gambitch - now available in blue
Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I just love being the phantom with the searing (some say incinerating) touch.

As decided, I went down to watch the schoolkids do their stuff today, and while I can't quite say I was impressed with what I saw, there did appear to be progressive improvement as the day went on. My observations reaffirmed what I knew already, that is, there would appear to be significant but severely underrated value in teaching the art of strategy. My few allies in the business agree with me on this point, although they do add the opinion that an explanation for the low rating could lie in a current lack of stability. To that, no comment.

My concerns over a previously unknown bunch have been dispelled after seeing them for the first time. The verdict is that they are less scary than I had suspected them to be. They are fairly smooth (though not quite slick), I will grant that, but if the way I play this game is a patient, prodding approach that is calculated and deliberate, then this group seems to be just spraying around without quite knowing what it is they are trying to do. Of course, my assessment could be premature, given that I only saw this bunch once. On the other hand, I don't have a job that requires me to spy around so much; I do these things because I want to, and so how much I do depends on how much I want to do.

On the other hand, a previously written-off group needs to be reassessed and their threat level revised upwards. To be fair, my initial assessments on that bunch were based on third-hand information, and perhaps it was fortunate I decided to verify recent stories about their strength for myself. While I wasn't quite impressed - it takes a real lot to impress me - I must say these people deserve a second look. Credit to their gaffer though; I have to rate him a little higher than I used to. I am not saying that my initial rating was unfair; I am merely saying that situational changes demand for a correction in the assessment.

Anyhow, I've got a game tomorrow, and so I have to go off and get some sleep. Cheers.

gambitch [ 9:44 PM]

Friday, October 22, 2004

Philosophical question: When does a contextualization reduce to a clarification?

gambitch [ 7:05 PM]

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Okay, children. Let's talk about the topic of the day! (That topic, by the way, is decided purely upon the whims and fancies of whoever is directing the talking. While this is often random when looked from the outside, in reality there is always the chance that the selection of topics is deliberate, based on a set of reasons that don't even have to be consistent on a daily basis. The lack of patterned consistency may be disturbing for some, but you can be assured that there's a reason for everything.)

And the topic we will talk about today is... communitarianism.

What is communitarianism? Well, this writer's understanding of communitarianism is that it is some form of philosophy or attitude that primarily says that the community, or society at large, should have a higher priority than the individual. In practice this means that individual units will, from time to time, sacrifice some of their rights and freedoms for what is perceived to be a greater collective good. This sacrifice may be made willingly or voluntarily by the individual, or it may come in the form of some government legislation or community directive by the local village chief. Either way, individuals give up something so that the community at large can benefit. Think of it as something like everyone in the local residential zone putting up ten dollars a month to help run a childcare service while everyone drives to town to work.

Communitarianism is not a political system unlike democracy or monarchy. It does not concern itself nearly that much with how leaders or rulers are chosen. Rather, it is an ideology or philosophy, or to put it even more mildly, it might be an attitude. It can be a guiding principle in governance, like libertarianism or communism. Actually, even democracy is a philosophy or ideology. It's just that democratic ideologies do partially concern themselves with how society is politically organized, while ruler selection mechanisms are hardly the main concern for communitarians. As such, communitarianism is not a diametric opposite to democracy; the two concepts are somewhat orthogonal and can fairly comfortably coexist.

Communitarianism is, however, not perfect friends with libertarianism. On one plane, at least, it is libertarianism's close-to-exact opposite. Where libertarianism can be taken to one extreme as the championing of the rights and freedoms of the individual, communitarianism can be seen as the belief that any application of such rights must be deliberated in context of the environment. That means that society can trump self when the two are, for any reason, in contest or conflict. Of course, where the two are not, then in a way it can be said that nobody really cares.

Applied to politics and, more precisely, state-level domestic policy, communitarians would tend to believe that the state should actively take up responsibility in determining and dealing with community needs. They would advocate state action in matters like healthcare, welfare, education, and so on. For instance, communitarians would believe that the state has to involve itself and take some responsibility in taking care of the unemployed - so they would advocate a welfare state rather than a state who wouldn't care a jot about its people's welfare. They would demand a welfare system that is sustainable, and one to which the state commits both in word and in deed to ensure the sustainability of such a system by actively taking the necessary measures.

Communitarians may, for example, frown upon the situation with the American social security system, which is so woefully underfunded while money goes into research for advanced weapons systems and logistical support for the overseas war effort. It's not that defence is altogether unimportant, but communitarians will be inclined to believe that citizens' welfare should have higher priority over wars fought on foreign turf.

A communitarian people will thus be sympathetic to decisions by the government to do certain things that may appear to hurt them at an individual level, if the action is justified by something that will bring some kind of greater good as believed by that community. Thus they may be willing to pay higher taxes, or otherwise give some amount of money to the state on top of whatever taxes they pay, if the revenue thus gained is committed towards something like improving healthcare services at state-funded hospitals, which will end up benefitting the community. A charities tax levied on local businesses can be acceptable for the businessmen if the community in question believes that the state should support charities who take care of underprivileged people, whether they suffer from illnesses that cost lots of money to treat, or have no means to support themselves because they are pensioners without much of a pension. Of course, it is hard for those who do not come from the same community, and thus or otherwise do not share the same set of beliefs, to embrace some of these actions and the principles behind them so wholeheartedly.

