Futurism is nothing without the present (and the past)

There is a thing called fake futurism, in which people believe the future is all about embracing the new and the hi-tech, without any concerns about their long-term practicality and sustainability.

And those people tend to be fans of Elon Musk and the likes.

Here’s my take: if we want to a strong and bright future, we must build a well-founded present and learn from the past. Radical, right?

If you ask people what aspects of our lives we must focus on, you would have different answers. Mine would be education, health, physical environment, culture and historical literacy.

High-quality and well-balanced education gives us not only practical skills, but also the wisdom to utilise them tactfully, making sure they actually benefit us in the long run.

High-quality and affordable healthcare makes sure we are not burdened only by health conditions which modern medicine can easily overcome, but also the medical bills.

Well-cared natural environments ensure not only we do not worsen existing natural disasters and disease outbreaks, but also the longevity of our clean water, food and fresh air supply and other natural resources which – believe it or not – many businesses are dependent on.

Good urban planning – which is human-centric instead of car-centric – ensures cities are not only environmentally and financially sustainable in the long run, but also maintaining social connectivity between the residents, which can foster the uniquely local cultures and prevent isolation between individuals and groups.

Attention of cultures ensures our respective countries and even our hometowns can culturally stand out instead of seen as mere carbon copies of other places; you would not leave a deep impression if you are indistinguishable from the rest.

Learning history, including the many grave sins of our ancestors, prevents us from not only repeating their mistakes, but also romanticising the past, which can dangerously inflate our collective sense of pride, which can derail our inability to acknowledge our own collective reality.

What I say above are practically basic common sense: if we want a bright future, what we do in the present must have long-term benefits.

And obsession with the latest hi-tech is not always beneficial.

It is beneficial when the tech makes our lives more practical and efficient in the long run. But, we know damn well some of you don’t care about that.

You love electric cars and any of those “green” techs because you want to maintain your wasteful lifestyles – which are antithetical to being green – and keep filling the infinitely empty space that is your life.

You love space explorations and robots simply because pop culture makes them look cool, not realising “cool” is not the same as “useful”, not realising you want the real world to emulate fiction.

You love IT not because you want better connectivity to the rest of the world, but because you want the ability to violate privacies.

You love nuclear energy not because you want more electricity for the masses, but because you want your country to have nukes, which you can use to bomb anyone who dare to offend your fragile nationalistic ego.

You love anything new because, for some goddamn reasons, you want to entirely cut ties with the past, as if there was nothing good to preserve and learn from it.

If you have so many “duh!” moments while reading this, then this blogpost is obviously not for you and you have wasted your time.

If this blogpost blows your mind or puts you on the defensive, then it is meant for the likes of you.

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Confederacy….. and bin Laden?

In a Japan episode of Vox’s Border, a far-right Japanese activist said it was offensive for the Zainichi Koreans (Koreans who have been presence in Japan since the Japanese rule of Korea) to have schools dedicated to North Korean-style education. He believes it is akin to America having schools dedicated to Osama bin Laden.

Well, about that…

After the civil war in which the separatist, slavery-advocating Confederacy lost, a handful of Americans started propagandistic efforts to ensure the heroic long-lasting legacy of the secessionist state; they whitewashed history education and built monuments glorifying the Confederates. They have successfully brainwashed many into believing that the Confederates were fighting for states’ rights, without asking which rights.

Then, during the civil rights activism era, more Confederate monuments were build. It sent a clear message that they wanted to keep black people as second-class citizens.

Not to mention there are many schools and even military bases named after Confederate leaders.

Never mind the Americans who think factually-misleading monuments can teach us history. Some also believe the Confederates should also be celebrated because they were a part of American history, regardless of the damages they caused.

If that’s the mentality, why stop there? Why don’t they also celebrate other people who tried to destroy America? You know, like Osama bin Laden.

Considering he is a significant and undeniable part of American history, why won’t Americans celebrate his glory and mourn over his demise? Why won’t they name schools and military bases after him?

