Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category


Human purpose and, with it, his character changed forever when the Daodejing 道德經 composition was completed around 200BCE. It also guarded Chinese society (and Korean and Japanese and Vietnamese) from the terror and destructive consequences of Christianity and Islam; the Chinese being fortunate to have an antidote before the birth of the poison of dogma from Jesus and Mohammad and the barbarians they subsequently spawned.

Of Daodejing’s conventional translation into English, The Book of Tao, the title says nothing. Chinese don’t obey the rules of western syntax nor semantics (why should we) so that, taking its actual contents as guide, 道德經 should read as ‘Classical Principles in Ethics‘ wherein dao = way as in a highway or route; de = inner character or strength, today called virtue; so that 道+德= 道德daode=ethical principles; and 經jing=book/classic/canon which as a standalone definition is redundant; of course, this is a book. (Englishmen and Scottish, the Xaviers and La Salle preachers, so overdose with doctrine and god theology, can be stupid. So stupid, they called Daoism a religion, like Jesus Christ is a religion.)

Correct naming, such as in translation, is important. The Daodejing (Ch 1, Mitchell translation):

Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Recall Liu Tezuo 刘特佐 (Jho Low) telling the diamond sellers to keep everything secret, recall the PM’s office complaining about the DOJ’s ‘gratuitous naming‘, recall the secrecy wrapped around the investigations and the money laundering. All of which so clearly shows that, though the PM have few advisers (actually just macai) ethnically Chinese, a character like Jho knows nothing about what goes into Chinese thinking:

若要人不知除非己莫为 = if you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it.

This, above, is a principle so down-to-earth that it beats all Christian abstract injunctions, for example, Do no evil. Because, the first problem, what’s evil? Whose evil? Daodejing:

The world recognizes beauty,
only because there’s ugly.
People see good,
only because there’s bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Evil was created by the good, and good by evil. That’s to also say, if evil ceases to exist altogether, nobody could do good because it won’t be recognizable. The West in the person of Saul Bellow had only just discovered this notion; so profound they thought he was awarded the Literature Nobel prize. Writing in the Dangling Man, 1994, Bellow argued through a character how a man locked up alone in a cell, with nothing except for the surrounding walls, could be neither good nor evil, and so unrecognizable as a human; like a day-old baby, useless and meaningless even to himself. He would need another human to be himself recognizable. (Which is why, with Albert Camus, suicide is the ultimate self-consciousness.)

Within this interdependent, inter-exchange motion of duality, God if he were any good at all would have to make Jho Low a thieving, fraudulent character, not the Chinese. (We can’t create nature.) The reason being, a thieving Low would make Jesus look like the ultimate good — and the inane Bible (or Quran) necessary to sell. A thieving Najib is already making Mahathir, a man equally base in character, beginning to look like a saint. Yet, just as Umno made Mahathir and Mahathir Najib, Najib made Umno. To save Malaysia, all have to be removed then start over.

Low again:

This — size matters — is so Anglophile, thrown around a million times that the English-educated like Low think nothing of repeating the trite which, as a principle, is badly flawed. Daodejing (Ch 11, Waley translation) in contrast:

  • We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
  • We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
  • We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
  • Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

Daodejing principles once properly translated has a modern, even scientific sense in them and, therefore, immensely profound. There, in those lines, is the analogous marriage of the physical characteristics of space, void and matter with the human sense-feelings of being adrift, uselessness, emptiness and vacuousness. Size doesn’t matter; nothingness matters.



三寸天堂 Three Inches of Heaven

All, pure erhu

Someone, a German, called the erhu the most emotional musical instrument belonging to the Chinese. Perhaps he is right.

From 永安 Yung An: 三寸天堂 Three Inches of Heaven

The vocal version

步步驚心,刻骨銘心。 夢回大清,愛恨難清。 是是非非,隔世再敘。 兩世宿命,豈非天定?


From 宋飞 Song Fei with the 中国中央民族乐团, China Central Orchestra

Performance in Vienna: She is so natural…like she is one with the instrument. Watch and listen to the crescendo at 4:16 then in the closing bars 5:25



From 賈鵬芳 Jia Pengfang, a Sino-western combination.

情侣 To my Love, in China


Travel Worries 旅愁


Pure strings, pure energy!

战马奔腾 or simply 赛马. Either way, in English, this neo-classical piece is titled: Galloping Horses. In all versions, note the parts in which the strings are beaten (they didn’t break) to imitate the sound of horses at war, galloping and panting.

 Version #1: single erhu and string quartet combination. Performed in Canada by Gao Shaoqing 高韶青, one of China’s top erhu masters.

Version #2: With the Russia Symphony

Version #3: Pure erhu. This is the conventional version, performed by Hong Kong students, and is the best of three so far. They made music underscore the real, like a thousand horses charging!

Extra X-Version: Below is a solo experimental with an electronic erhu! Blasphemy!

Verdict: F for Flop! 放弃吧 好像马要死了

The guy on the street, below, does an even far better job.

This is dedicated to all erhu street performers. 祝你们顺利

Street music performance is as old as Chinese civilization.

The piece played below was composed by a blind street erhu performer 80, 90 years ago, someone who had the same, impoverished beginnings, a time of war and widespread hunger. He died, still poor, but his composition outlived him. Song Fei 宋飞 (near to top of section) played the same piece in Vienna: a single instrument, so ancient, contributed to give China hope and helped sustain our people and our spirits. 中国加油!


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Fabricating Humanity

The Natural Order


The Human Order



The Western Social Order


In the above diagram, top half, is a popular mythology, cultivated by the West and still widely in use (at Syed Akbar Ali for example). It shows the western proclivity for looking at life with linearity — everything goes along and are plotted on a straight line. There is a beginning and there is an end. The same sort of bias is found in the diagram below, showing the historical progress of human civilization.

But, what’s wrong with it?

The answer is found in three words, ‘progress’, ‘human’ and ‘civilization’. Simple, straightforward anthropological evidences are twisted then given a social order from the only viewpoint, a western, Judeo-Christian one, that rules intellectual thought today. And isn’t that order biblical? Therein is a homo sapien, with the so-called name Jesus — a nothing after all, but a hominoid monkey-related specie, if he even exist — is marked in red and takes center stage. Everything is therefore ordered either before or after him. To do that, all that was required was to spin some fairy tales around him, and those tales are collectively called the Bible.

