Hardware or Heartware

March 27, 2006

I was reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biography “Living History” during lunch today. And I came across this passage which was part of an article written by Lee Atwater.

Atwater, from what I understand from her book, was the principal architect of the Republican ascedancy in 1980s for both President Reagan & Bush’s campaigns. Shortly before he died of cancer in 1991, he wrote about a ‘spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society.’

That article inspired Hillary Clinton & when I read it today, well, I was inspired too.

Here’s the abstract:

“Long before I was struck with cancer, I felt something stirring in American society. It was a sense among the people of the country – Republicans and Democrats alike – that something was missing from their lives – something crucial … I wasn’t exactly sure what ‘it’ was. My illness helped me see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood.

“The 80s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime …”

Although this was written more than 10 years ago, I found it to be still true in today’s context, at least to me.

Many of us get so caught up in our daily pursuit for wealth, power & prestige that we lose our perspective of life. Wealth, power & prestige does not have to be the biggy stuff but still, it is apparent in our daily lives – at work & at home – comparing ourselves to our colleagues, neighbours, relatives – who has what, who has more etc.

I’m not saying that it is wrong. After all, we are brought up with this mantra drummed into most of our heads – “study hard, get good grades, get into a good university, get a good job, earn lots of money, find a compatible partner, get married, have a couple of kids, get a dog (pedigree no less), aim to buy landed property or a condo, then retire to enjoy life.”

But what happens to “love & respect all living things on earth, live life with compassion & integrity?” Chucked out the window?

Now, the recent happenings digust me. Especially, that Hooi fella who gets away with a 3-month jail term for torturing a helpless cat. Despite numerous protests in the media, his sentence doesn’t change.

What Hooi did was not just morally wrong. This man is a menace to society. Three months after his sentence, he is going to walk out of jail & continue to do what he does best – torture & kill defenceless animals. What’s next when the thrill of torturing animals ceases? I hate to be in his neighbours’ shoes because I will be living in constant fear of this monster, that one day, he may not just prey on the cats, but on my children, my mother & I.

Or the case of the neglected Alaskan malamute. The poor dog died and all the owner got for punishment was a fine of a mere $3,000.

And then there was a recent article about the 2 kittens posted on the MSN Singapore. Probably abandoned, got ran over by cars in a heavy traffic. Innocent lives lost in one of the most horrific way, just like that. That article shocked me beyond words. These kittens would probably have been alive if people are more socially responsible & aware of other lives apart from their own.

Interestingly though, I read somewhere that if one is caught touting fake goods, the jail term is 10 months, 7 months more for taking a defenceless animal’s life. Where is the logic? You ask. There isn’t, in my opinion.

But it is sad when legislation places priority on commercial crimes. It is sad when a country is so hang up on improving the hardware that heartware has to take a backseat. Sure, the improved hardware puts better food on the table and fancier clothes on our backs. But seriously, is that all we want?

You know, the kampung life ain’t that bad.

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One Response to “Hardware or Heartware”

  1. yskat said

    Hilary clinton should also make it clear that Lee Atwater’s statements were made from his own subjective position. The 1980s was a time of widening income gap. For many others, the only thing they could think of acquiring was their next meal. People living below the poverty line struck with cancer were refused treatment because they had no money, and would have died long before they could make such broad philosophical reflections. Social elites like Lee Atwater made so many acquisitions that there wasn’t much left for the rest of the country to acquire.

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