Archive for the 'society and culture' Category

From the wreckage of a presidential ‘election’, racism rises like a disturbed ghost

Now that the People’s Action Party government has installed Halimah Yacob as the so-called president of Singapore, racism has gained a legitimacy we once thought was forever barred. That said, this presidential charade was not the first time the PAP dispensed with its founding principles. Racism was introduced into our electoral system in 1988 through the ugly invention called “Group Representation Constituencies”. In 2017 as in 1988, the PAP demonstrated that principles can be disposed like tissue paper when they need to fend off limits to their power. Continue reading ‘From the wreckage of a presidential ‘election’, racism rises like a disturbed ghost’

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’

Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

The news this week is that Certis Cisco — a fully-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings — is hiring Taiwanese for its auxiliary police force. Here are four thoughts that I had, leading on from this key news point. They are: (1) What are the implications of hiring Taiwanese? (2) Why must they be graduates? (3) What are the powers of auxiliary police? (4) Another example of rentier economy?  Continue reading ‘Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police’

Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

2016 will be remembered as one of those break-point years when an old order started falling apart. The worrying thing is that there is no sign that any better new order will be born.

Still, 2016 had its uses. The series of victories by what had been unlikely personalities and movements — Rodrigo Duterte winning the Filipino presidency, Brexit, and of course, the Donald Trump victory, have been cathartic. Some good commentary in various media have followed as a result, full of soul-searching and self-criticism. Continue reading ‘Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes’

Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been

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‘Cover up!’ screamed the immediate reaction I noticed on social media. The Health ministry had just announced that they have found 41 cases of Zika infection, barely 24 hours after they said that there was one confirmed case (on Saturday 27 August 2016). How can the number jump so fast without them knowing about these other cases earlier — was the implication behind the shouting headlines. They must be hiding facts from the public! Continue reading ‘Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been’

The gay issue in Malaysia and Indonesia as a window into the civilisational crisis of the Islamic world

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(Beware: approx 3,500 words)

LGBT Malaysians are unlikely to see a significantly better situation in their country for at least two decades, quite possibly not in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, LGBT Indonesians are facing unexpectedly chilly headwinds, and things will get worse before they get better. To understand why, it is important to see that the issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity. These individuals and their lives are collateral damage from a much bigger event that is going on: a long collapse in civilisational Islam. Continue reading ‘The gay issue in Malaysia and Indonesia as a window into the civilisational crisis of the Islamic world’

Cup of honour runneth over

The Initiatives landing page of its website has a picture of a man with outstretched arms, forming a figure not dissimilar from a crucifix. The pose resembles Christ the Redeemer, the icon of Rio de Janeiro.

Screengrab of Honour Singapore's website landing page, 1 April 2016

Screengrab of the Initiatives page of Honour Singapore’s website, 1 April 2016

 

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

The non-profit company called Honour Singapore was in the news in August 2014 when questions were asked whether it was yet another religious group in wolf’s clothing, you know, like Focus on the Family Singapore, which claims it is a secular organisation with no “Christian” agenda. Certainly, Honour Singapore’s very name contains a dogwhistle word (“honour”) beloved by devotees and modern crusaders of conservative evangelical Christianity — which, by the way, I consider a misnomer. I prefer to call this religion American Pseudo-Christianity, for a simple reason: there’s nothing very Christian about its belief system, worldview, and desire for power. Continue reading ‘Cup of honour runneth over’

Singapore joins deflation club

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Perhaps in other places there might have been headlines screaming ‘deflation’, but here in Singapore, it was just a passing mention in a story about mean incomes, and made to sound like an unequivocally good thing.

Median income, including employer Central Provident Fund contributions, for Singaporeans working full-time grew 6.5 per cent from June 2014 to June last year to reach $3,798. The growth was 7 per cent after adjusting for negative inflation of 0.5 per cent.

— Straits Times, 29 January 2016, Job growth hits 17-year low, but real wages up 7%

See how it slipped in there? ‘Negative inflation’. In other words, deflation. Continue reading ‘Singapore joins deflation club’

Pay back our love

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The case of Brandon Smith raises a slew of very uncomfortable questions for Singapore, questions I have yet to see anyone ask. So far, much of the discussion I have seen on my Facebook feeds have centred on what the law says and the rights and wrongs of the young man’s refusal to return to do National Service. (Admittedly, what I get on my Facebook feeds is algorithmically skewed. There may indeed be deeper discussion somewhere, but I’m not seeing any.)

The ugliest parts of what I have seen are comments that adopt an anti-foreigner tone. These comments are particularly unhelpful, because they distract from key issues that this case points to. I hope to draw these out in this essay. Continue reading ‘Pay back our love’

Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion

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At one of the election rallies, I met an American who moved to Singapore only a year earlier. Of course he didn’t have the vote, but he was curious what election rallies were like. I had met him before, and so went up to him to say, hi.

He was glad to see me as he had a question he didn’t know whom to ask. “Will they ever speak in English?” was the question.

I laughed. “Why do you ask? What’s been happening since you got here?” Continue reading ‘Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion’