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Singlish, Once Again… September 29, 2011

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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Here’s a post which appeared as an opinion piece on the Catholic News. It was, however, so full of bombast that I had to reply to what seemed an article which was posted because the bombastic writing seemed to lend it depth which it didn’t have. Here it is: English vs Singlish as our Language. (EDIT: Catholic News removed the post. Thanks to Google, here’s a cached version.)

Since I don’t know whether my reply will be published or not (generally people don’t like polemic drenched in sarcasm), so here is my reply:

Bravo, bravo!

So bombastic was your argument that I was left nearly speechless, not knowing what to say. But then I remembered why I was here, which is to say the following:

your article is full of big words but is rather poor in content. Let’s see why.

Firstly what do you mean by ‘for the purpose of dialectic’? I assume that you must mean ‘argument from received opinion’, which would explain your dichotomous division of English into standard and non-standard. OK.

Second, what is linguistic etiquette? you mean the prescriptive rules of standard English which may assert status?  There is no such thing as linguistic etiquette. Your usage of the word ‘etiquette’ suggests that it is per se correct to use Standard English, which is not always the case. Try speaking Standard English to someone who only speaks a non-standard variety. In that case, you may have broken with your so-called ‘linguistic etiquette’.

Third, if Singapore does not give us the luxury of choice (which in fact it does), then how can you say that our indulgence in it will lead us to losing? Can you indulge in a non-existant luxury? Don’t you think that Singapore SHOULD give us the luxury of choice by making sure we know what Singlish is and what Standard English is and when to use both?

Fourth, what do you mean by ‘we are faced with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?’ You mean that we will not be able to understand Standard English, because Singlish has ‘polluted our thinking’? So what about, say, a dialect speaker from England? Would his English dialect too have polluted his thinking, making him unable to understand Standard English, and making him a loser?

You make a crass overgeneralization here, and since you are so fond of naming Latin forms of refutation, here’s yours: secundum quid. The refutation is as follows: Standard English  is utilized by America and England for communication. Therefore, only Standard English is spoken in America and England. Which is a fallacy.

by the way: Standard English in England is known as Received Pronunciation, and Standard English in America is yet another variety. You seem to see THE Standard English, which may be..?

Fifth, you say that “It is not a question of etymology but of prescriptive tendentiousness where for us it is a universal means of communication with the English-speaking world.” I’m afraid that your ideailzed Standard English speaker wouldn’t understand what you mean. Especially: what is prescriptive tendentiousness? you mean a prescriptive bias? Towards what? Who or what is exerting the bias? Singlish? Standard English?

I mean, perhaps I may have misunderstood you, considering that your brilliance in writing this article must have led many to misread some of your core points. I apologize for my audacity to challenge your authority. But still the questions come!

Sixth, how can a set of prescriptive rules with their minute variations, like “the noun being primary to the adjective” (which is, as a linguist [did I just out myself there?] a highly unsatisfactory description) indicate a deductive and inductive mindset?

Let’s take a stab at that. Deduction means that you deduce certain propositions from a general proposition. For example, if all men are mortal, then Socrates is mortal. Induction menas that you deduce from a multitude of particular propositions a general one. For example, if Socrates, Plato, Aristotle etc. are capable of laughing, then it is possible that all men are capable of laughing.

Nowhere do your so-called “minute variations” appear, and I am tempted to say that once again, I must have misunderstood your brilliance in argumentation. Would you care to show me where these variations may be and how exactly they indicate such a mindset?

Your last paragraph smacks of a false dichotomy (maybe the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has been getting to you.) You say that to survive, we should give up Singlish and instead all become Standard English speakers. Can’t you have both? It is the KNOWLEDGE that one should use the one under these circumstances and the other under those which makes the difference. Or perhaps you have seen a truth which none of us have?

Lastly: I didn’t know it was possible to semantically classify languages along the connotative/denotative division. I thought that ALL languages are connotative and denotative? Example: If someone says in Singlish that ‘my car spoil already’, he is DENOTING the status of his car, namely, out of service. If someone says in Standard English that ‘x is an idiot’, he is CONNOTING the notion that x is dumb, stupid, etc. Or is there yet another greater truth that you have seen and we haven’t?

O, please enlighten us!

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Streit der Fakultäten – Philosophie vs. Jura September 7, 2011

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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NB: This post has its roots in a discussion with a friend of mine. Thank you, Liesel.

