November 30, 2007
Can regulation and legislation really be the cure for the ills that plagues the internet? What if I said to you, much of the apparent anarchy which we are witnessing in the net these days is merely an artifact of its infancy?
What if I said to you. You don’t need to regulate or even legislate any more than you need to persuade the sun from rising or setting?
What if I said, what we are actually witnessing is the same observable primordial phenomenon that once spawned life on this planet [I can even prove it with 8 pages of A4 calculations, wasn't done by me but Vollariane and his people, looks promising and he will be presenting in our senate very soon.] i.e all organisms eventually undergo a phase of rationalization before doing so, they invariably go through a stage of maturing; convalescing from a state of anarchy to hierarchy, the internet is no exception to this rule.
The expanding melting pot of tacit knowledge, gossip and trivia that floats around electronically during its early days (and the evening is still very young) is not so different than the babble which once existed in tribal memory characterizing much of the dawn of mankind. Ultimately the exigencies of commerce will make it’s debut upon this haphazard world and give it a coherent form and direction.} It only requires the lateral train to figure out even the invention of the internet falls into this non linear model: originally conceived by academics to facilitate long distance communication, it was eventually adopted by the military as a communication tool, only to fragment into the private sphere with the demise of the cold war – ultimately invading even the individual sphere. In the course of that haphazard migration, it spawned a revolution that generated billions of dollars and created thousands of new jobs. Firms such Google, Youtube and even the evil empire in the guise of Microsoft, are simply the modern equivalent of momentous transitions from collective memory to one not so different from the first human attempts to inscribe words on clay and stone. It is simply a form of evolution in the truest sense of the word.
However, to believe these transitions have developed without any social cost in the form of having to accommodate the bad currency, in the hope that the good will eventually prevail, is naïve.
In truth much of the developments we see these days in the internet never once emerged from the school of linearity or from Soviet styled centralized planning in the guise of command and control.
Instead, they have been driven largely by accidental forays primarily by individuals who didn’t even have the basic skillsets associated with management or anything remotely to do with entrepreneurship. Rather much of the innovation was driven by human curiosity and ingenuity in garages and rooms where clothes go to die leveraging specifically on “creativity.” [90% of our innovation comes from such people, not the experts - need I say more?]
This naturally throws out the question: what is the final cost to creativity, if the internet is regulated? What is the cost? Yes, I asked it twice, it bears repeating only because it remains obvious to me these serious questions have neither been fully trashed out beyond the perfunctory by either policy makers or those who continue to delude themselves there are no penalties associated with regulating the internet. Otherwise why do policy makers continue to use words like regulation and legislate?
That sort of straight line myopic calculation only holds true if one subscribes to the belief that everything must necessarily conform to the law of linearity i.e if you do this, then this and that will happen. If the truth be known, in the internet at least, we never once lived even so much as a single day in the land of forseeable, as we did in a world where things were planned only to be ruled by the God of accidents.
The very idea of regulation, is one that is not only fundamentally flawed, but breeds a poisonous righteousness and arrogance that events can be moderated to even determine the expected outcome. They cannot! The premise is not dissimilar to the ills brought forth by the US inspired war against terror – that if one examines at its core, attempts to justify very complex problems through a process of simplification by alluding itself to the fantasy, there are no penalties associated with pursuing straight line strategies.
Many who blindly supported this flawed strategy failed to recognize the visceral cost that it has in retarding creativity, namely managing intellectual capital on a national level. While all remain unanimous, the threat of terrorism can never be taken lightly. The decision to impose draconian restrictions on the free flow of human capital signals a profound failure on the part of US policy makers to understand what’s required to maintain an atmosphere of innovation.
Ideas do not grow on trees, neither are they mined like minerals. Great ideas emerge from the bedrock of creativity; they come from people. People commit a line on a piece of paper to design a plane or a microwave oven; people flesh out the marketing manifesto by starting businesses; people are process owners that see ideas through from the realm of theory through to reality. And good ideas can only emerge from people who are allowed to exercise human ingenuity through experimentation by trial and error – it’s one that transforms creativity into a strategic asset that is as important as land, water or any other commodity that gives a nation a competitive edge.
Policy makers who fail to comprehend the link between people, creativity and the consequences of their actions as in the American experience – by failing to ask themselves; what’s the true cost of keeping America safe is? Can only reap, what they sow.
The same should be be asked: what is the true cost of regulating the Singaporean internet scene?
If there are any lessons to be gleaned from the US experience, the cost of keeping her safe through overzealous regulation has led to chronic shortages in skills to effectively support the American economy. It’s a cost that casts long and disturbing shadows on America’s looming creativity crisis, and will take years to pan out. These things don’t show up till much later. This cost will ultimately threaten the supremacy of US technological innovation – unlike minerals that can be hoarded or warehouses that can be substituted, human capital or how it may choose to behave under a given set of circumstances is not so easy to predict.
I am not even referring to big regulation here, even something as trivial as the need to register a blog, or to even reveal ones identity is enough to trigger off profound changes which may not have foreseeable consequences – I am reminded, a little poison goes a long way. Of course, those who subscribe to the school of linearity and central planning will tell you and me no end, if you have nothing to hide then you should not fear, but they are wrong, as it assumes fear can only take one shape and form. When we know only too well, there are many forms of fear and the worst type is the one where one fears, fear itself.
To say that blogging has no commercial value beyond sustaining a underground culture where a free for all is allowed to run wild is for the moment true, this I do not dispute (only because there are still sites like Mr Brown and Mr Wang around). But to continue to insist it will remain this way against the technological changes that are sweeping the internet just demonstrates a serious lack of understanding for what is required to manage change. Even if the sum of all the lamentations to be found in the net, do not amount to very much beyond casual reading and have little immediate practical value or influence. It would be absurd to dismiss them all as irrelevant, just as it would have been to dismiss the Wright brothers when they observed fitches in mid autumn flights or even to dismiss Kant’s project for perpetual peace as irrelevant to the world of Napoleon.
The utilitarian calculus of only wanting to see what one wants to see, instead of perceiving events and phenomena for what they really are and what potential they may hold continues to be a travesty of rational reasoning. It is one that denies the possibility that even the simple act of blogging will one day yield the promise of a new hope.
“Today we write our history and it will be according to our terms, if there’s any attempt to regulate even the slightest attempt, no matter how trivial and insignificant, we will just step into our rocket ships and blast off. There is nothing subversive abt this, we already live in a society where there are no longer any admirable sentiments, so it is simply an economic and technological decision! (laughter) Then they will have what they want the burning city of Stalingrad. But gentlemen, do not be surprised, if all you can hear is the deafening roar of silence and it will happen the day after tomorrow. Indeed, they may even have their day, way and call it what they like, paradise even, but it will simply be termed in our history books as the empire of the bones – because without the brain the body is trully useless and all it can do is flay like a headless chicken – to call that progress is to believe great things can come out of nothing – we just don’t have time for such nonsense.”
Darkness 2007 / Primus Aldentes Prime 4 Earth days ago.
(By Darkness, Vollariane & Cerebus / Science / Internet / EP 9938292 / 2007 / The Brotherhood Press 2007)
Check out this article!
Publish Date: December 2, 2007
November 28, 2007
I am sure it’s all over the grapevine by now – a government committee is out to compile a report on the internet…gulp. As usual, it’s a development that has generated considerable consternation in blogosphere – some have labeled it, as yet another attempt to control and regulate the internet, they want nothing to do with it! Others feel real or imagined. This is just another ploy to cower wayward bloggers to behave or else…… The oblique threat is clear, we live in a world of implications. So now you know the facts of life!
This throws out the question, how wise is it for the government to even attempt to regulate the internet? According to Darkness, the question is fundamentally flawed as it assumes blindly the government is in position to bring about positive changes. He believes it should be paraphrased under the following terms: Can the government even afford to tamper with the internet? Do they even know what the cost of doing so is?
One concern that has been highlighted repeatedly by the government is the feral nature of the online community – it appears, real or imagined, there’s a need to balance the diverse interests of society when it comes to issues of sex, nudity, violence and terrorism. While no one doubts there is a need to balance these elements. The main issue remains a matter of degree?
As the Ancient ascetics who worry no end about the prospect of threading where angels fear to tread will say,
“String it too tightly and it will snap. String it too loose and the Sitar will simply not play.”
At the crux, it begs the question; where exactly is the sweet point that yields the perfect balance between widget space. Yet maintaining the desired control features to ensure the new media doesn’t run wild?
This turns on an examination of what is meant by “appropriate” and “acceptable” content – is it even malleable to lend themselves itself to compromise?
Much of what we consider “appropriate” content isn’t so different from how many of us may view the whole issue of homosexuality – it requires us to take stock of the undulating contour of neo conservative, middle moderate to the progressive.
Question: Where’s the best place to plumb the “appropriate” content line? How does the government attempt to even find that happy balance between progress and maintaining control?”
According to Darkness, if the key issues seems reminiscent of the 377A debate, that’s because the same set pieces feature, albeit with one important difference. In this case, even if policy makers decide to plumb their line of acceptability on the socially “acceptable” median scale, it may very well be a social success, but technological failure! According to him that’s the main difference between the 377A debate and any debate concerning regulating the internet, they cannot be treated with the same formulaic approach – as the latter isn’t only about fulfilling the criteria of the moral majority as it is about creating the right conditions for the internet to take off!
Darkness goes on to say: while the theory of statistical accommodation may have been successfully directed to the issue of homosexuality without incurring much in the way of socio-economic fall out. Profiling anything along the same compromised lines to the internet will not be so straightfoward.
As regulation can only serve to narrow the ambit of content creation, it’s bound to sabotage creativity and innovation in the long term. Besides, ‘bracketing’ anything is just censorship and it’s bound to generate its own disenchantment – one needs to ask: Where do these discussions eventually find themselves spilling out? Yes (you guessed it) in the internet. So one is back to square one again!
One of the reasons why the internet scene in Singapore remains such a prolific domain is because both policy makers and state inspired institutions such as the media generally do a lousy job of provisioning for alternative voices in the wilderness! Hence water finds the course of least resistance – the internet. According to Darkness this ‘inconvenient truth’ must be first recognized as a strategic pre-condition for there to be any real progress, if the imperative is to create a “better tomorrow” in blogosphere.
How else can one account for the fact, the internet continues to be a public square for self expression? That it’s even often referred to as a “parallel universe?”
Neither does he believe increased regulation necessarily brings about a safer world – the argument that regulation stamps out extremism remains unconvincing. As extreme ideologies only take root in the absence of liberal discourse. The assumption here is where there is an intellectual vacuum i.e an absence or low level of discourse concerning any issue. Then radical elements will simply step in to start building their lexicons. That’s one of the contradictions of attempting to regulate the net. It just drives everything underground beneath the level of scrutiny and detection – that just creates, the right conditions for something like an evil brotherhood movement to spawn. Not like our BS variety that claims to be the best kept secret in Singapore that everyone reads regularly during their lunch time break! Again we back to square one!
The divide between conservatives and progressives will ensure even the most brilliantly crafted datum of “acceptability” remains at best controversial. Resorting to instructional and directional guidelines with the threat of punitive measures to stop them from straggling each other may prove effective, in the short term. However in the long term it also means institutionalizing and perpetuating the divide. Besides it makes lousy case from a return on energy curve, “regulation anything” is just too labor intensive, inefficient and hit-and-miss.
It makes more sense in the long run for policymakers to buy into the notion of devoting their energies towards understanding: why the net has evolved in the way it has to assume it’s current version, adopting such an approach would bring one closer to identifying the causal links accounting for its current shape and form. Rather than wasting energy on defending and protecting individual rights by regulating .
The logic isn’t so different or novel as to suggest even for one moment it qualifies as an original line of thinking. If we really consider it on its merits, it’s just an extension of the concept of globalization.
Globalization compels all of us to accept the reality we can no more undo the internet and return to the cottage industry. There is a finality to the equation that negates all possiblility of choice.
In this decision nexus we are left with no option other than to surrender ourselves to the inexorable effects of globalization by re-defining how we may choose to live, work and play. Why then do we continue to insist that the new media should necessary abide by immersing itself into the old and inherited ethos of command and control? When we don’t even seem to apply the same logic to the political, economic, socio and technological changes this new order brings with it?
