When I first started blogging in 2005 – Singaporesurf the human aggregator was already very much a feature of blogoland. And though they did not aggregate what I regularly bunged out into the vast infinity of the digital ocean (probably for very good reasons). No one can possibly deny that Singaporesurf was an indelible part of Singapore’s brief internet history.

Through the years Singaporesurf maintained its pole position as a fair and impartial aggregator (unlike Singaporedaily which is just another Potemkin site that is trying to forward a hidden agenda that I shan’t mention) – recently, I tried to access the site of Singaporesurf and all I found was a video of a few muppets singing a song.

I would really appreciate it, if someone could just drop me a line in my comment box and explain to me what has happened to Singaporesurf. Please note, I don’t usually allow comments to be posted publicly – so whatever you have to say to me would be confidential.

Many thanks

Darkness 2012

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“Everything that was once Singaporesurf has vanished Gentlemen. We have to treat this as a time parallax anomaly. It has been scrubbed cleaned from the digital network. There is only one working mirror copy left and all the links work there – you can actually click on any article and it would open up. That mirror copy is kept by the director of the Free Internet Library Board in Primus. His name is Y2K. I have in my hand a irrevocable skull seal that is signed by the Council of the Wise. This is my signet ring. Now take this two items and present it to Y2K. Once he receives them, he will give you the access code to the entire repository. I want you to search for the file Singaporesurf. Then take this message capsule to the office of the Internet Historical Archive office located at Liberation Boulevard, show the curator these two items again. He is easy to recognize, just look for a owl head man who wears a tuxedo. Once he sees these two items, he will lead you to the basement where you will board a trans continental worm train – at the end of the tracks, there is a place known as simply the beginning to all of us – this is the nucleus of our entire network, it’s inner sanctum, the main frame – there is nothing there – no space, no time and you will know for certain that you are in this place. As when you look at your watch, the third hand is motionless – in this place there is an old filling cabinet. Now listen very carefully to me, when you open the cabinet. All the graphics will suddenly revert back to the days of space invaders, it is a one dimensional world. As I wrote this code many years ago using the technology of its time – its a primitive but sublimely elegant program know as BASIC programming language. The program will guide you what to do with the message capsule. Once you have completed the sequence what will happen is you will set in motion a process that even I have absolutely no control over. What will happen is this apprentice, everything that used to be Singaporesurf will be digitalized and compressed into a written code – this code will seek out dead sites and it will hide there, it will move around randomly and when it detects any activity in this site it will move to another dead site and it will continue to hide till the year 2050 – then on January 15th 2050, it will return back to the Singapore Blogosphere. One day my apprentice another generation will read what we once read. The history of our internet will never die. Now go!”

An excerpt of a conversation somewhere in a fencing hall in Primus Aldentes Prime opposite the Cenopath of the Ascension Heroes – relayed by the IMG.

Consider this simple Simon question: Was it such a great idea to privatize the trains and buses? Well if we go by the capitalist manifesto, it would appear so. After all, in an age of budgetary constraints, privatization makes an excellent argument that’s hard if impossible to set aside. For starters the sale piques the interest of taxman. He walks away with a big bone. From a business standpoint, privatization even manages to fufill the criteria of sustainability, since it’s able to recruit the profit motive along with revivifying the old – in theory, at least, the service improves, commuters benefit, the state rids itself of a millstone, investors profit and life is sweet.

The happy days unfortunately is not what SMRT seems to be enjoying. And let’s not not even get into the case of disgruntled commuters who have to regularly impersonate sardines during rush hour. Along with perhaps mainland bus drivers who have been pushed so far that they have even decided to go on strike.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting ALL state assets would never benefit from privatization. Most do as historical accounts seem to support the contention flabby state owned steel mills, coal mines, car factories et al do benefit dramatically from privatization – but where the theory lags behind the reality is when privatization is directed to public services, specifically the essential services e.g transport and healthcare. And one reason why essential services have never ever been great revenue generators is simply because they’re lousy business models - since they usually cost more to provide and maintain than they could ever hope to attract in revenue – for starters (without a single exception) they all seem to suffer from the paradox of capitalism i.e for a public service to be managed well, it may actually need to be as inefficient as possible. To put it another way, essential public services such as SMRT cannot possibly chase profit without doing violence to the whole idea of providing a great service along with perhaps fulfilling the aspirations of it’s employees.

