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I am Singaporean XIX – Legality and Morality July 23, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.

A more serious take on MRT’s new, Nazi-esque ruling on eating and drinking in MRT trains, where this woman was fined $30 for chewing on candy, despite the reasons she gave for doing so:

Legality and morality are two areas which are easily confused, and people tend to set the equation legal = moral as valid and true.  But is it true?  Is that which is legal also moral?  Also, are lawbreakers per definitionem immoral?  What is, firstly, morality?  Here are two possible definitions:

  1. One can say that morals evolved as a means of dealing with each other, by agreeing on a certain set of rules of conduct which each must obey.  With this definition, laws can be seen as a codification of these rules of conduct, and laws can be equated to morals.
  2. Morals are defined as that through which the individual can attain happiness.  In behaving morally, one remains psychically in balance (Aristotle, Nic. Eth.) and does not have to deal with his worst enemy, his conscience.  Here, laws are a guideline as to how one can attain the most happiness possible, and have to be interpreted with regard to every situation.  The individual is aware that morals and laws are not the same.

However, definition (1) is problematic – even if morals were originally a means of communal life, this view of laws and morals leaves out one important aspect of ethics – the reflection on morals and if need be, laws.  A case in point is this: in Nazi Germany, harbouring a Jew was illegal.  But given the knowledge that this Jew would probably end up in the gas chambers, would it be moral to lie to the authorities about harbouring a Jew?  A similiar case is this case about candy in MRT trains.  Obviously, Roger Foo didn’t reflect about the law he was about to enforce.

Laws mean exceptions to the law, and laws are, despite their attempt to attain generality, are not universal.  Some laws are universal, like those against murder or rape, but this is a grey area.  Laws need interpretation, but most Singaporeans, indeed most humans, like to see an equivalence between what the law says and what morality says.  It simplifies the world.  But we pride ourselves on being an educated society.  Being educated also means being able to apply laws and rules in a way suitable to the particular situation.  The image of the unthinking civil servant who follows a particular law blindly, without reflection, shows how desensitised, or maybe even stupid, or maybe fearful of authority, we have become.  We follow rules, even when our common sense says we should reflect, NOW.

The unreflected application of definition (1) leads to the view that morals are slippery things which are always threatened by decay, thus the laws are required as codified morality.  There is always the slippery slope argument, which says that: if i let this pass, others will follow suit and soon everyone will be eating on the trains again.  But without reflection, how can there be progress?  How can a society progress in terms of its maturity?  The equivalence of laws and morals mean that any and every law can be introduced arbitratily and will be followed to the word, which leads to the possibility of abuse.

The Films Act may be moral in denying minors access to pornographic movies – but what about the Films Act with regard to political films?  Is that moral?  How will the human, the political animal, know his place in society if he is just depoliticised?  How will he unlock his highest potential if he doesn’t know where his highest potential belongs?

According to definition (2), morality is a means to an end, namely happiness.  You can be happy through moral behaviour, because through moral behaviour, you are realising your personal goodness, and if Plato is right in saying that every soul wants the good (Republic, Book VI), then moral behaviour is the way for achieving happiness and being at peace with oneself, because the soul has taken one step closer to the good.

The problem here is the definition of “good.”  Moral goods are immaterial – they can neither be seen nor felt, and that is why this definition is often ignored or snorted at, especially in increasingly materialistic societies like Singapore.  If we do not know our position in society (following the unreflected application of definition (1)), then the only good we know will most probably be a material one, since we can compare with others and see ourselves as good or bad.  But this view, that the goodness of humans are defined by how much they have, must be certainly one met with revulsion.

What about Jesus?  Buddha?  Gandhi?  Mother Teresa?  What about religions?  Do our laws really reflect on our agreed code of conduct on how to live with one another, and if so, what does this say about our society?

We can bring both views together:

  1. Morals are agreed rules of conduct for communal life.
  2. Morals are the means through which one can be good.
  3. (1) + (2) Assuming that humans want to, by their nature, attain the good, then morals are agreed rules of conduct for communal life, through which the community can be good.  The laws are then guidelines on how to attain the good, and require interpretation on how to attain the good in any particular situation.

This view may be overly optimistic, foolish and idealistic, and it leads to the ultimate conclusion that the moral person does not need laws, because he already knows what is good.  But without the conviction that humanity desires the good and abhors evil, what is there left for our existence on this Earth?


5: Wake Up Your Idea lah… July 19, 2009

Posted by The Truth in What Were They Thinking?!.

Wah last week ah Singapore damn happening.  First got two siao char bohs (actually ah i think both already obasan liao) kpkb those pengkiaz.  First one say on States Times Forum why SAF must scold vulgaration.

Na bei lah.  This also cannot, that also cannot.  Go jungle pang sai after that also use cheebye leaf to wipe ur ka chng clean clean, can?  No vulgaration how to express that you dulan?  Although must say that if this obasan 1 say that everything also cheebye, then the play must be quite cheebye standard.  Also got lan cheow ok?!  Then also can say fuck what.  Fuck so useful.  I read somewhere that fuck can be simi noun la, simi adjective la, all the lan cheow sai also can.  Universal, like sometimes our occifer say load universal round and bang bang bang.

