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Check out this article from the Brotherhood Press: How to win in Aware? Forget Sun Tzu, just order one Masala Dosai!

 

Written by Darkness of the brotherhood / Lately, there is a wave of irrationality weaving its way through Singapore. No I am not referring to the dreaded pig flu. This is far more insidious and pervasive. I had a brush with it recently when I my secretary barged into my room and said she wanted me to pray with her; I asked her why? She said, the Devil has been stalking her. I asked, in what way? She said, he’s forcing her to eat all the time and all she can think of all day and night is food – well to cut a long story short, I told her we’ve continue the conversation on another day as I was in the middle of a conference call. Actually, I was just pretending to work and finalizing the last segment of a new game.

 

Sitting back I began to wonder why is it, when humans are stressed; they invariably surrender their senses to something as irrational as – the devil or some other mumbo jumbo belief? Coming to think of it why would the devil even want my secretary? She weights 2 metric tons; doesn’t even know how to make coffee and half the time, she cant even keep time without tripping up – why would the devil even want to run the risk of high blood pressure? I mean, he’s not dumb right so maybe you could go figure that out.

 

I have this theory – this whole psychology that accounts for the blame game must be operating at a primal level – if you think about it the whole idea of pining the blame on the devil has been around for a very long time; and one reason why it continues to persist is because it’s such an elastic idea; it can be used to explain everything ranging from erectile dysfunction to bad breath.

 

The other reason why the devil is to blame argument is so powerful, its grounded largely on our fears that we may already be living in a world where the only thing certain these days is uncertainty – in other words, it plays on our morbid fear for the randomness of life.

 

These days practically anything can do you in: a benign lunch with your friendly investment consultant can set off a financial Chernobyl – standing too close to someone who coughed in the MRT, may land you in the ICU in hospital, and so on and so forth.

 

Misfortune it seems lurks everywhere. There is no where to hide – and the condition is exacerbated further by the mind boggling times brought forth by the dire economic climate – these days nothing is ever what it seems – no one can be trusted and danger lurks in every nook and corner; gays who are spreading deadly viruses with their moral turpitude; pedophiles roaming around snatching the innocent and the devil these days has even got an island wide broad band connection – all these manias play on our fears.

 

Against this dizzy dystopian backdrop when the centers seems to be giving way, it makes perfect sense for many; even the intelligent to buy into the idea there is an evil malevolent force furiously at work to undo our lives – giving our fears a name and a face by fingering the devil goes a long way to acknowledge our homily sugary belief, life is after all one grand tour de force where if good wins over the forces of evil, then its because we waged a righteous war against the forces of darkness – that idea of getting a handle on our fears may seem modern, but its actually quite old when you consider how hysteria and paranoia was used to fuel everything from crusades to justifying wars.

 

The process, then and now, follows a strikingly similar arc; you could even say it’s a recurring theme in the history of man – the irony here is instead of expunging the real source of our fears, all we may be doing when we seek out simple Simon explanations as to why things screw up in our lives is deflecting the problem and projecting it on the innocent – in other words unknowingly, we become perpetrators of evil ourselves.

 

The cost for pinning the blame on the wrong party has to be costly, but what’s even costlier is how it often produces a justifiable reason to believe we can interfere with the lives of others whilst completely disregarding their rights for no other reason than to propagate the belief the devil may somehow be behind it all – could well be imposing our ideal on a bunch of gays who we all feel need to be straightened in the fuzzy name of the common good; or even confecting the belief all anonymous bloggers suffer from some character flaw that prevents them from stepping out into the open; or even blaming foreigners for our diminishing job opportunities to even believing we have a right to expose a philanderer based on skimpy evidence.

