Predisposed Bias?

Upon my return to Hong Kong from my summer Hawaii vacation, Japan Airlines provided me a plethora of newspapers during which I acquainted with an article from The Washington Post named ‘Dueling views after a Palestinian teen is killed’. The article reads the story of a Palestinian teenager tragically shot by an Israeli army commander, ultimately leading to his physical demise.

I was immediately presented with two sides of the situation: the Israeli commander only shot the teenager in the act of self-defense; the teenager merely throwing a harmless rock ‘symbolising Palestinian resistance’, ‘posing no lethal threat’, being met with an unfortunate (some might say – out of line) punishment.

While the language of the article suggests an undeniable note of underlying bias towards the Palestinian teenager, clearly rhetorically asking the reader, ‘Could rocks really pose a serious, lethal threat to armed, trained and protected soldiers?’, I cannot help but understand that the Israeli commander did what had to be done, and indeed, in self-defence.

I understand that many would sympathise with the Palestinian, yes, I agree that if his aim was legitimately only to throw rocks to show Palestinian resistance, he did not deserve to be killed. He could’ve grown up, acquired a wealth of knowledge and eventually leading Palestinians to justice and peace. He could’ve even been a great father to an adorable newborn with a beautiful wife, leading an enchanting life. He did not deserve to have his future hurled away from him, catapulting into a trap of death, as if it were a petty rock.

However, that is not all. They often say, ‘to truly understand what someone went through, walk a mile in their shoes.’ So imagine, for no more than a moment, that you fight in the shoes of the Israeli officer, in completely foreign ground, away from your family, witnessing a concerto of bloodshed and uncalled for injury accorded to innocent civilians. The only instrument keeping you fighting being the hope that this would bring about peace and justice to your country, as well as the harmony of making your family proud. In the middle of your mission, you are in a sea of riot, unable to determine the enemy from the civilians. Order is out of question as you are hit with a hard, oval-shaped object. Your years of militant training have guided you to instinctively regard the alien object as an item of danger. A bomb. It is impossible to ascertain if the alien item is an item of danger, the most prudent and rational solution is to eradicate the source that poses lethal threat, and in an adrenaline-fuelled millisecond, you shoot the man, to protect yourself.

Conceivably, the method of execution is not beyond miscalculation, but it was and is the only solution, the teenager could’ve very well been aiming to take down the army with a bomb, and you would’ve saved not only yourself, but your men and your country. However, like all man-made actions, nothing is impossible and this, unfortunately, was the product of a miscalculation, leading to the death of an innocent.

Both parties of the scene were acting on what they thought was right, even though their definitions were different. As readers, we are usually quick to assume that the ‘bully’ doesn’t have a reason, and are even faster to conjecture that the ‘bully’ is indeed the ‘bully’, but it is not always the case. Was this an act of self-defence nonetheless, or was this the prejudice outcome of a powerful man in a crowd of powerless people? Is right and wrong, black and white? Grey? Or a completely different colour?’

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‘Truth’ – What is it?

My father, being an agnostic even with a background of attending Catholic schools, still doubts the validity and perhaps, also genuineness of Christianity itself. On the other hand, Uncle Alan was brought up with deep rooted Christian teachings, to an extent of which it may seem that Christianity is melded together with him, and that the words of God, the Bible and the church are all that surrounds him.

Needless to say, when they are put together, their views clash and hence a religious dispute often rises. This time, it wasn’t about whether God was real or if the other religions are wrong. Instead, the topic was set on how my father did not understand the teachings of Christianity and that if it were so hard to decipher, even for someone having received a substantial means of education, are the Christian followers merely following without a complete understanding of their religion?

Uncle Alan then proceeded to explain, ‘Without a doubt, Christianity is something difficult to comprehend, one man is not expected to understand the complexity of which is bestowed upon God’s plan. God’s plan is mysterious and though at times it may seem flawed, we shan’t lean on thou’s own understanding and believe that God is intending to hurt his children, instead we should view it as God testing our faith, which is why it is difficult to interpret or accept. People of simplemindedness may not completely grasp the whole concept of Christianity, but so long as they understand that God is the truth and to always believe that God is the righteous path, they shall go to heaven and be granted a good and safe life.’

With the stubbornness and curiosity of my father, he questioned ‘Should there be a God, would his true religion be so difficult to discern that it is humanly impossible to wholly apprehended? Could you even call the followers ‘true’ followers if what they are doing is blindly and naively believing?’

I then decided to embark on the discussion with much candor (not to mention, my amateur knowledge of religion), ‘It might not be Christianity that is difficult to understand, it could perchance merely be the version that you have been taught (Catholicism) that seems perplexing to you. Unlike liberal Christians, Catholics lean not on their own interpretation of the Bible, rather, they are taught the definition set by their church. Perhaps it may only be their version that you cannot fully grasp the essence of, not the actual religion.’

Defending his church, Uncle Alan argued, ’There are not many versions of Christianity. There is often a misconstrued definition of ‘truth’, many seem to think that there are many ways to the truth but in fact, theres just 1 truth, the truest truth, all other ‘truths’ are false.’

I began to ponder, was Uncle Alan contradicting his faith, saying that the other branches his same religion are based on falsified ‘truth’s? (unfortunately, this question remained unanswered). Afterwards, I rebutted, ‘I don’t agree, I believe there are different ways to interpret the truth of a matter, for example, if I say the colour of that car is purple, and the person next to me says the car is a colour of the mixture -blue and red, should both of us not be telling the truth, more precisely, the ‘real truth’?’

The response of Uncle Alan was met with a disappointing sigh, followed by an exasperated yet calm reply of ‘I can only hope you study further into the religion and may your questions be answered one day and you be converted to the faith.’

I was left with the cliffhanger, ’Is there only 1 truth? Could there be many versions of the truth? Shouldn’t the truest truth be defined in only 1 manner? What leaves the other definitions? Are they lies?’