I understand what I am forwarding here may well be a paradigm shift in the traditional way in which we all make sense of the world – but do bear with me. Consider this, if the goal of a public service such as trains is to deliver value to it’s shareholders – then why not just convert every station that has the lowest user frequency into a food court cum bumper car ride theme park and keep only the short inner city routes which have the highest frequency of commuters? Do you see my point? As one reason why essential service are all without a single exception flawed business models is because once the focus shifts from providing to efficient essential service to chasing profit, then what can only happen is the whole idea of public service can only be relegated to second place. Whenever this happens a form degenerative disease creeps in. One that we see so often from the endless travails the seems to mire SMRT - mind boggling preventive lapses along with the recent strikes of PRC bus drivers having to work and live under conditions of slavery – I wonder could this be the reason why Britian, Spain, France, Japan and even China regularly subsidize their rail service – their bureaucrats even seem to derive a “perverse” pride for losing money occasionally whenever they run into the red. Why? As what constitutes a well managed essential service such as public transport or healthcare is essentially a function of how one goes about defining a well managed enterprise. Keep this in mind. As it will all connect beautifully as you read on my dear perceptive reader.

The second argument against the privatization of essential services such as SMRT is, it creates a moral hazard. As the only reason (I can think of) why private investors such a Temasek would even be prepared to make a business case out of running an essential public service is because they know only too well – in the event of a fuck up, the government can always be counted to stand in as the de factor guarantor to eliminate the exposure of the operator from the risk of a fold up (wonder no more why SMRT got a billion dollar cheque from the govt) – to exacerbate matters since the operator now has to foreclose on an all together impossible mission of generating a respectable profit along with providing commuters a reliable means to get from A to B - it is compelled to induce a split personality bordering on schizophrenia that can only arise from having to serve two diametrically opposing masters -that is trying to generate profit for private share holders while at the same time trying its best to provide an essential service – and since this cannot possibly be sustained from a business standpoint without something giving way - the state needs to step in from time to time like a demented Jack in the box to bail out the operator from hot soup - wonder no more why we see govt intervenion galore such as in the bus driver’s strike, subsidies in the form of writing blank cheques to justifying the case for another price hike –  result: private services are no better than what they used to be when they were run by the state. To put it another way, what we have today when we look a SMRT is a outfit that embodies the FORM without the complimentary CONTENT of a private enterprise – and this should prompt the preceptive reader to ask: why even privatize an essential service when it brings absolutely no discernable benefits to taxpayers? Why even go through the bother of putting up an elaborate pretense of trying to make an essential public service anything other than what it should be, an essential public service that should at best break even and if possible lose money, IF the imperative is to provide commuters with a safe, reliable and efficient means of transport – along with possibly creating jobs that nourish the idea of dignity of labor along with fashioning itself as a model employer to help wean SME’s from their opium addiction to cheap foreign labor. 

And last but not least and perhaps the strongest case that militates against privatizing public services is they simply cannot be left to the vagaries of the free market - not without producing so many undesirable fall outs and abberations that we regularly see coming out from a basket case like SMRT. As when essential services are handed lock, stock and barrel to businessmen – the default position is government has divested their responsibilities all together to a taxpaying public in perhaps the way same an irresponsible parent puts a child on the door step of some home – and when that parent is confronted by a baffled crowd, all they can really do is exclaim, “don’t look at me, that’s not my baby.”

To which the wise and responsible can only say - “Why are you so fucking irresponsible?”

Darkness 2012

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“Let me ask you all a simple question Gentlemen. If you run a SME enterprise and you hear that a big juggernaut firm like Temasek is running an outfit where workers are stacked in a dorm infested with bed bugs and rats. They aren’t even paid a salary at parity with their co-workers by sheer fact that they are of a different nationality although they do essentially the same work and put in the same amount of hours. On top of that these people have been put in position where they even feel that they have to resort to striking to be heard as no one really asked them, hey is anyone taking care of your rights? - then how seriously do you think any SME owner would take the governments clarion call for change? I don’t think any reasonable businessman can take these people seriously – as there is really no basis to take their advisory seriously – after all they aren’t even walking the talk themselves – their house is in a right mess! In my honest opinion all they seem to be doing is churning out feel good platitudes by forwarding the illusion that they seem to be serious and committed about putting an end to the narcotic of cheap labor - so as a SME owner why would you even take what those buggers have to say seriously? As for me, I wouldn’t even give them one minute of my time to these people. If Sim Ann came to visit me, she would even get through the first parameter gate - I will just treat them like the Singaporedaily - they are irrelevant and there is no basis to take them seriously at all, and. That gentlemen is a very big problem. Do you all see the broader rammifications of this bus driver’s strike now?”

As a general rule of thumb. I don’t relish doing business or even having a casual conversation with people who seem to have great difficulty in calling a spade a spade. You could even say this just happens to be one of my hot buttons that I find especially irritating. There have been plenty of times when I have cut short meetings – as the otherside keeps on telling me, “I have to refer to my superiors.” Whenever I am faced with those kinda of situations, usually I tell the otherside quite directly, “why are you wasting my time?” And just walk right out of the door.

To me when a man cultivates the bad habit of calling a spade anything else other than a spade. He is a very dangerous man who can only confuse everyone and inflict pain on their grey matter.

The situation is not so different from the comical story of a traveller who comes across something brown on a country road. This man will pick it up and smell it – then he will say to himself, “it smells like shit.” He may go on to roll a bit of this brown substance between the tips of his thumb and index finger only to conclude, “it feels like shit.” And it’s even conceivable he may even take a bite of this strange thing only to conclude that, “it taste like shit.” But what remains incredulous to all is how this man will put this repulsive thing down with relief only to say to himself and others, “luckily, I didn’t step on it.”

When others see this. Then they can only conclude this man is a super duper idiot. As he is written in an alphabet that no one can read not even the man himself. Remember never ever do business or cultivate friends with people who find it difficult to call a spade a spade, if you do that, then it is very likely that you will go around in big and small circles without ever accomplishing anything. Worst still you will sucked into the gyre of their never ending stupidity as they quibble no end and split hairs about meaningless things. When a man is stuck in that sort of grove. I can guarantee you 100%, he can never do big things. Never.

Darkness 2012

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“When a businessman deals with a bank. I find it always pays to be crystal clear about one’s goals and missions. But to be able to convey thoughts with precision one must FIRST fashion the mind as a samurai sword - the goal must be clearly defined. And to do this, one must first cultivate the discipline of calling a spade a spade. IF one does not learn to do this, one can only confuse everyone else along with oneself. And confusion will reign. When this happens nothing significant can ever be accomplished.And it will all be a great diffusion of energy amounting to very little. 

Not too long ago – a very reputable bank that I shan’t mention for obvious reasons approached me to sell the idea of private banking. Naturally I was very interested as it came with loads of time saving perks that I really found nifty. But what really confused me was the attitude of the account consultant who was assigned to me. From what I could make out. She was well educated, unusually articulate and very confident of her tits – so during the course of explaining the details of private banking, I had to really focus on the material and not her fun bags – somewhere between succeeding and failing to focus on numerous occasions, she suggested we continue this during dinner. During dinner, instead of focussing on what private banking had to offer. I had the distinct impression, this young girl was trying to sell me her tits again. I am not kidding, it was like buy one and get the other free.

It reached a point when I wasn’t really getting anywhere as I realized the conversation was veering off course. So I told this young girl very gently in a calm rolling voice - please don’t take this personally, it is strictly business. I am so sorry, but I really don’t want to fuck you. I just want to find a better way to finance my quarterly fertilizer purchase. I even went on to take out my HP business calculator to prove to her, if I signed on the dotted line on the deal that she had presented me, my deficit for the year 2013 for fertilizer would run into five figures and that was simply a lousy business proposition – as I could easily get a better rate from a rival bank– naturally she was quite taken aback. And insisted that I dreamnt it all up. Naturally, I agreed and even apologized for my over imaginative mind. After recovering from her shock, she revealed to me that she had never had to really explain the details of bridging loans to other clients as none of them really asked before. I was the first. And she even admitted quite openly she was out of her depth. I nodded sympathetically, as this girl was now very sullen and very much in her own thoughts. Before we departed, she promised that she will inform her manager to assign someone else who would be in a better position to answer all my questions.

