The Perfect State

Hadrian aureus gold Roman coin

Photo Credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com

One time I was having a lesson with one of my Japanese students and during our discussion he was complaining about corruption in his country.  The whole time I was thinking, “If he thinks they’re corrupt, what does that make us?”

I’m sharing this anecdote because I know of Filipinos who believe that if corruption is gone or significantly reduced then — Poof!  The Philippines will no longer be poor and everyone will live happily ever after.

Let’s say corruption diminishes dramatically.  Will our taxes be able to create jobs for most poor people?  If not, then it’s not public funds which are responsible for job creation but the government’s active role in drawing investment to the country.  Yes, this is currently taking place, but why only now?

The Philippines’ labor cost has been lower ever since the peso was devalued to 11 per dollar in 1983, and was almost as low as 50 to the dollar in 2000.  Shouldn’t that have informed presidents on what course to take in the Philippines ever since?

Beijing Tongzhou Modern International New City Plan investment mapping

Yes, President NoyNoy Aquino is also crusading against corruption which I’m sure helps.  But 30 years of a lower labor cost, more than a hundred years of English education and only under his administration do we have investment grade status?  If the Philippine government had started to promote investment in the secondary and tertiary sectors 30 years ago, that would have begun the process of poverty reduction — not simply eliminating corruption.

That would have also financed much needed infrastructure.  I would be happy when taxes are being deducted from my salary if I didn’t encounter so many inconveniences from the inadequate infrastructure in the country.  So when a country is still “developing,” I expect my taxes to be directed primarily towards this end.  I am still waiting for the government’s plan to develop the countryside.

As far as education and healthcare go, I believe that it’s not so much the budget allotted for these sectors which is important, but the quality of the program.  I will discuss these in future posts.

Waste collection vehicle sideloader biogas Skellefteå Sweden green eco

Photo Credit: Jlundqvi

Lastly, government expenditure should be allocated for quality waste management systems.  If this is actualized in the Philippines, I wouldn’t have any complaints anymore.

But until then, there is still much to be done before we can achieve the perfect state.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_peso

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Philippines

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Inspiration

Chartres Cathedral Rose Stained Glass Window (2)Even though I see the beauty of religious architecture, I am appalled at the horrific bloodshed at the expense of religion.  I have wondered how I could believe in religion given those facts.  But despite all the conflicts, and even personal turmoil that religion has fomented, I still can’t deny that it has made a positive impact on my life.

It was only negative because of how other people interpreted religion–especially my parents.  When my relationship with my parents deteriorated as a result of their conservative Catholic beliefs, I could no longer go to church anymore.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to believe in Jesus Christ’s compassion and my Jesuit college education.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those values.

But I also felt that other religions had positive messages, so I started to read about other religions as well.

Masjed-e Jomeh Iwan Portal Mosque Isfahan IranPhoto Credit: Verity Cridland

After reading an English translation of the Koran, I was shocked to know how much Jesus was in it.

I remember my classmate in Saudi Arabia telling me that Jesus’ name is mentioned in the Koran 25 times but it didn’t really make an impact on me because the figure sounded minor.

Now that I’ve actually read the whole thing, I can definitely say that he is anything but a minor figure in the Koran.  The “25 times” doesn’t even include his epithets of honor.

I love that the Koran has unity and that certain points are emphasized by repeating and interspersing them throughout the book.  So when I read Jesus again and again and again in the Koran, I got a little nonplussed.

Based on that, how could enmity come between these two religions?  Again, it’s other people’s interpretation of religion that can impact us negatively, not our own.

Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea Naesongni-myeon, Boeun County Beopjusa temple Jogye Order of Buddhism

Photo Credit: Steve46814

Many have sullied the name of religion, but that does not have to affect how it impacts us personally.  Religion inspires me because of all the positive messages it contains.

Why shouldn’t we listen to all of them?