Doesn’t it appear ironical that we may even be progressive when it comes embracing every aspect of globalization. Yet remain inexplicably bovine and unimaginative, when it confronts us directly in the form of the new media? Which after all is nothing more than an accretion of globalization?
This is where it is important for policymakers to seriously consider crafting a strategic vision which will allow values to migrate to meet the challenges posed by the advent of the new media.
At the heart any strategy that proposes to bring about “good” requires the appreciation, the net is not something to be feared to the extent it should be shaped towards conformity to assume what it should be, rather it should be understood for what it has to be (warts and all) for it to remain the internet.
A failure on the part of policy makers to appreciate this paradigm shift will simply mean. We will languish while other countries barrel ahead and seize new ground in this brave new world – the stakes are high, very high indeed.
“They cannot use the same arguments as 377A, the formulaic approach, in the name of the moral majority and all that nonsense – they cannot this time, because money, opportunities and jobs features in the decision making process and it would take an incredibly stupid man to mess around with a machine that he does not even understand! They will do nothing, only because the mathematics of reason tells them the cost of doing so is impossibly high! Hey, why do you think even the politicians don’t want to touch it with a barge pole? That’s why they created this committee. Understand this Senators and the Guilds! The internet is no longer a child that it used to be. You mess around with it and it will bite back in the same way our failed eugenics program in the 70’s resulted in today’s dismal birth rates, we are still paying big time for this social chernobyl! – who in their right mind wants to go down in our brief internet history as the man who killed the machine that changed the world? [laugh]. Tell our foreign allies in the international gaming network to remain calm, rest assured the spice will flow.”
Darkness 2007 / 3 days ago in the Interspacing Senate in Primus Aldentes Prime.
(By Scholarboy, Astroboy & Harphoon / Politics / Internet / Socio – EP 994397 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
[Pls Note: A significant part of this article has been extracted from a recent emergency sitting in the Interplanetary Senate in Primus Aldentes Prime – check this out!
Publication Date: November 30, 2007
November 28, 2007
This is the final chapter in a trilogy – this is also where I drop the big one and we end it all with a big bang! So lets dive in: What makes elites, elites? That’s to say, why do they do the things, they do? Yes, I know power, influence and position certainly features in this equation, but that hardly answers the questions – what if I told you; elites actually believe they are righteous and good even when they are bashing gays, pulling out nails and generally making life miserable for the rest of us?
That’s to say, they don’t see themselves as bad asses any more than those Moslem fanatics who once hijacked a commercial airliner and ploughed it into the world Trade center saw themselves as evil. On the contrary, they actually believe they’re pure, enlightened and even see the world clearer than you or I. Take it from me; absolutely nothing can be further from the truth! These erudite lot aren’t your off-the-shelf psycho’s. They are affable, intelligent and even folk that one regards as perfectly sane enough to invite home for a spot of curry – that’s what makes elites so dangerous!
To really understand elitism from the inside out one needs to take a peek-a-boh at imperialism – in essence, both concepts remain one of the same reality. I admit, it’s difficult to connect these two different realms, to show exactly where one steps in or when the other fades out. To use an analogy, these two dichotomies are a bit like drunk dancers, who take turns at a jig in piggy-in-the-middle.
If we are to really pin down why elites think and do the things they do? Then we really need to map the affiliations of elitism with the whole concept of imperialism. It stands the acid test of reason; at some very basic level, imperialism requires controlling land that you do not possess i.e other people’s land, that is distant, that is lived on and even has its own speed and purpose. This invariably leads to encroachment (trust me, I have invaded about 20 planets in the virtual!) on the rights of others to even knock them over the head, dominate and rule over them. Somewhere in this great imperialistic mess, the whole idea of elitism needs to kick in, one complements the other to even create a symbiotic relationship in the way two poles tie off to support a beam – it could even be said, the whole idea of imperialism and elitism represents one of the same reality – in every model that I have fashioned they remain complimentary.
It doesn’t take a lot to seek out how tenuous a hold imperialism has over the whole idea of elitism historically. All one needs to do is consider 1930’s Imperial India. Where a mere 4,000 British civil servants assisted by less than 50,000 troops had successfully billeted themselves upon a country of 300 million!
What can possibly account for this statistical anomaly of Byzantine proportions?
I don’t dispute somewhere in this great feat of colonization, complicity certainly featured on the part of the colonized, but that doesn’t diminish my point as it amplifies the idea; ‘complicity’ is merely symptomatic of mental invasion – an adjunct even of elitism i.e an attitude that renders one malleable to subordination (Hey think about! For elites to exist, you need sheep – no sheep, no elites, simple equation) – whether through a positive sense of common interest or due to lack of choice remains immaterial. For the purposes of this article, this example serves only to underscore how; ‘mental invasion’ made empire building a sustainable endeavor which would otherwise have remained impossible. This highlights clearly the relationship between elitism and imperialism.
At the heart of it, is an idea, not a very robust idea but nonetheless an idea that was once mentioned by Joseph Conrad in his book, The Heart of Darkness,
“What accounts for conquest, which mostly means the taking away from those who have a different complexion or flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea –something, you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…”
What needs to be understood is for a man (any man for that matter, not even a very intelligent man) to migrate from the disposition of the ruled to the ruler only requires a mental shift – the equation goes like this: while superiority confers rights, it also imposes strict obligations in return.
This underlines the importance of legitimizing the act of imperialism i.e the conviction superiority is ‘good,’ not merely just the mechanical, economic and penicilin ‘good,’ but the poisonous variety of ‘good’ that’s able to deliver the moral good vis-a-vis the belief that it remains the only enduring way for heathens to be delivered out of the jungles. In this corrosive equation: material power is nothing more than a means to serve that end.
It has frequently been argued incorrectly many a time, (I can supply ample proof of this!) that economics alone could have accounted for the successful conquest of the Americas and 2/3 of the world during the 19th century. That’s rubbish – while sail, navigation and gun powder technology may have accounted for the initial success of the conquistadors in the America’s – what cannot be denied is wherever those mother fuckers went so did the cross and the holy inquisition. Long before that the same set piece of moral authority featured similarly in the crusades – see the tenuous hold that moral authority had over will?
If we strip down the moral wheel, it’s nothing more than a hub that allows the rest of the imperial spokes to converge on one point – that’s to say, the wheels of empire cannot turn without first having the moral imperative to rule! (this is where you have to ask, why so many of us have Christian names?) The Romans fleshed out their empire with the moral authority of ‘Pax Romanus’ / black letter law – the Manchu’s did it with the moral mandate derived directly from the will of heaven / the British with the moral authority of wire brush Victorian values which they believed rightly or wrongly was the only means to bring about order, symmetry and progress to their feral colonies – long after that – so did the Bush administration when they decided to invade Iraq to impose their moral authority i.e Pax Americana on the Middle East.
In every single case, the legitimization of empire is predicated on moral superiority, never economics.
Naturally, we would like to believe empire building is all nuts and bolts economics. A process of accidental accumulation and acquisition, that may remain true in the initial stages of colonization. But in order to sustain empire as a social, economic and technological engine, that needs to be regularly dominated, administered and economically sustained, it requires nothing short of a moral imperium; the vocabulary of classical 19th century imperial culture bears this out only to clearly, ranging from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens. As its redolent with such words as ‘inferior’ – ‘dependency” – ‘child like’ and ‘inadequate.’
(foot note on Imperial Culture) The expansion of empire as a model for economic gain was important, as the attraction of spices, rubber, tea, sugar and chili padi all undoubtedly featured in the calculations, but there is more than that to imperialism and elitism – it was the belief that natives had to be subjugated and even ruled, if they were not to return back to their feral, tribal and unchristian toe smelling jungle ways. In this play of giants and pygmies, we must never forget there was very little domestic resistance to the formation of empires, although they were frequently established and maintained under adverse and even disadvantageous conditions – contrary to post modernist accounts of colonialism which is a crock of shit! In comparative terms, the colonized were better off than what was typically imposed by tribal chieftains and local warlords prior to colonisation.
Even modern historians agree these attitudes of perceived advantage on the part of the colonized accounted for the reasons why empires continued to remain a viable economic enterprise. An accretion of this politics of complicity spawned elitist ideas – the will, self confidence, even arrogance which came with the whole idea of being able to rule over natives (sometimes the ratio was 1:300,000 as in the case of East Indies India!) who were no wiser than children can only be guessed at no end, but, as we can glean from contemporary literature of that period, such as A Passage To India and Conrad’s Nostromo – it was a period when the whole idea of superiority and inferiority were very much the sine quo non of the day.
What elitism imposes as a school of thought is the idea there is no other alternative to this cruel tautology – in the words of ramrod Victorian schoolmasters, spare the rod and spoil the child, hence the whole idea of imperialism assuming a paternalistic guise. This is exactly the sentiments of 19th century Europeans towards their colonies; that if independence is to be wished for, then it has to the kind we (the elites) approve of, which incidentally isn’t a matter of choice as it remains an accretion that emerges from the ruler and ruled compact! Anything else is unacceptable and worse, unthinkable. After all didn’t we (the elites) teach them to speak and count from one to ten? Didn’t we (the elites) deliver them from the heart of Darkness? And when they rebel, aren’t they simply confirming our (the elites) views of them as silly children? No losing us (the elites) would be like losing a limb! They need to be shielded and protected and who might be the ones to shepherd over them? We of course – the elites.
It is no paradox therefore that while no one disputes these days, the age of empire has long past – the same corrosive self-confirming, self-deluding idea that one has the right to rule over another continues to persist even till this day and is it such a wonder that it still predominates so much of the modern socio-political sphere?
“You cannot succeed in the eight dan by moving like lightning, that you can do in the fifth or sixth, but never in the eight – it requires a step in the mind……leave your sword here, you don’t need it, where I am taking you.”
Kendo Tales from the Book of Hagakure.
Check out this Article:
November 28, 2007
November 24, 2007
Are you in the saddle? OK, let’s skip the foreplay and take off where we last tied off – where was I?
Oh yeah, elitism requires an exaction on fear to perpetuate it’self.
This naturally leads us to consider; who has the antidote for fear? Stands to reason, right? If fear predominates, then the group that is able to successfully ameliorate it by slaying the dragon, is able to successfully garner a cachet of loyal adherents – it’s the standard medicine man, shaman or rain maker con job, that’s how he maintains a tenuous hold on power in a tribal society – he’s the medicine man! But look closer, he’s also the guy responsible for giving rise to the disease!
Here the trick takes its cue from medicine, follow me here, the shift in the mind is only a few millimeters! What it cannot cure, it will attempt to alleviate by numbing away. That’s the reason why every order of elitism needs to deliver on an effective means of successfully transforming the history of tragedy into fostering personal growth and salvation – give me 10% of your salary and you will be saved! – keep to the system and the system will keep you! – vote for me and I will deliver you to the land of milk and honey!
In this homily sugary narrative of how to hit the home run, the whole idea is to send a surge of sentimental warmth through the reader, to even impart the belief, they too are empowered to confront evil and sorrow and if possible even fashion a road map of how to get to the other side safely – the nirvana – land of milk and honey – the place where the river meets the sea. Yeah, Mom’s a drunkard, Dad ran away from home, and the devil is running around me, but somehow by keeping to the yellow brick road that has been carefully lay out by the great leader, what really matters is, I still have a means of surmounting personal tragedy and making a life for myself! I can do it, because, you’re always there beside me to see me through thick and thin!
The whole idea is to promote the simplistic notion or some pop psychology which attempts to make sense of organizational and personal success i.e setting the rules of the game – once people get into the snake and ladder mentally, they weave themselves into the act of turning the hamster wheel rather than the goal, doesn’t even matter if the goal brings about a cataclysmic end or leads them no where, that’s not important – remember, the narrative takes care of that inconvenient kink in the surreal footage by eliding the end, instead the means to the end is magically promoted as the goal itself – the success of any game needs to sustain the illusion, if a better tomorrow is to come about, it ALWAYS takes sacrifice! Nothing is ever proffered at the expense of nothing, it has to emerge from some great sacrificial act – some super duper passion or jihad like mega swan dive.
