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Old 2008-12-15, 14:48   Link #21
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by Anh_Minh View Post
Well, I'm a selfish little bugger. I don't want our differences to be erased. I don't want us to be equal. Because I don't want to give up my first world lifestyle so I can be the same as those guys in sweatshop countries. I agree with TRL: screw the big pictures. Our immediate interests are inherently different. That's not going to solved by the knowledge that the heat death of the universe is going to make all that moot in a few billion years anyway (how is that for a big picture?), if - and that's highly unlikely - something else doesn't get us before. (Global war? Giant sky rock? The sun going nova?)
Umm...that wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I implied: "Screw the big picture."

I did say, however, that philosophically, I am an optimist.

At this point, it's difficult to explain clearly what I mean, because I seem to have stumbled upon a somewhat unusual train of thought that is influenced by a confused mix of Confucian social philosophy and secular humanism. Meaning to say, I am yet to find a philosopher who completely echoes my feelings about altruism.

For a start, I caution strongly against the "big picture" view proposed by Sagan because it seems to gloss over the differences that both define and divide us. However, I do share his sentiment on our common humanity.

My objection, however, stems from my observation that — despite our common humanity — there are only a few among us who are giants among men, while the rest of us are mere mortals scratching a meagre living with very limited means.

I am of the view that the more gifted we are, the greater our responsibility to aid humanity, because we cannot expect the depraved to help themselves. A gifted man who does not use his talents to help his fellow man demonstrates poor moral character, and is therefore not a gifted man at all.

Now, stated this way, the above sounds offensively egocentric. Firstly, it seems to suggest that I believe myself superior to others, which is very far from the case — I am but a fool who is still learning how to speak. Secondly, it seems to support the idea of a social hierarchy ruled by "enlightened despots", which is again very far from what I have in mind — I happen to enjoy my individual freedoms too much to subject myself to so-called moral superiors.

The problem lies in defining what is a "moral man", in the context of a "just" society.

Quote:
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Confucius' social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of ren ( 仁 ): "compassion" or "loving others". Cultivating or practicing such concern for others involves deprecating oneself. For Confucius, such concern for others is demonstrated through the practice of a version of the Golden Rule: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."

He regards devotion to parents and older siblings as the most basic form of promoting the interests of others before one's own, and teaches that such altruism can be accomplished only by those who have learnt self-discipline.

Learning self-restraint involves studying and mastering li ( 礼 ), the rules of propriety through which one expresses respect for superiors and enacts his role in society in such a way that he himself is worthy of respect and admiration.

Subjecting oneself to ritual does not, however, mean suppressing one's desires but instead learning how to reconcile one's own desires with the needs of one's family and community.

Nor does Confucius' emphasis on ritual mean that he was a punctilious ceremonialist who thought that the rites of worship and of social exchange had to be practiced correctly at all costs. Confucius taught, on the contrary, that if one does not possess a keen sense of the well-being and interests of others, his ceremonial manners signify nothing.

While ritual forms often have to do with the more narrow relations of family and clan, compassion has to be practiced broadly. It informs one's interaction with all people. Confucius warns those in power that they should not oppress or take for granted even the lowliest of their subjects.

Confucius regards loving others as a calling and a mission for which one should be ready to die.
My translation:

The world is a shitty place, filled with really crummy people.

If you believe you can make a difference, then you must be prepared to sacrifice for the sake of others.

Ironically, the need for self-sacrifice serves only to confirm that the world is a really, really shitty place. It's ok to curse your luck — most people do.

Hopefully, however, through your example, others would be inspired to lead a life of self-sacrifice.

It won't make our problems go away, but it would help to alleviate the suffering.

In all likelihood, the only reason you'd believe in the need for sacrifice is because someone else made a sacrifice before you, someone like your parent, sibling or teacher, for example.

You owe it to them to pay it forward.

And thus the cycle continues.

We are all connected, because truly, no man is an island.


==================


Heh, I don't know how much of that even makes sense.

But it's as close a stab on my life philosophy as I can get at the moment. Maybe, with time, it'll grow more refined. For now though, it works for me.

