Archive for the 'society and culture' Category



One quarter of Singapore households below poverty line

Source:  Key Household Income Trends 2012, by Dept of Statistics

Source: Key Household Income Trends 2012, by Dept of Statistics

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing ruled out having an official poverty line. He was speaking in reply to Non-constituency Member of Parliament Yee Jenn Jong (Workers’ Party). Chan said it would not fully reflect the severity and complexity of issues faced by the poor, and may also lead to needy persons who happen to be above the line missing out on assistance. The full text of the question and written parliamentary reply is as follows: Continue reading ‘One quarter of Singapore households below poverty line’

A richer Singapore is one full of ghettoes populated with identity-hoppers

Deepavali bazaar

Deepavali bazaar

I wonder when we’ll see the emergence of an anti-immigration political party. Most democracies with high levels of immigration and social stress have such beasts — usually referred to as “far-right” parties. It is undeniable that Singapore has high levels of immigration and social stress. The only thing that may forestall the emergence of such parties is that we are not a democracy. Any such party may be shut down and its leaders imprisoned (without trial) before it gets off the ground. Continue reading ‘A richer Singapore is one full of ghettoes populated with identity-hoppers’

Holding hands, Straits Times and government walk into sinking sunset

pic_201309_28I discontinued my online subscription to the Straits Times earlier this year. The habit wasn’t easy to break. At first I found myself buying the print version about twice a week. Weekends, I often bought the Sunday Times — mostly for its Sudoku and two or three comic strips that I liked (most I didn’t). But lately, I’ve gone for perhaps two months without missing it.

Then a few weeks ago, I happened to leaf through a copy of the Sunday Times at a cafe and discovered that they had halved the Sunday comic strips. Sherman’s Lagoon was gone.

Well, that’s that, then.

Continue reading ‘Holding hands, Straits Times and government walk into sinking sunset’

A bit more graciousness and civic consciousness or just as bad as ever?

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The scene in the picture above, taken at City Hall metro station, is not that remarkable now. It might have been so ten years ago, but queuing to board is beginning to catch on. As is standing on the left on escalators.

Social graciousness and civic responsibility are slowly inching forward.

I must admit that for a long time, I have been skeptical that Singaporeans would ever change. Our rude, selfish behaviour seems ingrained in our DNA. With intense competition for scarce resources (e.g. seats on trains), the rational response should surely be to remain pushy. Add to that our deep reluctance to speak up when we see others behave uncivilly, and there is nothing by way of social penalty. Continue reading ‘A bit more graciousness and civic consciousness or just as bad as ever?’

The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter

Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013

Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013

Guest essay by Vanessa Ho

Foreword by Yawning Bread: As in all LGBT communities around the world, there is a tension between those who would adopt the language and styles of the mainstream to advance the cause of gay equality, and those who argue that such “progress” is meaningless unless we also help protect those who are more disenfranchised and voiceless than us. This is often oversimplified into “mainstream gays versus radical gays” — a caricature that does the complex debate a disservice. Setting aside that oversimplification, I have always wanted to have a voice for radicalism on this site, and am pleased that Vanessa has taken up my offer.

Yet, as she concludes, what appears at first as radicalism may in fact be a lot more beneficial to a wider scope of people, including those who aren’t sexual minorities.

Singapore’s LGBT community should shift away from talk about marriage equality. I am not saying that we should *not* fight for marriage equality, but that there should be a much stronger emphasis on fighting for anti-discrimination legislation. Marriage equality is great for people who believe in monogamy, who believe in the significance of marriage, and who are in monogamous long term relationships. But this is not the case for everyone. Not to mention that some within our community may not have the good fortune to meet “Mr/Mrs Right” and thus  do not get to enjoy the opportunity to get married. Continue reading ‘The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter’

Incompetent survey ends up with inconvenient ‘gay lifestyle’ result

The oldest (Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao) and youngest (Theo Chen) speakers at the protest held on 24 August against persecution of LGBT persons in Russia

The oldest (Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao) and youngest (Theo Chen) speakers at the protest held on 24 August against persecution of LGBT persons in Russia

Several people have pointed out by now how unprofessional it was to use the term “gay lifestyle” in a recent survey of public attitudes. The survey was conducted for the Singapore Conversation. For integrity, surveys must take great care to employ only clear and neutral vocabulary. “Gay lifestyle” fails both tests.

What this incident underscores is the extent to which conservative Christian influences have invaded our public bodies. Not only did the survey designers employ this loaded term, no one up and down the oversight chain stopped it. Either everyone thought it perfectly “normal” to use prejudicial language, or if anyone spoke up, he or she was a lonely voice and could not prevail. But it is only “normal” when one lives ensconced in prejudiced circles. Thus, the unthinking use of the term flags the degree by which members of these social circles have come to dominate government and their associated academic bodies.

Continue reading ‘Incompetent survey ends up with inconvenient ‘gay lifestyle’ result’

The importance of wanting trains to run on time

pic_201308_47The post described Singaporeans as a perennially grumpy lot, bitching even about trains arriving 30 seconds late. At first, I gave it little thought. The post was one of many linked from Facebook which I cursorily surfed through while munching my breakfast this morning. I didn’t even keep the link; now I can’t find it any more. It was penned by a Malaysian visiting from Penang who was expressing his amazement at how “advanced” Singapore was, and yet how unreasonable Singaporeans were in not appreciating what we have.

I do recognise however that the remark was really a metaphor for a general state of unhappiness; it was not meant to be taken literally.

But as the day wore on, my mind went back to this comment a few times, and I thought to myself: I don’t see why we should necessarily be ashamed of being demanding. Setting high standards is, after all, the first step to achieving them. I would much rather that we as a people are perpetually dissatisfied and striving for better than be too accommodative of slack. Continue reading ‘The importance of wanting trains to run on time’

Less hair, more hope

pic_201308_23Sometimes I wish all women with long hair would wear head scarves.

Friday night, close to 11 pm, and the metro was packed — though that in itself was not unusual. I was squeezed between two young women who seemed to have taken a lot of trouble to dress up for thank-god-it’s-friday socials rather than for work. Nothing wrong with that, except that I think the one at my left elbow had had too much to drink. With every jerk and sway of the train, she lost her balance. Between her and the one on my right who was speaking animatedly with her friends, swivelling her head ever so often, my face was repeatedly swept by hair.

Ewww. Continue reading ‘Less hair, more hope’

Cinema: Menstrual Man

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The title of the film left my friends perplexed. “I have no idea what it’s about,” said one. “Is it about transgenders?” ventured another.

“I hope it’s not a celluloid version of a circus freak show,” hazarded a third, with extreme wariness. Continue reading ‘Cinema: Menstrual Man’

Five Pink Dots on, government still paralysed

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Pink Dot  – 2013′s will be tomorrow, 29 June — is a huge celebratory event, albeit with a serious purpose. Its steady growth over the last five years have testified to the increasing acceptance of LGBT people in Singapore socially. But on the legal and political front, there is nothing to celebrate. There has been no movement, just paralysis — like the proverbial deer frozen in the face of oncoming (pink) headlights.  It’s all a rather depressing state of affairs.

As I will argue below, the policy paralysis we see is part of a larger pattern. The government is poor at coping with social changes, and easily alarmed at evolving values and attitudes, such as a rising skepticism of authority and greater questioning of the social and economic model imposed from above. They first try to pretend it’s not a substantial change or that it will go away by itself, but when changing attitudes and behaviours spread (e.g. the rise of non-mainstream media), they see it as threat and actively try to restore the status quo. Continue reading ‘Five Pink Dots on, government still paralysed’


For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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