Monday, February 27, 2012

One-sided Compassion & the Case of Lynas

It is unfortunate that many people cannot see issues objectively. They will support just because they are more pro-government, or they will object just because they are more sympathetic to the opposition. We let our objectivity fly out the window. On the issue of Lynas, I am wondering whether the protestors know that many of the equipment they use on daily basis have some rare earth in it. The ipods, tablets and smart-phones that they use to post messages on Facebook also has rare earth in it. Without rare earth as parts of the components, we probably would not be able to use these things. And we happily use these gadgets even though there we are protesting against Lynas. Somebody has to dig the rare earth and process it for the manufacturers to use it in the tablets and smart-phones that we are using. I understand that rare earth is also used in medical equipment, and that means saving potential lives. But we don’t care if the plant in China is processing this rare earth, so long as it is not in Malaysia, right? That is our attitude – a one-sided compassion. There is this thing known as “No demand, no supply”. As long as people demand for products that uses rare earth as its components, then there will be companies and people working in these plants. And there will be people who will be exposed to any radiation, if any. These people are “risking” there lives for our products. Do we care about others, if the plant is not in Malaysia? I see this kind of rare earth plant as less “dangerous” than having a nuclear-powered plant in Malaysia. If people cannot even accept a rare earth plant, how can Malaysia ever have a nuclear-powered plant? Never. But nuclear energy is optional, as there are alternative sources of energy such as hydro-electricity. Are there any alternatives to rare earth? Can we use other things in our electronic components, instead of rare earth? I am not so sure. If we really care about not having any rare earth plant in Malaysia, we must also show our care for the people in other parts of the world where there is this plant. And also we should not be using products that use this rare earth. Stop using your computers. Can we do that? As much as I do not want a plant spewing radiation at my backyard, I also realize that my compassion so far is one-sided. I am still using computers, which has rare earth components in them, very much and I will be very hypocritical if I were to join the protest against Lynas. But at least I do realise this much, which many people don’t. They turn it instead into a political platform and not realizing that they also form part of the demand-supply chain for rare earth. The right thing to do is to allow the UN atomic agency to do their job of monitoring the proposed Lynas plant in Malaysia and having it a distance away from any town/village. I read in the papers that someone suggested having it in the middle of a desert. But that will only hike up the cost of rare earth sky-high. That means, the cost of our computer gadgets and tablet PCs will also be affected. And when this happens, many people will be wondering why there is inflation? Actually we ourselves are the cause of inflation. I still think using safer alternatives to rare earth is still the best solution.
We should start seeing worldly matters from all angles. Only by practising seeing issues from many angles, can we eventually be able to see spiritual issues from all angles. We must rise above partisanship and go beyond political rhetoric. It is only when we are able to see things in their proper perspective and not be carried away by all the hype that we can truly be a Bodhisattva like Kuan Yin, who as the Thousand Eyed One, is the embodiment of someone who is able to see everything in its proper perspective. With his thousand hands, he is able to help many sentient beings. That is why he is the All-Sided One. Not like us, who only see things from our own narrow, egoistic and emotional side.  If we hope to be a great Bodhisattva like Kuan Yin, we must get rid of our selfish prejudices and learn to have all-sided compassion, and not merely one-sided ones. To only protest having the plant in Malaysia but does not think about the plants elsewhere in the world is as one-sided as those who protest against cruelty to animals / the eating of shark fins but happily eats meat. To the latter, the slaughter of chickens and pigs is not cruelty? To be a Bodhisattva, one-sided compassion just doesn't cut it!  

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