There is no big picture. There is only you and me, and the need for someone to sacrifice so that the other would not go hungry.
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Old 2008-12-15, 16:32   Link #22
Anh_Minh
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Umm...that wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I implied: "Screw the big picture."

I did say, however, that philosophically, I am an optimist.
Yes. That's the difference. Though we agree on the relevance, or lack thereof, of big pictures, though we're both humans and specks in the universe - awfully close specks, on an astronomical scale... Well, you're a nice guy and an optimist. I, on the other hand, am a selfish little bugger. As I wrote, first thing. Sure, I could talk the talk as well as any. But that's not the way I live. I most certainly don't walk the walk.

Quote:
At this point, it's difficult to explain clearly what I mean, because I seem to have stumbled upon a somewhat unusual train of thought that is influenced by a confused mix of Confucian social philosophy and secular humanism. Meaning to say, I am yet to find a philosopher who completely echoes my feelings about altruism.

For a start, I caution strongly against the "big picture" view proposed by Sagan because it seems to gloss over the differences that both define and divide us. However, I do share his sentiment on our common humanity.
I'm not actually quite sure how Sagan's big picture talk is to be interpreted.

Quote:
My objection, however, stems from my observation that — despite our common humanity — there are only a few among us who are giants among men, while the rest of us are mere mortals scratching a meagre living with very limited means.

I am of the view that the more gifted we are, the greater our responsibility to aid humanity, because we cannot expect the depraved to help themselves. A gifted man who does not use his talents to help his fellow man demonstrates poor moral character, and is therefore not a gifted man at all.
Begging the questions:
- who are the gifted?
- what does it mean to aid humanity? Plenty of "giants among men" couldn't agree on that one.

Quote:
Now, stated this way, the above sounds offensively egocentric. Firstly, it seems to suggest that I believe myself superior to others,
Or that you're a lazy ass looking for a handout. I, for one, don't believe the "gifted ones" have it any different than the rest of us. Everyone should just do his or her best, and worry about whether they're "gifted" or not afterward.

Quote:
There is no big picture. There is only you and me, and the need for someone to sacrifice so that the other would not go hungry.
I think, funnily enough, that it's part of what Sagan was trying to say. Don't count on aliens or gods to save us. We aren't important to the Universe, and it's not watching us with baited breath, let alone with a waiting hand to catch us if we stumble. All we've got right now is this one small planet and each other.
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Old 2008-12-15, 23:17   Link #23
Ledgem
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
I've come to believe, through much reflection, that the "big picture" view is inherently naive. It assumes that, somehow, we can gloss over our differences if we could only step back far enough from our immediate problems. Yet, as you yourself said, this is almost impossible on a day-to-day basis, because "each day is so packed that there's no time to reflect".
I said that, but I also think that differences already are glossed over on a day to day basis. Many of these differences would have been a big deal in the past, but today they are insignificant to us because our base perception of differences and similarities has expanded. History specialists are free to correct me, but farther back in the past, back when humans banded together in nomadic tribes, your tribe was your "in" group. While this is not to say that all tribes all over the world were at war with each other, they had no incentive to band together.

Over time societies changed from being nomadic to agrarian. Differences between cultures became a unifier. Native Americans began to form very large leagues when threatened with the presence of European settlers, an act that, as far as I know, was previously either rare or unheard of (other leagues did exist, but they were regional and technically were all part of the same tribe). The Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas of South America brushed up against each other and likely banded together within their own tribe when they realized how different the other tribes were.

Modern examples are all around us, too. America was originally formed as the thirteen colonies. Despite their initial differences, they banded together against a common oppressor: Great Britain. As globalism has become more prevalent, the scale has only further increased. Consider the various alliances that existed during the cold war as an example. Yet another example is the formation of the European Union, which is generally a bonding between westernized cultures located on the European continent. If globalism were not a big deal and Europeans were isolated from the rest of the world, would a European Union likely have formed? Were the United States of America isolated, would they have banded together to form one nation? The answer is largely suggested by history: look back at the tribes.

(Of course, that is a very rough statement to make. There are many more complicated factors that went into each of the examples that I mentioned, but for the sake of relative brevity I'm keeping those out.)