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple Nuggehalli Karnataka India Hindu

Photo Credit: Dineshkannambadi

Source:

http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e1196

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Guidelines

Byzantine Marian icon Orthodox ChristianPhoto Credit: неизвестен

In Eastern Christianity and other icon-painting Christian traditions, the icon is generally a flat panel painting depicting a holy being or object such as Jesus, Mary, Saints, Angels, or the cross.  Icons may also be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, painted on wood, done in mosaic or fresco work, printed on paper or metal, etc.  Creating free-standing, three-dimensional sculptures of holy figures was resisted by Christians for many centuries, out of the belief that daimones inhabited pagan sculptures, and also to make a clear distinction between Christian and pagan art.  To this day, in obedience to the commandment not to make “graven images”, Orthodox icons may never be more than three-quarter bas relief.

While…

typically, though not entirely, Islamic art has focused on the depiction of patterns and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on figures, because it is feared by many Muslims that the depiction of the human form is idolatry and thereby a sin against God, forbidden in the Qur’an.  Human portrayals can be found in all eras of Islamic art, above all in the more private form of miniatures, where their absence is rare.  Human representation for the purpose of worship is considered idolatry and is duly forbidden in Islamic law, known as Sharia law.

Kalyan Mosque Bukhara Uzbekistan

Photo Credit: dalbera

These beliefs have led to beautiful works of art and architecture, and I believe this to be a positive consequence of religion.  So instead of becoming the source of conflict, why don’t we celebrate this religious diversity and let it benefit society?

When I first thought of this post, I wasn’t aware of someone else’s thoughts on this matter.  But apparently the French political thinker Montesquieu has something to say on this subject in Book XXIV of his The Spirit of Laws (of which I am not entirely in agreement with by the way):

19.–That it is not so much the Truth or Falsity of a Doctrine which renders it useful or pernicious to men in civil Government, as the Use or Abuse of it

The most true and holy doctrines may be attended with the very worst consequences, when they are not connected with the principles of society; and on the contrary, doctrines the most false may be attended with excellent consequences, when contrived so as to be connected with these principles…

22…

…The laws of religion should never inspire an aversion to anything but vice, and above all they should never estrange man from a love and tenderness for his own species.

Polly Ann Reed present from Mother Lucy to Eliza Ann Taylor 1851 Shaker folk artPhoto Credit: http://notes.andrewromano.net/post/67258639/a-present-from-mother-lucy-to-eliza-ann-taylor-polly

Because aren’t we all going to believe what we want to believe in anyway?  What would  fighting over religious differences be productive of then?

That is why I believe that religion should be viewed as merely guidelines.  If we allow religious differences to become the basis for conflicts, we deprive society from reaping the positive consequences of various religious guidelines.

The religious beliefs of the Shaker sect of Christianity have such positive consequences as they believed in cleanliness, honesty and hard work.  Mother Ann Lee, the most influential leader of the community, had these admonitions about work and cleanliness:

“Good spirits will not live where there is dirt.”
“Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.”
“Put your hands to work, and your heart to God.”
“Labor to make the way of God your own; let it be your inheritance, your treasure, your occupation, your daily calling.”

“Mother Ann also cautioned them against getting into debt.”

Life of the Diligent ShakerPhoto Credit: http://www.shakerhistoricalsociety.org/learn/the-shakers/

Because of these principles:

the communality of the Believers was an economic success, and their cleanliness, honesty and frugality received the highest praise.  All Shaker villages ran farms, using the latest scientific methods in agriculture.  They raised most of their own food, so farming, and preserving the produce required to feed them through the winter, had to be priorities.  Their livestock was fat and healthy, and their barns were commended for convenience and efficiency.

When not doing farm work, Shaker brethren pursued a variety of trades and hand crafts, many documented by Isaac N. Youngs.  When not doing housework, Shaker sisters did likewise, spinning, weaving, sewing, and making sale goods.