The circularity of the argument guarantees the first protocol of what I refer too as the economy of wants (this is a very important term, if you forget everything here, just take this with you, its the 90% that makes up the 100% and it will hold you in good stead, better still write it somewhere and carry it in your wallet. I guarantee you, you will not find this any where in the internet, bc I must have read abt 100 books just to eek it out! I kid you not!), the very elements which permits the status quo ante to sustain itself by creating a ecological balance between two competing demands; how does one continue to solicit loyalty from a group? How can that group be allowed autonomy without threatening the oligarchy of the elite?
In order for this economy of wants to pivot on its linchpin, it needs to regularly pay out utility – hey, man, if you’re turning the hamster wheel every minute, hour and day and you get nothing, then there’s no point – so the house rules are designed in such a way that appeals to probably two cells somewhere in your buttocks – it rewards you intermittently very much in the way, the magic numbers on a one arm bandit lines up, only the trick is you get cumulatively less than what you pay out through a given period of time, that fulfills two important functions: firstly, it creates the conditions for false hope to foster customer loyalty and secondly, it feeds the addiction by leveraging on the prospect; this remains the only means, there is no other way except this way!
While you’re busying yourself with the selfless act of turning the great wheel of life, you don’t have time to figure out why you’re enriching the coffers of your pastor or why he needs to go around in a fancy sports car or even feels the need to play Donald trump – as I mentioned earlier, the whole idea of any system that attempts to sustain elitism requires the suppression of the goal and instead the promotion of the ideal that the act is the goal it’sef – the greater the circularity, the more efficient the economy of wants. That to say, it attempts to fashion an economy where everything is designed to promote the belief, if you keep to the system, the system will keep you – pay your tithes and the blessings will come in fast and furious – hold back and the shit hits the fan and you’re out in the cold.
That also means the icons of power along with the whole politics of pecking order etc, kicks in – it stands to reason; for society to evolve coherently from anarchy to hierarchy, it needs to leverage on the science of division of labor – the goal is to ensure clear delineation of roles and goals, the economy that supports the oligarchy of elites will simply collapse with out!
Only because in the case of the elite sustaining economy, there’s a fatal flaw in the equation; those at the base of the pyramid (the majority) ALWAYS need to serve those at the apex (the elites) – to accomplish this, the delineation of roles and goals needs to be able to define each individual in relation to their respective class and how they may even fulfill the function of keeping. “our way of life” intact.
As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t need to make a lot of sense. Infact, I can even establish it empirically as a matter of cold cut fact; IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH NONSENSE!
Don’t believe me?
Consider this: if I asked you to go next door and strangle the neighbor’s son, you would probably call me a mad man and should you be dumb enough to carry out what I requested of you. We may even end up sharing a padded cell in the IMH.
However, if I said to you, our way of life has been threatened and you will be preserving it by partaking in some noble enterprise called war. Then magically, the act of killing is transformed into a selfless act of patriotism – in this example, the act of killing remains the same, but where the magic kicks in is how it’s able to supplant the logic with a philosophy and rationale to make sense of nonsense. Now you know why throughout the course of human history every enterprise that requires sacrifice is never for a country, leader or class. Instead it’s always couched in fuzzy wozzy terms for the fatherland or motherland - here the state has been mystically transformed into an extension of the family – the nexus is key, as it effectively bridges the divide between individual and state and instead promotes the false believe the state is a member of the family!
In its more refined and polished form – the elements which make up the economy of wants can assume a variety of shapes and forms – if you don’t have a credit card, you’re poor – you’re not truly free and emancipated unless you own car – if you still stay with your parents, then you will never be your own man, you need to own property. Here the whole idea takes the form of reductionism – that’s to say, life is represented as binary – you’re either wired or you’re out – in or out – an elite or a grunt.
In this subtle repetoire of what is and isn’t organizational and personal success -forms the reason, why once upon a time in Easter Island, rival factions exterminated one another in a ceaseless competition, not for territory, power or even influence, but rather for an egg of a sooty tern! Yes they fought endlessly over fucking quail eggs! Doesn’t even matter if they nuked the whole island ecologically by cutting down every single tree while they were engaged in doomsday competition to fashion even larger and more ostentatious structures – as with all economies premised on ‘wants,’ which attempts to preserve the oligarchy of the elites, the system of competition needs to be effectively ritualized even if it leads to the illogical end – doesn’t even matter whether it’s the imperial exams that once spawned the Mandarin class. Or even the Samurai’s who were threatened with obsolescence with the advent of gunpowder – if anything threatens to undermine the economy of wants, it needs to be effectively removed.
The process of ritualizing competition is designed in such a way, whereby the elites always win. Even though at any given period, they form the minority, they still manage to win only because part of the competitive process has to be slanted firmly against the favor of the statistical majority – Samurai’s are only allowed to carry the katana and the wakizashi, commoners aren’t – only knights are permitted to don arrow stopping armor – only the high priest is allowed to enter the holy of hollies – only those who graduate from the ivy league can make good decisions.
The perceptive reader will note that in order to sustain this economy of wants, the elites have successfully fashioned an economic structure whereby; they don’t ever need to deliver on the goods – that’s the beauty of the perfect con job – it’s always over the brow the hill, at the end of the rainbow and if anyone is clever enough to question where Atlantis is?
The mere threat of sanctions or retribution is enough to solicit compliance. For example, if you don’t give me 10% of your salary, then I will kick you out of church. If you get kicked out (ex-communicated), you’re effectively doomed, your soul will wander in eternity, never ever knowing one day of rest – as laughable as that may seem, such beliefs held a tenuous hold on the psyche of pre-Renaissance man and accounts for the rapid rise of the church as an economic super power. Of course, these days the hook, line and sinker needs to be spruced up to take into account of the internet age, but look closer, the set pieces remain one of the same reality.
Truth of course is very different. Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find growth or development in tragedy and endless sacrifice. In fact, the dull truth is that suffering and pain is tautological. The only thing that suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering, but when one is busy turning the great wheel of life in the hamster cage, how is one supposed to know it?
Well, it was supposed to be only two parts, but as you can see for yourself, it’s spilling into a three parter – stay tuned for the next instalment, it may not be a page turner, but I guarantee you, it’s certainly a life turner.
November 22, 2007
(Somewhere in the upper reaches of 14,000 ft / Cartenz Pyramids / Irian Barat – The Tallest Mountain in Oceania)
Few know the joys of cycling alone in distant corners of the world – it started for me very much in the way a man pulls a loose thread on his jumper only to watch it all unravel. I first started, soloing about four years ago when circumstances compelled me to ride all by myself in Bukit Timah – usually during the early hours before dawn.
Since then, I cycled in Nepal, through the Khyber pass and right out of the Ukraine and 10 other places, all by myself - can’t describe the allure of soloing, except to say, the experience is rendered sharper and heightened considerably by doing it solo. Maybe it has something to do with the danger, real or imagined, they are considerably amplified when one is all alone. Then again, it may be closer to the imagination.
However when you speak to most folks who ride alone, they all tell about that rich and intensely focused state that one slips into. I know some moments along the trail are stretched, but where extreme concentration is needed, one feels almost like entering some deeply profound meditative state.
Hopefully, I do come across as really Deepak Choprak-ish. Now I know only too well, what the politics of soloing carries with it : ethos, philosophy, spiritual quest etc. These differences are usually heightened when the soloist comes across a group, it doesn’t matter whether its on a deserted beach front, mountain promontory or even in the trail – the moment, they see you and you see them, it’s like a vampire thing and they just know, you gone bad and you’re too far into the black to ever come back. People who like to knot in clumps have their politics and philosophy – they flesh it out just the same as folks who regularly do stuff all by themselves. Usually it makes for uneasy bed fellows – for one the whole idea of the soloist represents the quintessential rebel or someone who just has a problem with either themselves or the whole world (that could be why, so many serial killers are loners) – I don’t find this view strange, in fact, I even agree with it, only because in my solo jaunts, there are times when I do come across people like myself – usually, these lonely encounters offer the opportunity of camp fire, a hot meal, but more importantly, it’s a mirror that allows me to see myself for who I really am (gives the meaning, talking to yourself an entirely new meaning lah).
When we meet in either mountain faces or lonely country roads, its usually an embarrassing affair, like two stray cats eyeballing each other – there’s always that uncomfortable lull when one of us feels the personal bubble is suddenly being invaded by another, but eventually, we get to exchange either granola bars or inner tubes or something and that’s when we begin to break the ice, if we don’t end up killing each other. Usually the conversation meanders here and there, then it gets to the meaty part, “why do you do the things you do all by yourself? Hey, don’t you know a man could slip, fall and die here all by himself and no one will even know it?” The last part per-forces the sense of isolation – “all by himself (yourself) and no one will even know it?” Even now it sounds like some secret fraternity for the damned or something – much can be said about why people do the things, they do alone – some are just embattled with their faith, family and themselves – they don’t have a choice, their views about life relegates them to square pegging in a world that only recognizes round pegs. I know the feeling that comes from being different and the sensation of always looking in from the outside. You could say, I am even permeated with that spirit of estrangement and isolation – at first one tries to fit in (usually in the first 20% part of life), but after a while like solitary confinement, that discomfort zone just grows on you and the next thing you know, you need it more than it needs you – usually it comes somewhere when you’re figured out how to make your own money while being able to say, “fuck off” to the world – once you reach that point, there’s no incentive to fit in, not even the slightest impulse to even accommodate, seek approval or even pretend to be nice – you’re just an incorrigible loner and probably a first class bastard by then – damaged goods. I guess that’s also the point when one can more less indulge in all sorts of meditative states to explain why one should climb, ride or sail alone in the way crazy people start hearing voices or something – it doesn’t take a whole lot of ingenuity either, trust me – I have stood at the edge at the edge of desolation watching the Russian steppes, seen St. Elmo’s fire as it blazed languidly on the mast turning everything opalescent green and blue, it’s a surreal place that can only amplify everything associated with doing stuff all by myself – it sharpens the dimension to the elements, the trail, mountain and eddies all acquires a vividness that one can only perceive amid silence. There in the cocoon of being secured there is only you and no one else, one is infused with a sense of purity of thought and action – you don’t have the luxury of bullshitting yourself or even feel the need to negotiate happy terms with your ego. In that place, where one is framed in total isolation, there’s only one over powering reality – if you fuck up, you will die and there are no safety nets here, no 911 rescue calls, that’s as good as it gets – no point in even flaying your arms or shouting for help if something goes terribly wrong – you made the choice and you’re in the thick of it – and if you find yourself on a ledge running out of rope or having to negotiate a cold front, its just too bad – you’ve got to just suck it in take a quick compass bearing, check off your map and simply make the best of a hopeless situation. At the end of the day I guess what I am trying to say in a round about way is – as much as I am trying to convince myself and you, being alone is matter of choice, its hardly a matter of choice: it just a way of journeying through life, may not be best way, or even the way, it should be, but once, a way is a way, nonetheless– and if there is any solace, it is maybe only this : when one is alone, one only gets what one brings to the moment, should you bring nothing of your own, it would all amount to mere rocks and snow piles – that could be the only reason why bringing a good book along goes a long way to take off the edge in those desolate jaunts – the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.
November 21, 2007
Singapore’s leaders may not be accustomed to watching their effigies burn on CNN. And yet this was what happened Sept last year. Bearing the full brunt of the public ire was Temasek Holdings. Having taken up a $3.7 billion equity stake in Shin Corp, Thaksin’s flagship Telco firm, Temasek found itself sucked into a political maelstrom.
Recently, Indonesia’s anti-monopoly agency began investigating Temasek when an Indonesian labour union filed a complaint, alleging that Temasek violated anti-monopoly laws – it seems Temasek may have run foul into another political maelstorm again?
What’s really happening here? Is this the curse of Tutankhamen making it’s millennium rounds to this part of the tropics? Why are Singaporean firms like Temasek, so susceptible to the perils of being regularly single out for unnecessary attention? I know, it’s not fair – I even know, there may be no evidence to suggest they should even ‘find fault’ with us in the first place!– in fact there is every evidence to suggest, they may even be irrational, but what really is at the heart of the gripe?
In mid February 2007, the MP for the West Coast GRC, Ho Geok Choo asked whether Singapore should consider ramping down its pace of development to placate its neighbors. “…our success and fast growth may be creating a lot of tensions with our neighbors, who feel the threats of challenges and stress.”
