January 27, 2009
You could say as humans when the going gets tough – the pull to come together gets stronger – animals know it only too well; wolf’s prick their ears to call of the wild, so do birds when its time to take their place in a V formation as they make that journey back to whence they came from – and as humans so do we.
I am reminded it’s not something that should be denied or even looked upon as a character flaw; ants never feel it; we do only because that’s part and parcel of the human condition.
The idea of safety in numbers is very much scripted into our being; and these days with the specter of the economic climate hanging high over the horizon, the feeling of not wanting to be alone is sharpened and heightened.
By now many of us are already in the thick of it; some may have already lost their jobs; others who might still cling to them worry no end about keeping them; then there are those who just fall somewhere in limbo land; their disposition waxing and waning as they change their outlook 10 or 20 times a day.
As someone who watches his diorama of bitter sweet unfolding in my small family. I cant but help feel the condition of lost hits us Chinese harder than maybe the Americans, Jews or even anyone else on this planet.
I know that sounds like a mega sized generalization and some of you may even decide to pelt me to dust by writing me charming letters into my already dogged eared inbox; how dare you Darkness say that we Chinese are less resilient than ah morgs! The idea that we are even somewhat lesser; more vulnerable and less capable seems to smack of self depreciating hypocrisy.
But in all honesty, that’s really how I see myself as a Chinese; hardly the archetypal survivalist sort; I am not saying if tomorrow a meteorite slams into this planet; I am just going to keel over and die; only I certainly don’t see myself as a I am Legend, Will Smith sort who can fill in the missing blanks of the world watching endless reruns of mediacorpse Little Nyonya or walking around post apocalyptic Orchard Road wondering whether its really truth that the meek shall inherit the earth – hey, that’s just not me.
Neither am I suggesting for one moment; Joe the plumber isn’t hurting somewhere in Utah or that Yakov, the Matzoball maker in Tel Aviv isn’t worried that a Hamas rocket isn’t going to plough into his living room when he next decides to change the channel on his telly – I am sure there are common threads of trepidation, fear and concern coursing through the whole of humanity at this moment when so many things these days seem to be frittering away; only at such times, one can’t but help compare the Chinese psyche to Americans, Arabs or even the Jews –I could be wrong, but they always seem to be slightly better prepared to weather the storms of life – the Arabs for instance can always take comfort in the idea of how divine providence accounts for everything here and the afterlife (akhirat) in the idea of Inshallah. As for the Jews, they can always draw strength from the unshakeable knowledge; they’re the chosen people and even when they break bread during the shabot and dip it in something as ordinary as salt; it’s full of symbolism and tradition. As salt the great preserver speaks of the eternal covenant between God and his people – the circle shall never ever be broken.
As for the Americans, even in their darkest of moments; they can always cling to that evergreen-cliched of the “American Dream” – besides they have Oprah Winfrey and if things really get bad, they can always blame it all on Bush.
But what do we Chinese really have?
Can we argue the proposition while Westerners are driven by a shared dream and hope; we Chinese are driven by a shared fear of our torrid past? That idea may seem ridiculous only if you didn’t realize even in this season of hope and munching on artery clogging Bak Kuah; I happen to be writing this essay on my Nokia communicator seated between two giant red bombs with their fuses sticking out menacingly; weren’t they once used to scare off marauding dragons which used to swoop down on unassuming farmers because we fear them? Why do we even splash red all around? Is it really a symbol of good fortune; or maybe it induces a spot of migraine in evil spirits bent on a spot of mayhem because we fear them? Coming to think of it. Why to we give out red packets of money? Does it really symbolize the chastening passage of the mythical wheel of life; or maybe when we boil everything down to crud; money is really the only thing that offers protection against the grind of destitution – and somewhere amid this heady medley of reds upon red; we have lucky knots, bats that can ward off sickness; croaking frogs that funnel good fortune; pelicans that can ward of the grim reaper etc – its a potpourri that reveals alot about us as a people, race and creed but my point is to show fear is such an integral part of who we really are; could it be somewhere in this sea of red; we’re all just yearning for what they never really had along? Or maybe we’re struggling to regain what we might have once lost somewhere in our long and confused history – what else I wonder can account for how we fashion no end amulets, talismans and good luck charms to guard ourselves against restless and malevolent spirits? – why is our psyche so rooted in the idea of averting, deflecting and placating the evil forces all around us?
But despite all this – I remain hopeful even though fear accounts for so much of what I call, the ‘me’ that lies beneath the skin – that inseparable ‘me’ that’s somehow intertwined with the greater “we,” that all makes up the Chinese identity. That I can never deny even if I wished to step out of my own skin for another – or decide to change my accent or wardrobe; somewhere amid this litany where man will always have to battle endlessly against restless malevolent forces; Chinese New Year still manages to hold out the promise of a better world, a place that isn’t so much a physical place, but an opportunity: to live inside your dreams.
Be it by offering the promise of sanctuary in the idea of the great return when we all come full circle even when we don’t really close it; is wiped clean and forgotten. The very moment we step over the threshold of our homes and united with our loved ones and friends; Man as Chateaubriand said, “has not one and the same life. He has many lives placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery” – but so long as the Chinese new year yarn continues to recount like a broken guitar how good will always be able to win against evil; the center holds just long enough for us to take heart in the belief providence and good fortune can always be counted to do the right thing and stand on our side when the things get rough; whether its real or make belief matters little, Chinese New Year; I reminded is like a girl who doesn’t see the point of wearing false eye lashes or even make up; she never once aspired to be a literary labor of contrived reality; all she tries to do is lie insistently and badly; by demanding you to see her internal beauty despite how forgettable she looks – Yes, I know, it may even try rather unconvincingly to supplant our cold cut sense of reality; but despite its limits, it remains a befitting anecdote for our troubled times; be it, to help us all scale our loss, palliate our fears and sooth our weary spirits with paper mache reality: all is well – a falsehood no doubt and not very good one either, but nevertheless there’s enough allure there to ramble in the rest: things will always get better. The rest we will just have to make up as we go along..
Happy Chinese New Year All!
God Bless you all – Long live the brotherhood!
[This essay does not carry an EP code – The Brotherhood Press 2009]
January 24, 2009
I have only one wish this CNY – When will you say, Yes to me Darkness?
January 21, 2009
I am a big fan of Obama. So big that since I don’t own a TV – I made my way down to Astroboy’s home last night to catch the swearing in ceremony; even braved through his rotweillers; piranha’s in the moat along with helping him move some furniture since everyone is in his home seems to be either in a wheelchair or bed ridden; not that I am complaining.
When it finally came, somewhat later than scheduled – Obama was riveting; he was everything, I expected perfect right down to the tee – you know what? I actually routed for him.
I guess one reason for my over inflated faith in Obama has a large part to do with having to bear nearly ten shambolic years of Bush administration. I mean you would have thought that after 2,000 years of social evolution; humanity might have learnt something about the perils of taking advice from a bush, let alone nominate one to the most powerful office on this planet – I am reminded, the last time someone had a conversation with a Bush they ended up strolling out of Egypt and wandering like blind mice in the desert for nearly 40 years!
One reason why Obama is such an iconic figure of hope for not only Americans, but so many people around the world including the lesser mortals based in Singapore; is he’s like a blank slate – a tabula rasa – where many of us can project our embittered shattered dreams on how the world still has a very long way to go before we can truly claim to be a success as a species – I am not just talking about the scouring effects of a decade of shoot-myself-in-the-foot Republican domestic and foreign policies which has left the world more divided that ever before – or even the financial crisis that has scissored through so many lives – if I had to pin it down; it would probably be a something so fuzzy and ephemeral like a fleeting thought – a pathos – a malaise – an inexplicable feeling in the way a farmer watches the passing of a season – it’s hard to describe; impossible to even pin down.
I guess most us by the time we tuned in to Obama last night had all but reached a point when the road had run out; I mean lets face it, no one can top Bush as the worst president in world history; anyone is better than him – no one can beat Bush when it comes to fucking up people and planet.