Such a sort of perverse thinking has had profound implications: where Western knowledge — especially in religion — had spread deep and wide, local populations began thinking like white people. They become DAP and Malaiyoo Anglophiles (Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Razak, Shahudin Yahya, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Hannah Yeoh, and countless more).




The West Discovers Humanity


…and still can’t find the human in it.

For much of history, strangers were routinely classified as barbarians and inferiors, seldom as fellow human beings. The notion of a common humanity was counterintuitive and thus had to be invented. Siep Stuurman traces evolving ideas of human equality and difference across continents and civilizations from ancient times to the present. — Book synopsis on the Invention of Humanity.


Counterintuitive? Perhaps to White people, Christians. But never to us.


Dutch historian Siep Stuurman presumes too much. The consequence to which — and these are to be found in his book (cover photo above) — is to further the mythology that there has always been a human quest for a ‘common humanity’ and that this is universal.

(But, of course, only in the West are found the answers. That is, White people today are cleverer than monkeys, more cultured. It used to be that their culture and their make-up are superior to other peoples instead of monkeys.)

Stuurman named two ancients, Herodotus and Sima Qian ((司马迁 135 or 145BC – 86BC), as his authority on the enduring notions of humanity, which he attempts to trace back by 2,000 years or more. But, he was wrong that Sima contributed to shape Chinese ideas of humanity.

Sima had lay the ground for Chinese identity, true, but it was in the daodejing 道德经, from Laozi, perhaps not alone, 400-500 years before Christ, that marshal the prevailing ideas then and germinated a philosophy into what has become known today as Confucian humanity that’s embedded in Chinese culture.

(And for fuck sake, don’t bother asking LKS what is Chinese culture. You might as well ask a pig because then he will answer you to say it has to do with qing ming and Chinese new year. Tian-ah. Like Mahathir, he’s another stupid old man.)

Stuurman’s failure begins in the beginning: he assumes there is a naturally-ordered state known as humanity. Like the Christian voodoo ideas of geocentricity, everything in life will gravitate towards it.

Then, in contradiction to that premise, he argues that inequality, as a condition of humanity, is a pure social construction. If inequality was artificially constructed then it could be deconstructed. More to the point, if inequality is artificial so, too, must equality. If such human conditions are entirely social constructs, why does it matter which way either one goes?

His Judeo-Christian bias get more pronounced. When some societies look upon themselves as superior to ‘Others’, it infers, Stuurman argues, a common standard in humanity in which those ‘Others’ are measured. As evidence, he cites the Greek Herodotus and Sima, both of who in their writings wrote of foreign societies that ‘seem’ remarkably like their own. Sima never meant it in that way. Because either Stuurman doesn’t know Chinese or he is inserting his own prejudices into Chinese thought; he was making it up.

Here is where Stuurman’s Judeo-Christian liberal prejudices show, applying his default, political correct bias of making equality as if it was a god-given state when it is not. People eat, fuck, defecate and die. Those are common and equal, yes.

Chinese classical history mentioned the makings of the Five Barbarians 五wu-hu. In Sima’s shiji 史记, the court scribe noted the savagery of the xiongnu (that is, 匈奴, general term for nomadic tribes north of the Great Wall, one of which is predecessor of Genghis Khan and today’s Mongolians). Although the term hu (胡) is commonly translated as ‘barbarians’, the term used then and by Sima had no such western, moral pejorative. Those people, even by the standards then, were ‘wild, reckless and foolish‘ the three adjectival descriptions contained in the word hu. The xiongnu were barbarians in any objective, sense of human-ness but stripped of Stuurman’s liberal morality.

Clearly, Stuurman is pile-driving into the past, today’s liberal, Christian moral standards to make fit the central thesis in his book, which is, there is a thing called ‘common humanity’ that is also universal in character. That humanity, Stuurman insists, has an international appeal. For the fact it has persisted for millennia is self-evident, he argues, culminating in the Rights of Man declaration in a UN Charter and the US constitution.

From Stuurman’s racism and under his pen has flowed another form of imperialism: humanity is sequestered as another Western march in the linear progression of civilization.

A pivotal part in Stuurman’s failure is, to even begin from the beginning: What’s it to be human, from which the word humanity is derived. What is the minimal definition of human?

The answer, of course, depends: shall we give the biological definition or the anthropological? How about the cultural answer? (In case you are unaware, the Chinese has one.)

Regardless, here, we are on quick-sand territory because the western answer to it is as morally spurious as it is varied. The Chinese answer is straightforward: look around you, look at the world, at nature, then look at ourselves. It is there and it is not; it looks back at you so that, at the minimum, the human requires another human simply to exist, to be, and to know itself.

All that alone says a lot, and we should stop there, excepting to say this: An ape by itself is an ape; but humanity is the sum of one human being and one human being. That’s the principal idea, in which is contained the germ of humanity — that is, to be humane — which written in hanzi is, humans (radical ⺅) + two  (二) to make this 仁. No god in between, you see.

When two persons living together — not God — provide the basis for humanity then Eden and biblical fairy tales lose their shine. They fall into disuse, and so the fictitious notion that all men are created equal by God becomes as stupid as stupid does. Stuurman’s book The Invention of Humanity (Harvard University Press) is an attempt to rewrite those fairy tales, one to fit his neo Judeo-Christian prejudices and next to fit the enlarged boundaries of Eden to include Chinese and the conquered, devastated souls of South and North America.

We, the Chinese, reject this sort of thought imperialism. Stuurman discovered nothing, because there was no human mold, no blueprint for the discovery.

Daoists and Confucians knew that all along (the evidence to which, below): humans are cultivated till death; humanity has to be taught, also till death. Those that aren’t cultivated and taught keep their state-of-nature — they remain barbarous.

Splendid’ book, did you say, Michael Walzer? Both of you would make great apologists for ISIS barbarians — barbarians even by the standards of the xiongnu Huns, who were, after all, only after silk, land and women. Try talking to barbarians about your ‘common humanity’. Ya, after that, tell the souls of the dead at their gravestones. Aiya



The daodejing 道德经, above, first published around 500 BC. In the absence of modern paper print, many ancient text had to be copied by hand. Of three earliest daodejing scripts unearthed in China, the one above, found in Mawangdui, was dated about 200 BC. At the time of the Mawangdui publication, the zhuangzi 莊子 was also released.