 

The antidote to the hysteria of our age may require all of us to carry something like donor cards in our wallets where we would all have to declare whether we believe in the devil – that way, if you find one of those mumbo jumbo adherents slumped in the MRT coughing his lungs out due to pig virus – we could just as well deny them Tamiflu and put a few colorful Reiki crystals on their tummies and try to summon up invisible forces to heal them – or better still contact us directly and for the right fee we will even arrange for a Nigerian foreign talent who works as a deejay but also moonlights as a part time African witch doctor (you know the type that even Africans shoo away once they get their hands on real medicine) to attend to him. I am sure with the help of a dried up chicken feet, drums and a few shrunken heads from the P-65 blog – we could all watch these mumbo jumbo adherent melt happily away while we all dance around and wail our best to drive out the devil – still believe in the devil now?

 

My point is simply this; for too long, we have allowed these mumbo jumbo adherents to assert their reality on society without ever once insisting on the burden of proof. Result: whenever, its expedient they just explain everything away by referencing the devil – as a consequence, we buy into their nonsense of the devil and leprechauns accounting for everything from slipped disk to our kids not being able to do well in school; it’s time to insist on evidenced based reasoning. Whenever there are charges against a person or group, we must demand for proof – the higher the burden the better. The converse of remaining bovine is we may run the risk of surrendering our brains to only the designs of a few who may decide to use us it to fulfill their nefarious ends – again it matters little whether it’s some bent pastor who keeps begging for money to build another shopping mall in the name of Jesus Christ – or even someone who you once decided to buy an investment plan based on trust, instead of going through the fine print with the tooth comb.

 

My point is when the shit hits the fan – the psychology of blaming others instead of ourselves kicks in too readily – and all too often it becomes a playground for hucksters, charlatans and religious fanatics – all these point to our potted history of how vulnerable we really are when we work ourselves up into a state of hysteria and paranoid – all because we never once bothered to sit down and think it through calmly and quietly.

As for my two metric ton secretary who thinks the devil is out to spoil her new weight management program – the last time I saw her, she was tearing away at a jumbo sized packet of crisps. I tried to tell her softly that’s simply not good enough, it’s never going to come around – it’s no good. When she came up with her devil nonsense again – I shot it dead with a slam of my fist on the table. This time telling her, that if she didn’t stop eating, she would end up fat, poor and lonely because no self respecting man in his right mind would ever want to fuck her (I am sorry, there is no way to be nice about it, that’s the truth and nothing but the truth) - she stared at me for a while, put away her chips and her eyes welled up with tears.

 

I know it comes across as heartless, but my feel is that’s the only way to get on top of the “devils” of our lives - matters little to me whether it is the idea of brushing byzantine failures as only ‘paper losses’, when we all know, if that’s really the case, then shouldn’t we consider our gains as, ‘paper profits’ as well? 

 

To why did Tan Tarn How of the IPS only invite a few bloggers he considered to be ’kosher’ to his seminar about the internet? Do we really want to buy into his conception of “worth engaging?” Or maybe it’s best to fuck him and IPS off in one straight line like we did by imposing a 5 year boycott?

 

Or even how The Online Citizen keeps on talking about credibility, when we all know it’s fighting so hard to establish it, it probably never had any in the first place, otherwise why fight so hard for it by trying to vilify other sites?

 

Yes, we can all fashion our devils and it can take all forms to even account for everything that’s uphill in our life - but the truth believe or not is all you really need; as it will always set you free – don’t leave home without it, the rest you could just as well throw out of the window – its mere commentary.

 

Darkness 2009

 

The Brotherhood Press 2009

 

Side reads: Find out who is Oh Tham Eng! Find out what is his real mission in the internet? Scroll down the thread and read for yourself, pay special attention to what the internet liaison officer has to say about the subject - learn how to defend yourself online: http://wayangparty.com/?p=8002

 

 

russian_doll_bigger_to_smaller_lg_whtWritten by Darkness of the brotherhood – It hardly requires any elaboration; people should try to resolve their differences peacefully.

 

Only one problem; I don’t agree completely with what I have just wrote above.

 

The way I see it some disputes could well do with a no holds bar slug out; the bloodier the better; as its conceivable one reason why events took such a sinister turn with AWARE – when a group of unknowns suddenly came in from the sun and swapped out the old could well be a by product of what usually happens when contentious subjects are usually swept underneath the rug instead of being argued out thoroughly in the cut light of the open – that’s what usually happens when people shy away from conflict – they go behind, scheme and plan the pay back - no da Vinci code there, no mystery even, that’s what happened in AWARE.