Obama, I am reminded offers the promise of the great hope against the harsh cut light of our times. For one he stands in stark contrast from Bush; he’s articulate; well read and seriously intelligent. I will spare you all the foisting of the flag; the I have a dream litany; the I’ve come full circle as a blackman story; right down the ticker street of the glowing reviews of how Obama can be none other than the transformers sent to save us all from the evil decepticons – only because that narrative is plastered all across blogosphere and you really don’t need to get another earful from me; besides how great a man Obama is or is not; is not the message in this essay.
My point is as much as I want to believe Obama offers real hope as the figure who may bring about the changes we desperately need – I first need to deal with terminal skepticism and pessimism.
I realized this last night somewhere between munching on artery clogging bak kuah that Astroboy’s mummy offered me and feeling that dissonance from well up in me as it detached me from the cheering crowd.
My gripe about Obama isn’t really about Obama as much as it revolves around statistical insignificant me – Yes, I’ve been down this road before.
You all know what road I am talking about don’t you? The road of hope that leads to shattered dreams – that path where you once invested so much of your hopes and dreams that every step you take seems like a helium filled uplift when you even believe you have wings and all you really need to do is spread them and off you go – first the reassuring forward glide – then followed rapidly by the swan dive and the earth screaming before you as the dream comes crashing down with a thud.
We’ve all experienced it before; that all too familiar sinking feeling of being let down – in growing up, at work with friends and love ones. So don’t read this with that all too familiar mixture of distance and I’ve-never-had- to –see –my –hopes- run-out –before. You have. And when it happens, all of us just turn inwards ever so slightly; something shrivels up and dies in us. We all become jaded and dismissive whenever something good comes our way again. We hold back, distance ourselves and in some cases even pour cold water over it – I wouldn’t call it apathy or pessimism; that’s just part and parcel of the human condition: no one likes to be taken for a ride – no one wants to be let down – is it such a wonder, we hedge our bets?
I know its tough these days to believe in anything timeless and enduring anymore – seems to have lost its meaning – we have all been through a lot this last year alone. The financial crisis has redefined our outlook in so many different ways; its hard to see anything these days without coloring it with doubt; impossible even to take anything at face value – it seems almost obligatory that we should at least go through the motions of not appearing naïve and gullible.
But what happens when we all reach a point when we can no longer see beyond the field of possibilities? What really happens when instead of seeking out the good and trusting our hopes; we end up trusting our fears, expecting bad to appear at every corner and turn?
Here I am reminded skepticism, pessimism or even the fear to trust that good things can happen (for lack of a better word) can never be taken too philosophically.
Neither should fear per se be looked upon as a character flaw. I tell myself as an extreme sportsman and businessman, if we don’t fear, it only means our eyes have not been opened yet and it’s just another form of death like bind bravado or throwing caution to the wind. Fear is something natural and it should never be denied an outlet. The more humane we become, the more likely we are to suffer the dread of being let down and seeing our dreams smashed against the reef. To live, breathe, think, trust, hope and love simply means we’re continuously reconciling ourselves with vulnerability, rejection and pain – it matters little whether it’s finding that happy middle ground in relationships, ambitions or even being able to figure out synch your ipod with your computer – we all like Emerson said, “hope that our hopes wouldn’t let us down.”
We are not old leather, made softer, more comfortable with usage– one can only grow by overcoming our fears and overreaching to that place where everything comes together – I am sorry, LKY was wrong, it can’t be had on the cheap with a few pieces of gold and trinkets – he doesn’t know what he’s talking about – an admirable sentiment it may very well be. But ants can’t overreach no man’s land to that place where our hopes can take flight. As humans, we can.
Yesterday as I sat there glued to the telly listening to Obama as he shared his message of hope to the whole wide world – you have no idea how alone I felt; how marooned I was in my own skull amid the sea of humanity – above all you have no idea how much I wanted to be part it instead of being apart.
Really, I do…
I want to believe.
(The Brotherhood Press 2009)
I am sure all of you heard recently. How a dumber than dumb senior civil servant broadcasted to the whole wide starving country; how he and his entire family splashed out a small fortune on a 5 week gastronomical tour de force in Paris – I am also sure you’ve all kept tabs with the follow up: thereafter publishing his travelogue; he got his boney ass hauled up – brunoised – glace de viande – and ceremoniously flambé recently in Parliament school of iron chef style – it’s cut and dried – open and shut –right?
Actually no – one niggling question remains; that’s to say, I haven’t yet figured out what’s the whole point of castigating Mr Tan to mince meat. Please don’t get me wrong, I know what he did may even suggest he lacked empathy and sensitivity by flaunting his wealth at a time when most Singaporeans and residents are struggling to make ends meet with their regular diet of economy beehon these days.
Only my point isn’t really whether the main protagonist was ‘unnecessarily provocative and unimaginably insensitive’ – that’s clear as day. Rather I am asking what was the underlying reason or raison that underscored his public dressing down?
What did Teo Chee Hean really mean when he asked Ah Tan to “take note of the feedback and learn from this episode?”
Well, I am not really so sure – in fact, I don’t really have a clue – the way I see it; it could range anywhere from; hello if you want to live the life of the rich and famous; then do it quietly and at least have the common decency to pretend you’re not having such a bloody good time – or maybe, its something closer to this: next time when you plastering yourself blind on Dom Perignon try to pretend that you’re chugging down cat urine.
Do you see my point now? Something substantive is missing from the rebuke. Are we really going deep down into the marrow of the whole matter which makes up this crisis; or are we merely skirting the periphery of the issues around the crisis?
There’s a difference. The former is cosmetic. The later is real. Granted. The difference may be subtle; but its nonetheless jugular to what I am trying to forward here: if the imperative is real change; then we need to focus on the content and not simply aping the form.
Because when you work around the edges of this question; it leads us to consider: how might we be creating a better ethos for civil servants if all we are really doing is getting flustered just because Ah Tan was caught with his pants down for being plain insensitive and out of touch with prevailing public sentiments? How might that superficial insistence that he conforms with appearances alone bring about real and meaningful change?
Let me put it another way: lets say Ah Tan’s decided to do the same only this time when he came back; he said nothing about how he spent his time learning how to split peas in famous lecole de cordon blue and even led you to believe he may gone to some god forsaken hole in Africa to teach starving kids how to make tastier mud cakes – would you be less pissed off with him?
So what does it really boil down too?
My point is if we want to castigate Ah Tan, then do it for the right reasons and not only because he failed to ape the form of correctness; which we normally expect from super scale civil servants in these challenging times.
Shouldn’t Ah Tan be reprimanded because what he has demonstrated isn’t really insensitivity thought that may certainly up a small part of the equation culpability – as what he really shows from his disregard is a character flaw that is at odds with the whole idea of what we usually expect from a senior civil servants – a belief that to remain gainfully useful they have to be mature enough to buy into the notion; the whole (interest of society) is always more important than the sum of the individual ambitions, that accountability to people, vision and mission must always take precedence over the selfish idea of having a good time at the expense of tax payers – by disregarding wholesale the good that might be had; if only he had the common sense to plough back part of his fat salary into our fledging local economy? Rather than plumbing to enrich obese Parisians who never once paid him so much as one brass franc?
Shouldn’t we castigate Ah Tan because what we really expect from him is not only to set a good example by aping the useless cardboard form of humility and frugality in such times, but rather for his ineptitude for remaining so terminally bovine as not to even bother with supporting that form with real values for all these years as a public servant? In the way that we regularly demand charities and religious orders to be real people; who are genuinely honest, selfless and devoted to their causes?
Shouldn’t we be getting all worked up because what Ah Tan has really done isn’t really wrong in the strict legal sense; but rather what he demonstrates so aptly is a complete lack of understanding that even beggars the imagination for the whole idea of ‘community politics’ in the context of the civil service – where the whole idea of public service has always been more than just grandstanding and the hype and spin offered by the marketing manifesto; that at its crux, it’s conceivably even an attempt to turn politics on its head, by attempting to work with people to help them achieve their dreams through the unspoken slogan; “we will go through thick and thin together; we will win!” – and that they really mean and believe it. Or the whole thing would just mean nothing.