Once upon a time, I posted about the problem of legality vs. morality. A discussion with a law student has reawakened this train of thought, especially enough for me to bring this blog out of dormancy.

The question is: Are morals objective? Is morality as a concept objective?

Many of you will be tempted to say yes. Morals are objective. For without a standard of what is right and wrong, what justifies the choices we make and the actions we do? But, I will attempt to argue that morals are not objective. First, we have to look at the definition of “objective”. What is “objective”?

Objective is something which truth-value does NOT vary under any circumstance. For example, the statement that “all bachelors are single” is objective. For under no circumstances will you find a bachelor that is married.

Now, in a second step, let’s transfer this definition of “objective” to morals. Are morals “objective” in the sense given? Obviously not. Morals are “objective” when they are codified by the law – but what does this mean? Let’s look at a law, e.g. Clause 377A. Is it “objective” that gay sex is immoral? No. Alex Au will testify to that. If gay sex was “objectively” immoral, then many gays would be spit upon on the streets in any society you see. Germany, Switzerland, the USA, the UK, and so on. Because if gay sex was “objectively” immoral, then gay sex is wrong. Period. Under any circumstances.

But one may argue that the West has a decayed set of morals. Is it right to say so? Probably not – for one tends to project his world-view upon the entire world. Things which are wrong in one culture may be accepted in another, and that is what one misses.

So what, then, is morality?

I define morality as “behavioural rules which members of a collective agree upon, in order for the collective to further thrive as such.” In doing so, there is no such thing as “objective morality” per se. The Ancient Greeks believed that you should love those who love you, and harm those which give you trouble (λυποῦντα λύπει καὶ φιλοῦνθ᾽ ὑπερφίλει). Is that still true today? Patently, no. Morality only becomes “objective” when they are codified by laws. Since laws are definitory by nature, and since definitions are per se “objective”, they appear to display “morality” as “objective”. Why do such laws come into effect? Well, one could say that over time, this collective of individuals saw that a particular principle of action seemed to work, and therefore set it in law, to ensure that society further thrives as it was for them.

But wait! the lawyer will say. So do you mean that “convention is that men may incarcerate women, then you would accept that as moral conduct?” Well, here is the clincher: At that point in time and given the particular context, you must say that it was moral for the people then under those circumstances that women be incarcerated. Naturally, no one would say that today. I don’t subscribe to that belief too. But if you want to be descriptive, then you must say that that was moral, given the circumstances then.

Our lawyer could then say that you were immoral to make such statements. But that is an oversimplification (to be precise, secundum quid – the leaving out of qualifications.) Morals are always tied to a certain context. The problem is that we, as humans, are not subjects per se – in a sense we may be, but in our time on this world, we exist always in a given context – what we are, what we believe in are given in a certain context. We think that a particular action is good, which a person 300 years ago would have turned his nose on. Homosexual paedophilia? It was considered good practice in Antiquity! What about ‘eye for an eye’? It’s in the Old Testament!

It should suffice to show that morals are only “objective” when they are codified by law and shown to be universally valid, albeit in a given context. Is it, then, absurd to say that you believe in what is per se moral? Again, the answer is no. I have developed a weaker sense of what it means to be “objective”. As a subject in a given context, you must believe in what is “objectively” moral to even have a sense of direction in your life. If you truly subscribed to the fact that morals are only valid in a given context, then everything collapses into relativism, once the context changes – nothing is moral nor immoral. So what guides you then?

I would, personally, rather face the charge of inconsistency at this point than the possibility of being a totally amoral subject. If I am amoral, what is the meaning of life?

So what is the problem? The problem is that many people tend to equate morality with legality. What is legal is what is moral. Therefore, people who break the law are immoral. Wait a second! Is that true? Is it immoral to drink on the MRT, knowing that you will be caught and be fined? If consistency is so important to the lawyer, then it must be immoral. But what about the sick person who is thirsty? Should he be fined? Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m not disputing that people who break the law are mostly immoral. But the keyword is mostly. Because we grow up in a society, our views of what is moral tend strongly to converge. For example, it is wrong to kill. It is wrong to steal. Because you would not wish that upon yourself. But there are laws which are so banal to be laughable. It may be illegal to stage a demonstration – but is it immoral to? It may be immoral to people of a different age – but is it immoral to people today?