 

You could even say it stands the test of reason; when contentious issues such as Christian versus liberal gay rights are treated as sensitive and out of bounds; people don’t just make teeth sucking sounds pack their bags and go back home to their board games – these points of contention don’t just go into some dark corner, fall silent and die – usually they find alternative means of expressions which are closer to the cloak and dagger genre – that’s the problem when we fear conflict to such an extent everyone is so busy pretending to play happy families instead of trying to hammer out their differences in a robust and spirited manner – politics is pushed into the preamble of darkness.

 

My feel is, instead of avoiding conflict; we should actually learn how to manage it and if possible even use it as a basis to move ahead.

 

One reason why I dont like avoiding conflict is the latent fault lines shows up in the practice it inspires. For one the arguments each side holds have to be crumbly at best - as they have never been forcefully dragged out and given a thorough and robust examination by their detractors.

 

A politics that brackets (excludes from discussion) morality and religion too completely soon generates its own disenchantment – as not only does it produce a type of discourse that is shallow but it also lacks moral resonance and frequently creates missing blanks in the narrative. Result: they find undesirable and even sneaky outlets for expression – or worst still hucksters, charlatans and fanatics step in where angels fear to thread.

 

Anyone who is concerned over the fate of civil society and where it’s heading in Singapore should take a closer look at the AWARE saga – as what’s panning out isn’t nearly the polished sheen of civil society that we usually associate with the Western model – where it could be said, the system can reliably be entrusted to contain under conditions of peace if not civility, a remarkable range of moral, ideological, and religious conflicts and yet still manage to sort it’self out without imperiling the system.

 

What we have instead in the guise of the AWARE impasse is something closer to a Darwinian primordial soup version of civil society; part of that stems from our crippled social heritage in never having to manage conflict and that corrosive culture takes it’s cue from officialdom where the mantra has traditional been, “if it’s sensitive, don’t go there!” - the trouble is the AWARE impasse is the point when the karmic wheel closes and it all comes back to bite us - so its fair to say without the benefit of experiential knowledge many of the stakeholders in AWARE will struggle to find their footing to successfully articulate how they should deal with many of these contentious topics without running the real risk of imploding into a thousand pieces.

 

What’s at stake isn’t just the question of how some of these conflicts should be pursued; as sooner or latter both factions will have to fashion a happy middle ground to set aside what radically divides them -  if they are serious about making headway - hanging on the balance is not only women’s welfare, the role of religion versus secularism but the broader question of how Singaporean civil society is going to pursue their competing ends without having to threaten the means by imperiling stability and legitimacy?

 

In this respect the AWARE impasse represents a very significant milestone in setting the tone and cadence of how civil society will evolve in Singapore. As not only do the actors have to deal with a host emerging challenges which have never been broached before ie religion vs liberalism. But its conceivable each faction would also have to step out from their respective comfort zones and even try to seek to understand new ideas that contravenes their own value system - if they fail, then it’s fair to say, these conceptual divides i.e faith vs liberalism will remain forever conceptual islands, as each side would probably revert to their traditional defensive lines – should that happen, then it’s game over – as I really cannot see any way for AWARE to make headway in wordsmithing something close to a set of ”community values.” That’s just not possible.

 

Here the mental shift from “old” to “new” requires a transformational change on how business used to be transacted by both the progressives and Christian movement. As the mere fact that certain practices are sanctioned by a social group are not by themselves enough to make the “new” system work like it probably used too with the AWARE  and Christian movement of past years. Neither does the traditional Christian right method of moralizing as they often do from the apparent safety of the five foot way and sometimes Parliament offer anything in the way of a cogent solution - The sum of all these rumminations be it Alex Au’s and Thio Li Ann’s lamentations will amount to what our Northern cousin prosaically describe as “tak boleh pakai lah” material. The are worthless! As what is urgently required here is not merely commentary about what’s just or right; but rather something mechanically practical that allows both sides to move forward despite their glaring differences, which in my opinion cannot be reconciled.