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
It's the height of hypocrisy, for example, to demand India and China to do more to minimise the environmental damage caused by their nascent industrialisation, while disregarding their need to provide employment for their teeming millions. It also disregards the fact that any form of industralisation will inevitably involve environmental degradation. So what now? Do we tell India and China to "look at the bigger picture", and "do the right thing" on the world's behalf?
I would disagree that it is purely "on the world's behalf" - it's really for their own good. If China becomes a wasteland it will be their population who suffers. Purely from a selfish point of view, sacrificing their own population is doing a favor to other countries, because it spares the populations of those other countries. I don't think it's right.

I recognize that much of their population faces poverty and much of the population is technically "unskilled labor." I do not believe that they can't put people to work in an effort to clean the place up and apply "green technology."

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Having acknowledged that, I choose to find ways to work around the differences instead, rather than wish for them to go away.
The differences will never go away. Rather, being introduced to a greater difference has a way of making insignificant differences that once seemed like a big deal. Imagine if tomorrow alien life forms contacted us. Our differences would not go away, but hey - we all eat similar food, we reproduce the same way, we all have the same organs, eyes, etc. Those similarities that are currently taken for granted would suddenly become a binding aspect when presented against much greater differences. I think a similar trend has occurred within human history, as I've alluded to in my first few paragraphs.

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Originally Posted by Anh_Minh View Post
Well, I'm a selfish little bugger. I don't want our differences to be erased. I don't want us to be equal. Because I don't want to give up my first world lifestyle so I can be the same as those guys in sweatshop countries.
What if you could maintain your current lifestyle, but people in third world countries could obtain your lifestyle, too?
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Old 2008-12-16, 00:03   Link #24
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by Anh_Minh View Post
Yes. That's the difference. Though we agree on the relevance, or lack thereof, of big pictures, though we're both humans and specks in the universe - awfully close specks, on an astronomical scale... Well, you're a nice guy and an optimist. I, on the other hand, am a selfish little bugger.

I think, funnily enough, that it's part of what Sagan was trying to say. Don't count on aliens or gods to save us. We aren't important to the Universe, and it's not watching us with baited breath, let alone with a waiting hand to catch us if we stumble. All we've got right now is this one small planet and each other.
Where I disagree with Sagan:
On a geological, universal time scale, we are all nothing but insignificant specks of cosmic dust.

In that case, why bother? Good and evil becomes meaningless. We might as well continue with our animalistic ways. In the end, we'd all be dead — might as well live it up while we can.

Where Sagan and I agree:
We believe in the need for humility, because it's only through the recognition of our own weaknesses that we find compassion for others.

On a human scale, just between you and me, even the smallest acts of kindness will make a difference.

To a starving man, a single crumb of bread would seem like the most precious gift in the world.

Quote:
Begging the questions:
- who are the gifted?
- what does it mean to aid humanity? Plenty of "giants among men" couldn't agree on that one.
A gifted man does not care about his own greatness. Socrates' maxim: The only thing I know is that I know nothing.

A gifted man is a humble man who never stops learning, because he believes that there will always be someone greater and more learned than him.

A gifted man knows and practises compassion, because he knows that he was once as ignorant as his fellow men.
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Old 2008-12-16, 01:36   Link #25
Anh_Minh
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Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
What if you could maintain your current lifestyle, but people in third world countries could obtain your lifestyle, too?
Sure, I have no interest in keeping them down per se. But there just aren't enough resources in the world. At least not for now, or for the forseeable future.
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Old 2008-12-16, 01:50   Link #26
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Originally Posted by Anh_Minh View Post
Sure, I have no interest in keeping them down per se. But there just aren't enough resources in the world. At least not for now, or for the forseeable future.
Would you make your own lifestyle take up less resources knowing that someone less fortunate than yourself might use them later on?

On this whole "bigger perspective" thing, I see it this way: On the greatest scale, "good" is not good the way we perceive it, but simply the point of equilibrium. From where we are, in our little dust speck, we cannot even hope to see the universe move towards equilibrium but we can observe our own world develop, our nations develop, the people around us learning and growing, and in short, everything that changes, obviously including life.
I
t is known that life evolved through natural selection for billions of years, and finally we have human beings, who have only started to develop our present culture about 10000 years ago. When this happened, natural selection "ended" as we entered a phase where creatures (humans) could think in the abstract, reflect on events, and learn to make conscious changes. So now we have our current society and numbers through our own intelligence, not the natural selection Darwin spoke of.

