BTW, Speaking about justice…

The More The Merrier

Posted on: December 18, 2010

Unlike my usual Saturdays filled with mindless culinary experiments, today I warmed myself with a double espresso and a casual discussion about – dare i say it – why conflict of multiple ideas is better than having just one.

It all began with my friend’s question about my project, why I held on tightly to the belief that governance of social development should accommodate multiple visions instead of just one dominant view.

Simple. Social development is not like natural science where there is one truth. Debates in natural science seize when new evidence is brought into light, falsifying the old belief and unveiling the truth. This is not how society works. Social development is about constant negotiation and battle of ideas, of moral values, of what it means to live a good life.

Society will seize to develop when there is only one single idea of how life should be.

Take for example the abolition of slavery. It is a result of society debating, negotiating, and ultimately accepting that slavery is inhumane. That slavery is not a good way to live, be it for the masters or for the slaves – albeit for different reasons. Society has in fact developed to be more accommodating of human rights values of equality and equity, not because of empirical, physically observable evidence of nature; but because of reflection, interpretation and dialogue about different ideas.

My friend then said that I am holding on to a utopian idea of diversity co-existing in harmony. He argued that society would be better off if it had one central idea to which different people adhere to, work within that frame. Homogeneity.

That is why to him, to have America or China – which ever is (arguably) stronger – dominate civilisation is better. Society will then walk the same path, the same pace and live in the same world. Conflict can be reduced.

I disagree. My belief is not about ides living in harmony. It is about ideas challenging one another. If ideas co-exist in peace, then society would be fragmented as one would be ignorant of what the other idea has. There is a degree of disengagement if ideas and values co-exist in (false) peace.

Simply because society operates within an established system, it doesn’t mean the system is the best system there is. Diversity gives room for creativity, for more possibilities to open. Given this, it is also true that one should then remember what their society is built upon in order to develop. Not to convert their way of life simple because the grass is greener on the other side.

Take British society for example. Contrary to common perception that Britain is like America – a nation based on capitalism, if we look at social development in Britain, the historical account of social development in Britain is not solely on the path of economic development. Economy is only one dimension of life. Therefore to put all of life, all of governance into a singular idea of economic development is an oversimplification of what a good life is about.

But what has happened is almost a conversion in British society (and perhaps recently British Politics) from a social development oriented society to an economic development society. From a Victorian notion of a good society to an Americanised social development where people’s freedom is based upon the pursuit of happiness a.k.a capitalism. Not happiness itself.

Even in Britain there is fragmentation in how nations run their governments. Wales and Scotland being more socialist, consistent with their basic value are in conflict with the way things are run in England. Is this good? I would argue yes. Conflict is good, violence is bad.

Bureaucratic violence happens when England tries to impose their values on Scotland and Wales. Diversity of ideas is better than just having one idea. Especially if that one idea is an imported idea – be it from America, China, Russia, or where ever takes your fancy. The focus of governance should be about accommodating these multiple ideas, multiple visions instead of imposing one’s idea to a foreign society. Even worse is when a well-off society tries to impose their way of thinking to the less advantaged.

People think different, therefore live different. Homogeneity is only for those who are in fear of conflict. Fear that they may not be as strong as they think they are. Fear that perhaps, the way they have been living their lives is in fact not the better option.

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The Author

Lishia Erza

Searching for answers about life, these are the ones I have found.

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  • kefirlime: Please do share. Thanks for loving it :P On a more serious note... it is worrying that we have taken for granted (even forgotten) about the essence o
  • ubz: Lishia, love this. allow me to share, seems that a lot of people *maybe for generations* has already forgotten the essence of pancasila, the philosop
  • alvan gunawan: Well said mam.. Couldn't agree more.. Love it..

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