Archive | November, 2006

Impartiality

29 Nov

For me, morning classes are usually hard to get through, but not when it is Foreign News Reporting class. Every week, with home-made coffee on the table, I would sit back to listen to talks on various international issues. The classes were like “quick tour around the world”. Perhaps due to my limited world-news knowledge, every session is mind-boggling experience.

There was Ehab’s quick tour into political Islam’s history. It was very fast and confusing, but at least I knew that Islam had a complex history leading to a complex future. It was followed Zahera’s explanation on how unbalanced western reporting on Middle East conflict. It was shocking that bias in reporting still happened to the people who had enjoyed free-press for so long. Then Graham Watts gave an insightful view into the world financial history. Howard put the rise of China and oil market into perspective in many international events. There was a lady talked about her experience as embedded journalist in Iraq. Everyone seemed to have awesome stories to tell.

But the one I can relate to was the talk by Dukagjin Gorani, a Bosnian Kosovan journalist. He talked about how he reported war in Kosovo. He posed the question “Warfare territory is a unbalance society. In Kosovo war, it was a war against civilians. How to report on such a war?” He said he reported it unbalancely; based on his moral judgement, he sided the civilians. He went to places where killings happened, where houses burnt, where there were violence to report on them. His purpose was for the world to see what happened and to influence them to stop the violence. The media collective work did achieve the goal; finally Nato ended the war with bombings.

So the big question is: “Is it the right thing to do?” Many people have the view that journalists should be impartial; journalist must see journalism as a job and just report what they see. But as we all know, journalists must analyse what they see. In analysis, is it possible not to prefer one to the other. And, is being impartial is really the right thing to do? And say, journalists did not follow the agenda of pressing the Nato to act, how many more lives would have been lost?

I have been wondering about this impartial concept since Sara told the class about it. I thought it was a good concept, but…I was not convinced. Say, if I see someone being bullied. As journalist, I can go to interview the bully and the bullied. The bully may have his reason, perhaps because he felt like bullying. While we know that it was a valid (from psychology point of view) but unreasonable reason, do we still say, “Yeah yeah…this bully has a reason which is this.” The readers may read and commented ,”What a stupid reason.” and that’s all.

On the other hand, if I keep reporting the bullied and being nice to him, people may think that I said what I said because I am his friend. The impartiality will be under scrutiny. And how to know if that is the right thing to do anyway. What a difficult choice to make. 

This time what Howard said seemed reasonable to me. He said: “Ligitimacy of a point of view doesn’t imply equivalent value.” He was content as long as there was commitment to quality journalism. I think in some situations, it is just not about impartiality. Well, at the end of the day, all that can be done is to be as knowledgable as possible to arrive at sound judgement, and pray hard that it is indeed the right choice to make.

If you show people the problems and show people the solutions they will be moved to act – Bill Gates during Live 8

Step by step

29 Nov

“I am so depressed,” I told my friend last week. He then asked me, “Why?” I told him that I have many assignments, but even then I was not sure if that was the reason.

The truth is I felt irritated with myself. It seemed like I couldn’t write a decent thing. I felt as if my brain had turned into useless sponge. My thoughts were unstructured. My arguments were weak. My English, gosh, I didn’t know what happen to my english. Worse of all, I thought my writings could send people to sleep. When I read articles, I started asking myself questions like “Gosh, why can’t you write like this? It’s not that difficult, is it?” to “How the hell are you going to be a journalist?”

Well, the truth is, no matter how easy it is for others, writing is difficult for me. There are so many questions I have yet to get an answer. Debate article, which is not supposed to consume so much time, has taken me days and I am still counting. How to make it balance? How to give another side of the story when I personally prefer one of the options? How make it interesting? Which word? What style? How to start? How to end? What is the Economist style when even in one edition, there are so many articles written in different styles? Article is so different from essay writing that I used to do.

Luckily after I shed litres of tears on one sleepless night watching a japanese series on Youtube, I started to see the light. I think one reason is because, even though not for the right reason, crying is good for releasing tension (crying in a movie is kind of lame, isn’t it?).  Another is because of the poem “Step by Step” shown there. It was written by Aya, a Japanese girl who struggled to be optimistic eventhough she had an incurable disease.

It started getting to me that there was no way I could write like Economist’s journalists within two months. All I can do is to at least try to be like one. They might have written hundreds or thousands of articles to get to the quality they have now. “Even Picasso had to draw many paintings, basic paintings, for years before he started to draw his fantastic later works,” my boyfriend used to say. 

I start to understand what Gary told the class, “Don’t compete with others, compete with yourself.” As long as there is improvement, it is good. Step by step, because there is no other way.

