Archive for the 'on being human' Category

There was once a buffalo here

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Making small provisions to enable people to upskill through bite-sized training courses will not be enough to cope with a world in which lifelong continuous learning and career switching has become necessary — I argued this in my previous post Spreading a bit of money to “position Singapore for the future”. But in the interest of length, I left untouched an even bigger question: What if, for all the retraining, adjustments and preparations we make, there simply isn’t enough work to be had? It’s a question that’s not only for Singapore.

Continue reading ‘There was once a buffalo here’

The loneliness of loving Berg

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A common experience among gay people is that of an adolescence feeling all alone. You know you have certain feelings and interests, but nobody around you displays the same. Nobody you know ever mentions these. Instead, you quite quickly realise that the gossip you overhear, the visual and cinematic representations you encounter every direction you turn, even the well-intentioned questions you get from uncles and aunts, refer to some other romantic interests that you’re supposed to have but do not.

Within a young person’s limited world of school, family and extra-curricular activities, a sense of being alone and of being marginal become central to his identity. Continue reading ‘The loneliness of loving Berg’

Big bank, big government, but the similarity ends there

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At my request, the teller brought the branch manager to see me. I began: “I have no intention to take ‘no’ for an answer.” Then I explained what I was here at the bank for. On behalf of the charity organisation I volunteer at, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), I needed a letter from the bank confirming our bank account number and account name. Continue reading ‘Big bank, big government, but the similarity ends there’

Signs of yes-men

pic_201603_16It struck many people as mindless: the notice banning the playing of chess in common areas of public housing at Block 11 Haig Road. How could playing chess in public areas be such a nuisance that it merits a heavy-handed ban? In any case, isn’t the sight of retirees playing chess in void decks a common sight all over Singapore? If they have never posed any problem, why now? Continue reading ‘Signs of yes-men’

White is a superior colour, all the rest is dirt

pic_201603_07Most of the comments I see on blogs and social media about the sudden resignation of PAP member of parliament David Ong have a tinge of schadenfreude. “Karma’s a bitch” is a popular phrase. It points out how the People’s Action Party’s 2012 hounding of the Workers’ Party for its then-MP Yaw Shin Leong’s extra-marital affair has boomeranged on themselves, not once but twice. In 2013, the PAP’s Michael Palmer fell from grace for the same reason, and now it is the turn of their MP for Bukit Batok, David Ong. Continue reading ‘White is a superior colour, all the rest is dirt’

Racialising the presidential race

Handy words for skin tones from joshroby.com

Handy words for skin tones from joshroby.com

This also sickens me: the use of the race bogeyman to justify changing the rules for electing a president. In its press release, 10 February 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office said the Constitutional Commission should, among other directives, make recommendations relating to “ensuring that minorities have the chance to be periodically elected to Presidential office.”

In Singapore’s political speak “minorities” always means racial minorities. It doesn’t mean religious, sexual, economic — or any other kind — of minorities. Even when it comes to racial minorities, this is largely seen through the grating that slices the picture into four politically-constructed races: “Chinese, Malay, Indian, Other” (CMIO).

I will explain here why this justification for complex political rules should be rejected. It is no more than a (deceptive) sweetener to help the bitter pill of further entrenching themselves in power go down better. Continue reading ‘Racialising the presidential race’

Oysters and diamonds

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Income and wealth inequality has become an albatross around many governments’ necks  — Singapore’s included — provoking distrust and resistance to policies.

Meanwhile, readership of the Straits Times is falling. Media academics have pointed out that the Straits Times, in blindly following the direction set by the People’s Action Party government, does the government no favours. Sheepishly echoing government edicts alienates people.  Continue reading ‘Oysters and diamonds’

Culture, lifestyle diseases and the commandant’s room

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Three hours I sat in a police station breathing second-hand smoke. As a small mercy, the officers would slide the windows open by 5 to 10 centimetres every now and then, and the stiff breeze from outside would cut in and dilute the carcinogens somewhat. Better yet was the whoosh of clean bracing air each time the door opened, but unfortunately it wasn’t often enough. There wasn’t much coming and going. Continue reading ‘Culture, lifestyle diseases and the commandant’s room’

Haram to speak of ham

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In a rare smackdown of a reader, the Straits Times dismissed a reader’s demand (link) that it tailor its editorial content to suit his sensibilities. The incident flashed across social media for a day or two, with approving comments, then disappeared.

This is what the reader, Idris, wrote:

I think it’s worthy to note that there are many Muslims who are readers of The Sunday Times. I was quite disturbed by the fact that the paper’s edition on Oct 5 which falls on Hari Raya Haji featured a distasteful article in the Sunday Life! section (“Cheat Sheet: Ham”). The Sunday Life! food critics could have been more sensitive to the events that unfolded for some Muslims on this religiously auspicious occasion such as the sacrifice of cows or sheep. They could have chosen a food-related theme and perhaps discussed lamb cuts. At the very least, avoid discussing non-halal food (food that Islam sanctions against consumption such as ham). Local journalists should practise more sensitivity and respect local cultures, at least for the most important races in Singapore.

Continue reading ‘Haram to speak of ham’

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’