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The AWARE takeover April 23, 2009

Posted by The Truth in WARNING: Heavy Reading Ahead.
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So recently a lot has been said about the AWARE takeover.  Talk on the Net has been going on about them being fundamentalist Christians.  But first, before throwing that word around until it becomes so empty of meaning whatsoever, it’s worth asking what ‘fundamentalist’ is.  Do they follow a literal reading of the Bible, which is an accepted definition of ‘fundamentalism’: the reading of any holy text such that it is literally, i.e. word-for-word true?  We’ll probably never know, because interpretation is something which, although a higher authority can dictate how certain passages are to be interpreted, the individual is doing the interpretation.

Word is going around that we have a Deep Throat too, exposing mails regarding members joining AWARE.  They call for members to ‘give the vote to those who wish to be an agent of change for the Lord,’ and how ‘Our nation needs your support and action very urgently!’ Sounds like a Crusade in preparation, doesn’t it?  Actually, i’m not so concerned about the AWARE takeover.  There will, naturally, spring up another group which will try to continue the old AWARE’s tradition, even as AWARE becomes potentially more and more radical.  Think the amendment will work?  A power grab is in place and we are seeing it unfolding before our own eyes.

What i’m more interested in is this: reflecting on the Crusades, Ludwig Feuerbach said that religious belief and love were antitheses.  Christianity understands itself as absolute and universal – the Christian God is what metaphysicians would call the Absolute, the One, and they would give this entity a lot of adjectives beginning with omni-.  This absolute nature of God can be found everywhere in the Bible, e.g. John 14:6, Acts 4:11-12 etc.  But in staging this takeover, and if the agenda the new AWARE has in mind is what people think it to be, isn’t the new AWARE contradicting itself?

If the leaked mails are genuine, someone feels under attack and they want to, how shall i put it, reinstate the status quo.  But in doing so, they are cutting off this problem of sexuality altogether.  The mails speak of a change of focus to other problems of women and families.  So where does the LGBT ‘problem’ go?  It seems that the takeover is explicitly anti-gay, and how can this be put in context with tolerance?  Can we not love a person who may be gay?  Would you love your son if he were gay?  Would you accept him as he is and not see it as a mental illness?  How do we reconcile religious belief with love?  Matthew 5:47 asks: And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?

If the new AWARE’s aim is to lessen the focus on the LGBT issue, then let’s say there’s a lesbian girl who is forced by weight of religion and social intolerance (i.e. having nowhere to run to) to be straight, act straight and all.  Is that not a form of discrimination?  In this case, the new AWARE members may think they are doing good, but how is it possible for them to equate ‘being this’ as good and ‘being that’ as bad?  What do they do more than others?  It is overly simplistic to do so, and that is certainly not the way to express universality.  There is not much love in this party indeed…

I am Singaporean XVI – Public Concern Template April 19, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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So DPM Can’t Sing has mentioned that we bloggers also have a responsibility to “help ease public concerns should a terrorist attack occur,” acknowledging that the Internet also has the power to rapidly spread fear in a crisis.  Well, at least he acknowledged that we are viable, but why does he still assume that the blogosphere is all about distrust and panicmongering?  Fear of what?  Fear of the ineffectiveness of gahmen measures?  Fear that it’s so bad that we’re all going down?

Honestly, if things are that bad, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong in a factual account of what’s gone wrong.  But what Can’t Sing is trying to say is that we should ease public concerns.  How?  By trying to cultivate public trust in an organisation which is widely distrusted, especially amongst the younger generation and amongst people who have felt themselves being neglected by the Gahmen?  Allaying public fears also means that the public has to be convinced that someone is shouldering the responsibility for allowing the crisis to happen, and also for the aftermath.

The important question here to ask is: do we see this happening? Our leaders seem quite blame-averse.  They probably are responsible but in the public eye, we see blame being shifted onto the people (hygiene habits, complacency and the like), semantics (lesser mortals), other organisations, and outside forces (financial crisis.)  So will someone shoulder the responsibility during any crisis, if only just to assure the citizens that someone is willing to take up the mantle and deal with the issue at hand?

I mean, sure, the relevant organisations sprung into action.  But seeing ministers push the blame to everyone else except themselves is not particularly assuring.  Anyway, here’s a public concern template for the blogosphere to calm the people:

Fellow Citizens of Singapore!

As you are aware, Singapore has been struck by a (insert name of crisis here).  Answering the DPM’s call, I would like to tell you that someone is working on it.  Please, trust our leaders to lead us out of it, and don’t forget to express your thanks when we emerge from the mess, no matter how much hardship we have endured.  Please don’t blame our leaders for what’s happened – in the meantime, stay alert and DO NOT BE COMPLACENT!

Everyday life continues.  I suggest you move on as I have.

Sincerely

I am Singaporean XV – Open/Close April 15, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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So now the new Public Order Act has been passed, which, according to the States Times, “gives police more effective powers to maintain public order.”  In response to NMP Siew Kum Hong, who said that the need for a permit in order to assemble was an emasculation of the right of assembly (i don’t know why the States Times decided to put it in quotation marks), our Law Minister gave us a list of things which somehow showed how progressive the Gahmen has been in liberalising the political space, focusing on Speakers’ Corner.

