A Happy New Year?

It’s strange how a natural disaster that kills thousands can kill the festive mood. In case you didn’t know, (e.g. conscripted into the army and have no opportunity to keep up with current affairs,) I’m talking about the recent earthquake that hit Indonesia and the subsequent tsunamis that resulted from it.

Malaysia decided to do away with all major countdown events, while Singapore’s only broadcast station decided that it would not show the countdown live in respect to the victims. Therefore, last night was not a typical “NEW YEAR!!!”, but a “new year”.

It does make you think doesn’t it? Osama managed to kill four or five thousand people with his very elaborate twin-towers performance. The earthquake, however, with little effort, managed to kill over a hundred thousand.

What then makes us (most of us anyway) feel outrage at what Osama did, and none to this “natural” thing called earthquakes?

If man evolved from nature, like all other animals, are we not considered natural? If man kills another man — as does a snake kill another snake — how is it more unacceptable?

Man is not natural?

Perhaps one might argue that consciousness and self-awareness make us greater than the animals, and therefore beyond “nature”. But it has always puzzled me how we know we are conscious. There is an argument that states that simply by questioning our consciousness (or self-awareness), we prove that we are self-aware.

But if that’s the case, how do we prove that animals do not question their own consciousness? Whenever I look into my cat’s eyes, it seems as though he’s deep in contemplation. But because we communicate differently, he is unable to express whatever’s in his mind to me. Could it be that he is self-aware, but simply not showing it?

Man-made vs. Natural

When I took geography lessons, things were separated into “man-made” and “natural”. To me, that was a strange distinction to make. If an animal dug a hole, it was considered natural. If man dug the hole, it was man-made.

So what is it that separates man from animal? And what makes the killing of man by man so different from the killing of man by natural disasters?

Free will

The thing I believe to be the answer to the above two questions is: free will.

Animals follow instinct. They do not contemplate consequences, simply follow a set of feelings or instincts that guide them to doing what they do.

Natural disasters do not choose to happen, they just do. Man chooses to kill, and it is the picking of that choice that is condemned.

Choosing to kill

But then again, if man has free will, and can do what he wills himself to do, why are addictions so difficult to kick? Why do we eat when we are not hungry, even though we know we shouldn’t eat (if we are on a diet)?

In other words, does free will actually exist? or is it all an illusion that comes “naturally” to humans?

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