Shakers ran a variety of businesses to support their communities.  Many Shaker villages had their own tanneries, sold baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, fancy goods, and homespun fabric that was known for high quality, but were more famous for their medicinal herbs, garden seeds, apple-sauce, and knitted garments (Canterbury).

The Shakers harvesting their famous herbsPhoto Credit: http://www.shakerhistoricalsociety.org/learn/the-shakers/

Also,

the Shakers’ dedication to hard work and perfection has resulted in a unique range of architecture, furniture and handicraft styles.  They designed their furniture with care, believing that making something well was in itself, “an act of prayer.”…

…Their industry brought about many inventions like Babbitt metal, the rotary harrow, the circular saw, the clothespin, the Shaker peg, the flat broom, the wheel-driven washing machine, a machine for setting teeth in textile cards, a threshing machine, metal pens, a new type of fire engine, a machine for matching boards, numerous innovations in waterworks, planing machinery, a hernia truss, silk reeling machinery, small looms for weaving palm leaf, machines for processing broom corn, ball-and-socket tilters for chair legs, and a number of other useful inventions…

Shaker student desk

Photo Credit: Doug Coldwell

These benefits are consequences of a non-mainstream religion.   And because their guidelines are, as Montesquieu puts it, “connected with the principles of society”, they contributed to it.  So if we connect our varying religious guidelines with the principles of society, it seems to me that we will not only have peace, but prosperity as well.

Hannah Cohoon Tree of Life Blazing 1845Photo Credit: http://www.afanews.com/articles/item/1641-a-cutwork-tree-of-life-in-the-manner-of-hannah-cohoon#.Uy8LfIXJH4A

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_art

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaker

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Trade

Cool Door Swahili Lamu KenyaPhoto Credit: Justin Clements

On the Swahili Coast and nearby islands of East Africa, Persian and Arab culture mixed with that of the local Bantu people because of their trading settlements which they had established.  This intricately carved door embodies that fusion.  It also happens to be open, just as trade opens doors.  And because of the internet, that door can never be closed.

We can now do business with other countries in ways that I never thought were possible.  Never would I have imagined that I could make money teaching English online to someone in a different country, yet here I am doing just that.

But business with foreign countries is not just about money.

Phoenician alphabet

Because of trade, the Ancient Greeks were able to adapt the Phoenician alphabet for writing their own language, making it the first “true” alphabet.  “They also learned the Lydian practice of using coins and gained knowledge of geometry from the Egyptians.” (Perry 65-66)

While during the Tang Dynasty of China, “new ideas in mathematics and astronomy developed from contact with India.”  And “traders, missionaries from India, and Chinese converts carried Buddhist ideas and knowledge between India, China and Korea.”

“Some Buddhist ideas seemed to violate the Confucian rules for proper conduct and family responsibility”, but because “Buddhism appealed to those who looked for peace and spiritual comfort” (Perry 256-257), it became influential.

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus Egypt Geometry Thebes End of the Second Intermediate Period c. 1550 BCPhoto Credit: Paul James Cowie (Pjamescowie)

So that’s how trade and contact with foreign nations can provide us with new ideas that are beneficial.

I did not expect to gain so much knowledge from my Japanese students, but I have.  Some of them are from varying fields such as Development Economics, Mechanical Engineering, Government etc.  It’s amazing that I can get paid asking them questions related to their field.

For that I am grateful for the creation of the internet, where even goods can be traded, and most importantly — ideas.

Buddha Mandala Lotus BuddhismPhoto Credit: Tsui

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swahili_culture

Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1988

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Malaysia, Truly Asia

(I am sorry that this post comes on the heels of a related incident.  But I had already planned beforehand to publish this post this week and if I don’t publish it now, I don’t know when I will be able to do so.  Besides, my purpose for this post is to educate and anyone who is willing to learn will be able to understand the point of the lesson.)