Or maybe the only lesson to be learnt from this storm in the tea cup is – senior servants are free to do as they please with their money…they can even splurge out and even pay to impersonate Marie Antoinette and Louis XV for the day or for 5 weeks, only when they shout out to the whole world from their make belief balconies – “let them eat cake.” Make sure no one sees you or hears you in Singapore. And above all don’t ever let the side down by telling them all how we regularly spend our fat salaries.
So in summary what may we actually be condoning by default? Are we really addressing the root cause for why we have to change?
What really is the whole point of cooking up a storm in Parliament by castigating Ah Tan? Do we even care to tease out the details and nuances?
Something to think about next time you decide on how Obama & Co is working to change the world for the better.
One thing remains clear; no change is going to come about; if all we are doing here is churning up a storm in the teacup by insisting on correctness of form without addressing the deeper underlying issues of content.
Very strange when you consider the broken record mantra that’s so often rolled out by those who regularly claim to see the world clearer than all of us economy beehon munchers.
Content is king! Only one problem here: where is the fucking beef?
(The brotherhood press 2009)
January 18, 2009
Tell me, how did the kidney of the one eyed dragon end up in the body of Mr Tang? Was it something like alien abduction involving teleportation and telepathy? “Dunno.” Maybe this is another case for agent Mulder & Scully of the X files – hang on! Here comes another curve ball: why is when you type “brotherhood” and “Darkness” and post it in a thread in The Online Citizen, it automatically goes into moderation mode forever? Recently, I asked our internet Liaison officer this question, Singaporedaddy (who I am sure some of you are very well acquainted with) during one of our regular cycling sessions, he just made some teeth sucking sounds shrugged his shoulders and said, “dunno.” Coming to think of it, why didn’t Cheong Yip Seng aka “the master of impossibility” mention the corrosive effects of the climate of fear in his report when he was tasked to chart a long term vision for the internet? What happened there? Dunno again. Why is Lee Wei Ling writing her own column in the ST these days? What’s the basis that accounts for this bizarre turn of events? Did she recently discover something monumentally important while working with brain damaged patients that gives her extraordinary insights to suggest her libations and lamentations may even hold out some life changing message for all of us who are still in the dark? Again dunno.
Yes a disturbing pattern appears to be emerging, one that even suggest there may even be gaps (I suspect the size of the Grand Canyon) and blanks in our understanding of how things usually work or may come about.
As some of you already know I am not a big fan of gaps, blind spots and black holes where stuff just go right in only to disappear leaving everyone looking at each with that dumb quizzical look.
One reason why I am not a big fan of gaps and blanks is because when you think real hard about it; they do fuck all to solicit deep spirited understanding; that’s to say instead of bridging minds where people can all come together to reach some common understanding. They alienate and disenfranchise people pushing them to far flung quadrants like distant specks in some galaxy – where if you notice, these missing blanks in the social narrative don’t so much disappear as they get filled up and conflated by hucksters, charlatans and folk who are really bent on a spot of mayhem and mind control.
If you really want to know how terrorism and extremism takes root. Look no further, here you have it! Ignorance if you notice can never ever fester in an open society where issues are regularly vented and brought to light. What they rely on is the precondition of twilight and darkness, where the truth may be so elastic that it lies somewhere in no man’s land between hopes and dreams. And that simply creates ideal conditions for someone to come along and fashion their self serving version of the truth and sell it as the best thing since sliced bread; next thing you know people scrambling to strap bombs and blow themselves up in the name of Mickey Mouse – the way I see it those deadenders deserve to go down the dodo red carpet hall of fame. As they never even once bothered to fill up the blanks with filler or pour concrete over those gaps in the story? To paraphrase; they never bothered to demand for the truth; so is it such a wonder someone just comes along and fills their heads with all sorts of sugary shit.
I mean, if those losers stopped and used their brain for one moment. Maybe it would dawn on them: “Hey, if it’s such a great idea why don’t you go blow yourself up first? How sure am I, the moment I push the red button. I am going to be magically whisked to paradise surrounded by 71 virgins? What happens if those virgins happen to be the erudite spinsters from the SPH (The sisters of perpetual hesitation) thrown with a couple of penguins to make up the numbers?”
Get my drift? See my point?
But what’s even worst than having to regularly deal with gaps and blanks in the narrative is how they are increasingly used by leaders these days as the preferred crowbar at subverting and bending the truth. I don’t doubt for one moment – gaps and blanks offer a great way of pulling the wool over one’s eyes. Create a statistical sink hole and no one can even follow in your wake; you become invisible like a stealth jet plane. Create a blank here and there and no can even pin you down on the specifics; you keep your options open – you even get a complimentary “get out of jail” card free; you get to do what you want to do with impunity – its a blank cheque.
But what really disturbs me is how widespread and prevalent this corrosive practice is these days; despite the background chorus that keeps harping on about more transparency, opening up and doing away with red tape – I may be wrong, really, I could; but some things just don’t gel very well.
And these days all I seem to be able to ses is an endless stream of contradictions; one after another; it doesn’t matter whether it involves subverting the truth in a church where the pastor regularly rebukes the congregation by labeling them faithless and sloppy Christians, if they so much as ask: why does Jesus need to go into real estate business by building another mega mall? How might that serve the whole idea of the kingdom of God?
Or even if the act of subverting the truth occurs in the corridors of power in the UN security council, where Colin Powell once held up grainy power point slides of mobile toilets which he conveniently passed off as mobile biological labs.
If you really want to know how the Bush administration could have once sold that contrived version of reality to the whole wide world; then ask yourself why didn’t the journalist, academics and statesmen ask for more proof before rushing into a war? How was it even possible so many people acquiescence wholesale to the mufflement of the truth?
If you really must know; it’s your fucking fault – Yes, there’s no way to cushion the blow so I am not even going to hold back. You just have to suck it in and roll with it – you the news consumer, you the blog surfer and you the silent watchers voted inadvertently with your keyboards and mouse clickers to create that very same reality that you’re now bitching non stop about – and this brings me to the main nub of this article, that if we want to fashion a better world for ourselves; then we can no longer just remain bovine consumers – we need to be proactive “Mind the gap!” consumers of information, products, services and what regularly served up in our internet.
It doesn’t matter whether its deciding to plonk your money in a bank that has a policy of never divulging whether their vaults regularly offer sanctuary to the Medellin cartel or corrupt leaders who regularly bleed the poor dry; it doesn’t matter whether it’s buying into products of firms who regularly tie up with vendors who chain kids to some sweat shop to make sports apparel; or even a chain store that keeps on passing off saccharine laced junk food as mother’s milk while they spend millions of dollars playing hide and seek with the FDA to hide the truth from all of us.
Or even blogs like The Online Citizen who regularly censor your comments; so that they’re able to fashion a contrived consensus to project their own reality how Singapore is: where, if you’re not mindful. You may even take the path of least resistance and buy passively into the sugary notion; you’ve now finally found a place called Avalon: where you may even have such a thing called a real voice and choice; when infact, we all know it’s closer to the illusion of having a real voice and choice.
There is a world of difference: and if you don’t know – it just means; you don’t know and life really just goes right on.
My point is this! If we really want equity in people and planet; then we need to be more conscious of our decisions, prerogatives and the choices we regularly make; we need to understand there is power not only in our words, thoughts but also the hundreds of insignificantly small decisions we may even make on a daily basis.
Be it deciding to eat in a food court where the waitresses are hired only because they delight us no end with their eye popping cleavages which probably came at the cost of turning out Ah Mah and Ah Kong out ontu the streets. Or perhaps plumbing to spent a vulgar sum on some cooking holiday instead of ploughing it into the local economy to benefit ordinary folk who may currently be struggling to make ends meet – we need to understand that even the most innocuous decisions we regularly make such as deciding to click on a website – is akin to throwing a pebble in the pond as its effects radiate out long even after we’ve gone; that if we want to dissociate ourselves from the whole idea of fashioning a bochap, brutish and ferocious society that is based on the law of the jungle; where only the fittest and the most intelligent survive and the weakest perish and deserve to die – then we can no longer afford the cost of remaining bovine and pretend as if the choices we regularly make doesn’t have a rippling effect on others; it matters little whether it’s an innocuous or even a benign act – like a blog surfer who only decides to read big blogs like The Online Citizen whilst disregarding small sites like the Singapore Daily, Tomorrow.SG or Sammy Kopitiam– my point is even by engaging in that seemingly innocent act; unknowingly we may even be unconsciously fashioning a dystopian landscape in earnest by snuffing out thousands of small voices out there in blogoland who may all have something incredibly poignant and valuable to say but cannot do so to shape the ongoing social narrative of our age.
