Tag Archives: cultural

Not the Parable (Part 3) – Business Plan

What a Business Plan!

Kenneth and Norman were visionaries in business. They were sons of the poorer brothers of the Rice clan. They witnessed their fathers struggling to buy food. Both cousins decided they would not let their children go to bed hungry. They started to work as “delivery boys” for the family grocery business before they were even teenagers. Their fathers, who were the youngest brothers of the clan, started their grocery business selling local produce. Their business was totally dependant on the weather. Flood, drought, frost, or any natural disaster would devastate the local farmers and their business. They had to buy food from other villages. When food shortage occurred, their clan might not have money to buy the imported food. They might not be able to buy any food from neighbouring towns at all. Other Rice families in the clan often blamed them for the high food prices even though the cousins had no food themselves.

The cousins were the first to see that the Rice household needed to secure the food supply. They also noticed their relatives loved to buy a drink, called camellia, and expensive clothes which they bought from the Dragon family. Their desire for such exotic items created a willingness to go to the extent of being in debt.

The cousins asked their fathers to travel to the Dragon’s family to negotiate better prices for the merchandise. When they met the mother of the Dragon family, they were laughed out the door. The matriarch viewed them as juvenile, puerile, and unsophisticated and was stunned they would even dare to talk business with her. The father of the family was lackadaisical to their visit.

The Dragon family was self-sufficient at the time. They had enough productive land and sea to provide all they needed. Most importantly, the entire family was so complacent they did not feel the need to improve themselves.

The cousins went to the other younger children of the family and bought some goods so that they could bring them back to their store. The amount they could trade did not warrant their journey. They needed to trade a much bigger volume of food, camellia and clothes in order to sustain their business.

On their return journey, they figured out a plan. They needed to break the self-sufficient cycle of the Dragon. They had to create a product that the Dragon family members needed to buy. Moreover, they had to be the sole supplier of that product. Also, those who used the product had to come back repeatedly for the rest of their lives.

The product was papaver. It was an extremely addictive narcotic. The users had to come back for more. The scientists and doctors of the Rice clan told the cousins the ill effects of papaver. The substance was so dangerous that the clan were not allowed to use or even process it. The restriction did not bother the cousins at all. They marketed papaver to the children of the Dragon family as a natural health product to nurture longevity, bolster sex drive, fight disease, boost the immune system, advance spiritual consciousness, etc. The Dragons loved anything natural and organic. They believed in natural healing when they were sick. They were also highly spiritual. Many of them practised meditation to their gods. They were too naïve to accept all the claims of the marketing slogans provided by the Rice cousins.

Using papaver soon became a fashionable phenomenon. It was a status symbol because papaver usage meant they were health conscious, spiritual, and most of all, wealthy. Many of the Dragon children became addicted to papaver. They had to buy papaver daily for their addiction.

The cousins definitely created a demand. They exchanged an enormous amount of food, raw material, and clothes with the Dragon for papaver. They traded food for papaver with the Browns. They then shipped the best of the food, raw material and clothing back to their own family and made massive profits.

The cousins did not trust anyone else to ship their merchandise, especially the most profitable papaver. They built their own merchant navy, logistic control, harvesting, manufacturing and processing facilities for food, papaver, textiles, and retail operations. The KN Enterprise was formed as the parent holding company to oversee all their businesses.

In order to protect their business, they trained and hired an extensive security force along the trade routes and all their other related operations. The security force comprised of well-trained men, fully armed and highly disciplined.

They could not finance all these expansions so they found another cousin who was well connected with a well-heeled financier. Together, they formed the Brass Lyons Bank as their financial partner.

The cousins were not totally satisfied with their successful trading business. They wanted to expand their business to more territory.

To be continue…

© Ngok Yeung Lai. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

White Privilege

A colleague asked me a question on “white privilege”. This is my response.

Let me start from the beginning. The term “white privilege” comes from critical race theory that white people hold special privileges implicitly. It implies Black people would never receive such privilege. I am not any expert in race theory or sociology. I only heard about this idea though my own readings. My only encounter with sociology was the only course I took close to thirty years ago called “Sociology in Education”.

Let me first define the term “theory”. The term “theory” is defined very differently in natural sciences such as in physics, chemistry, and biology than in social sciences as in sociology, arts, education, anthropology, and political science.

“Theory” in science is NOT an opinion. For natural sciences, a set of observations has to be documented. Then a hypothesis or a group of hypothesis is formed based on the results of the observations. The hypothesis is repeatedly tested in controlled experiments to verify whether the results could be reproduced. Data from those repeated experiments are then analyzed using mathematical or statistical methods. The hypothesis then has to be modified, accepted or rejected. The experiments have to be performed to justify and make further predictions until there are no discrepancies between observation results. Even after these strenuous exercises, the hypothesis must be continuous testable and falsifiable. Deductive reasoning is used, not inductive reasoning. All data must have both independent and dependent variables. The results must include an experimental group and control group so the conclusion is based on identifiable comparison.

