Sunday, 31 July 2011

I'm nobody


I ’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They ’d banish us, you know.
  
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

- by Emily Dickinson

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Meritocracy

I'm a firm advocate of meritocracy. I believe in a reward system based on merits: on proven well-developed and properly utilized skills that lead to real contributions toward a common goal, to quantifiable accomplishments, to actual positive results that benefited your group or society. A person's progress should be defined by his well-intentioned outputs, and its contribution to the greater good, to be recognized free from any form of discrimination. I believe in a philosophy that transcends race, gender, privilege, appearance or wealth, and dignifies tangible achievements instead above all. A community or company that follows meritocracy in choosing their leaders and promoting members will consistently have qualified individuals at the spearhead, will be maximizing the capacities of those that can contribute, and sets precedence for everyone to improve and achieve.

For meritocracy to truly flourish though, equal opportunity should be provided to everyone. Knowledge in a certain field should be distributed properly to those seeking to pursue it. They should also be provided with the resources required to cultivate their skills. And they should be given a chance to apply the expertise they've learned and prove their competency, then to finally achieve their dreams and maybe even be recognized and rewarded by society for their contributions. Otherwise we would have just another elitist group of leaders again defined by select educational institutions, not much better than rulers defined by accumulated wealth, by association, or by royal blood.

Unfortunately, equal opportunity, and therefore meritocracy, does not currently truly exist. Education is still limited to those who can afford it, especially those provided by world-famous universities. And society mostly only recognizes training gained from accredited institutions or well-known experts, which makes them reluctant to provide those without credentials the resources to develop their skills or the opportunity to utilize their proficiency. A degree from some remote third-world country does not rank high amongst the thousands of others all vying for excellence, and they have a valid argument, since not all institutions have the capacity to provide exceptional instructors and learning facilities. Much more if you don't have that piece of parchment declaring you to be a holder of a certain degree. And since an individual's progress can be limited to how society judges your competency, those at the lower end of the spectrum are left foundering in the wake of those with access to better training.

There are hundreds of thousands of books available for a certain price that would improve your skills, and the internet is slowly opening up a large body of knowledge for free access, but they are usually still disjointed and incomplete for a proper in-depth learning and training on a certain specialization. They would definitely be a superior supplement to your studies, especially if you have the diligence and dedication to immerse yourself fully in it, but unfortunately, these books do not provide the written certification that society demands. And self-study or self-training can only take you so far, to advance further you would need the support of a group to take on larger projects.

But for those truly determined, these limitations set by society are merely challenges to be overcome. No one can restrict what you can or cannot achieve. It will be a difficult uphill struggle, especially if you're near the bottom rungs of the "educational hierarchy", but passion for your work and conviction to your goals will drive you to continue developing your skills, with or without certified training. Meritocracy might not fully exist, but there is enough of it for them to progress upon if they can convince one well-funded organization that they are proficient even without the credentials. History is replete with stories of high school drop-outs who became famous intellectuals and "uneducated" people who improved civilization with their innovative ideas . They achieved this by recognizing that real education or skill is not defined by institutions, but by the individual themselves, and that the real rewards comes not from the medals handed out by society, but from the self-satisfaction gained upon achieving a hard-won enterprise.

Monday, 4 July 2011

I need to drink more beer

Today is my birthday, and as part of my routine for this day, I usually spend half of it by myself. Just to have some peace and tranquility, be alone with my thoughts, reflect on what I've done for the year, and review if I'm still on the right path towards my goals. This is also my time to plan for the year ahead. And my conclusion from that self-imposed solitude for this year: I need to drink more beer.

My favorite beer
Let me explain before somebody brands me as alcoholic. I love beer. It is one of the simple things that make life enjoyable. There's nothing like an ice-cold drink of the gods after a hard days work to cool you off and massage the stress off your shoulders. And beer is also one of my greatest moderators of all time. You see, if I'm drinking too much beer and getting regular hangovers, I know that I'm not doing well with my life and and that I need to set my priorities straight again. And if I'm not drinking enough and becoming too stressed out, it means that I'm too involved in my plans that I need to lighten up, relax, and enjoy life's simple pleasures a little bit more.

This year's conclusion came as a surprise really. Usually I'm telling myself to start getting serious with my plans so that I can move forward. A little less loitering around bars and street corners with my drinking buddies and a little more dedication towards improving my profession. But this past couple of years I guess I overdid it. I've been so consumed with my work that I barely have time to drink anymore. From my usual average intake of 6-12 bottles per week several years ago, I'm now down to 2-3 bottles per month. I rarely go out now and have not much of a social life beyond the office and home. I have become irritable from all the unreleased stress at work.

I've been too driven lately with improving my skills and getting to that next level that I've forgotten to pause every once in a while to enjoy the small milestones, and commiserate the usual failures, with a bottle of beer or two. That life, like beer, if rushed though the fermentation process too fast, might come out acidic, yeasty, or bitter. Our goals will only be worth it if we take the proper steps, relish our progress through it, learn from our mistakes, and patiently follow through the development of our plans. Having a destination is all well and good, but the journey we take to get there is important as well. Rushing through it is useless and might even prove detrimental. We should learn to appreciate the intricate process and recognize the ingredients it needs to make superb beer, or a good life. Realizing this makes the whole beer tasting experience all the more enjoyable.
My son's first sniff of the drink of the gods.

So here's a toast to the brew drinkers out there who aspire of impossible dreams, who struggles mightily, failure after failure after failure, against overwhelming odds to reach their goals, who keeps on pushing the boundaries beyond sober perceptions. May you always remain true to your convictions, to be always determined and focused, but not be too intoxicated by your ambitions, and remain appreciative of the simple pleasures of life; to find contentment in what you have, but push the limits on who you are and what you can do. May you be able to revel in your successes in-between failures, and not let your craving consume your spirit. Kudos to those who can find happiness on the smallest of things along their way towards their aspirations.

And with that thought, I'm off to enjoy the remainder of this day off from work. I still have an afternoon of rare freedom to go out a bit and enjoy some of the city's sceneries, maybe go to my favorite bookshop or for a walk in the park, watch the sunset over mount victoria, then enjoy a mug of guiness in courtney place. Then later on savour a relaxed evening with my wife and son, and a bottle or two of beer. Cheers guys! Bottoms up!