What then will we all be left with? The empire of bones….. perhaps?
You go connect the dots; you decide whether you want to buy into the plan or carry on as if it’s business as usual– only, understand this! Don’t say no one told you now that you know what you know; that’s never ever going to be an excuse anymore. As now you know; you have all the power to fashion a better world to even elicit greatness in others or for that matter to grind them down to dust and the power is right there in front of you, in the palm of your hands.
[The Brotherhood Press 2009 – No EP code is attached to this document due to upgrading of Ekunaba servers – img 2009)
WHY MICA NEEDS A NEW RAY GUN TO WIN THE INTERNET WAR – THE PERILS OF USING OLD SOLUTIONS TO SOLVE A NEW PROBLEM – PART II
January 17, 2009
Let’s dive in from where we last left off. Where were we….where were we….Oh Yes…. My point is, things have changed so dramatically these days with the advent of the internet; its conceivable, the old methods of influencing kids may not even work reliably any longer; as I said, it makes far more sense these days to treat kids like adults and consider empowering them with the ability to find out for themselves what’s actually good or bad by teaching them how to think critically and if possible even laterally.
You see, a large part of that logic requires one to treat kids like adults and that simply means; one should never ever tell them what they should or should not do. Never!
That’s one of the reasons why I will be very interested to see the specific details of how our government actually goes about the whole business of reengineering the idea of forwarding the truth and killing the lie in the internet; how are they going to rethink, to redefine, to redesign, to radically highlight the good currency from the bad in our internet without coming across as sanctimoniously righteous?
As we all know that’s really a giant bore and turn off these days.
What I do know is; if policymakers really want to get on top of this internet problem. Then it pays dividends to actually get into the minds of young people and even try to see the world through their eyes. It’s conceivable, there’s a progression going on here and one way of driving out the bad may actually require policymakers to remain neutral on what they consider – the bad. I know that sounds a bit screwy, so let me give you an illustration of what I mean.
How do you root the reading habit in the youth? Take away their torch lights. That guarantees, they will buy another one and read beneath the sheets well beyond bed time. What we may be dealing here is the economy of desires; one that even taps into the whole idea of the forbidden fruit. And this is where you need to consider: what happens when you get a moral committee going around with a big gong telling everyone the internet is a place where lies, disinformation and degenerates regularly congregate?
What are they actually doing?
You see when something mundane, trite and ordinary is suddenly labeled as the big bad wolf –all too often, it likely to solicit the reverse reaction. That’s to say; what we may even see is the perverse effect where everything that is bad about the internet may even be inadvertently elevated to the ignominious status of the die die must experience illicit thrill –like the chocolate seat in the Moulin Rouge; or the thrill of puffing on weed; or taking a trip on LSD, that’s what happens, when you something acquires the patina of the undesirable – it becomes irresistible.
That’s my real fear – that the people who are actually driving this moral bullocart, may not even have the imagination to even understand what I am talking about here. Let alone even understand how such a backlash may even come about.
You see deep down inside every kid; there’s an adult – there’s always an insatiable appetite for identity and authenticity –Yes, I know children may role play fictitious anime characters; they may even collect spaceships and ray guns and collect anything to do with sci-fi, but don’t let that fascination fool you for one moment that’s it’s a love affair with some homily sugary tooth fairy escape from reality. It’s not.
My point is deep down inside; it also goes some way to explaining this may even be a backlash for something real; that’s to say; when they actually dump a kilogram of gel on their head and style their hair to look like cloud in the Advent Children; they’re not running away from reality as they are trying to search for authenticity in these anime characters.
Kids these days demand for something very real even in the unreal. It doesn’t take you very long to figure that out that there’s much more to their make belief world that meets the eye when one of them hits you with an elephant gun statement like,
“The reason why you think it’s a rubbish Darkness is because you don’t know the philosophy of what it means to be a jedi! You dumb fuck and that explains why you only seem to write toe curling love stories.”
Neither does it take one very long to register this pull for the authentic, when you suddenly have to fend off a slew of mind boggling questions in a sci-fi forum (you have no idea how relieved I am that avatars still have some way to go before you can actually spot someone lying from their body language); how come whenever you people make the jump to light speed, you never ever seem to slam into a planet or end up in the middle of some asteroid field? What about black holes darkness, why don’t your spaceships come with a quasar detector? How come brotherhood chairs in the virtual break exactly the same way all the time, no matter how you throw them? Why is it when I get shot in either my head, foot or toenail by one of your crumpy brotherhood produced ray guns, I somersault three time, why not five or six huh huh?
You get my drift. Trust me after one hour of getting cross examined by the kiddies brigade – I rather take my chances with ISD home team any day stark naked with even electrodes connected to my guli’s.
My point in this essay this afternoon is to illustrate; kids these days, like adults will always demand for something real in the form that very closely resembles the known truth. Its not enough these days to just rattle off the perfunctory look before you jump messages, that’s simply not going to cut it, not by half – you could even say with the advent of the digital age; kids even have limitless ways to ferret out the truth as never before.
Deep down when one discounts the obvious differences in age, maturity and life experience between adults and kids. I am reminded, it pay little these days to treat kids like kids; it makes far more sense to appeal to the adult somewhere inside them; that may simply be the first lesson Cheong Yip Seng’s soviet era committee may have to buy into when they next decide to step into the brave new world called the internet.
(The Brotherhood Press 2009)
WHY MICA NEEDS A NEW RAY GUN TO WIN THE INTERNET WAR – THE PERILS OF USING OLD SOLUTIONS TO SOLVE A NEW PROBLEM – PART I
January 17, 2009
Tell me what happens when you try to solve a new problem by using an old solution?
If you really want to know the answer; then look no further. Because that’s exactly what MICA recently bought into when they picked up and ran with what Cheong Yip Seng and his merry band proposed; the idea of setting up a dedicated committee to educate kiddies on the perils of the internet.
And these days everybody is jumping on the bad wagon suggesting it’s the best idea since the invention of the wheel. Even Ng Eng Hen, Education Minister echoed the same recently,
“In the context of our efforts in National Education, we must have a presence on New Media … We must provide a balance to ideas that sow discord and disunity (and) refute falsehoods.”
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of the idea of protecting kiddies and I even buy into the whole claptrap that they are our future and great hope yada, yada, yada. (though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise as the ipod generation these days seems closer to mass hearing impaired zombies rather than something we usually associate with the verve and panache of the great hope).
Only when we talk about protecting kiddies; we all need to be mindful of one hubris: what happens when the whole idea of protecting kiddies slips into the domain of overbearing righteousness? What happens when well meaning idealism gives way to good olde fashion parochial narrow mindedness?
The short answer is; instead of driving out the bad currency; it actually creates the ideal condition for perdition to take root and fester.
Now if you think, I am exaggerating then consider this: Sufiah Yusof. Now ask yourself how did that great hope of humanity go so wrong? Where did it take a wrong turn?
Wasn’t Sufiah destined to discover the cure for cancer or save the planet by inventing engines that can run on tap water? Where exactly did Sufiah’s parents fuck up? Were they marijuana smokers? Nope. Did they lack moral rectitude to set a good example? Nope. Did they fail to shield Sufiah from the lies, disinformation and brutish world? Nope. Did they not discharge their duties responsibly by failing to inculcate wholesome values into her? Nope.
If you really want to know why Sufiah these days is catching ping pong balls between her legs in stag parties; then it bears out only too clearly when one sifts through the shattered dreams of her corseted childhood. The mini skirt prognosis is her parents fucked up big time. They took the whole idea of protecting Sufiah too far. As not only was Sufiah brought up under the pineapple KGB eyes of her ramrod parents who regularly made her feel as if she even had to put up her hands for urination breaks; she lived in a hermetically sealed world that made the Amish community look like the UN; where she was not even allowed to cultivate any real friends. As her parents believed they would negatively influence her with presumably their degenerative values; everything in the Yusof household was sieved, winnowed and filtered to conform to the strict moral stricture of her ramrod parents; if she so much as tuned into a radio station broadcasting pop music; she was rebuked; if she even so much as looked at boys then she was regularly told she may even turn into a mountain of salt. And the litany of do’s and don’t’s just goes on and on and on – my point is what did it produce at the end of the day?