Does it have something to do with jealously? The politics of envy? Is it simply a case of the have not’s throwing a tantrum? Whatever the answer, it’s a question that cast long shadows and brings into sharp relief – the perils of being a Singaporean firm in ASEAN.
(1). Is There Something Wrong With Singapore Inc?
Although Temasek frequently asserts it’s not a government directed policy agency and consequently does not enjoy any special privileges. The general held view suggest otherwise. Critics note GLC’s such as Temasek are simply a network of firms designed to operate in a protected market and it is through these agencies that the government exercises its will to either project regionally and internationally. As a result many do not see firms like Temasek as just another Asian conglomerate. At least not one that is sufficiently divorced from the government of the day to either act independently or autonomously without having to follow a national script. Such an assertion may even be preposterous. Nonetheless it continues to gain currency amongst conspiracy theorist who regularly confect a range scenarios ranging from phone tapping to stealing whole islands! One possible reason for the paranoia stems from the close links between firms like Temasek and Singtel to the families of the ruling elite. Again this does not necessarily suggest power resides in the hand of a few who may not altogether be inclined to act impartially. Any more than the Kennedy’s or the Rothchild’s have a secret agenda to transform America into a catholic fiefdom or Zionist Europe. The general perception of appearing “to close for comfort” to the ruling elite- real or imagined simply reinforces the belief – neighboring countries are not so much dealing with independent conglomerates as they are with the invisible hand of Singapore inc. Indeed, it’s one that militates against the long term strategic interest of Singaporean firms regionally. As it raises the question: can Singaporean firms even continue doing business in Asean amid this climate of suspicion? This would of course depend on calculating the actual cost of maintaining the status quo and much of the trade off analysis would hinge on whether the cost of redefining the relationship between firms and government, out weights the cost of maintaining the close nexus between them. Its one that guarantees an on going debate on how best to deal with the issue of reconciling doing what is right against what will be perceived as right.
(2). The Way Out of the Quagmire?
Against the backdrop an uncertain business environment; how do strategic planners grapple with the issue of the “perception” quotient in the context of managing businesses? Unlike numbers, weightings and factorials which are easily quantifiable. The perception quotient remains a qualitative abstraction. One which continues to confound both policymakers and businessmen alike as they struggle to make sense of how to project the right image – why is the perception quotient so important for Singaporean firms doing business in the region? Business isn’t just a simplistic notion of demand and supply. While that may well be a palpable truth in the book sense. In reality business in all its guises is simply an embodiment of the term “relationship” in a supra context. It’s one that encapsulates not only culture, history and values but also a “shared philosophy.” This sociological definition of business means people will invariably ascribe a name, face, nationality and even temperament to a firm. That’s the reason why the windows of Starbucks and McDonalds are regularly smashed by activist: they embody everything that symbolizes globalization. In the same way the American philosopher Theodore Rozak disparages Microsoft with his famous reference, “if you want to do what is good for kids, find out what Bill Gates wants to do in schools and do the opposite.” Here the firm, Microsoft is depicted as the evil empire one which aptly describes in Rozak’s view how technology represents predation. People create impressions about firms in the same way they form impressions about people, nationalities and races. People will continually seek out a sense of scale to define themselves alongside firms. Unfortunately much of the science related to strategic planning be it either in business or the enterprise of war continues to pay scant regard to the importance the perception quotient and even less to how it may even be managed. As a result even the best will continue getting it wrong as exemplified by George W.Bush in the Iraq war. When he naively said “all human beings want what we want – freedom,” to paraphrase: hence “democratization should be easy.” In reality, no one disputes, the Arabs may want freedom just like all of us. Only they don’t want to have anything to do with the American inspired variety. In the same way, our neighbors may want foreign investments. But they may not necessarily want or even feel comfortable with the Singapore inc variety. Does it make sense? No it doesn’t. Is it even remotely logical? No it isn’t. But does is it a scene that typically gets played out so often. It even suggest, they (our neighbors) are even prepared to cut their noses to spite us? Yes. As the Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos said, “hurt they will, but happy they will be no end, even as they bleed and make merry in the burning streets through the night…..” Against this backdrop of apparent senselessness, it forces us to ask: what do can Singaporean firm do to successfully navigate themselves through this labyrinth of competing desires? Again its one where neither sense or logic features in the discussion. That’s what’s so exasperating about having to manage the perception quotient – eventually, the question will turn on: Why do our neighbors succumb so readily to appeals based on the irrational forms of identity – ethnic, racial, religious – rather than to appeals based on the rational forms – economic and level headed state craft above all? Or, to put it in dramatic terms: why do identity politics so often rest on hatreds that do as much damage to the aggressors as to their victim? Until we have a deeper understanding of the answers to that question. We simply need to find a better way to conduct business with our neighbors. The question here do we simply fold our arms and say, well they should all calm down and take a stress pill? This approach denotes the expectation they will eventually come to their senses and hopefully do the rational thing. Or would it be wiser to take stock of these irrationalities and profile a set of countermeasures which allows us to make sense of the current divide? Again much of the calculations will depend on what the payouts would be if we do nothing against doing at least something. What then should we do?
(3) Its show time!
The challenge for firms such as Temasek in this new geo-political business environment requires them to take stock of the increasing volatile business climate in Asean. Firms have to consider the associated cost of being labeled as Singapore inc?
This would of course require them to also consider the derivative line of questioning: does being seen as Singapore inc foster mutual understanding and trust? Or does it simply exacerbate national resentment? If this question is answered in the affirmative, Singaporean firms especially GLC’s need to pursue independence and autonomy away from the government of the day as a matter of strategic priority. Pursuing a strategy decoupling from the government of the day will result in firms such as Temasek devolving into smaller strategic business units (SBU’s). Each operating autonomously from the nuclei of central control. Where soft power will feature increasingly as the preferred instrument of building and sustaining regional relationships – instead of cold, rational and metallic logic which typifies how the Singapore government comes across to our neighbors. The goal here being to define and allow smaller SBU’s to carve out their own identity outside the shadow the government of the day – in doing so they will be a better position to take corporate ownership of the perception quotient rather than being perceived as proxies. Hopefully even coming across as real conglomerates in the true sense of the word. Who are better prepared to navigate in a business environment that’s simply demanding Singapore inc to shed the image of parochialism, narrowness and insularity. Real or imagined, does it really matter?
Do we even have a choice?
(By Scholarboy & Astroboy / This Article Has Not Been Assigned An EP Code – Please note the “read” folder is down and will only be up some time around mid December. We will be re-routing much of the communication to conduct rehearsals for the staging the Olympics – expect frequent test from KOHO – meanwhile please log on as per normal WITHOUT using your book club read log in codes – Thank you – KOHO)
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November 20, 2007 /Publication Date
November 24, 2007
November 20, 2007
Damn. I remember somewhere in my averagely miserable campus days, how I used joke about the old boys network. For most of it, I thought the stories were fictions, or at least grossly exaggerated and highly embellished accounts that didn’t really capture the reality of life.
Fast forward a few years and I realized, it’s only too true – the old boys network is everywhere – it’s in industry, churches and even in clubs, where people regularly meet on a weekend to play an innocent game of scramble – I found out some 4 odd years ago when I joined a church group who regularly meet on Saturdays to cycle around Bukit Timah – while it lasted. I must say, I certainly enjoyed the cosy insiderism that came with the privilege of membership. For one, one gets into the holiest of hollies and you always get to know what’s really happening before anyone else does – but one day, something happened which I don’t feel comfortable to share for the moment (rest, I assured I will definitely share it with all of you one day and I guarantee you, it will blow your socks off! Or your money back!) and I found myself turned out.
Of course, no one actually said, I should just disappear, but there were enough signs and signals. Soon I found myself out in the cold, all alone. In the days, weeks and months that followed. I found myself dwelling deeper into the whole subject of why people feel the need to clique together and what do they really do? That’s to say; what’s really happening up in their brains? – when one considers it, its a pretty important question; cliques exist everywhere, even taxi drivers identify with each other, enough to seek out that balmy camaraderie that comes from being part of a shared community – everyone is into it, journalist, dentist, lawyers and even politicians.
For most, its just a way of fitting in and making sense; who they are in relation to either their vocational fraternity or the broader community – I am sure, networks really matter very little now save for a handful of institutions that imagine themselves to be suitable only for the creme de la creme to save the planet or something, but lets get serious.
I would really be dumb, if I absolutely denied the possibility power and influence wasn’t somehow linked to golf courses, exclusive country clubs and executive sky-boxes at sporting events.
These are arenas from which many who are not part of the club are traditionally excluded and thus are not privy to the truly “serious” business transactions or conversations. A business person who does not travel in these elite circles of influence will miss out on many opportunities. In the business world at least, it pays dividends to understand how and why, the old boy network turns the wheel of fortune and more importantly what makes it really tick. Part of that requires one to ask; what’s the psychology behind it all? I have to be perfectly honest here, my motivation is purely self serving, understanding why elites play the games they do, allows me to assume a role that makes myself more amenable to gain an advantage – to be very honest, with you, I really don’t give two shits about the higher ideals why people choose to wear funny hats and give themselves all sorts of strange sounding names, but if it gets the bacon, I am all for it – that’s why I am writing this article – the goal is to share with you my very personal opinion of why elites play the games they do – ready? OK let’s dive it.
(1) The Story of Where We Came From.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s the Mickey Mouse Club or a Masonic Order – any organization that claims the right to occupy a quadrant associated with power and influence needs to continually assert their narrative on the broader society – where without the select band of the anointed and chosen ones, the whole edifice will simply tumble down. Usually excellence, capability along with everything you or I don’t have in this life time forms this repetoire.
Most of it, is of course a crock of shit, like the claim that being blue eyed and blonde means one belongs to some master race. Or some clap trap that only men who graduate from this or that institution have some inalienable right to rule. Or a certain family has a genetic bent towards politics, like the Kennedy’s or something, not that you even realize it, judging from the way, they regularly fly into the sea or overdose.
The whole idea is not only to perpetuate a myth, but if possible mythologize their inheritance as to how they may even have a valid claim over history – only they, the enlightened ones have a right to rule – as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t even matter whether it’s the consortium of retired bus drivers.
Every oligarchy needs to pays homage to a sacred narrative and if possible garner enough adherents within society to even believe it and if possible even form a congregation to worship it as the veritable truth.
Usually, the narrative starts with the trite and tested line, “In the very beginning….a very long time ago….” there was always nothing (notice there is always nothing), except mosquitoes and flies, death and destruction and everyone is either dying of dysentery or committing suicide because life is after all doom and gloom.
Then when all hope was nearly extinguished, in steps the man and after that it’s trumpet, gongs and banners – cut to the chase – fast forward – we have all been saved, glory be to him.
That basically is how the story goes in virtually every case without exception, doesn’t matter whether it’s a birth of a nation, the founding of a great religion – there’s always a patriachal figure smack in the middle of the story who once fought and won over evil by the slimmest margins.
The essence of the myth is promoted as the reason accounting ,“for how we came here…and don’t you ever forget it!”
(2) The Monopolization of The Keys To Power
The second con job in this surreal footage, requires the group to monopolize some skill of arms such as technology or claim that they even have special knowledge or the power of infallibility.
How one group asserts their right of primacy over a society does not require elaboration. The Brahmins did it by monopolizing astronomy and fashioning a means to predict with great accuracy the datum of the water table – in an irrigation society, this gave them the power of the oracle.
Typically it requires taking something really easy and making it appear harder than it seems.
I did it myself in the brotherhood. A few years ago, in our historical annals, I am supposed to be the man who developed the space fold machine that allowed us to transverse the infinity of space – what many people didn’t realize of course was I threw in a lot of mumbo jumbo math and donned a funny hat and bingo my cut and paste program assume something that controlled space travel in the whole universe in the gaming network – of course, even as I say this right now, no one will ever believe me, some will think, I am just a really humble man. Most will even insist, it can never be that simple, only because, they have a stake in it! – that’s the trick, when it comes to monopolizing the keys to power, it needs to be packaged in such a way, whereby that which is actually monopolized is able to assume the all encompassing belief, its even necessary, vital and critical; if society is to successfully evolve to the next level – like the Samurai, Manchu and Mamelukes, the whole idea of preserving the status quo ante relies on successfully marketing not hope.
