Don't get me wrong - the Tube still irritates me and the weather is horrible, and I can't help but feel that I'm paying an exorbitant amount for my programme just to be told that I can't do some of the things that I want to do. Still, I have got over the initial adjustment period; I have made enough friends to keep my social life sufficiently occupied without devoting too much time to going out and spending too much time by myself such that I get lonely (I don't anymore); and I am beginning to get the sense, over the past few weeks, that I may have just stumbled on what I was looking for - what I was hoping I would find - when I came here.
I wrote the following in this entry:
I am at my worst in terms of personal growth when I don't feel intellectually engaged. I like to form an opinion on issues after analysing them from different angles, and I like to present my opinion and defend it when under attack. However, due to my single-minded nature, there are very little things that I care about in this world and which I view as important, and everything else that doesn't fall into this category is trivial to me. I couldn't give less of a fuck about commercial matters - banking, taxation, fucking intellectual property which I honestly believe is the scourge of human existence, etc. After working for two years in two different jobs, both of which had little to do with what I really enjoy, I have come to the conclusion that if I do come back to Singapore after my Masters, it would be with my tail between my legs, my tears streaming down my face, and my white flag in my hand, admitting defeat and settling for a mundane, uninspiring life.
I don't want to settle, you see. What's the point of being alive if you're just going to settle? I can't stay here because the opportunities as I see them are utterly unpalatable to me. I am therefore leaving and hoping to find opportunities in a vibrant, truly world-class city that hopefully would inspire me the way my previous two jobs laregely failed to. When I worked as a lawyer the dominant emotion that I felt was despair; when I was in the statutory board the dominant emotion I felt was nothing. Between the two, I'd take despair; but I'd rather have a third option - hmm, I don't know, joy, maybe. Is that too much to ask out of life? I don't want to be resigned to being stuck in a job that I go to for the sake of going, of having a job for the sake of it; I'm too fucking young to feel resignation. I'm 26, not 30, not 35, not 40. I have more of a brain than the average person and I don't want to settle. I don't want to be confined within the boundaries of this tiny island and the limited opportunities that it offers. I don't want to fall back on my degree and my professional qualification and go back to the private sector just to earn a decent living working in a job that I don't like. If that were to happen eventually, it has to be on my own terms; it has to be because I tried to get a better deal for myself and failed. It cannot be because I was too much of a wuss to be different and defy the conventional wisdom that no one really likes their job; that life is simply about making good money and starting a family and rearing children and retiring into the sunset (if you're fortunate enough to retire at all) and never stopping to think for a second what it is that you want, what it is that you have achieved, why the hell you're even alive.
I have been feeling really inspired the past few weeks. I don't know what triggered it; I've liked this class since Week One, but I've been thinking about it pretty obsessively for the past two weeks. It started off as a vague idea to do the elective essay in lieu of the exam for this course which I discussed with the professor, who said that it wasn't entirely stupid, which I took as a good sign to seriously consider dumping the dissertation and do this and make it up to myself after the course ends and develop it into a publishable paper (assuming, of course, that I get a distinction for the essay - but this is the natural assumption to make because it's the only thing worth aiming for). Somehow, I started thinking about how this largely European model of constitutionalism and rights adjudication, which originated from Germany, which my German professor whole-heartedly supports, which he calls "global" in the title of his book, is relevant, if at all, when it's considered or thought about in Asia. Since Asia is arguably not a meaningful idea apart from its geographical construct precisely because it is so diverse, I started wondering if there was anything to be gleaned from constitutionalism practices in a liberal democracy, namely Taiwan, as compared to an illiberal one, namely Singapore.
I didn't need my professor to tell me today (yesterday evening) that the idea is too broad for an 8,000-word essay; but he did say that it sounded like a Ph.D. thesis. I was kind of glad he said that; I didn't know how I was going to bring it up without feeling quite embarrassed, because the mark that he gave me for my essay shook my confidence a little. In any case, what I am trying to say here is that I genuinely think that there might be something here - that I might have just stumbled on that which I was hoping to find when I wrote the entry and when I came to London.
I haven't felt this inspired in a really long time (I would say since my final year in law school but I honestly don't remember at the moment what I felt back then). I'm quite aware of the really distinct possibility that I would lose interest or change my mind or decide that I'm too stupid or fail to find an interesting enough angle or discover something in the subject area that throws me off (it's sort of happened; I did some brief reading-up on Taiwan's constitutional decisions and discovered that 1) the actual decisions are in Chinese which I found nearly impossible to read; 2) it appeared that the long, elaborated judgments are the dissenting judgments while the main opinions are fairly short; and 3) Taiwan's Constitution is modelled after the German Basic Law, which I knew but forgot, which probably means that Taiwan uses proportionality too...though I do wonder if there's any jurisdiction in the liberal democratic, rights-committed world that doesn't use it, apart from the US), so it's too soon to say with any meaningful confidence that I have definitely found what I'm looking for.