The following day, another account manager came to see me – this time, it was a 60 year old auntie who looked like a matron who used to work in a gulag for the Chinese intelligence service – she was not only competent but meticulous in her explanation. Frequently interjecting her detailed explanation with, “stop me, if I am going too fast.” And I was able to get exactly what I wanted without even wasting one minute of my time.

I am so happy and so is the bank and I am sure my trees are happiest as I really bagged a great deal - The moral of the story is. It is really quite impossible to get things done, if a man doesn’t cultivate the good habit of calling a spade a spade and getting directly to the point. A man who suffers from an incomprehensible aversion of calling a thing what it should rightly be called will only end up confusing others along with himself no end - he might even go around in circles, not realizing that he is going no where and worse of all, he would be taking others along with him in a big merry go round to nowhereville and none of them will ever reach the destination – they will be lost in the mind of this confused man who cannot seem to do the seemingly simple of calling a spade a bloody spade.”

“Since you die-die MUST know apprentice, I will share with you what I will do, if I find myself facing off with those bus drivers. But you must promise me never to judge me for what I am about to tell you.

First, I wouldn’t quibble like those idiots whether it is a pay dispute or whether it is an improbable case of 200 people falling sick on the same day – clarity is so bloody important in a crisis. So I will probably call a spade a spade and call it a strike even if others decide to split hairs.

As if no one knows what they are even dealing with – then it is very difficult for anyone to act decisively and confidently. They will be tripping over themselves. There will be a lot of confusion. Wasted opportunities. No assumptions to plan the next move.

Now that I and others know what we are dealing with – the next question is would I begin negotiations with these strikers? No. You cannot allow people to put a gun to your head and then start negotiating. That is not how intelligent people go about the business of managing conflict  – ask yourself a fundamental question what it is a strike? That is to say, what is the goal? It is an act of aggression designed to cripple and disable with a premeditated element of surprise to gain a bargaining advantage. So tell what idiot in his right mind would even walk into negotiations under those lousy conditions? You have to brain dead to do that. In my book it is not so different from a surprise strike like Pearl Harbor. Right or wrong doesn’t even feature in the whole calculation. Once someone pulls that sort of stunt – the rule book goes right out of the window.That is something you deal with in the post mortem and never when the crisis is at the gate. Once a strike takes place, I will have to treat it as an act of aggression. I will sack the whole lot of them and send them packing. TI will not negotiate. Will the innocent be affected? Yes. Will I be hurt financially? Yes. Will services be disrupted? Probably, in the short term. Will my reputation suffer? Yes. Is this the right and moral thing to do? No. But in game theory it is the necessary thing to do. It is the most mathematically efficient decision nexus to maintain the status quo. Perhaps the only thing one can do under those given set of circumstances along with constraints.

As what you need to understand apprentice is the mathematics of necessity would leave me very little choice to consider morality, ethics etc – as in my calculation I cannot afford to think about those 200 workers at all or even their families – rather my focus will be on the million ball park or possibly more workers who may also have similar grievances and may consider taking similar steps to do the same. Never forget they are watching this. They are also performing their calculations. My second concern will be how the Chinanet may be weaponized to transform this into a Dreyfuss affair. That is a very real possibility. It is not theoretical. When I consider the larger picture and play out the various permutations in my mind then this is the only thing I can do, must do. The longer I dilly dally, the more I run the risk of confusing everyone along with creating opportunities for others to exploit. Now it is still possible to establish command and control. Tomorrow, it is 50/50. The day after tomorrow, there are no guarantees – I cannot believe these people do not even know how to crunch numbers.

Now that I have given you a run down, please do not be disappointed by my answer apprentice – I realize this is not the answer that you were expecting from me. I am sorry for that. But I am responsible for your tutelage and one day when you run your own plantation. I genuinely want you to be more successful than me. And that means, you really need to learn how to make these sort of calculations on your feet, instead of behaving like those indecisive procastining idiots. Trust me. This is what will have to happen if the goal is to keep the status quo ante. Every serious man knows it by now. They have gone through the numbers. Game theory never ever produces a if, maybe or perhaps, it is 0 or 1. Neither will I try to pretend to tell you this is a handsome thing either. It isn’t. But I really don’t see the outcome panning out any other way. Not even by so much as one millimeter from what I have just shared with you apprentice.”