 

The enormity of the challenge to pass from the realm of theory to reality has to be daunting as whatever answers emerges will have to depend on a certain understanding of the complexity of moral theory – the question: do all moral standards derive from a single universally accepted principle? That just goes to scale the enormity of the divide. As it suggest the search for pure principles (be they from the liberal movement or Christian right) may essentially be self defeating – as no one answer can possibly bridge the divide.

 

The real challenge for AWARE would be to find a ”new” way to accomodate these differences by craving out a completely different public square from what is currently on offer which I like to term as the Singaporean black and white public square, where life is increasingly assuming a binary form - here one is either anonymous or credible; worth reading or simply not worth engaging; functional or dysfunctional; straight or gay; moral or immoral; with or against us - the formation of this ”new” public square is imperative, as at the crux of the divide that threatens to riven AWARE further is not a conceptual or even a philosophical divide which may lead us all to believe this is simply a faith versus liberalism tussle – rather the nub is whether those “grey” areas which the binary world has conveniently elided can be managed effectively? Here, its important to emphasize, we are not just talking about what rights may be just or should be promoted, but whether even something as basic as ”rights” within the “grey” domain can be identified, justified and agreed upon by both factions in a way that does not presuppose any particular conception of good that effectively marginalize any one segment of society?

 

That in a nutshell is how I see the new AWARE challenge – as a new way of doing business where the goal is not to seek agreement on every object of interest which each faction subscribes too; but rather as a new way of agreeing to disagree on even key points, yet being able to move forward as one entity - you could just as well throw everything else out of the window and it wouldn’t do the slightest violence to your understanding of the issues.

 

To paraphrase stakeholders have to craft a “new” public square with others (and maybe even have enough space to accommodate the lunatic fringe) whose views they may even openly disagree and despise – it remains to be seen whether this tabula rasa can be fashioned – I for one harbor reservations given the enormity of the task and the deep divisions.

 

Nonetheless, if AWARE can crave out that mythical new public square (then I would also probably have to issue out a public apology for terming it a ”cat fight.”) – they will certainly emerge as a stronger and leaner outfit – as not only will this case study represent a reliable model on how to “agree to disagree” and yet move on to foreclose on common objects of interest on the behalf of community which others may choose to emulate – but it will also stand as a worthy testament to lay one of the most important cap stone on how civil society in Singapore is able to successful manage conflict, mitigate the risk diversity and even turn it to its advantage thus fulfilling the broader ethos of what civil socieities have traditionally done so well in the West – proving time and again – despite our many differences, some which may even be irreconciliable; be it religion, race or sexual orientation - the cohesion of our society can still be stronger than its divisions to keep us as one people.

 

I wish AWARE the very best of luck and god speed. Now please carry on and hantam away!

 

Darkness 2009

“Never talk about religion, race or politics! Never.”

 

If you are wondering whether this time honored warning sounds reminiscent of how our government expects all bloggers to conduct themselves in the internet – well spotted old chap! And there are compelling reasons to suggest, why adhering to such guidelines would even serve us well. After all it doesn’t take the lateral to see how raising up contentious issues such as religion, race and politics often brings out the multi headed hydra of resentment, prejudice along with fanning hatred for the “other side” (besides its lousy for your personal insurance premium). It’s a scene that only gets played out too often these days. In denigrating cartoons which poke fun at Prophet Mohammed to even podcast making fun of Moslems by asking them whether they serve pork in a halal eatery (that just proves conclusively those racist who did it have an IQ of 5 index points below idiot!). Or when authors stray as they often do into religion, race and politics as Salman Rusdhie discovered when he publish his controversial tome, the satanic verses which earned him in a posthumous fatwah and a one way ticket to Tehran.

