by Tan Tatt Si
Only when one potentially puts someone else in harm’s way, can one feel more responsible for the recommendation and opinions one so freely dishes out. I learnt that recently, donning my smarter-than-thou hat and recommending a friend to upgrade her iPhone operating system (iOS), and that caused her pain and sorrow having to revive her dead phone after the botched update.
Apple iPhone’s recent iOS upgrade debacle was in the spotlight – How, some people saw their phones crash after the install. The heart of the matter, is that while the new iOS itself may not be the true culprit - incompatible Apps (applications) may actually be responsible for crashes. Apple’s roll out of this version (11.1.2) was premature, not having fully tested it against the huge population of laypeople with almost an infinite permutation of apps on their iPhones, not to mention their various iPhone models, some from 10 years ago (Apple generally declines older devices any upgrade if there isn’t enough memory or the CPU too underpowered), and invited criticism with this careless act.
Juxtapose the above to religions, and the comparison is uncanny (computer science equivalent in parentheses for contrast). People hold various values (Apps) to heart. They can simultaneously hold what may be contradicting values, but these will co-exist in a person as long as the environment (iOS) allows them to co-exist. This is usually what is described as tolerance through compartmentalising (separate and distinct icons, compatibility, interoperability). Environment usually changes gradually, especially in nature, allowing sentients to catch up, to evolve. The environment changes, and people’s values and practices will need to be tweaked (Apps Updates), e.g. bigger denominations for Hell money so the adherents can burn less, or they won’t sit well in the new environment. Some people will choose to live in the old environment (by not updating) , but the old supported views will fade away, or become at odds with new reality, e.g. the abandoned concept of Limbo for unbaptised babies; if the environment moves too quickly ahead of what the population can endure, we will get fibrillations (application hangs), clashes (crashes), anxiety attacks (repeated reboots).
Speaking in clear, a national policy of tolerance that is built on a platform of segregating people into different but “equally true” segments, through race or religion or language, is still a segregationist move. Language and religion are memes; race is not even definable through genes when the whole world is related by DNA. We allow a false set of tolerance to rule over us, based not on reason or logic, but based on antiquated beliefs - beliefs that emanated millennia ago, beliefs that some politicians hold, or are afraid to upset.
If national policy is the operating system, this operating system must dictate that Apps are developed under a strict set of rules, and the operating system is vendor independent or neutral - secular in other words. Secularism must be the ideal, and the ruling gavel, not a Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act that is partial to religion and indifferent to the non-religious. MoRH Act and Penal Code 298A allows the religious to silence critics, that can lead a country down a slippery slope of not openly talking about difficult issues. When national policies are wrong, it becomes the more serious mistake of a buggy operating system , a bad iOS. On a national scale, MoRH + 298A can potentially be a callous Act.
As for the people holding different values, they must take responsibility and think critically. Not doing that, would be to feed the mob, where sentiments run ahead of reality, the heart overpowering the head. Constantly update yourself, and not let those who do not want to move forward crash the world around you.
Back to the iOS upgrade: I led my friend down what was a wrong path for her. My mitigating circumstance being my own choice of updating worked for me (because I did not have incompatible Apps) , and while I usually make informed choices, I sometimes still do not have all the information to help others make their choices, and the better plan might have been to advise her to wait it out. I admit that, and will learn from that. I need to own my wrong recommendation to her, just as she needs to own making that decision, and together, make sure her Apps are up to date, and bad Apps purged.
Technology evolves. People evolve. Religions evolve. Society needs to evolve too.
Mr Tan runs his own creative venture and is also the President of the Humanist Society (Singapore)