The key to all this is understanding what it means to be a subject within a given context with given values. Law is black and white – either it is right, or it is wrong, and law must assume an “objective” morality, without which it would have no standing. But understanding that this “objectivity” is only given due to the codification of morals, which take place at a certain time under certain circumstances, would help to separate the concepts “legality” and “morality”. What is “moral” may be “illegal”. A well-meaning German in WWII who decided to tell the SS that he didn’t see the Jew living his in cellar was moral, although it was very, very illegal to do so.

7: Logical Thinking? January 20, 2010

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen, What Were They Thinking?!.
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According to PAP logic, we’re casting foreigners as villians. And we shouldn’t do that, says our Law Minister.

But isn’t law something which goes by logic? Then why is it that he is giving us such illogical statements? Many netizens (like Lucky Tan etc.) don’t see the logic…so let’s see what is not logical in what the States Times and what our Minister said…

So, first, the report:

MIDWAY through a 11/2-hour dialogue with Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday, 58-year-old Wee Kai Fatt stood up and gave voice to the claims of many coffee shop pundits here.

The senior engineer complained about the foreigner-fuelled population boom, saying he was shocked when he heard there were five million people living in Singapore.

This influx of foreigners, he added, had caused HDB home prices to rocket.

Taking it all in, Mr Shanmugam took pains to clarify what he said were several misconceptions in Mr Wee’s statement.

The Law Minister’s key message: Do not cast foreigners as the villains driving up the prices of HDB flats.

Speaking at the end of his three-hour visit to Yew Tee constituency in Hong Kah GRC, he said: ‘The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that is putting pressure on all of us. It doesn’t.’

Firstly, i would like to ask what pains Mr Shanmugam took to clarify these “misconceptions.” Is it trying to use his Man in White logic to convince someone with ordinary logic? For example, Man in White logic often tells us that we SHOULD accept what is happening, i.e. welcome foreigners with open arms, be cheaper, better, faster, etc. Or maybe that the influx of foreigners has absolutely no role in pushing home prices up, when this obviously flies in the face of basic supply-and-demand. More demand, less supply, means that prices increase. (Of course, I’m not an economist, but that’s not what this is about now. This is about what the layperson thinks, not about what the economist says.)

Logic doesn’t operate on “should”, it operates on “is”.

Then why are HDB prices rising? MIW logic would probably say that it is a sign that our economy is picking up again and use it to tell us that we have MORE GOOD YEARS ahead of us. But that is not the case, well, not in reality at least (see, for example, this). Which is why i sometimes suspect that the Men in White live in another dimension, since sometimes their interpretation of happenings is so different from ours. Again, interpretation is also something which is not strictly logical. If it was strictly logical, the interpretation of how things are would convince anyone. But no one is convinced.

There’s also the argument from an unfounded premiss, e.g.: “The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that is putting pressure on all of us. It doesn’t.” How does Mr. Shanmugam know that it is a misconception? Does have have contrary proof? Can he explain his position? Or is he just relying on his status as Law Minister (“as a minister, i know what’s going on and you don’t?”) Relying on superior status to make what you say more valid is another sign of bad logic, or of an illogical argument trying to be logical. Authority tends to make people argue illogically.

The second unfounded argument is based on using statistics to make a statement appear empricially sound:

Of the five million, 3.2 million are citizens and roughly 500,000 are permanent residents (PRs). The remaining 1.3 million are here on temporary work permits and they ‘impose no burden’ on the public housing system.

What does it mean that “the remaining 1.3 million are here on temporary work permits and they ‘impose no burden’ on the public housing system”? It is probably a weak attempt at explaining away the problem. Just feed them some numbers and they’ll bite, hook, line and sinker. Are you sure, for example, that all of these 1.3 million people are staying in workers’ accomodations? Or maybe they are all Malaysians? Statistics which don’t exactly explain why they are solutions to the problem shouldn’t exactly be used.

Lastly, there is argument based on an assumption:

‘Let me pose a question back to you – ‘What do you think is the solution if we can’t get Singaporeans who all speak English? Then we have to get foreigners. Where do you think we can get them from, and can we educate all of them in English?’ Therefore, if you are given a choice, either there is someone there to serve you, which is Singapore’s style, or like in many Western countries, you do self-service. I suspect…most Singaporeans will say ‘OK, never mind, even if he can’t speak English, I will prefer that to a self-service situation’.

