Monday, June 09, 2003

perfect multicollinearity exists when one or more of the regressors are perfect linear combinations of the others. =) ok, so i'm starting to find metrics cool and fun, if purely out of self-defence - otherwise my brain would explode from all this unenjoyable stuff i'm attempting to stuff into it [like a christmas goose!] before the final on tuesday morning.

Question Of The Day: What Is A Civilisation?

my contention is that a civilisation is defined by the way a group of people conceptualise reality - how they make abstractions from reality, how their worldview is formed, how they produce meaning out of events. it's more than what language they speak, what their geographical boundaries are, or even what philosophical texts they read - though those are probably going to come closest as an indicator [i want to say estimator] of what outlines a civilisation. language is of course a powerful component of any civilisation: it is a means of transmission for the civilisation, it is the way in which thoughts and ideals and behavioural patterns are communicated between peoples and between generations. a written language, one might argue, is the hallmark of civilisation - maybe there's room to argue even that each linguistic family really marks just one civilisation, rather than being an overarching body that holds within it several civilisations. [i am going to be so glad when i no longer live on 60th St, and feel the insane urge to dive for the ground whenever i hear tyres squealing outside. drive-by, anyone? -shudder-] geographical boundaries are convenient when they are contiguous, like in the case of the east asian civilisation, or the south asian civilisation, or the american civilisation [i'm highly doubtful of the word 'civilisation' when applied simultaneously to both China and America. i mean, honestly -- i guess it's leftovers from when the word was coined as a means of separating the great from the not-so-great, back in colonial times]. and civilisations tend to be contiguous. but then you run smack into the problems of european civ - sure western europe is all in one place on the map, but it's also spreading its tentacles all over the world in the colonial period -- is singapore somehow part of the western european civilisation because it was colonised by the british? what about all the Dutch influence in our part of the world? hmm.

for example, i'm perfectly willing to contend that japan, china and korea all share the same civilisation -which i'm going to call chinese, for convenience, purely because you can trace chinese influence back to the beginnings of japanese and korean history, at least from the time in which an entity called 'Japan' came into existence. and korea has always acknowledged its place as China's Little Brother. all three countries were shaped by the same core texts: the Confucian classics shaped the ethics of a society, the mental processes of the various peoples in almost comparable ways. they exhibit the same social structures, albeit in slightly adapted ways: a hierarchical society based on a patriarchal primogeniture, a aristocratic scholar-gentry, a centralised state bureaucracy centred around that very scholar-gentry. i would like to argue that Japan China and Korea are all members of an East Asian civilisation rather than claiming that each of them is a civilisation in itself. otherwise the word 'civilisation' would be no different from the word 'culture' or perhaps even the word 'nation-state'. it needs to have a bigger, more abstract meaning to have any real use in this argument.

final thoughts on the rise and fall of civilisations: to quote Mao Zedong, when asked about the effects of the French Revolution: 'It is too soon to tell.' -- civilisations need to be dead before we can comprehensively and conclusively state that they are 'declining'; otherwise, as living breathing entities shaped by the behaviour of living breathing people, who continue to adapt their pasts to suit their futures, civilisations are constantly evolving creatures, and studying a 'civilisation' that is still in existence is in a way looking at a photograph of a moment in time and generalising from that one picture a whole movie of lifetimes. how can you really define a moving target?

on quite another note:

(1) i have snickers bars, precious precious snickers bars, that are currently awaiting my greedy fingers in mr. staniland's room; and
(2) my pretty nightgown from VS has arrived and it is so girly, i feel like a tiny child again wearing it. awwww...


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