Rather amplifying the real or imagined fear; to tamper with anything in the system that the elite control will bring the whole edifice crashing down.
The ‘play on fear’ may assume a variety of shapes and forms, it may be having the sun blotted out – returning to that dank square whence we came from or even seeing our loved ones working as slaves overseas, but in every case. The formula of exacting loyalty and compliance remains the same. The perception of fear needs to be regularly heightened and if possible even sharpened.
Elitism supports itself by direct exaction on fear which allows it to control the collective perception of society; hence interwoven in the narrative is the whole idea that without them (the elites), all of us are toast.
And this is where I have to stop as this is a two parter in a series.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this earth shattering article.
Oh yeah, as for my church cycling gang, consider my dilemma, I had just splurged out on a new mountain bike – there I was one morning all by myself – it was just the trail and me, but I said what the hell, let me ride on a bit and see where it all goes – As it turned out, it went much better than I expected.
I have never looked back since, I realized, I didn’t need them, it was all in the mind. I just reckoned, it was a game, it didn’t need to play after all.
As it is I ride alone these days and even prefer it that way. That just goes to show you, the truth will set you free.
This Article has no EP code – The Brotherhood Press 2007
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November 22, 2007
November 20, 2007
Sorry, if this sounds a bit vague and even obscure, but I speed read and one of the after effects of regularly doing so – is only one or two things stay in the mind. While the rest just assumes a huge blur.
Recently, I read somewhere, some Doc (do you notice, it’s always a doctor) in the government doesn’t feel the need to lower the entry level for prospective political candidates because he believes, it would be tantamount to dumbing down the govt. He went on to add it’s important to maintain high standards to ensure that the candidates could withstand the rigors of public scrutiny etc.
Now let’s freeze frame this for a moment and repeat and play again. What really is doctor saying? Well to paraphrase, he claims, we already have a first class government because the people selected are the best. Now there is nothing wrong with the whole idea of plumbing for the ‘right stuff.’ I mean that’s why NASA doesn’t put people who regularly hear voices in cockpits of $2 billion space shuttles. So on the first cut at least, the whole proposition of winnowing the candidates for political office seems like a very sensible exercise.
However, when does filtering to ensure quality lead to zoo keeping? When does it actually cross the line and degenerate into something like an old boys network, whereby only a select few can actually gain entry into the corridors of power and once they get in, they keep everyone out.
It would seem the best candidates are people who appear to be successful in either their private or public life. Granted, the system isn’t perfect and there will always be the odd psycho who slips through the net like Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler and Stalin. Along with people who like to lace their cigars with bodily fluids – how true is this idea that in order to ensure high quality decisions, one really needs good people?
Well first of all let’s get a few things straight ‘good’ as a concept or even school of thought is pretty much the stuff of shifting sands – I mean was Nelson Mandela good, that’s to say do you consider his life exemplary? Well it really depends where you decide to drop the ruler on his life, if you placed it somewhere when he just turned 30, then you could say, he was terrorist, that’s to say someone who regularly incited people towards sectarian violence or spend their time making bombs in the kitchen or something – slide that ruler further up a few decades and he’s Mother Terressa, the Dalai Lama and George Washington all rolled up into one goody good package – good enough to even be elected the president of South Africa. See the problem?
This leads us to consider, how do people become practically ‘good?’ The lives of great leaders seem to reveal a pattern. It is not easy to refuse to sink beneath the burdens of disability (Roosevelt), a severely handicapped daughter (Charles De Gaulle), the tragically early loss of a wife (Montgomery) and freedom denied (Anwar Ibrahim) – to name just a few.
That goes to show you that the whole idea of good isn’t really so good that one can expect good to produce good, just in case you thought it couldn’t get more complicated, what’s bad may actually turn out to be good. Both Gandhi and Nehru for example, attributed much of their humanitarian beliefs to the British, who regularly locked them up and placed them under house arrest.
Now I want to be clear on a few points, I don’t believe that politicians even deserve such a thing called the deference of power i.e that OMG, so and so is here!
I don’t believe in that bullshit because firstly it demeans the whole idea of politics and secondly what it means to be a functional human being in this modern age. If politics represents the highest form of making sense of human relationship – why the hell should it leverage on the most primitive stimuli?
The cult of reverence, adulation and fuhrership? I don’t even accord my own pastor that as a matter of ‘right.’ I regard him as simply a radio, batteries not included of course, who hopefully continues to ONLY transmit the word of the lord, but if one day, I find out he’s spouting verbal diarrhea about how Jesus spoke to him to use church funds to lets say build a shopping mall, then I am out of there. It’s really as simple as that. Doesn’t get more complicated than that!
My point is simply this, I know only too well the perils of what a cult of deference to power produces. For one, the mind goes right out of the window. As the whole idea of deference implies the leader is infallible. All too often it leverages on the dictum, past performance is an indication of future performance. That simply means if that leader brought us out from the wilderness and plonked us squarely in the land of milk and honey, he would be able to do the same again every single time – well that’s bullshit. That’s true if you believe everything that happened in the past has necessarily anything to do with the present. I can argue the case, the conditions these days are so very different that it’s like trying to compare the green fields of Surrey to the pockmarked landscape of the moon!
The second thing about the cult of deference of power is it needs to be regularly nourished like Dracula – it stands to reason, if the status quo ante is to have any currency to define the architecture of tomorrow – then it must be promoted as the only way and probably the great hope. Is it such a wonder every politician refers to his vocation as the ultimate sacrifice? You go and figure out that part, I surrender lah.
So really what’s ‘good’ and how do we really get good politicians? – well, I can’t speak for most people, but for me, my idea of a good leader is someone who doesn’t keep on reminding me that, hey without me you wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans. The only reason why I say this is because if the whole idea of leadership is to empower by enabling others instead of disabling them, then it’s necessary and even vital to instill confidence in people and how would one best accomplish this? Is it by regularly ear drumming people that they would still be a protoplasmic mass of nothingness in some swamp or allowing them to form the belief, they did it all by themselves and if victory was purchased, it was due to their effort alone – wouldn’t that be the idea paternalistic approach. I mean, if I had a kid and he was struggling to build a lego pyramid or something, I would help him, but at the end when the last block caps the pinnacle, I would just slip quietly away allowing him to bask in pride, he did it himself! – better still, if I could convince him, I was just there for the ride.
What sort of leader would that be? Not very good or useful one maybe in the eyes of many, only because that I suspect is what it really takes to be a first class leader; someone who knows instinctively when to bow out and quietly elicit greatness in others.
(This Article Has Not Been Assigned An EP code – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
Have you checked out this Article?
November 21, 2007 / Publish Date.
November 19, 2007
“The Tree That Binds,” is based on a Korean series,
Darkness watched during a flight to Japan – the story has been modified. To date over 20,000 copies have been sold.
It runs 48 chapters and retails for 103 Imperial Shekelians. Please contact your book club for further details. Brief Extract: Main Protagonist / Musings / Chapter 31 – The Revelation
“Pain can never be taken philosophically; otherwise it isn’t pain. Today Dr Kim told me she will certainly die within the month. Yet as I walked aimlessly through this streets, I feel nothing – can it be I am still yet to live and experience life? My eyes have hardly opened, have they? I am simply a child standing before the portal of life – all this is so clear when someone you love only once in your life has to suddenly leave you.
The old say, the more humane we become, the more likely we are to suffer the pain of others. To love simply means to embrace vulnerability, to be even woundable in the way a man grips and searches out the sweetness of her lover in a moment’s ache. Never made easier by the solace of simply observing from afar, but here where she is before me, I can no more deny her existence any more than I can say, I never once existed.
If it is not given me to know the course of time, then the best I can do is to be attentive, to watch the moments go by, to feel her occasional caress and to revel in her closeness. You could say this is how a man who has never loved ambles his away across this strange terrain.
It’s like trying to work my way along a wall in the dark, It doesn’t serve me to turn and rail against the wall; it may have been placed there so that I don’t slip and fall over the edge – that evening, after finishing my fifth cigarette – I decided to walk beside her again….slowly, one step at time, I retraced my steps to the hospital – lets see where it goes. If this is the script the story teller of life has penned for me, then I shall simply have to utter my lines! Do I even have a choice? What I will have to do can never be considered an accomplishment or failure worth mentioning – it’s simply what it takes to be a human being who loves another more than himself – to live for the moment, that is and not to expect anything in return except pain. You could say, I have finally discovered my purpose, my reason to live and a reason to enthomb my selfishness……and with it, this has to be the first day of my awakening….breathe…this is my first day and as day’s goes. A day when a man simply loves a woman.”
November 15, 2007
The press is dying, proclaimed once, twice and thrice a day. Too many authorities have assured us. Its days are even numbered. It has lost too much public respect. Once venerated as the sole purveyor of reason and truth. These days, it looks more like a fevered dinosaur lumbering as an army of bloggers taunt it with insolent jibes – it’s abused relentlessly in blogosphere villified in financial circles as a sunset industry. Will it be eventually bullied into extinction?
While writing this, it’s hard to disagree with such a convoluted and self-contradicting set of statements. Nonetheless, I’m going to give it a swipe.
Are newspapers dying? Probably. Will blogging be the cause of its demise? I have absolutely no idea, as much as, it remains an undisputable fact every blogger these days is empowered to be a columnist and may even produce something original, arresting and unique – how the internet might actually replace the press is never really explained by even those who assure us.
A few things stand against the idea that blogging will eventually replace the press. Firstly, at present about 80% of all news in the internet still originates from newspapers. It suggest for one, bloggers don’t have the organizational skills. Or even the resources to sensibly gather and edit news on a scale that allows them to sensibly break out of mediocrity. At present the internet is still very much like the electronic version of a stand up comedian. Who stands up on a soap box in the public square, spouting what he thinks about what the press wrote yesterday – he is at best an ingenious commentator. Granted he may even be passionate and believe what he’s doing will eventually change the world or save the whales in some obscure quarter of our planet. However, I am reminded time and again, all too often, this prognosis fails to mention the role of money and how bloggers may even come to replace the press.
Money or lack of it will certainly remain the final arbiter whether the press either lives or dies. Conversely money will also define whether blogging will simply remain the stuff of weekend warriorhood or break through the cacophony of mediocrity to assume something more meaningful – that I suspect remains the crux, whenever we revisit the trite and hackneyed narrative; whether the press is going the way of the dinosaurs.
As it is, the scorecard doesn’t look very good for our local rag. If what’s happening around the world is to go by – it’s advertising and circulation revenues are being whittled away by the internet, and it’s owners seem stricken by a failure of the entrepreneurial imagination needed to stem the hemorrhage. Surveys point disturbingly to a trend where most people these days are getting their daily sound bites on the go from the internet. The press is starting to look like Lola in her twilight years in the Copacabana.
For the time being, these shifts haven’t really hit the local rag hard. Much of the impact has been absorbed partly because it’s after all still a one horse race. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s survivability is guaranteed.
Unlike the foreign independent presses such as the Herald Tribune and Wall Street Journal who have for generations been controlled exclusively by old money – whose ranks often see the press as some high minded quasi public institution.
Family control has sheltered the big 3’s allowing them to do high quality and high cost journalism. It’s often said many of these owners (before they too peddled off their newspapers), saw the press firstly, not as money making machines, rather as bastions of the truth. This is especially so in the case of the Wall Street Journal.
As a consequence, much of ethos that evolved through it’s cloistered years of being ivory towered from the grubby hands of fat cat corporate sharks and bent politicians bred a distinctively do-goody-good belief that newspapers had a moral duty to lead society by continually seeking out the truth without fear or prejudice. As dreamy and quaint as that may sound, it led to many of them assuming their position as the non elected vanguards of the community -where they even regarded themselves as beholden to the greater good and glory of the community they served – it is precisely the craving out of this fourth estate principles as to how the press should be rather than what it had to be in the West which differentiates them from our local newspapers – as that is what will guarantee their survival – it stands to reason – the truth will always command a demand in the form of readership.
Regrettably our local rag doesn’t have that right of claim – for one, it never once subscribed to such lofty utopian ideals. That can only heighten and sharpen the pain as it tries to grapple with the hubris of trying to maintain readership while being gagged and confined to only reporting a corsetted script.