Is the assumption true? I would prefer self-service, actually. I don’t see the point in ballooning our population by 1.3 million people, so that they will have to come and serve us.  Actually, it’s also a veiled threat – “want less people? Then get ready to serve yourselves.” Another false assumption – are we so scared of serving ourselves? Don’t we do that at McDonald’s?

What was he thinking?

I am Singaporean XI – Objectivity and Self-Regulation February 6, 2009

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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In the aftermath of someone burning someone else in Singapore, a certain Rear-Admiral has showed his dismay at the “lack of self-regulation” in the blogosphere.  How tragic.  His worldview of things in Singapore, namely that everything functions like clockwork and that dissension is put down by a lightning bolt must be shattered.  Indeed, he felt that the blogosphere did too little to rebut some of the flaming which took place.

So what is self-regulation?  While i do not condone the flaming attack, i too did not do “my part” in refuting the barrage of comments supporting Ong Kah Chua.  And why did i not do it?  Because there is no point in refuting people who are expressing their feelings.  What’s more, is not the glowing adoration of the victim in the State’s Times enough?  It is true that Seng Han Thong’s plight is a pitiable one.  But if you will read what some of the residents of his constituency said, you will also realise that there is not much sympathy for him.  Why are all the top-level personnel visiting him and hardly anyone from his own constituency?  Faced with such evidence, with what would you expect someone who wishes to refute them to actually refute them?

What the RADM wants to have is objectivity in the Internet, self-regulation, accountability and balance.

On Objectivity.  This criterion is one of the most problematic.  It’s no secret that the PAP controls the press indirectly and has consolidated its power by systematically keeping the Opposition weak.  Naturally, they, being the powers that be, have the right to declare what they subjectively see as a party to be what objectively is the case.  But is it?  Objectivity, in our Rear-Admiral’s definition, means objectivity perhaps the way the State’s Times publishes its news.  Well-researched.  Accountable.  But again, with the caveat: it is indirectly politically-controlled.

Indeed, doesn’t objectivity come from having both pro and contra?  Objectivity means literally from the ‘viewpoint of the object as it is’ – just because you have power doesn’t mean that your view is objective.  Objectivity comes from pluralism.  (Or at least, it’s a way of minimising subjectivity.)  It has always been easy to see the Internet as a dangerous place, because people there are oh-so-hostile.  But now that there are well-written, logical pieces (i refer you here and here) speaking against or asking for reflection on the side of the powers that be, is not a form of objectivity being produced?  Objectivity in the PAP sense is not pure objectivity.

On self-regulation.  In what sense of the word do we want self-regulation?  Are we supposed to rebut every comment extolling Ong Kah Chua because of the lack of objectivity and the fact that what he did was deplorable?  As a blogger, we can argue, but we cannot convince one to change his beliefs.  This isn’t the State’s Times, where letters are rejected.  Indeed, when it comes to accountability, the online news sites are a lot more accountable than the MSM.  People ask why their comments were removed.  Can you ask the State’s Times why your letter wasn’t featured?

Everyone has a right to saying what he wants on the net.  Self-regulation à la the Rear-Admiral would make the Net like the State’s Times.  If our RADM wants self-regulation, he could start with Stomp, where anything and everything is put up.  If he looked at Stomp, actually, he probably would marvel at how different the Net is compared to what the MSM tried to make the Net into – a lawless place where anything and everything can be said.  It is true that you can’t say anything you want on the Net.  But you can surely say a damn lot of stuff.  But do we sensationalise couples we interpret to be making out on buses, like Stomp does, and then getting them into a lot of trouble?  The Net has self-regulation, just not the way our RADM would prefer it, which is MSM-esque.

Part II follows!

I am Singaporean IX – I Love Singlish! December 12, 2008

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II, Im Allgemeinen.
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Okay so apparently in the Straits Times MOE and MICA have written about learning English again.  Read liao can tor hwee okay.  Singlish is bad, they say, and Good English is the Way to Go.  So this reply will be written in Singlish…Gasp! Arrest him! Take him off the Net!

What i really cannot understand, ar, is why we are still treated like children.  Machiam like if we are exposed to Singlish when we are young, then the rest of the future hong kan liao.  Singlish very jialat meh?  Then should learn whose English?  Must speak RP (Received Pronunciation, The Queen’s English) ah?  Always saying that if the ginnaz (=children) kena exposed to Singlish, then mati already.