Whereas libertarianism may purport to be universal, communitarianism is happy to claim that it is contextual. Communitarianism is nothing without context, in a way; it is hollow and void to speak of communitarianism in a given society if we fail to understand what else that society also believes in. As an example, East Asian communitarians believe that the state should have some role in providing people with welfare and support structures. Yet East Asian communities have also traditionally placed great value on hard work, and particularly don't like feeding unproductive leeches (not that the West love such behaviour; they just exhibit less strong feelings about it). Thus we see a flavour of co-payment welfarism that reiterates that state welfare schemes aren't meant to be perfect bailouts, and the unemployed cannot expect to use state handouts to have roast suckling pig (one of many Chinese gourmet delicacies) every night. An Eastern European communitarian society may have a different kind of welfare system which isn't about co-payment, but that's okay because communitarian philosophers push quite heavily on the issue of context.

In short, there are two levels to communitarianism. One level is about the scoping of individual rights and liberties and giving these a boundary defined by the greater societal interest. This empowers the state to act in ways that defend and advance these greater societal interests, because the community in question believes in them and is willing to entrust the state with the duty of, among other things, defending what that community stands for.

The second level is acknowledging that different communities and societies place emphasis on different things, that there is an actual variation in priorities that is the result of context. Context could be tradition, immediate needs, or anything else. But communitarianism, on an intellectual level, recognizes heterogeneity. It may not exactly be a postmodern kind of "celebration of difference", but it allows for the recognition and localized affirmation of whatever values a given society may have. This prevents blind carbon-copy imposition; indeed, the only thing possibly impositionist about communitarianism is perhaps the imposition on people not to impose their ideas on others without a fair understanding of context.

That brings today's talk to an end. I hope you've all enjoyed yourselves. Refreshments will be served outside shortly.

gambitch [ 11:05 PM]

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

So this new drama debuted on TV tonight. Something about a bunch of girls swimming, I think. I didn't watch the show, but I'm aware of the swimming link because of the trailers, as well as all sorts of news regarding this particular filming stunt when several of the actresses had to run along this shopping street downtown wearing nothing more than swimwear (mostly bikinis).

All the same, as I said, I didn't watch the first episode, and there's not much of a likelihood I'll catch the later episodes either. The same TV station has shown its share of swimming-related dramas over the past 20 years. The last flick, funnily enough, involved 3 girls all of whom no longer grace the small screen. Indeed one left the industry after she became popular enough to warrant stalkers. That last one was largely forgettable apart from the fact that one of the trio had a really outstanding figure. Outstanding, that is, by the standards of local actresses. Strangely she wasn't actually invited to do bikini shoots. But then that's old news.

For the most part, this particular new drama is, in my opinion, just another chick flick starring all the flavours of the month, with a wide range for everyone - the bimbotic, the irritatingly cute, the figureless, the hunk, name it and you'll find it. I'm hardly expecting much from the story, although I reckon there'll be several love plots and subplots. Funnily enough, lots of dramas these days feature love plots and subplots that are so obvious even the blind can see them.

It wasn't always like this. One of the most remembered swimming-related dramas was made in the 1980s, and it was riding on the back of a then-still-very-valid fanatical wave of swimming-related euphoria. If the story had any element of romance I definitely don't remember it. It's also not something that gets brought up very often back then. Perhaps the fact that the main stars of the show were all male had something to do with it not having so much of the sex factor. The sex factor just tends to warp so many things it can get a little sickening.

Fortunately, I have the option of switching off the TV. If my family is silly enough to just watch that show anyway, I could always hit the bed earlier.

gambitch [ 11:59 PM]

Monday, October 18, 2004

We've heard about Bill Gates' acts of philantrophy for the AIDS cause, dishing out a small (percentage-wise) but large (raw numbers-wise) amount of money from his Microsoft wealth. We've heard stories of people leaving massive amounts of their personal fortune as donations to various charities rather than their children when they die of illness and old age (I've not heard a case as yet involving someone who died of a plane crash, but then that isn't the point). And we've also seen how multinationals have involved themselves in local community work, helping the physically disabled and the economically underprivileged (an inflated, polite term for the monosyllabic word 'poor') lead better lives.

Which, very oddly, leads me to ask the question: Should companies be compelled into getting involved with charity work?

I suppose I could be flippant and say that the companies deserve that fate after all the evil deeds they do, fleecing consumers with goods and services sold at incredibly inflated prices. It's a just way of payback so that they get to pocket less profits and are made to give back to society. But that's just me being flippant.

On the other hand, a serious answer can be composed on this question. Word has it that a bunch of schoolchildren (which excludes the bunch I've been working with, for some reason) are going to examine the issue sometime in the near future. It's interesting to see just what they think, for the sake of seeing what they can come up with. At the same time, I've got my own opinions on the matter. The problem is, should I share them, and should I share them now?

Readers, I need your help on that question.

gambitch [ 5:18 PM]

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Decent game I had today. Got a goal, stopped a few, and managed a couple of shots - including a volley from around the halfway line that just didn't dip enough to go in. But it was marred by an incident where I wasn't involved. The person supposedly in the wrong stormed off after that and didn't even bother to rejoin us for lunch.

Yeah, that kind of thing happens. But really, both guys need to cool down a bit.

gambitch [ 3:50 PM]


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