In fact, we have not really escaped natural selection, only one aspect of it. The universe has its laws, which, in the end, all humans must follow whether they like it or not. This is like a reaction coming to equilibrium, where the “Darwinian natural selection on Earth” component of the reaction has been finished and brought the reaction closer to equilibrium. In this case, it is the whole universe, starting with the Big Bang (and maybe even before that), that is the reaction. Humans are just part of this.

People are the only creatures on our planet who have gotten to this stage I just described. As we see, the animals that used to be really powerful (like tigers and stuff) are now nothing compared to us, since we unified and created civilization. But in order to keep up with the “universal reaction,” this is not enough.
People are intelligent, but they’ve also retained animalistic instincts that hinder us. Why are there bad and selfish people, if it’s obvious that our unity is what makes us strong and able to survive? Wise people know that the next step is to let go of our selfishness and do what is right (since doing the right thing basically means furthering our survival), and some of these people had profound impacts on civilization, and people created religions in honor of their teachings and wisdom. Unfortunately these were sabotaged by animalistic, greedy bastards over the ages, who added things into the belief system for their own benefit. I think modern Christianity is a great example, Jesus was probably a great guy but the modern Church is so corrupt.

What is the problem, then? It’s that people can’t see the consequences of their actions, don’t want to make plans for the future since it’s too hard. We, as a race, like nothing more than to procrastinate, until the very last second. In the “universal reaction”, this is not good enough. We can’t rely on magical “solutions,” be they capitalism, communism, science, or religion, we need to follow ethics. Many of the dictators who killed so many people came to power because people didn’t think about the big picture and went along with everything they said like sheep.

I hope this made some sense. I’m not good at explaining the big picture of my ideas, ironically.

Last edited by LeoXiao; 2008-12-16 at 02:27.
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Old 2008-12-16, 01:55   Link #27
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I feel that whatever discussion on our humanity is completely interesting but absolutely unrealistic and useless. Why? You only have to look back at the past events in the 20th century.

Remember Karl Marx? Of course you do, he's the first communist. He thought by flattening the strata of society, he would get equality. Man, was he wrong. Communism created a way for the government to enrich itself at the expense of the people.

Also, trying to equalise the world, where there is no war, no class differences, no differences IS impossible. Ever since the Babel Tower incident far back in the Bible, people became different, the differences appeared and there was never to be "equality" at all. Even today, this is impossible, unless the world is utterly destroyed. That we call Armageddon.

We can do as many kind deeds to other people, this is good. But we have a limit. Everyday, corruption takes place somewhere in the world, this destroys charity. People have a spirit to keep going upwards, and it is a never-ending race. That is why we are the human race. It is a race, and that is what we are. Merely a race to keep improving, at times at the expense of others.

Quote:
Where I disagree with Sagan:
On a geological, universal time scale, we are all nothing but insignificant specks of cosmic dust.

In that case, why bother? Good and evil becomes meaningless. We might as well continue with our animalistic ways. In the end, we'd all be dead — might as well live it up while we can.
We are insignificant if compared to the universe. But remember, our world, as we know it, is limited to Earth for now. Therefore, we are 1/6,700,000,000 of this Earth. That is still something we can measure. So we are specks of cosmic dust, but in our society, maybe not.

Quote:
Where Sagan and I agree:
We believe in the need for humility, because it's only through the recognition of our own weaknesses that we find compassion for others.

On a human scale, just between you and me, even the smallest acts of kindness will make a difference.

To a starving man, a single crumb of bread would seem like the most precious gift in the world.
Still, anyone in the street knows that total equality is impossible. Help people as and when you can, but just remember that you can change a person's day or life, not the world. No one person can change the world. That'd require a higher being.

And further more, there is also something called a personal view, and they usually do not concur. Conflicts are a part of life. There is no way to escape it. The world is not meant to be perfect, neither will it be just because we want it to be. Even a Haruhi won't be able to do that, to put it in the AS perspective. We all want more. Don't we?