 

What’s vexes me no end is; where does the line between religion, race and politics really start and where does it end? If it were simply a longitudinal truism that should do very nicely (thank you very much) to tell us what we can and cannot discuss. Others may claim, its common sense. The only problem is, there is nothing common about religion, race and politics and it makes even less sense. That’s only true if you believe ordinary objects, words and even a something as simple as name are divorced from all notions of religion, race or politics. The fact remains a whole world resides in the seemingly benign and ordinary. Even the ubiquitous French fries aren’t immune from being a cipher of the fractional minutiae. I remember they were re-baptized as “freedom fries” by American eateries 7 years ago to protest against the French stance against the Iraqi war. What’s even more extraordinary is this semantic fatwah lasted for nearly three years! No folks, it’s not easy to stay well clear away from religion, race or even politics not even when you are minding your own business munching quietly away on artery clogging hamburgers and French fries (sorry freedom fries, I mean).

Nor does sticking to the staid and trite offer any security either: I am of course talking about literature that oasis of reason where even fellow detractors have a modicum of decorum to agree to disagree. Eventually every discussion about literature leads invariably to the proverbial, “what’s behind the brick wall?” Existentialism which questions personal freedom against the oligarchies: how personal freedom can be reconciled with notions of command and control? Somewhere along this discussion that pesky gay Alan Turing is bound to crop up along with fatwah leaden Salman Rushdie clutching a tome of “satanic verses.” That’s the cue for the Ayatollah brigade to start chanting, “death to the great satan! death to the great satan!”

 

Yes, it’s dangerous to talk about books. We should be more specific and stick to only children’s books. They are safer, less likely to stray into the taboo domain of religion, race and politics. Anything unhinged from reality would be better than the serious enterprise of literature. Fairly tales are good, science fiction and fantasia would take us even further away from the feral world we live in to other planets. Surely no chance of religion, race or politics cropping up like demented Jack in the boxes in lalaland is there? But wait, errh wasn’t RR.Tolkien a fascist? A racist? In the “Lord of the Rings,” the evil Orcs are, in Tolkien’s words, are “squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes” (that just about describes everyone in my household except me along with 99.9% Asians living in the Greater Pacific). The enemy is the Dark Lord and he lives in the Black Land. The heroic protagonist and elves are, by contrast, undoubtedly blond, blue eyed and uncircumcised Aryans. Ideals of ‘blood’ and racial purity are always sloshing around Tolkein’s seemingly innocent narrative. For example, the Men of Gondor – “the high men” – are descendants of the Numenoriuns, the greatest of all warriors. Over the centuries, they have become ‘degraded’ because of breeding with inferior races. No Tolkien wasn’t a closet Nazi, he was simply lamenting the disappearance of racial “purity.” After all we all have a right to voice our anxiety about being swamped by non-Europeans, don’t we? Like poor misunderstood Hitler, Stalin and Idi Amin, Tolkein there were really just being true to themselves by being real traditionalist. Along the way of course they just bumped off a few million “inferior races,” build death camps and persecuted anyone that was remotely different from them! Yes folks see what I mean even keeping to trite fairytales doesn’t guarantee one the prospects not straying into religion, race and politics!

Lament I do but wait……do I see a light? An oncoming freight train? No a beacon – I am saved! Yes, movies will do very nicely, why didn’t I think of that earlier? After all they are all “make belief” right? So divorced from reality, we have even coined the phrase, “like real?” Obviously a reference to the reality of reality and the illusion of reality, one which I am sure you would agree movies embodies the latter. Not only are we just going to keep the discussion to movies, but we are going to gut the religion, politics and race out of it all as well. That means no “babel” or Oliver Stone’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” too incendiary (it will just bring down the building!). Besides the former has peek-a-boh reference played by a mute confused girl which are clearly suggestive of metaphor to describe the silent suffering of comfort women controversy. Though how it’s precisely related to that concept I am not quite sure, but you get what I mean anything to do with a mysterious black box has negative connotations. Besides it’s too dark there and after all we may all be lost in the forest only to fall into a hole. So out goes “Babel,” and in comes antiseptic controversy free: “The sounds of Music.”

 

Can’t go wrong with squeaky wire brush clean Julie Andrews and “Doe Rah Mi” yodeling midgets can we? No chance of controversy here, after all she plays a catholic nun. You can’t get safer than that can you? No chance of religion, politics or race entering into the storyline either – it’s a wholesome family yarn about the benefits of yodeling, starch collars and why nuns choose to wear curtains instead of real clothes.