Step by Step – Ikeuchi Aya

When my existence sees to disappear,
I will look for the place where I can do the best I can.
From now on, I’ll deliberate slowly,
I won’t be impatient.
I won’t be greedy.
I won’t give up.
Because everyone takes things step by step.

Who this land belong to?

24 Nov

I learned that South Africa has a declaration:

We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people…”

My teacher then analysed it and said that the statement of ‘all who live in it own a piece of South Africa’ is not logical because some people especially the white are actually uninvited guests that came 300 years ago.

I wonder if that is really true, that as long as the ancestors did not set foot in a place early enough, then we the decendants will always be guests.

I am an Indonesian-born Chinese. My grandparents came from China and with them, they brought the custom and the sense of ‘we are Chinese’. I can understand why they thought so, afterall they are really Chinese who lived in China. My parents, under my grandparents’ influence, are still very Chinese. So the teaching go down to the next generation, my generation. But I wonder how chinese I am. I have never set foot there, I can’t barely speak the language, and the Chinese way that my grandparents impart to me is old-fashion one. The Chinese Taoism and Confusian teaching which widely practiced in Indonesia don’t really exist in China. If I go to China, I am labelled as overseas Chinese and treated as visitors – paying premium prices for everything. Yet in Indonesia I am labelled a ‘Cina’ which literally means chinese.

Even in UK, supposingly civilized and advance, many are saying ‘imigrants, imigrant, imigrant’ with dislike. But if you think about it, only the first generation are imigrants by freewill. Their next generation are just there by fate; they are just born there by parents who chose to leave home. They don’t choose to be imigrant, to be the guest.

If Howard is right, where do people like me belong to?

I traveled places in search for my treasure, just to find out that it has been there at the place I left behind.

Critical Thinking 2

24 Nov

 As mentioned in part 1, a sound argument must pass three tests:

  1. Is there any degree of logical strength between the premises – matter if the premises are true or false?
  2. Are the premises true?
  3. Do the premises support the conclusion?

So after we find out if the premises have logical strength and indeed are true, we must think if they actually support the conclusion. If they do support the conclusion, to what degree the support is. It is to say, are the premises are enough for us to have 100% certainty that the conclusion is sound.

There are two types of conditions:

  1. Necessary condition: the premises (stated and implied) are needed to come to conclusion, but that’s not all because we still need more premises or data to say that our conclusion is true. So conclusion may only happen if premises are true, but more premises are needed for us to say that the conclusion is true.
  2. Sufficient condition: the premises (stated and implied) are enough to come to conclusion; we don’t need anymore premises or data to say that our conclusion is true.

Well, I think it’s not that simple. For example: “To get distinction, you need to score an average of 65% or higher on your course work, 70% or higher on your dissertation, and score 70% or more overall. “ In this argument, the three premises together are sufficient to guarantee the outcome, and each premises is necessary condition for the outcome.

However, say my teacher only tell me,”To get distinction, you need to score an average of 65% or higher on your course work and 70% or higher on your dissertation.” without mentioning the 70% or more overall. I would assume that the two premises are actually sufficient for me to get a distinction when they are actually not.

How can we know if our premises are enough to come to conclusion? How can we know if no information is missing? With our limited knowledge, how can we be confidence with our conclusion?

Primary purpose of argument is to arrive at an understanding of things that is as reasonable and plausible as it can be

You no longer live in hospital’s fridge

21 Nov

I saw on TV a documentary on preserved embryo. Two couples opted to keep their embryos at the embryo bank. One couple did it because the wife has cancer which treatment would sterilise her. I don’t know why the other couple did that because by the time I watch, the babies had popped out – the baby girl died, the boy survived. They were very happy to have their only child. When they brought the baby home, the mom kept telling the baby, “Welcome to your new home. Welcome to your new home.” I was wondering about how weird it was to tell the baby ‘your new home’ – where else did he live – until she said, “You are no longer stay in hospital’s fridge.” Now it rang the bell. The baby, in the form of embryo, had lived in the fridge for two years before the couple decided to have it developed.

The cancer lady went through her treatment and got well. She was indeed become sterile and any pregnancy may cause her cancer to relapse. But, she was happy because at least she has the choice. But I can’t help wondering about what will happen to it (I think the embryo is an ‘it’ since it’s still treated as a ‘sample’ rather than as human.). How long will it  be stored? What happened to it if their parents die or decide that they dont want it? Will it become state’s property – just like any other property? What if the parents get divorce? Who gets to keep it?

