Imperial Command of the Raccoon General

Thoughts and Memoirs of a Ring-tailed and Masked Dominator of the World

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General of the mighty Raccoon Army

Monday, April 17, 2006

Thoughts in the weekend....

I just wanted to have a drink. Really, I had no intentions of watching it. I knew what would happen if I did, but nevertheless, when I switched on the TV and Bicentennial Man was showing, I just had to sit down and watch, from start till finish. OH of course, there were the moments, I felt like crying through most of them, I don't know why. Maybe because they were really touching or maybe because they were so touching I realized such wonder was beyond my reach; love, perfect family, actually achieving one's goals.

But of course, the main point was that the message it conveys.

"I would rather die a man, than live forever as a machine."

I can agree more to that. You see, I read once from somewhere that said 'Man is the measure of all things', and I have to say there is some truth to that. I don't know about aliens and those beyond Earth, but for all the life on this planet, as extremely utterly unique as ALL of them maybe, there is nothing on this here planet comparable to human beings. We are the only species capable of making ourselves into whatever we chose, or utterly destroy ourselves as well. I find it a thouroughly interesting thing that a machine, as such in the movie, can learn AND achieve the things we covet most in life; love, wealth, freedom, purpose of living. I don't know if I can ever be thus, such things are to me beyond my grasp; take love for example, I find it a futile attempt to actually pursue it, because like it or not, if I want someone, I would have to compromise, and in this matter I cannot...nay, will not, compromise. It's all or nothing.

But enough of love, I have indulged in that fickle matter previously a hundred times over. Nay, what interests me is the concept of freedom. Freedom is one ambigous concept to which its literal interpretation varies from different people, yet has been the driving force behind so many people to struggle for it, even going through terrible wars to achieve it. I would like to think that individuals wanting freedom is a worldwide concept, but in truth I have looked upon it and found out that it is not. Freedom is universal today because those who had originally championed the cause have spread their influence globally. Globalization might as well be Westernization because as we all become more alike, we are becoming so by adopting mostly western concepts.

Freedom was championed by the western civilizations since its conception in ancient Greek city states, where unique in the known world then, individual freedom and rights was officially and politically acknowledged. I hate to admit it but looking at other places beyond Greece (even northern Europe at the time) there was no such thing. One person may trample on another or his rights or property merely by being stronger or powerful. In other advanced cultures, the people then adhere to strict obligation and loyalty to the ruler or ruling body to which the latter in turn can do as they please, trampling on what we today would say the rights of an individual, merely on the charge of the former displeasing the latter.

Let's take a look at a local folklore. Hang Tuah is false accused, ordered to be executed by the Sultan, and thus in the light of that injustice, his friend Hang Jebat rebelled against the monarch. The climax point was that Hang Tuah, ever loyal, fought against his friend in the name of the sultan. Thus, today, we are told that Hang Tuah was the hero, the champion, not because he won, but because he was loyal. That is our view. The Malay view perhaps, in which my point is to stress out the value we place on loyalty, and if I dare be frank, blind loyalty. If the story took place in the west, in Europe perhaps, this is what I gather they would view. The sultan is inept, and unjust in that he sentences people to be executed without fair trial, and that Hang Tuah easily allows what is suppose to be his rights trampled by his monarch. Hang Jebat will be hailed as the hero, for simply standing up against tyranny and willing to fight for one's rights. Now why is this critical?

Simple, firstly as perhaps mentioned before, when the two ideologies clashed, the latter who champions individual rights and freedom, wins. Don't believe me? Then why is it that it is the West who have conquered us and most of the world, and not any other? Secondly, it is not to point out western superiority, because I hate that fact too, perhaps not being on the superior side myself. But I do acknowledged their achievements and I can respect that, instead of blindly turning away and accusing them of being evil and corrupt without solid facts to support. No, the second point is that equality, individual uniqueness and the great importance it could contribute to society should be embraced, and not supressed. We must understand that the only person truly responsible for our well being is ourselves, and we must work for it, not merely place that responsibility in another's hands.

I admit that the west, and its concept of capitalism, which of course promotes individual success and thus further promotes the fortunate instead of the unfortunate most of the time, may not be the most moral of concepts. I guess there is a balance to everything I guess, but the fact of the matter is, would you prefer to be poor amidst great tycoons but nevertheless having th same freedoms and rights as they do, or would you prefer all out economic equality, in which the true power only lies in the hands of the select few, and in turn your own rights differs from the ruling body, or if ay rights exists at all to you, in their eyes? Striving the balance of equality, individualism, morality and progress is a very tricky matter, and for that I am no whiz to suggest any miracular solutions. But I do say this, individualism is not wrong, and that freedom is everyones rights, and above all we must think, not blindly put faith in what others say.

Okay lastly, going off topic from that, something I found out recently in RTS gaming, typically there is 3 different types of players; Rushers, Turtle, and Boom. (Boom I think are the money crazy people) As a rule like rock-paper-scissors, Rushers will almost always beat Boomers because quick assaults can easily defeat greedy people who spread out their lines without adequate protection so as to quickly grab as much loot as quickly as they can. Boomers in turn will beat turtle players, because they gain accessto plentiful resources to build whaever they want against a player who is slowly running out of resource and can't progress well. Turtle players in turn, having solid defenses from the start will almost always beat rushers, who have to rely on cheap early units and in not too plentiful a quantity.