 

Wait a second the sounds of music. Eerh wasn’t that set in Nazi Germany? In a little in breeding enclave somewhere in the Bavarian Alps, none other than the spiritual locus of the Nazi creed, where Adolf Hitler even built an Alpine retreat called the Berghof. And near by the Untersberg, a peak said to contain the immortal soul of the King Charlemagne, who had conquered most of Christian Europe in the ninth century—a role model of Hitler’s and one for whom he felt a mystical attachment too.

 

In reality, the hills were certainly alive with the sounds of music along with of the yelps and screams of Jews as they were marched off to concentration camps. As for Julie Andrews and the benign sauerkraut gobbling nuns; they weren’t as innocent as we are led to believe either. Since Vatican’s complicity with the Nazi’s even managed to earn their CEO, the happy title of “Hitler’s Pope.”

 

No I am afraid the sound of music doesn’t quite cut it in the controversy free department. It’s far too racially and politically volatile, we simply have to bid, “Auf Weidersehn” to those insufferable Nazi saluting singing good to boot midgets.

 

I guess nothing these days is controversy free, not if one has to interact with the world, community and people. One element of maturity is the realization most of us we don’t necessarily seek out controversy for the sake of controversy. Granted there are racist, bigots and even the terminally illiberal and righteous who believe they have the right to talk down to people or dictate how others should live, behave or even think, but fortunately, they are in the minority.

 

For the vast majority of humans – most of us are simply trying not to give up on ourselves and others. All too often we’re hoping that we are doing, saying and thinking the right things. Though sometimes when I try too hard by smiling at strangers in the MRT, I come across as a crazed suicide bomber or worst still a Prudential insurance agent trying to hit my monthly sales quota. (trust me I prefer the former, at least they have to decency to go off in a flash, while the insurance agents keeps hounding, stalking and squatting outside my doorway).

 

Most of us are just trying to make our lives worthwhile, not only for ourselves, but also for our loved ones and the broader society at large – It’s a subtle and slow process fraught with all sorts of hazards – reaching out often is. One always runs the risk of rejection or coming across as awkward. All too often we may declare those who have different views from us are hopelessly incorrigible and simply choose to cut ourselves from them. So there we find ourselves, where I am in my silo, you in yours and the greater they, in theirs. Each to his own to fashion the known world, each nurturing their own prejudices and illusions as to what represents the truth.

Why? Because we daren’t touch of on those subjects where angels fear to thread religion, politics and race. Is it such a wonder that we continue to amble along like the blind wondering why we cant even make sense of the times we live in? Or why we still continue to fear the things we do.

 

(By Astroboy & Keith Ho / Socio / Politics / Satire – EP 995438- 2007 – The Brotherhood Press)

 

Hey did you miss out on this BP article? This is generated by our new auto-bot crawler – check it out The Incredible Koreans

 

 

gToday is big cycling day – so let’s dive straight in – Question: is privacy under siege? Let’s put it another way; how many of you really agree with what the admin of wayang party did when they revealed the IP’s of these so called trolls? SHOCKING: IP addresses of internet trolls traced to various government agencies and stat boards!!! Why was that so disturbing? And how does it really affect you and me?

The short answer is: if it can happen to them; then it can probably happen to you and me as well  its conceivable what the team in wayang may have done in their zeal to track down and name and shame these trolls is they have effectively broadcasted the message to the entire blogosphere and beyond – you don’t have ANY rights to privacy i.e it’s a commodity that’s not even worth upholding.

And I have a problem with that; as this brings into sharp focus - the question: what’s the real cost of pursuing this short term strategy of annihilation?

I am not referring to whether it managed to produce the desired results i.e by putting an end to the spamming and cyber harassment (for all we know that may be all they wanted us to do, to cross that mythical line and turn on ourselves) – just as all us probably know the most expedient way to get information out of enemy combatants may be by torturing them with a blow torch – but would you condone it? 