Those two provide the foundation ideas in Daoism that, in turn, lay the ground for the rise and popularization of Confucianism in East Asia. Still, both schools of thought remain, having changed little since, in contrast to Aristotlean ideas that were subsequently woven into Christian voodoo and in western philosophy. And now woven into this book, The Invention of Humanity.


My dear, dear Motherland…


Be human, get drunk.

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For the answer, look backwards.


Ninety-nine out 100 commentaries and reports about China in the Western media and their local apologists (including Malaysiakini), when not maligning they were either wrong or completely misjudged. China rarely offers a rebuttal: White people say what they want, we don’t care.

Take the Malaysia-North Korea spat, Najib Razak stupidly fighting over a rotting body that’s not even a PAS member. (So what if the name is Kim Jong-nam?) Among dozens of instant, amateurish commentaries, numerous of them asked that Malaysia turn to China as an intermediary. Dennis Ignatius, the virulent anti-Chinese Anglophile and Catholic insider for the Vatican, suggested outright Malaysia ally itself with China. Then, in his characteristic, contradictory piece of illogic, he asked that Malaysia stay out of big power play in East Asia.

As events turned out, none of that happened. It was instead pure barter: nine Malaysian lives exchanged for a dead body and two live Koreans. To what end? Yet, all the while, China reduced its comments to just one line: let peace prevail.

Below, lifted from Lit Hub, is a long view of China from a historical perspective. That is, China’s perspective, not liberals’, not gweilo‘s, not the Wall Street Journal, and certainly not The New York Times. To know what China is likely to be in the future, and what its relationship will be like with the East Asian neighbors, look at China’s past, as far back as 2,000 years. Howard French doesn’t answer those questions just posed. Rather, he just talked history so that, in the main, he is correct. His essay is worth reproducing in full.

Going through it, you might wonder: did Parameswara and his so-called ‘Malacca/Malay empire’ emerged only because of Ming assistance?


All Under Heaven

What Will China Become?

There was once a country at the very center of the world, whose position was recognized as such by peoples both far and wide. Today, we call that country China.

Using the very word “country” is actually deceptive. The nation that we now instantly identify on the map as China hasn’t existed long. Throughout most of its history this dynastically ruled land would not even have recognized itself as a country, let alone seen its neighbors as such. It was an empire, and a largely borderless one, both in its geographical form and in what it considered to be the relevance or applicability—what the French would call the rayonnement—of its ideas. One could argue that there has never been a more universal conception of rule. Practically speaking, for the emperors of the Central Kingdom, this place we call China, the world could be roughly divided into two broad and simple categories, civilization and non-civilization, meaning the peoples who accepted the supremacy of its ruler, the Son of Heaven, and the principle of his celestial virtue, and those who didn’t—those who were beyond the pale.

For the better part of two millennia, the norm for China, from its own perspective, was a natural dominion over everything under heaven, a concept known in the Chinese language as tian xia. It is not a term to be taken too literally. From very early times, China had an awareness of faraway places, including other great empires, like Rome, but contact with such distant regions of the world was tenuous at best and hence both economically and politically marginal.

In the geopolitics of Chinese empire, what was most vital to the Central Kingdom under tian xia, sometimes interpreted as the “known world” in this context, was a vast and familiar swath of geography that consisted of nearby Central Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Among these regions, Central Asia constituted a near-constant challenge to Chinese power, and quite often an outright threat. The dimensions of the Central Kingdom ebbed and flowed, mostly as a function of the shifting balance of power between Han (Chinese) and the peoples to the west and northwest, be they Turkic, Mongol, Manchurian, Tibetan or others. (China itself would come to be ruled by invaders from two of these cultures, the Mongols, from 1271 to 1368, and the Manchus, from 1644 to 1912, at the very end of the dynastic era.)

In geographical terms, we usually think of oceans as barriers that effectively separate countries, regions and continents, and in the faraway past nearly sealed them off from one another. But the littoral of East Asia, which runs in a gently articulated crescent from the Korean Peninsula south to the Strait of Malacca, has more typically served as a transmission belt for Chinese culture and prestige, Chinese commerce, and ultimately for Chinese power, although only occasionally hard power. From at least the Tang dynasty (618-907) nearly to the chaotic end of dynastic rule in China in 1912, to one extent or another, the peoples of this sea-bound region often found ways to defer to China, acknowledging its centrality and loosely following its lead.

Functioning in this way, Chinese power came to underpin one of the most remarkable international systems that human civilization has ever seen—a unique form of what has sometimes been described as an extremely loose and distant brand of indirect rule by China over a very considerable slice of humanity. This description is inadequate in part because there were important variations in China’s relations with its eastern neighbors, including degrees of intensity of both contact and obeisance. But at the foundation of this remarkably resilient Pax Sinica lay a basic proposition that was reasonably consistent: Accept our superiority and we will confer upon you political legitimacy, develop a trade partnership and provide a range of what are known in the language of modern international affairs as public goods. These included policing the maritime commons, mediating disputes and granting access to China’s would-be universal system of learning, broadly based on Confucianism. In the core states of this region—Korea, Vietnam and, albeit with growing ambivalence, Japan—Chinese values, Chinese culture, the Chinese language, Chinese philosophy and Chinese religion were all regarded for long stretches of history as essential references, and even universal standards.

The “system” referred to here has long been known in the West (and yet never among Chinese themselves) as China’s tribute system. Throughout this period, beginning as far back as the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), peoples in China’s imperial orbit regularly dispatched “embassies” to perform ritual submission before the Chinese emperor. The granting of trade rights by the imperial court by way of reward represented a tremendous boon that served as a powerful lubricant in bilateral relations. When the Chinese spoke of this system, their language was often full of euphemism and self-regard, frequently referring to the task of what would today be called in foreign policy “barbarian management.”