You go figure that out – now I know what some of you are going to say right now; come on Darkness! Cheong Yip Seng et al isn’t proposing anything close to what you may have just share about the conditions that tipped the scale on Sufiah Yusof or the Annabel Chong’s of this world. All he’s really saying is kids should be told about the negative aspects of the internet, very much in the way road signs regularly warn motorist of bendy roads and blind corners. What’s wrong with that?
I disagree. You see the way I see it, there’s absolutely no wisdom (none whatsoever, unless you consider ploughing marina bay a sound enterprise) in trying to tell kiddies what is good or bad these days. I don’t deny that used to work when mothergoose and snow white was still around and the internet was still some defense network. But in the age of the internet, we all know that the evil decepticons have vaporized Snow White with their plasma canons; as for the seven dwarfs; they’re probably slaving somewhere in some virtual sweatshop in China harvesting virtual gold to be sold in e-bay to rich Americans.
My point is, things have changed so dramatically; that the old methods of influencing kids may not even work reliably any longer; makes far more sense these days to treat kids like adults and consider empowering them with the ability to find out for themselves what’s actually good or bad by teaching them how to think critically and if possible even laterally.
To be Con’t
WHY MICA NEEDS A NEW RAY GUN TO WIN THE INTERNET WAR – THE PERILS OF USING OLD SOLUTIONS TO SOLVE A NEW PROBLEM – PART II
Small is beautiful. I know, you probably wouldn’t think so. Especially, if you had to square off with one of those 2 metric ton soviet tractor sisters of perpetual hesitation (SPH) who you just wrote something nasty about in your blog.
But seriously: is small really beautiful? I mean don’t get me wrong; this isn’t an essay in defense of dwarf throwing or why we should all suddenly consider collecting miniature elephants and everything cute and dainty.
Only, if we are to really buy into whole notion, small is beautiful; then we would do well to pin down the reasons why and how it serves people and planet.
One clue can perhaps be found in small shops. As some of you already know. I am a big fan of small shops. I don’t particularly like fast food and much prefer slow food. Don’t care very much for off-the-shelve bicycle components either. Prefer to cut the deal with the friendly uncle who runs a small tool & die business.
Even all my produce comes straight out of the pasar where I have a direct relationship with the veggie uncle to the auntie who regularly sells me my chops. I even eat regularly in this family runned restaurant in Katong, where I happen to know them so well; they even allow me to stroll into the kitchen and mess it up from time to time, to whip my friends something that’s sumptuously; je ne sais qua (how do you think Missy Dotty allows me to write in her blog otherwise?)
In a nutshell, if you really want to know why small is beautiful – its because it’s a reliable way to provide you endless variety, choice and the freedom to consume under your own terms. You’re for one not beholden to the law of averages.
I don’t doubt for one moment. all these goodies, may come at an additional cost and even penalties . But that’s far better than having to put up with the whole of idea of Henry Ford consumerism – where we’re all just statistical faceless dots – if you really want a dystopian peek at what I mean by the faceless evil power of big – then just hop down to Carrefour or Giant; it doesn’t take you very long to figure; something is terribly wrong when your apples and oranges suddenly look like supersized beach balls – are they genetically modified produced? Dunno. But you get the general drift of what I mean by no choice, no variety and no freedom of choice – at the end of the day, big simply boils down to take it or leave it.
That’s one reason why I never ever get any of my regular reads from self replicating code chain stores like MPH or Borders. My monthly copy of the Atlantic Monthy, New York Book Review and PBK American Scholar still comes from a little known mom & pop stationary shop that I’ve been using for the last decade; why? Well, you could say I just like it that way; I also like the way the owner makes it a point to hunt down lost publications which chain stores can never ever find. See my point now? There is a god in the small that even allows you to hunt down that one elusive publication which you would never be able to do; if you were dealing with a chain store. They will probably just Amazon it and if nothing comes up; they’ve just say, we don’t carry it. But with this small one man operation, he would furrow his brows, make a quick note of it and when I next come it; hey presto, it’s there! Besides the practicalities of dealing with small shops – I also happen to value the relationship – in chain shops, you’re just another statistical insignificant. In a one man show, you’ve always be a valued customer, a friend, a human being – we talk, exchange notes and I really cannot imagine anything more satisfying than shooting a few beers and bitching about the demise of an age when literature no longer commands the same cultural authority it once did with someone who is really passionate about books – makes brides head revisited look like a day out in the Disneyland.
I guess if you really want to know why I am such a firm believer small is so beautiful; just take a long look at juggernaut corporations. And ask yourself what’s their raison? i.e why do they even exist? Who do they really serve people or profits? What sort of persona do they usually have? How do they regularly serve the local community? You get the general drift – they don’t score well on the people metrics.
You see the way I see it; whenever big anything dominates the playing field. And it really doesn’t matter whether it’s big political party; big newspaper; big cult church; big bureaucracy or even big blogs (who keep on reminding us all 24/7 that we are the smallest crumbs on this planet like the online citizen ) – then what invariably happens is, it also squeezes out what I call the happy middle kingdom i.e the good currency out of the system and in no time the field of possibility gets leveled down to zero.
Instead of diversity; variety and choice; we end up with you take it or do without.
If you really want to know more about how big as an idea, logic or school of thought can go awry; then just pop down to McDonalds or try pick up the phone and try to speak to someone from the customer service department of any big company; you’ve probably end up having a conversation with an automated agony aunt or someone who is polishing her nails in some call center in the Philippines. As she rattles off standard answers from a laminated instruction manual – I am reminded big anything just doesnt cut it – it just doesn’t hit the spot – it doesn’t bring it all home – not all the time at least.
For one whenever we buy into the whole idea of big anything; we may even inadvertently destroy the whole idea of increased variety and diversity in our society without even knowing it; and given time, we may even have to settle for something less than the authentic.
I am reminded the rot is usually slow and the saddest part is most people don’t even know how much harm they are doing to the whole idea of levelling the field of possibilities – whenever they buy into the whole idea of big anything.
My point in this essay is simply this. We need to be more sensitive, mindful even of the corrosive effects of limiting our choice to just the big and how that may even drive out the good in what the small has to regularly offer – if we are not mindful of our actions and simply remain bovine and bochap consumers instead of proactively thinking about how we may be actively shaping society by the choices we regularly make. Then don’t be surprised, if instead of creating a better social environment; all of us may even end up fashioning something very close to a dystopian social Chernobyl.
This whole idea of small is beautiful and big is bad; even extends to the whole idea of shaping the online social narrative.
If you want to know; what I mean by having no choice, no variety and no opportunity to shape the ongoing social narrative; then just pop down to the online citizen and type in Singaporedaddy – SD – or the brotherhood press – what happens to your comment? Viola! Go and blow your mind out. Then ask yourself how does that even serve the greater good? (You have to decide whether that’s such a good thing – please go and verify it for yourself – don’t ever say, I never gave you anecdotal prove why big is evil and small is beautiful)
I am reminded big at the end of the day is just bad for people and planet – big firms for instance; rarely circulate money into the local economy. We never ever see it percolating through the system; working the good through people, lives and community; what usually happens is; the money is digitized and spirited away like cold sushi to some place where it’s probably invested in banks somewhere in Alps who used to bankroll Adolf Hitler.
Even big Byzantine sized solutions such as Philip Yeo’s great plan to grow a bio intelligentsia doesn’t fair any better either; all it does is reduce education to something closer to the Henry Fordism of churning out cyborgs who have Phd’s, who don’t seem to have the imagination to prosper in the competitive bio tech industry.
