Don’t Stop

If, at a certain point in life, you decide that this is your lot in life and that you are happy where you are to let the river flow, pushing you along to where it may lead. STOP! The moment you make that decision, conscientiously or unknowingly, you have effectively stopped living and started aging.

Be grateful for what you have now considering that billions in the world do not even have what you may consider basic rights of life. Be content and enjoy your relationships like you will not have them tomorrow. But never, ever stop striving to be better than what you are now.

There are no blueprints for an average citizen. There is no ideal of a middle class folk. There is no allocated lot nor any man-designed life for you to live. God gave us, at a great cost to His Son, free will. Live it and use it to think, strain that free will to ponder, squeeze your God given life to strive on for the best. For there is no limit set by anyone else except that which you think it is your limit.

For once you stop striving, you stop moving. Once we stop moving, we stop living.

Corruption, fact or perspective.

What is Corruption? The nearest dictionary I have with me says, “Dishonest or immoral behavior or activities”

Wikipedia, the new online thesis for everything, says, “In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.”

Finally, Webster Online defines it as “a :  impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle :  depravity, b :  decay, decomposition, c :  inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery) ,d :  a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct”

There is the sense that, in corruption, there is an ideal of what is ought to be and that there is a deviation from that which ought to be. Politicians should be noble, government officials ought to be impartial and military officers are to be professional.

I have been told that Singapore is an island of incorruptibility in our region. I do not mean any disrespect to our neighbors and I have also heard that things are getting better in our nearby region but I still hear stories of greasing the wheel when my friends are overseas. There is also the view that Singapore practices a legalized form of corruption where we pay our leaders a rather obscene amount of remuneration as compared to other world leaders.

Compare this to the definition of corruption as mentioned above, we pay our ministers and expect them to deliver. If they do perform at a reasonable standard, there is no deviation from the ideal, hence no corruption.

A new official have explained in a closed session that, corruption is to be expected at all levels, especially when the organization is large. It may not be monetary but simply inefficiency due to complexity of processes or complication of issues. Bribery is one form of corruption but often the most highlighted one as someone is getting more than his fair share. Thus, another way to look at bribery in certain systems is just that the government official is getting a part of what he is due through unofficial means.

This may sound very controversial but I must state that I do not condone corruption of any kind. I simply wish to say that sometimes, corruption exists not because of moral failure of any officials, but simply because the system causes it to be.

Man with four sons, Part IV

The man, said of this to his fourth son,

“Son, I do not know now what kind of man you will be in the future. Nor do I know who you will meet, what you will do and what decisions you will make that will bring you happiness

This I do know now. You have all you need to achieve whatever you set your mind to. The world is open to your searching mind and heart. Let them search uninhibited by fear or worry. Go out and look for like-minded friends who will join you in your quest but do not be bind down by their dreams. Find out your strength, work it into your livelihood so that you excel in it. Enjoy your work and you never will work another day of your life.”

Trinity of the Adversary

This has probably been mentioned by somebody elsewhere before and perhaps in greater clarity and form. However, I had this original thought yesterday and without much research here it is. I should read more on Clausewitz and researches on him anyway.

In “On War”, one of his more famous theories is on the Trinity of War, comprise of “composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the
creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.” (para 28, Book One On the Nature of War). I have previously mentioned this trinity in an earlier post and shall not repeat it. However, suffice to say that there is a lesser and often confused trinity that is of the people, the military and the government, which correspond somewhat with the three forces mentioned above.

One of the skills of the general or his staff officer is the construct of the enemy or adversary’s state of mind. To emerge victorious over the adversary and achieve one’s aim is the desired end state for the military general. To understand the enemy gives options in the ways to defeat him most effectively and efficiently. In Sun Tzu’ Art of War, he mentions, “Thus, to fight a hundred battles and to win a hundred victories is not a reflection of the most supreme strategy. The ability to subdue the enemy without any battle is the ultimate reflection of the most supreme strategy. ” (3.6 and 3.7) (是故百戰百勝,非善之善者也;不戰而屈人之兵,善之善者也)

Thus, the idea is to strike at the enemy in three ways, at his will, at his strategy and at his forces. In targeting an adversary, one must seek to deter his will to compete. Using means at the national disposal, one can imagine using overt means (showcasing one own’s military might, declaring legitimacy and thus international support for one own’s stand and engaging in economical ties such that it costs the adversary if they choose to fight or compete)  or convert means (social media, to accomplish the ways to deter an adversary in completing. Similarly, we can also look at how we should aim our means to reduce the effectiveness of their strategy, by discrediting them or by shifting the focus of their strategy to a false end. Finally, we can reduce their means of achieving their objectives by removing the means or corrupting it. There are multiple means to achieve any objectives that a general or his staff officer can use. We need to be “over-determining” our success by not limiting our strategy to any single way but by utilizing all of it and making sure we achieve the objectives by the most effective and efficient means.

People Change

One of my favorite duet songs by 周杰伦 (Jay Chou) is 珊瑚海 (Coral Sea). In it, he describes how a sand sculpture, once destroyed, can never be put back to be the same. Even if it is rebuilt and the sand re-used, the sand sculpture, be it a castle, a model or a tower is not the same as it was before. Research have shown that, once every 7 years, every single cell in our skeleton is replaced. Are we, thus the same person, as we were 7 years ago, if every single part of our body has been replaced?

People change over time. However, it is said that “First impressions last forever” and, while not really forever, impressions are hard to modify. Just as a child’s first contact with any issue or subject shapes his or her basis of understanding for that topic, so does first impressions forms the core of our understanding and attitude towards particular persons. Caught in a bad moment, we can dismiss a person easily as shoddy or careless and it may ruin our relationship with him or her for quite a while.

Unknowingly, we put people in boxes like sorted objects and label them for easy reference. “Lazy”, “Troublesome”, “Sexy”, “Workaholic”, etc… In objectifying them, we no longer see them as people. “Leadership and Self-Deception”, a book by the Arbinger Institute has taught me that in objectifying people, we see them as obstacles or resources to be overcome or used. We see them as less relevant, less important and less real than us when in fact, each of them live a full complex life just like me. The worst of these is that my resistant to see them as people forces them to react exactly in the way which only serves to confirm my treatment of them.

People are people and they change. Even in Harry Dresden‘s world where true names have power, people’s true name are hard to master because they change with time as the nature of the person changes with time. So,in looking at these issues, I realize at least two truths. Firstly, I can change and I change no matter I like it or not. The choice is what kind of person do I want to be in 7 years time when all of my cells are replaced one by one. Secondly, the people around me are also changing and they do not stay the same. Essentially, I believe that they all want to do good, excel in their chosen profession and live a good life. While in any human system, as a leader, friend and subordinate, it is in my power to see them as who they want to be and help them realize that dream. It is more often that they are limited by ability than by choice in making mistakes as they do.

Man with four sons, Part III

He said of this to his third,

“My third, my joyful star. The one whom greets me cheerfully every morning with a big smile and bright voice. Ever so sensible, you are usually the first to point out things, even when I would rather they be hidden. You have also shown how quick your mind is from your daily chores as you figure them out, even faster than your elder brothers at times!

“You need to know, that there is a time to speak and there is a time to be still. For though some things are good, they are not good to be done at all times. There is virtue in waiting and timing plays an important role in all that we do. Sometimes, timing alone determines the successes and failures of a man. Thus, wait your turn and bid your time. For you will be rewarded and your efforts will be well received.”