I remember a science-fiction movie -which I forgot the title – about a bionic boy who was preserved in the ice and when he woke up, the humanity was long gone and aliens were visiting the earth. He woke up to look for his mummy who died thousands years ago. He was lucky. Out of kindness, the aliens recreated his world for him based on his memory. So what happened to the embryos if someone decides to develop them into humans one hundred or two hundred years later? Who are their parents? By then, they may not need mummy’s womb; the technology may be so advance that they can be fully developed in a laboratory. They won’t even have parents. 😐

The presenter ended the show by saying how much happiness the babies could bring to the couples and other people like them. Good for them, but what about the happiness of the humans-to-be? Isn’t it unfair for them to have other people, who are so fortunate to be born before him, to decide not only if they should be dead or alive (as in the case of abortion), but also when it should happen?

Should alcohol be made illegal?

19 Nov

I have an assignment that is “In a group, argue if alcohol be made illegal?” The argument is: “Alcohol cause more harm to society than drug, so should it – just like drug – be made illegal. Or should drug, instead, be made legal?” Simple question which should have simple answer YES or NO, but actually rather complicated to answer.

Well, the problem with alcohol is not recent issue. It was already a problem in 13th century. During my visit to a tourist site near Cardiff, a medieval village, I learned that there was law to control drinking habit in 13th century. Initially the Welsh men would drink ale since morning, but by afternoon they were drunk and weak that they couldn’t work their land. To solve the problem, the English Lord then passed a law: “The villagers were to drink non-alcoholic ale during the day. Alcoholic ale was only consumed in the evening. Lawbreakers were to be severely punished.” Too bad for them, non-alcoholic ale caused many people fell ill and died because of poisoning – the alcohol in the ale actually killed germs. I guess we don’t have this problem because we have many non-alcoholic alternatives. But is it enough justification to make it illegal?

My first argument is the effect of alcohol is not as bad as drug. But my colleagues quickly rebuked it saying that there are types of drug (cannabis, I think) which effect on brain’s function is actually milder than alcohol. There are some testimonials that the users feel calmer and better in judgement of their situation which make them better people (or less likely to cause trouble). Some creative people are drug users too.

My second argument is people can control their alcohol intake more than their drug intake, which can be rebuke by stating the number of alcoholics in this country and how horrible saturday nights are (full of drunks).

So are there only dead-ends in the debate?

Well…I think if we always take exceptional cases, there is no answer to everything. So I guess we must approach it from the general population point of view. Exceptional cases must be handled separately since the probability from happening is rather low.

First I have to know how the percentage of drunk drinkers (which cause problems) in comparison to the total drinkers in this country. How many people who drink alcohol actually get drunk? (Where to find this statistic?) In other word, how much control the user has over the effect of the alcohol/drug?

Secondly, I want to know how likely the alcohol drinker get attached to alcohol? And what about drug? How many percent of drug users is drug addicts? What is the level of depedency for each product?

If the percentage of misuse of alcohol is small while the misuse of drug is substantial, I can argue that the problem with alcohol is not with the alcohol itself but with the users. However, if it is proven that the misuse is quite substantial in percentage, we should really consider to make it illegal.

I, in UK drinking standard, is not really a drinker. I like alcohol but I am not attached to it. For me, it’s a good occasional entertainment to release stress. I can’t really understand why anyone wants to drink up to the point of losing control of themselves. In this light, I can’t bear to let alcohol be made illegal. However, I do know people who have trouble with it. I still think we can control ourselves over alcohol than over drug; but, this is a weak argument since I have little knowledge on drug to justify this view.

After saying so much, I have not come to any conclusion. Hehehe…There is still time before submission to ponder about it.

Park and welfare

19 Nov

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A friend told me about drawing energy from trees to energize ourselves; I agree. I am no expert in trees. I don’t know their names and I don’t plan to get to know them. But, park is my stuff. I like to take a stroll to clear my head, lift my mood, and kill boredom. I observed there are more happy faces in parks than anywhere else in town. Perhaps that’s the power of nature, especially for those living in the grey cold buildings.

The love for green is suggested as a treatment for drug addicts too. As reported by BBC, there is a TV gardener Monty Don started a gardening therapy for the addicts to help them get off the hook. He said, “I have a complete faith in the healing power of the land.” He added, “About 27 have been through the project. Many stayed and worked hard, a couple dropped out, two or three “were nicked” again.” That percentage apparently is considered good in comparison to other therapies. I guess we must wait-and-see how the program is doing in the future to prove the healing power of nature.

The worrisome news is how many big cities especially in developing countries fail to provide parks for their residences to recharge.  I think one measure of how a country has advanced is its parks. 😀

…They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot…

– Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell