Monday, September 25, 2006

Religion, Morality, Humanity and Law

Today I went to a cinema hall to watch and enjoy the sequel of Munnabhai MBBS. The new film, named Lage raho Munnabhai, is a very good blend of humour, emotion and thought. But, in this blog, I am not going to discuss about the film, but about a slide of a public awareness campaign displayed at interval. The message was against child labour and it reads like : "Don't enslave children - they are God's gift to us". Given an Indian context, it's not so striking to see a reference to God in a public awareness program, where the author of the message has chosen the religious ground against child labour ahead of moral, humanitarian or legal provisions. But, does it really matter? Are these grounds really different? All of these suggests or orders you a few do's and dont's - still they have differences.

Let me discuss them one by one. I accept that religion was one of the sources of the rest three though those terms were distinctively identified only after a lot of progress made by humankind in modern era. All of these are actually the result of unending feedback mechanism running in human society - the experience gathered out of an event, it's repercussions and the outcome. This feedback mechanism makes the latter three more powerful than religion, which is static by definition. Hence, the rest three, being not cluttered by divinity, are very different entity from religion. For example, one can see the basis of Hindu laws and the current Indian laws and notice the transformation.

Next it comes to the morality and humanity. Morality refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of good and evil and it is closely attached to culture. Humanity is the most popular term among these in modern era - which is defined through commitment towards a set of Human Rights. At a first glance it might ask that at what respect we are considering good and evil. If the scale is Humanity, then these terms become synonymous. But the matter of fact is that, we are run not only by our personal ethics and morality, but we also have to share the moral values of the society - known as public morality. But, humanity is to ensure rights for every human being. So, violation of human rights of a single individual is still considered 'moral' in a typical human society, if the action conforms to public morality. A good example of this can be censorship or dress-codes.

The interesting fact is that the definition of morality and humanity differs in different societies. There are a few different terms on this - one is moral relativism and the other is moral pluralism. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries or in the context of individual preferences. The value pluralism acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices, but does not require granting them equal validity. There is a third opinion by Friedrich Nietzsche that identifies morality as an error introduced in human beings through the concept of dualism (every action can be categorized as good or bad) and nurtured by the religion. He believed that mankind would progress and fulfill this potential only by starting to act naturally and instinctively according to each individual's desires and drives. Coming back to difference of views, it was obvious that if human beings cannot agree on morality, they can't define the basic human rights to be acknowledged globally. The outcome was the lack of universal appeal in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that was later openly opposed by CDHRI(Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam).

The Law, is the set of rules or norms of conduct which forbid, permit or mandate specified actions and relationships among people and organizations. As per Aristotle's natural-law theory, the law is driven by morality. In that sense, it is nothing but an encoded form of public morality implemented and made by representatives of a typical democratic society. So the law and the entire legal system depend on who exactly makes the law and who interprets and implements it. The fact of dependence on a few people to serve the society makes law fallible, as per modern legal philosophers like Ronald Dworkin.

Coming back to the point where I began my journey, the slides of the public awareness program, I must say that a social human being generally responds to either of religious, moral, humanitarian or legal obligations. It depends on the maturity and character of the human being and the respective society how they prioritize them. So, if a set of slides to be made for public awareness programs, it should try to focus on all four aspects. A typical set of slide will look like (I'm not an expert, so don't mind the gender-bias):
1. "Don't enslave children - they are God's gift to us." (belief on God)
2. "Today's children are future's leaders, let's not enslave them." (feedback mechanism of the society on good and bad)
3. "Every child has his right to enjoy his childhood." (Human Rights awareness)
4. "Employing a child under the age of 18 is a punishable offence." (under legal obligations)
I hope the authors of any awareness program will survey the targetted society and decide on a ideal blend of all four of this perspectives to make the campaign successful, something that was done in Lage Raho Munnabhai to make it a hit in Indian market.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Best Web-Based Computer Applications For Small Business

Here's a list by Forbes. Looking at the winning softwares, it seems that AJAX is going to rock in web-applicatios for small business. Also, it is obvious that Microsoft is still the best innovator of the small business softwares technologies, although it's own product Windows Live gets the last position in the list.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Superpower syndrome : Why the world hates America

After Michael Medved has written his article on "Why the world hates America", there has been many debates around this topic. I don't know if it's a wastage of time for me to spend a few words on this topic, but I can't resist.

From an American's perspective
Let me start with the Medved's article. He viewed the whole scenario as a result of negative approach from the rest of the world and gave almost clean chit to USA. His claims are based on how the world views USA. Three basic reasons he referred to, are envy (towards World's only Superpower), legacy (of communism and socialism) and toxic culture(Americanisation or Westernization as we say). The most common phenomenon that supports the above points is the rank of US as the most preferable destination of migrants. These reasons are definitely valid and present among the rest of the world and highlights the way American's think about the rest, but only a few non-Americans would agree to it.

From a non-American's perspective
The last line of the previous paragraph shows that there is a lack of awareness among common Americans about the rest of the world. Let it be my first point of non-American perspective on this topic. A huge article with lots of reference helped me to figure out what's non-American's view on this topic. The basic reasons are : History of war and the resultant sense of insecurity(Hirosima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq and many more), oil-affinity and manipulation of oil-rich states, commercial aggression, support of obnoxious regimes and International discord (Kyoto, Land Mine treaty and the Arms trade). Another reason cited in the list is the violent crime statistics in USA, which is the only US internal reason mentioned there, is absolutely meaningless. It might cause 'dislikings', but hatred is a much stronger feeling.

From History to Modern days
Historically, the contemporary Superpowers are always loathed by their neighbours. Those hatred can mostly be attributed to their affinity to expand their territorial boundaries. There were few states who used to be pro-superpower, and the rest tried to resist it. But, the hatred or at least strong sense of disliking to the Superpower was always shared among them. In the era of colonialism, Britain was hated across it's colonies due to it's exploitation of those countries. After WW-II, the cold war initiated the hate towards USA, mostly by the Communist Nations in East Europe and Asia. But, the basic reasons of the hatred towards the superpower remains the same - (security) threat and (fear of) exploitation. Every superpower of the world wanted to shape the world according to their wishes, which generated much anger among the neighbours. In the era of globalization, rest of the world qualifies as the neighbour of USA.

Future Superpowers
USA is definitely a better superpower than it's previous ones in terms of comparions of the contemporary worlds. Along with the hatred, the respect for USA is also noticable in many countries, which was historicaly less present. The fact also signifies the progress of humanity and a simple extrapolation tells us that the future superpowers might actually be respected across the world. The reason behind this improvement is closely attached to the cause why it has become a Superpower. Historically, aggression and arms were the only means to become a superpower. Slowly, innovation started taking place as the major cause. And today, USA is a Superpower primarily because of innovations. May be, the innovations will be saturated or available to everyone instantly in future. The country which'll manage them in the best possible way - will become the Superpower. Or, the artificial concept of the 'country' will be erased out, and an individual will become a superpower (as shown in The Matrix) by sheer intelligence.

From the neutral point of view and with historical references, it's quite obvious that the hate-America syndrome is natural in political ecosystem of the World. An ecosystem is such a system, where nobody can refuse to participate. Hence, the world is increasingly getting polarised between pro and anti-US people and will get so in coming few decades.

This is an endless debate. If you are still interested to carry on the debate, you can avail this book from Amazon.