Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflection on South Korea Ferry Disaster

I read with much sadness the reports surrounding the recent ferry disaster in South Korea. I have flashbacks every time I read similar news (eg. M370 disaster) and this time, I felt it even more deeply given that my own near-death experience (in a plane accident crashing into the sea) also happened in South Korea. I can only imagine the trauma and helplessness the passengers must have felt during those life & death moments, and my thoughts go out to the family members of the victims in this tragic accident.

In any case, I came across this report on Straits Times and the following paragraph caught my attention:

"..."Obedient" students on the ship are among the missing, while "disobedient" students survived..."

This is possibly the most stark example of the perils of blindly following orders. Sometimes, established rules, norms, instructions, orders or advices, can be the exact opposite of what you should do, even if they come to us with good intentions. Indeed, rules are at best, poor substitutes, and at worst, coward shield from critical thinking.

Thing is we live in a dynamic world, whereas rules are often derived in a linear fashion. Even rules themselves change all the time, as conditions change.

As Keynes once remarked, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Having an independent mindset is one of the things I value most in life, and a quality I respect most in others. Often, this virtue is being branded as arrogance.

I suppose it's always a fine line between idiocy and brilliance. But as this tragedy in Korea shows, when it comes to survival, matters of life and death, all this social pretence should all go away.

What truly matters is what you really think, and how you will act upon it. And then you bear the rewards and consequences of your actions, as you rightfully should.  

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