Who am I Politically?

The Political Compass

When I first took The Political Compass test last week, I remember getting left-libertarian. However, when I did the quiz again today, expecting the same result, I got this: I became more libertarian but completely neutral (the checkmark is my result from last time). Of course, I was shocked because how could my political opinion change so drastically within a week? So, I did some research on libertarianism and the nuances between its left and right divisions. Libertarianism is derived from classical liberalism, which has the core beliefs of opposing illegitimate authorities, people should be free from constraints and authoritarian structures. Left-libertarianism dislikes the government but still enjoys some government control. On the other hand, the right-libertarians believe the state of being the “great enemy of the peaceful and productive pursuits of mankind” (Rothbard).

Things were beginning to make sense when I read that definition. Over the weekend and earlier this week, I was going down a mind-opening rabbit hole about China’s mass surveillance technology used to track its citizens. I was really shocked by how advanced their facial/object recognizing tools were and the fact that these Chinese tech companies used the TV show “Black Mirror” and the movie “Terminator” as inspiration for creating their tech (Link to video). Learning about this made me feel as if I couldn’t trust the authorities because they are constantly watching us as we’re going about our daily lives. Although the companies say that they mainly track criminals, this kind of technology can easily be used for malpractice, and we don’t even know if we can believe the government. If what they’re willing to tell us is to already so disturbing and dystopian-Esque, I shudder to think what they are hiding when they say “有些事不太方便说” (around 5:30 in the video). Personally, I did not want the government to know about my entire schedule or about the number of times I exit and enter my house. Perhaps this is why my viewpoint shifted more towards right-libertarianism — I just want the government to stay away from my life.

 

Political Bias

The results from this quiz were not surprising at all. I knew that I didn’t know many of the questions, so I’d guessed that my score would be around 50%. After all, I really don’t consider myself to be a very political person. I am a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know most of the answers because I believe that it’s always good to be aware of what’s going on in the world (political world), so I can hold conversations with others about important issues.

These specific scores were expected as well. I enjoy learning about the environment, dislike economics, and don’t know much about crime nor immigration issues, so my scores make a lot of sense to me. Environmental issues intrigue me because it’s one of the most important issues right now. If we don’t have a planet to live on, we will not get to solve any of the other political issues.

This came as somewhat of a surprise. I really did expect to be a little bit politically biased since I’m always surrounded by politically left-leaning content. I feel that although I may have a few strong opinions on social issues, overall, I’m pretty open to many different ideas.

I read on a bit more after the quiz and learned that they used the kind of questions we got right to determine our political stance. For example, if someone knew a lot about factual information that supports abortion-ban, then that knowledge would register them as a right-wing conservative. The article discussed, which I thought was interesting, was differentiating between informational bias (bias in the information we receive) and individual bias (bias caused by our opinions).

“A study showed that the correlation between answers to factual questions and political views was substantially reduced when people were paid for being right on the factual questions” (Clearer Thinking).

Individual bias explains this study’s findings because the participants do know the factual answers to the questions. Still, due to their opinions, they choose the options that correlate with their political stances. However, this does not confirm that all cases showing political bias are not caused by informational bias, which the quiz states around the last page.

 

PolQuiz

Again, this result was not surprising since I know that I don’t have many strong political opinions. It’s interesting to see that this result also correlates with the Political Compass quiz: it seems like I’m leaning towards libertarian, albeit a little left-leaning rather than neutral.

 

Extra Questions:

  • What does it mean to be political?

A political person to me is having strong opinions about various issues in society and trying to take action to resolve the issues in the way they believe is best.

  • Is everything political? Why or why not?

I think that we could make everything political if we wanted to. Take something as simple as blinking: although most of us can do it, there is still a small percentage of people born with facial deformations that keep them from blinking. It’s hard to think of any topic that isn’t political. Still, if we only focus on the main political issues (by which the act of focusing on “main” issues is political itself), then not everything is political since some issues, such as not being able to blink, do not affect a significant amount of the population.

Baby IO: Emissary

In my chosen excerpt from The Emissary, Yoko Tawada uses symbolism, diction, and dialogue to present the global issue of ethnocentrism, or believing that one’s culture is superior to all others.

