What lessons can the Media Literacy Council learn from Singapore Abysmal Birthrates?
August 13, 2012
Granted. At first it may appear that the newly minted Media Literacy Council and our abysmal baby birth rates have hardly anything to do with each other. But take a closer look. As what can be gleaned from Singapore’s measely baby birthrates may have very little to do with the idea that is so often circulated by lazy academics and dim witted bureacrats that this trend of forestalling the stork is simply the cost of living in a modern society.
What if I said to you – the main reason why Singapore suffers from such lamentable baby birth rates has MORE to do with the idea of government mucking around with social engineering during the late 70′s. And what we are really seeing today is simply the fall out of a social engineering program gone wrong.
Sounds positively subversive right….incredulous even…..read on.
To summarize our baby blues in one word- it’s serious. So serious these days that even Sengkang Sally seems to be hanging up her eggs. In the early 80’s when the trend of forestalling the stork first surfaced it affected mainly the ranks of professional women - that was alright – besides all of them were batty and their abstinence probably saved most men from a miserable life of perpetual bitching – besides most of them joined the SPH, aptly called then the sister’s of perpetual hesitation where the mantra was, “we missed the boat.” Only for the rah-rah brigade to exclaim, “Our aim must be improving.”
But of late the trend of forestalling the stork seems to have reached pandemic levels and it’s even scissoring right through the length and breadth of our society! So out comes the same unsavory characters making a bee line in rogue’s gallery: high cost of living, not enough time, an uncertain future and the impossible demands of juggling jobs and kids etc.
Are they the only suspects? Could there be another reason why our birth rates are so low?
One clue that may explain why the baby figures are so shambolic may be found in the computer game called SimCity.
I also happen to believe this may well be the most instructive lesson for the head of the MLC Tan Chen Han. As it offers some invaluable insights in the perils of fooling around with things that we don’t truly understand, such as the internet.
But I digress. Now back to Sim City and what does it really have to do with our abysmal baby stats? Before that let me just say, I happen to love that game. For one it’s a great way to take a holiday from my inferiority complex; as SimCity is really like playing god (though I don’t think he eats pot noodle or picks his big toe nail while blog surfing) – now the thing that I learnt most about SimCity is:
Build a lousy system and you are likely to get lousy results; there’s no mystery there, it’s cut and dried; where the cost and penalty calculation become screwy is when you build a perfect system that’s so good that it even has reserves to gather momentum and when you pull on the brakes nothing happens!
It’s a bit like the Titanic 30 seconds before it struck the iceberg – instead of you playing the game; the game plays you – the levers of power are connected to nothing! Turn the rudder, nothing happens! Reverse the engines. It just keeps on barrelling ahead. All one can really do is sit by and watch the tragedy unfold. That dystopian nightmarish landscape bears out only too clearly in the game SimCity – even the most benign and innocuous actions can be amplified and have far reaching implications – build a multi storey car park to accomodate more shoppers and the next thing you know you’ve created the mother of all traffic jams and that leads to probably an eight lane highway followed by deppreciation of real estate prices – next thing you know your neighborhood has turned into down town Baghdad on a bad hair day; if you really want to understand why our baby birth rates is so low –here it is! - the answer believe it or not can be found in a computer game and just in case you think – I am kidding.
I am not, I worked it all out mathematically one evening on a napkin in McDonalds.
The whole idea of playing the extinction game isn’t really so different from one those environmental horror stories; we so often hear about; When someone thought it would just be a dainty idea to bring a pot of flowers from the old country to brighten up the porch and dress up their bonnet for Sunday church.
But what happens when that species of alien flower finds its way into the local ecology and proliferates only to overreach its territory very much like a super invader to wipe up the rest?
The analogy isn’t so different from what really accounts for our baby blues. The historical accounts are sketchy; but the story goes something like this; during the late 70’s a great social engineering experiment was launched; the ‘2 is enough and 3 is company’ population control program.
It made perfect sense then to mitigate the high birth rates and leveraging on the apparatus of assimilation to broadcast the message it worked admirably, the problem was everyone from the policymakers to the social scientist who conceived this idea became so fixated on the drive train and breaking the land speed record; none of them bothered with the emergency brakes. In short, they forgot about the reverse gear – fast forward today; when we talk about our lamentable birth rates, it’s nothing more than a social Chernobyl experiment gone awry.
Yes, some one fucked up. And they fucked it up big time.
The lessons are sobering. They have to be. As there’s a finality to the learning outcome – never ever mess around with something you don’t completely understand – that’s the problem when government decides to play a round of I am-God-almighty.
