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I am Singaporean XXXI – Lazarus’ Singapore August 1, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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Look at what i found on the YoungPAP blog! Apparently Nicholas Lazarus (some dude i don’t even know) is going around spreading anti-gay hate mail. Talk about diversity…i wonder if this is the supposed ‘dynamism’ Singapore is supposed to have, ever since The Old Man acknowledged that the gay community would have to be accepted.

First and foremost, when he says pondering, he means ‘going down the slippery slope of no return, Singapore will oh-my-god sink back into the South China Sea and Malaysia will defeat us because our soldiers are too busy having sex with each other.’ So let’s imagine Lazarus’ Singapore (if gay acts get legalised and if Lazarus becomes by a twist of fate PM):

Imagine men walking hand in hand with other men down Orchard Road, kissing, fondling and making out.

Unimaginable! If this was Lazarus’ Singapore, instead of men walking hand in hand down Orchard Road, there’d be groups of policemen walking down Orchard Road with a MP5 slung around their shoulders à la Changi Airport. They’d probably apprehend a man holding the hand of a 8-year-old boy and accuse him of gay paedophilia (gasp!) when they are actually father and son. After all, it’s happened before what, this phenomenon of the Non-Thinking Public Servant…remember the bomb scare at the airport not so long ago?

For that matter, imagine all that taking place on the MRT.

Wow. That is grand. As if there aren’t enough teenagers making out in school uniform on the MRT already. Complete with tongue action, fondling and groping, batteries and action figures sold seperately. If this was Lazarus’ Singapore…aren’t there already those infoscreens installed in the trains? Anyone read Orwell’s 1984? Big Brother is watching….and then you can solve the unemployment problem by hiring loads of retrenched angry people, to drag these gays out at the next station where they get lynched. Nothing like a mass avenue for anger management, innit?

Instead of teachers dealing with boy-girl relationships, teachers would have to deal with boy-boy relationships.

There were already gays during my time in TCHS. And the only different aspect in dealing with boy-boy relationships is the social aspect, the perceived potential stigma the boy in the relationship is going to receive. So, where’s the difference in boy-girl and boy-boy relationships? At the most, schools should get a school shrink. In Lazarus’ Singapore…how about making these kids disappear and then sending them to a ‘re-education camp’ in Pasir Laba training area, just like what the Viet Cong did?

Then, you might have the homosexuals all over Asia descending upon Singapore to flaunt what they cannot in their own countries.

Isn’t that good? That’s in keeping with Singapore’s aim to be a Universal Hub of Everything – cultural hub, educational hub, technology hub, yadda, yadda. At the most, the island will not be able to support the mass of gays and it will start sinking slowly back into the sea. Yeah, it’s tough. But with the exodus of local Singaporeans anyway, it keeps things in equilibrium. In Lazarus’ Singapore, new foreign talent would need to be mindread in order to discover if they have gay tendencies. If they do, then they’ll be treated like illegal immigrants, locked up and given 8 strokes of the cane before being repatriated.

And Lazarus’ defence:

They cannot procreate and thus cannot produce offspring for our nation.

For a lawyer, this guy is pretty retarded. Cannot procreate and thus cannot produce offspring for our nation…and THAT is why gays should be banned? If i’m not wrong, this view has a religious background…i will have to check up on that though. It’s like saying that incest is bad because it imbalances the amount of love in the family. Like that, single high-flyers would have to be shut out of Singapore also…because they cannot procreate! Perhaps a good way out would be for there to be single high-flyers who are foreigners, whereas all the dumbed-down Singaporeans just stay home, get married, have children, get retrenched, and then carry on slogging to their deaths.

Seriously, however, this goes to show once again how dangerous it is for us Singaporeans to place ALL our trust in the PAP. Can you imagine having a minister like this person? Can you imagine this person on the forefront of Singaporean politics? Think about it. (The Net response however is pretty heartening i must say)

I am Singaporean XXX – Prophylaxia June 11, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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I am referring to this entry on The Online Citizen regarding the dismissal of Alfian Sa’at.

Well, well. I found it very perplexing at first as to why an award-winning local playwright would be summarily dismissed from his relief teaching position, and with such great haste as well…until i read about his socio-political leanings, and the fact that he has written plays centering on the theme of homosexuality and criticism of the government. This is also seen in MOE’s refusal to engage Alfian on the topic: when pressed by Alfian, MOE replied with vague, ambivalent answers, answers which, if Alfian has reproduced the letter fully, do not answer his most pertinent question: Why was he dismissed?

Alfian’s correspondence can be read here.

Nor are the replies to the other parts of his questions replied fully. Take part 3, for example. When asked why he was terminated so abruptly without any chance to tie up loose ends, MOE replied that only the best make it, yadda yadda. That sets off smoke alarms in my head.  It reminds me of the sophistical doctrine of ignoratio elenchi, the irrelevant thesis. And what’s more, the alarm and the abruptness of his termination reminds me of what one would to do a malignant tumour – to operate immediately. And i must say that the students DO NOT benefit one bit from this change – the decision is purely political, in my opinion. After all, education is something which moulds the future, if i remember correctly, and people like Alfian Sa’at? Dangerous! He is like a cancer on the smooth educational landscape of Singapore!

Thus, rather than let him go on (even if he was very talented and diligent), they axed him. Gone. No more. With this, he has also been dismissed from a governmental board, barring him jobs in the public service. It’s actually a smart move by the MOE, IMO, if all of us weren’t in on it.

So, what happened?