There is no way we can really change this world, because for whatever good we do, there is always someone out there who does an evil. Therefore, we should not try to change the world, but rather, focus on changing OURSELVES. This might just change the way we look at things, if anything.

Perfection is in Heaven. Don't try looking for it on Earth.
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Old 2008-12-16, 02:29   Link #28
LeoXiao
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There is no way we can really change this world, because for whatever good we do, there is always someone out there who does an evil. Therefore, we should not try to change the world, but rather, focus on changing OURSELVES. This might just change the way we look at things, if anything.
Yeah, that;s probably what matters most. But in order for people to know why they ahve to change themselves, they need to have an idea of the big picture.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:02   Link #29
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I should have figured this topic would spawn some discussion, but wow you guys are really putting some thought into it! I'm glad, actually. There's some good points made all around.

However, I do have to take dispute with this:

Quote:
No one person can change the world.
I beg to differ. One person makes every difference in the world. And has, on many occasions.

A single idea or action is all it takes to change the course of history. It's made nations rise and fall, great changes in thinking happen, changed how our world was built even. Henry Ford created the assembly line, effectively driving us into the age of mass production. Martin Luther King preached equality and freedom for all in an age when racism was extremely common in a land where the most important document stated that "All men are created equal". Einstein's Theory of Relativity revolutionized how we thought about science and created an explosion (no pun intended) of new revelations about how we understood the universe. Jesus Christ and Muhammad taught the word of God/Allah and started a fundamental shift in religion from a polytheistic to monotheistic idea. Christianity and Islam today are two of the worlds most practiced and influential religious beliefs.

The entire universe is one giant butterfly effect. Or to be a little more accurate, this entire universe is one giant butterfly effect, one of many possible butterfly effects that differ from ours in the particulars of the butterfly at every moment of its existence.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:08   Link #30
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Originally Posted by Solace View Post
I should have figured this topic would spawn some discussion, but wow you guys are really putting some thought into it! I'm glad, actually. There's some good points made all around.

However, I do have to take dispute with this:



I beg to differ. One person makes every difference in the world. And has, on many occasions.

A single idea or action is all it takes to change the course of history. It's made nations rise and fall, great changes in thinking happen, changed how our world was built even. Henry Ford created the assembly line, effectively driving us into the age of mass production. Martin Luther King preached equality and freedom for all in an age when racism was extremely common in a land where the most important document stated that "All men are created equal". Einstein's Theory of Relativity revolutionized how we thought about science and created an explosion (no pun intended) of new revelations about how we understood the universe. Jesus Christ and Muhammad taught the word of God/Allah and started a fundamental shift in religion from a polytheistic to monotheistic idea. Christianity and Islam today are two of the worlds most practiced and influential religious beliefs.

The entire universe is one giant butterfly effect. Or to be a little more accurate, this entire universe is one giant butterfly effect, one of many possible butterfly effects that differ from ours in the particulars of the butterfly at every moment of its existence.
Martin Luther King? He changed the world? No. The government of the USA changed it, over time. King DID not make ANY change on that, he merely started off a movement to effect change, that ain't a change on itself.

Jesus Christ WAS both MAN AND GOD. Therefore, he is a higher being. In fact, he IS CHRIST. Don't mix the two!

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Started a fundamental shift in religion from a polytheistic to monotheistic idea.
Nope, the Jews believed in this all along.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:17   Link #31
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Martin Luther King? He changed the world? No. The government of the USA changed it, over time. King DID not make ANY change on that, he merely started off a movement to effect change, that ain't a change on itself.
King managed to change the thinking of some people, thereof starting a change. That in itself can be considered a change that he made.

However, I both agree and disagree with Solace. My ideal thoughts is that someone might be able to change the "world", either with power or influence or both. I certainly don't consider it an impossibility.