The same goes for big newspapers who seem to do nothing these days except to forward their mass version of contrived reality that regularly causes pain to thinking folk. And what about big food chains who keep on extending their reach like some evil weed like Starbucks and Burger King, who keep on passing off chemically enhanced fast food as the best thing since Prozac? The same goes for big blogs, who claim to reflect the collective consciousness of the internet; they don’t propagate deep spirited understanding as much as distance states of minds and schools of thoughts; by regularly meat grinding variety and diversity up into a pulp; where like KFC it’s served right up as finger licking food; when we all know the flavors came right up of a test tube made by scientist in white suits.
My point in this essay is simply this whenever we invest in the big and decamp from the small; then we run the real danger of inadvertently fashioning a world that’s increasingly distanced from and devoid of spontaneity – in the face of such dizzying post modern living where big has somehow managed to overtake all of us so completely and thoroughly; we should simply pause and think about our actions and what we’re really doing to ourselves and our communities.
Do we really want to wake up one day only to find that we are suddenly living in some dystopian nightmare where only big soviet firms and corporations dominate the business landscape? What happened to all those thousands of mom & pop sundry shops that used to provide something more except, “Our policy is yada yada yada yada…” Is this the new realism of the sign of our times? What are its demands and how will it shape our future lives and mould our understanding of who we are and how we might one day stand in relation to our communities?
And what does it mean to be truly free? Yes, now you know why, I am going to support sites like the Singapore Daily, Molly Meek, Tomorrow.SG and probably continue to buy my chops from that irritating auntie that never ever seems to give me a drumming down on why I should eat my veggies.
Breathe… yes, I know many out there may even refer to us as trolls (To be perfectly frank with all of you. I can’t think of a better compliment. As it simply means; we have nothing to do with the mainstream super sized big anything) even…. but trust me; providing, we con’t to offer a beguiling vision of hope for the future in our small way – we the fraternity of the small may yet hold out the prospects of a better tomorrow – somewhere in the small, there is a god.
(The Brotherhood Press – 2009 / EP 923745-23947 EFO – FILB)
January 14, 2009
In tiring times like these – I can’t help but remind myself; it’s instinctive for many of us to secretly yearn for a great return back to some homily sugary age of innocence – where things might perhaps be simpler, less cluttered, more stable and less uncertain.
It’s hard to pin down the origins of this primordial impulse; harder even to scale it when it happens on a national scale. But recently, this mass exodus happened.
This could probably explain why recently when mediacorpse aired their block buster mini series, the little nyonya. It was resounding hit with most telly tubbies in Singapore.
The realization little nyonya could have struck a cord in the collective consciousness of the nation dawned on me somewhere during a commercial break and soon I found myself asking what accounts for it’s popularity? Were most people simply transfixed because the story managed to transport them away from the bleak reality of our times? Maybe it’s the equivalent of celluloid Prozac? What lies at the center of little nyonya’s allure? Was it a tabula rasa?
I know all this may sound slightly flippant – the whole idea of making a meal out of a locally produced TV mini series – the idea that even something so infinitesimally small can somehow transcend the limits of insignificance and assume epic proportions; how is it possible that a sad and simpering plot with bad lighting and lousy scripting that proceeds at a comatose inducing pace of a motorized wheelchair even exact a hold on the collective consciousness of a nation?
How’s that even possible? – I don’t know, but it happned. That’s undeniable, that’s really my point in this essay – I am not saying little nyonya is any where near the live transmission of the moon landings that once riveted and united billions of people around the world?
But it’s not exactly a big nothing either.
Trust me, when I say this isn’t an exaggeration as it may even be the clearest expression of our collective psyche to many emerging challenges we may be facing these days.
The way I see it a mini series such as little nyonya while certainly not belonging to the same pedigree as let’s say Tolstoy’s Anna Karerina or Proust’s remembrance of things past; nonetheless manages to pack quiet a punch; as it successfully captures the idiom of our times succinctly – what I think many people may not realize about the little nyonya syndrome is we may actually be witnessing some inexplicable phenomenon that says a whole lot about our collective psyche as a people and nation – though I have to agree I may be reading too much into it; and it may even be something closer to something incomprehensible like whales beaching en mass on some desolate shore – no one really knows what compels them to do what they do.
Only I feel mystery is furiously at work here; could it be the success of little nyonya represents even an emotive backlash very much in the way Americans once sported long hair, communed and practiced free love in response to what many once perceived as the banal mechanization of the Vietnam war? Could it be, at its nucleus – as Conrad once put it, we trying in our own way to pierce deep into the “heart of darkness,” and draw out meaning to prop up our decrepit lives?
When so many people tuned it, I am reminded, it can’t be just explained away by mere coincidence; could it be an act of rebellion very much like oppositional reading? In the same way Hungarians once held hands in Budapest and sang the Internationale when soviet tanks rolled in to crush the revolution?
I know the comparisons hardly seem justifiable; it seems even satirical when one compares how I am trying so hard to draw analogies with a mini series with these momentous occasions in human history.
But believe it or not, that’s really how I see it. Maybe it’s because I don’t own a TV and this is the first time; I’ve sat through an episode in the last 10 years. But even as I watched the story unfolding in Astroboy’s home with his extended family; I couldn’t help take in the various the emotional spectrum of audience as it unfolded in full glory before me.
As I said, the pull of little nyonya was undeniably very strong – and I like a circular argument – I found myself returning to it again and again as the night unfurled.
I imagine one clue that accounts for its popularity; is its set somewhere in the 20’s; in the sumptuous age when all things carried with it an undeniable air of permanence (thermo plastic hadn’t yet been invented yet), unlike our present times when everything seems to be floating in the air. The plot is set in a corseted social setting, when dated social norms still exacted a very powerful force that curbed personal desires; where people could always be relied upon to do the correct thing even if it pained them to do so; if anything these timeless values like nobility, sacrifice and even immolation must stand in mark contrast to our past-the-buck shifting sands time; where unmitigated avarice and greed seems to reign supreme – I am reminded as I watched Astroboy’s extended family glued to the telly that evening; we’re all quirky and every age reacts to the erosion of their world values in their own ways.
Some people articulate their lost for the chastening passage of an age with mournful ear splitting brass bands like the Germans; others like the French develop sobriquet terms of endearment like “Le France Profunde” (deep France) because that somehow manages to distill the traditions that still guides what it means to be French. Maybe the Singaporean way is by watching reruns of little nyonya while munching away on artery clogging bak kuah?
I know it’s easy to make fun of people when the ground beneath their feet is giving way – but lets be honest people don’t usually seek solace in epic overtures of Mendelssohn; neither do they regularly palliate their fears reciting aloud Tennyson; not if they are Singaporeans at least – we are practical people and true to the akan datang spirit little Nyonya may do just as well.
Besides every age carves out their own sobriquet terms of endearment to express their pathos – at the height of the blitz in WW II, for example, many Londoners coped with the ceaseless bombings by pickling everything from onions to the odd gold fish. I guess it was a form of mass therapy like the pray beads one usually comes across in bazaars in Istanbul,Morocco and Gaza; where not only is repetition seen as calming; but the act of slipping one bead over another one even amplifies the whole idea of constancy in the impermanent world rocked by 500 kg laser guided bombs – pickling when seen in this context, isn’t pickling as it remains chicken soup for the soul; an apt metaphor to preserve either one’s sanity or a pied de tier of their known world – its much easier to face a topsy turvy world; when you know what you hold dear is portable and all you can do is slip into your apron and take cover in the bomb shelters.
Every society finds their equivalent of their little nyonya’s to cut the pain in half – soldiers who once fought in the first world war; reacted to meat grinder life at the front in the Somme and Verdun by whittling chess pieces with their bayonets – not only was it encouraged by their officers, as it offered a release from the unceasing grind, but it proved therapeutic to calm the nerves before climbing over the fire steps. Again it stands to reason; when the center has all but given way; the only thing that holds true is our conviction and what better way to preserve a part of sanity intact by seeking solace in the mundane and ordinariness of life?
But what really lies behind this muzzy fantasy we all retrospectively impose on our consciousness whenever we are faced with uncertainty?