I would say that once again this reflects the institution of fear which plays such a big role in the Singaporean political scene. What fear? The PAP may have once feared that liberal political values would cause them to lose their grip on power (and thus their million-dollar $alarie$). However, even if they do not fear this anymore, this fear has filtered down to the lower levels, at the level of the public service employer. I don’t think, for example, that the Minister is in on this. And when you fear something, the concept of prophylaxia becomes a very, very useful tool.

You see, dear reader, prophylaxia does not require an actual problem to solve – it is more like prevention via intervention. Alfian was probably perceived by some lower-level person in MOE to be a political threat or that he may (gasp!) spread liberal anti-governmental information amongst the student population, which, of course, will not do in Singapore, so this person decides to axe him. And because of the hierarchy, orders from the top are orders. Let Alfian Sa’at teach on and pollute the minds of countless Singaporeans? No way, José!

And all this, even if he may not be actually doing it.

I sympathise with his predicament and this further shows where education is going in Singapore. Education in Singapore is, above all, learning to worship our ministers and our very, very efficient government. Please pay your taxes and the Gahmen’s next pay raise. Also, please work until you die. This is education. People who are even perceived to be alternative are axed.

I wonder if i am going to get axed soon. Must pay bond some more. Tmd…like that i won’t come back liao loh!

And further down, this just made the Lees eat their own words when they preach about a vibrant society based on meritocracy. What meritocracy can you talk about when the good are axed just because they are alternative? What vibrance can you talk about when the key to everything is toeing the party line? Is it that the vibrance is only within a party-allowed room, and the elite are those who believe whole-heartedly in the system?

Then, Singapore is NOT meritocratic. Singapore is NOT vibrant. Nannying us and showing us the One True Way is not going to bring us further. How can anyone dare to speak up in an environment of fear, when your past can cause you to lose your job? How?

I am Singaporean XXIX – On Blind Faith. June 2, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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I am referring to this special exposé released by the Online Citizen. It’s about how millions of dollars are unaccounted for in the public service. I will not go into the details of this report, because you can read it for yourself. Rather, what i am going into the potential repercussions this report can have for Singapore, and why it is relevant to you, as a Singaporean. If you’re not, maybe this will shed some light upon what Singapore is really like.

The report was not given much emphasis by the Gahmen and their mouthpieces, for very obvious reasons. They fear it will undermine public faith in them, and they fear that it will harm their superhuman image and their ability to introduce legislation at a snap of the finger, with the reason of ‘it’s the best for Singapore. We know and you don’t.’ To put it short, it’s a big loss of face. And in a place like Singapore, where face is very important, that’s one commodity the politicians cannot afford to lose. Really. I’m sure that the States Times is swamped by letters regarding the AGO’s report, but they aren’t published. The States Times publishes articles and letters on the immediate aftermath of the whole thing, but the deeper repercussions are not published. Is it because the people are too dumb to comprehend? Is it because any undermining of the people’s faith in the Gahmen means that Singapore is going down?

Ever since the Singaporean Dream took off, there’s been this blind, arrogant faith in the Gahmen. I’m not saying PAP or whatever, but it’s just a blind faith. Blind faith that our politicians are infallible. Blind faith that they do the best for Singapore. Blind faith that whatever they do is in the interests of Singapore. So, we pay them more and more, we let them raise our taxes, we let them whore our country to millions of foreign talents, who may not actually be top-notch people, people who will pack their bags and leave at the next job opportunity. We all believe it’s so perfect and beautiful, and when you ask a Singaporean what makes the Gahmen so good, you can expect ‘efficiency’ as a reply. True, there’s a lot of bureaucracy here in Germany. But is the ideal behind the Gahmen good? So a government is efficient. But does an efficient government increase the salaries of its ministers because of its efficiency? Is the government efficient because we’re too cowed to say what we really feel? Is the government efficient because there is no effective opposition?

So we place our blind faith in something which is temporal and short-term, and we use it to rationalise our votes. If that’s the real reason for the blind faith, then Singaporeans had better not read the Auditor-General’s report. It’ll cause their faith to shatter and cause them to wander the streets aimlessly. (an analogue for you: what if one day the Bible was proven to be a fake?) But of course, i am exaggerating. And this blind faith also has a certain influence of the objects of this faith, namely, the ministers/ministries.

It makes them arrogant and careless, it makes them believe that they are invulnerable, that all they have to do is turn on the charm and watch the coffers fill. It makes them believe that serious mistakes are ‘setbacks’, and that nothing is wrong, so they don’t have to fix anything. After all, we have the people’s mandate, don’t we? We are going to decide what direction Singapore is going to take, and like it or not, they are going to follow. That’s what blind faith does. It’s like a civilised version of fundamentalist religion. Because of our blind faith, if we were told to work until we die, so we work until we die. Gahmen knows best. If we were told to pay more taxes, we just pay more taxes. Gahmen knows best, and jail got no life. Everything we read in the States Times is taken to be gospel truth, while it may be whitewash.

Why is it like fundamentalist religion? Replace Gahmen with ‘god’, replace States Times with ‘holy text’, and replace jail got no life with ‘i don’t want to go to Hell.’ Just that we are civilised and Gahmen won’t tell us to go and die. Not yet, that is.

