Thursday, September 26

Cronulla -Sydney

A view from North to South Cronulla taken at dusk. In summertime you can enjoy a swim either in the ocean or for the less adventuresome in the ocean baths, with waves sometimes washing over the top. There are some lovely walks around the esplanade at South Cronulla and further north.   

Melbourne to Sydney and return via Albury.Yass & Canberra

We enjoyed a leisurely drive to Sydney stopping off at  Lake Hume pictured below.The next photo is of the dam completed in 1933. Next we stayed on a 3,000 acre working sheep and beef cattle farm, which provided spectacular views including the backwaters of the Murrumbidgee. 
The remaining photos were taken in Canberra celebrating Floriade in the spring season. The final shot is of Lake Burley Griffin. The weather was fine when we stayed in Cronulla (Sydney) but too cold for a swim in the ocean. 


Friday, September 13

Love of Fate

Frederick Nietzsche’s philosophy entailed two essential elements, namely love of fate and eternal occurrence. The first was tied up with his idea that we can love our fate, which entails living a life to the fullest regardless of circumstances. He even suggested we might find meaning through suffering and that there exists the capacity in the noblest of humanity to transcend that suffering. Many would disagree with that idea but this story sheds some light on an unlikely association to make up an enduring legacy.      
Hence, a life of extreme hardship, might justify a cynic concluding such an outcome will be unbearably miserable. But such a conclusion ignores the ability of the human spirit to transcend suffering and experience joy.

I am reminded of a particularly poignant moment in my daughter’s life which occurred in an exchange with one of the participants in her group involved in plays and productions for intellectually challenged adults. The person concerned, in her mid-thirties, who was to be the star in the next production, was sitting pensively, deep in thought, when my daughter entered the rehearsal room.

The young women had suffered from many complications and disorders from an early age arising from cancer treatments that had ravaged her body but nevertheless was looking forward to the show. Their relationship had blossomed over time and the young actor’s enjoyment in participation was readily apparent.

‘What are you thinking about’ my daughter asked?

‘Well’ I was looking back on my life and thinking what I would change if I had the opportunity to live my life all again’ she said.

‘What conclusion did you come to,’ my daughter asked?

‘Well’, she said, ‘as you walked into the room I suddenly realized there is not a single thing I would want to change.’

The young girl died before she was able to realize her dream of starring in the next production, but her lasting legacy is bound to turn the head of even the grumpiest person to marvel at the depths and richness of the human spirit.  


Sunday, September 8

Chinese Ethics


In all cultures Humans have a tendency to reflect on life, rather than simply living it, as we are confronted by our own mortality. You will recall I previously suggested evolutionary ethics may have arisen from a form of biological altruism that puts the tribe’s future ahead of the individual. That entails the individual making sacrifices to preserve the future of the tribe- that is individuals putting ahead the tribe's interests ahead of their own.
For there is no reason to suggest a form of biological altruism would not arise naturally in evolution, as a moral compass, to secure a species sustainability. One could say, with some assurance, the tribal pressures for preservation led to a form of existential ethics which gradually became codified into both an individualistic and tribal based rules system, based on the principle of social cohesion and group fairness. You will recall I have attempted to trace ethics from this evolutionary perspective to that of a continuing moral compass
An overview into Chinses ethics
I will now drill down into Chinese’s ethics. 
An analysis of the religious and philosophical journey of China, guided by the concept of a moral compass, makes for some interesting comparisons to the western traditions.
Ancient China’s society was not only deeply religious, according to scholar Julia Ching, given the great wisdom streams of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, but also complemented by fragments of the much older folk style religions. Many of these practices survive today to form part of everyday life.
Scholar Hans Kung also points out the folk religions were responsive to basic human needs, for protection, consolation and encouragement as they involved a variety of rationales. In terms of ethics, the folk religions were utilitarian but gave way to Confucianism, as a humanistic moral religion, is analogous to Christianity. In relation to the normative type ethics of the golden rule the difference is only the negative as in don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t have that done unto you. The fundamental difference to the western tradition of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle is to put more emphasis on the individual whilst the Chinses’ first loyalty and love is firstly to the family. However, due to other influencers such as the Buddhist tradition which arrived from India, such ideas were modified, so that today, in many ways neo Confuciasm remains even more analogous to Christianity.      
Many Chinese today incorporate a mixture of religious thinking into their everyday lives. The attached summary was provided by a late friend, which I have kept as a handy reference point. It’s a bit dense but provides an interesting perspective on Chinese religions and the ethical underpinnings in comparison to that of the west. What I think becomes apparent are the similarities in the ethics of Confucianism and Christianity.
This is in marked contrast to the Cultural Revolution and its reign of terror between 1966 – 1976.
Some readers may recall Jung Chang discussing the 10 years of painstaking research in her published book ‘Mao, The unknown Story’ which she co-authored with her husband Jon Halliday.