We have attained a level of proficiency in English among our young and the general public. However, it would be wrong to assume that this competency is a given, if standards are not adhered to […] The Ministry of Education’s experience in schools is that the use of Singlish will confuse students and hinder their progress in developing competency in the English language. If children hear Singlish, they will learn Singlish.

I think hor, that MOE should not be so irresponsible.  Just say that the children will learn Singlish if they are exposed to it is really kong jiao wei.  At home no speak Singlish meh?  MOE is really quite space wor, assuming that Singaporeans don’t speak Singlish at home.  Then speak like British Royal Family meh.  Perhaps the solution is for MOE to teach that English and Singlish is not same-same one.   English must use when talking to ang mor, or when the situation is different, like interview or O Level Orals like that.  Singlish is use with peng you one.  Like that easier mah.  Why must purify Singapore from Singlish?

Really like 崇洋媚外, how come our Singlish so chor lor, must learn ang mor English.  I never said that learning ang mor English is bad, my question is: why cannot teach English and say that Singlish is okay, but u must know when to use it?  This Gahmen really don’t trust us.  Everyday counting on us to make money for Singapore still don’t trust us.  Everything also must control.  At the very best should take newborn babies away from their parents, so they cannot speak Singlish.  Bo exposure mah.  How come Singlish is like a sickness, must be removed from Singapore?  How come Gahmen cannot trust us to know when to use English and when to use Singlish?

Probably cos MOE and MICA only listen to what linguists tell them which sounds good for their Speak Good English policy.  You see ah…they accept what linguists say wor.  But they also don’t want Singapore to become a language zoo for people to investigate.

As linguists have pointed out, the language environment in Singapore is complex, due to the use of multiple and very different languages. […] While Singlish may be a fascinating academic topic for linguists to write papers about, Singapore has no interest in becoming a curious zoo specimen to be dissected and described by scholars.

See…in one article both accept and deny.  Contradiction.  So obvious that they use what they want to hear and throw away what they don’t want.  I think some people call it selective hearing wor.  Haiyoh.  Actually, Singlish very important one.  Singlish help to build identity mah.  See, if you go overseas to study, you can automatically see who is Singaporean or Malaysian mah.  Cos got Singlish.  Singaporeans overseas, even if they migrated liao, also can build identity because they speak Singlish mah.  Don’t know why Gahmen always wants to throw away our own identity, then at the same time complain Singapore bo identity.  Please lah.  This kind of thing even Primary One schoolchildren can tell you.

Gahmen always looking outwards, but never look inwards one.  Also, looks like Singaporean identity not important one.  Maybe Gahmen thinks can make Singaporean identity the way they want it…like can eat mee siam mai hum…probably part of their Singaporean culture mah!  Singapore so artificial, no wonder people don’t want to stay also.  Everything is kong lui one.  All about money.  MICA and MOE make it very clear at the end of their letter wor.

Singaporeans’ overriding interest is to master a useful language which will maximise our competitive advantage, and that means concentrating on standard English rather than Singlish.

I am Singaporean VIII – Accountable Parties December 5, 2008

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II, Im Allgemeinen.
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One party or multiple parties?  Lately, Xiao Lee has made it clear that a one party system is what he would prefer.  You can be sure he’ll be gunning to put that into effect – as if the pathetic opposition presence of politicians, who are more obedient than not, and the constant persecution of a certain few aren’t enough for proof.

And all the shit that has been flying around the world lately has shown us a side of Singapore the MIW probably didn’t never wanted us to see.  And the people are angry.  Just go to Speaker’s Corner to find out.  And the discourse now is about a one-party or multiple-party government.  And to put it roughly, people are split into the one-party and the two-party camp – one-partiers are more about efficiency in seeing through policies and the general rapid development of the country, whereas multiple-partiers are more about having an effective system of checks and balances to make sure there is no abuse of power.

The PAP has made itself so indispensible to Singapore that once the PAP somehow cracks, Singapore is doomed.  The thing is that most Singaporeans don’t, or they don’t want to, perceive the danger Singapore is in.  Singapore can be finished in five years, and contra Lee Senior, it is going to be the PAP’s fault.  They have conditioned Singaporeans into flocks of obedient sheep which will do whatever the government tells them to, because it seems that the Government knows what’s best.  Daddy knows what’s best, so shut up and work/put your money into CPF/let us invest in risky investments/don’t complain.  We should ‘move on’ when something goes wrong, but why doesn’t the Government move on when political opinions do something wrong?