 

This extract focuses on the disputes between the Dandelion Support Association and the anti-dandelion group over the topic of whether giant dandelions are true chrysanthemums. The dialogue from the anti-dandelion group on page 9 characterizes chrysanthemums as “noble” and special since it was “chosen for the imperial crest,” which relates to the fact that the Japanese government has actually proclaimed the chrysanthemum as its national symbol, meaning that chrysanthemums symbolize the entirety of Japan.

Dandelions, on the other hand, represent other countries’ cultures but are characterized as “[mere] mutations.” The diction of mutation has a pejorative connotation, as the text itself says on page 8, which can be seen as the Japanese not wanting to soil their superior Japanese culture with lesser cultures.

Tawada suggests that international cultures are unwelcomed in Japan since dandelions are described as “weeds” on page 9. The literal definition of weeds is “any plant growing where it is not wanted,” which is a metaphor for how international cultures are sprouting inside Japan where they are unwelcomed due to the Japanese belief that they are superior to others.

The allusion to the folklore of the Moon Princess on page 9 references the Japanese ideals of divine royalty. This relates to ethnocentrism because the idea of divine royalty indicates the desire for pure bloodedness, which parallels the Japanese not wanting to corrupt their definition of chrysanthemums with something they deem unworthy, or not wanting to corrupt their country with cultures they deem unworthy.

 

The overall setting of the story being in an isolationist dystopian society can be seen as tawada foreboding the future of japan, where due to the global issues such as ethnocentrism japan is no longer a pleasant place to be. The Japanese government in the story also refuses to get help from other countries, which is part of the isolationist policy, but it is also a demonstration of how the government perhaps believes that it is superior to other countries. This also relates to the title of the book. An emissary is a person sent on a special mission often for diplomatic purposes and can be seen as people who exchange cultures and ideas with other countries to enrich their knowledge, which goes against the ethnocentric beliefs of the Japanese government and is why the emissary’s job seems to be illegal in the story.

 

Tawada included this global issue because it can have detrimental effects as it can lead to groups belittling others for having different cultures, and even committing hateful violent acts due to these ethnocentric beliefs. Tawada implements the symbol of chrysanthemums since it is likely an obvious reference to Japan as a whole to its citizens. Although the dandelions are described as “weeds” in the extract, there is also a mention of a famous imperial decree that “there is no such thing as a weed.” The connotations of famous suggests that the decree is popular with citizens and that maybe most Japanese people do want to respect other cultures but perhaps because of the government are unable to do so.

Baby IO: XXX

I’d like to focus on the global issue of government corruption and whistleblowers by analyzing the poem “XXX” by E. E. Cummings.

  • although Olaf doesn’t necessarily expose any secrets about the government to the public, his courage parallels those whistleblowers who are willing to sacrifice their safety for the greater good
  • Olaf is characterized as “glad” and “big” by the narrator, and we can see that that is the case through his actions.
    • Olaf doesn’t believe in fighting, and he strongly upholds that notion even when he’s being tortured by “skillfully applied bayonets.” This is a trait of whistleblowers we know of — they often have strong beliefs about what’s morally right or wrong
  • These whistleblowers often change the way we view governments and other groups that people trusted.
  • When people join the CIA or any government agency, they are tested for their courage and loyalty to their country. They are commended for carrying out (immoral) tasks for their country.
  • The president in the poem also reflects real-life situations because the president is aware of the government agencies’ atrocities.
    • In the poem, the president is aware of the situation but doesn’t want to deal with Olaf, so he throws Olaf into a dungeon where he dies
  • Whistleblowers are often banned from returning to their country and have to seek refuge in other countries, which can be seen as shameful. Still, as the poem says, these conscientious objectors are braver than you or me, and therefore should be commended.

 

Real-life examples:

  • Joseph Snowden
  • John Kiriakou
  • Mark Felt: Helped take down his president
  • Karen Silkwood: Mysteriously dies after exposing a corporation
  • Others

IO Ideas

For my baby IO, I’d like to focus on the global issue of the age gap between different generations through the analysis of The Emissary.