Jung Chang wrote 'The Wild Swans': which sold over 10 million copies. During their research Jung and her husband were able to interview 150 close confidants of Mao including the immediate family, which allowed them to determine aspects not previously understood and hence the title 'The unknown story': A virtual treasure trove of additional material discovered in the Russian archives demonstrated the importance of Russia to Mao.
What Jung has been able to capture is the essence of the man, another terrible dictator with a lust for power outrivalling Hitler or Stalin as the consummate ultimate psychopath. Jung found through the interviews with those close to him, a revelation of how Mao had described to them his overwhelming intense ecstasy arising from inflicting violence and brutality against the mass peasantry. Violence shaped every facet of his life as an attachment expressed in the form of a constant desire for brutal vengeance and dehumanization. I mention this as it provides an interesting comparison to a culture where ethics gets virtually thrown out the window and the conditions under which such a tragic event can take place. What I think my subsequent narrative suggests is for this to succeed the first causality must be a countries culture, which I will I seek to demonstrate.     
At that time China was a net importer of grain, a poor nation and Mao realized that food was the only saleable asset at his disposal to achieve funding for the military might necessary to become a world power. Mao turned to China's food production and diverted domestic requirements for sale to Russia knowing such a policy would cause mass starvation. In fact Mao had acknowledged that it may be necessary for up to half of the entire population of China to starve to death as a sacrifice for China to become a super power. There were opponents who objected to this policy, but as a brilliant strategist he managed to isolate them and finally had his revenge against them and the party who did not fully support him with the introduction of the 'Cultural Revolution'.
It has been estimated he was directly responsible for over 70 million deaths in China.
During the period of the 'Cultural Revolution' all cultural activity was banned as Mao knew culture is what makes us human and his attachment to power by dehumanization remained with him all of his life.