This report shows that our gods are human, that the Gahmen is human too. Mistakes happen, and in their arrogance, they were never discovered nor reported until they were discovered by the auditors. It shows that blind faith is not the right kind of faith we should have towards our Government, indeed towards ANY government. A rational, cautious faith is one which we should have towards those above us, not a blind faith and a belief that whatever happens, they will bring us through. This kind of faith is worse than any ‘crutch mentality’ the Gahmen tries to ‘protect’ us from. (isn’t it weird? They don’t want us to have a crutch mentality, but they DO want us to have blind total unquestioning faith in them!) They don’t want a material crutch mentality, but an ideological one would do very well, thank you very much. As long as Singaporeans cannot see a Singapore without the PAP, they’ll remain in power until kingdom come.

We have to open our eyes and start thinking. After receiving 66,7% last elections, such errors still happen. I’m not saying that the PAP regime is facing the twilight already, but i’m saying that we, as a people, should make it very very clear that the Gahmen is answerable to US. To do that, we need to cast off the shackles of blind, unquestioning faith and perceive our surroundings for what they are. Blind, unquestioning faith can cause the Gahmen to take us down a very slippery slope from which there is no recovery. Think they won’t ever? Think again. Think we don’t have to start questioning and thinking because LKY is still MM? Think again. Arrogance is built up over time. Why give it more time to expand unchecked?

I am Singaporean XXVIII – The Hubbub about being a Hub May 24, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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Just yesterday, UNSW announced that it would be pulling out of Singapore. Yet another blow to the Singaporean vision of being an Educational Hub. After so many setbacks, and so many wild drives to court foreign universities to open a campus here in the hope that we can draw young foreigners to Singapore to study and hopefully keep them in our labour force (thus displacing many other locals,) it is worth posing the question: can we really be an educational hub?

And by posing, i mean asking yourself that question, sitting down, reflecting. What the PAP says has fallen flat time and time again. Are we ready to be an educational hub, a transport hub, a whatever-hub? Yours truly truly (ha, ha) believes that you should sit down and reflect and not just accept what’s being fed to you by the States’ Times and the State. Can we be an educational hub?

Let’s start at home, shall we? Is Singaporean education the best? Are we ‘world-class’, so to speak? In terms of factual knowledge and the conception, it IS world-class. But there is one component lacking which makes it really top-notch: the ability to reflect, to think, to believe in what one believes and to defend it. What is, then, education? Education is the ‘process or art of imparting knowledge, judgement, and skills.’ In Singapore, you only have the knowledge component which is fully developed. There is little judgement being taught, apart from what is absolutely right and what is absolutely wrong, like how it is absolutely wrong to criticise the Gahmen. Skills which are taught range from the physical to the intellectual – sadly, the intellectual skills being taught rarely, if ever, get applied. The success formula for a Singaporean student is: study hard and memorise. Don’t think so much. Don’t use short-cuts. The old time-tested method will see you true.

Thus, these intellectual skills degenerate and fade into nothingness. As for judgement, in terms of syllabus, i think MOE has done a perfect job of exploiting the Asian mentality and depicted everything in the books to be the gospel truth. Personally, it was only through my reading outside the curriculum that i discovered the alternative dimensions. In school, however, an alternative dimension only brings you bad marks. This results in the cowing of generations of students, the refusal to accept a new view or even to formulate one, instead forever referring to the books, because what is said there must be right.

Why? It’s not just the exploitation of the mentality. There’s also the (maybe perceived) dimension of fear vis-à-vis the Gahmen, the bosses. Even if the Gahmen doesn’t do it anymore, but Singaporeans have become so self-conscious and so possessed by this fear that if, say, a student writes a very brilliant essay attacking flaws in the Gahmen and gets good marks for it, the teacher can expect to find himself in very, very deep shit. That’s why topics like philosophy (in the form of KI, only theory of science, math, language are taught – nothing about ethics since it makes people think and ask why) are left out of the curriculum (or very carefully tended to) and teachers in general are wary of approaching such topics because of their jobs. This fear, or this general refusal, leads to the dumbing-down of society as a whole.

This dumbing-down has caused Singaporean society, Singaporean culture to degenerate into a papers chase, a money chase. No longer is anyone interested in deeper issues, the question of identity (some people leave it to God and forget it), the problems of the society. Education has degenerated into a wild attempt to force-feed students with the gospel truth in the books (which is fine with math, but not with history or lit or GP – remember the teaching that we should write our essays LIKE THIS and not in any other way?) and the students’ attempt to memorise everything without even attempting to understand it. This lack of understanding, or the lack of an attempt to, is transferred from school (MOE says molding the future of Singapore. In this sense, it is very very true) to society – no one understands what’s around him anymore, and the lack of ability to reflect and think only causes him to be cowed, to bend to the first authority which appears to know what they are doing.

So from home, are we ready to be an Educational Hub? No, we are not.

It pays now to throw some light upon why then the Gahmen has this idea that being an educational hub will be the future of Singapore, Inc. Lately even, foreign undergraduates have been offered the chance to come to Singapore and earn as much money as they wish. Competition to the locals is one thing, but to what end is all this? This is blind courtship – unconditional permission for anyone and everyone to come and work – take note that not everyone is a foreign talent. And the locals? I don’t know about us anymore.

Why this blind courtship? Is it because we’re not alternative enough, is it because we’re too one-tracked? Well, we’re brought up to be so. We’re conditioned (not educated) to think like this – we’re conditioned to accept only one system and not see things from a greater perspective. And then the Gahmen uses this excuse to say that foreigners are great, foreigners are good – i’m sure they are. I have a lot of foreign friends here who are really very interesting people to meet, partially because of the diversity of thought, and their own philosophies. What do we think in Singapore? What philosophy do we follow? No one poses these questions. But if you were posed it, could you answer it?