And Singaporeans are taking it in like a certain bitter hallucinogen which tastes bad, but enables one to live on in the Singapore Dream.  We seem to forgive and forget, or we seem to not forgive but forget.  In politics i think, it is prudent to forgive, but not to forget and this is what we are missing out on.  Crisis after crisis, and the Gahmen ritually shuts up, expecting that it will blow over soon and that everything will be back to normal, because we have forgotten what’s happened.

One-partiers often compare Singapore to multiple-party systems, especially Taiwan.  True, we don’t want fisticuffs in Parliament.  But we also don’t want a Government which may be well-intentioned, but is totally indifferent to what the individual needs.  Everything is given up for ‘The Greater Good’, and when things go wrong, there doesn’t seem to be a Government which cares for us, despite our sacrifices.  If i’m not wrong, a certain Dr. Teo mentioned that we ‘should be thankful’.  Thankful for what?  Perhaps Singaporeans SHOULD be thankful because this is yet another reminder that the trust we place in our Government is overrated.

Our political system is competitive too, without the multiple-party system.  But how competitive?  Competitive according to the PAP’s rules, which means you have to follow them.  But who checks on the competition?  Indeed, if we feel that we should be accountable, it would be a small but significant step.  But no one wants to be accountable.  PAP will take care of everything.  It is this immaturity and dependence (a non-material ‘crutch mentality’ – yes they want your mental dependence, just not your financial dependence) on the Gahmen which has put Singapore in such a precarious spot.  Also, there is fear – fear that the Gahmen will fix you as a public servant if you vote for the Opposition.  Pork-barrel politics.  And more.  We have given the Government a carte blanche to rule, and it is ultimately up to us, the people, to show the Government that we are a force to be reckoned with.  No more walkovers, no more seeing your MP only once every 5 years when they come around to thank you for your votes, although your GRC was a walkover.

Of course we can remain trusting and loving to our Government, but has not this trust and love been betrayed again and again?  How is it that we trust the Government, whereas the Government doesn’t trust us?  Singapore is going down, as long as the PAP continues to dictate where Singapore is going.  With checks, you can be sure that policies are going to be better for the people.  You don’t even need a Grand Coalition – you need enough voices in Parliament to unsettle the PAP enough such that they will put into consideration what the people need.  And we have to stop being so forgetful.

Update: y’all should read this…you see, this is what happens when there aren’t checks and balances.  Although this may be an ‘executive decision’, but it runs totally contrary to what a Minister said about the responsibilities of the Town Councils.  No checks and balances = a feeling of immunity.

I am Singapore VII – Uniquely Singaporean Very Rude Meh? November 17, 2008

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II, Im Allgemeinen.
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So i read recently that some SMU students have taken it upon themselves to get rid of tissue paper chope.

And i want to ask a question:

Very rude meh?

Actually, i don’t see why it’s socially ungracious.  After all, isn’t it ‘gracious’ in already informing others that the table already kena chope?  As to whether a person should be left behind…how should that make it ‘more gracious’?  In fact, what IS ‘gracious’?  According to whose standards do we define gracious?  Why is it ‘more gracious’…because there’s a personal touch?  Or is it because other table-seekers feel worthless because they’ve lost their place to a measly tissue packet?  I mean, probably in Europe or such, people don’t leave such tissue packets to chope tables.

But then again, Europe also don’t have hawker centres, what.  I think it is difficult to transfer an abstract definition of ‘gracious’ into a concrete context, especially since i am strongly inclined to believe that this definition of ‘gracious’, a word used too often but never really defined, comes from the West.  Where there are no hawker centres and where the density of people is lower.  In fact, i think the tissue paper chope is already an (albeit minimal) expression of this so-called ‘graciousness’…it is more gracious than coming back with your food and saying ‘eh this table my one!’ what.