That a thing may work as a theoretical matter doesn’t necessarily make it rightnot if it comes at a price that suggest one’s constitutional theory is so reducible that it even condones pursuing an idea solely on the basis of cost and benefit calculations.

That illustrates the glaring moral dilemma when we place convenience, congeniality and expediency above principles i.e the right to privacy.What happens to the whole idea of privacy when we cross the line by denying it to even trolls?

To paraphrase what do we forfeit when we go down this slippery road?

I understand, it’s very easy to buy into this whole idea that privacy these days is worth squat – as Vivian Balakrishnan recently proclaimed “online privacy is an illusion.” But hang on there – what’s he saying? Just because something no longer has the power of agency in our age means that it no longer has any intrinsic value worth upholding and even protecting? Is that what he’s implying?

If that were really true; then we could just as well save millions in tax dollars by dispensing completely with the criminal justice system which requires law makers to impute innocence on the accused by perhaps outsourcing the judicial process to Guantanamo prison interrogators – but one reason why we still expect judges and not super computers to decide on criminal and constitutional cases is because many of us perceive the need to uphold the indelible rights of the individual even if it comes at an exhorbitant cost to society - taking the principled and not expedient approach it seems is the price of living in a civilized society.

And here, what we may all need to consider is what sort of net culture are we propagating when we deny these trolls their elemental right to privacy?

Are we perhaps trading in the long and high principled road approach that guarantees rights for you and me for the seat-in-the-pants, cost benefit approach?

Because if you want the former gold standard – then we need to pay the price! We need to give these trolls the same rights that we enjoy ourselves. It’s hardly a matter of choice as it remains one of moral congruence, clarity and consistency. The converse is if we choose to settle for the latter - then don’t be surprise if someday someone just puts a policeman into your head – by leveraging on that dumb argument: if you got nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

The whole problem with that justification is it’s never ever made one molecule of sense; only because that idea would only work in a perfect system where abuses can never occur - and we all know, no such system exist any where in the world – that is why smart people build in checks and balances – and one of the best ways of doing this is setting limits – that’s probably why no one knows the PIN number to your ATM.

As I said, no one disputes the fact we may already be living as Vivian says in age where the notion of privacy has diminished – and this leaching, chelating or scouring is only too clear when we consider how even benign everyday technologies such as cell phones, EZ link card, credit cards can be so easily used to monitor, track and snoop in limitless ways – neither does it pay to nurture the minstrel illusion as we barrel deeper into the digital age; our idea of privacy would be able to have the resilience to remain intact against the digital onslaught – it cannot, but the solution to the erosion of privacy problem doesn’t lie somewhere in throwing up our hands and saying – Vivian style, “anonymity is an illusion” That’s not how smart people have traditionally reacted to an erosion of anything from seawalls,mud slides and receeding hairlines - they profile ever more creative ways and means to ensure that the erosion is stemmed, arrested and mitigated - and this may take the form and shape of insisting that information should not be freely bandied around or used only under very controlled circumstances – that’s how smart people get on top of the privacy hubris – as technology increases so does the means to protect privacy increase correspondingly.

As I said no one disagrees real privacy is in a dreadful state – but what cannot be so easily discounted away, is just because technology has diminished our right to remain truly private; it does not prevent us as a community from working to develop an online culture to ensure abuses of private information is kept to a minimum.