Obviously, those rhetorical questions. The Confederates were seen as Americans – regardless of their secessionist tendency – and they were driven by an ideology which many contemporary Americans deem tolerable or even desirable. Meanwhile, bin Laden was not an American and his ideology is inspired by his Islam faith, which makes it unacceptable for many Americans.

As a Muslim myself, I despise Islamic extremists and their apologists. But, I would have respected the history negationists much more if they are consistent.

I would undoubtedly be frustrated if they celebrate both the Confederates and bin Laden. But, at least, they are genuinely motivated by the misguided desire to celebrate history, NOT by the desire to whitewash certain ideologies.

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How to build a civilisation?

Obviously, this requires complex answers. But, if I have to answer it simplistically, I would say civilisation requires good education and discipline.

Maybe it is just me. But, I doubt one can build great things by being disorganised airheads. I mean, it makes perfect sense. I state the obvious because it seems some people have other thoughts about this.

In the west, there are people with strong far-right inclinations who genuinely believe patriarchy, racial and cultural homogeneity, Christianity, cisheteronormativity and machismo built ancient civilisations.

In the Muslim world, there are people who credited Islamic theocracy and highly devoted populace for the Islamic Golden Age. While I encounter them way less, it is hard to ignore them.

If I try hard enough, I am sure I would find even more absurd shits people claim as civilisation builders.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend their notions about ancient societies are accurate (very likely not)*. It still does not make any sense.

Those ancient western civilisations might by misogynistic, homogenous and devotedly Christian. But then, the same things can be said about the least developed parts of the western world.

Take America, for example. Admittedly, the blue states and cities are far from perfect; they certainly have their share of problems. But, you cannot expect me to believe their red counterparts are doing any better.

Those red states have less diverse economic sectors, higher teenage pregnancy rates, higher obesity rates, higher dependence on federal welfare and higher high school dropout rates. Not to mention they are less likely to possess America’s major economic, scientific and cultural centres.

That’s the same with other western countries. London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, they tend to be less religious and more liberal-minded than most other places in their respective countries.

While correlation certainly does not equal causation, it also reminds us that misogyny, homogeneity and Christian devotion do not guarantee civilisation-building.

The Muslim world also has something similar. If Islamic theocracy builds civilisation, then explain why Saudi Arabia, Taliban-ruled territories and ISIS-ruled territories are not the most developed parts of the Muslim world. From all theocratic** Muslim-majority countries, Iran is the only one with high rate of research papers publication and thriving film industry.

In Indonesia specifically, the Sharia-practicing province of Aceh is also far from the most developed.

Of course, I have to give another ‘correlation does not equal causation’ disclaimer. There are more religiously pluralistic provinces which are equally underdeveloped or even more. Not to mention that places outside Java are relatively more neglected.

But, it also proves enforced Islamic devotion does not guarantee progress.

My point is even if ancient civilisations were as religiously devoted, misogynistic and homogenous as they want to believe, it still does not prove anything.

It only shows how societies grow despite of those traits, NOT because of.

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*Let’s face it: the average people often have wrong facts about the past. They love exaggerating and whitewash the past lives. Hence, why I am sceptical about their claims. Heck, I already know that they get some facts wrong.

What we consider as western civilisation already started long before Christianity took over. Ancient Rome only became Christian in its later years and Ancient Greece was never Christian.

The territories which experienced the Islamic Golden Age also had thriving Christian and Jewish communities. In fact, Al-Ma’arri – a highly anti-religious philosopher and poet – was a highly-regarded figure. While I cannot say whether irreligiosity was common or not, it is obvious that being anti-religious did not stop others from admiring you.

**Having a state religion is not the same as being a theocracy. Having one means the state subsidises its rituals, without necessarily deriving its governmental policies from the religion’s teachings. England is a good example of that.

