Saturday, September 15, 2012

Three Reflections: Of Anti-West, of Will and Kate, and of .....

My three reflections on the top three news events this week.

The past week has been a sad testimony of the wrong end of the debate between the rights of self-expression vs the responsibility of neighbourliness. I want to take some time to reflect on three major news events this week. The first is about the anti-American violence in the Middle East, no thanks to the film and the notorious Terry Jones. The second is about the irresponsible publishing of private photos of the British Royal couple, William and Kate. The third, read on....

A) Anti-Western Sentiment

(Credit: MFS - The Other News)
The first is the wave of anti-American (even anti-Western) sentiment gushing through the Middle East this moment. In the West, the laws of the Western world allows film-makers pretty much a free hand to make films that are offensive to other cultures. In the name of free speech and self-expression, a group has made a film called "Innocence of Muslims" which essentially depicts images of Islam which are clearly offensive to Muslims. Worse, the notorious American pastor, Terry Jones, previously known for his stance on burning Qurans, openly supports the movie. Even sillier, is the provocative 2-minute clip played on Egyptian Islamic TV! As a result, like a spark that lights up a trail of gunpowder, anti-American sentiment swept through the Middle East. From Egypt to Yemen, Syria to Libya, Lebanon to Jordan, angry mobs hit out at American symbols. One US diplomat was killed in Jordan. Many compounds of American embassies were stormed, despite the police presence. Even commercial outlets like KFC were not spared. What seemed to be a set of personal beliefs that are anti-Islam in the film had generated so much violence. Worse, even today, I got an email from someone that uses the recent Islamic violence as evidence of "great darkness" and "radical Islamic militants" in the Middle East. I strongly object to these for the following reasons.

  1. Great darkness is already everywhere. is not only on the Middle East. The whole world is in Great Darkness. If anyone in the West is adamant that the darkness is elsewhere, especially the Middle-East, they ought to take a look at their own backyard. Look at the sinful environment, the poverty, the drug problem, the symbols of sexual immorality, and so on. Look at the secularism of society that has cast doubts on the sanctity of life, or the sexual perversions.
  2. "Radical Islamic Militants" are not the only ones who are radical. I think Terry Jones is also radical. Why leave him out? The majority of the Christian world do not support him or his actions. 
  3. Tempting Violent Behaviour: The provocative film has basically one goal: to taunt Muslims in the name of "sharing truth." Dangle a fish before an eagle, or a goat before a tiger. The predator will gobble up the prey. For that matter, what if someone outside a West produces a movie that taunts the integrity of the American society? Will that not inflame feelings in the West? 
  4. Balance Right of Free Speech with Responsibility. Just having a gun in our hands does not mean we can go around shooting people. It is wrong to use our license for free speech to hurt others. Ever watch Spiderman? The classic words at the end of the movie is this: With great power comes great responsibility. 
  5. Creating New Radicals Instead: Most critically, films like these or anything that denigrates other beliefs or people groups will raise up the real radicals. Even if there are no radicals in the first place, repeated signals will easily create one. The younger ones who are watching television or modern media on the Internet, can be easily influenced or inflamed by all kinds of things. 
Unfortunately, one radical Terry Jones and the small filmmaker have cast a long dark shadow that has implicated and ruined any good impressions outsiders ever had on the West. For that matter, if we are able to recognize that Terry Jones do not represent the rest of the Christian world, let us also remember that the scattered groups of Islamic radicals DO NOT represent the rest of the Muslim world.
B) Photos That Embarass the Royal Couple

(Credit: CBSNews)
In Singapore and Malaysia during their tour in the Far East, Prince William and Kate were both "deeply saddened" by photos from a French tabloid that published photos of their private moments during their holiday.  It brings back moments of how Lady Diana had been taunted and pursued by the Papparazi just before her death in a tragic accident. Are all these necessary? Don't these press people have more important things to do? I am also appalled at the way the French magazine has behaved. Free speech that infringes on the privacy of others is not free speech. It is irresponsible use of freedom of speech. I posted on Facebook the following seven things.

  1. Don't Google for the pictures. Never ever. 
  2. Don't publicize the magazines that produce the offensive photos.
  3. Boycott them or any of their agents.
  4. Condemn the act not just on privacy invasion but for irresponsibility of their use of freedom. 
  5. Tell others not to search for the pictures. 
  6. Remember the golden rule. Do to others what you want others to do to you. Those of us who have children, will we want people to violate their privacy?
  7. Respect the privacy of the royals. They need privacy too, like you and me. 
In defending the publication of the "topless photos," the editor of the magazine defended their actions by saying that "they are not shocking." Even if it is true, I find their attitude and stance, "shocking."
C) The Apple iPhone 5

(Photo Credit:
Set to become one of the best runaway hits by the present most valuable company in America, Apple is poised to grab even more market-share with their latest version of the popular smartphone. Even as competitors are coming up with powerful and competent alternatives, Apple still has the leadership in terms of marketing and fan following. Do we really need to upgrade? I must say the Apple marketing engine has never been so effective and convincing. Even my daughter has told me about friends of hers who can rattle off Apple information better than any school subject. Here is a tip from Wendell Berry about upgrading our technologies. In his classic statement about "Why I am NOT going to buy a computer," Wendell Berry gives the following guidelines when it comes to technological upgrading.

  1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces. 
  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces. 
  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body. 
  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools. 
  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible. 
  8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair. 
  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.
Whether we ought to upgrade to iPhone 5, and to enrich the more than US$97billion cash hoard at Apple, we must also seriously think about the opportunity cost of the upgrade. Can our money spent on upgrading be used better elsewhere?


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