Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Technologically Advanced Primitive Man - Part 2


Form over Substance - Society of superficialities???
It is the malady of humankind that we get stuck in the pool of form rather than live with the flow of substance.
While form has its role, without substance it is as useful as a corpse - after a while you could almost smell the stench of its uselessness. However, the law of nature appears to be that over time, people may become accustomed with even the worse of stench.
Form however seems not only to pervade a large part of our lives in diverse ways but it has become sanctified. Take any part of our life and you will note that form is given predominance over substance.

Say we take religion. Hardly will we hear a whimper if a religious follower is a cheat, corrupt or oppressor. No one will jump on him alleging that he is irreligious. However, the moment a religious ritual is called into question, the entire band of the followers may even call for his blood. Similarly, it will not matter that the person is an honest, hard working and generally a decent person if she is not garbed in the form her religion requires. The mantra in a foreign language is more important than what it means. or the rationality of its meaning. Sanctification of form itself leads to an illogical state of mind that says:  "There is something sacred in not understanding!" .
Grand titles of 'divinity" for the religious leaders overrides the substance of their speeches. It is no accident that most leaders of  religions place the greatest emphasis on the form of the religion rather than its substance. This is evidenced by their dress code, personal appearances, hierarchy, the  pomp and pageantry that accompanies their presence and so forth. Symbolism, which is totally form is a sacred tool in religions.
It may not be too far from the truth to say that religion is where form is given its greatest prominence over substance. Probably because symbolism and ritualistic behaviours are more effective in the identification /classification of groups than unique thinking persons of substance. Collectivism also helps to gloss over the existence of the many more that are endowed with lesser thinking capabilities. Maybe this explains the general insistence on "faith" as opposed to reason in many religions. Hence like the buffaloes' stampedes, the religious followers are prepared to cause untold damage to uphold form rather than substance. In fact, you may find that  the call to think about substance is construed as sacrilegious and even blasphemous.  (As in politics, the call for thinking about substance may be construed as seditious or security threat).
Politics is another horrific entertaining aspect of our lives where there is greater emphasis on form rather than substance. It is in the political arena that we find the greatest adjectives created to disguise the lack of substance - the number (and length) of honorary titles, fancy sounding official titles, pomp and grandiosity of ceremonies, etc. It all seems calculated to give the theatrical impression of being more than superhuman.  It no wonder that despite centuries of so called leadership, human beings everywhere are still grappling to evolve into "enlightened" beings ! On the contrary, historical events globally actually seems to suggest that we have regressed into primitiveness.
Every single political leader promisingly speaks of bringing society to a better level since time immemorial. They wave the flag of hope and stoke the inherent fears in human nature to gain control and power. The people in turn unfailingly fall prey their game and get duped by the form that they are presented with without even evaluating the substance of what is promised. It seems to escape everyone’s attention that globally, political leadership as we know it has generally failed humankind.   We soothe our irrational senses by looking at the overfed, the rich, and the accumulative society while blinding ourselves to the larger reality of the hungry, homeless, war-stricken, humiliating human conditions in other societies. Selective perception fueled by superficial thinking allows us to live proudly while substantive thinking will expose us for the miserable and ignoble parasites that we collectively really are by choice or through apathy.
Our consumptive culture too is largely dictated by form that is turning us into superficial beings. We look at 'things' rather than the "person".  We measure the success of a person by the things he possesses regardless of how he came to possess them.  To assist us in further evolving into beings who lack substance, we have created the ultimate "form-maker' called 'branding". Hence with branding, instead of developing our inner selves, we are taught to develop our image rather than build character.  The frightening aspect of this "form over substance  virus"  is that we even tend to lose sight of even our own selves  when our "form" that we are busy creating does not match our "substance" that we have neglected. This, I believe is responsible for many depressive tendencies in this so called modern age. 
We seem to be in a hurry to accumulate perishable things to satisfy our perishable lives  such that we are useful to mother earth as manure only when we die. Somehow, we seem to have overlooked  the fact that the nature of form itself is perishable and when perishibility sets in,  disappointments and depressions are in order.
The manner in which we prefer to treat each other is probably dictated more by form rather than substance. We have become comfortable, for example, with the classification of human beings into “races” though in many instances it makes little sense substantively.  By race, we define or group human beings according to certain similarities such as common social settings, language, “culture”, dietary habits and so on. However, once so classified we lose our flexibility in labeling a person other than the “race box” into which we have put his fathers into.  For example, a person is still considered Malay even though he has lost most of the characteristics that initially classified him into that box. Likewise, an English is forever English even though he may have acquired most of the characteristics that would describe a Malay.   Again these are results of lack of substantive thinking.
Lack of substantive thinking, for instance prevents people from perceiving each other in terms of blood groups instead of “racial groups” though in many instances, blood groupings seem to make scientific and biological sense. What use for example, is a Chinese with blood group AB to a Chinese of blood group O in a life threatening situation where immediate blood transfusion is needed?  When you start thinking substantively, you will realize that there are several ways of classifying human beings for various purposes. However, politics seem to prefer only one sort of classification - that of “race” and society whose main concern is that of form, readily accepts this.
Even in our everyday communications, form seems to take precedence over substance. We have invented all sorts of pleasantries that represent merely form and totally lack substance. For example, we ask simple questions that we do not really mean like “How are you?” and expect nothing more than “I am fine” response.   It will be a shocking day for us if the person responds by sharing all the problems he is actually facing for the day! 
 Peace !

5 comments:

PahNur said...

Why do you think most con man dresses up impecabbly? Human are gullible creatures and we feed on form, more than we do the substance.

You wrote ;
"Grand titles of 'divinity" for the religious leaders overrides the substance of their speeches".

Well, this is what was taught to us in schools during ugama classes. That even if "divine" people do something wrong, killing even, it is okay for them as long as they pray more than any one of us. Actually, that was the answer given to me by my Ustaz on "why did Muawiyah killed the descendant of the prophet?". Answered he, "even though he killed them, you must remember, he still prayed 5 times a day , and pray sunnat ...he is still better than any one of us".

And the ustaz just killed a couple of brain cells of his students with that. I hope he prayed a lot more than he killed :-)

PahNur said...

Why do you think most con man dresses up impecabbly? Human are gullible creatures and we feed on form, more than we do the substance.

You wrote ;
"Grand titles of 'divinity" for the religious leaders overrides the substance of their speeches".

Well, this is what was taught to us in schools during ugama classes. That even if "divine" people do something wrong, killing even, it is okay for them as long as they pray more than any one of us. Actually, that was the answer given to me by my Ustaz on "why did Muawiyah killed the descendant of the prophet?". Answered he, "even though he killed them, you must remember, he still prayed 5 times a day , and pray sunnat ...he is still better than any one of us".

And the ustaz just killed a couple of brain cells of his students with that. I hope he prayed a lot more than he killed :-)

jch said...

I hear echoes....

Jahamy: Hence with branding, instead of developing our inner selves, we are taught to develop our image rather than build character.

Martin Luther King: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Let us hurry up, and dream no more....Good stuff.

Chaiyanuchit said...

Hello Sir,

I am from University of Thailand. I found your blog 3 months ago through my friend. since then I have been reading your writings. Many things you write are true universally. Like this article, I find that you express universal things.....looks like we all share same human problems!!!

Thank you for sharing your ideas and making it easy for me to understand my own. Please continue writing.

Chaiyanuchit

jon pour do care said...

Salam Bro. Jay,

They can come in many forms but eventually, at the end of the day, substance counts ! Those that come in many form knows that the end for them is very, very near as people ARE THINKING NOW !