Humans pride themselves to be better than animals for mainly 2 things – our intellectual capabilities and that we have rules.
While there are smart animals like dolphins and dogs, none of the species on Earth has an intellectual capability like us. The ability to think and to solve complex problems, the ability to invent new things and to be creative in their usages let our species, which have far inferior physical capabilities rule over the Earth and stand at the very top of the food chain.
Rules are what made us different from animals. From mutual respect to household rules, from country laws to international regulations, rules are what made us behave like the civilised people we should. Above all, it sets a system in which everyone can function in a peaceful manner. Without rules and without laws, humans will just give in to every carnal desire and to carry out actions only benefitting of themselves without caring about the hurts or losses of the other person. That is why law enforcement exists, to take away those who disturb the peace of others and who refuse to abide by the system which benefits everyone.
By living in the society, we agree to abide by the rules, whether willingly or unwillingly. We have no choice. You are only free to operate within the boundaries of the rules, because if everyone does as they please, we will be like animals. You break the rules, you die, be it physically or metaphorically.
Or so it is on paper.
Soon we realise, there are a lot of double standards in the rules. One set for the commoners and another set for those who rule over us. For example, certain individuals have an extremely high win-rate in the stock markets, but those of us who dared to do insider trading will be put behind bars. Big corporations can manipulate the market at will, yet commoners who do so will also be dealt harshly under the law. I believe there are many other examples which everyone can remember off-hand without me quoting further. You get the point.
Yet, as lower mortals, we do not have the power to change the existing rules. Unless you are prepared to be like Nelson Mandela who dedicated his life to bring about change, the most practical thing for us is to abide by the rules and play according to it. Flipping the table on existing rules means going against the current powers, and there are serious consequences to it. Yet playing in such an unfair environment requires us to know the rules very well.
One wrong step and you are punished with the full force of the system. One mistake and you will sink to the depths. Each step needs to be safe, to be meticulously executed, to be within allowable limits and above all, to identify and grab hold of every opportunity within your current and potential resources limits. What are these resources? Your health, time, energy, network, money, skills and every other thing which you have minimally some degree of control on.
To identify every opportunity, you need to have the intellect, the foresight and the information network. For us, an information network is not like in those spy or hacker movies we see. It can be something as simple as reading news from multiple sources (reading CNN and New York Times does not count as reading from multiple sources), reading political analysis from different perspectives, talking to people who may be privy to certain information (which does not mean divulging secret information) or even knowledge we get from our jobs etc.
All of the above require hard work. It requires the consistent and relentless gathering and updating of information, which often times may throw off all the planning you may have and restarting them all over again. It requires at times the shutting down of a path you have painstakingly built and the need to carve out a brand new road. It requires a decisive and merciless demand on yourself. One example perhaps would be that originally I was confident of China’s capabilities but subsequently u-turned and needed to do all my reviews again on them.
We are playing a game in which the system is designed to ensure that only a few will climb up from the middle class to the upper class. Every hierarchy in the society is that of a pyramid. Rules, while on the surface are designed to ensure order, are in fact also serving another function of constraining the common population from ever climbing up. This is so that there will always be a sufficient pool of cheap labour working for the benefits of the upper class.
In fact, if you have noticed, certain countries’ rules are set in such a way that if you follow the designated path of going to school, graduate, work hard at your job and not think of anything else, the system will ensure you will have enough resources for a house, a car and some cash to support a small family of your own in what we would normally call ‘a simple life’. However, if you want to venture out from the conveyor belt, the full force of the system is there to restrict, restrain and ultimately to clamp you down.
Counting your blessings is but a phrase which commoners who gave up trying use to console themselves and being contented is just something the rich tells you in order to make you trapped at that level. Which aspect of the super-rich are contented with counting their blessings? Multiple big houses, fanciful cars, super yachts, never-ending sex with the sexy and the pretty, continual reaping off the people to fill up their pockets so they can maintain their lifestyle. And yet, here we are, believing in things such as counting our blessings and be contented.
Meritocracy is a nice thing. The dictionary definition is: a society governed by people selected according to merit. It allows those who have the capabilities and the results to rise up. It gives people hope that regardless of background, religion, colour, everyone has an equal chance to climb up the ladder. That the sky is the limit and that all of us one day, can reach out and grab hold of that glamourous future we all dream of. Meritocracy is such a beautiful thing.
But nobody is born knowing how to do a certain thing. We all go through a learning process. How well we learn depends on 2 factors – our innate capability and the help we receive. For example, I am bad at the arts. I probably will never create a wonderful piece of art no matter how hard I try. I am omitting out personal hard work here to better illustrate my point.
But let us say we are on a track which we may not be talented at, but at the same time not that bad at. Just being average. Now we compare 3 people using a simple but more extreme example. Tom is poor, he has to work and study at the same time to support his family. As he was unable to spend as much time on his studies, he could not excel in it. Jerry comes from an average family. He only needs to focus on his studies and not worry about finances. He did his part and achieved a decent academic result. Brutus comes from a wealthy family, and his parents were able to engage reputable private tutors at a high cost to explain concepts to him and to guide him effectively to achieve a good result.
We relook at the definition of meritocracy again: a society governed by people selected according to merit. It does not matter that Tom has a good reason not to do well, it does not matter that Brutus has much help in excelling. The fact is Brutus did the best and he is therefore deserving of any rewards that comes with it.
Meritocracy, justice, freedom, taxes, inflation, healthcare and every other values and tools in our system are designed with 2 intents in mind. Do not get me wrong. I want meritocracy, I want justice, I believe in freedom and in healthcare. Taxes and inflation are necessary. I am supportive of all these. But if you do not know the rules well, then you will not be able to play by it. Eventually, ignorance will only mean you will be cheated all your life by the very system you believe in.
Not many will think like me. Nor will there be many who agree with me. The majority perhaps will think that I am too dark, that the world is not that harsh and ugly. That all I am doing every article is to complain and grumble about the world order. The current world order is far from perfect, but only by understanding how things are run, that we can see better and more clearly what is happening around us. We can choose to continue to be plugged into the matrix, living a life in blissful ignorance while the system sucks us up dry. Or we can open our eyes to the ugliness of everything and try to carve out a life that really belongs to us.
If you ask me if I have found any way out, the answer is a no. I am still trying to navigate my way around. I fall, I bang my head against the wall and I get frustrated many times too, and often the weight of everything presses down on me to the point I feel tired about everything. But complaining is not the answer. Being unrealistically optimistic is also not the way out. The only way out is to open your eyes clearly, accept the ugly truth for what it is, understand how the whole thing works and finding opportunities.
One of the multiple problems I am facing now is having to cut off everything I have worked for. For the past decade I have believed in the potential of China, seeing its steady rise despite its flaws and people’s prejudice against them. I have not only built my businesses, but my finances and also a part of my life around China. Yet with the recent political climate of China and its harsh clamp down on its citizens in various areas (will not elaborate here), the risk to reward ratio is far too great to make it even a worthwhile venture. The current path has to be abandoned and a new path has to be forged out.
Such is life. Shit happens.
But if your goal is clear and your motivation is real, then no matter how many times you fall, no matter how many times you have to fight further, you will have eyes only on your goal and find solutions. The road is extremely difficult for us commoners who have no network, no backing and little resources. But once you have reached your goal, only then, can you truly be free. I have not reached there yet, but I believe it will make everything more worth it.