Speak so good England for fuck?  Your ginnaz ah, obasan, confirm go army hor kao kan (means kena fuck by dogs, ok?) already.  Liddat also culture shock.  Don’t shout at trainees then how?  Everything nice nice, want to sit down and drink tea and eat cake anot?  Eat my chocolate cake lah.  Every morning fresh produce one.  My tea also very zeng one.  Fresh, warm, also got ammonia flavour.  Song right?  Want your ginnaz to be gentlemen, send them go OCS lor. Although also will cheebye and lan cheow a lot, but after that your ginna confirm will be gentleman.  First class one.  If want to ban lan cheow and cheebye, then a lot of encik jobless liao.  I think better you don’t send your kids to NS…excuse vulgaration for 2 years.  Everything must gentlemen then army can work ah.  Balls to you lah.

Then sgforums also got this other obasan kaopeh say tekong kiaz very smelly, can transmit disease.  I think only disease must be psychosis lah…when all the lan cheow shit flow to your brain cos you stand too long liao.  Simi disease?!  Ok lah, i admit tekong kiaz are smelly.  RECRUIT mah.  Lowest life form must wear until nice nice book out so your ginnaz won’t get nightmare ah.  So jialat then move your hubby and your ginnaz to west side lor.  There no tekong one.  Or can also tell them next time don’t read Incredible Hulk lor.  If not got aircon school bus send pengkiaz home…wah i also want man if last time go Tekong got…

Book out also must shower and smell nice nice…also, balls to you lah.

Then lastly SMRT start to fine people for any lan cheow thing…eat candy also qia you $30.  Drink water also can tio.  Cheebye lah.  SMRT machiam cleanliness Taliban like that.  Everything must clean clean.  Drink water also tio.  WATER leh friend.  I tell you ah if i go SMRT drink my pokka 绿茶 or my water and tio…i also won’t go and pay the fine.  In fact i will raise so much hell and say loudly what kind of cheebye rule is this SMRT, drink water also buay sai.  Lim peh is responsible one.  Drink liao will clean up all the sai i leave behind one.

This SMRT, want to use law instead of educating the people.  Educate properly liao they also won’t eat and leave their shit behind mah.  Like got one guy got sore throat so must drink water, then tio.  For what fuck?  Then you know most Singaporeans when they got authority are all fuckers.  Like some Men in White la, SMRT train officers la, etc etc, like last time my encik used to say, “i is a fuckers.” All fuckers, they just want to catch someone breaking a rule so they can fuck them inside out.  So even if you going to ki chia already right, you will also get fucked.

Clean trains but people kia because always got fuckers walking around trying to catch you…like that train clean, but i also dont feel clean, i feel like criminal-to-be you know?  I think must get some of those tang ki go and cleanse the train,  every night hahahaha.  Then TODAY got one or two of those ah siao say want to drink and eat go and get a car.  Fuck your lan cheow thinking lah.  If my money plant really every 3 months give me $10000 in cash i will also go and buy a car lor.  Cocksters produce cock solutions.  Balls to them too.

Really, what were you thinking?!

4: Rooting Singaporeans July 2, 2009

Posted by The Truth in What Were They Thinking?!.

Not long ago, SM Goh talked about keeping bright young Singaporeans in Singapore by sinking their roots:

MORE than one in five of the top students from the 1996-1999 A level graduating cohorts are not working in Singapore today. And of those from the same batches who went on to universities overseas without a scholarship bond, more than one in three are today carving out careers outside the country.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong gave these statistics on Saturday to illustrate the urgency of getting young Singaporeans to sink roots here even as they become more entrepreneurial and break out into the global economy.

‘If more and more of our bright students do not return, this begs the question whether our success in giving them wings to fly far and high will result in our eventual decline as a nation, especially as we are not even reproducing ourselves.

‘No nation will be able to sustain its growth and prosperity without sufficient talent, much less a small country like Singapore without natural resources,’ said Mr Goh.

He was speaking to more than 1,000 guests at the 70th anniversary dinner of Chung Cheng High School last night. He urged schools to help students retain their emotional bonds to Singapore, ‘so that they think of Singapore as the home which nurtured them, and want to contribute in some ways to the country of their birth’.

To do this, he suggested that schools inculcate in the young certain values, such as being appreciative of those who help them advance in life; and not taking for granted the academic, sports and arts programmes they can enjoy here and abroad, when many children elsewhere cannot.

Mr Goh hoped that the end result of such teaching would be students who have strong links with their schools, close ties with their friends and a strong sense of responsibility to their families – even if they choose to live, work and even settle down overseas.

Switching to Mandarin, Mr Goh said: ‘I hope Chung Cheng and our schools will give two lasting bequests to our children. One is strong wings; the other, deep roots.

