Fragmentation

It’s been almost three months since the last post. I have been updating on Twitter and Weibo, on all kinds of topics and yet seriously fragmented. Fragmentation seems to be the major trend and concern in today’s world; from content generation to content consumption, from software development to offline education, from organization management to daily grocery, we all face the overwhelming urge and often inevitable necessity of fragmentation: breaking a grand, higher order mission into much smaller, easier tasks, which can be accomplished by utilizing our already fragmented time slots, and yet most of time stop us from seeing the actual mission, making us focus on short term benefits and instant gratification.

Fragmentation has its value in this fast-paced, information-overloaded era, but it is an enemy of pleasant reading experience. I started reading Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, on 14th May, and finished it on 25th May. If I were to read it during a holiday without any work to do, I would have finished it in at most 3 days, and because of the continuous, uninterrupted reading, I would have immersed myself in the book more deeply and enjoyed the flow of the events with more anticipation and fulfilment. However, in reality, I finished the book in 12 days, with some days in between without reading at all. As a result, the flow of the events did not seem intact, and I needed every time to re-read the previous page to get myself reconnected with the story. I could not absorb myself completely in the story, like I did when reading Angels and Demons. I still enjoyed the book, but it would have been so much better without the fragmented reading process.

Not just reading; fragmentation affects my work as well. A very obvious example is the setting of examination papers. I can set a complete set of examination paper of high quality, with all formatting perfectly done, in just three or four hours without any interruption. However, ‘three or four hours without any interruption’ is more and more a luxury, partly because of my never-ending official duty and flooding of emails, partly because of my inability to resist distractions from my phone and my web browser. The time taken to set a paper is not simply ‘three or four hours’ plus ‘the time spent on the web and other distractions’; it is a typical ‘1+1>2’ situation. Besides a longer process, the quality also drops, even if given longer time to finish. In another words, fragmentation reduces efficiency and effectiveness.

To counter the negative effects of fragmentation, schools organize intensive classes, some companies (like Facebook) hold coding and design days, cinemas hold movie marathons, and some text processors (like iA Writer and Microsoft Word for Mac) provide full screen, distraction free environment. Even WordPress editor comes with a ‘distraction free writing mode’, in which I am writing this post.

Late comer (or not)

I find contemporary arts distant, while I definitely enjoy arts of previous eras. I like ancient Chinese literature and western classics, and even write in their ways. I like Chinese calligraphy with brushes instead of pens. I love traditional Chinese music and western classic music. I like ‘oldies’ from 60s to 80s, be it Chinese, Japanese or English. I understand traditional paintings more than the modern ones.

I often see myself as a late comer in history. It seems that I don’t belong to this age.

But that only applies to my taste of arts. I do belong to this age if we are talking about technology. I love gadgets. I love sciences. I like how scientific breakthroughs have been achieved during my life time. I like how technologies have changed people’s life. I like the ease and convenience that modern civilisation has brought to human beings. I am exciting about CERN and NASA projects.

I am an urban creature and a slave of technology. I can go for tours in the wild nature but I need my phone with me. I might be saying something like ‘technology makes me unhealthy’, but I can’t survive without the technology.

That is why I would not be willing to go back in time, although I love arts in the past more than contemporary ones. I am not a late comer in history. I am just a weirdo who has split personalities between left and right brains.

Religions and Gangs

What are the similarities between these two? Numerous. What are the differences? Few.

They are both organised and hierarchical.

Some with subgroups and sub-subgroups.

Some with fractions that share one origin but hold different views.

Some with warring divisions.

They try to recruit as many members as possible.

They have a system of hand signs and gestures, rites and ceremonies.

Betrayals and detachments are not encouraged, and sometimes death is the consequence.

Both of them brainwash members.

Both of them have strict rules and regulations.

They have powerful and charismatic leaders.

They are especially popular in rural areas and slums.

They empower members to commit ‘justifiable’ crimes.

They attack others.

Most of them carry dark histories, and try to cover the past.

The differences, as mentioned, are few.

One of them is mysteries and superstitions, which are essential in religions but not so in gangs.

Another is the philosophies. Religions are based on philosophical grounds, most of which are metaphysical, while gangs are formed because of interests and profits.

Religions try to get support from governments, if they can’t control or substitute the latter. Gangs try to fight against governments, if they can’t get rid of latter.


Religions were once gangs. Gangs might become religions. Cults are in between.

And, without religions and gangs and cults, this world will be a better place.

Patriotism

In fact I don’t really care about the friction between China and Japan. All these conflicts are pointless. Let the politicians of these two countries play what they want to play. It’s never been a matter for the public mass to get concerned about. And less a matter for a foreigner to get concerned about.

Becoming a foreigner to the country of your birth is not easy. I need to frequently remind myself that China is not my country any more, that I don’t need to care any more, and that I’d better forget about those stupid things happening in China.

And as a matter of fact, I do care less about China now, at least compared to Singapore.

And this whole process shows the stupidity of patriotism. You have to love a country in which you happened to be born and to accept that this country happens to be the best and superior country in the world. If you change your nationality, you are unpatriotic, or it may be seen as a betrayal.

Patriotism is basically a collective narcissism. Narcissism is different from self-respect or self-esteem. Narcissism is irrational and self-hypnotising. Narcissism is not based on facts but a distorted, modified, perceived reality. Distortion and modification to the reality are necessary and essential; without which you can’t hypnotise yourself.

Any modern, decent government should ensure that patriotism is not a duty but a right, and that unpatriotism should not be considered as a crime. You can be a patriot, and you can refuse to be one. But you do not need to be one.

Any civilised society should consider patriotism a personal choice, together with religious belief (and disbelief) and sexual orientation, rather than a measure of morality. I am sure George Washington was very unpatriotic to the British Empire, but that didn’t remove him from the list of commonly perceived moral figures.

‘I do not love this country’ doesn’t mean ‘I hate this country’. And even if someone really hates his country, he is not less moral than a patriot. Feelings and thoughts should be free. We are not living in nineteen eighty-four, under the watch of Big Brother. We shouldn’t have thoughtcrimes.