At times like these emotional parlance may even take on unusual forms which we hardly ever expect to verbalize the overflow of our nervous energy. Following the terrorist attack on the world trade center on 9/11 for example – many Americans responded by crafting moving songs, art and even memorials. I guess if you think real hard about it; art can help people transcend the smallness of our courage as we contemplate our mortality . For one it allows us all a second skin to vicariously step out from the forward rush of life to confront our nemesis – to even project our fears so that we don’t get scared out of our senses, very much like a tabula rasa. In a sense for lack of a better word; it’s a response to something we cant really understand, or don’t want too or simply cannot – art bridges that chasms very much like a poignant memorial, a heart wrenching poem, a haunting song that we can somehow momentarily transcend the incomprehensible violence, destructiveness and unimaginable grief. It’s a way of connecting us back to the authentic; the unchanging and the permanence that all of us yearns for.
I guess when many people tuned in to the little nyonya series last week; for that brief moment while the story trudged on; many of us were inadvertently drawn to forget the uncertainty of our times and the endless posturing of what tomorrow may even hold out.
In that time; when most of us were tuned in we were truly one people; united and at peace with ourselves, as Kafka said once said, “providing the story goes on; all our hopes and dreams live on.”
For the duration it lasted, we as a nation found the remnants of our lost “I” in the “we” in little nyonya: the prescriptive cure for the sign of our times.
The Story of Kafka’s Doll
“has anyone ever heard this? he was visiting dora diamont in berlin. they were walking in a park when they came upon this crying girl. kafka asked her what the matter was. she told him that she had lost her doll. he then told her not to worry since the doll was actually away on a trip, not lost. she didn’t believe him so he told her that he had a letter from the doll. when the little girl asked him to show it to her, he said that he had not brought it with him, but if she came back the next day, he would bring it. he came back the next day after spending countless hours working on this letter. and every day for 3 weeks, he brought the girl another one. he spent a lot of time, and put a lot of thought into these letters. finally, he had to come up with a believable ending. (he was leaving germany) he decided to have the doll get married. he wrote about the man she was engaged to, the preparations for the wedding, everything. by this time, the girl was so enamored of the story, that she had quite forgotten that the doll was gone.”
January 12, 2009
Related Post My reflections on the first decade of blogging – Darkness 2009 December 31, 2008
Tell me, are we talking up the recession? That’s what Lee Siew Hua seems to be forwarding in her article published recently in the ST on 10th January 2009. To paraphrase; we would do well to forget that we all in the doldrums and sing along with the ra ra brigade. Hopefully if we howl hard and long enough. Our recession blues will melt happily away.
Welcome to fantasia.
And if that’s not surreal enough, feast your beggared imagination of this; “The Government has accepted 17 of the 26 recommendations made by AIMS,” proclaimed MICA proudly. Question: would it be more accurate to paraphrase it in the following terms, “Government has shot down the most substantive points forwarded by AIMS and accepted the same to guarantee its hold on power.” You can see the details here – you decide for yourself.
I have no comment.
What’s happening here folks? What’s the low down?
Apart from the obvious that all of us who usually harbor a morbid distrust of the MSM have absolutely no trouble in teasing out – are we witnessing the advent of the cult of hear-only-the-good-news?
Are we entering a new era of the mufflement of the truth? Since when did telling the truth become subversive and why should it be equated to abject defeatism? Tell me is it even unpatriotic, if we keep harping on about how bad the recession is?
Lets say I shot you with a tranquilizer gun and I bunged you into a time machine and transported you to the period some 2 minutes after the Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden crossing; and let’s say; you happened to pop your head out of your cabin and asked me; “what’s that loud ripping sound I just heard? Why is the Atlantic coming through my porthole?” Would you prefer me to
(A) smile supremely; give you a bed time mint and just tell you not to worry about it while I fixed you a knock me out cup of cocoa?
(B) Bundle your boney ass on the first lifeboat I find?
Yes, I rest my case. (now you know why there was a string quartert playing on the deck -someone lied to them, it was only a curtain call dress rehearsal) You get my drift.
Do you all want to know why I find this whole idea of contorting the truth and nothing but the truth so disconcerting?
Firslty it has all the appearances of being innocuous and benign – that’s why I find the mufflement of the truth so dangerous and even insidious.
Believe it or not. I don’t subscribe to the belief anyone has a right to muffle the truth; no condition; no situation warrants it!
Not only does this kind of manipulation regularly cause pain to thinking folk, its an open insult to one’s intelligence – why can’t I be trusted to break down the truth by myself? Why do I need to be shielded from the truth like a kid? Coming to think of it, since when did bending the truth ever become respectable?
I know we are in the grips of the worst recession in our history; but does this mean we should decamp from hard nosed objectivity and allow the truth to give way to endless hype and spin? Where did the MSM even assume the temerity to assume that we can’t for one moment be trusted to make the best out of the truth? Should we trade in genuine accounts for contrived make belief reality instead?
Tell me because I really want to get right down to the bottom of this!
Don’t get me wrong. I realize only too well while there’s certainly something to be said about keeping our spirits up along with having a positive attitude in such tiring times – I am equally reminded; no amount of wishing our problems away will melt away our problems like lemon drops; blind faith alone cannot alter reality.
Truth remains everyone of us has a right to the unalloyed truth; doesn’t matter how bad it is; it remains our prerogative; our elemental right even and when it’s surreptitiously taken away from us and replaced by doggy soundbites instead.
What actually happens? How is understanding even enhanced? How does confusion give way to deep spirited understanding?
I don’t understand.
I mean, if I had carrot fingers and was tone deaf; no amount of wishing is going to increase my chances of playing Rachmaninoff to a packed house in Carnegie hall one day, its just not going to happen, no matter how positive minded, I am – if I was bald, ugly, fat and suffered from BO and only have $2 in my pocket, no amount of wishing is going to get me anywhere near the likes of Si wen Missy Dotty and her erudite toffee nosed friends – I am sorry, its just not going to happen, not even if I had ten lifetimes; that could explain why none of those bitches ever return my phonecalls.
And this brings me to my main point in this essay – why is it so fucking hard these days to call a spade a spade?
When did the truth ever assume the elusive nature of the Cheshire cat? While it has a winning smile; it’s pastry light on the substantive?Why is the truth regularly supplanted for something less these than what it’s actually supposed to be?
I mean recently, I asked an elder in my church why does the man upstairs always need a bit of money all the time? Seems like a perfectly normal and valid question.
As I really couldn’t understand. I mean, who did he hire as the financial controller upstairs? Did Ken Lay who kicked the bucket recently make it to the accounts department somewhere upstairs? Is he the problem? Is that why the big man upstairs always needs a bit of money all the time?
You know what after rattling off my list of 20 questions – this elder in my church got so impatient with me he promptly ex communicated me – no shit, he just told me one fine day, darkness, you’re faithless! You’re a threat to the body of Christ. You’re full of negativity yada yada yada yada.
Yes, they put me in cold storage. They packed me off to Coventry. These days no is allowed to talk to me, if they had their way, those Pharisees would put a ball gag over me; all they seem to do these days whenever they see me is make teeth sucking sounds and move on as quickly as they can – never mind that Christians are supposed to be compassionate and understanding people – never mind that Christians are even encouraged to speak to out.
It seems when it comes down to the brass tacks of money; reality and even the broader question of why God needs to go into the real estate business of building another shopping mall – one is allowed to think; no one is even allowed to question it; and one certainly isn’t allowed to winnow the truth from the lies.
HEAR ONLY THE GOOD NEWS!
The only thing that I’ve gathered from this whole episode is; providing you use your brain; then you’re not welcomed in the body of Christ; no, you’re not! I never knew the body of Christ resembled a unicellular amoeba – I never knew the truth could scissor across something as firm and solid as the word like a hot knife through butter.
I can’t understand why these days; it’s so hard to get a simple answer to a straight forward question – I mean, I am not just talking about news headlines that regularly beggars the imagination.
You could just as well go on to ask yourself this question on a whole lot of other issues; from surreal mind bending headlines we regularly see in the headlines; to theme parks to contrived reality TV to chemically enhanced food right up to a la carte speed dating; are we perhaps barreling towards an age when we have become so shambolic and jellied that we may not even be able to deal with the truth and nothing but the truth?
I wonder. I do.