What’s more, tissue paper chope IS Uniquely Singaporean.  With the capital U and the capital S.  It’s like Singlish, in that firstly, it is one of the few things which is truly Singaporean and can be actually considered part of Singaporean identity, and secondly, because it is being persecuted by people who deem it ‘ungracious.’  Remember how the Gahmen periodically tries to eradicate Singlish for (LKY’s) RP?  Now this.  And tissue paper chope actually reflects the very nature of Singaporean life – Singaporean life IS ‘me first.’  You got to claim territory before someone else does.  Since school we have been indoctrinated into the world of meritocracy, where your failings are only yours to blame.  So of course everything is ‘me first’!

It is a very honest expression of working life in Singapore, and while it is laudable that these ‘idealistic’ (i am idealistic too, but i think ideals are absolute and don’t have to do with ‘niceness’ or a ‘more or less.’) students are trying to tell people to be ‘nicer’ to others by leaving one man behind, i would rather that this be so, because this is as honest as Singapore gets.  Almost anyone can lie, but the masses certainly don’t.  Which was why 4 million smiles didn’t really work…because there weren’t 4 million smiles.

Of course, people who hog tables during lunch rush hour should have their asses kicked.  But that’s another thing.  Oh and no, not another ‘campaign!’ Our money!!

RIP, JBJ October 12, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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So after passing Latin, i began reading up on everything which has happened in the ‘missing time’.  And it has come to pass that JBJ has moved on to a better place.  Yet another, one of the most flamboyant members of the old guard has passed on, and who is left in place?  Already this question should give you pause for thought.  And there has been a huge outpouring of condolence letters, mostly sincere, but also egoistical and insincere (i mean, the man is dead. Give him a break.)

JBJ was a person who was a good orator, and one who could stir up the crowds.  Unfortunately, that he was a good orator made him suitable for political machinations.  I don’t have to go through his trials and tribulations once again (i refer you to Farquhar on TOC for more details) but he was a person who took it upon himself to see that his ideal Singapore would be one governed by its citizens, and who fought to bring politics down from the clouds above which dissenters are always challenged to enter and down to a playing field which could be observed by the everyday man.  For this, he paid the price, time and time again.

These are things we can read up everywhere.  But what troubles me is that JBJ is rapidly becoming an icon.  An icon of freedom, an icon of a Singapore which it can never/not yet aspire to be.  But the thing is, icons tend to be forgotten.  Icons are going to be remembered in a romantic form, where things were always simpler, and there were such things as ideals to be attained.  Ideals which can never be attained today, but it was definitely nice to remember that once upon a time someone thought they could be attained.  So you think back and get back to your everyday life, which the Government has so-well planned, keeping you busy enough such that you don’t mind remaining stupid.

JBJ is an icon, and that can mean many things: as i commented in the TOC article, JBJ will be demonised in the next generation of school textbooks, or as long as Grand Master Lee remains alive, and his resilience will only make the threat JBJ seemed to pose to modern Singapore with all its amenities (but sadly without its soul) all the more bigger.  And for us, what will JBJ have fought for if nothing remains of his legacy but an icon, an ideal, a picture of days past?  As long as people are still caught up in getting rich/richer, no one is going to go the way JBJ did.  Everyone would rather want the status quo to be maintained, as long as Singapore is stable.  There is more unhappiness now since things aren’t looking so good.  But once things look up again – who is going to pay attention to who raised what again?  Who is going to stand up and say I Disagree?  Perhaps most people would, if they weren’t that busy.

I shall remember JBJ, the orator and politician, using these verses from Cicero’s Oratio in Catilinam, where Cicero denounces Catiline for a conspiracy against the state and people.  A translation is available after the post.  These are questions which should be asked, but never are:

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium Palati, nihil urbis vigiliae, nihil timor populi, nihil concursus bonorum omnium, nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus, nihil horum ora voltusque moverunt? Patere tua consilia non sentis, constrictam iam horum omnium scientia teneri coniurationem tuam non vides? (Oratio in Catilinam, I.1)

requiescat in pace.

*Now the translation:

How long, o Catiline, will you abuse our patience?  How long will this madness of yours elude us? To what end does your unbridled boldness toss itself about?  Does not the protection of the Palace at night, nor the guards of the city, nor the fear of the people, nor the meeting of the best [Senators], nor this place which is the safest for the convening of the Senate, nor the looks and expressions of these [gathered here], make the slightest impression on you?  Do you not know that your plans have been exposed, do you not see that your fouled conspiracy has been already kept in check by the wisdom of all who are present?