“To control the barbarians the sage rulers punished and resisted them when they came [to invade China], and prepared and guarded against them when they left,” reads one 19th-century account. “If attracted by China’s civilization, they came to offer tribute, they would be treated with courtesy, and kept under loose rein without severing the relationship, so that the blame of being crooked would always be on them.”

Within this system, foreign leaders often owed their very titles to the grant of recognition via patents of appointment bestowed by the Chinese emperor. Even as they sat on their thrones, new rulers in compliant tributary states had to content themselves with the title of heir apparent until they could receive their letters of investiture from the Celestial Emperor, for fear of infringing protocol.

Just how seriously this business was taken is vividly conveyed by a story from second-century BCE Vietnam, when a local king got it into his head to proclaim himself emperor in his own land. The response of the Han dynasty emperor Wen-Di was swift and unequivocal. “When two emperors appear simultaneously, one must be destroyed . . . struggling and not yielding is not the way of a person endowed with humanity,” he wrote to scold the Vietnamese ruler, whose response can only be described as one of abject submission. “I hear that two heroes cannot appear together, that two sages cannot exist in the same generation,” he stated in a public proclamation. “The Han emperor is the sagacious Son of Heaven. Henceforth, I shall suppress my own imperial edicts.” This pushback from China operated at two levels. Most explicitly, it was a direct statement that in its home region, the Han emperor would not countenance any would-be peers. Beyond that, China was signaling its determination to intervene anywhere in the world where it felt its central role or its vital interests might be challenged. In 1979, more than two thousand years later, as we shall see, China would mount an invasion of Vietnam aimed at making these precise points.

In fact, China would invade Vietnam numerous times during the succeeding centuries, which still resonates powerfully in their relationship today. But using violence to get its way was far from the ideal. As the Japanese scholar Takeshi Hamashita has written, “Like any hegemonic order [the tribute system] was backed by military force, but when the system functioned well, principles of reciprocity involving politics and economics permitted long periods of peaceful interaction.”

It has often been argued that the tribute system cost China more in trade concessions and in the constant hosting of visiting foreign delegations than any economic benefit it might have derived from commerce with an assortment of much smaller neighboring societies. But this is to ignore the domestic political value of the system for China’s emperors. As important as it was for neighboring rulers to enjoy the recognition of the Central Kingdom, it was equally important for the authority of a succession of Chinese emperors to have symbolically obeisant foreigners bowing regularly to their moral prestige and power.

In other words, the willing subservience of others to prostrate themselves before the emperor provided domestic proof of his unassailable moral authority, of his possession of, in the well-worn phrase, the mandate of heaven. This was as true near the end of China’s imperial era as it was during early dynasties, such as the Han. When Britain, approaching the apogee of its global power in the late 18th century, sent a mission to China to try to establish relations on an equal footing with the Qing dynasty, Emperor Qianlong exceptionally granted permission for the envoy of King George III to visit Beijing, on the basis that it would “contribute to the Emperor’s glory.” Finally arriving in China after a nine-month sea voyage, the British were disconcerted to find that all along the route to the capital were hung banners written in large characters proclaiming that the European delegation was led by an “envoy paying tribute to the Great Emperor.” Indeed, Qianlong’s court had informed the public that the head of the foreign delegation, the Irishman George Macartney, was a member of the British royal family who had traversed the oceans in order to “contemplate Civilization.”

“Most dynasties collapsed under the twin blows of ‘inside disorder and outside calamity’ (nei-luan wai-huan), that is, domestic rebellion and foreign invasion,” wrote John King Fairbank, the eminent Harvard scholar of the tribute system. “Every regime was therefore under pressure to make the facts of its foreign relations fit the theory and so confirm its claim to rule China.”

The essence of this thought survives even in contemporary Chinese political thought. As Wang Jisi, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, wrote in 2015, “Ever since the founding of ‘New China’ in 1949, China’s foreign and domestic policies have both served the same goal: to maintain internal political stability under the leadership of the Communist Party.”

It is scarcely appreciated in the West today that the “international system” we so readily take for granted is actually a recent creation. It took shape between the middle of the 19th and the middle of the 20th centuries, and started to be cobbled together at the precise moment that China was being subjugated by others and the world order it had sustained, and that had in turn sustained it for so long, was being replaced.

As our modern world was being born, China was plummeting toward a historical nadir in its relative regional power and influence. The norm for it had long been an unshakable conviction in the enduring universality of its values and ethics, its own culture, and its unquestioned centrality. The new, Western form of global universality was based not on a presumed natural hierarchy in the world, with China at the apex, but rather on the presumed equality (at least legally and theoretically) of clearly defined nations, on a raft of Judeo-Christian ideas and institutions, on spreading principles of electoral democracy, on open trade instead of managed tributary exchanges, and finally on a fast-emerging regime of international law. Underwriting all of these fine-sounding notions was, of course, Western and, in the 20th century above all, American power.

China’s experience of its own successful and long-lasting international system, and of its long and mostly unchallenged status as the standard-setter of civilization itself by right, would have necessarily made a shift to almost anything new a difficult downgrade. 

But to an extent that is underappreciated in the West, the brutal circumstances of the transition to what is our now familiar world, coming at a moment of unprecedented Chinese weakness, feeds an unusually deep-seated ambivalence toward contemporary norms, which is becoming more and more apparent with each passing year of increasing Chinese power.

Fairbank wrote with considerable understatement nearly 50 years ago, when China was ruled in largely autarkic fashion by Mao Zedong in near-permanent, revolutionary tension with the postwar system,“Modern China’s difficulty of adjustment to the international order of nation-states in the 19th and 20th centuries has come partly from the great tradition of the Chinese world order. This tradition is of more than historical interest and bears upon Chinese thinking today.”

In its most familiar form, the narrative of the demise of the Chinese world order is the story of rampaging Western imperialism’s triumphant march into East Asia. In its textbooks and in its nationalist propaganda, China itself has styled the one-hundred-year period during which the modern world was built as its Century of Humiliation, with Britain’s Opium Wars and the sack of Beijing by both Britain and France accorded pride of place. Although the aggressive expansion of Western powers into the China-centered world of East Asia was a critical fact of that period, it seems more likely that what the West achieved was in reality the early transformation of the old Chinese world that would soon lead to even more dramatic changes. Principally these would be wrought not by Westerners but rather by historically subsidiary nations in East Asia, as the yawning discrepancy between China’s self-image and geopolitical reality became unsustainable.