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Imposing ‘modern’ morality into history

I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Yes, in order to grasp history, we MUST consider the values people had in the olden days. I mean, how can you unravel a society if you know nothing about their values?

But, I don’t see how understanding their values means we should refrain from judging them.

Who cares if they were products of their time? Who cares if they were progressive for their time? If they had problematic thoughts and behaviours, then I have the right to condemn them. Wait, no. I have the obligation to condemn them. Understanding why people think and behave atrociously does not mean we should make excuses for them.

You don’t see criminal profilers make excuses for criminals. So, why should you make some for historical figures with long-lastingly devastating legacies?

I don’t know about you. But, growing up, I was taught to have my own moral standard.

You may claim that having one is too PC as it supposedly will compel you to sugarcoat everything. But, I argue it is the exact opposite.

Believe it or not, life is not black and white. With that in mind, I don’t know how anyone can understand history if they romanticise the past and simplistically think it is all about good versus evil?

I don’t know exactly why some are reluctant to condemn certain historical figures. But, if I have to guess, they are those annoying relativists whose moral flexibility knows no bound.

Either that or they fear the nuances in the discourse would compel them to reflect, potentially exposing an ugly side of themselves.

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No, the protesters are not ISIS for taking statues down, you illiterate dumbfucks

First thing first, ISIS destroy artefacts because they want the world to forget ancient history; they want to ensure they are the only ones who leave a legacy on mankind. On the other hand, the protesters want to tear the Confederate monuments down because they hate how the statues mislead the public with whitewashed histories.

Yes, some of them are fucktards who unwittingly tear down statues of abolitionists. But, regardless, their intention clearly distinguishes them from ISIS. The fact that an explanation is needed shows how some people lack the cognitive capability to properly join a contentious conversation; I am surprised they are smart enough to not stab their own wee-wees.

Second, ancient sites like the pyramids and the colosseum are not politically relevant to our contemporary world. Yes, they often symbolise human oppression. But, I have yet to hear about contemporary humans using ancient historical rulers to justify their problematic politics.

The confederate monuments, on the other hand, still leave a bitter legacy. They compel Americans to wear rose-coloured lenses when seeing contemporary race relations. They either think racism -especially the systematic one- is over* or past racism is not as bad as we think it was.

As a result, they believe their shit hole country is fine as it is and they see activists as SJWs or even traitors who want to destroy the country with something called moving fucking forward.

Okay, not the full story.

There are indeed cases where people use ancient history to justify their problematic politics. The alt-right love to use the crusades to justify their Christian nationalism and hatred of those violent Muslims, even though the the crusaders were also violent; some also love to use the Vikings to justify their white nationalism, even though the Vikings were more tolerant than the rest of Europe.

If I dig deeper, I am sure I would find similar cases.

But, that’s the thing: the fact that I need to dig deep shows how rare such phenomena are. They almost exclusively occur among fringe groups. Their politics is not mainstream. They are ‘special’ people.

Oh, and even if those ancient artefacts do inspire mainstream politics, I still don’t think they are comparable to the historically insignificant Confederate monuments. Not only many were constructed during the civil rights movement era, they are also meant to represent the ideals of the Confederacy, which existed in the 1860’s.

Yes, 1865 was a long time ago. But, in the grand scheme of things, 155 years is anything but a long time. 19th century history is modern history. Bygone, but not that bygone.

The secession is also a part of the history of the USA, a country that still exists to this day. If you tear down the monuments, it would still be relatively easy to find sites and documents that document the historical event (more accurately). We would still know a lot about it.

Not the case with ancient history.

Mind you, there are such thing as lost films and TV shows (and the BBC has lost many TV episodes). If we have already lost quite a lot of very recent history, it is safe to say we have already lost much of ancient history.

As we know little about it, destroying the sites means we will know even less… or worse, almost nothing. Their destruction will definitely be our loss.

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*Due to cognitive dissonance, they believe racism is over while simultaneously insisting the Democratic party is still the racist party.