I am Singaporean V – 2nd Class Scholar? September 24, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
16 comments

So there has been a recent discussion about scholarships with bonds (cfr. The Sun Chair Critic and Tribolum.com) and the question is: why do more and more people take up bond-free scholarships?  Personally, i wish sometimes that my scholarship was bond-free, because i am happier in Germany than i am in Singapore.  But that’s besides the point.  Lucian Teo says that scholarships and bonds are, essentially, different, and that there is nothing wrong with taking up a bond-free scholarship if you can give back to society.  I agree, although society should be seen as Mankind as a whole, and not a partisan kind of Mankind, which is how a bond is seen as.

My German friends are already asking if i will ever come back to Germany and they find it strange that i have a bond to serve (albeit a not very long one.)  But let’s put it this way.  A bond is a transaction.  You give me some, so you get some from me.  It is, at its most simplistic level, a barter, and nothing more.  I signed on the dotted line, and read the fine print, and i have nothing against giving back what the Gahmen thinks i owe them.  It’s just too bad that the Gahmen likes to remain especially limited here, and thus slaps us with a bond saying ‘you have to serve US, and damned be to the rest of Mankind.’  Which i can understand, because ultimately, it’s always good if we make it and you don’t.  The bond also benefits me – i get teaching experience which may be of use to me if/when i should become a professor of anything (hopefully Philosophy though.)

The Sun Chair Critic, however, saw a more interesting development – the comments of his article said that he should just drop his idealism and accept the hard facts.  That i am not a SAFOS/PSC scholar means that i am a 2nd-grade scholar, and only 2nd-grade people are offered 2nd-grade scholarships.  The hard truth which the Sun Chair Critic refuses to accept is this: Governments objectify people, because governments are elected by the people to represent them, to provide an ‘objective’ perspective on the millions of subjective views.  Thus, we have 1st-grade scholarships like PSC, SAFOS, etc., and 2nd-grade scholarships, like those which are offered by the stat boards.  You can see the difference in that PSC also sends people overseas for teaching scholarships.

How are people objectified?  Grades, CCA, appointments in NS.  The interview is a formality and more often than not you already know beforehand if you have it or not.  They don’t have the time or the interest in knowing what you’re really good at.  However, i feel that the comments made that 2nd-grade scholarships are offered to 2nd-grade people are just pure MALARKEY.  I mean, that that is the Singaporean SYSTEM’s way of judging a person’s worth doesn’t mean that it is objectively universally true.  The only objective fact in judging a person’s worth is the fact that people are human, nothing else.  People are human – they live, get educated, do their dues and die.  The ‘objective’ judging criterion measures how much use you are to the system within a particular period of time, and it doesn’t matter if YOU gain something from it.

It hurts to be seen as a 2nd-class scholar/person, but what can you do about it?  Be an Ancient Roman homo novus?  Not very likely.  You’re cut off from that anyway, since you probably didn’t receive a so-called first-class scholarship, and furthermore, you’re not the son of some minister.  The only ideal you can hold onto is the very limitation of your humanity.  You, a 1st-grade scholar, LKY, Bush – they are ALL HUMAN.  And they can only do so much.  That they are judged to be worth more doesn’t mean that they necessarily are.  It’s a well-known belief in Singapore that many 1st-grade scholars produce textbook policies which fail spectacularly in praxis or that they aren’t the people we think we can invest our trust in.  1st-grade scholar does not mean 1st-grade person.  And that is what life is about.

For, what happiness does it bring when you know that you have riches and power, but everyone is just kissing your ass because you happen to have these?  Does it mean that you are wise?  Does it mean that people will like you?  Granted that you may do the right thing because you can see things ‘objectively’ due to your separation from the hoi polloi doesn’t mean that you are doing the BEST thing.  And at the very end, you don’t have to face anyone but yourself.  So yes, i am a 2nd-grade scholar.  The system can equate that with me being a 2nd-grade person.  But only in utilitarian terms.  I can be a first-grade person in my own eyes, i can try to be a first-grade person according to what i define as first-grade, and what society defines as first-grade.

Singapore is bigger than the PAP, and it would do well for you to remember that.

Vade mecum ad Latinum! August 26, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
2 comments

On a study hiatus. Latin exam on the 24th September…updates will be few and far between, but if something sensational enough shows up, you can bet it’ll be on here.

opto vobis vitam beatissimam – bibamus!