January 24th, 2013

happy girl

Some thoughts

International Law is the New Public Policy

I hate international law. My mind switches off when the professor goes through the relevant human rights treaties and provisions in international human rights law class (granted, my mind starts to wander after 10 minutes regardless, but anyway), and it took me longer than what was reasonable to remember the important UN Charter articles for the Use of Force class. Half of international law is politics. I think that law, first, is superior to politics; and second, as a matter of principle, should be independent of politics. On hindsight, I'm glad that I dropped International Law of Self-Determination because my conclusion from auditing that class was that the "right" to self-determination will exist when the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council allow it to exist, and I couldn't remember most of the General Assembly resolutions anyway. I can't take seriously a body of "law" that is unclear; sometimes unenforceable; significantly shaped by politics; constantly ignored by those whom it seeks to govern (i.e. states); often manipulated by those whose hands are unclean to justify their own misdeeds; and without actual legal consequences for breaches thereof. Of course, that is the nature of the beast, but wow, this beast has got to be one of the ugliest beasts of all-time. Not to mention - if the House of Lords (I forgot which judge) thought that public policy was an unruly horse, what would he make of international law?

The Bane of my Existence

Thinking about my exams, all crammed together in June, and closed book, makes me want to stab myself in the eye. Repeatedly.


I had a quick, rubbish lunch at the Benugo near me this afternoon. I couldn't cook because the wonderful management of my hall discovered some problem with the hobs in some studios and imposed a blanket ban on cooking last Saturday, and said to wait till "next week" for updates (I couldn't be bothered to adhere to their request on Monday and cooked twice, but ran out of groceries as a result); apart from sending some repairmen up to look at the hobs, I haven't heard from them since. Anyway, I had to go out for lunch which is always a source of irritation because there's nothing to eat around that would be adequate to satisfy my considerable lunch-time hunger, and I hate eating in crowded places, which I take as a given during lunch time. Hence, I settled for that Benugo place. The point of saying this is that the last time (and the first time) I was at Benugo was with my parents. I remembered this fact as I poked at my pesto pasta salad (tasted better than I had expected but for some reason, I had a massive stomach upset an hour after eating) and stared angrily at my LLM writing requirement form which I had to fill out with the topic of my elective essay and a brief statement of what it was to be about, which Dr K was to sign at the end of the afternoon's class (unsurprisingly, I put off filling it out until I couldn't possibly put it off any longer, partly because I was lazy, and partly because I didn't want to commit to a topic). I remembered the fact that the last time that I was at Benugo, I didn't like my food and my parents didn't really like theirs, and my dad kept talking about the food at another cafe chain called Eat which he liked; after that we took the Tube to the Tower of London which impressed them both - especially my mom, who stepped on the travelator to look at the royal family's diamond collection at least five times. I thought about this for a few seconds and in those few seconds, for the first time since embarking on this whole LLM journey, I felt a palpable sense of melancholy which I could attribute only to my missing them.

The Perennial Question

I fear that my rationality, apparently always latent even when my thinking was awfully immature, unprincipled and inconsistent, may be taking over my outlook on life and approach to life in ways that I didn't quite envisage. I don't think about the people back home any more than I have to because I don't want to be hampered by any sentimentality that may arise as a result, and when such sentimentality does surface, I push it aside as quickly as I can. In a way, it's a reasonable defence mechanism for someone who's living abroad by herself for the first time, in a completely alien continent, from which home is 12 hours away by plane. In another way, though, to some extent, a part of me genuinely doesn't really care about much beyond the fundamental ones. To put it explicitly: I can't remember when I started turning off my emotions, be it way before I even came to London or when I arrived here or when my parents left me after the first week; but they have been turned off for a really, really long time. I don't think about love, or friendship, or family; I don't seek out deep connections, just convenient ones that I can use to fill a certain self-defined quota of 'social time'. I don't think about my feelings; assuming, that is, that feelings is something that you can even think about. I can't remember the last time that I had a deeply emotional experience...but I'm willing to bet that it was a heartbreakingly negative one. Is it possible for a person to be predisposed to unhappiness? It doesn't cross the threshold to depression; it's more a general state of mind that recognises the instances when good feelings are triggered, but then lapses back into the default state of indifference and resignation to what this mind has rationally deduced to be true. I know that I have a bleak outlook on life. I defend it by saying that there is nothing inherently wrong with it, that it is not at all a given that life in itself is a good thing (in fact, I would go so far as to say that I find people who blabber on about the goodness of life and whatever shit and the gift of life utterly nauseating and blandly sentimental), that this is obvious to anyone who approaches the issue from a purely rational perspective. I defend myself by saying that I'm not unhappy as a result - which I think is largely true. Still, I find myself alone with a sense of resignation at certain times, wondering why the happiness that the utilitarians cherish so much and which most of us seek to have in our lives always proves so elusive.