Although there were many actors in Asia seeking their own separate accommodations with the nascent international order, the main driver of the change that definitively closed the curtains on the two-millennia-old Sinocentric order in the region was without doubt imperial Japan. It defeated its much larger neighbor in 1895 in the Sino-Japanese War, and thereafter surged ahead of it according to almost every measure of national power over the next half century, only to be driven out of China and defeated in World War II, mostly as a result of reckless military overreach. But even in the decades following its ultimate defeat by the United States, Japan has remained well ahead of China in numerous ways, most obviously in per capita wealth and quality of life, but also, even if the lead here is shrinking, in things like technological advancement and global cultural influence. If nothing else, Japan’s grab for great power, coming very largely at China’s expense, proved the enduring relevance of the previously quoted maxim “When two emperors appear simultaneously, one must be destroyed.” Indeed, up until the present day, East Asia has never proven large enough for two great powers to coexist peacefully, and the question of whether this will be possible in the future looms darkly over the region.

Seen from this angle, the lingering place of the tribute system in the Chinese psyche takes on a new importance. It was one thing for China to be humiliated by the West; Chinese thinkers have taken comfort in the idea that barbarians from afar could never have been expected to accept the Central Kingdom’s virtue and cultural superiority. But the defeats administered beginning in the late 19th century by an upstart Japan, for the Chinese an intrinsically inferior nation whose very origins lay in immense cultural debt to China in everything from writing systems and literature to religion and governance, were a different matter, and the energies unleashed by this history are still profoundly at work in the world today. The towering early-20th-century Chinese intellectual and seminal figure in the birth of the country’s modern nationalism, Liang Qichao, wrote that China’s loss in the Sino-Japanese War “awakened my country from the long dream of four thousand years.”

During most of the second half of the 20th century, including most of the Maoist era, Beijing took a relatively relaxed attitude toward Japan, eagerly absorbing its technology and increasingly massive investments and studying its successes once China’s so-called reform and opening period got under way in the early 1980s. As it did so, Beijing mostly deemphasized the divisive past. China similarly took a largely accepting view of American military primacy in East Asia in the post-Mao era. In hindsight, with both of these positions recently having changed dramatically in the space of less than a decade marked by sharp national ascent, one is tempted to say that China simply made a pragmatic calculation that it was too weak to do anything about either of these situations and should therefore concentrate on quietly building its strength.

This it has certainly done, and today, as China’s self-regard has swollen, along with its newfound power, Japan has returned to the center of the Chinese gaze in the form of a bull’s-eye; the focus of Beijing’s approach to the country (and indeed to the entire sea-bound region that once defined the tribute system, and especially Vietnam and the Philippines) is to restore what from the perspective of the Central Kingdom is considered the natural order. This, it must be said, is not merely the preoccupation of the Chinese state, though. It has also increasingly become a consuming obsession of rising populist nationalism. Success or failure in this grand pursuit, therefore, will go far in determining the legitimacy of China’s leaders, from the assertive incumbent president, Xi Jinping, onward, and indeed could well decide the survival or failure of the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s ultimate goal, however, is not merely to restore a semblance of the region’s old order, an updated kind of tributary system in which the nations of Southeast Asia or even a wealthy and customarily diffident Japan will have no choice but to hitch their fortunes to it and bow to Beijing’s authority. A larger, more ambitious goal is already edging into view. This ambition, evident from behavior even if still not fully avowed, involves supplanting American power and influence in the region as an irreplaceable stepping-stone along the way to becoming a true global power in the 21st century. Shi Yinhong, one of China’s most prominent foreign policy realist thinkers, has written that Xi’s goal is “to give [China] a dominant role in Asia and the Western Pacific—at the cost of the US’s ascendancy.” In a conversation with me, he added, “The West shouldn’t think so much about integrating China into the Western liberal order, but rather try to accommodate China.” This, he said, would ultimately mean having the United States accept military parity with China in the Pacific, the ceding of what he called a “narrow but substantial span of strategic space” for China in the nearby seas, and a loosening of America’s alliance structure in the region.

Even though he is a respected insider, Shi’s vision is provisional and anything but official. It points us nonetheless toward perhaps the most important question there is in this era’s realm of international relations: What kind of power is China likely to become?


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Those stupid Mat Salleh…

For 2,500 years and taught by Aristotle they believe humans are a mind-body thing. So they began searching for the ‘Self’ wherein, it is taught and said, resides mind and body. Most of the time they found… nothing. Utter emptiness. Other times they found only Assholes (think of the Mufti of Pahang.)

Now, wait a minute, said one Harvard professor named Michael Puett. He had suddenly woken up, turned to the Analects by Confucius, only to discover 2,500 years late: Maybe, just maybe, there is no Self!

This, to gweilos, is revolutionary thought. It meant, for one thing, they can throw out their bibles, and along with it all the self-help books that Border bookshops stock in Malaysia for Malaysian Anglophiles (think Najib Razak or Helen Aku Cina Ang).

To Chinese, however, that there is no individual, innate, indivisible Self is plainly obvious. It was a bodoh idea from the West. Our masters and our fathers and their mothers before them have been saying the same thing countless times: We are endlessly, from Day One to Death, making and remaking out lives, our being, so that every preceding moment is forever different from the one that follows it.

It is call ‘cultivation’ la. There is no Constant; the Dao is here today, gone tomorrow, resurfaces, maybe, in another thought. Here, below, is how it begins, a classic in Chinese primary schools, scorned by those motherfucking Anglophiles (think of the Satu Sekolah types), and it is untranslatable:


Here’s another from the daodejing in English translation:

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Those lines seem incredibly natural and obvious. Yet it took gweilos (and Malays and Anglophiles) 2,500 years to figure them out. And they still can’t do it well. How is it that they don’t get it?

Answer: Aristotle and Plato. Both of them in combination had remodeled the early Greek notions of substance and origins of things then saying that, in a person, those things have ‘Forms’ (God as ultimate form), and ‘Purpose’ (Save Malaysia?), and  ‘Duality’ (good and evil).

