Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tort Law and the issue of suffering

One of the saddest areas of law that one can study is that of tort law. Torts deal with issues involving injuries caused by one party to another party in civil society. This can be intentional, in the case of battery, or unintentional, in the case of accidents due to negligence of one or more party. The role of the court in such cases is to make the liable tortfeasor compensate the injured party to such an extent as to restore him or her to his or her previous unharmed condition. The way in which the law seeks to achieve this, of course, is compensation in cash.

While compensation in cash does have its uses, such as allowing the injured party to obtain the necessary medical treatment to cure him of his injuries, or to receive the financial support due to the loss in earning capacity from him being injured, it also has its limitations. There are some forms of injuries that no amount of money would ever resolve. Money cannot bring a dead man back to life. And the victims of torts sometimes have to live their lives with the pain and suffering.

What strikes me from reading the tort cases, is the realization of my own susceptibility and vulnerability to forces of incapacitation. I have been reading on cases of torts in aviation law. A man could be sitting in a plane in a section that is close to a non-smoking section, and because of the pervading second-hand smoke into his non-smoking compartment, die from the inhalation. A woman could lose a hearing after what is the normal occasional depressurization of the passenger cabin during flight. Another man or woman could simply be taking a flight from one destination to another, and suffer from the effects of deep vein thrombosis leading to stroke and paralysis a few weeks after. And if you think about it, such individuals could be anybody. It could be you, it could be me. There is just no reason stemming from a deficit in care by the individual to avoid his or her contracting such a condition. And the repercussions are serious, leading to loss of life, or pain and suffering for the remainder of one’s life. Sometimes, the compensation is not adequate as well, or are unrecognized by the court for one reason or another. Such was the case of that woman who lost her hearing from that plane depressurization episode, because the court found that it was due to her own internal predisposition that resulted in her deafness. It’s life affecting, but there is just no compensation to be had.

I also wonder how to think about my Christian faith in light of all these knowledge that I come across in my reading of tort law. Should I say to myself that I should trust God more because there is only so much I can do to prevent such injuries to myself, and I should appeal to God to avert such injuries to myself? Or should I say that there is no point trusting God in ensuring my well-being since he has failed to protect the well-being of so many other individuals as well? Indeed, I have suffered injuries to my health, and I don’t think I was in anyway dismissive of God when it comes to wanting him to protect my well-being then. Yet, I have to contend with the fact that I am living with these injuries to my health.

I just think that the most prudent approach to take regarding such things in life is to take reasonable cautions when going about one’s life. It would be remiss to say that one should just trust God, and not worry about harm coming one’s way. Yet, one should also realize the susceptibility of oneself to such ills in life that may very well be caused to oneself through no fault of his or herself. I am not sure though what one can do about it. I pray to God, partly simply out of self-interest that I wish that God can control such circumstances to avoid such ills upon myself, but I am not truly sure whether God is doing anything or is effective at all. But then again, I can’t dismiss the possibility that God has been protecting me from various harms that I am just not aware of, even though he may not have prevented certain harms upon me. Yet, I can’t discount the fact that bad things do happen to good people, and God seems not to be doing anything to help. It is precisely because this is so that we have such societal measures as social security and insurance, and a legal system of tort to try to ameliorate the hardship of individuals. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Did Satan want Jesus to be crucified?

The pastor at my church was giving a sermon on the passage of Matthew 16:21-23 last Sunday. In that passage, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. His disciple, Peter, rebukes him by saying that such an outcome shall not happen to Jesus. Jesus, in turn, rebukes Peter by saying “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

The message of the sermon was about how God’s plans may differ from the plans that we think God has. However, what caught my attention was the pastor’s claim based on the passage that Satan’s plan was always to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus and thereby avert the salvation of humanity that comes with the death of Jesus. This differs from what some other speakers I have heard say about Satan’s plan being always to kill Jesus.

One part of the bible that I think lends argument to that view that Satan wanted Jesus crucified is Luke 22:3, where Satan entered Judas Iscariot and made him confer with the chief priest on how he may betray Jesus.

