �dependent upon forgetting our ancestors who did have an overriding interest in substance� (Dividing Discipline 82). Although �Identityville� was originally descriptive of the internal state of the discipline, this �Crisis� within the school can be seen as one of the many manifestations of the postmodern spirit which drags the individual into sheer solipsism. This necessarily has implications to the formulation of a world community, and hinders its birth in two ways: Firstly, that the Liberal notion of individualism allows for no room for a world community, and secondly, the Liberal notion of individualism allows for no drive toward the creation of a world community.

The result of Postmodern/Liberal thought is that it amalgamates to �a desire, indeed even a demand, for�radical egalitarianism and radical individualism� (Little 26). The absolute actualization of this double-demand, in its most extreme form, would seem to come about in the founding of a Cosmopolitan world, with The World Community being the ultimate conception of an inter-dependent, integrated world system, where individuals by-pass the artificial and arbitrary boundaries of state borders, social classes, and cultural norms to engage directly with each other. This is the solution to the classical disciplinary problem of war: �Peace, then, was the predicted consequence of free transactions� (Holsti, Road 28). Here the superstructure of existence would be that of a common humanity, where �our equality [would be] grounded in our shared human capacity for reason� (Appiah 331). This would constitute the basis for which Chris Brown labels �a worldwide consciousness of common identity� (91). However, this in itself is not enough and Brown goes on to point out that this is insufficient for the establishment of a world community, warning that other unifying forces, both material and non-material must come into play (91-93). Herein lies the imprisoning paradox of liberalism, that the cry for radical egalitarianism, �requires that all differences among human beings be minimized� (Little 26). Liberalism here seems to hold its own seeds of destruction, with the Liberal individual heading in one direction toward complete self-creation and identification, and the Liberal society moving towards a world community based on equality, commonality and assimilation, with everyone sharing the same values, norms and worldview. Hence the liberal world community that it seeks to build stands in stark opposition to liberal, individualistic man.

The second obstacle to a world community would be that the liberal individual would have no reason to seek such an eschatological climax. This is the immediate result of individualism and decontextualization, that the removal of a community-based Mythos from the individual�s worldview plunges him into a state of moral chaos. Tocqueville, during the French Revolution, observed the effects individualistic liberalism had:

People� had been isolated from one another, so that the discourse of community was no longer clearly structured� there was no conscious and open discourse of community that defined their circumstances (Allen 76) (emphasis added).

The moral chaos seeps in with the new moral order that Liberalism smuggles in with individualism. An individualistic society stands in the way of a world community by simply being what it was intended to be, as Stanley Houerwas and William H. Willimon comment:

The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality. Society is formed to supply our needs, no matter the content� rather than helping us judge our needs, to have the right needs which we exercise in right ways, our society becomes a vast supermarket of desire (32).

This leads to a form of moral order which perpetuates alienation and unsociable individualism under the tyranny of the individual�s desires, a kind of secular hell, as understood by Bernard Shaw: hell is where you must do what you want to do (Houerwas and Willimon 33).

Not only does this vanquish any possibility of a world community, the �supermarket of desire� deems that �we have no particular reason for choosing one thing over another except as our own [immediate] impulses dictate� (Little 32). Decontextualization and the stripping away of collective identities (as �responses to something outside the ego� [Appiah 326]), creates a self-imposed historical vacuum where one drifts aimlessly with no purpose outside his individualism to fulfill. This gives the individual no reason or desire to strive for a world community which might conflict with his interests of immediate gratification. The argument thus far, has removed human agency and cast the individual in a passive light, however, the inclusion of agency does not necessarily mean that the individual would choose otherwise, as Tocqueville argues that �a spirit of envy will undermine the supposed smooth operation of a system of entrepreneurial energy [Liberalism] based on individuality� (Allen 81). Here, due to alienating individualism, their agency would work against, rather then for, a world community.

It seems that the individual�s relationship with community (or the lack of it) as construed by Liberalism is the noose for the world community that it concomitantly purports. This is primarily due to the bi-polar value system that is independent of, but built into, Liberalism (and most modes of thought influenced by Grecian epistemology). Within this paradigm, there is a tendency to see the rise of the individual being at the expense of community, which Taylor construes as a distortion: �we fail to recognize that �the new understanding of the individual is a new understanding of sociality: The society of mutual benefit� (Taylor 99). Here we are introduced to a third way, or some sort of middle road on which the individual and �the society of mutual benefit� coexist in tension and mutual tolerance. Individuals work together in mutual self-interest (ala Adam Smith�s capitalism), diluting the extreme effects that liberal individualism has on the community. This is resonant of Mill�s stand that �self-cultivation and sociability are competing values, though each has its place.�(Appiah 319) (emphasis added).

Although this middle-of-road approach dampens the violence of individualism, it is a stop gap measure that treats the symptoms rather then dealing with the underlying problem. Reinhold Niebuhr, on the other hand takes the stand that

The highest reaches of individual consciousness and awareness� find their ultimate meaning in relation to the community� [The individual�s] decisions and achievement grow into, as well as out of, the community and find their final meaning in the community (50).

This understanding is a radical step away from the epistemology of Grecian dualism and is resonant with East Asian notions of balance.[1] Here Individualism cannot be found without the community, and neither can the community have any meaning without individuality. Without community, the individual has nothing to be individual against, and without the unique individual the community has nothing to be comprised of. Both the individual and community inform each other, and exist for each other, instead of simply with each other. Thus the community gives ground for a collective identity which has moral authority to aid in the fulfillment of the individual�s self-creation. The implications for a world community in this light would be contingent on whether or not our identities are �dialogically� construed (Appiah 325) toward its creation.

Following this epistemological shift, a world community is still not inevitable, but no longer is it impossible. Only with the reconstitution of a conscious historical context within the individual can the desire for a true world community be sparked, and worked with. But for now, the tragedy of France as observed by Marx will be reinterpreted and replayed on the global stage: �France, therefore, seems to have escaped the despotism of class only to fall back beneath the despotism of an individual� (Allen 82). But instead of a single Bonaparte rising up to eliminate liberty, the despotism is carried out by the wave of unsociable individualism that makes each person his own alienated tyrant (Houerwas and Willimon 53).

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.' All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-

~ Isaiah 65:1-2

[1] The idea of balance is reflected strongly in Asiatic languages and is prevalent in Eastern philosophy, which is based in Confucianism rather then Liberalism. Like Liberalism, Confucianism has also been adopted into an economic model (The South East Asian Model) as purported by Singapore�s Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew, who attributes the economic success of the Asian tigers to Confucianism and Asian values.


I went snowboarding over the weekend, and as i was lying in the snow dying of whiplash and amatuerism, I prayed for help. Then Ryan rounds the bend and takes 45 minutes off his skip trip to teach me how to board. Angels abound.

Yes, that's Shu and her family. Angels all around.
Oh and Andrea is a cutie.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Once again, as I gasp for air.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow in love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved, as to love.

For its in giving that we receive.
And its in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And its in dying that we are born into eternal life.


You can marry the wrong person, but you can never be married to the wrong person. You can choose to marry the person that isn't God's best for you, but once you HAVE married then, that's who God wants you to be with. This brings back memories of Seth and the lessons that I learnt, and more sharply, memories of recent times that seek not to be remembered at all. I need new lenses.

These were the ONLY frames that they had like that!
~ Andre on his new trendy glasses.