Unlike the Herald Tribune or Wall Street who never ever saw either the need to narrow the scope of it’s reportage or its ambit to appease their masters – and instead strategically inserted themselves in the sharpnel infested quadrant of no-man’s land squarely between the public and private sphere – the same cannot be said of the local rag. Their deference to power is so deeply ingrained and even nurtured in the culture and routines of mainstream journalism that it allows them to be manipulated by the powerfull who remain indifferent to dissent and protest. This unfortunately, has led to a sort of type casting whereby anything that emerges from officialdom is deemed kosher. While often dismissing other voices not on their merit, but rather where they emerged from. How I wonder does this retain the good currency in the journalistic craft? Something, surely has to give?
In its most primitive form, deference to power is most damaging as not only does it mean just retelling the narrative of the government, thus allowing them to create their own reality. It also a form of leaching that drives away creativity and innovation that forms the backbone of any press.
Eventually, this can only mean more and more readers will be tunning off, one can only assume as the pond dries up even further. The prospects of state subsidize in the form of monetary infusion either directly or indirectly will have to feature sooner or later – the relationship between state and press services it will of course be packaged as something business like, but have no doubts – it has to be something very close to blood transfusion. With it what we will see is the final swan act as the aperture of creativity narrows even further followed by round after round of calcification that can only lead to an exodus of readership.
Against the backdrop of this encroaching new order, we call the ever diminishing circle– it’s fair to expect a further widening disconnect between public and press along with the decay of all the last vestiges of credibility, that’s only too evident as the press shifts closer to assume the final form of the state apparat.
In this mishmash of accidents, one thing will certainly remain unchanged, the cheery blogger who keeps on tossing his ruminations like a ten year old kid on a tricycle – not a care in the world for money, masters or even the great agenda that makes the world turn. Except perhaps the faintest dreams of making the world a better place. Surely, you don’t expect us all to believe such an adorable boy killed the press?
(By Dotty & LHL – Socio Political / Business – EP 99377382 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
November 13, 2007
How is it that people who claim that we either live in an apathetic or engaged society, never ever seem to explain how they derived at this conclusion? Doesn’t it seem incongruous to you whether we are apathetic or engaged ought to be as amenable to investigation like whether the Lochness monster or the Yeti actually exist?
I believe this can be accomplished. However, I don’t believe this can be done by simply asking: are we living in an apathetic society?
That sort of question is bound to produce, the fallacy of faulty generalization – where too often it leads to the promotion of preferences (subjective view) along with dispensation (propaganda) which reduces everything an imposition (laws) that manages to account for what is happening (theory), worst still it elevates a fallacy (myth) to some sort of supreme guideline. That all of us have to (yes, you guessed it) accept as the truth.
Let me give you an example of this sort of fallacy and why I believe it subtracts rather than adds any value to the discussion. Consider this: “377A proves that we are an engaged society….” – “I have a friend who often serves on weekends in a grass root committee….”
What we often fail to appreciate is how that sort of generalization is deemed suitable to establishing the claim we already live in an engaged society – but it doesn’t really tell us how this assumption was derived at!
Neither does it give us a comparative to enable us to scale the issue of apathy vs engagement divide. What’s actually happening in this sort of sub standard pariah dog logic is nothing short of an attempt to try to pass off the will of somebody, as the will of everybody and the preoccupation of a few delusional individuals as the collective will of the majority. That’s the reason why attempting to ask the question: are we an apathetic society? Can never successfully produce an accurate answer – it’s a loaded question.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean we cannot successfully answer this question – we can, only in a round about way and this requires us to take the high road by examining the political process to see; how many avenues it provides for opportunities for contrarian expression and whether they can even lead to fruition by bringing about meaningful change. Confining our examination to the processes and systems which allows for representation should ideally form the basis of answering this question – it stands to reason – as either apathy or engagement MUST be directly proportional to our capacity to either control and moderate the outcome of events – so the higher the scope for representation, the less likely, we are to be an apathetic society and vice-versa.
In that sort of approach we are looking at how many ways there is to stay engaged and more importantly charting the rate of success i.e opportunities for successfully bringing about changes – by restricting our investigation to these linkages, it’s a cold an even objective calculation, but at least it cuts out much of the noise, propaganda and back slapping rhetoric associated with the apathy vs engaged debate. As it instills a measure of discipline to the whole investigative process and that will simply produce more accurate results!
Now in this case, what sort of question are we asking? It is simply this: does the system allow citizens to engage the government effectively and safely? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you can even have the best homily sugary fairytale of “I have a friend who is not apathetic…..” but the answer as to whether we live in an apathetic society still has to be a resounding yes! Conversely the same applies to producing an equally resounding ‘no,’ we are not living in an apathetic society. Only on this occasion, we have to be able empirically determine the presence of linkages which allows citizens to remain engaged.
The conflict whether we are an apathetic or engaged society is not just about the best means to pursue generally acceptable ends. Ultimately, whatever answer it produces represent a way for us to discern what is actually happening around us without the danger of being led astray by what I term self-serving rhetoric – that suggest we are all together so different from the rest of the world, there may even be kernels of wisdom to propose, we should forge our own path of defining what our society should be, if it to remain engaged. That sort of nonsensical rhetoric is meant to defend the view that Singapore, in its current political reincarnation after the S377A debate has magically somehow become a more enlightened and mature society. As we know much of this rhetoric includes belittling the achievements of other regimes whose political processes allows fringe groups to vilify one another as bigoted religious fanatics or morally depraved atheist, racist reactionaries or crypto- totalitarian socialist, but at least in their political system, there is never ever any doubt, they have real opportunities of staying political engaged and even plenty of opportunities to moderate the outcome of their destiny. Meanwhile we are still ambling in dark trying to figure out whether we have really reached first base.
Empty rhetoric, I am reminded goes a long way to shore up the ‘reality’ that we may be engaged rather than terminally apathetic. Then again when one makes too much of rhetoric and only rhetoric at the expense of content, that can’t be very imaginative.
In any case, part of what it means to suffer a failure of imagination may be that one is unable conceive that one’s own imagination is too improverished to see the flip side of the coin – in the greater scheme of things, that can only mean, we may be apathetically engaged after all.
(By Darkness – Socio/Political – EP 9903737 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
Read The Latest Article: The Day After The Press Died
November 11, 2007
Are we apathetic? Before our kite flies too high, allow me to impose a limit here, by stating categorically, this article relates to only one aspect of apathy – political apathy.
Do most of us even show the slightest interest in politics? Or is apathy like the bubonic plague spreading insidiously across every major city in the world? Jading whole masses of people turning them into indifferent door knobs?
According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, apathy is on the rise. Hey, droves of people are tuning off, their interest in anything beyond how to tie shoelaces appears to be evaporating like camphor. Sex in the City these days is even garnering more hits than even what Bush has to say on prime time TV. Who can blame them? The last time someone had a conversation with a Bush, they found themselves wandering around the desert for 40 years. The facts speak for themselves.
In the Harvard study involving 5.1 million respondents, 87% said information was lacking. Neither did they feel, they had the requisite control to change things – that more or less accounts for why most youths these days feel disenchanted about politics. So there you have it, it’s a fact. The youths these days are not interested in politics.
I know these numbers don’t relate directly to what’s happening here at home, but they do provide us with a poignant picture of what’s really happening around the world – it may or may not be indicative of our current psychological state, but it serves to provide us a vignette into the possible reasons accounting for the state of apathy.
Does it suggest this is a microcosm of how apathy takes root?
Before we dive into the debate, understand this! Apathy isn’t a disease anymore than perpetual masturbation constitutes a malady, it’s merely symptomatic of a mental disorder, very much in the way, Alzheimer disease causes amnesia – getting the pecking order right allows us to ascribe a sense of scale to the problem. It doesn’t give us the solutions, but it actually allows us to make sense of how the apathy calculus works.
For example, after three shots of vodka, I am not apathetic about fabricating all sorts of tall stories to impress a cute girl in a short skirt. Hwever, I remain terminally apathetic to the prospects of doing the same to a two metric ton auntie even after polishing whole quart of the same. That serves to illustrate my point economically: apathy is a direct function that flows from whether we perceive there is a valence between being engaged and reaping the expected benefits. Or remaining bochap (apathetic) because it’s simply not worth it to pursue a lousy pay out.
Any discussion concerning payout requires us to consider the degree of control, we may have to either moderate or determine the outcome of a game. In this calculus, as we shall see, you could say if the opportunity to effect change is something resembling close to zero, then it pays dividends for me to remain apathetic – who the hell tries to change the color of the sky or tries to stop a baby from crying? No one because there is no pay out there!
However, if I am in a position to effect real and meaningful ‘change,’ or the conditions exist for me to do so, then it pays to be engaged. That in a nutshell is basically how the apathy vs engaged equation operates.
This leads us to consider; what are the drivers accounting for apathy? Draw out that line of logic slightly further and the question it produces is: can we even remain engaged and not apathetic in this age?
I believe this is how the question should be paraphrased as a large part of what makes us either engaged or apathetic beings, hinges directly on; how much control we can effect over our destiny?
Are we all just skeptical of the current political process? Well that really depends on whether we are in a position to control and even moderate the outcome of the political discourse?
That of course leads us to consider whether we have lost faith in our leaders and traditional role models? Could this be the reason why, we remain apathetic?
Perhaps, our lamentable state of apathy has something to do with the spin and hype machine?
Or maybe it’s got something to do with the dystopian trends of our modern times? We all know technology is always fingered as the convenient scapegoat for everything from school shootings to why kids can’t even string a sentence without regularly mangling it.
Are blogs to blame? Is the incessant anti establishment heightening our sense of estrangement, sharpening our sense of alienation even? Is it responsible for much of our apathy?
Well, to be honest, I really don’t know. As I mentioned, apathy or being engaged flows directly from our perception of how much or little control we have over our destiny,
This naturally leads us to ask: whether apathy as a human condition is necessarily normative or descriptive? As much as I like to believe it is either. I cannot, as it still doesn’t successfully explain why ppl take to the streets in Myanmar? Shouldn’t they remain terminally apathetic to a regime who has systematic eroded every capacity for the population to seek self determination? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
There lies the flaw in our model, it suggest attempting to classify the apathy vs engaged calculus will always remain incomplete without dwelling deeper into what are the conditions that’s responsible for this human condition? Much of this centers on how a cooperative system i.e political system, works alongside the apathy vs engaged calculus.
Follow me here, bc this is the point, when the erudite will label me a heretic for very good reasons – as it represents nothing short of a departure from orthodox thinking.
Consider this: when the apathy vs engaged calculus is juxtaposed against the cooperative framework i.e political system, the main determinant of whether we remain apathetic or not, no longer turns on what we may think under X, Y or Z conditions.
Rather it remains solely a function of how the political system may decide to regard my state of apathy or engagement (there is a subtle twist here, dont get lost!) i.e can the system solicit the cohesion that makes possible a general state of commitment that still allows me to moderate my destiny successfully and safely? That would of course depend on whether the system is able to protect individuals and groups from the exercise of arbitrary govt power. In the finally analysis, whether one is apathetic or engaged cannot be answered mutually exclusively from that cooperative environment.
“It has to be a question that depends solely on an examination of how many avenues are available within that cooperative system (political process) that allows for opportunities to effect real changes. In this combination of game theory and an appreciation of cooperative societies, the key to understanding the interrelationship between apathy and engagement calculus remains solely a matter of how the political system manages to contain, under the conditions of peace if not civility, a range of moral, ideological, and religious conflicts which allows one to moderate change effectively and safely.”
If it’s unable to do so without degenerating into state inspired harrasment, persecution or to my “greater detriment” then one can say, “go and die lah,” and that can only produce apathy.
However, if the system is adept in resolving these differences of opinions even to the extent of accommodating the lunatic fringe, then it could be said, it doesn’t make one ounce of sense to remain apathetic.
This article will hopefully go some way towards rubbishing the assertion, it’s possible to simply draw a straight line that a society may either be apathetic or engage simply because such a question is posed – it cannot. Even if that question is answered in the affirmative, it has to be treated as suspect. As the first casualty in any apathetic society has to be the truth -it stands to reason.
