Thursday, 23 June 2011

A person’s terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter

Yesterday I watched a documentary on the Maoist, revolutionary force in the forest of India who is considered by the government to be terrorists. Do you know that Nelson Mandela was on The US Terror Watch List until 2008?  

A terrorist creates terror and fear with violence, hence, all solders and warriors in theory are terrorists no matter which side they take. And naturally we all need army since waging war is considered one of the two most fundamental instincts, along side reproduction. However, we are not destined to endless violence and we are absolutely capable of choosing to be a fighter or a negotiator. The Swedes have not fought a war for almost two hundred years, yet they are descended from the Vikings, who are best known for fearsome violence, rape and pillage.  

Evolution must have figured out a way how to maintain a stable strategy of balancing fighters and negotiators. A society with 100% warriors or 100% negotiators would perish surely as the result of homogeneity in gene pool.  I found a famous biologist called John Maynard Smith who used game theory to model the evolution of animal behavior. He named two basic behaviors as fighting Hawk and peace loving Dove and came to a conclusion that a mixture of 58 % Hawk and 42 % Dove is an evolutionary stable strategy. It is too simple to say that one person can be born and raised entirely Hawk and enjoy standing ovation around the boxing ring, or be shaped as entirely Dove and become John Lennon. The fact is most of us do not have to stick to the same identity as you can choose to be Hawk one day and Dove the next.  Everything will just work out fine in the long run if the strategy we use, be it as a person, nation, or the whole human population, is roughly at 58/42.

There is a quote I really like from Nelson Mandela’s biography “Long walk to freedom”:
“At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire"

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Reality VS Perception

Nope, I'm not gonna get into THAT discussion of "if there is reality or reality is created by perception", I just wanna give one example that falls into the grey area between the two, supposedly they do exist.

I'm Vietnamese, no doubt. But when I travelled in Africa I was called nzungu (a white person). I tried my hardest to tell them my skin is light brown but they said it was because I stupidly want sun tan. According to many, there are only 3 races: black, white, and Chinese. If I'm not Chinese, I must be white.

However, an African friend later told me the truth. I was called nzungu because I dress like a white backpacker, I stay with the white, eat food so ridiculously expensive that only white travellers can afford. I followed my friend's advice to dress up like a local the day after. The effect was different. No one followed me, no finger pointing, no nzungu, no ...marrige proposal (!) neither.

One of my African student once told me with irritation: "Obama is not black, he is half white or half black. But to suit the situation, let's call him black".