Sunday, 16 October 2011

17. One, Zero, and Ten

Zero itself has no value. Its value is dependent on other numbers. That is zero.
When we were young, we filled in most of the blanks asking for our mother’s occupations with ‘dependent.’  We understood at the time that without a job or income, and with only housework, one would be called ‘dependent.’ Then we noticed that dependence was looked down upon. If we depended on someone or something, we wouldn’t be free, and our individual identity was at stake. When we were really young, we had to learn how to be self-reliant to eat, put on clothes, and complete our daily tasks. We were told that we should not be dependent on others, and that unless we were educated we would face great difficulties. We were taught not to be dependent. We strived to follow our elders who had acquired jobs or accomplished great deeds. Therefore, in our youth, we were eager not to be dependent as soon as possible.
One itself values one. One will not be the first. But one can stand alone.
One is indeed one.
When we learned about both Burmese and world history, we encountered the word, ‘independence.’
In the Burmese language, most people translated ‘independence’ as ‘freedom’; and our childhood desire ‘not to be dependent’ automatically translated into a desire ‘to be free.’ We upheld both the desire for freedom and the desire for independence. We learned that we had invested our lives, blood, sweat, dignity, pride, and moral courage to get our national independence back from a colonial power. Our teenage years were ruled by the concept of personal and individual freedom, which we achieved only by personal commitment and sacrifice.
one zero = ten.
When zero, which has no value itself, is put together with the independent number one, both one and zero amplify in value. One and zero is ten.
Beyond our teenage years, a new word appeared in our personal dictionary. It was ‘interdependence.’  Since we were young and filled in the blank with ‘dependent’  for our mother’s occupation, we couldn’t help but notice that in every family the father and all the family members relied on the mother’s work for eating, clothing, and living.
Mother didn’t have a job with income, but a job as ‘housewife.’ Even if she got a job outside of the house, the housework would still be her job. Father and the other family members were able to gain recognition and income through their work without any inconvenience because mother was at home doing all the housework. In other words, they had the ability to strive for a free and independent life, but only because they depended on mother at home. Though mother was dependent on father for income, she was always independent in the arena of the house.
Compared to the past, there are more mothers today with paid jobs. So their children now fill in the blanks for their mother’s occupation with a multiplicity of jobs, not just ‘dependent.’ As we grow older, we see that dependence is not always monolithic.
American anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-78) says, “our treatment of both older people and children reflects the value we place on independence and autonomy. We do our best to make our children independent from birth. We leave them all alone in rooms with the lights out and tell them, ‘Go to sleep by yourselves.’ And the old people we respect most are the ones who will fight for their independence, who would sooner starve to death than ask for help.” In my opinion, it is good to teach children not to be dependent. But if those children grow old and stubborn, choosing to die rather than not to be dependent, it would show, sadly, that they never learned that there are other dimensions of dependence.
Stephen R. Covey explains the maturity continuum as, “dependence, independence and interdependence.”  The more humans interact in the frame of society, the more interdependent they are. Even if someone lives alone on an island, he or she will have to be interdependent with every living and non-living creature.
There were only 250 million people at the time of Jesus Christ. At that time there might be a kingdom with only 100,000 people. Between the 13th and 19th centuries, the nation state emerged in France, Spain, and England, then transformed into Empires. Across America and Latin America in the 19th century independent movements grew, and many new states emerged. In 1900, the planet had 1.6 billion people. During 1900-20, Persia, Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, and Japan became nation states. During 1950-60, colonization failed in Asia and Africa, resulting in more nation states. After 1970, the world experienced fewer wars, and world population was on the rise. In 2000, the global population reached beyond 6 billion. Beyond the 1960s, because of advancement in communication technology and economic development, most of the world’s nations, apart from the North Atlantic Alliance, became interdependent and integrated.
We must fulfill food, clothes, and other national needs for our people. We can’t be isolated inside our own country. Though population has increased, natural resources have not increased; borders have become more permeable, resulting in more cultural interchange. As the world grew closer, we saw that there was a relationship between SARS in Singapore and China, and the headaches of staff in travel agencies in Europe and America. As communication technology improved, the world shrank more and more.
Once, while teenagers in the west welcomed Star Wars for the 21st century, those in the east still believed in the strength of swords wielded by Chinese actors. But now, an Oscar award winning film in the west is quickly distributed and watched by teenagers in the east on DVD. Teenagers all around the world can now watch CNN and MTV together, wear Adidas together, eat French fries together, even though they are physically apart. The cultural border has become thinner and thinner. Parents in Burma no longer encourage their teenage children to travel abroad with a palm leaf suitcase to prove they are not dependent on the products of others. Parents buy a backpack for them, just like the rest of the world’s teenagers, even though they don’t want their children to be dependent.
For the time being, an organization has to understand that it can only survive in the world of interdependence, between disagreement and common interest. Otherwise it will not succeed in this world. The magic of communication technology manipulates economic freedom and competition. This also leads to cultural fusion. Though political beliefs are different, a marketplace selling jeans, t-shirts, and backpacks circles the whole world. There is nothing that can stand separately or alone in this era.
Our desire to not depend on others deepened into a desire to not depend on others totally. Since we were unable to stand alone, total independence was not possible. Thus, interdependence emerged as the answer to serve the common interest. According to Steven Covey, that is the most mature part of the maturity continuum.
Elihu Burritt, an American lawyer, learned 50 languages at the age of 30. He learned about the interdependence between those languages and how being human and having wars are interdependent. He then tried to pass an amendment of international law. He led celebrations of peace congresses in Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Ammine, London and other big cities in 1848. He also wrote an article about international law, titled “Olive Leaves.” He was born in 1810 and died in 1879.
Adam Asnyk was a Polish poet and playwright. After studying medicine in Warsaw, in the 1880s he became an established poet. His poems never reflected the law of the jungle, in which the biggest animals superseded the smaller ones. He always tried to reflect interdependence and cooperation among society. He fled from the Russian Empire and always tried to create poems that resisted what he called an “idea suicide.” He was born in 1838 and died in 1897.
Alfred Thayer Mahan was an influential navy officer in America during the late 19th century and early 20th century. He was famous not only for his marine experience, but also his books. He wrote a book about the interdependence between sea borne commerce and wars after industrialization in the late 19th century. When the First World War started, his book gained popularity in Britain and Germany. He was born in 1840 and died in 1914.
Leon Duguit was a French judge and philosopher. He accepted human beings as social creatures, and had many insights on interdependence and integrity, insights that allowed him to recognize the laws that were necessary in society to live together peacefully. According to his concept, a nation state is not autonomous, but an organization set up by laws based on an individual’s social needs. He was born in 1859 and died in 1928.
Watsuji Tatsuyo, a Japanese philosopher, tried to combine the morality of the east and the ethics of the west. He wrote books on the interdependence between human beings and society based on Buddha’s philosophy. He explained social interdependence, which is involved in every aspect of life, from the individual to the family to the citizen. He was born in 1889 and died in 1960.
Godhama Buddha, who was born 500 years before Jesus Christ, explains in great detail the character and nature of the body and mind. He also explains the cause and effect theory, focusing on the interdependence of the body and mind. Vicky Mackenzie, author of Why Buddhist? explains, “when I saw a bird eat fruits and vomit seeds; when my pocket money was effectively impacted by the fluctuation of US dollars; and, when I noticed that arms producing countries are selling their arms to nations with civil war, I remembered our Buddha’s teaching. That is, ‘everything is related and nothing is not independent.’”
                                            Ma Thida (Sanchaung)
Teen magazine, 2003
Author translated it and edited by Janine Oshiro.

No comments:

Post a Comment