The gold standard or best answer to the question, lies very much in the appraisal of the cooperative system i.e political process – whether it’s able to effectively recruit people whose views they despise, and try to fight out their disagreements through the pursuit of power under that system while being able to remain cohesive in the face of division.
That remains the real litmus test of whether one is really living in a trully engaged or apathetic society.
The rest you can throw into the dustbin.
(This article has been written by Darkness, Harphoon, Astroboy, Scholarboy & Aurora: Based partially on “The Perils of Living in an Apathetic Society” / Socio –Political – 2007 / Executive Summary 990399 – 2007 (EP 990399 – The Brotherhood Press 2007).
November 7, 2007
Recently, I read somewhere Catherine Lim has joined blogosphere. It seems her motivation for doing so stems from several failed attempts to get her article published in the MSM. As usual this development has generated a litany of consternations in blogosphere – some have labeled it, as yet another attempt to control the information supply chain. Others feel real or imagined. This is simply a ‘thought control’ exercise.
This throws out the question what are the possible drivers which has led to this curious development? Is it really such a wise proposition to deny someone like Catherine Lim a voice in the MSM?
No one denies every information provider needs to balance content with readership demand. Such constrains can even be seen as part and parcel of the business process. However, according to Catherine Lim the reasons put forward by the MSM not to run her ‘open letter’ to the PM was due to the absence of “anything new” in her article. As true as that may be. What cannot be discounted is Catherine Lim isn’t exactly anyone and this hardly suggest what she has to say counts for squat. On the contrary, I for one and many are very interested in what she has to say – only because Catherine Lim happens to be one of the pioneers of the liberal movement in Singapore (is there such a movement? You have to ask why I am even struggling to find a term that best suits her).
This of course raises the question: shouldn’t she be accorded a special locus to air her views? It begs the question what exactly is the MSM trying to accomplish by denying Catherine Lim a voice? To paraphrase, what’s at the heart of this strategy (assuming there is one in first place)? A few possibilities come to mind (and for legal reasons, I have been advised that I need to qualify myself, they remain, ONLY possibilities and not statements of fact.)
The first, by denying her a right to voice her opinion. Many of us especially the younger generation will lose a line of sight of the chronological events, leading up to how and where the socio-political scene came to where it is today. That’s to say, we wouldnt’t be able to connect the dots. This assumes of course where we are today in the socio-political quadrant is essentially a function of what transpired historically. As Darkness once put it so eloquently, everything has a causal link:
“Nothing comes from nothing. Everything has an origin and if you really want to understand something, you really need to go all the way back to mug up on its history. Even something as mundane as tying shoelaces has a historical lineage. If you look at the Americans, they prefer the criss-cross knot. While the Europeans favor the parallel style of setting their laces – I say look again, this time screw on your time machine hat – and really look! That’s because the forefathers of the latter fought in muddy trenches in Verdun or some place where people think its a good idea to charge into a machine gun battery. Every soldier knows when your leg is swells to the size of a football, it’s easier to remove the boots, by cutting the laces with a bayonet when they are perfectly lined up –that’s where parallel lacing came from! That’s what I mean by historical context.”
This raises the nagging question: whether it’s possible to believe the recent loosening of public discourse to even allow journalist like Mr Janadas Devan to write a controversial column criticizing Prof Thio’s Parliamentary speech could have emerged without the likes of Catherine Lim challenging the cause for a more liberal and open society in the first instance? It’s all too easy, to lose sight of the chronological events and to credit either the government or even the MSM for this recent display of openness and tolerance – I don’t wish to embellish the account, no one denies the restraint and openness shown in the recent S377A debate certainly signals an encouraging shift. A clear sign that we may even be moving ahead and finally making progress towards a more liberal and tolerant society – after all who would have considered the MSM could even take and run with a taboo subject like homosexuality one year ago?However, it’s all too easy to jump to the conviction what made it all possible was simply because someone-on-top-OKed-it. That sort of fairytale alters considerably the narrative of how we actually arrived at this level of civil maturity. It leverages on the ‘tried and trite’ narrative; if our lot has improved, it’s only because the regime has made the world a better place and it has absolutely nothing to do with likes of pesky Catherine Lim prodding it from time to time with her dainty umbrella. That social and political improvements, always comes eventually if one waits long enough. In this homily sugary narrative of ‘the good life,’ the machine, system or great helmsman always knows best; if the good in the world outweighs the bad, it’s won over by the slimmest margins and someone paid the ultimate price for it. Well, I don’t buy into that bullshit – that’s only true, if you believe for one moment, the impetus for change is naturally stronger than the impulse to resist change at every opportunity and turn. In truth, the math is stacked firmly against you, roughly at deader than dead odds of 10,000 to 1. Reality suggest it’s the reverse, governments, institutions, firms and even the seamstress who makes a living out of hand sewing couture clothes will tend to resist change for one simple reason – it serves the strategic objective of preserving the status quo ante along with all the elements which lends reason and sense to the oligarchies of power. FACT: The motivation to resist change is always higher than the impulse to embrace change. I suspect that could be why the ‘tried and trite’ narrative needs to be constantly nourished like those blood thirsty Aztec deities, as it justifies keeping the system and everything that goes along with it, dogma, ideology and even the personalities i.e the necessary price has to be paid to generate the good life. Nothing comes for free.
What else can account for that tenuous purchase on our collective psyche? After all since we became independent as a nation, so much of our welfare has been placed on the altar of the party who has successfully delivered the good life.
In all fairness, they have done a pretty good job of weathering the odds and even delivering the goods – but it still doesn’t answer the nagging question: how did we really reach this watershed in our socio-political awakening?This leads me to my main plank: if the voices from our distant past aren’t allowed to ring out from time to time, to remind us where we used to be and how we got here. How do we even begin to ascribe a sense of scale to progress or even begin to account for it? At best, that can only create blank spaces in our socio-political narrative. At worst, it skewers the picture and leads to an under appreciation of how long and arduous a journey we have once traveled as a people and nation. This is especially cogent for the younger generation who may not have the benefit of hindsight. That’s the real price of denying the likes of Catherine Lim a voice.
If the role of the MSM is to purvey quality information, then it cannot just take a ‘presentist’ view where it assumes things just happen like the story of the man who walks over the knoll and ka-booom, the story starts from there! No such thing! – events just don’t pile up on each other and things just don’t happen, and even if they do, they usually have a causal chain which requires the MSM to take stock of the broader history. I would even argue if the MSM aspires to be taken seriously, then it must be able to present a holistic account of the before, during and after narrative. Where did it all come from? Who started the ball rolling?
Whatever the reasons for not publishing Catherine Lim’s letter. One thing remains tragically true, we will never know the ‘truth’ on this occasion, not from the MSM at least, as it came to us all through the new media.
(By Scholarboy & Astroboy / Politics / Socio-Political – EP 99592628 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
Breaking News from Dotty: The Brotherhood Press Will Cover the Beijing Olympics
“Dotty, This will give us an opportunity to interact closely with gamers who are experimenting with what I call garage technology. Much of it has been developed in rooms where clothes go to die, or in labs during the 3rd shift, when all their supervisors are asleep, so don’t expect high resolution coverage and fancy stuff, what we are trying to accomplish isn’t as important as building the core competence to work as part of an international team trying to do something incredible difficult with just $2 – so it’s a bit like trying to sail around the world in a tub. It will be a challenge, but we will adapt and overcome because there is no money, no one has any idea how to proceed and some of us can’t even understand the other guy on the otherside of the conference call – apart from that everything is coming along very smoothly – the boys will deliver the goods – on that I am very certain, I am just there for the ride. I am starting to realize, they don’t need me any more and if I hang around, it may do more harm than good, so maybe it’s time for me to seriously consider retiring and getting on with my real life.”
Darkness 7th Nov 2007
November 6, 2007
I am reminded in life, there is always a cost to everything. During my averagely miserable university days, I loathed the body of knowledge known as fluid dynamics. To exacerbate matters, I hated the lecturer and considered him an incoherent fool, enough to I skipped every single one of his lectures and seminars. Neither did the subject endear it’self to me despite my best efforts, all it did was induce a semi-comatose state. In all honesty fluid dynamics held as much allure as perusing through the compendium of urination techniques. By some miracle, I can only describe as the mother of all providence. I managed to ace the paper after using my Shamanic skills to successfully spot 6 out of 7 examination questions. Fast forward to working life today, whenever the subject of fluid dynamics crops up, that’s the cue for me to slink off for a cigarette or another toilet break – yes, I am reminded there’s a cost to everything and it seems there’s no possible way of closing the gap now – it just comes back to bite you.
Recently, when I watched the parliamentary debate on S377A on TV – I couldn’t help feeling that same sinking sensation. You know the same one that leaves one mumbling, what’s the cost to all of this?
That’s to say, what’s the real cost of saying ‘no’ to the gay community? I know that I should be focused on the jurisprudential, ethical and moral issues of the 377A debate, but for some reason, my mind kept on turning on the first hurdle issues – cost, cost and cost.
Well before diving into the subject in earnest, let me just say that as far as the gay community goes. They’re an international fraternity roughly 3 to 4 times larger than the Illuminati, Opus Dei, Freemasons and the Mickey Mouse club combined together. When you consider some of the greatest thinkers in human history such as Alan Turing, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander the Great and Oscar Wilde were gays – if you are gay, you’re probably in good company and they all pack roughly the same intellectual punch as probably the entire ivy league alumni and the Mensa society put together. So let’s get one thing straight, when one says, ‘no’ to the gay community or tribe – you’re are not saying ‘no’ to some motley crew of cross dressers who regularly cruise around Changi Village – they are a veritable super power, a force to be reckoned with under every definition of the word ‘power’ and if you are still in doubt, you have to be dumber than dumb!
Now let’s get down to the brass tacks. The problem is calculating the cost of saying ‘no’ to the gay community may not be as straight forward as it seems, only because much of the aggregate cost remains invisible. That of course doesn’t mean, we can’t trace out the rough outlines of the fall out.
The first ‘cost’ is many of us wouldn’t be seen dead with a gay. Hey, lets be honest, if I was let’s say, a teacher aspiring to climb up the ram-rod ladder would I be seen going out for a two hour lunch with a gay colleague? No fear lah. This scenario of induced fear or kiasuim incident exemplifies the kind of cost, I am talking about.
It’s damaging because it scissors through the fabric of human relationships. That’s what happens when gayness is criminalized, anyone who even remotely goes near to it is guilty by sheer association. Since associating with gays can get one tarred and feathered, prudent folk would regularly avoid been seen with them. The danger of course is on the surface at least, everyone plumbs towards the conformists line.
If this reminds you of McCarthyism’s “Silence of Fear” that’s precisely what it is – till today, sociologist are shifting through the debris of the social Chernobyl that once course through the America psyche in the 60’s – the cost is astronomical!
Not only did McCarthyism hollow out meaningful political dissent but along the way everything else went down the chute, it withered away the creative and innovative enterprises, arts, culture and even the sciences – because no one wanted to be associated with anyone who could be labeled a social reactionary.
The question is whether the gay tag can be equated to a form of McCarthyism? Well not exactly, but the whole discourse relating to why to gay’s should not be recognized does go a long way towards institutionalizing the whole idea of gayness as being a character defect that is both undesirable and even a bane to society. The real question to paraphrase should be; whether being pronounced gay is an oblique equivalent of McCarthyism? Well, it really hinges on whether being gay affects employment and promotional opportunities? And how it goes on to affect the lives of not only gays but those who choose to associate with them and beyond – like I said earlier, the cost is hard if not impossible to quantify.
The statistics are imprecise. Even if there were cold cut numbers and charts to flesh out what I just said. It still doesn’t go very far to give us a handle on the real cost of saying ‘no’ to the gay community.
It may do well, at this point to reflect on the apparently low number of whippings administered under slavery in the South in 18th Century America to realize that it may not be necessary to whip many slaves to keep the rest of the plantation in line – that in real terms is the cost, much remains tacit and accountable only in our heads – the to be or not to be calculus.
Quantification aside, it may be helpful to stick to the analogy of McCarthyism only because it provides us with a lens of how far it actually permeated the psyche of the average American? Such an appraisal, tentative though it must be offers insights into the extent of the damage saying ‘no’ to the gay community is able to produce in the psyche of the average Singaporean. Granted it’s a rickety model, but hey what did you expect from 20 minutes of filler time typing on my Nokia while waiting for a client who can’t even be bothered to keep time?