Those ideas in the hands Augustine of Hippo (circa 350 CE) became ‘Faith’ and he is today regarded as the philosophical, intellectual buttress of the Christian faith. Even idiot American reporters today — this one named Ian Johnson of NYT for example — still regurgitate and make Faith synonymous with religion. (So, if gweilos have Faith, the Chinese must also have Faith aah?) That stupid gweilo Johnson…. And he gets paid to write such horseshit. People like Johnson don’t get it: the way of the Chinese, , the Dao, isn’t a matter of Faith because no Self presides over a religion or religious practices. There simply is no god, big G or small g.

That, of course, is a mystery to which the Mat Sallehs will die ignorant of.



Never mind them, Master. They know not what they do. Or shit.

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to the New World.

Say what one may about gweilos, but they do have a touch for the philosophical Good life and, to discover it, have the instinctive ability to smooth over its difficulties with exquisite arts and good music. Above, Judith Durham sings to a long, long journey that cannot be traveled alone. Below, in text, some moronic asshole Malaiyoo talks about how to laden and ruin it all with more rules to travel. Yet, before starting off, he is already blaming his problems on gweilos. Sigh…


I’d hold your hand / and be your Someone. 发誓.


On the Origin of Laws, specifically Malaysia’s Penal Code, Aidil Khalid, some lawyer it appears, has this to say:

These are laws imported from India which were taken from the British legal system. Some are based on the principle of morality and under the Christian principle. The Muslims never complained (about them).

But who let them in?

Aidil’s contention was made in a Bebas debate (some debate) on Hadi Awang’s 355 Bill. Present at which were, like Aidil, the lawyering types such as Haris Ibrahim. One would think that Aidil would be easy to crush: ‘Christian and you didn’t complain? No shit! So stupid of your Malaiyoo types to import those laws. Having done so, we are going to make damn sure we won’t make the same mistake twice, importing Arabic laws.’

Instead, all that Haris et al manage to respond was to go on and on with all the yada, yada about 355 religiosity as if Islam is a matter of rational debate. Haris would be better off to try reason with those head-chopping Saudi fascists and their ISIS collaborators.

The like of Aidil didn’t know it then, nor now, still, that cultural genocide — the complete eradication then replacement of a native culture by another — is a Western specialty later took up by Arabs and Muslims. Genocide is what happens when Malays are faced with a much more stronger — and dare one say, superior — force. Malays once lost to the English political system because they had none and they are now losing to the desert camel herders. But, whether they lose in politics or religion, it made for no difference; Malaiyoos are still done in.

If Malays had their own laws, or their own God to begin with, would they have needed to import any?

On the contrary, many of Umno’s apparatchiks even welcome the conversion from their infidel roots. Take that Malay moron and Nusantara supremacist Kadir Jasin. Today, he claims to be Muslim first and only after that is he Malaiyoo. We know why he would say that, of course: like ketuanan, Islam is taboo to touch, cannot be scrutinized, and if you as much as sniff at it, prepare for jail. Above all, it is a better tool than ketuanan to beat up the Chinese. They would say it is the fault of the Chinese if a Malay eats on puasa month. According to Ahirudin Attan (a supposed ‘liberal’) it is the fault of the Chinese girl if, on a puasa month, she wore short pants and the Malay oogling at her has bad, sinful thoughts: ‘Those Chinese are so insensitive,‘ he’d say. Heard that line before? Anywhere?

Now that Ahi’s liberalism and Kadir’s Great Nusantara culture (or what’s left of it) face their final threat of extinction, they have nothing to say. Not one fucking word from these coconut heads who otherwise will have a ready word for anything that concerns Malay existential survival.

Aidil may complain about having to inherit Christian laws but he says nothing about why that should be a bad thing for Malays. Whether the laws in Malaysia are Christian or Islam, they still emanate from a foreign God unless, of course, Aidil now says the two gods aren’t the same. And, if not the same, then the world is ruled not by a single omnipotent Power, the One, but by many, an idea clearly in conflict with Quranic statements or the Bible.

Saying that the Penal Code had Christian origins is not the same as saying the law is inferior because of its gweilo origin, especially since it was passed to an old Malay society that would have had been next to being lawless. Indeed Christian laws might have even delayed the complete subjugation and, thence, annihilation of Malay society. If not for Malaysia’s laws, Aidil et al wouldn’t be Muslim first and then Malay. Nowhere else, not even Saudi Arabia, would today’s Malay life be possible.

Confronted with that argument, Aidil would probably retreat to the only thing left to be said in defense of 355: hudud is only for Muslims. (But Christianity wasn’t; it was for everybody. Which was why Malaysia had it.)

If Aidil were to be true to his word that hudud is only for Muslims then Malaysia is in danger of being a corrupting influence on Islam because in ‘Holy Land’ Saudi Arabia, its Sharia is made applicable to all, Muslims and Christians alike. This is where Aidil lies through his teeth. His is the sort of lie advocated by their ustaz and imams who would consider hypocrisy and pretense as acceptable, even preferred value practices in their dealings with infidels in mixed, plural populations and settings.

Behind the For-Muslims-Only theory is the Quranic injunction that Muslims ought to live out their lives in Islamic fullness, that fullness being decided beforehand by coconut heads like Aidil and Hadi. The injunction is a minefield. Such a life, once made specific to another era and geography, had to draw support from the pre-Islamic traditions that were pagan, Jewish and Christian in their origins. Characteristically, today’s so-called Islamic laws produce the precise opposite of present standards of conduct; it reproduced the barbarity of the past (think also of the Inquisition). Such results implied that Allah’s omnipotent power has had messy consequences. It further infers that proper, socially acceptable conduct is impossible by individual acts of internal volition and so must coerced or forced out, by death and whipping if necessary. Just as Alice of Wonderland has seen and heard: ‘Off with his head’. It is very medieval Christian.

Small wonder, therefore, the like of Aidil have been endlessly offering justifications when promoting 355 — and justifications offered not to the Malays though, their primarily target audience, but to the Chinese. Which, if one were think it through, would be completely absurd: If indeed 355 is sanctioned by God, then there is no problem; passage into law is assured by the Omnipotent. And, if indeed 355 is so good and useful, why even bother placating other people, infidels in particular; its holiness ought to be self evident.