One attempt at an explanation of this apparent incongruity that I have encountered is in this transcript of a sermon by John Piper who says that Satan saw his efforts to divert Jesus from the cross failing. Therefore he resolves that if he can’t stop it, he will at least make it as ugly and painful and as heartbreaking as possible. Not just death, but death by betrayal. I can’t say that I am too convinced by this explanation. It seems too petty a reason to me for why Satan would make this last-minute ditch at his attempt to avert Jesus’ death on the cross.

My impression of the matter has always been that Satan wanted Jesus killed, but was outwitted instead when Jesus’ crucifixion brought salvation and his subsequent resurrection instead of his eternal death. One view that I proffer is that Jesus was not really talking to Satan when he rebuked Peter. It was simply an allegory of how Peter’s plan is such an impediment to Jesus’ own plan to be crucified, that it is akin to something from the devil. I don’t think that Peter was necessarily being possessed by the devil when he said those words. Jesus’ words were only meant to be a stern rebuke to Peter. However, the real Satan does want Jesus dead, but just didn’t know that Jesus was making use of that plan to obtain salvation for humanity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Law of Evidence : Thoughts on rules of admissibility, and character evidence

The law on Evidence is really an interesting topic actually. There are all these concepts governing the procedural aspects of evidence in court, like whether it is admissible. The rule of thumb is that an evidence is relevant so long as it has probative value to the issues at hand, but may be excluded if the judge deems that the prejudicial effects of the evidence outweighs its probative force. So for example, a person’s bad character would not be admissible because it would prejudice the jury into assigning greater weight in their evaluation of the accused’s guilt than what might have been so should the evidence not have been admitted. But there are the catches. For example, prosecution is allowed to adduce evidence of an accused’s bad character if the defence raises arguments bolstering the defendant’s good character. The rationale is that the prosecution should be allowed to attack the accused’s character if it is part of the case of the defence that the accused’s good character makes it less likely that he committed the crime.
I have some thoughts about this. The first one is whether evidence in favour of the accused’s good character should be admitted in the court of law in the first place. Isn’t evidence of good character similarly prejudicial as evidence of bad character? So let’s say, a person accused of committing a crime has a record of being a good public citizen like participating in community works or things like that. How does this exactly help the defence case that the accused has not committed the crime in question? If it is going to be argued that it is less likely that someone of upright reputation or standing in his community has less likelihood of committing a crime, then why can’t it be similarly argued that someone of bad reputation has a greater likelihood of committing a crime.
Perhaps the rationale for allowing good character evidence in the first place is because it has indeed great probative force in the defence case that the accused did not commit the crime, whilst this does not apply so much to bad character evidence. No one is totally all bad or good. But if he is generally good, he will not do bad. While if there are some bad in a person, it does not mean that he is all bad throughout.
But if this is the case, then shouldn’t there be circumstances whereby a defendant should be allowed to adduce evidence of his good character, without entire records of his misdemeanor or mud-slinging allegations by any Tom, Dick, or Harry, to be casted upon him? As the law is, once the defendant decides to present evidence of his good character, the gloves are off, and either the prosecution or the co-accused can impugn the accused’s character.
There is a quality about how the law of evidence works which seems pretty ‘gamey’ to me, in the sense that how the case turns out depends on the strategies used by either side in presenting his or her case. I dislike the idea that law is simply a game between lawyers. But perhaps there is a way in which such intricate procedures are necessary in an adversarial legal system as Singapore’s, and ultimately beneficial to the objective of obtaining justice.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School – Questions about the concept of the Bills of Exchange