Realistically though, it's another matter. Again, it's not impossible, but I don't see it happening in a long period of time (really long), and the voices against "one man"-change is very strong.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:23   Link #32
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Realistically though, it's another matter. Again, it's not impossible, but I don't see it happening in a long period of time (really long), and the voices against "one man"-change is very strong.
I am a realist, and I much prefer to think that realpolitik is more effective than Obama's "change, change, change, yes we can!" rhetoric. But that's still WAY better than Bush/McCain/Palin. But I'd rather have Hilary Clinton anyday.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:34   Link #33
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Originally Posted by Solace View Post
A single idea or action is all it takes to change the course of history. It's made nations rise and fall, great changes in thinking happen, changed how our world was built even. Henry Ford created the assembly line, effectively driving us into the age of mass production. Martin Luther King preached equality and freedom for all in an age when racism was extremely common in a land where the most important document stated that "All men are created equal". :
Hmm, that is a rather interesting stance and it made me re-think some things. By those examples (Marthin Luther King and inventors like Einstein), it seems possible that one person could indeed cause an effect that will shape future events.

Although it can be argued that the effect eventually becomes a group effort, there is a starting point for everything and that person who started it can be credited as the one person who inspired the change. It's like a Domino effect.

Now, I'm starting to think if Hitler had defeated the allies in WWII.
He could have changed the world, that's a scary thought though...

Last edited by Liddo-kun; 2008-12-16 at 18:04.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:41   Link #34
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I am a realist, and I much prefer to think that realpolitik is more effective than Obama's "change, change, change, yes we can!" rhetoric. But that's still WAY better than Bush/McCain/Palin. But I'd rather have Hilary Clinton anyday.
Although my knowledge of US politics are low, I do agree about Obama. The "Change"-motto might be what is needed to inspire other people.

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Now, I'm starting to think if Hitler had defeated the allies in WWII.
He could have changed the world, that's a scary thought though...
A scenario often played out in fiction and a very interesting one to think about indeed. Hitler might be proclaimed as "one who changed the world" if that would have become true.
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:46   Link #35
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A scenario often played out in fiction and a very interesting one to think about indeed. Hitler might be proclaimed as "one who changed the world" if that would have become true.
For better or worse?
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Old 2008-12-16, 06:51   Link #36
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For better or worse?
As far as I know, mainly worse. I have not read many myself (although I want to), but from what I've heard, the future of such a scenario is rather grim.

Also, it's fiction. Individual ideas plays a role.
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Old 2008-12-16, 08:45   Link #37
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Originally Posted by ShimatheKat View Post
Martin Luther King? He changed the world? No. The government of the USA changed it, over time. King DID not make ANY change on that, he merely started off a movement to effect change, that ain't a change on itself.
King did not create the law, or put the law into effect. He did nothing himself to pass desegregation, except preach his ideas and beliefs. The government abolished slavery a century before his famous speech, and when King gave that speech a black man could not drink from the same fountain as a white man. 35 years later, we have a black president. Kings idealism and ability to inspire has changed the nation and in turn the world greatly.

Quote:
Jesus Christ WAS both MAN AND GOD. Therefore, he is a higher being. In fact, he IS CHRIST. Don't mix the two!
In religious teaching yes. In recorded history no. Jesus was a man who was crucified by the Romans for spreading the word of a "false god". I know all about what the Bible says, I was referring to recorded history.


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Nope, the Jews believed in this all along.
They did, but history isn't kind to Jews.
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Old 2008-12-16, 08:49   Link #38
ZephyrLeanne
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Originally Posted by Solace View Post
In religious teaching yes. In recorded history no. Jesus was a man who was crucified by the Romans for spreading the word of a "false god". I know all about what the Bible says, I was referring to recorded history.
OK, got that one.


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They did, but history isn't kind to Jews.
Still doesn't deny the fact that Jews believed in one God from the beginning!
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Old 2008-12-16, 08:54   Link #39
Solace
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Originally Posted by ShimatheKat View Post
Still doesn't deny the fact that Jews believed in one God from the beginning!
I won't deny it. ^^ But they should have marketed it better.
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Old 2008-12-16, 09:02   Link #40
ZephyrLeanne
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Originally Posted by Solace View Post
I won't deny it. ^^ But they should have marketed it better.
True. So some scholars went out to get all those old, rotting documents and reprinted 'em to form the Bible we know today. Best selling non-fiction ever. Should be good enough publicity, no?
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