For the extract, I was thinking of using a few pages surrounding 87, which is where it talks about family and generations and how Amana (Yoshiro’s daughter) wanted to cut ties with her family.

 

I’m also interested in the Suiren character: why is she in the story? Suiren (スイレン) means waterlilies in Japanese, but it also sounds like Siren. She’s been mentioned to have azure eyes, which could mean she is foreign or she’s being referenced to the sea.

The Social Dilemma

“The Social Dilemma” was very thought-provoking, to say the least. As it took us through our internet usage harms, I kept asking myself if it happened to me as well. For example, when Tristan Harris was talking about how apps measure the amount of time, we spend on each post, and they start showing more of that kind of post, it reminded me of the time I noticed that Taobao would show more of the goods I pause on without even tapping into it.

It was really insightful that it introduced those who weren’t in the technology industry to the alarming issues tech professionals such as Tristan Harris and Marco Rubio see. I think that many of us weren’t thinking about how search engines, such as Google, were obtaining massive amounts of information from us every time we tried to search for something.

Before watching the documentary, I’ve thought that someone might be tracking what I do online, but I often brushed that notion off by saying that nobody would care about what some student in China is Googling. This documentary made me realize that there is someone — something — keeping track of what I’m doing. Overall, it’s made me more skeptical of what apps and websites are trying to do and how they’re getting information from me. Now, I’m working on spending less time on my phone.

 

Group Discussion:

I was in a group with David, Hoon, and Kenzie. One thing that I thought was the most interesting was the question of whether the people who made the internet should be held responsible for fixing the issues. At first, we basically all agreed that these people should be held responsible since they created the internet in the first place. However, as we discussed some more, our opinions started shifting to how they’re not the only ones responsible for fixing everything — many other people now have the responsibility to fix it. For example, as the documentary mentioned, the government must set more regulations on these massive search engines for reaping information from users. We also believed that it wasn’t the creators’ fault because they all started in a place of good, such as the creation of the like button, which was aimed at spreading love but is now causing depression in adolescents.

HL Essay Outline: Grendel

In his book, Grendel, John Gardner uses the symbol of gold to portray ideas about the gathering and sharing of knowledge.

P1:

  • Gardner uses the Dragon and Hrothgar to show the sharing of gold (knowledge).
  • There are only two characters in Grendel that seem to have a lot of gold: the Dragon and Hrothgar
  • Despite having so much knowledge of the past, present, and future, he never shares it with anyone.
    • When Grendel visited his cave in chapter 5, the Dragon was being super confusing, which suggests that he doesn’t really want to share his knowledge. Perhaps he only wanted to flaunt his vocabulary to Grendel.
    • The Dragon is also characterized as a vile being. He’s secluded in a sketchy unknown underground cave, which gives the readers a general feeling of unease when the Dragon tries to convince Grendel that the world is meaningless
  • Hrothgar, on the other hand, although he’s been described as a stupid old sheep, he’s always surrounded by his brothers bounded by comitatus. I think since human beings are generally social creatures, we would gravitate towards Hrothgar since he seems so bonded with his community. Hrothgar shares his riches with his friends, which can be seen as him sharing his knowledge or expertise in combat with others.
    • Perhaps Gardner is trying to say that sharing knowledge is good, as it would bring people together and reduce the chances of us ending up in isolation.

P2:

  • The Dragon tells Grendel to look for gold and sit on it.
  • Since Grendel is a teenager, he is often unsure of himself and what he knows throughout the novel. The Dragon is perhaps telling him to own his knowledge by finding it and preserving it inside his mind.
  • Going with the literal story, the Dragon is being quite hypocritical here because he claims that all is useless but then proceeds to tell Grendel to find gold and sit on it. Why should Grendel try to find gold if it doesn’t matter anyway?
  • As readers think about sitting on a pile of gold for all of eternity, we would quickly realize that it’s useless. The gold has no value if we don’t do something with it.
    • This relates back to Hrothgar. Hrothgar does do something with his gold/knowledge, which is why he has more companions.

Where I should end up: Since the Dragon is characterized as a hypocrite and a repulsive being overall, Gardner is perhaps trying to say that the sharing and gathering of knowledge are important in that they provide us with friendships and happiness. Albeit useless when we die, this happiness is still better than the bleak nihilistic view of the Dragon.