Nevertheless, it's a start. It feels really good to have some sense of direction for once over the past three years and not feel like I have no idea what I want to do with my life and give waffly answers to questions of that nature. I mean, my answer will still be waffly - "I don't know, work in an international organisation? Maybe go into academia? I don't know? Tee hee hee?" - but the difference now is that it's only outwardly waffly. Before I even contemplate that, however, I need to come up with an essay topic. My professor pretty much said that he's not going to be interested in reading an essay that reaches the dead-obvious conclusion that Singapore doesn't protect human rights ("Boring," he said) and he said that I should find an interesting angle that ties in with the theoretical aspects of the course.
I think I may just abandon this section 377A thing completely. How am I supposed to write about a judgment that doesn't even exist yet? I don't expect the judgment to be out any time before my programme ends, considering the challenge hasn't even been heard and my Court of Appeal case took a whole year to be decided, because the other appeal in the suit was quite an important one on insider trading laws. Given the seriousness of this constitutional challenge, the judgment is probably going to come out in 2014 or something (though, quite frankly, there's only one correct way to decide it; the only two interesting questions are 1) will the Court of Appeal do the right thing? and 2) what approach will the CA take to decide the issue?). In any case, I was thinking that I'm a bit too familiar with this issue to be properly challenged when I write the essay anyway, so it's not too much of a loss.
I really like Dworkin though, so I may tackle that again; or rights in illiberal democracies; or the juggernaut of whether there are any absolute rights which I found really, really stimulating. Clearly, there's lots to think about when I go home.
Moving on from the academic aspect of this entry and on to what I wanted to talk about before I got sidetracked by my essay issue, and using this as a trigger point: I kind of love how I said "definitely not Singapore" when my professor asked me where I might want to do my Ph.D. The thing is, I'm due to fly home on Monday, and while I am looking forward to seeing people again (boyfriend, family, friends), the truth is, I don't really want to go home. I escaped from a lot of crap in Singapore when I left and I am not really looking forward to going back and dealing with it. I'm actually really happy in London. I love it here. I feel like a different person; even superficial things like speaking Singlish to my Malaysian coursemate felt really weird; and I think I'm getting used to my weird accent that I somehow managed to develop over the past 11 weeks so that the non-Singaporeans can understand me. I don't know what it's going to be like when I return, if anything is going to be different.
That's just the short term though, which will be manageable whichever way it goes. The long term, however, is a different story: it is utterly inconceivable right now that I would go back to Singapore and back to the same mundane shit when I finish my programme. I can't imagine going back to the same box, the same routine, the same ennui, after I have experienced all this freedom and inspiration in London. It would feel like taking so many steps back; it would feel like London never happened.
I am hopeful in the same way that I was despondent and uninspired over the past 3 years in Singapore. I am so happy that I decided to do this. I can't imagine going back.
I think I wanted to write more about not wanting to go home but I'm really tired right now. I also wanted to write about Nietzsche but, shit, I don't remember what I wanted to say and I'm seriously sleepy. I was sleepy 3 hours ago but was too lazy to move my ass to shower until 1.30 a.m. and I've been writing this from 2 a.m., and it's now 4 minutes to 3.
Oh yes, I wanted to say something about Nietzsche's subversion of Kantian morality (which is, in a way, a secularised version of Christian morality - I mentioned in my disastrous essay that the categorical imperative is almost a reformulation of the Christian golden rule, 'Do unto others...' you know the rest) and how this morality that claims to be universal is actually a result of social conditioning...I tried to read the Genealogy of Morals but I gave up after 7 pages because I was really sleepy. I might go back to it; I find him fascinating. I don't think I agree that there's no universal morality because I think that human beings are essentially the same despite the obvious inequalities, and I am actually quite partial to Kantian morality; I like the idea of an act being morally worthy only if it's performed out of duty despite your own whims and inclinations, and not out of an inclination to do good or out of a feeling of compassion for a fellow human being. My professor said that it presents a pretty chilling view of a robotic human being who has no feelings and simply does good acts out of a sense of duty, and it is a pretty self-denying account of morality; but I see a lot of attraction in it. I don't think the cyborg was what Kant had in mind as the ultimate moral creature; I think it has to be right that acting out of a sense of duty, or because it's the right thing to do, even if you don't want to do it, makes you truly moral. It's easy to do the right thing when you are inclined or when you feel some satisfaction from it; the test of a truly moral person has to be his choice of course of action when he doesn't feel like doing it.
Nietzsche thinks that this idea of morality is crap and that it weakens the human person precisely because of its self-denying nature, sort of. I'm not sure what he advocated; too tired to read up and I have lost my train of thought anyway.
I must say that Jurisprudence, while the hardest class by far, is so, SO interesting. I'm really glad I took it despite my struggles with it and the fact that I have not the slightest damn idea what I'm going to write for the 50% essay that I have to do. I'm probably going to do something on Kant because he came up quite a bit when I was doing my Theory of Human Rights Law reading; in fact, the German Constitutional Court used Kant's directive not to use people as means as an interpretational principle to interpret the absolute right to human dignity in the German Basic Law...