For so much hubbub about being a Hub, i’ll say no, thank you. A better way out would be to sort out education at home before we even think about going transregional.

I am Singaporean XXVII – The Question of Survival May 9, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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Normally i think that Gopalan Nair only writes hate mail. Here’s another piece for you

There’s only one thing to refute here in this post. Singapore’s population is going up. Going to be 6 million by 2025, of which maybe 50% will be foreign talents. Happy loh! Also, the way he writes is like he’s painting a picture of the Apocalypse in Singapore already. It’s one-sided negativity, and nor does he go into further details on 1) why we hate our Gahmen and want to migrate, 2) and all the bad news.

But, seriously, it makes me wonder if Singapore can survive. Can we, really? As a Singaporean, i am doubtful. Too long have we been weak and lazy (see Chapter XXVI.) Although we still have a brand name which will still sell to a certain extent, people talk in terms of money. Singapore too…remember all the ‘outsourcing’ and local workers being told they should thank their lucky stars they still have a job, so just accept the pay cut and the leave restrictions already? In this sense, i believe that Singapore will soon become a victim of its own success. We can only diversify so far, and without any variance and deviation from the norms (don’t forget, what’s right in Singapore is what the PAP says is right) we’re hanging on to the words of very few people who don’t necessarily see things with our eyes.

Why do Singaporeans dislike the Gahmen? Of course the States Times’ whitewash (also known as the HOME section) states that we actually do love our politicians and our mini$ters very very much. Aww. I’m like BURSTING with love for these people who sweat their guts out and have many superhuman abilities (for example, raising their own $alarie$…) so the words they tell us, like being prepared to work til we drop dead one day, should be the accepted with fanfare, carnivals and fireworks! But, seriously. It’s very simple: the Gahmen never keeps in touch with the people. Sure there are people out there who are willing to serve for a smaller pay packet. But once they voice their thoughts and concerns, the PAP says: we challenge you to challenge us during the next GE. Or, they get absorbed into the party, get paid lots of money and promptly forget the ideals they held on to.

So, the people promptly get forgotten. The Gahmen sees what’s most viable to keep Singapore Inc. running, forgetting that they’re running a COUNTRY, not a fucking company. Never are the people consulted because they’re not mature enough to know what it is like to run a country – i agree that the people are immature, but by cutting this chance off how will they ever know how to contribute to their country and mature as a people? Tax raises are conducted to help the poor – fat load of good it will do – and in the meantime, let’s give ourselves a raise too, shall we? After all, they deserve a pat on the back…while everyone else who suffers a pay cut does so because it’s their fault.

Is this the right way to run a country?

In terms of the people, i am also losing faith in the Singaporean people. Day in, day out, they live from day-to-day, following blindly the instructions, never railing against the boss or saying anything even if it’s downright wrong. Wait kena pay cut then you know. And it is this weakness, and this laziness, the layman’s preference to live in whatever life he has instead of trying to improve it, the hypocrisy of ‘opposition is good, but not in my ward’, the voting not according to conscience but by fear – this is why i have lost faith in the Singaporean people. LKY’s prophecy is a self-fulfilling one because he has made the PAP and the current style of government a kind of cocaine, a drug which is administered to children since they are 6 years old. We’re all addicted to it, you and i. Without the PAP, most Singaporeans would not see a way Singapore could survive. So we let them raise their pay, let them raise our taxes – surely you need money to feed a drug habit, don’t you?

The politicians will say but we have a unique Singaporean identity to fall back on and that we are all Singaporeans. The Singaporean identity however is but a chimaera. What identity are you talking about, when you try to exterminate Singlish, a creole tongue of english? (compare this with yiddish: it became the language of millions of Jews in eastern Europe who came over from Germany, a language which was their culture AND identity.) What identity can you talk about, when the message from the state is clear: work until you die, and we want your money, but not your problems? No one is going to fight for Singapore as an institute. We fight because it is our homes. We fight for our loved ones, our friends and family. If anyone does fight at all. Singaporean identity? NEH!

And with Minilee saying that the ever-unpopular Iraq War should be upheld by the USA, which is a geopolitical bad idea IMHO, without any discussion, i wonder how long Singapore can survive. We are a people of automatons, led by a man driven by money – America is a huge market but in supporting Bush personally, i think that Minilee was trying to coddle some support. Once again, the thoughts of the American people don’t matter. The thoughts of Europe don’t matter. What matters is him, the money, and the investing in Singapore Inc. I believe many of us don’t support the war. But we’ll never get to express it now because our Prime Mini$ter just announced that we think the war’s a really groovy idea! Yet another example of differences in thought here. And if we offend the EU, we may suffer a lot of loss in terms of trade and economic investment – you think we can run on money from the US? Then we can be the 51st State of the USA already.

Singapore surviving? You mean, Singapore Inc. will survive. Singapore is dying. Slowly…slowly…

I am Singaporean XXVI – YOU Don’t Have to Care About Your Society. May 5, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
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So not long ago, goh meng seng published an article on what binds Singaporeans to our country. Apparently, many Singaporeans have left Singapore without a bad conscience in their hearts – at Singapore Day in New York, it was shown that Singaporeans are effectively bound to their country by one thing – their collective stomachs.

Singapore Day hinted at the troubling answer. The crowds thinned considerably as the stalls ran out of food. Few stayed for the entertainment flown in from home. Fewer paid any attention to the displays and booths touting the developments at home and that of overseas Singaporeans. In fact, there was a lack of interest in anything other than the food — and when the food was gone, there was little interest in anything at the event at all.