My mom recounts her time in school

Interview

* I’ve translated everything from Chinese into English

 

C: “What kind of tools did you use when you went to school?”

M: “We had pencils, erasers, textbooks, paper, ink pens, rulers, pencil cases, and simple calculators. We also had to wrap our notebooks carefully with paper to avoid any scratching.”

 

C: “What did the classroom look like?”

M: “There were around 40 people in every class, so 1 subject teacher per 40 students. There were no whiteboards, only blackboards with chalk. The desks were put into pairs, which were then put into long rows facing the board. We had windows, and the environment was relatively clean.”

 

C: “How did you get to school?”

M: “I would walk to school every day, and that would take around 30 minutes. I also tried to live at the school dormitories as a fun experience.”

 

C: “Did you have uniforms?”

M: “No, there were no uniforms, but we had to wear red scarves.”

 

C: “What did you do other than homework?”

M: “I would play with my friends. We had many activities such as rolling metal hoops (滚铁圈),jumproping, playing ping-pong, volleyball, and even mountain climbing sometimes.”

 

C: “What was something that everyone wanted? Like a new piece of technology or something similar.”

M: “We didn’t really want anything at that time. I think the coolest thing that I remember is a VHS player.”

 

 

Reflection

As my parents have constantly told me before, they never had the technology that I have at my disposal today. This interview made me think of my iPad because I’ve replaced my notebooks and pens with an iPad and an Apple Pencil. Personally, I still prefer writing on paper, but I didn’t want to create more waste by using paper notebooks, which I would just throw away after high school when I could just have a digital one. I think that these ways of learning are not only changing because of technology but because of the environment too. For example, my mom never needed to go to a school where there were air purifiers, but now we need air purifiers in school due to pollution.

This interview has also reminded me of how easy it is for me to learn about whatever I want. Back then, shared knowledge couldn’t be easily shared across different countries or cities due to the lack of the internet. My mom’s shared knowledge was only limited to what she learned in school from her teachers and from discussing with her friends. On the other hand, I think she’d had more time for personal knowledge as she had to go through way more hardships than I have during my life. For example, she was expected to walk to school every day regardless of the temperature when I’ve only walked to school once in fifth grade as punishment. I think these challenges she faced made her a stronger person as she cultivated more personal knowledge through experiencing problems first hand. Also, because there was less shared knowledge, my mom must’ve had to find answers for herself. For me, I often don’t need to go through any hardships to arrive at answers because they’re just a Google search away, which I think is a little depressing, but it makes life much easier.

 

Is Ignorance Bliss? NO. (TOK Debate Reflection)

In our TOK class last Thursday, we debated over the motion of “Is Ignorance Bliss?” Although I was on the opposition side and strongly believe in our side (personally), I think the proposition organized their points more effectively than we did. However, I didn’t participate in this debate, so I’d like to say that all debaters did well.

The main point of the proposition was that the more knowledge we gain, the more we care about certain issues, which would bring us pain. An example that was used was that if we gained knowledge about all the starving children in other countries, we would be distraught since we’ve been introduced to this issue. Our group rebutted this by saying that we would be shunned from society for being so incredibly ignorant without knowing these important issues. Being ignorant would make us unable to communicate with other people about topics other than superficial things that make us happy. The proposition also claimed that knowledge makes us lonelier, which I mostly disagree with. If you hold the knowledge of many different topics, you will find it extremely easy to talk to others since you would know about their interests and understand their viewpoint. This would make you significantly more interesting for others to talk to you.

The proposition also brought up a few famous intellects who killed themselves, which I thought was questionable because if they knew how to make themselves happier, they wouldn’t have committed suicide. However, some may say that without knowledge, they wouldn’t arrive at this depressive state. Although I agree with that, it’s simply implausible for us not to find out about knowledge accidentally. Unless we’re staying at home forever, with no internet connection, we’re bound to find about different pieces of knowledge, whether it be from other people or from reading articles online. Just knowing a little bit of this knowledge might bring us some initial discomfort, but it’ll also bring us more unhappiness if we don’t pursue this knowledge. Personally, I can’t sleep if I have an unsolved math problem.