My point is simply this; it may have made pragmatic sense once upon a time to muck around with the lives of people, but even with the benefit of the best of intentions; the cost of doing so may simply be too horrendously high to contemplate in the long term. This could well be tete de tete that Tan Chen Han of the newly minted MLC should consider seriously as he sets about trying to craft a better internet under the fairytale heading entitled, “cyber wellness”; fact remains where the equation applies to people; the whole calculation may not even hold true as what we are dealing with here isn’t nuts and bolts – it’s not really a quantitative method as it remains a qualitative process; its more an art than a science; because you dealing with people and people don’t always behave rationally.
Yes, small things can have big consequences. They can even come back and bite you like a multi headed hydra. Worst of all, some of the mistakes we make can’t be reversed – once they go into the mind; they just stay there forever.
It would be good; if government just kept that in the back of their minds when they next decide to muck around with the internet.
Don’t say, I didn’t tell you; it’s doesn’t pay to play God. Not when it comes to babies, spliting human genes, plutonium and possibly even the internet.
Random post: The Incredible Koreans
“Please understand the road to hell is paved with good intentions – what you choose to do or not do in life is really not so different from a game of chess – sure you have to move – as you can’t stay in the same position. But when you move remember that your acts and omissions will have a profound effect on the future.
In gaming terms this is expressed as a cosine of the inversed value of the sum of your aggregate actions - now this is really complex geek code that simply means,
“Don’t mess with something that you don’t completely understand. Otherwise it will probably come back and bite you.”
And the best way to insulate yourself from that sort of scenario is to simply say to yourself – “I don’t understand enough about this or that to muck around with it.” I have noticed many people don’t have the confidence to say this whenever they are confronted with the alien or possibly the incomprehensible – I don’t know why that is so – it could well be pride, ego or even the pressure to perform. But for me, I have never had an issue with saying, “I don’t understand this. And I am not going to fool around with it.” You know very recently I was asked by a plantation to look into a problem concerning low yield – now I went through the whole procedure, soil & leaf analysis. The soil pH was OK. The fertilization regime was also OK, with sufficient, Nitrogen, phosphorous and even pottassium inputs – but for some reason – the trees weren’t producing. So I suggested doing absolutely nothing. Now of course this is not something that you say to a board of directors of a plantation with holdings up to 4,000 hectares – what will they think about me? But that is what I did. Of course there were some board members that thought that this fellow here is just a charlatan – so they engaged another consultant. This German chap came in and started all sort of programs – soil augmentation along with introducing Boron into the soil and CRP to decrease the acidity – guess what happened? All the plants in the test plot shrivelled up and promptly died!
In my section where I recommended that the trees should be left alone – they are now fruiting and producing like Jack rabbits. What did I do? Absolutely nothing. As this is the way nature works – and it’s the height of human arrogance to presuppose that we know everything about nature. Truth is we know only what she is prepared to share with us. There is still alot of mystery there. As there is in so many other things in life which are inherently complex.
I think as a professional man it pays dividends to know when to interfere and when to simply shaddap and sit back.
That’s why if you happen to be a dentist, physician, lawyer, care giver, internet policeman or even a humble sergeant running a patrol shift – it always pays to ask yourself this question from time to time: “do I really understand what I am dealing with here?” If the answer is no, it’s best to watch on and if possible clear your mind of all the dusty and old assumptions. That way you stand a better chance of making the best of the situation - you see the greatest thing you can learn from this process is to get ahead sometimes, it is not usually what you choose to upload in your brain. But rather how prepared and willing you are to unlearn many of the things that has through the years managed to encrust themselves into your thinking to even modulate your behavior and responses to situations.
I happen to believe as a game designer and commercial farmer it NEVER pays to try to play God. If you do that, then prepare for the unexpected to come down ten or twenty down the line and bite you hard - and when that day happens, all you can really do is say to yourself,
“I well and truly fucked it all up on my shift.”
And you have no choice but to live with that fact. That reality. That finality. As sometimes it is irreversible. It is really like pancreatic cancer. Neither can you run away from it either - as there will always someone who will always be able to connect the dots and tell you how and where and who was really responsible for the anatomy of failure – and when that happens, you can do very little except lie down and open your legs wide and prepare yourself for the trashing of a life time – you see life is very simple. And it seems the ancients have long known this all the while. If more people realized this. I believe we will all be happier and less frustrated in Singapore. Now you understand why in life – not everyone will just run with your explanation – some will say, hold on there. Have you examined this? And if you are foolish enough to just steam right along like Thomas the Train. You may win the argument. Even get your way. But ten or twenty years down the line. Trust me the serious men will come searching for you to pin the blame on you. And they wouldn’t even give two shits who you are – they will just call a spade a spade.”
Praetoria RIP (Rise If Possible) - 200? – 2012