It is back to school for me this semester, and it is the second week of the school term. I am taking Evidence, Aviation law, Banking Law, and Advanced torts. I find banking law the most confusing of all the subjects. In part, I am not that familiar with the rationale for the different method of business financing, and the legalese used to describe the various parties involved in a transaction can be confusing. There is this concept known as the Bill of Exchange which is purportedly used commonly in international business dealings. I believe that this video on youtube explains the concept well, although I am still a little hazy on the rationale for such a method for business financing. For one, I am not sure what is the advantage of such manner of financing over a simple bank loan. I might be missing something in my understanding of the Bill of Exchange, but my understanding of it is that the seller of goods allows the buyer to pay for the goods at a later date on condition of a promise written in a legal document known as a Bill of Exchange that the seller buyer would pay at a later date. The seller then takes his copy of the Bill of Exchange and trades it in with the bank for money. The bank collects the money from the buyer at a later date. I wonder though why the buyer doesn’t just loan from the bank to buy the goods and pay the bank back at a later date. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughts on the NLB book removal issue

I would like to write my thoughts about the NLB controversy that has been taking place recently in Singapore. The NLB is the National Library Board in Singapore, and it had drawn flaks from pro-LGBT and humanist circles for its removal of 3 children books featuring homosexual themes from its libraries. Just last weekend or so, pro-LGBT activists staged a protests outside the National Library by bringing the books removed and reading them there together with their children. Then there was the boycott movement by pro-LGBT writers to host their events under the premises of NLB. On the social conservative front, petitions numbering to about 26,000 or more were garnered to present support for the NLB decision. There has been many letters written in from both camps criticizing and supporting the NLB decision.

I suppose this NLB issue and controversy is simply a facet in a much larger cultural tussle that is happening within Singapore about the homosexuality issue. I just hope to be able to put some perspective on the issue by articulating the possible sentiments held by both sides, and proposing a way in which the issue can be dealt with in a more amicable manner.

Foremost, I think that the homosexuality issue is one that is not easily resolved, and is going to last for a long long time, perhaps even past the lifetime of people within this generation or the next few generations or so. Different people would have different sentiments of homosexuality and ideals on how it should be treated in society. A person with pro-LGBT sentiments probably sees homosexuality as an innate characteristic of a person, as much as is a person’s personality or preference. They thus view a person’s homosexual desires as something to be sympathetic about, and even condoned as a normal and acceptable aspect of human nature. A conservative on the other hand probably sees homosexuality as a deviant sexual orientation, as much as pedophilia or bestiality are considered deviant amongst the majority of society at this contemporary point of time. Even if a social conservative were to be sympathetic to the innate desires for same-sex relationships of a homosexual, such desires would still be considered as deviant and unacceptable for him or her.

I suppose the way in which conservatives and liberals view homosexuals is in part responsible for the vastly diverging approach in which they treat homosexuality. Conservatives view homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle choice, as much as how some people would choose to lead a promiscuous or sexually licentious lifestyle. For conservatives, the ideal sexual relationship is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Liberals probably see sexual relationships as something that is acceptable as long as it between any consenting individuals. And with regards to homosexual relationships, a liberal probably wishes to allow for such desires to be expressed without being disapproved as morally unacceptable. More moderate individuals will probably differ about their opinions on the matter depending on whether they identify more with the arguments sympathizing a person’s homosexual orientation, or those professing a monogamous heterosexual relationship as the ideal of a family structure.

With such vastly differing view on homosexuality, I believe that the best way that society can deal with it is to first of all acknowledge and respect the existence of the opposite view, instead of simply belittling the other view as unintellectual or bigoted. I believe those with liberal sentiments struggle with the need to be sympathetic to the plights of those with homosexual orientation. On the other hand, conservatives probably acknowledge such sympathies, but still feel strongly that there is an appropriate cultural norm to which society should preserve or aspire to. It is ultimately a difference of ideals of what society should be like.

I think that as far as possible, a society affirming libertarian values of allowing individuals to lead life the way they wish to as long as it does not harm other individuals is the best and most peaceful approach to which people of differing views and sentiments can live amicably with one another. Homosexuals should be allowed to conduct their personal relational lives without fear of prosecution by the state, while conservatives should be free to express their disapproval of homosexuality without fear of being censured for hate speech by the state. And as far as possible, the proselytizing of views from either camps should be kept out of public institutions, such as our education system or our media. The matter is controversial enough such that should either a liberal view normalizing homosexuality or a conservative view condemning it is advanced in such public institutions where people of different faiths exists, it is bound to offend or incur the ire of another individual. So why not let’s agree to keep our moral views to ourselves, and speak of them only in appropriate occasions where people are agreeable to discuss and debate the issue. As much as one does not like it if someone from another camp forces his or her views down upon him or her, he or she should likewise not force his or her view on another person.