All of which suggests that Aidil et al knew beforehand that 355 isn’t merely an aberration in modern society. Rather, their proposed so-called Islamic laws are so completely deranged that they are left with only two means of ensuring its passage in Parliament: (1) force Malays into acceptance on the pain of being denounced then ostracized and, (2) tell the Chinese this is none of their business.

In telling the Chinese that Muslims have been tolerating Christian-based laws, Aidil is also offering the justification should Malays in future apply their religious rules on the Chinese. That is, they would say, infidels have no right to complain since this is all so holy and since Muslims have to put up with Jesus before, so can you with our Allah. To further strengthen those arguments, Hadi and Umno could even throw in this other piece of poppycock. Which is that, since more than half of Parliament, the majority, had brought about the law the minority must accept the decision: ‘It is the essence of democracy, you see. The majority prevails. So shut up or we will cut off your tongue.

Well, to Hadi, Aidil, Mah & Muh, their fellow Umno/Pakatan travelers, their Arabian tribe and their kafir apologists (think Helen ‘Aku Cina’ Ang) let this be said on the outset in case these towel heads still don’t get it: You want hudud? Fuck you.


Aidil’s inane attempt to segregate Malaysian laws on the basis of their Christian and Islam origins (even though they are rooted in the same past) also reveal an undercurrent in the secular (liberalism) versus religious (Islam) struggle within Malay society, a struggle forced now into the open by 355.

It is an old problem, pre-dating even Socrates and Islam certainly but peculiar to Western societies before, Malaysia today because of its late existence, its coming into being. (Ever hear about this fight in Japan, Korea or China?)

At the heart of which is the notional struggle that people can have only one God and He won’t tolerate a substitute, a replacement ideology much less. And, He must be obeyed. He is like the ghost haunting Malaiyoos since the day some unthinking pirate chief, who, too, must be obeyed, was hoodwinked by some Arab camel trader and Indian Muslim money changer. Exorcise Him from Malaysian life and everyone would be free. Imagine: Freedom!


Fold a straight line, what you’d get is the above. Consider, thus, the Islamists (PAS, Sabri Ismail) occupying the right end of the spectrum line and on the far left the liberals, of course. Fold that line, they meet. This is no coincidence. Liberalism and God run along the same track and share the same End, the same ultimate intention, and both possessing the same proselytizing zeal and eclipse qualities. Yet, both were made up by gweilos, beginning with Plato and Anselm of Canterbury and, after them, copied by Arabs.


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Death’s Lie

After Jian’s fifth suicide attempt, the daily routines and speech and thoughts and emotions that add up to the thing called ‘life’ shifted from attempts to live differently to being indifferent to living. When this indifference takes hold, it looks for Ways to go; actually alternate ways.

Jian had consumed poison used in the farms but this is a horrid, slow way out. It took almost six hours to empty the contents from her so that the ensuing torture looks like we were wrenching out the soul. Then when her exquisite beauty is mingled with and wrapped with the once invisible organ interior, as she lay in bed and we had to help her throw up, encourage her really, it suddenly dawns on you: the aesthetic loses. All appearances die, all the external that constitute the facade of a life are gone.

Still, death wins eventually. It will. It has only to wait for the next round. Beauty is an unfinished art which only death claims.

But, it is at that moment life appears like a well constructed, rehearsed lie so that all those around her — me, her father, doctors and nurses — are just ghosts, blurry figures one can make no sense of. All past has no meaning. Memories cease to exist. All distinctions between friend and foe, love and hatred, passion and cynicism are banished. There is just nothing before death.

It is also at that moment, one rediscovers when it is to be alive. And, when she came round on the third day, completely weakened but in partial possession of her senses — the things that make one come alive — it is a great moment to treasure. The phrase at the edge of death suddenly means something.


The Death of Bara (1794), Jacques Louis David. Musée Calvet, Avignon. The painting was probably unfinished. Had death come too soon?


I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last,
And since each day’s the same
There’s no longing for the past.

You have been so faithful,
So trusting and so true.
Though there were times you did some things
You knew you shouldn’t do.

So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I’m right here, in your heart.



the river in us…


death without regrets


Joey Culture

Goldman’s hedonist, nihilistic culture in a Malaysian

1MDB was, in truth, constructed around and on a pack of lies: all that talk of money, of jobs, of good things promised. All lies.


As Razak Baginda was to the French Scorpene submarine, Jho Low was to 1MDB; both fixers, both with Najib Razak, top boss to both.

Their two worlds would not differ by much: one Oxford, the other Wharton business school, both with lots of English, fake accent in Manglish; both government middlemen; deal making, overflowing in astronomical sums of monies, even by rich country standards, and Malaysia is not a rich country; lots of partying; surrounded by women, preferably blonde with little on; Razak with Altantuyaa, Jho Low, Paris Hilton.

One was implicated in a murder and got away. The other implicated in the theft of money and is free. Both are Malaysians but Malaysia might just be a name on a passport that Baginda could used in the the service of his ‘consultancy services’. He represented Malaysia as Jho Low would represent Najib Razak, symbol of the rich and connected and all powerful.

For a philistine, with next to no culture, each one made a lot of money out of a nothing-country.

Like the cultivation of their individual persona, there was a convoluted, international quality in each of their money trail, Hong Kong being central to both. Their registered companies, like their lives, have this plebeian, vulgar quality: Ombak, Good Star. There is even an absurdist syllabic trait in their company names, Low’s Jynwel, Razak’s Terasasi (a four-syllable eight letter word with four vowels).

Even their names ring with a vulgar tincture. Low Taek Jho, born 1981, age 35 today, Georgetown, Penang. Liu Tezuo 刘特佐 in hanzi.  Because he’d spent so much time among westerners abroad, he had to shorten and flip his name around to make sound like Joe Low, very Anglophile.

Here is Low trumpeting about Jynwel in Hong Kong he created in 2009

Jynwel Capital cultivates lifelong partnerships with significant investors such as leading sovereign wealth funds, major international investment companies and large family enterprises. With an in-depth understanding of the needs and objectives of our partners, we employ innovative solutions to identify unique investment opportunities and create mutually beneficial outcomes. This philosophy and approach reinforces these treasured partnerships and leads to long-term value creation.