One thing that I really liked was how Mayah and Jerry could structure the debate into the main clash points; it made the debate much easier for the audience to understand. I think this is something our team could learn from.

As for the opposition side, we said that ignorance is not bliss because it would potentially be dangerous both societally and physically. We gave several situational examples of how this was true. Davin mentioned how if we were completely ignorant, we wouldn’t know to move out from in front of a moving car, which would kill us. To this, the proposition said that we do know some things, such as innate knowledge, which would prevent us from such life-threatening danger. When responding to this counter-argument, I noticed that our team repeatedly went back to the idea of being entirely ignorant, which I thought was an interesting point that could be pursued. However, the proposition had already defined their state of ignorance as having the most basic innate knowledge, so we weren’t able to effectively use this argument for our side. We also brought up the idea that if we were completely ignorant, we wouldn’t even know what makes us happy. This is something I truly agree with: if we don’t truly know ourselves, how do we know what makes us happy? Even I often don’t know what I want. We might know that ice cream makes us happy, but we’ll eventually grow tired of it, and what happens then? We’ll look for other things that make us happy, which can also be seen as gaining more knowledge.

As I’ve mentioned, ignorance is not bliss, and I think almost everyone stands with me on this. Knowledge makes our lives way more interesting. For example, many of my more thought-provoking conversations derive from uncomfortable issues; the same goes for the content I watch on Youtube (I am a personal fan of true crime). For example, although knowing about gruesome murders doesn’t particularly make me happy, to put it nicely. Nevertheless, knowing about these murders provides me with more opportunities for happiness, such as learning about criminal psychology and interrogation tactics, which wouldn’t exist if I were just ignorant of this knowledge.

Next, I am a person who, for most of the time, like talking to people about things, and I believe that most humans are like me. If we didn’t communicate with others due to a lack of common knowledge (current events, celebrity gossip…), that would make us incredibly depressed. Who would want to go through life constantly being confused about what others are talking about? I think this would bring way more unhappiness than being shielded away from uncomfortable issues.

Overall, even though the opposition didn’t change my opinion (I don’t think anyone ever will), it was nice to view this opinion from another perspective.

Are some ways of knowing more likely to lead to the truth than others?

Some ways of knowing are better than others in leading to the truth. These Ways of Knowing include reason, intuition, memory, sense perception, emotion, imagination, and faith. Before I go into detail, I’d like to define some terms. Many people often use the terms “facts” and “truths” interchangeably when, in reality, they are different. Facts are indisputable, while truths are entirely different. Truths might have been altered by belief, meaning that it differs for each person since we all have our own beliefs. Although our truths appear as facts to ourselves, they won’t appear as such to others. This means that coming to a truth first involves believing that our knowledge is accurate, so the best way of knowing that allows this confidence in our knowledge to form would be sense perception.

Sense perception includes hearing, taste, touch, sight, and smell; these senses form most of our knowledge. Since sense perception allows us to directly experience physical events, unlike imagination and reasoning, it makes the information that we receive more concrete in our minds and, therefore, more believable to ourselves. This posteriori knowledge then allows us to form truths. For example, we often refuse to believe something if we don’t experience it with our senses, which shows how important this way of knowing is to forming truths than others. Using language as an example, one of my friends texted me back in July that he bought 440 chicken nuggets. At first, I didn’t believe this information because it was only a text – I needed something more explicit. It was only when he video-called me, and I personally saw the chicken nuggets that I’d believed in the knowledge and formed the truth that he’d bought 440 chicken nuggets.

After reading that, some might claim that our sense perception is inaccurate as we often misinterpret the events we perceive. To that, I say yes, I completely agree with you – sense perception is faulty in that it sometimes leads us to believe the wrong thing. However, going back to the idea of facts and truths, although sense perception won’t always lead us to the fact, it will often lead us to the truth by making us strongly believe our knowledge. For example, while reading Twitter posts in the lunch line with a friend, I read a Tweet that said, “go kill yourself” out loud. The moment I said that, the girl in front of us turned to me and exclaimed, “Wow, you’re a terrible person.” In this situation, what she heard was out of context, and she completely misinterpreted the situation. However, although her conclusion was not what actually happened (the fact), her sense perception led her to strongly believe in her knowledge that I was bullying my friend, allowing her to form her truth.