Well that's it for today. I think I've typed enough.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Warriors are not always Soldiers

Just as courage is not necesarily discipline.

There were times I feel ashamed. Though I consider myself non-Westerner (Western influenced perhaps but always at heart I know I am Eastern), I have always had a fondness for Western Military. I admit, amidst my friends, one in particular is very keen on Islamic Middle Eastern militray in the middle ages as well as Japanese military traditions, the samurai and the Bushido codes, as well as that of my brother's own preference for the views on contemporary middle eastern and chinese armies, I have always preferred to look towards their European counterparts, Greek Hoplites, Macedonian Phalanx, Roman Legion, British Redcoats and the like. I can understand the need to take pride in our own (non-western) achievements, and for that I do not shun those who do so, but the fact of the matter is I am, perhaps impressed by the notion of rational inquiry, impressed with what facts history has put out. And history tallies greatly on European achievement.

I'll tell you why it is such. The world is populated by kingdoms, in the earlier days and all those kingdoms and empires were very much centralized monarchical governments, where the supreme ruler is above all else and others mere subjects and slaves to him. Take our own Malaccan sultanate, the middle eastern sultanates even, the Aztecs, Zulus, Chinese, Japanese, Mongols and per haps other I have missed out; what is similiar in all the stated are their dependecy on the King, sultan or emperor to a point where should we remove the figurehead, such organization can suffer greatly or even fall, to which the cause (or perhaps effect) is that nobody else in the system had the rights to question the supreme ruler. Free Inquiry, freedom of speach, and individual rights, for the most part originated in the west. It's true, Islam states the rights of individuals too, though in my point of view, Islamic ideals is not why the Islamic civilization fell. Islamic civilization fell because firstly, it slowly reverted back to theocratical rule, and secondly it started to follow extremist ideals of everything being God's Divine will and sought no rational explanation (which I might add is encourage in Islamic traditions, not otherwise).

Unique to all these were the Greeks, whom we can blame (if that is what you want to do) for Western Ascendancy. Greeks had civil rights and for the part it played against Persians, the contrast of the two armies is that Greeks were free men defending their OWN individual property (to their time's extent and their own interpretation of freedom) while the Persions were merely subjects of their King who merely followed his command mainly to avoid being punished or executed. This is critical because it ultimate decided the Greeks as the better fighters, their will being stronger. The Greeks' tradition were passed on to other Europeans and thus begins the western military hegemony. They were neither smarter, stronger, faster, or better in anyway than most of us, but they had a culture in which its roots had given them an edge.

But will alone wasn't what made the Greek and its subsequent western heirs string in military. It was the fact that where all warriors in the world placed a strong focus on killing his enemy, whereby the number of ones kills is the measure of ones honor, the Western system is less individualistic, and the emphasis was on staying in rank, and fighting cohesively. The disparity is that in civic terms western value individualism and personal gain, but in battle soldiers are expected to be selfless. The opposite is what is often true for the societies of others; we are to be insignificant individually save for thw supreme ruler of which we are his lowly subject while in battle we are focused on seeing which of us is better at killing the enemy. ( I look now with accusing eyes towards frag-chasing extremists in the gaming world).

The third point is in the system of supply and economics itself. Westerners have somehow adopted a systen which can supply its armies with food, weapons and manpower unmatched elsewhere. Whereas many a local tribe or nation depended on victory in one decisive battle, in which should they lose, then they lose all, western armies have the ability to replace such lost in defeats with ease as compared to their non western counterpart. Here is why, and its not about the fact that Western high technology enables smaller amount of soldiers to be fielded thus easily replacing auch small numbers. Its simply about practicality. Whereas a well trained samurai or Janissary will take a long time to replace and train, westerners have always been interested in putting as many killing power in as many hands possible with little training and disregard of class. Thus citizen can become deadly killers capable of taking down their aristocratic counterpart.

No, westerners are not superior; they can be beaten. But to do so we have to come to terms and accept the flaw in our own ways and to adapt as necessary to situation. I have no doubt that the Japanese samurai is far worthier a warrior than a British Redcoat. And as individuals I think the samurai is likely to be more cultured and intelligent than a Redcoat. Indeed, there is more intrigue to the Samurai than the Redcoat, and he is equal if not better at a duel than the Redcoat. But as far as soldiers go, the Redcoat is the better choice, because he focuses not on the many ways killing, but on the singular purpose of standing shoulder to shoulder with his compatriots.

The most important thing I want to point out is of course the mindset of the people. Aztecs for example, prefer capture and killing their enemies through ritual sacrifice than in battle. Zulus, Janissaries and Eastern raiders fought to prove their individual skills, certain groups attribute defeat and victory to divine reasons, but against these, the western originated idea of decisive battle, to utterly decimate the ability of the enemy to resist on the field, and to analyze through rational inquiry, has in fact prevailed over all the others.

I cannot turn a blind eye to western achievement, and I must be honest to admire them for their accomplishments. I am however clear that there is no justification on the horrors they have commited on other natives to pursue their own national interest, nor do I agree on us all fully adopting western customs. The question is not who is superior, in the end. I will not tolerate any mindless debate that the samurai is the best warrior or soldier, or the Zulus are fiercest or Ottoman Turks are most advanced and the like. You can take pride in whatever individual accomplishments each has, but the point here is to analyze the facts and not bask in pointless glorified ideals. Therefore given the availability of information, the main question is, would we learn from it?