So, the national gel is reduced to something as shallow as food (although it keeps you alive, but you can eat any kind of food to stay alive – no more Singaporean food doesn’t mean you’ll die), kiasuism and Singlish (which our Gahmen has been trying to kill time and time again.) Does it bind our nation?

Historically speaking, i think it doesn’t. Singaporeans have long lost the bond to their nation in their quest for more money, and more money, and more materialistic goals. NS has been lauded in the States Times because it makes boys grow into men. And that’s it! I don’t see how NS has made us into flag-waving patriots. Indeed, if Singapore ever went into war, i’d be fighting for my friends and family, NOT some flag-waving general who sits in his bunker all day and visits the rear areas.

You say that friends and family bind us to Singapore? That is true to a very large extent, but do friends + family = Singapore? Nope. If your family all decided to migrate to Australia, would you go? Or would you find the Uniquely Singaporean Identity so hard to give up – there’s so much to let go of – that you’d stay?

Sadly, i personally feel that there is not that much to let go of – the difficult part about leaving home for good is leaving your friends and family behind. And THAT IS ALL! Did we build this society with our bare hands that we’d hate to leave it? No, we didn’t. Did we do our part to change the society according to our beliefs and ideals? No, we didn’t. There was never any enlightenment on society-level in Singapore. Those who have had their eyes opened packed their bags and left.

What is enlightenment? Enlightenment can bring money meh? Kant defined it as the process of a society of people becoming more mature in terms of thought and action.

der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit.

Is this happening? Kant noted that the immaturity of humans is actually their own fault – due to their laziness and weakness they refuse to become mature. In what way are they lazy? They are used to their present comfortable lifestyle, simply following orders and living day to day – as long as they’re comfortable, why put in the effort to improve things? How, then, are they weak? In bending their wills to conform with society, to follow laws, or the very simple fear of making a big step into another age.

This is just a condensation of Kant’s thesis on enlightenment. All in all, it just makes the new, the change look very very unpalatable. Kant’s vision of enlightenment calls for people to think and express their thoughts in writing – not by way of a bloody revolution.

Either way, i believe this is a big reason why Singaporeans have no bond to their society – they have never contributed to society’s cohesion, evolution and growth – they’ve only contributed to its money-making machine. Fighting society’s ills and helping society to grow as a whole is the Gahmen’s job. Not ours. We have no money and we don’t really like our neighbours because we don’t talk to them.

YES, it’s like that! In the past, Singapore was, i quote, the Paris of South-East Asia.

Singapore used to be the cultural centre of Southeast Asia back in the pre-WWII, 50s and 60s. This development is in tune with a more liberal political settings where hundreds of flowers blossom. You could even read about great debates between newspapers, not merely politicians.

Choirs, writers, song writers, plays, painters… etc. you name it you have it. Singapore, though economically speaking not top of the world, but it is the Paris of SEA in terms of the richness of its cultural development.

After the misadventure of “Malaysian Malaysia”, everything seems to change overnight. We have traded our cultural development and political rights for the economic miracle. The era of “White Terror” came right after that and lasted throughout the 1970s. “White Terror”? What “White Terror”? Some young undergraduates have asked me recently. If one is to write something critical or just a little bit similar to the leftist or communist literature, you will be call up for tea in ISD or even locked up. This is one singular political tool that has stiffen cultural development and even up to now, we still could hear of censorship on political interviews and films. A generation or two have been lost in this era of cultural whitewash.

The ISD still carries this element of fear with it today. Effectively, the Gahmen has taken the responsibility of building a society out of our hands – today, it realises this and tries to reintroduce it into society. But who’s going to change now? Everyone still has this fear that you can get arrested and detained without trial under the ISA. Everyone is just reduced to grousing and the Gahmen still carries on with its high-handed, day-to-day activities of raising taxes (but informing us, not asking our opinion, just to inform us) and their salaries. And to silence the yapping dogs which constitute the blogosphere, they just send Old Grand Master to talk to us, weave an apocalyptic scene of our sisters and loved ones working as maids overseas.

I have nothing against MM Lee. He belongs to the age when culturally Singapore was blooming. Sadly, that age is long gone and buried. Once he consolidated his power, Old Grand Master has been on a quest to retain it. As long as possible. In doing so, he made Singapore his machine – run by Lee’s physics, Lee’s mechanics, and using Lee’s formula. If you have noticed, everyone in Singapore runs like clockwork. Step out of line and get laughed at. When i came back to Singapore with tied hair, i got a lot of weird looks on the street.

It just goes to show how immature in terms of thought as a people Singaporeans are. People still do not dare to speak up, even if it concerns themselves. They just grin and bear it. How much can the people bear? How much more will it take? Will the Gahmen notice this? Will they start letting us care about our society so the identity problem will diminish? I can’t say. When will we become ‘mature’?

Take note that ‘mature’ in this sense is not taken in the Singaporean context. ‘Mature’ here means being actively concerned for your society and discussing these views without fear of persecution (or turning a blind eye to it.) – In this aspect, the opposition politicians can be seen to be ‘mature’. Singaporean ‘maturity’ is knowing how to take care of yourself. YOURSELF and not society. Personally, i refuse to believe that 4 million people can be so cowed. But seeing what’s going on at home and all the apathy, i can’t help but question: is it because the people are weak from the start, or is it because they were brought up to be weak and lazy in this aspect?