“We should keep in mind, like the cost of saying ‘no’ to the gay community McCarthyism’s most corrosive impact may well have been in what did not happen rather than in what actually happened. The personal relationships that were never forged – the friendships that were never allowed to grow from strength to strength – the conversations that never past from the realm of theory to reality – the books that were never penned and the plays that were never staged – the list of ‘nevers’ – ‘could haves’ – and ‘missed opportunities’ goes on and on Senators. The price I feel is too high for any thinking man to bear and I for one will rue the real cost as one that we shall never ever know for what could have been, but was never allowed to be – surely that must be a criminal waste!…this is not wise….not wise at all……gentlemen, I move for a motion to strike.”
Primus Aldentes Prime / Great Hall / 3rd Nov 2007.
(By Darkness – Sociol / Political – EP 992729167 – Brotherhood Press Articles 2007)
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November 5, 2007
What if we said to you, the whole debate concerning S377A,
has absolutely nothing to do with rights and everything to do with, how we see ourselves as a community?
Incredulous, you say, but do bear with us. As preposterous as it seems, ‘narrative’ is crucial to our argument here.
Our basic point being, ‘the story of how we wish to see ourselves in relation to our community,’ forms very much of the underlying motivations coloring much of the S377A debate.
There’s certainly a underlying psychological thread that runs deeper than just the whole issue of protecting society and staving off the advent of the age of moral turpitude brought forth by the gay movement attempting to assert it’s rights to be recognized – this paper hopes to trace out these psychological ground lines to see where they really lead too.
Central to the whole argument is the whole idea of an all ‘encompassing narrative’ as first mentioned by Sigmund Freud. An idea that was glossed over by Carl Jung that every community and it doesn’t matter really matter whether it is bunch of pygmies or even a tribe of monkeys squatting on an anthill,
“Always needs to assert their own identity against the broader canvas of (community) history.”
You could just as well describe this impulse in crude terms as a form of ‘cultural imperialism’ that’s all too often played out over territory and ‘rights’, who owns the land? How long have they been there? Who has first rights to water and right of passage? Is that what’s really happening beneath the whole 377 debate? Rather than the contentious issue of whether homosexuality should or shouldn’t be de-criminalized – against this underlying contestation of ‘rights.’ The real issue revolves around; whose ‘narrative’ should actually be allowed to assert itself to gain primacy. That’s to say, which narrative should ideally form our collective consciousness? In order to fully understand how this clash of cultures works, let us just flesh out the set pieces of this discussion. Firstly, as much as we like to believe all of us are necessarily civilized and most human beings tend towards cooperative behavior for the common good. Cooperativeness remains only possible where the agents (man) aren’t living in an environment of acute resource scarcity. Where scarcity features, be it land, water or hunting rights and even the whole issue of whose history should be considered history?, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, there’s no incentive in entering into cooperative pacts; where only one version of the truth is allowed to emerge. Under those conditions which can best be described as an opportunity to either write or narrate history – it throws out the question: what happens when only one version of history is allowed to gain supremacy? Does it lead to the demise of another historical narrative?
There lies the whole psychology of what we described as ‘culture war.’
“Naturally, most of us would like to believe all the narratives can be condensed into one long reflective story that manages to satisfy every single quarter, but all too often the ‘right to narrate,’ requires another story to be blocked, re-interpreted and even censored for that one story concerning emancipation and enlightenment to form the main montage.”
Edward W. Said
That’s what happens whenever society is confronted with such a derisive topic as S377A.
As we mentioned, it isn’t so much a debate about homosexuality per se. As it is about whose right is thrown out and eventually retained?
Some may contend otherwise by holding on to the assumption that, we are all enlightened and civilized in so far as we can tolerate the whole of idea of differences and still manage to seek out ways to accommodate differences. However, what if the act of ‘accommodating’ other narratives allows competing groups to usurp the established historical account, by supplanting their version of the ‘truth?’ Would that new narrative confer upon them a right of claim to change the historical status quo ante? That they too fought to preserve the truth, there by establishing their version of equality, fraternity and liberty and what would happen to the established ‘culture?’
There lies much of the war making elements which make up the equation accounting for much of the psychological conflict relating to 377A.
As much as many of us like to subscribe to the belief culture is unimportant, it’s central to understanding how it relates directly to the narrative of ‘who we actually are’ i.e where did we come from? Where are we going? This forms our broader history.
Culture not only palliates, it also feeds into the whole idea of identity i.e how do you see yourself, your people, society, and your traditions. In time, culture comes to be associated, often aggressively with the community in which we all belong too, be it members of a congregation of a church, a cog in the party apparatus, a citizen of a nation and even something as basic as gender identity e.g heterosexual straights, gays or celibates.
This enables us to make sense of who were are in relation to our respective community. What’s important in this analysis is in practically every mathematical model which we developed to try to understand this clash of cultures – the simple act of ‘belonging’ always carries with it, a degree of xenophobia, which in our model, we defined as ‘the truth making syndrome’ - whenever two or more cultures are juxtaposed against each another to try to determine which one should actually be considered as ‘the culture that rules the day,’ conflict is likely to feature when compromise fails to yield the desired results!
The paradox of course is while the advent of the internet age may have brought people closer together by shrinking the world. It hasn’t done a whole lot in accomodating the differing narratives of people – with time, it’s fair to assume, these murmurs will grow louder to even challenge the established and traditional versions of what we consider, our history, community and sense of identity.
Against this ever changing backdrop, be it the interest of ‘the moral majority’ or ‘traditionalist.’ One thing will hold true as the culture war continues to unfold: the truth will be continually challenged, encroached and even breached.
This highlights the cogent need for policy makers to profile new ways to mitigate conflict and manage the risk associated with the clash of cultures.
Whether these challenges emerge from the gay or the save the whales movement doesn’t really matter – the challenge for the future would be to find an effective way of accomodating all these differing voices which demand their narratives to be heard and in certain cases even recognized as ‘our history.’
Written By Blue Bell, Bear Bear, Power Girl & Harphoon – Psychology / Socio-Political EP 99827272710 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
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Recently, I read with a mixture of disbelief and amazement how senior writer, Janadas Devan wrote about the parliamentary debate concerning S377A – the article entitled: “377A debate and the rewriting of pluralism,” was nothing short of a vitriolic attack on NMP Thio Li-Ann’s parliamentary speech.
Describing Prof Thio disparagingly as ‘a formidable warrior,’ who represents the ‘moral conservative majority’ – Mr Devan commits the sin of presumption by presupposing Prof Thio is above all a moralist, concerned only with handing out good conduct marks to cautious centrist and awarding failing grades to just about anyone who doesn’t subscribe to her ultra conservative stance – never mind that this is hardly the case.
Mr Devan sets out to argue two points rather unsuccessfully – the first, ‘pluralism’ which he defines as among other things, ‘autonomy and retention of identity for individual bodies’, a ’society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions’, ‘a system that recognizes, more than one ultimate principle or kind of being’, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.”
What I find incredulous is how Mr Devan fails to understand the term, ‘pluralism’ beyond it’s mere dictionary meaning. The explanation for his preference to interpret ‘pluralism’ narrowly is seen here:
“I had always assumed that it was necessary to separate religion from politics as well as public policy, for it was impossible to separate public policy from politics, and both from the state.”
Mr Devan is not moved by curious facts to investigate how Prof Thio’s definition can be seen to be valid.
Instead he’s all together disinterested in the history of moral philosophy for it’s own sake. After all he continues to insist only secular elements can and should make up the whole idea of a plural society, as though societies were, after all, governed by philosopher kings just as Plato hoped they would be.
Although common sense suggest any discussion concerning pluralism ought to even include a discussion on whether religion could provide the underpinnings to support a stable and peaceful society.
He compounds his erroneous position further by stating:
“Once one understands the milieu from which this statement issues, one would understand the origins of Prof Thio’s profound understanding of pluralism and secularism. It does not derive from the Enlightenment……”
Here Mr Devan imposes a single and rather ridiculous theme on his narrative; that the ‘good’ Enlightenment as he would have us all believe, emerged exclusively from the bedrock of the rationalist and secular movement. vis- a- vis ‘Enlightment’ (according to Mr Devan) ONLY includes the usual litany of traits associated with – reason, nature, liberty, equality, the brotherhood of man or wolfs etc.
What is conspicuously absent from his definition of ‘pluralism’ and ‘enlightment’ is the idea of ‘virtue’ which doesn’t refer to Prof Thio’s virginity, but used in this context, it’s a term of art, that relates to, ‘social virtues’ i.e qualities that makes us useful members of society – compassion, benevolence, sympathy – which even British philosophers, such as Edmund Burke and John Wesley (luminary in the Enlightment Movement) believed were attributes which naturally, instinctively and successfully bound whole communities and people together.
Where may I ask did these qualities originate from? Religion or Reason – Wot, you mean to say, you didn’t ask Mr Devan?
Mr Devan is a vivid writer, but oddly naïve, childlike even in the way he assumes how urgent a matter, it is to understand, who thought what and to award them Brownie points for how well, they managed to skirt, the broad line separating religion and politics from being blurred; but never once did he tarry to even discuss, how much impact religion exerts on the politics of their age, or to wonder what conditions must be obtained if they are to have an impact in our period to make sense of something as alien and controversial as homosexuality to the masses.
He is also a “presentist,” less concerned to emphasize the otherness of how homosexuality has historically been perceived as abhorent by certain quarters in our society. This it appears is an incomprehensible concept to him. Instead he’s preoccupied with fleshing out his own opinions by allowing the subjects he has choosen to base his discussion on, to talk to us under in his terms! That of course makes him a propagandist, rather than someone who truly has a claim on the ‘truth.’
Neither does he seem to comprehend the perils associated with relying solely on a rational and secular means to profile governance. This brings with it, the danger of any party political process spiralling into socialism and at best Stalinism at worst. That thought he does not really challenge – I wonder why?
Perhaps, he’s not aware Hume, particularly, argued that ‘our moral judgements are not based on reason alone.’ What prompts our approval is, by and large, a matter of perception as to how we consider the conduct of others will either benefit or harm his or fellow beings. The moral sense that Hume was referring too was less a sense than the everyday disposition of how man makes sense of himself alongside his community.
Two things sprung out directly from this enquiry of the moral sense – first and foremost was Hume’s downplaying of reason and rationality; and, second, and most famously in Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of the Moral Sentiments,’ which emphasized our capacity for empathy. Again, where does empathy come from reason or religion? Please go and find out Mr Devan!
Again Mr Devan is not interested with the implications; how these Enlightened thinkers made sense of their known world.
Mr Devan is too casual about all this to even see the need to dwell deeper into the history of moral philosophy. If he bothered, he would have realized the benign role religion has always played in nourishing a well ordered and peaceful society.
This was even affirmed by Hume and Gibbons, who were agnostics. Yet, neither saw the merit of depriving the poor of the comforts of faith or to forego whatever disciplinary power religion might exercise over the rich and ambitious – both were unianimous in their belief, religion coupled with politics encouraged the good currency in society.
Mr Devan, seems totally disinterested in considering, the utility of religion in shaping much of what we consider today as law and how interwoven it is with the whole idea of statecraft, as it consistently serves to provide ample underpinnings for good morals. Although it is less than clear what the private beliefs of Adam Smith, Hume and Gibbon were during the turn of the 19th Century, even these luminaries who were at best indifferent to the follies and absurdities which the literal approach of religion would have on the affairs of politics, believed that religion was good for all of us and should never be completely excluded from the legislative process.
This for some curious reason seems to be convenient lost to Mr Devan (personal attack on Darkness deleted).
Mr Devan will undoubtedly insist that his resolute stance against finding a happy balance between politics and religion is grounded on some cosmopolitan ethos that stands justifiably against everything that is parochial, narrow, and insular. It’s a position that he has aptly demonstrated, he’s able to hold and defend to it’s illogical end.
Only I fear it comes at great expense to The Straits Times which on the day his article was published reads somewhat like a fairy tale written by a rather petulant child.
(By LHL and Montburan (Siglap Read Club) – Law / Homosexuality – EP 9973738872 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
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