Archive for the 'on being human' Category

Re-introducing the climate of fear


The People’s Action Party government has essentially given up on engagement. This change of tack is becoming clearer by the week as more and more instances arise where ministers and members of parliament go out to bash citizens trying to raise issues or comment on current affairs. Staircase railings, face masks and who-knows-what small thing emerging tomorrow are considered serious enough issues to roll out the government’s big guns.

The impression one gets from recent events is that they have concluded that engagement is a “been there, done that and it’s brought us nothing but grief”. Continue reading ‘Re-introducing the climate of fear’

Five men, like flotsam


These five men, all farmers from the rural backwaters of Bangladesh, were flotsam for our bureaucracy for three months recently. They didn’t know what was swirling around them and had absolutely no control over their fate. All the while that they were stuck here and not allowed to work, their already-poor families fell into financial desperation.

Their experience reveals a side of Singapore we can’t be proud of. Continue reading ‘Five men, like flotsam’

Security panic and the intoxication of power

Singaporeans Kwik Chong Oei [not his real name] and Tee Seong Joon [not his real name] were deported by a neighbouring country last month after completing a short prison term for immigration offences. They were received by our own police and quickly put behind bars again.

Kwik and Tee are leading members of the Red Iron Gang which had been planning bank and goldsmith robberies for nearly 15 years. They had been casing several banks and gold shops in the late 1990s, and then decided to cross over to a third country to learn from the Preto Pantano Gang how to plant explosives and break safes. The Red Iron Gang considered themselves affiliates with the Preto Pantano.

When the third leading member of the Red Iron, “Popcorn” Soh, was arrested by police in 2003 for planning a break-in at a diamond dealer’s shop, Kwik and Tee looked into the possibility of sending an envelope of anthrax to the police headquarters as revenge. Continue reading ‘Security panic and the intoxication of power’

Torturing the poorest of the poor, in the name of law and order

“Does it still hurt?” I asked Rubio that Wednesday evening.

He nodded and asked me for some painkillers.

Over the counter, there weren’t a lot of options. I did the best I could for him.

“What about clothes?” I asked. “Do you have anything else besides what you’re wearing?”

“No, don’t have,” he said. “Everything gone.” Maybe they had all been thrown away by the landlord when he failed to return and pay his rent. Continue reading ‘Torturing the poorest of the poor, in the name of law and order’

Goat days

For a while, Daisy Hulou was good friends with Freda, even sending her a birthday card. But soon after, Daisy was seen being dragged into the bushes by Goat, the village head. We don’t know exactly what happened in the bushes, but immediately after that, Daisy asked Freda to return the birthday card she had sent. Freda asked her why she changed her mind, but she would not answer. She turned cold and uncommunicative.

Several months later, Specky told the village that the incident when Goat pulled her into the bushes was highly suggestive of rape. Continue reading ‘Goat days’

Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs

You reporters are missing the point — was what I felt on seeing that the chief angle of both stories in the Straits Times was how difficult it can be for teachers to maintain discipline in schools if parents did not cooperate. Yes, that’s a valid news angle, but surely the most striking thing about the story was that of a mother who takes her son to a hair salon for $60 styling jobs.

What kind of values does that instill in children? Continue reading ‘Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs’

Attitudes to creating non-standard families, part 1

It was a small survey about attitudes to adoption and having children by persons who are single or not conventionally married (as per current Singapore law), but I think it will take me five articles to present the results.

That said, it’s not as if it is such a significant survey. It’s certainly not representative of Singaporeans as a whole since it was conducted on this blog alone, and only open to responses for three or four days. As I mentioned previously, the readership of this blog has certain demographic characteristics — being generally more liberal is one of them. And so, the results are only suggestive of what this segment may be thinking. Continue reading ‘Attitudes to creating non-standard families, part 1’

Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 1

Since the video is over 22 minutes long, I won’t be saying much in text. This is the first part of a discussion that was held on Sunday 24 June 2012 in a tiny room next door to a video arcade! Continue reading ‘Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 1’

Crossing over from gospel to vanity

It would seem to me almost inevitable that if you were a preacher who went on and on about how, if you believe, believe, believe, you would be blessed with material riches, then you yourself had better live a life of luxury. If you didn’t, wouldn’t you run the risk that a member of your church might point to your lack of wealth and question your own piety? That might be a tad embarrassing.

Embarking on the prosperity gospel is to take the road to excess.

Continue reading ‘Crossing over from gospel to vanity’

Speech for Humanist of the Year 2012

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’


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