Listen to those words, not read them. It’s the sort of language you’d hear inside pantries and the toilets of Goldman Sachs: “Hi, everybody!” says Joe in his three-piece Armani, still hot in the collar after a phone call to Putra Jaya. “We’re going to be motherfucking rich! That motherfucker Malaiyoo just signed!” Everybody hails Joe as the new rising Star. “Three fucking billion,” he replies to the cheering crowd. “I’ll show you the fucking money!

In speaking to the world, Jynwel, like Jho Low, isn’t to be read and understood because its message would be meaningless, grandiose in its linguistic style, abstracted in its vocabulary in order to be obfuscating. This had come straight out of Wharton Business School in the University of Pennsylvania where Low along with Seet Li Lin and a host of others dealing with 1MDB had graduated. Jynwel has to be felt: is he just a thief with a briefcase?

Seet loved that sort of language as well. He had described its style as “big on fluff, light on content”. He thinks that way is being smart — hahahahahaha six times over — and so congratulates himself to have done one of his “best pieces”.

You wouldn’t be able to tell should you meet Seet Li Lin, or the like of him, those bourgeois Joe wannabe, on Singapore’s Orchard Road, and shook his hands: fine on appearances, shit on the inside. Seet is Jho Low’s representative in Good Star.

Above, is the wonder of digital technology, stripping off Seet, all done in by himself, to unveil the extent of his narcissism, self-absorption, and self-congratulatory conceit.  In his language is that Wonder Boy self-importance, God-sent to fix a warped get-rich-quick system by ‘gaming’ it, but he contributes in turn to warping it further. The condescending trope echoes the self-aggrandizing and whiny prose and nihilist tone found all over Petra Kamarudin: ‘look at me, I was already smart when you were still sucking on your mama’s tits’.


Consider the following phrases: lifelong partnerships, leading sovereign wealth funds, in-depth understanding, needs and objectives, innovative solutions. It is, of course, not a crime to brag. But, are the meanings true? Or, do they exist primarily to create the allusion of wonderful things being performed, Jho Low dressing his Jynwel in foggy language to veil a dog-eat-dog world that, central to its purpose, is to cream off money going from one place to another, never mind from who or what.

Yet that’s the same system Seet whines about in his email.

Jho Low exalts the system while, on the other hand, Seet ‘games’ it. One life cancels out the other in an absurdist merry-go-round that Albert Camus would say, absurd to itself. And this always start with a lie, as 1MDB was a lie from the beginning.

In repeatedly attempting to end her own life, Jian instinctively understood that such were the consequences of the moral nihilism of our age. At least it was her own life, and this bothered no one. But in the nihilism of Jho Low and Seet, they couldn’t care less if they brought down a whole country with them. Nay, even the world.

Camus: He’d be shocked by the debauchery in the nihilism rocking this age.

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Breakup in Tumultuous Times

Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche (above)


Tumultuous times precede the breakup. Times like this (in Malaysia) require that you look elsewhere for hope. You find nothing, nowhere to hide, except to discover, those below, some pieces of gems in the New Yorker. Like looking at the chocolate bars in 7-Eleven when you are down and out and have no money, one cannot resist stealing them. But, these are excerpts from breakup letters by philosophers because you will deign to ask, one day: How earth they did it?  That question happens in case you ever need to know, and one must say that different situations lead to different approaches. In the end, though, which would you say is truest because, even in love, the differences are carried over from their philosophies. FN?

Start with Immanuel Kant…

For our entire relationship, I was absolutely and irrevocably miserable. I can see now that you used me purely as a means to an end. Don’t you know how that makes me feel? It is imperative that you reflect on the meaning of universal law, and stop doing that thing you did with your tongue. I hated that.—Immanuel Kant


What are we even doing anymore? With every passing day, you grow more isolated from your labor. We have not made love in over a month, even after I was cured of that rash, and was so certain that we would celebrate appropriately. I demand justice from this bourgeois hand-job hell they call “relationships.”—Karl Marx


Do you remember that day with the ducks? It was cold and rainy and the foreboding sky tried to seal our fate with each gust of wind. We hurried underneath the nearest awning, where we came upon a family of ducks nestled together, and I remember looking at you and thinking,
 “This can’t last long.” But what ever does? Listen to me when I say that just as a bee abandons its flower once pollination is complete, you too must move onward, or go under. One day soon you will meet a man, and he will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and it is my greatest hope that he will not give you syphilis.—Friedrich Nietzsche


It pains me to admit it, but Socrates was right about you. You are incapable of thinking about anyone but yourself. When was the last time you even came to see me lecture at the Academy? I have been lost in a state of denial for long enough. Now I finally realize that your love is not true. Your beauty is transcendent, yes, but painfully abstract. Leave me to grapple with the material world. Be gone.—Plato


I drink, therefore I am . . . drunk. Ha ha! I thought this would be easier after my sixth glass of wine, but alas, it is still absolutely terrible. Oh, how my world grows smaller when I think of you not in it, and—no, you know what? Let me start over. Philosophy is like a tree, and it has all these branches that extend outward, but you’re like a shrub. Cute and small, but not well versed in rationalist thought. Do you get what I’m trying to say?—René Descartes


My dear little girl, I visited the Balzac exhibit the other day and immediately knew what had to be done. I am terribly in love with you, and yet I despise you. Try to understand: I think of you in those small, delicate moments, like when a squirrel hurries across the allée or a homeless man pleasures himself in the bushes of les Tuileries. It might be time that you find someone else who shares your interest in morally evolved threesomes.—Jean-Paul Sartre


J.P., you are an ass.—Simone de Beauvoir


I will proceed to break down our relationship into three stages. Our first stage is defined by aesthetics. I walked down one of my favorite crooked streets in Copenhagen, watched you step out of a carriage, and knew I must have you. The second stage of our existence is an ethical one. While I desired to lay my eyes on your hidden flesh, I recognized that you had recently revealed your body and soul to my good friend Hans, and knew he would be pissed if I tried anything. Our third and final stage is religious. I did not care much for Hans, and so I seduced you. However, we have both committed a tremendous sin, and thus we must end this immoral though titillating tryst immediately. God bless.—Søren Kierkegaard


Say goodbye to my John Cocke!—John Locke


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