Words of Wisdom, Words of Comfort

Julian Barnes: "She was there, alone, without defences, without distancing, irony, cynicism, she was there, alone, in simple contact, yearning, anxious, seeking happiness as best as she could. Why did it not come?"

The Only True Philosophical Question

Someone might ask me - if I think that it is not self-evident that life is inherently good and should be cherished, why do I not kill myself? That is the logical step to take - the logical conclusion, even.

I mean, it's simple. I'm scared. I owe a duty to my parents not to break their hearts. Have I mentioned that I'm scared? (Although, if you break it down even further, what's there to be frightened of? There's nothing after death; death is nothingness; to be afraid of death is to be afraid of nothing. But as Barnes said, it's usually the stages leading up to death that are frightening; the final moments of your life, when you are conscious that the end of nigh; even the years before that, when you're battling an illness or old age and your self is slowly being eroded by an uncontrollable nature or a callous, heartless time.) Let's also not pretend that I'm sufficiently unhappy to not want to be alive to further feed my expanding ego, or to go on more pointless but immensely satisfying intellectual pursuits, or to revel in the beauty of some parts of the world, or to have intimate conversations with the few people that I love who understand me, or to feel 3 seconds of sheer pride when I hit a backhand down the line from the forehand corner or hit an awesome inside-in forehand, or to have the opportunity to feel alive and inspired and awestruck and impressed when I read a work of literature that describes perfectly what it means, or does not mean, to be human.

I toyed with the idea of writing about the right to suicide for Dr K's class, but he thought that there wouldn't be much for me to say because there has been a lot written on it already. As a result, I picked the right to digital child pornography for the purpose of submitting my LLM writing requirement form. The thing is, I really don't give a fuck whether a paedophile can watch simulated child pornography or not, and neither do I care if some sicko can legally fuck a dead body. These two highly disgusting and controversial areas interested me purely as an intellectual pursuit; I have no personal interest in their actual legalisation in the real world (never gonna happen). Suicide, on the other hand, has personal resonance with me. It's what I have been thinking about for the large part of last year. Not suicide per se (or at all), but life and its intrinsic value or lack of it and how it's wrong that it goes unquestioned the assumption that life is a gift. It seems to me that such positions are taken subconsciously as a practical matter: you're alive, there's nothing that you can do about this fact short of killing yourself which may be problematic in countries like Singapore where attempted suicide is illegal and you may also happen to love your parents or partner or friends enough not to subject them to such heartache; what do you do then? Make the best of it. Be happy. Do things. Achieve things. Go places. Spend money. Buy things. Form connections. Do sports. Read literature. Do nothing. Do anything that makes life worth your time.

What happens when you can't? Is life worth living in and of itself, or is it worth living only if you can live it well? What happens when you can't? What happens when you're unable to live according to your self-conception?

Maybe I should re-think my stance on the death penalty on these grounds.

Snow is Beautiful



How can anyone hate it?

Sentimentality At Its Worst

I rolled my eyes so hard at some of the things that people said in the abortion class today. The suggestion that abortion is 'murder' is indescribably ridiculous to me. How do you 'murder' a group of cells? How can you equate a foetus with a fully grown human being? Even more offensive is the implication that there is something inherently morally wrong about the termination of a developing life. No, there isn't. Whoever can't see this would benefit from a re-adjustment of their philosophical understanding of life.

Also, the implication that a woman is morally reprehensible for not wanting to give birth to the foetus that she is carrying is simultaneously sexist and paternalistic. Not only is this a matter of choice and in my mind, an actual human being should logically trump a potential human being, it is also a matter of getting past the whole fuss about killing a living thing and considering whether there's any value in this thing being born in the first place. Before the first place, this thing wouldn't know the difference between having a life and not having a life, so it wouldn't be in a position to rue the chances it could have had if only the immoral, selfish woman had given birth to it. I'm not saying that everyone should think that life has no intrinsic value; all I'm saying is that there is no basis for anyone to shove this idea of life down someone else's throat.

Class Participation

Fuck this shit. Attempting to elaborate on the differences in approach taken by the US court and the German court with regard to the question of when life begins when pressed was not a great experience. I knew the distinction in my head; it jumped out at me as the most obvious and important difference between the two courts when I read the cases. I just couldn't string it together in an intelligible, intelligent-sounding and coherent manner under the slightest bit of pressure. This is becoming more and more obvious as a case of deep-seated fear of speaking in the company of what could be called a sizeable group of people. There is even a physical reaction to the activity, which includes, inter alia, increased heart rate and sudden instability in the hands. It's a miracle I managed to survive those times when I had to speak in open court, albeit they weren't anything substantive. (Speaking in chambers isn't that bad because it's just you and the judge/AR and sometimes the opponent, so it feels more like a conversation than anything more stressful.)

The End

Haven't prepared for tomorrow's classes. I am so tired. I need to shop. I need to go to bed.