Sunday, 26 April 2020
There are two main streams of moral traditions — one idealistic and absolute, the other relatively pragmatic and flexible. Each is a product of history and cultural perspective.
Absolutely, from God to Man
About six thousand years ago, God switched on the light, made things, and authorised humans to reign over them. Man was supposedly in charge of the world, which wasn’t exactly the entire universe — something we still don’t know much about, but pretend we do. Subsequently, God gave religious peoples the foundation of their moral codes. Nothing too complicated, but thou shalt not kill or steal is universally sensible, and works well if followed honestly.
Gradually, science nudges God off His throne. Humans take over, and steadily expand their God-given birthrights to reign over fish and birds. They march to conquer strange lands, funny heathens, the oceans, and nature in general, singing war songs.
Nonetheless, God’s exit has left an empty spot in their psyche, a vacancy which physics and chemistry can’t fill. After centuries of spiritual dependence, the urge to believe in something doesn’t go away easy. Moral excuses are needed to justify actions, many of which detrimental to themselves and others.
In cartoons, funny characters saw doggedly at the branch they’re perching on. In real life, Homo sapiens exploit their one and only living environment for short-term gains, and call it human achievement. Meanwhile, political ideologies have replaced religion, rationalising the killing and destruction of heathens. In man’s hand, morals have become more arbitrary, manipulative, and impractical.
And impractical ideals inevitably lead to hypocrisy and fanaticism.
Supporters of specious doctrines seldom “act as they preach” because, well, what they preach is not always practicable. But stepping back to rethink is sacrilegious. Moral principles are tautologically and absolutely good, uncompromisable. An ideal is a perfect end-point to strive for. Revising something perfect is yielding to the dark side, not incremental refinement. Unfortunately, to loyally defend untenable beliefs and infeasible ideas is the first step to fanaticism.
据圣经所述，大概六千年前，上帝说 “要有光”，便即时有光。可惜四周没有反光体，依旧渺冥无明。上帝于是创造万物，最后附加男女组合阿当与夏娃，让他们在伊甸园快乐逍遥，为所欲为，但不准吃苹果，原因不明。无奈这对祖先天生好奇，偏偏把禁果吃掉。上帝怒责之余，却仍然让他们凌驾世界，但要从此知羞，穿衣蔽体。不许在公共场所裸体，可能是最原始的 “道德要求”。后来为了部落秩序，上帝颁布 “无杀人，无偷盗” 等戒条，进一步规范道德。十戒内容颇合情理，大众无话可说，反正不服者杀无赦。
转眼几千年，人类长了知识，略懂科学，开始摆脱造物主的精神枷锁，自把自为日久，逐渐野心膨胀，把天赋特权无限扩张，除了统治鱼虾野兽，铲高山镇海洋，臣服异族，更扬言要 “征服大自然”，甚至宇宙，以显人类力量，把 “不知天高地厚” 这话发挥得淋漓尽致。
Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Around 400 BCE, Thucydides analysed the history of Greek inter-city strife, and concluded that war is nearly inevitable between a rising power and the incumbent. This so-called Thucydides trap is not only difficult to say, but also anachronistic and misleading when it comes to the avoidable rivalry between China and America today.
In scale and complexity, the competition between Sparta and Athens at Thucydides’ time, with a combined total population of a few hundred thousand at most, was tribal warfare. Using it to project the global dynamics between China and the US in the 21st century is no more relevant than modelling World War III after the Great Mafia War in Sicily.
More significantly, China’s foreign policy has been different from — even opposite to — Western imperial traditions for at least a couple of millennia.