Last week, I received three emails of a similar nature. “Are you on holiday? Why are you not writing?” asked one. “What’s up with the hiatus?” wrote another.
I am touched that I am missed. But don’t worry. Yawning Bread is important to me — it’s become a big part of my identity — and I have no intention of letting it wither.
But Yawning Bread cannot become all of me, not only because the reality of life is that I need to attend to other things (not least my friends and family) but also because I feel that quality cannot be sustained unless I do other things too.
It is easy to treat blogging as armchair pontification. Mea culpa too. But there’s also a part of me that is aware that poor quality input almost guarantees poor quality output. (I am not saying that the opposite is assured though.) Thus, I feel I must spend time reading, attending seminars, doing interviews and being at least close to the frontlines of activism if I am ever to hope to write with any credibility. The experiential is important for writing knowingly.
When I write about political parties, it is because I am investing the time to talk to key people and sometimes follow them around. When I write about migrant workers, it is because I have sat with them to listen to their stories, taken them to hospital, to the police stations, and combed through their documents.
So I’ve been busy. In the previous two weeks, I was at a forum about Inequality in Asia (it was interesting, but nothing to report from there), a full-day conference by the Institute of Policy Studies, interviewed three persons, been interviewed by four others (and I hope I don’t appear on US embassy cables again), organised two photoshoot sessions, and (you may find this hard to believe) spent two half-days dealing with major gardening issues at my father’s house.
But most of all, I’ve been busy with work associated with Transient Workers Count Too. These things tend to be pressing and cannot be put off. In the process, I am seeing first-hand the rising interest in Singaporeans in civic issues. Some come forward to volunteer time and trouble, others express interest at first but quickly fade. On a more downbeat note, I’m also seeing how hard it is to get people to donate. It is perhaps in our Chinese-influenced culture.
By coincidence, speakers at the 11th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention held last week in Singapore were saying something similar:
Former Housing Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority chief Liu Thai Ker also spoke on the rich-poor gap, saying any gracious society must be both developed and equitable.
Agreeing, Mr Liu Changle, founder and chief executive of Hong Kong’s Phoenix Satellite TV, said giving to charity was one way Chinese businessmen could help narrow the gap.
In the United States, he noted, philanthropy amounts to 2.4 per cent of its annual gross domestic product. In China, it is only 0.05 per cent. Further, the wealthy in China own 80 per cent of its wealth but account for a mere 15 per cent of charity donations, he added.
‘There is a lot of catch-up to do,’ he said.
— Straits Times, 7 October 2011, Social responsibility dominant theme at panel discussions, by Elgin Toh and Jonathan Kwok
Anyway, I am back. But if you’ve been following Yawning Bread for a while, you’ll know that there will be hiatuses now and then. A good farmer lets his land lie fallow for a season once in a few years to let it regenerate. OK, maybe this analogy is lost on citysiders that Singaporeans are. Let’s just say: Batteries need to be recharged now and then.