Sunday, 18 January 2009

Rise And Fall

I'm celebrating my reunion dinner today, a full week in advance from the actual day because tradition, once again, doesn't hold up to conveniences. My yearly reunion dinners are celebrated together with my extended family on my dad's side so it's a huge group. On the actual day, we'd be fighting the crowds and higher prices, in addition to being much busier doing Chinese New Year preparations closer to the day, so everyone figured that they'd be better off just coming together on an alternate day instead. Why not?

I've nothing against having my reunion dinner away from the actual date, my weak belief in this whole festival notwithstanding, but on an academic note I think this again shows that, somewhere between the adages that change is the only constant and that modernity has no room for tradition, we seem to have a natural social programming to gravitate away from saturated or expired practices; 'saturated' and 'expired' only so defined by the people of the age they own.

No one can say for sure that traditional Catholic axioms are absolute truths, that making it back on the actual day religiously for reunion dinner every year is the best way to preserve the family, that refraining from the television makes one a better person. But neither can anyone say for a fact that such thoughts or practices are outdated. Human nature doesn't provide the intelligence to discern whether moving in a certain direction ultimately leads to a demise for our species. For now, living in an information and internet technology-intense era just redefines what the masses believe should be the right way to live.

There is hardly a right or wrong here when the majority intends to ostracise and ultimately condemn and eliminate minority or dying practices. At the very basis of social human behaviour, people will instinctively frown upon acts that do not go with the flow. Even more deep-seated than that, when one considers Gestalt psychology, people naturally group even black squares and blue circles according to what makes it look most convenient to describe. When practices are perceived as obstacles, then people will evolve by changing those practices or ditching them. We are innately wired to deny those we perceive as deviant and as we move along the chain reaction from the mind to society at large, sometimes it really comes as no surprise when age-old practices are compromised to make way for convenience and efficiency, often euphemised with a seemingly innocent "why not?" by unknowing revolutionists while blasted as a blasphemous indecency by the generation we are leaving behind.

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to smallpox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

- Charles Darwin

Audio Candy:
I See Stars - Save The Cheerleader

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