It is very difficult or even impossible to “prove” a theory in natural science. Sometimes we call some natural phenomena “laws” such as “law of gravity”, “Newton’s law of motion”, “law of thermodynamics”, etc. because they are so predictable. Even some of these “laws of physics” have been modified.

In this definition, how we commonly  use the term “theory” describes an opinion or observation is not correct. That is why I do not consider “Creation Science” is a scientific theory. “Creation Science” is not repeatable, testable, falsifiable, or predictable, therefore, it is not science.

In the area of sociology, “critical race theory” cannot be classified as a scientific theory. There may be observations that race plays an important role in how a society treats its own citizens. We can use statistics to show that blacks are twice as likely to be convicted in the courts. Blacks as a group has a lower median income compare with whites, etc… We cannot, however, (and should not) set up any experiments to test our hypothesis. No one can even suggest we can test this observation by setting up an experimental group whom we should deliberately discriminate the members of that group and another control group that we treat all the members with respect. Then we measure their income level and crime rate after a number of years. Such experiment would be unethical and immoral. We can, however, look at statistics from established societies and their cultural characteristics to form an informed opinion to our observation. Then we can investigate our own underlining of attitudes and modify our behaviour and practice.

Back to the question of “white privilege”, we have to ask a few questions. First, does it exist? Second, if it does exist, does it exist in all cultures? Third, in what form does it exist? Fourth, what are the historical and cultural aspects do “white privilege” be manifested? Finally, how can we make sure that we would not abuse this privilege if we do indeed process such privilege?

We do not have the “privilege” to choose our parents, race, and place of birth. We are born the way we are. Out of all cosmic possibilities, we are here! It is not our choice. If you believe in the God in the Bible, you may claim that God put you here on this earth at this time for a reason. It is up to you to find out His will for you on this earth. If you are a Buddhist, being a white male is the result of all your past lives now living in this reincarnated form.

If you consider being born white, Catholic, male… as a privilege, then you just won the lottery of the uterus. Better still, you do not even have to pay for the lottery ticket. Yes, you are privileged just because you are living in a country where we are free to think and form you own opinion. You, as a white male, have a better chance of getting a mortgage or credit card in this society. This is the “privilege” that you cannot even give up if you wanted to. The important thing is not to abuse this “privilege”. Use this “privilege” so the whole society can benefit.

Since you are a person of the Catholic faith, I give you a quote from the Bible. in Philippians 2: 3 – 4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If you take time to read the whole chapter 2 of Philippians, I do not think Apostle Paul, a Jewish male with Roman citizenship, a privilege class in its days, is not talking about charity. He is talking about how to live out the life of Christ throughout our lives. He regards all his audience, Jews or Gentiles, as equals, brothers and sisters. Like it or not, we are here and we are going to stay. It is more important that we use what we have to serve one another than to argue about who deserves more privileges.


The Centrality of Christ

As I wrote on my last blog,

“I believe the Bible points us to Christ. Christ is the focus of the Bible. Interpretation of the Bible has to filter through the lens of Christ. Teachings that bring people towards Christ should be encouraged. Teachings that lead us distract from Christ should be avoided.”

On the surface, it is an easy concept for those who claimed to be Christians to agree. Since “Christian” means “Christ follower”, their beliefs, lifestyles, and behavior should be Christ-centred.

There are books written about the Centrality of Christ. I will take it to another level.

If Christ is the centre, the teachings or the interpretations of the Bible have to reflect this over-arching principle. If I use this principle to view any ancient and modern teachings from the church, I gain a different insight from the Bible.

I would like to learn from Jesus like if I had lived in the first century. The apostles and those who personally heard the sermons from Jesus had a better understand of Him than anyone of us today because of the language, cultural, geographical and tempo barriers.

I believe Jesus was the best and only representation of God to humankind. Christ appealed to them though His presence. They learned firsthand by His words, deeds and miracles. Jesus taught them how the Old Testament teachings were actually focused on Him.

He was truly the centre of the Old Testament, the Bible of the time. That was significant!

His teachings and deeds superseded and fulfilled all the teachings of the Old Testament. All previous practices on the Sabbath, cleansing, animal sacrifices, and Jewish self-imposed segregation from the Gentiles… paled or became worthless compared to Christ Himself.

There are significant consequences to how I response to the principle of the centrality of Christ.

If Christ is the centre, we should put Christ in the centre as we interpret the Bible. We should see all the events, teachings, and prophecy as Christ would have intended for us to learn.

Instead of arguing whether a certain record is historically, literally, or factually true, we should learn how we can use that record to draw us and other closer to Christ.

