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Complicity That Is Ugly

2006-12-23

In the previous tea essay, we were saying that there are organization administrators who must create piles of memos, meetings, seminars, rules, regulations, committees, and conferences, so that they appear busy and important. And therefore they survive and receive rightfully hefty salaries.

Likewise, in other sectors of the society, at every corner on earth, there are people who knowingly do complicated things, or make otherwise simple things complicated, so that they can easily survive amid such complicity. Who will be in the position to challenge their work? Very few will be, because very few can understand how these complicated things function.

In my department of the university, some Ph. D. candidates will produce dissertations that reach some 700 or 800 pages thick. Many topics are included, but are only loosely connected. Dissertation committee members have a hard time understanding such comprehensive work thoroughly. If they cannot understand it thoroughly, how can they conscientiously fail the candidate?

OK, you pass. That is exactly what the studentís original intention was.

When we create complicity, we also at the same time create opportunities. Since we are the creators, we may possess slightly edged knowledge about the mess than others may, although we are as confused as others are.

A notable example is board game playing. When we are losing the game, it is usually a smart strategy to intentionally make the game situation complicated. The odds 20/80 unfavorable to us may increase to 50/50.

If we lack the intelligence to sort things out, to simplify them, and to find a simple rule/formula to guide us, it is understandable that things are complicated. For example, it is possible that Fermatís Last Theorem could be proved with some simple concepts. But we human beings are not sufficiently wise to find them. Instead, as of today, we must rely on complicated mathematics to prove it.

Well, purposely making a board game complicated is strategic and harmless. Not possessing enough intelligence is helpless. Both cases are acceptable. I have no problem living with them.

When we create complicity INTENTIONALLY, however, then our act is no longer ethical. Complicity is usually associated with details, which demand laborious efforts to understand, follow, or execute, hence it inevitably depletes useful resources.

There is a charity-oriented organization, with its primary mission to do compassion and relief work. The operation of this mission, in principle, can be very simple. Volunteers get together, identify impoverished or socially-disadvantaged areas, and then set out to visit those areas to help the unfortunate people.

As the organization grew big, however, the leaders started to create an internal promotion system. If you meet certain criteria, which include a certain amount of donation fund raised by you from your relatives and friends, then you are promoted to a higher position. In this higher position, you have the privilege of wearing certain uniform which volunteers in lower positions are not allowed to wear. Hence, instead of reaching out to do real compassion and relief work, many leaders and lower-level volunteers devoted a considerable amount of resource to these internal-promotion-related activities.

Now, please think. Is a volunteerís promotion judged by God or by computers? Of course not. It is evaluated by human beings, particularly in this case, by leaders in this organization. If I am in the position to evaluate you, what attribute do I have over you? Power. That is correct, power.

When there is power involved, politics prevails. Sometimes volunteers, in order to receive favorable evaluations, must try to perform charity work right in front of the leadersí eyes, so that the leaders can see. Compassion work is then done for the sake of showing or acting, but not done for the sake of genuine compassion.

In summary, generally, man-made complicity is negative and ugly.

I can compose a very complicated piano piece that requires the performer to use all of their ten figures to hit the piano keypads at the same time. In addition, the right hand and the left hand will play at different tempos. In this whole world, only a handful of pianists are able to play this piece, and only a very small audience can appreciate it.

But if I am a powerful person in an elite circle, I may require that those who wish to join this circle be able to play this piece first. Thus this complicity represents the privilege, and distinguishes these elite members from the ordinary crowd.

It does not benefit the human race, but only a small group of people. It serves to shield and protect them. "You cannot play it? Too bad. I can, that is why I hold the highest degree of Art, and why I am the director. Be my assistant or my secretary, behave, and stay content."

Let us be aware of its ugliness.

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