‘Like wild geese that migrate each fall, young Singaporeans should be equipped with the courage, strength and adaptability to venture to distant lands in search of opportunities. But when spring returns, they will come back, as this is their home.’

Indeed, Mr Goh further argued in English, helping young Singaporeans stay rooted here was the most important challenge facing the Education Ministry. This is because the number of young Singaporeans working overseas will grow, given that the education system is producing more and more students equipped with the right skills to go global. – Goh Chin Lian, Straits Times, 28 June 2009 (Thanks to takchek)

What were you thinking, SM Goh?  Already there are contradictions in your speech.  You said this:

If more and more of our bright students do not return, this begs the question whether our success in giving them wings to fly far and high will result in our eventual decline as a nation, especially as we are not even reproducing ourselves.

Then, you “urged schools to help students retain their emotional bonds to Singapore, ‘so that they think of Singapore as the home which nurtured them, and want to contribute in some ways to the country of their birth’.” Do you not see that it is precisely this nurturing which Singapore has given them which has sent them packing?  Meritocracy – those who have the talent are those who will rise up, and it is this very dog-eat-dog world which your Gahmen has created which is causing this very problem.  And what you said above smacks of wanting to make sure the money you invested in your people actually pays out.

Singaporeans are PEOPLE, not MONEY MACHINES.  If you want a money machine, you could buy a colour laser printer.  All the foreign talent you have imported to stem the brain drain has had the unfortunate consequence of more people leaving, since locals are losing jobs due to their lowered hiring potential (think NS commitments, etc.) And what’s more, since you refuse to give citizens certain (okay, all benefits is bollocks) benefits which set them apart from the foreigners, is it any wonder why citizens don’t see Singapore as home, and try to fly away (especially those who are able to?)

But don’t worry, SM.  There are a lot more people who are deeply rooted to Singapore precisely because of the ties you mentioned – family, friends etc.  But ironically, they don’t seem really important to you or to Singapore’s progress.  Perhaps they are the drones who are expected to work hard, and that’s it.  Singapore can never attract brains as long as independent, creative thinking is not encouraged generally, as long as there is ONE Big Truth one has to shovel down one’s own throat and alternatives are either tolerated but ignored, or simply eradicated.

To think you can keep alternate thinking in the confines of monoperspectival view of the world – really, what were you thinking?

3: Intellectual Snobbery July 1, 2009

Posted by The Truth in What Were They Thinking?!.

Today, i was wandering through the Internet when i came across this thing on the Intellectual Snob and guides on how to deal with elitism.  Wah…Singaporeans are really intolerant of snobbery huh?  Especially when it comes from a self-perceived ‘elitist.’ These ‘frogs,’ to use the Intellectual Snob’s vocabulary, think they are the very best in the world (whereby ‘world’ here is a very narrow term, i agree) and they react to anything which attempts to burst their bubble by trying to burst the attacker’s bubble.  Reaction, counter-reaction.

But if they actually thought about it…such thoughts of them being the best in Singaporean society, like studying Science/Law/Medicine/Business in one of the Big Three unis in Singapore (come to think of it, there ARE practically only these three if you don’t count SIM and other private unis)…granted, having a B.A. or a B.Sc. is an achievement.  But don’t these people practice the same intellectual snobbery on others?

Let’s see. “Arts is a dumping ground.” “You study philosophy?  Erm…” “In this book it says that (insert complex-sounding theory here)…” and so on, and so forth.  Alternatives are looked down on because they don’t fit into the small Weltanschauung of many Singaporeans.  Being alternative is wrong too – you should just fit in, fit in, fit in.  So yes, the Snob is right when she says that most are incapable, if not unwilling, to think differently or to see things from another angle.  Everything must be black and white, and books are like Bibles.

We let ourselves get dumbed down, only to believe we are on top of the world, a world which is roughly 646 square kilometers large.  That the Intellectual Snob has drawn so much criticism is evidence enough – why do most people refuse to see beyond words and try to find a deeper meaning?  Why is everything she says WRONG, whereas we are ALWAYS RIGHT??  Is it because it is unknown territory where they don’t dare to step, or which they don’t know how to navigate?  Even if, as Sam from Thinking Better, Thinking Meta says, we are not stupid because we are just pragmatic, this pragmatism will probably work very well in Singapore (although we see ourselves getting screwed by it) and overseas, where Your Ideas Are Not Important, have most people Thought Meta?

They think their brand of pragmatism is THE solution for all your problems.  After all life is temporary so it is more about living a material life with its satisfactions.  Thus, intellectualism is looked down on, because if you are an intellectual, you must either be 1) very rich or 2) very foolish.  Most people think like that, and well…what were they thinking?!

And oh yeah.  Even if the Snob has been exposed to be some NTU student who is disillusioned, the points raised still remain to be considered.  Being a Snob or just a fraud may lower your rep, but it doesn’t mean that what you say shouldn’t be taken seriously.  That’s reserved for the clinically insane.  But well, in the language of the Snob, you could very well remain ‘frogs’ and ignore the words of those who don’t have a reputation or a bad reputation.  Some Men in White do so anyway.