Oh, yes. Ideas doesn’t give you any benefits. Only free teh at ISD only. Better hurry up and earn more money. Money is important. The other man’s problem isn’t…after all, it is MY money right? Meritocracy mah! If you are earning 500 bucks a month working at some cleaning company with a horrible boss and no sick leave, it’s YOUR fault. You should have upgraded yourself/migrated overseas/died. Didn’t our Old Grand Master say that if we turned old and sick and unable to earn money we’d be better off dead? Die lor.

I posted ‘Appalling’ to see if anyone would post it on. And no one has. While i am not able to give a huge sum of money (thus some people will say i am being a hypocrite) at least it disturbs me. What disturbs me more is that people read it and forget it…

I am Singapore XXV – Double Vision April 30, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
7 comments

So i read in the States Times that Minister for Education, (also familiarly known to us as Uncle Tharman), mentioned that Singaporeans have to embrace lifelong learning, for example, have more people pursuing postgraduate studies. Namely, we should follow the examples of Finland and Switzerland who have postgraduate statistics of between 170 to 240 per million. Here’s a taste for you…

Mr Tharman touched on another key ingredient for success – more Singaporeans should be doing postgraduate studies. Last year, there were 520 Singaporeans doing PhD studies, or 115 people per million, he said. This was much lower than the 170 to 240 per million in countries like Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, he said.

Wait a second. Finland and Switzerland?? I thought not too long ago, Old Grand Master Lee said that they were really mediocre countries and if our political system was like theirs, we’d all be swimming in the South China Sea now, with our wives, girlfriends, and sisters as maids! I quote our nation-building press:

If this economy ever falters, that’s the end of Singapore and its First World Status […] has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. […] their systems and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government. (ST, April 10, 2007)

See, that’s what the Old Grand Master said! So basically, we should be following the example set by a mediocre nation. Won’t that make our people more mediocre? More mediocre than they already are because they are always complaining? Oh, no. Uncle Tharman, i think there must be a mistake here.

Seriously, however, this deserves to be put into perspective. I think there’s a link with more education and reduced autocracy, no matter how benevolent. I shall deal with that another day. Now, i’m so confused. So lost. Who do we follow? Who’s mediocre? I know Singapore is like, HOW GODLIKE and we should really rule the world…but i’m really confused.

I mean, if these countries are really so mediocre, how come they have so many people doing postgraduate studies that we should follow them? I think it implies that maybe they are so mediocre that their degrees are worthless…must do postgraduate studies to actually let them have value. How insulting! Considering that these countries have a much richer history and a much richer background in terms of education compared to our little red dot.

Also, it makes me concerned because these mediocre politicians are educated by those very same education systems which Uncle Tharman just lauded. Won’t that mean that we’ll become mediocre people too and have mediocre political leaders and all our sisters and wives will end up as maids?? In that case, i better hurry up and go buy my life jacket. South China Sea can be quite deep one you know.

This is bad. I’m getting double vision from seeing ‘mediocre’ signs all over the place. Switzerland and Finland are mediocre countries. Singaporeans are mediocre because we should have more educated people. Who’s mediocre?? You? Me? I really wished that either our Gahmen tell us 1 story, or they don’t tell us anymore stories. Give us the truth. But would our Grand Master say, ‘you can’t handle the truth!’??

I’m so confused and lost. I think i’ll stop for now.

I am Singaporean XXIV – Education. April 22, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
8 comments

What is education? To answer this question, perhaps one would look in a dictionary. But, education and the perception of the word have many very different aspects. In this article, i intend to problematise the word ‘education’ in the Singaporean context.

So, what is education? Wiktionary defines it as ‘The process or art of imparting knowledge, skill and judgment.’ That’s the Western view of education. Indeed, many Westerners come across as being very knowledgeable, having a vast bank of general knowledge to draw on, and no, i don’t mean the academics yet. Teachers who come from Europe or other countries tend to be more open with their students and are willing to take a step back and consider things from another perspective – something which some local teachers do, but others don’t. That’s before they realise that their bonuses are pegged to how well their students do, as well as being part of a certain CCA with the same amount, or maybe even more extra-curricular activites than the students.

Yah, any student reading this – teaching very xiong one you know!

Then, they start to look for ‘success formulae’ – you know, model answers, 10 year series, question spotting, attempting to persuade students to focus on this subject and forego CCA/third language classes/enrichment stuff/whatever, because the grades are important for their entrance to JC (as well as their own bonuses.) Isn’t it horribly ironic that being teachers, they themselves are also so egocentric when they are supposed to teach their students how to live with their neighbours? I’m sorry, money talks. I forgot.

In the course of this attempt to make their students ace their exams, for whatever reason it may be, (no, angry teachers, money is NOT the only motivation. It really could be that sense of achievement.) education loses the original meaning above and becomes probably ‘The process or art of imparting how to score well (skill).’ How many times did you hear the teacher say ‘just memorise this and this and that’ or ‘this topic will confirm guarantee plus chop come out in the exams?’ How many times were you faced with an irate teacher demanding to know why you are reading this irrelevant part of the textbook because you were interested? (happened to yours truly!)

On the students’ side, it’s been impressed into them since they were young that good grades = good future. Meritocracy, mah. I remember getting caned in primary school for every stroke i got below Band 1. Not that i have something against it (because it worked to some extent) but the discipline and the desire to learn more comes from interest and not from fear. That much i know. At some point of time, i began to develop an interest for particular subjects – in secondary school, chemistry and math, in JC, german and chemistry, in the Army, philosophy. That involved doing a lot of reading, above and beyond whatever was required. But i did it out of interest. Honestly, if i studied out of fear, maybe i would be doing some stuffy science/engineering subject instead of Germanistik and philosophy. The interest has to be cultivated somehow, and the sad fact is that although many Kindergärten are already adapting the ‘learning through making it fun’ methodology to cultivate interest, this methodology is cut off, gone, not there anymore, once primary education begins.

