Saturday, July 20, 2013

Protecting the "Truth", or Our Ego/Self Esteem?

So the famous sex bloggers Alvin and Vivian have finally been jailed for their little prank on Facebook (source). While some would say finally or that they deserved it, I would just say that it's a sad for Malaysia indeed. Or a sad day for the freedom of speech in general. And my perception on humans. 

And I think that for everything that Alvin and Vivian did, this is their one wrong move that they shouldn't have touched. People have been asking for their blood ever since their blog received attention and when they started their controversial Youtube channel, so posting something related to Islam was really an open invite for people to bring them down, and they did. 


source: Huffington Post


But I'm not going to talk about this. In fact, let me open with a quote. In light of a better quote, I'll use mine instead. My apologies for the early morning narcissism, but then again, this is what the blog is about right?

"The reason we defend our beliefs so much is not because we want the "truth" to prevail, but rather because we want to protect our ego" - Luke Phang, 2013

Imagine if a child walks to you and say that 2 + 2 = 5. What would you do? Perhaps you will laugh at the child and attempt to tell him that 2 + 2 = 4, not 5. But what if he insists that?

"No, no, no gor gor, my friend said that 2 + 2 is 5! I don't believe you!", he says. What you're going to do? Perhaps at most you'll try to laugh it off, and feel amused by the child's naivety. Or if the child is someone you know or of importance to you, you would probably try to show him the real answer by demonstrating.

"Now, look at me Johnny. Here's two apples, and here's another two apples. When I put them together, how many do you get? Try counting them and see. It's 4 right? Not 5".




Despite how eager the child may be, in most cases I think we would not get angry with the child for insisting that 2 + 2 = 5. Either we laugh it off or we attempt to teach the child. Even if he still walks away believing that 2 + 2 = 5 and refuses to believe you, we would still let it slide and not be angry. 

Because ultimately, you know that the truth is 2 + 2 = 4 and at the end of the day, you know that there's no point arguing with a child. As long as you know the truth, it's more than enough. You wouldn't take out a whip and beat the child for having the wrong thinking. And even if you did, it would seem rather stupid.

"Say 2 + 2 = 4! Say it! Stop crying or I'll beat you more!". Sure, there are parents like this. But how would they look in our eyes? Abusers? Violent? Unnecessary? What if the child is not yours? Then you would think that it's more pointless to try and correct the child's thinking right? 

So how is this any different in Alvin's and Vivian's case?




I'll leave it to you to draw the analogy here.

Often I find that the main reason why people, Christians, Muslims, liberals, conservatives, atheists, fight so hard to prove the other side wrong is not because they truly want the other side to see the light or to engage in a pursuit of knowledge. Rather, they would want the other side to "convert" to their own side, just to feel good I suppose or to prove that their side is correct, and they often enter an argument or discussion with the idea of sticking to their side of the argument to the very end, with the sole purpose of getting the other person to agree with them. There's no other alternatives.

I think it's our human nature, you see, how we would so fervently defend our beliefs, even to the point of persecuting others or demonizing them sometimes (fine, you don't believe in me? I should have known you're a devil worshipper). But what are we truly defending in the process? Our beliefs or the possibility that we may be wrong?

Often, when people insult our beliefs, we take it so personally that it feels that they are in fact insulting us and our egos get bruised and in order to feel okay again, we go to great lengths to nurse our ego back to life. You'll find the more egotistical a person is, the bigger the backlash. I mean if we truly believe in the mightiness and the strength of our God, would a mere insult really hurt Him? In fact, would He even care in the first place? It's like an ant throwing insult at us. The voice is so insignificant that we could not even notice it. So when we are "punishing" these infidels, who are we trying to prove to? Our God, or ourselves?




When we know that what we believe in is the ultimate truth, or when we have faith in it, like how we know 2 + 2 = 4, no matter how many times a random small kid comes up to you and say 2 + 2 = 5, you would not be angry or see the need to go up in arms and put them all into jail or stop them from having friends etc, because you know that what you believe in is true and if they want to subscribe to their belief, it's totally fine with you because by the end of the day, they are the ones who will be having trouble in their life like failing exams or getting shortchanged when buying stuff. 

You can try to correct them, but if they refuse to believe you, there's nothing you can do. Using force on the other hand, to prove that you're correct, for example locking them up or caning them just to get them to switch to your belief may not only have the potential to harden up their beliefs (humans clamp up under threats after all) but also cause them to view your beliefs in a negative light. That 2 + 2 = 4 is an evil way of thinking because it enforces itself upon others.

I believe that in our pursuit of knowledge, we should always be prepared for the possibility that what we believe in might turn out to be false. That way it allows us to seek new information and new knowledge to further bolster up what we already knew. Standing on a spot with your hands over your ears repeating that your correct only shows how immature and painfully stubborn you are. But actually saying, "I think that guy has a point, maybe I can try searching for more information to see what others say on this?", can go a long way in helping you evaluate what's right and what's wrong.




Of course, I would agree that people who intentionally wants to incite religious hatred are the ones that should be locked up, like what A Young Singaporean Muslim said in this article, but from my point of view, the line is sometimes very far away for us to make any distinction on it. I think only when a certain group tries to incite physical harm or to limit other group's religious practices, an action based on hate, that action should be taken. 

But when you jail a couple for making a Facebook post or when you oppose LGBT rights to marry? Well, I just think that's no different from an adult who tries to punish a child into believing 2 + 2 = 4.

For all those who may have differing opinions, let me just ask you one question. What harm could Alvin's or Vivian's post possibly bring? And what harm can LGBT marriage legalization bring (I'm bringing this in too as it's the second news I saw for the day, where Singapore churches oppose the prospect of LGBT legalization in Singapore)? If you're seriously worried about those swaying your faith, then I have bad news for you. If it's about proving them wrong, well, I have this entire blog post for you to read.

After all, which of this is a better testament to your beliefs?

Blind hatred and your stubborn cling to your beliefs like this...



Or willingness to admit you may have been wrong like this?



I'm sure the answer speaks for itself.




“Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated.” - George Benard Shaw


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