And it’s this wispy notion of protecting our privacy - that we as netizens need to keep very much alive as what’s a stake is not merely the issue of law & order, the constitution and politics, but they also involve very human questions – as the lost of privacy (real or imagine) provokes anxiety and a whole range of feelings as to how each and everyone of us wants to define themselves online as free people - I have no doubt, by instilling the quotient of responsibility by erasing anonymity, this may very well solve 99.9% of the governments problem when it comes to getting a handle on the internet – but in what way does this nourish understanding? How does it even add value to the ongoing social narrative? It cannot – at best, it would amount to going through the motions – aping the form without the content - that’s why I am not too concerned about Teo Ser Luck’s internet YP forays (can even go and use the best consultants, I’ve even talked to some of them here - one word as our Northern cousins will say, “tak boleh pakai lah.”) - granted for the first 2 months, it may get the hits, but as time goes by without a solid philosophy on how to sustain and nourish the ongoing Singapore social narrative – it simply doesn’t have the stamina to see it through to fruition – no chance in hell.That’s why I feel, it was wrong for wayang to have revealed privileged information concerning these trolls – as what is require may not be accepting the idea privacy is death, but rather the reverse –  a collective commitment that because privacy may be imperiled, it needs to defended even more vigorously and robustly - and how do we accomplish this? Except by subjecting us all to one set of laws – and this would compel us all to consider whether, we should extend the same rights to trolls? I would even go as far as to say it behooves each and everyone of us to keep this crumbly idea of privacy alive - as I cannot think of a better way to destroy the policeman in our heads and to drive out fear. (if you have a better way please share it with me, because I really don’t know)

I suspect one reason why the custodians of power loathe the idea of online anonymity has nothing to do with credibility and everything to do with their lack of imagination in being able to manage conflict in this new environment – and against that overwhelming deficit the most expedient way to deal with it is by putting a policeman in the head of every netizen – that way the real world status quo ante is replicated online.

The question is can wayang afford to play that zero imagination lackadaisical game? Can it use the hammer to solve every problem? I don’t doubt those trolls may have stopped spamming your site – but at what price did this come by? Did it come at the expense of giving up the high moral ground? And when you think about it, that’s everything in the internet. As privacy isn’t really just a worthless idea like what Vivian shared with us so candidly - it’s much more than that as what it really ungrids is the classical liberal conception of personal autonomy, independence and liberty – and you could just as well go back all the way to 1890 when the right to be let alone was first defined by Louis Brandies and Samuel Warren and see how the internet has managed to articulate that idea so beautifully in our age - in short, its everything that makes up the whole idea of the internet. Had Vivian hit the books, before he opened his big mouth, he would have never have said what he said - as what he says can never resonate in the hearts and minds of netizens. If anything all he’s doing is glossing over a doctrine, by attempting to repackage it without a comparable thoughtware – that’s what happens when ministers are lazy and so complacent that they dont even bother to read broadly and deeply.

Now you understand why when you reveal private information on even trolls – then you’re no better than those who you regularly criticize – as you have in effect become the very thing which you despise and wish to change - and with that it could be said although you may win all the battles, you will also do the impossible and lose the war – as the real war is waged in the hearts and minds – and to win there, one simply cannot cross those lines – and broadest line in blogosphere that runs deeper and truer than anything else is the privacy line – if those people want to cross it; go ahead, be my guest, but we should never be the ones. As we are really nothing more than custodians and keepers of these lines for perhaps the next generation that will come after us – do you now understand?

And there lies the paradox of our age when privacy is increasingly under attack from various seige machines – and the more we believe what we may be experiencing is the passing of an age; the more covetted and cherished the whole idea of privacy becomes - very much like how freedom in a repressive regime usually acquires an exaggerated likeness of being - that can only really happen in conditions of acute scarcity.

The ultimate irony of the whole privacy tussle may well be; it’s precisely because we are already living in the age where anonymity is a myth – or how sneaky CCTV’s can so easily put an end to the simple pleasures of life where a man could scratch his balls without having to discover the offending footage plastered in youtube – what may yet bear out from this medley is the perverse effect instead of all of us accepting the notion privacy is already dead; the reverse may yet be we would like to revive it; as it can only be a highly sought after commodity - in the same way sperm whales continue to enjoy a moratorium on whaling as they are endangered and run the very real risk of extinction. 

This paradox of privacy under siege bears out only too clearly when we look at how the marketing manifesto makes brisk business of tagging the word private from everything to private banking to having your private mile high queen sized bed at 35,000 ft.

Believe it or not, you can sell anything if you put the word private in front of it – and the wayang team would do well to buy into this idea, if they really want to succeed.

Darkness 2009

 

The brotherhood press 2009

 

To read more essays click here!Brotherhood   

 

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