Education in the Singaporean sense kills interest, because after awhile it degenerates into a grades chase and the real purpose of education, the imparting of knowledge, disappears. You’d expect a literature student to be very well read, knowing the texts of the world (or at least the classics) because of their wide reading, no? But many just study the texts they are given time and time and time again. Some schools even consider not offering Literature anymore because of how difficult it is to score in the subject (the average reflects badly on the school…) So, what happened to interest? No, pragmatism comes first. How about reading up on a particular school of thought for literary analysis, e.g., deconstruction? No, it’s a waste of time. Shut up and focus on your exams. UNLESS you’re a S-paper student. Then we can talk…

Students are taught what is right and what is not, and everything is shown in a black-and-white fashion. This is right and that is wrong. There’s not a lot of room for grey areas. A grey area would be, for example, the usage of Singlish. Or sex education. Given today’s circumstances, the educational stand is still that sex is bad and it will send you to Hell. Thus, abstain. But abstinence education is going nowhere! However many teachers still scoff at a more preventive than prophylactic method, which is the teaching of safe sex. Similarly, this problem can be carried over to the curricular aspects.

I have personally been blessed with having a General Paper teacher who was open, kind, and willing to look at essays from another perspective. She accepted writing styles which deviated from the norm of introduction, argument, counter-argument, argument, counter-argument, solution (which is good for planning but not necessarily the best for an essay) and encouraged the development of our personal style. She also happened to be Canadian. I got a B3 for GP though. Yeah, go on and scoff. Bet i’ll pwn you at essay-writing any day. I stuck to writing in my own style, and i didn’t follow the script every time. But i got a C6 for prelims, and my essay in terms of language was seriously marked down – apparently i didn’t follow the marker’s impression of ‘an award-winning OMGWTFyoujustgotanA1OMGOMGOMG essay.’ It was very disheartening and i almost gave up my writing style, convinced that there was something wrong. But, perhaps i did not consider that it could be the teacher’s perspective too.

My German teacher marked similarly too – as long as our essays were logically coherent and contained no blasphemies against the general morality of humans, it would be fine. So, perhaps i was lucky. But this shows what i have come to perceive of the Singaporean education system. It’s like once a success formula has been found (probably after consulting the Cambridge examination reports as if they were dissertations or the books of the Bible) teachers just stick to it for all posterity. There’s no room for the personal flair to develop, no room for creativity – just do what i teach you to. And students, who aren’t much interested in school (only interested in that it’s the key to their future, like a Gahmen scholarship) just lap it all up.

You, dear reader, can accuse me of being polemical and having been corrupted by ‘liberal Western values.’ But when you discover that you can’t hold an intellectual discussion over, for example, philosophical topics with most people, or you discover that almost no one has read, say, Shakespeare or Homer, then you know that education, to a certain extent, has failed. What knowledge are we trying to give?

I know i am going to teach German in the future. But perhaps all of the above was dedicated to education in general. I know that for what i am going to teach, i really have to start with the basics – grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening comprehension, and writing. But if i have the opportunity to i don’t see what’s wrong with giving my students extras – in terms of an extra theme, a different kind of assignment, attempt to open their eyes and give them more knowledge on a general background, or maybe just an experiment using different methodology. Why not elsewhere?

I am Singaporean XXIII – Désenchantée April 17, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
5 comments

That’s French for disillusioned.

So in the not-so-distant past, kitana and ben have closed shop. I don’t know why, but kitana mentioned disillusionment in the aftermath of the ministers’ pay raise. And it’s a pity, because i really enjoyed reading their blogs. There’s also something about most people’s reactions to, say, political content on your blog:

Be careful…you never know what can happen to you…i just want you to be safe…just accept it – there’s nothing we can do to change things…nothing we can do anyway because they’re not going to change…i’m really worried for you…just give it up and be satisfied with what you have, et cetera.

Personally, i think i blog about political issues because while i am, ad usum delphini, dissatisfied with the developments in Singapore, i still do care for my country. Others have tried and given up when the disillusionment finally reached them. It’s not to say that i’m not disillusioned, but as Martin Luther King put it: i have a dream. But as Nelly Furtado puts it, all good things come to an end. (Get the version with Rea Garvey. The Chris Martin one sucks.)

And at the same time, praises of the new Budget/pay raise/policy are being sung in Parliament, letters which appear to be overly critical of the pay raise have been surruptitiously omitted from the States Times Forum, whereas today someone said that our Ministers deserve a pat on the back and the pay raise. Or letters saying which should leave the pay raise hubbub behind and move on to other more pragmatic issues. Maybe the PAP has fully succeeded at this – breeding the pragmatic mindset in the population so that there will be some unhappiness over downright dastardly unpopular policies because there are always more pragmatic issues to mull over instead of the ideological ones.

The philosophy faculty at NUS is known to be almost hopeless. The Arts, or subjects which encourage reflection, are carefully modified and adjusted for ‘relevance’ – i heard all they teach in Politikwissenschaft is how Singapore is such a wonderful success story (correct me if i’m wrong because tat says that there’s a lot of bitching) and how history is mainly south-east Asian (what happened to ancient history, the Middle Ages and other periods of development? Thus, i’m sorry, but i don’t consider it a history degree. I’d say it’s Social Studies, not to offend anyone.) So maybe reflection and comparisons to other cases are restricted.

