Published 1 August 2012
media , personal perspective
The Singapore government has just announced the formation of a Media Literacy Council. I will argue here that what the government has done over the last few decades is to promote media illiteracy. It serves their interests. Consequently, I am skeptical that they have found a new religion.
I will begin my argument by giving you a very specific example. It’s like this: On 25 July 2012, a story Foreign worker told: “If we kill you, there won’t be any witness” was published on the website of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), an advocacy group and charity that seeks fair treatment for migrant workers. (Declaration of interest: I am on the executive committee of TWC2, and have direct oversight of the website. The article in question however was not written by me, but it was passed by me for publication.) In a nutshell, the story told of a worker from India who reported quite scandalous treatment by his employer. He was so aggrieved that it became unviable to continue in the job; he was even fearful for his life. Continue reading ‘How media illiteracy is promoted’
Below is the speech delivered for the event on 23 June 2012 when yours truly was honoured by the Humanist Society (Singapore) with the Humanist of the Year award. I was asked for something touching on “gay-rights issues/humanism/religiosity”.
Thank you very much for the honour. I think it’s very generous of the Society, though I would understand if it had been a difficult decision since I am a gay man. Some of you may wonder why it is such a big deal that I would open with a sentence about my sexual orientation. It is a big deal because the world in which I am living now makes it so.
But it shouldn’t be so, and it wouldn’t be so if we applied reason upon empirical knowledge, which is the very essence of humanism. To be gay is now known to be a completely natural phenomenon, inherently harmless. Continue reading ‘Speech for Humanist of the Year 2012′
Needing money to escape to New York City, eighteen-year-old Vincent went to a blood donation centre. “I gave plasma to get some dollars,” he said.
On 17 June last year, he got on a bus, leaving his small hometown in Ohio (population 3,000) with no plans to return. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 4′
“When [my adopted mother] kicked me out, my grades went up,” said Jeremiah. This only shows how toxic some homes can be.
Yet, being homeless while still a teenager is no bed of roses.
Jeremiah is now with the Ali Forney Center which runs a shelter for LGBT youth in Queens, New York.
Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 3′
A point made by Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center which helps homeless LGBT youth, may be counter-intuitive, but still true: The home can be a dangerous place for some young people, especially if they are gay, lesbian or transgender.
Tiffany Cocco’s story illustrates this well.
“I wasn’t dealt the best cards in life,” she says with a bucketful of euphemism. “My parents were drug addicts, so I was put in foster care at age four.”
Her mother managed to regain custody, but then died two years later of Aids. Both her fathers too died soon after, and she ended up living with her grandfather. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 2′
“When my son was 13, in middle school, things got a little tough for him,” opened John Otto. “He was bullied by older students, and had to be hospitalized for depression.”
Upon discharge, the hospital recommended that Otto and his wife sign up for PFLAG, the organization for parents, family and friends of lesbians and gays. They had to learn how to support their gay son. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: school, part 1′
Melina Waldo (right) noticed that her 19-year-old son had recently become rather distant. “I wondered what could be wrong with Craig,” she recalled. His grades were fine, so whatever it was, it probably wasn’t college-related.
She called her three daughters – Craig’s older sisters – who were then living together in Connecticut, and whom Craig had recently visited during a school break. Speaking to her eldest daughter, she asked: “Is he OK? Something has to be wrong.”
Her daughter said he was fine, but Melina wasn’t convinced.
“Is Catherine pregnant?” she asked. Catherine was Craig’s girlfriend (or so she thought). Continue reading ‘A mother’s job’
The above picture is of four women flanking a man in the centre. The women – constituting two life-long couples – were about to share their life stories at a workshop in Phnom Penh recently with about 34 gay activists from Cambodia’s Asean neighbours in the room (and about 50-60 more Cambodians).
I was among them, and I’m almost sure most of the Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) activists found it hard to see these women, hailing from the deep provinces of Cambodia, as “one of us”.
Continue reading ‘Love and survival through Khmer Rouge years’
Published 14 February 2012
Late afternoon Tuesday, 14 Feb 2012, I received a letter from law firm Allen & Gledhill, acting for K Shanmugam. It said that the allegations regarding their client mentioned within a comment I posted following the post The media and Yaw Shin Leong, are false and scurrilous. I take Shanmugam’s word on this matter. I have withdrawn that comment as requested.
Allen & Gledhill have also requested that I publish their letter in full, which I am happy to do:
Continue reading ‘Comment about K Shanmugam withdrawn’
He had waited patiently to be served. Foreign workers from India have largely resigned themselves to be almost invisible to Singaporeans, unless when Singaporeans wish to make an issue of their (unwanted) visibility.
But today, he was alone, and not a threat to our beloved racial model. And so he was ignored even though he had actually come to the coffee counter before three other customers — construction supervisors who perhaps came from the same worksite as the Indian guy. The difference was that the supervisors were Chinese, with at least one of them from China, judging by his accent.
The three women behind the counter — Chinese Singaporean, middle-aged — engaged the men in banter as they prepared their orders. There was an easy familiarity, possibly because the men had become regular customers from working nearby.
Continue reading ‘Starting the new year with race and religion’