Thursday 31 July 2014

Look before you leap

This holidays period allows me to spend more time reviewing news from all sorts of sources. Given what is happening nationally and globally, there are all sorts of news from all sorts of sources which shape our world views and opinions. Social media and news portals are amongst those sources which are frequently used by many of us.

Considering the responses and comments made by readers to messages and news available on these platforms, I am quite concern that many of us take these news and information on face value, do not understand the background of the sources, may not be able to comprehend the context and are trigger happy in responding.

While slowly we are getting used to deal with instantaneous flow of information and are expected (especially by our bosses) to react in similar fashion as well, we may have not developed the skills of comprehending information of such nature. This creates the risks that our instantaneous response may not reflect our thorough thoughts and views. Remember, once you press the RETURN button on your computers or smartphones, your views, thoughts or even LIKES are electronically captured. Even if you decide to delete or remove them later, somebody, somewhere could have gotten the records (especially Big Daddy).

I suppose remembering and applying the old wisdom of "Looking before you leap" remains relevant if not more crucial in the world where the flow of information is unfiltered and the sources may not be reflective of realities.

You may want to consider the following tips:

Diversify our sources of information

Different sources of information have different ways of reporting, sharing and more importantly angles to the issues being reported. By having wider sources, we should be able to sense the general views and direction of the issues. Relying on a single information point will expose you to rely on bias views or angles.

Understand the context

Context will add value to facts that you are considering. A child who cries over a prolonged period could be considered a nuisance until we know that both parents had just passed away. The more you understand the background of an issue, you would be able to have more sense of the information which you are considering.

Take a 20,000 feet view

Before forming your views, step back and look at the big picture. Remember when you are on a flight, at 40,000 feet you may see nothing, when the aircraft lands, your views are limited to thing that are in front of you. However, at 20,000 feet or thereabout, you are able to see bigger picture of the terrain below you. The challenge is to decide how wide the perspective should be and how much details you need before making a decision.

The source of information may be bias

If you watch different news channels, you may find that their coverage could differ even when reporting on the same event. Inherently, people are bias towards what they believe (or told to believe) what is true. If we do not filter this, we will be sucked into their game plan. Even on social media, this is also relevant. Be careful in believing hot news or interesting photos as many may not even be true. I am not surprised that some news portals in Malaysia are paid to side a certain group of people in certain issues. Are they the "information age mercenaries"?

Think before you share your thoughts

While people are free to share their views and opinions, it is worthy to consider what you are saying or writing to ensure you are not far off from truth. Given the ways social media works, for example, once information is released from you side, there is no turning back. As the new saying goes, there is no delete button on internet. What more when, due to your enthusiasm to share you views and thoughts, you are alienating many good friends of yours, both in the real world and the virtual world.

I am sure there are more issues to consider before we act but I believe the able are sufficient guidance to ensure the rest of the world are not laughing at us when we have not done enough before pressing the RETURN button on our keyboards.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Have we forgotten about being human?

I tired to find the scientific definition of human on Wikipedia but the complex definition is beyond my comprehension. However, I am sure you understand who am I trying to talk about, you and me.

While we share the same classification as human, physically we may not necessarily look the same. Some people have fairer skin colour than others. Some have different types of hair, facial features and many more differences. Many of us use those physical differences to classify us into different ethnic and sub-ethnic groups. They ways we communicate also differ, resulting in many languages being spoken around this planet.

If we explore the softer part of human, we have different beliefs, principles, values and many more. This results in further sub-classification of human, on top of their physical features mentioned above.

On the other hand, we also many things in common. All of us want to be happy, loved and live in an environment where we could achieve most of what we want without interfering with others' rights and interests. The problem is, instead of pursuing this, many of us chose to focus on our differences and behave selfishly without bothering the effect of our conducts on others.

Due to the above, we live in nation states where we choose (in some countries, this option is not available) our leaders, where they are entrusted to manage whatever wealth that we have on our behalf and ensure we live in societies where the rule of law is respected. Are you experiencing such an ideal state? I leave it for you to have your own assessment.

Due to the many differences that we have and the inclination for us to focus on the differences and our self-interests, conflicts are just a second nature. On a daily basis, we have to deal with all sorts of conflicts, minor issues at home to differences between larger groups of people and even nation states.

If we observe the animal kingdom, their dispute resolution is very simple. They fight amongst themselves and either the other side is killed or they leave the territory to avoid further humiliation. We always refer this as the law of the jungle. Is it so? Or are we also using the same rule to resolve our disputes?

With technology nowadays, we are able to know what are happening around the world. We can see events where humans sportingly compete amongst themselves and honour each other in victory or defeat. We trade among ourselves and despite they are winners and losers, all parties are able to respect the rules and will continue to trade again in the future. 

Whenever there are more serious crisis leading to war, groups of people who carry high moral values will intervene, with persuasion or if necessary with force. We call them the United Nations. The funny thing about this arrangement is that the whole world are governed by a smaller group of people who won the Second World War. They are the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. Each carry a veto to override what ever consensus which the permanent members do not agree. Very fair indeed!

Fortunately or not, these permanent member could do whatever that they like with their veto powers, including declaring that invaders and occupiers are the victims should they are harmed by the people who they invade and occupy. It seems that human lives have different value to different people. Some may argue that this is a speculation of mine. Unfortunately, we could observe this daily on our television sets or other means of communication which we use. All the high moral grounds and principles are tossed away when truth and justice collide with self-interests and group interests. Humanity is just a definition in dictionaries but in reality, they are people who have more rights and privileges over others.

Off course they have friendly information suppliers who would tell their side of the story and lie repeatedly so that their version of truths are accepted. While we cherish freedom of information, a free flow of information in only a particular direction and only by those who have control over what we read, watch and hear may not be an ideal state.

In summary, while many of us talk about humanity, fairness and justice, many of us are also sufferings from the conduct of these very people. Given the devastation shown of the media, I wonder whether collectively we have forgotten about what does it takes to be human. I do not know the answer but I will need more convincing that all humans are equal before our own eyes.