Archive for the 'society and culture' Category



Not at taxpayers’ expense

I had a sense of deja vu when Law Minister K Shanmugam said that allowing migrant workers to challenge deportation orders through the judicial process would mean that  “every foreigner is entitled to stay here at taxpayers’ expense, housed here at taxpayers’ expense” (source), while the cases wend their way through the courts.

The same “it costs too much” argument was regularly deployed by supporters of the death penalty in previous years. It goes along these lines: society should not be burdened with having to feed and clothe a prisoner on a life sentence; it’s more economical to hang him. However, the government itself did not, to my knowledge, use this argument. It came from various members of the public. Continue reading ‘Not at taxpayers’ expense’

From words to deeds, attention to detail matters

I see bad English all over Singapore, but because I don’t want to sound like a language Nazi, I hold myself back, seldom writing about it. On the other hand, I don’t think I need to be apologetic about it. Getting language right takes the same attitude — attention to detail — that stands a person in good stead. More generally, a culture or economy that devalues the striving for excellence shortchanges itself. I sometimes think a widespread neglect of language quality in Singapore reflects a neglect of perfectionism, which shows up in a myriad ways from train breakdowns and bus delays to stark gaps in the social safety net. Continue reading ‘From words to deeds, attention to detail matters’

As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate

It’s taken me a while to think of a theme for this end-of-year post. Just in time, I have it: Space. Or rather, the ever-tightening amount of space in Singapore. The space I speak of is not just physical space, but also expressive space.  Continue reading ‘As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate’

Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage

Just like what happened in the days following the Chinese bus drivers’ strike November last year, the government is bringing out the artillery to pound Singaporeans’ minds with their preferred framing of the riot that occurred in Little India 8 December 2013: It’s wanton mayhem, monstrous criminality, pure and simple. The small riot (blown up big for its usefulness as bogeyman) is entirely a law and order issue. No sociological enquiry should be entertained, the message insistently says, especially any that asks questions whether the prior behaviour of the the ruling class (both government and business owners) contributed to the state of mind of the underclass. Continue reading ‘Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage’

Riot in Little India: spark and fuel

There rarely is any definitive explanation of any riot. There won’t be one of the brief incident — it lasted barely an hour — at Little India last night, Sunday 8 December 2013. The reason why definitive explanations are elusive is because there is always an element of chance and irrational behaviour. Moreover, riots are complex events involving many actors with many contributory factors. Continue reading ‘Riot in Little India: spark and fuel’

Mexico tries to tax away obesity

A fortnight ago, the Mexican legislature passed two new laws. One imposes a new one-peso (S$0.10) per litre tax on sugary drinks. Another imposes an 8 percent tax on foods that contain more than 275 Calories per 100 grams. Mexico is the latest country to try using tax policy to stem the tide of obesity. Continue reading ‘Mexico tries to tax away obesity’

Shout out: bullying of LGBT kids must stop

Judy and Dennis Shepard chose to turn their grief into action. They set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honour their first-born son, who was brutally tortured and killed in 1998. Fifteen years on, the parents are still going from school to school giving talks.

It’s not easy getting access to high schools, especially the public schools, Judy tells me. “All it takes is for one parent to say no,” and school administrators get cold feet.  Continue reading ‘Shout out: bullying of LGBT kids must stop’

Hacker strikes fear among “good” citizens

pic_201311_03Maybe the Stompers best represent our beating heart. There was a passing mention in a Facebook post that 87% were happy with the hacking of Straits Times’ blog website. Schadenfreude is a totally legitimate emotion.

“Stompers” is the name we give to mostly anonymous readers and contributors to the Straits Times wild wild west site Stomp where digital natives can post anything they think newsworthy — mostly pictures and videos of bad behaviour, overflowing drains and women with cleavages.

Continue reading ‘Hacker strikes fear among “good” citizens’

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’


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

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