Instead of trying to prove the universe is less than ten thousand years old, literal six, twenty-four-hour day creation, we should look at the beauty of God’s creation. I have not heard of anyone be drawn closer to Christ by hearing an argument of literal six-day creation story.

Let the marvelous work of God speak to us, inspire us and draw us closer to Christ.


Make a Conclusion with Emotion

I am a Christian. I am not ashamed in admitting my faith.

I just feel at odds with some of my Christian friends. It may be my upbringing. I always feel that believing in Christ should involve one’s emotion as well intellectual rationale. When the emotional aspects collide with the rational evidences, I would try hard to side with the scientific and logical evidences.

On the emotion side, I need to focus our thoughts on a supreme being who can love and comfort me in times of need. I can ask Him to answer our prayers, forgive my sins, and worship Him through my emotional connection.

On the intellectual side, I believe there is the law of physics (chemistry, biology and other sciences), which the universe has to obey.

These are some of my cognitive understanding of God.

I believe apart from a few miracles that God or Jesus performed; God uses established laws of physics to make Him known.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”[1]

I believe God made Himself known though the universe He created. When I say “the universe”, I include all the natural laws that govern the universe.

God is consistent. God will not create something look like a square but in fact it is a circle to confuse us.

“God does not play dice with the universe.” – Albert Einstein

I went to a workshop of leading Bible Study groups last evening. The leader used Genesis 1 and 2 as examples of how to read the Bible “correctly”.

The workshop leader is no doubt a Fundamentalist. In the first five minutes of a three-hour discussion, he concluded a “day” in Genesis 1:2 meant a 24-hour day. Of course, he used some “proof-text” from other part of the Bible to form his argument. I honestly do respect such a person is so dedicated to their belief. He belief causes his emotion to supersede any intellectual reasoning.

First, he omitted the historical context. The stories were told though oral tradition before they became a written record. Even I believe the Bible is God-breathed, I am not the original audience of the storyteller. In order to appreciate the origin intent of the storyteller, I have to know the historical context of the story.

Second, he omitted the linguistic context. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. He was using an English translation. No matter how careful and accurate of the translator, the Hebrew used in the Old Testament was over three thousand years old. The meaning of same Hebrew word used today could significantly differ from the word used three thousand years ago. How can one fully identify the full and true meaning of a passage with such time gap?

Third, most importantly, he omitted the cultural mindset of ancient Jewish literature. The ancient Hebrew cosmology, the earth is flat. The sky is a firmament, which has another layer of water above it. God, heavens and angels reside above the water.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

I can list more reasons why I cannot accept a young universe of less than ten thousand years old. I may post them later.

What are the problems of such interpretation? I can think of plenty. That is for another day.

 

 

[1] Romans 1:20


Fundamentalism (Part 1 of many)

Fundamentalism is a fearful term.

It promotes binary thinking. The conclusion can only be black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, us and them, secular and spiritual, good and bad…

For some, life is simple. The conclusion has already been made. There is nothing wrong with making a conclusion. It is the nature of the conclusion. Once the decision is made, it cannot be changed no matter what, no exception or in between.

The process of reaching the conclusion is also questionable. In order to reach a conclusion, the fundamentalists need a foundation to build their argument.

We all need a foundation or reasoning structure to build any argument. For Fundamentalists, their foundation is a particular interpretation of the Bible. I have no problem with the Bible. In fact, I love the Bible. I believe the Bible the Word of God. Well, this is where the similarity between my belief and the Fundamentalist ends.

This is how I see the process of reasoning of Fundamentalist.

This is the fundamental of the Fundamentalists.

The Bible is authority, ultimate authority. Strictly following the (interpretation of the Fundamentalists) directives of the Bible means the path to heaven. Otherwise, it is a direct path to hell, not good.

This is the ultimate binary thinking, heaven or hell. Hell instills the fear of eternal damnation.

  • Hell is final, no way out.
  • Hell means continuous brutal torture of the worst kind, and then more.
  • Hell is forever, never ending, and permanent.

The fear of hell is an extremely powerful motivating factor. The fear of hell indoctrinates the followers of Fundamentalist to live in the straight and narrow. Narrow it is. There is just no alternative.

Under this pretense, those who accept their narrow interpretation will go to heaven. Those who do not, may be only slightly different interpretation, will definitely go to hell. One does not only have to do the right thing, but they have to believe in the right thing. “Right” as the Fundamentalists define it. Those who believe and do the “right” thing will enjoy the eternal reward of gold pavement in and bliss in heaven. The “non-believers” are forever suffering from eternal torture next door in hell.  Can I change t he channel please?

This mentality dictates the worldview of the person. How do they view gender issues, sexuality, science, physical universe, history, arts and literature, national and international politics, cultural issues, etc.

I will try to write more on other beliefs of Fundamentalists in other days.