While the demonstrations organised by Tan Kin Lian in the wake of the investors’ crisis may show that these efforts have borne fruit, but it was not until 2008, 8 years after Speakers’ Corner was opened, that this actually took place.  And it was only possible after 1st September, 2008, when the need for a police permit was lifted for the Speakers’ Corner ONLY.  Yet, this only shows that the liberalisation can work, and not that it does work.  The most basic, underlying concern regarding political expression, namely that someone is watching and you will be ridiculed or even be charged for defamation if you touch a too-raw nerve, still exists.  Also, the fact that your concerns will go more or less unanswered is also a basic assumption

Note that with ‘assumption’ i doesn’t mean that it is always the case which is like that.

So the measures taken have not led to corresponding results.  The point here is that listing a list of measures taken to reach a particular goal does not mean that the goal has been achieved.  Mr. Shanmugam’s argument is based on simple causality – the Gahmen has done such-and-such – and so we should be politically more liberal than before.  He neglects effectively the other probable causes which may have checked liberalisation in place – like the ISA, a dominating mainstream media, a government which lashes out hard against criticism, and a culture of fear and anonymity and more.

And yet, more measures have been introduced, most pertinent of which are the ‘move-on’ powers which the police now have.  So empowered, the police can now order any individual to ‘move on’, if they suspect him or her to be potentially dangerous to public order.  Now, according to TOC, “the Act will allow the police to act “without people being able to argue about it”. Worse, there will be no judicial review of a move-on order: the home minister alone can decide on an appeal.

The Gahmen seems to have opened up, but the new Act appears to close things up further.  Attempts at liberalisation have not taken (perhaps the Gahmen never wanted them to take), and the introduction of the new Act means that liberties will be further restricted, in that you can be ordered to leave an area on suspicion that you are up to no good.  Black-and-white for the police and the Gahmen, which loves black and white, but what about us?  Black or white or any shade of grey?  The Gahmen seems to work with an assumed personal political space (which sadly is curtailed by the Gahmen and the individual) and an assumed public need for safety (assumed in terms of quantity of safety.)  Assuming means that the Gahmen may be wide off the mark, and that the Gahmen’s standpoint is naturally biased – naturally some people want more public safety and some are willing to have slightly less public safety for more individual rights.

And while the Gahmen must necessarily assume that they exist and that there is a balance, how do they know where the balance exists?  They are supposed to represent the people, but how are they represented?  Is this another case of formally open, actually close?

I am Singaporean XIV – It’s Not Our Fault! April 13, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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Generally, in Asia, “face” is very important.  That’s why disgrace carries such a high price – some Japanese managers kill themselves out of shame and regret, and our Gahmen always tries desparately to silence shame or at least divert it away from itself, as we have seen during Mas Selamat’s Great Escape, GIC losses and CDC bonuses, the suicide of CPT Allan Ooi, and now food poisoning.  And the same strategy has been used from time to time again:

  1. Politicians claim their words were twisted in meaning
  2. “That information is classified.”
  3. Shutting up and hoping it blows over
  4. Reminders to “move on”
  5. Pushing the blame, or formulating a National Education class
  6. Reassuring everyone that “everything is in order”

For example, for Mas Selamat’s escape, there was first a big blackout from the Gahmen, followed by calls to “move on”, because it’s happened and they can’t do anything about it, and then having a certain octagenarian come up and make a National Education lesson out of it.  “Don’t be complacent.” Information about CDC bonuses were classified but in order.  For the suicide of CPT Ooi, MINDEF’s response threw up more questions than answers, and the blame was initially shifted to CPT Ooi’s person.  Only the full letter forced MINDEF to change its stand, although there is still that lingering taste of ad hominem. As for food poisoning…i refer you to the Wayang Party.  National Education in the works!

Ultimately, Wayang Party has taken its share of flak, just as anyone who writes anything does.  They were accused of shifting the blame to the Government, although they said that the Government shifted the blame to the people.  The State media sprung into action, publishing letters which tell us the dangers and risks of eating out, without asking for the role of the Government, or the question: could this have been prevented by Government policy or engagement?  Nothing has been heard on that topic.

Why, then, does the Gahmen try to deflect blame, rather than accept that something has gone wrong?  Why can everyone else be wrong except them?  Do they really have a mandate from God, or is the Gahmen too far deep in its own Singapore where they walk as gods amongst lesser mortals?  A government which sees the need to deflect all blame from itself in order to appear squeaky clean is, in my humble opinion, a government which freaks out when something goes wrong in Paradise.  How many of our MPs have withstood an election?  How many of our MPs were ex-scholars, successful according to a narrow definition – another symbol of an attempt to create an artificial Paradise?  Why do policies which are discussed in Parliament seem to be already prepared for implementation, without going down to the people?  Doesn’t it sound like we, the citizens, are animals in a zoo, which are overseen by the Gahmen, which accepts no responsibility to the animals and is only interested in keeping the zoo thriving?  So, the animals should take care of themselves and always obey the rules of the zoo.  Otherwise, they’ll have to be put down.

A tiger which escapes will scare tourists away, no?

What the Gahmen must realise is that Singapore is not a zoo where things are formally laid down and the people are expected, like animals without any reason, to obey these formal rules blindly and accept their lot.  They have to take some responsibility for their charges and not just for the zoo, although it probably is easier to do the latter than the former.  And that includes admitting that sometimes they are wrong, or that more could have been done.

That they are drawing such a high salary makes that aspect of responsibility even more imperative.  The Gahmen should see that although prevention is better than the cure, they cannot always fix their minds on prevention.  Sometimes, when the cure is necessary, they have to take it.  And not try to make everyone forget the cure by extensive prevention efforts, because the sickness remains, which can and will rear its ugly head one day.