Because it involves physical senses, knowledge from sense perception is more believable than knowledge acquired through other ways of knowing, such as reasoning and imagination, which are abstract. Therefore, although sense perception can be inaccurate, it is likelier to lead to the truth than other ways of knowing because it makes us confident about our knowledge.

HL Essay Ideas #2

Idea 1: The symbol of gold in both texts

  • Beowulf: Gold symbolizes talent
    • Allusion: Parable of the Talents
    • The King and dragon both have gold, but the King gives it out to his people while the dragon hides his gold (talent)
    • One of the central qualities of a King is being generous with gold
    • King is good and the dragon is characterized as evil because the King uses his talents
    • Must use talent to help others (?)
    • Textual Evidence: “Remember how he clung to the rotting wealth / Of this world, how he clawed to keep it, how he earned / No honor, no glory, in giving golden Rings, how he forgot the future glory / God gave him at his birth …. Giver of old treasures, who takes no delight / In mere gold. Guard against such wickedness, / Belovèd Beowulf, best of warriors, / And choose, instead, eternal happiness; / Push away pride! Your strength, your power” (78).
  • Grendel: Gold symbolizes knowledge
    • The Dragon and Hrothgar both have gold – both have knowledge in different areas
    • The Dragon knows everything there is to know, which is why he has so much gold
    • Hrothgar knows and tries to conquer all that he could see, which is why he has a lot of gold but not as much as the Dragon
    • Again: Parable of the Talents
      • The Grendel falls down to the Dragon – Dragon could’ve been banished for not using his knowledge to help others
      • Dragon claims that it’s useless to try and change the future; perhaps Gardner is saying that we should try to take control of our lives and that life isn’t meaningless like the Dragon says
      • Dragon is also characterized as this vile being, so I don’t think the readers would be too keen to believe what he claims
    • “Find your gold and sit on it”: Telling youngsters (like Grendel) to find their knowledge and own it
    • So, the Dragon has both bad and good qualities – again, there’s no definite good or evil in Grendel

 

Idea 2: Materialism

  • Beowulf: People valued gold very much as it came up in every other sentence of the epic
    • Evidence: Just pick any sentence
  • Grendel: Materialism wasn’t as prevalent as it was in Beowulf, but people still valued things that could be seen as materialistic, such as glory or heroic deeds (seeming heroic to others)

 

Idea 3: Roles of women

  • Beowulf: Women were expected to be obedient and make great sacrifices for (temporary) peace
    • “For ale from Hrothgar’s daughter’s hands, / And Freaw was the way they greeted her when she gave them / The golden cups. And Hrothgar will give her / To Ingeld, gracious Froda’s son; / She and that ripening soldier will be married,… / Hoping that this quarrel with the Hathobards can be settled” (86).
    • “She was Hareth’s daughter, a noble queen / With none of the niggardly ways of women / Like Thrith…. Thrith was too proud, an imperious princess with a vicious tongue” (82).
    • “And how great a sin for a woman, whether fair or black, to create fear / And destruction, for a woman, who should walk in the ways / Of peace, to kill with pretended insults” (83).
    • “They praised her, now, or her generous heart, and her goodness, and the high / And most noble paths she walked, filled / With adoring love for that leader of warriors…” (83-84).
  • Grendel: Wealtheow and Grendel’s mUm

 

Idea 4: Different portrayals of Hrothgar

In Grendel, Hrothgar is depicted as a “stupidly triumphant” goat who just blindly conquers all surrounding tribes. But in Beowulf, Hrothgar seems much more genuine and grateful for those around him.

“The old king kissed him, / Held that best of all warriors by the shoulder / And wept, unable to hold back his tears. / Gray and wise, he knew how slim / Were his chances of ever greeting Beowulf / Again, but seeing his face he was forced / To hope. His love was too warm to be hidden. / His tears came running too quickly to be checked; / His very blood burned with longing” (81).

His gratefulness for Beowulf was so great that he could not contain himself. He’s also described as gray (old) but wise.