He also was a great strategist in terms of enlisting intellectual support abroad, and diverted a massive 7% of gross national product to those splinter groups who became supporters of his purpose. Consider 7 % compared with today, where foreign aid is not much more than 1% of GDP for even the wealthiest of countries. Jung wrote this account with no mention of Mao being evil as the facts speak for themselves. It was written out of an intense curiosity, not out of vengeance in any way, even though both her parents suffered terribly. Her father died prematurely in a mental asylum and both parents were heavily beaten and publically humiliated.
However, on a more positive note, the Communist government has more recently expressed interest in incorporating Confucius into their manifesto which might, over time, usher in a partial return to its prior governance roots.  To this extent if it was to become a reality, Australia might share in a dialogue of like-minded communal values.                     
Early roots
Religious practices and their accompanying ethical practices in ancient China date back to over 7,000 years.
But it was in the Shang Dynasty circa 1600-1050 BC that we find extensive writings, divination, bronze technology and the introduction of horse drawn chariots that point to the more modern era to emerge.  There was no separation between religion and state in ancient China where various Folk religions flourished, whose principal tenet concerned how one ought to live.
Mohism (479- 221 BCE) was similar to the teaching of Socrates in ancient Greece. The idea was the teaching of moral principles would lead to ethical societal behaviours and outcomes. Hence, from this idea came utilitarian ethics, a devotion to the idea of utility, frugality and opposition to waste. It encompassed a merit-based bureaucracy and obedience to Heaven.
A feature of the Monists is that they assume people are naturally motivated to do what they believe is right, given the right moral education will bring about adherence to correct ethical behaviours and resultant enhanced societal outcomes. His teachings flourished during the middle to late decades of the 5th century BCE, in tandem with Socrates in the West. 
The society envisaged under Mohism was to eliminate all crime, deceit, harassment, strife, and military aggression because folk would band together in a spirit of cooperation.
The understanding provided by the Mohist thought world influenced Confucianism and Daoism.
However as it remained entrenched in its positions to resist  changing social conditions, the Mohists died out in the imperial era as their Warring States reformist platforms become obsolete.
Confucius 552 - 479 BC 
Julia Ching talks about his life which entails him only attaining a senior government post aged 50, after a prior period of travel. His subsequent life was spent teaching his disciples and conferring with rulers and their ministers. He was a deeply religious man who believed in GOD and aimed to follow the will of heaven. During his time it was a period of turmoil and Confucius contributed the humanistic philosophers questioning of the archaic practices of divination and sacrifice, which were encapsulated in the folk religions.
His teaching are considered to have come from the Analects and the five classics. The dominance of the Confucian School was entrenched as they were made mandatory for scholar officials of the Han dynasty 125 BC. He is probably best known as a teacher of the doctrine of reciprocity, as in the negative of the golden rule. His central doctrine is the virtue of Jen, which is concerned with human relationships as they involve loyalty to one’s self and to show respect to others. Jen was transformed to a universal virtue, which makes the perfect human, the sage. It also means love, filial piety (love to parents and ancestors) and brotherly respect.
Jen also permeated politics where it means benevolent government of a moral persuasion, which inspired generations of scholars to seek Government positions. Much later it was influenced by Buddhism and Taoism and then became the state religion up until the formation of the republic. In the latter period it is referred to as neo Confucianism. 
Accordingly most traditional Chinese Ethics and philosophical systems are based on Confucianism, whose principal tenet is communal harmony. Mencius and Xunzi were the inheritors of Confucianism in the early Qin period who made further significant contributions to the development of Confucianism.
Today Confucius is considered the premier ancient sage. When we talk about Confuciasm it not all about ritual, doctrine, or an abstract theology, important though these can be. Confucianism responsibility always references directly the stakeholders in a given time and a specific situation. Confucian ethics is highly specialized and situation-orientated. 
Zhu Xi (1130–1200) provided ethical perspectives grounded in Buddhism. He was instrumental in setting up the Chinese public service examination. His philosophy offered the perspective that energy differences and native endowment combined with family plus social circumstances, meant inherent goodness is effected to a marked degree. This might seem rather obvious but Zhu Xi saw one’s self-cultivation as a matter of appreciating one’s mindful point of view via a process of meditation and investigative practices. Such a mindset takes into account the ethical considerations and they relate to the situation at hand. 
Confucian vision
Traditional Chinese Ethics in the Confucian vision, maintains that human flourishing can occur only on the basis that social relations have a proper moral basis. This means people have to learn to discern what the right way to behave is, but it is conceded for the most parts they voluntarily act that way. But to reach this goal, Confucianism requires individuals in a family or community ton eschew self-cultivation and in the process to become gentle folk. This entails one to develop a mind-and-heart, self-cultivation; to bring mental and emotional faculties into balance. This might seem rather obvious, but it deemed to require a dynamic process of self-transcendence. How this works is it involves a process of self-examination. At every step of the way it entails a broadening and deepening of one’s sensitivity without losing sight of one’s rootedness in the sense of self, in one’s family, in the community, society, and the world. This cultivation must begin within the family, and it is sustained at the most fundamental level by the importance of rituals of family life. According to Confucius there are three cardinal guides and five constant virtues. The three cardinal guides: king and its officials; father and sons; husband and wives. The five constant virtues: benevolence-love; righteousness; ritual; wisdom and faith.   
Traditional Chinese Ethics of Confucianism originated from family values where social accomplishment and self-cultivation were fostered, and the family bond is envisaged as much stronger than just a social bond.
Confucian ethics considered that family love is origin of the love for others, and it is the base of all morality.
This paper only scratches the surface, but even so in this  abbreviated form  we see clear evidence of Virtue ethics as in the virtue of Jen, the very first form of Consequentialism,  Unitarianism, Duty and Normative ethics.