[The Brotherhood Press 2009 – Social Political EP 2983759 /w345r987329/ EKUNABA – The brother Press 2009]
Recently, PM Lee mentioned, here CNA ; Singapore may need to develop new arrangements to help the elderly work as long as they can. He went on to add one such feature may require getting companies to rehire workers aged 62 years for another three years till 65.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am all for the idea of Ah Kong and Ah Mah turning the wheel of life in their golden years; only something tells me it’s not going to be as easy as what the PM makes it out to be.
Firstly it’s not enough just to get corporations to hire seniors by giving them a few tax carrots; that in my view is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Though I am sure the free market mujahideens will disagree with me as they always do.
The tough part IMHO is finding the sweet spot between age and performance and setting realistic expectations– it’s a mix of finding the right fit and goal setting.
I guess if you really want to know what can go wrong when age and performance isn’t matched properly; then pop down to your nearest golden arches to catch the latest horror story of Ah Kong and Ah Mah impersonating the glorious life of the Duracell bunny.
Trust me, it wouldn’t take you very long to figure out retirees and jobs usually designed by time and motion specialist mix as well checking a gas leak with a box of matches; that’s what happens when seniors are wrongly matched with toxic jobs – they struggle; they flay; the system beats to a pulp and spits them out – it’s depressing.
Yes, I know, I am probably going to get a slew of charming post in my inbox chiding me for pointing the finger at the golden arches; they’re after all so kind and caring to open up placements for retirees aren’t they? Well, that’s precisely my point, they’re not. Infact what they’re doing is condoning the glorious life of the battery chicken. Nothing is more depressing than being served by a Ah Mah dressed up in a baseball cap and sporting pig tails as she rattles off greetings that probably came out from some laminated card; like I said, the fit is all wrong. I am not suggest oldies should only be hired to play Santa Claus or quaint Samsui prototypal Bangla’s in some historical setting. Only I believe, if retirees are to turn the wheel of life meaningfully in their twilight years, there should be more effort to crave out a fit between their vintage and their job role.
The Mcdonalds horror house model offers a snapshots of what can really go wrong when absolutely no ground rules are set before hand and everything is just left to the free market.
My feel is government may need to step in and draw up the rough sketches of the ground rules before this can sensibly be mooted as a workable plan for corporations – it wouldn’t do to leave it to Mr Free Market.
One reason why I believe the plan to get seniors back into the employment bandwagon may backfire is because I know only too well how demanding businesses can be on the human mind, body and spirit (that could explain why I regularly fake so many MC’s and prefer to work at home). Work life is hard enough even for a young man like me. If I recall back to the days of my miserable student days in London, I was booted out KFC, McDonalds and Burger King, all within a span of a month. Why? What was my crime? Well my overseer and his border guard Alsatians couldn’t stand the sight of me standing still and doing absolutely nothing – Clean that Darkness! Move! Pick that up! Reverse. Forward! Turn left and right! Jump thru the hoop! I snapped one day when they told me, I had to put my hand up to go for urination breaks. Another time when I got a job in A&W working the sidewalks as a mascot bear that did the tuba-driven “Ba-Dum, Ba-Dum” jingle – I got booted out one day when a kid complained that he saw the bear in a pub gulping down Stela Artois instead of root beer while pool sharking ( what was I expected to do? Get out from my 40 kilogram polyester fur suit for a 30 min break? I took me that long too get into it!). After that I promptly switched to a sedentary job as a morgue attendant and that put an end to those pesky customer complaints.
Get my drift now? My point is simply this. The constant pressure to push productivity beyond what’s humanly possible, multi-tasking, the insatiable expectation of pesky customers and the pressure to deliver value and to do more, more, can all too easily turn into a living hell.
Yes I am sure, if those free market jihadist had their way, they’ve tell us all, the push for greater productivity hardly seems unreasonable. Only my point is just look at how these productivity goodies are regularly delivered? And ask yourself how does that match up with the vintage capabilities of most retirees?
At the heart of issue, I think the main question boils down to whether we can trust the free market to find that happy work / life balance. Bear in mind, we’re not only talking about fair wages that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As much as we’re still on the page where we are trying to find the ideal fit in placement, capability and setting a realistic expectation for the aged.
I am reminded there are dozens of small, simple hardships that can push the elderly over the edge in today’s working environment; for one everything from work manuals right up to the length and height of the customer service counter is designed more for nubile teenagers and Olympic athletes rather than oldies; no where do we even see the basic provisions to cater for failing body parts; short sightedness; the shakes; imperfect memories; machines that can be operated even if one is drowsy or even the sedentary pace which seniors usually go about their business. All these would have to be augmented. The working environment needs to be first redesigned to take stock of the physical limitations of retirees.
I am not suggesting for one moment we should have someone like Eunice Olsen holding out wheel of fortune font sized alphabets to help train seniors during their induction sessions. Only if we’re not sensitive to the physical limitations of the elders, then what may very well happen is this whole idea of getting the seniors back into the workforce may turn out to be an epic rerun of the glorious life of the battery chicken – instead of deriving personal fulfillment, seniors may very well find themselves locked in horror chamber with no prospects of escape; instead of emancipation, we may very well end up with sinew snapping back-breaking work regimes which makes cotton picking in the south circa Arthur Haley’s ‘Roots’ look like one of Sumiko’s recreational pastimes.
No my feel is more work needs to be done by government to prepare the ground before this whole idea can really take off – for one someone at ministry level needs to get off their fat ass and start designating senior friendly type jobs. I for one have always questioned the wisdom of employing nubile twenty something’s to impersonate a wax works in the National Library; when that same job would be more suitably performed by a senior – as I said, I don’t have much faith in the free market craving out a happy path for our seniors.
Ordinary retirees I reminded need real protection from exploitation like kiddies – no matter how you cut and splice it; they will always be prime cuts for abuse and that’s a bleak fact.
Neither do I believe unions in the Singapore context offer much in the way of protecting them either; if it was the US or EU, then I say, yes that’s adequate, its good to go; but in Singapore we all know unions just ape the form and elide the content. They’re at best perfunctory second fiddles who will always play the corporate tune when its expedient. And here we need to be mindful that the last thing we want to do is to revisit the hideous parody of the Victorian era just when the ignorant were regularly used and abused like rumps by big evil corporations.
I am not for one moment suggesting setting the ground rules is going to be easy; it will not; for one the cost to hire retirees will be higher as special arrangements need to be factored into the workplace, but all these can be offset by creative and imaginative incentives in the form of tax rebates.
It may mean we as customers have to redefine our fastidious expectations towards the whole idea of what service quality means.
In the way, one buys a bar soap from body shop that looks as if it, it came out from some kiddies handicraft class. But because we know, it’s manufactured by some cottage industry somewhere in Bihar to provide jobs to rehabilitate former sex workers – we are able to effect that all important shift and refocus away from the product to take a broader sweep of the bigger picture: how we may actually be playing a vital role in saving people and planet with our wallets – it’s precisely this new form of consumer philanthropy that will be key to smoothing the path for Ah Mah & Ah Kong to get back into the workforce. I personally don’t believe the onus can be entirely in the lap of government. They may be able to set the ground rules; but at the end of the day, we the end user will remain the final arbiters of deciding whether this is here to stay or go.
My feel is no matter what the final solution is one thing remains patently certain; no one is going to endorse a work system where the old will be reduced to a mechanized automatons to make ends meet, that’s not how the vast majority of people want our old to be treated.
Retirees have given their best years to build this country from zero to what it is today and they deserve to turn the golden wheel of life in their twilight years with pride, dignity and under their own terms.
That’s not too much to ask, not at all.
[This essay is written by Darkness 2009 & Missy Dotty (The site owner of Just Stuff) – The Brotherhood Press 2009 / due to our annual upgrading on our Ekunaba servers / BP will not be issuing out codex codes to help you navigate in the WWW to find your reads. For further information please get specific details on write up dates from your read club leader - The Brotherhood Press 2009]
Meanwhile this entry was retrieved here http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/01/govt-accepts-17-of-26-aimss-recommendations/ and it relates to the recent AIMs recommendations.
–> Singaporedaddy on Your comment is awaiting moderation. January 11th, 2009 1.53 pm