Video Credit: anakmalaysia1990

I’m writing about Malaysia not just because it’s Visit Malaysia Year 2014, but because I believe that it has the best tourism campaign in the world.  The “Malaysia, Truly Asia” campaign was launched in 1999, but the slogan is still used today.  If it wasn’t working, it would have been changed to something else, but it hasn’t been.  It is well-thought-out because Malaysian culture includes Asia’s largest ethnic groups — the Chinese and Indians.  Meaning is given in just 3 words.

But why did the Malaysian government decide to launch this campaign in 1999?

In an effort to diversify the economy and make Malaysia’s economy less dependent on exports the government has pushed to increase tourism in Malaysia.  As a result tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of income from foreign exchange, and accounted for 7% of Malaysia’s economy as of 2005.

But I also believe that their efforts have paid off because the country is more developed than others.  How effective can a marketing campaign be if the tourist will experience inconveniences stemming from a lack of development?

Malaysia Indonesia travel brochures (2)

That being said, I wanted to show the quality of the marketing materials I was able to get for free from the Malaysian embassy in the business district of Makati City in Metro Manila.  I wanted to see what I could get away with and I got a whole bagful.  Then I schlepped all the way to the Indonesian embassy for more swag.

I also want to mention that I was able to get travel guides and brochures from most states/provinces of the United States and Canada mailed to my home 100% free.

But back to Malaysia.  If all this wasn’t enough, the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) has used Asia’s Next Top Model in disseminating the campaign.

US travel brochures guides American

So what are the results of Malaysia’s tourism campaign so far?

Malaysia was ranked 9th most visited place in the world in 2010, with 24.6 million international tourist arrivals.

This is significant because Malaysia is the smallest country in terms of population on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) list of 10 most visited countries.  Malaysia’s tourist arrivals are almost as high as its population.

In 2012, Malaysia accounted for 25.03 million tourist arrivals.

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Malaysia

http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2012/02/17/Msia-is-ninth-most-visited-in-the-world-in-UNWTO-list/

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Options

MASH sign fingerposts

How can we know what all our choices are?

Can we know simply based on what we’ve been told or shown?

It would be easier if that was true, but is it?

If we simply had to be told or shown what all our options are, we wouldn’t need to explore any possibility.

Lewis & Clark Expedition Three Forks Sacagawea Edgar Samuel PaxsonPhoto Credit: Tungsten

One of the goals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was the possibility of finding a “northwest passage” — a water route across North America that would reach the Pacific Ocean, which would be vital for commerce.  But did it exist?  We would never have known that it didn’t if no one had bothered to find out.

Yet the expedition contributed knowledge of the geography of the American Northwest, producing the first accurate maps of the area–about 140; and knowledge of natural resources and more than 200 plants and animals that had been previously unknown to science.

We couldn’t know about all those things without someone exploring first.

So how can we know what all our options are if we don’t first explore possibilities…in our mind?

Map of Lewis and Clark's Track Across the Western Portion North America Expedition published 1814

Photo Credit: Brian0918

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_and_Clark_expedition

http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/inside/circa.html

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*DREAMS*

Grey-capped Flycatcher Myiozetetes granadensisPhoto Credit: © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

I love the first stanza of Langston Hughes’ poem because it made me imagine birds not using their wings, which made me think…what was the point of having wings and not using them?

I imagine birds hopping around never using their wings and wonder if I was one of those birds.  I love the imagery and emotion this poem evokes about dreams.

But there are some dreams that are not just about one’s own personal goals.  Some are concerned with society, as with Martin Luther King, Jr’s.

I Have a Dream site Martin Luther King Jr

Photo Credit: ProhibitOnions

I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin, but it still makes me happy to know that things have changed.  If things continue to improve, then it’s possible for everyone to be able to follow their dreams.

If we are able to follow our dreams, shouldn’t we use our wings to fly?

What can we discover…

…when we decide to fly?

Willem van Mieris The Escaped BirdPhoto Credit: Web Gallery of Art:  Inkscape.svg Image Information icon.svg Info about artwork

Source:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16075

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