Maybe there’s a reason why we’re so disillusioned and apathetic. Singapore is, in a sense, a victim of its own success. With education comes the knowledge and perception of the self and the role the self plays in society as a whole – unfortunately, the average self in Singapore isn’t very much an individual but perhaps more like a subject to the powers that be – a statistic, a gear in a working machine, a peon, a peasant. The glossing over of everything, the brainwashing potential of education only compounds things further. To prevent us from feeling too hurt by this uncomfortable discovery, emotionally we become at first disillusioned and then apathetic. After all, we’re all just pawns – our fates are not ours, and if we’re not useful to society anymore we can juat be dead (does anyone remember who said that? Because i do.)

The fact that many of the ministers waltz into Parliament unchallenged, not having to prove their mettle, and sometimes a random publicity fuck-up which shows just how out-of-touch they are with the people they were supposed to serve, (like Elitism, Increasing Taxation And Then Their Own Paychecks, Making An Unpopular Budget Sound Like the Cure to AIDS, yadda) which reflects the complacency in their minds, further compounds the problem. An overwhelming majority of the population, yours truly included, are not elites. And no, vertical movement within the society is something which is still impossible to most. Is it any wonder that we’re apathetic?

People go, ‘they’re going ahead with it anyway,’ ‘nothing we can do about it,’ ‘they have the power. Gahmen doesn’t care about us.’ Is this true? Personally i think although transparency has improved, the high-handedness of it hasn’t. The elite will continue to be elite because of their financial resources and kids in top schools (even if they may not be worthy of being there – pull string la.) while the average person has to go for self-improvement and may (surprise, surprise!) get retrenched anyway. So how are the elite ever going to get in contact with us, the people? They don’t see things with our eyes and believe, no, are convinced that what they are doing is for the best. And whose ‘best’ is this here? Mistakes are given almost zilch publicity. How’s Shin Corp for a reminder? Anyone heard anything about it? Oh well. Once in a while, a pay raise and a pat on the back is in order too. Too bad that most of us can’t be bothered to pat them on the back.

Look. You, dear politicians, can continue to paint a rosy happy picture of life in Singapore, where everything seems to be perfect (especially if you’re an ang mor, male, filthy rich so you can get a SPG) when it actually isn’t. Disillusionment is everywhere. No one believes in ideology and ideals and moolah is the talk of the day, all day. Or the insignificant things in life. People vote for the Party during GE because they’re going to win anyway. And i don’t want to jeopardise my job. Social responsibility is not all that high (and that includes voting according to your conscience, not your job concerns) And all along, they want is to be less apathetic!

I’m sorry. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

I am Singaporean XXII – The Philanthropist April 12, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.
2 comments

If you have noticed, i have refrained from commenting on the Pay Raise after the adjustments were announced because i knew the backlash on the net would be really really heavy already. (At the same time, i was on a cramped uncomfortable 747 on the way to Frankfurt am Main, so please spare me.)

But this has got to be featured. It seems that our PM, after receiving a 25.5% pay raise of about 1 peanut (they’ve decided to graduate the pay raise so people won’t get so angry, although it means that people will get angry more times) BUT! our PM has decided to freeze his pay raise and donate it for 5 years to charity!

Now, i’m not scoffing at it really. The thing about it is that wer can’t read minds so we don’t know if our beloved PM is doing it because he is truly an anthropist (which he may very well be although the system treats ‘welfare’ as the dirtiest of words, alongside ‘fuck’ maybe.) But, perhaps this is not just a PM showing his human side, but also a nice PR stunt pulled to take the heat off the government for, well, approving their own pay raises again. I mean, so the PM decides to donate his pay raise to charity. I don’t see the other ministers doing it, but maybe they’re just misanthropes. Xiao Lee is in the limelight all the time, and his donations would probably cause the majority of us to overlook the fact that the other ministers are not donating…they’re probably just concerned with their new Swiss bank accounts.

So it probably IS a smart PR move, as well as an opportunity for our ministers to earn a ticket to Heaven. Oh well. The jaded mind would think that this is well, fulfilling the statement that the tax raise was to help the poor…tax raise -> pay raise -> anthropist! THAT’S helping the poor while raising their status! But yeah, yeah. i am jaded. So what, are you going to shoot me?

One point of contention however is why the money is going to charities. First of all, which charities are they going to? If they are going to help orphanages and retirement homes, then what about the permanently jobless and all? 1 peanut a year can do a lot. Take the handouts for example. I mean, perhaps the Gahmen is going to blame us once again for bringing up the social welfare issue but it is a pertinent one. A smarter move would be to make a smaller increase and then invest in social welfare. But no, welfare’s not good for you remember?

And, what’s more, if the peanuts went to a social/governmental organisation, there would be better control than, say, a charity. Remember the NKF? You never know…indirectly our PM’s pay raise could be used to finance gold taps. Heh.

However, i am willing not to think so much and just believe Xiao Lee is a good guy at heart. As reuben pointed out, this isn’t leadership by example (since the ministers aren’t giving their peanuts away) but leadership by paradigm shift…whatever that means. Just change the mindsets of the people for the next 5 years and with a dash of luck they may get into Parliament in full force, raise the tax and raise their pay again! Thus, it would be prudent to be very, very careful. Keep your eyes open, Singapore. This ain’t Kansas anymore.