My view for the NLB matter is thus that libraries should be keeping away books professing either moral positions from either camps away from the children bookshelves. If there is anything that is really discomforting to people from either moral ideological camp, it is that their children are exposed to and being indoctrinated with views from the opposing camp without their knowledge or supervision. Perhaps books pertaining to such controversial issues may be included in the adults section where readers are of more discerning characters. But when it comes to children, let’s keep our public sphere neutral to the controversy by agreeing to not allow books aimed at a children audience and espousing a certain position on the moral issue away from the children bookshelf. I think that if liberals or conservatives can affirm on a value to preserve this middle ground in our public institution, and take their cultural war away from the public’s sphere, especially where children are the subjects caught in the crossfire, it would make for a slightly more comfortable co-existence between members of the two camps in society.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Obligation to tell the hard Christian truth?

Last Sunday at church, a fellow church mate of mine who is quite active in the leadership ministry of the youth service gave his maiden sermon. The message of his sermon was about how we need to tell the hard truth about God’s punishment for sin to the world, even though this message is displeasing to people out there. He brought up the passage featuring the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke the bitter prophecy about Israel’s future exile, and contrasted this with the more optimistic sounding albeit false prophecy by Hananiah in the passage of Jeremiah 28. The point of this biblical passage is that the good news is not necessary the truth.

I wonder how I should relate to the sermon message for that day. The speaker was saying that if you talk to people about how they are in sin, and that Jesus is the only way to be saved, they would scorn you for being judgemental and exclusive. He then went on to cite the verse about how it is only natural for Christians to be persecuted for their message.

For the most part, I don’t see it as my business to tell people who are living sinful life to repent and turn to God. If I have the opportunity, I prefer to tell them about my Christian faith, and introduce them to a friendly loving image of what it is about, and then let them accept the doctrines on sin and punishment by themselves once they start attending church. I do acknowledge that we live in a sinful world with sinful people, and that I am myself someone who struggle with sin. I think that Christianity has a good message to preach in telling people to avoid living a sinful life. But I think I will just come off as an overzealous religious nut if I tell people that they are sinful and need to repent right in their face. And I don’t exactly like invoking the doctrine of hell and punishment as a way for people to acknowledge their sins and repent of them. I think sin should be avoided for its own sake, more than just out of fear of punishment.

I also am not sure how to carry out this Christian obligation, if indeed it is a Christian obligation, in a socially appropriate manner. For example, if I am sitting with school peers who are non-Christian and they are talking things which are lewd at the lunch table. I don’t join in with such conversation if it gets too lewd, but I don’t want to appear self-righteous or overly-holy either by telling people that such conversation is not something I like or condone from my Christian convictions

Updates about my life

I am feeling much better and calmer these days compared to when I first started suffering my anxiety attacks along with the tension headache. I guess the medication does help, and I shall stick to it for the time being. That said, it really isn’t an easy question for me to answer on how I should go about dealing with my tension headache problem. It still exists, albeit in ameliorated form. I wonder if I am indeed well enough to go back to school this coming semester. Every once in a while, I get this tingling or prickling sensation within my head. I am hoping that this is sign of nerve functions coming back again in the head, and I think it is because my tension headache seems to be less now as compared to before.

I still wonder about the exact nature of my tension headache. Until now, I don’t really know what causes this strange pressure sensation within my head. It is like some nerves or muscles within the head are constipated or something. There is this hard sensation within my head, and it feels like it is exerting pressure within the regions of the brain. It used to feel much worse, such that the constricting feeling seems to permeate within the brain as well. Now the sensation feels more like a pressure sensation from the outer areas of the head exerting inwards, which is still uncomfortable, but much more tolerable.

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