Conversation captured in the moors of the Carphatian Steepes in the mineral rich planet of Kildron – relayed by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

“I understand. I understand completely Gentlemen. But please let’s us try to see it from the shoes of a PRC bus driver. Gentlemen permit me to say this all to you in confidence. You cannot blame those PRC bus drivers for doing what they did – you can jump up and down and say that what they did was very unsingaporean or that it goes against our way of life – but say what you like. As when a man comes all the way to Singapore to turn the wheel of life. He doesn’t leave his brains in his village in China. This man has eyes and ears and he will begin to connect the dots. It is perfectly natural for him to compare and contrast his lot with other bus drivers. And when he sees that he is getting less for doing basically the same job that is bound to provoke a deep sense of resentment that he has been short changed.

Now Gentlemen, the question is this foreseeable? That is a question that I will leave to all of you to answer. Only if this happened in Primus with our mineral rights from the Ismuth Blibao, I will have those people who cut this deal standing before a firring squad for gross negligence!

Those of you who regularly read my blog would probably know that I have strong views concerning our opium addiction to cheap foreign labor. In moderation, I happen to believe, it is a good thing. But when foreign workers are brought in without any regard in keeping the demographic balance between natives and foreigners, then I think you are just buying into grief as in the long run that is just unsustainable. As what will eventually happen is the natives will begin to abandon those jobs and this in turn leads to a vicious cycle, where enterprises will find it increasingly difficult to find locals to fill those positions – that is why in certain job sectors in Singapore, it is not unusual for many of my SME friends to tell me, “these jobs our people do not want to do.” And in all fairness they are telling the truth.

That is why in my plantation I always try to employ locals whenever possible. You could even say, I have in place an affirmative action plan where I even pay locals a higher salary than foreign workers from either Indonesia or Bangladesh. This might not make any sense to my accountant – as he keeps telling me this only inflates my fixed cost and cuts into my profit. Now that is because as a bean counter that is how he sees the world – in really only terms of profit, loss and opportunity cost. But as a planter, I cannot allow myself to define organizational and personal success along those myopic parameters. Gentlemen, my point is there is entire sweep of other considerations that needs to be factored into the calculation, if the goal is to turn the wheel of life as a planter smoothly.

Unfortunately, many land owners around my area have been seduced by seeing the world ONLY in terms of profit and loss - after all who doesn’t want to make more money. So many of these foolish landowners have driven out the locals to use cheap foreign workers instead. In the short term no one can deny they seem to reap almost immideate cost benefits along with boosting their profits.

But in the long run Gentlemen, I do not believe it is a very good proposition. As it lacks the first and foremost requisite quality of sustainability. Firstly many of these foreign workers have a completely different set of social cultural values from the local community – so there is bound to be some friction along with misunderstandings with the local community – and let me speak plainly, it is very difficult to manage conflict intelligently under conditions when both sides have virtually nothing in common. But I digress. Let me continue - when the locals are driven out from these job sectors what can only happen is their core competencies along with the master and apprentice system that has always been the means to hand down farming knowledge will be eviscerated. Remember what I said, a job is not just a job – it is network of social and cultural ties that cement people together to create a sense of belonging. It is identity, shared destiny and serves to palliate fears along with nourish the idea of togetherness – so when the locals are driven from a job sector. All this goes poof! It’s gone! And to reconstitute these linkages, networks and hubs again is virtually impossible. And the grief doesn’t end there either – as since these foreign workers have already monopolize those job markets, it is really only a matter of time before they will start holding the landowners balls for better concessions.

Now gentlemen, let’s us all talk like men of the world and not like those robots in PAP. You cannot blame these foreign workers for this attitude anymore than I can blame you, me or for that matter any man for gravitating towards a better way of life – this is after all an indelible part of the human condition. So how is possible to even blame them?

Only my gut feel informs me that these landowners who have placed on their chips on a foreign work force to till their lands may not be all together wise at all. As in the long run they seem to have more problems than me – for one, since foreign workers keep to themselves, it is very difficult to use the community to enforce discipline. Secondly, since they aren’t stakeholders in the well being of the local community, it is very difficult for them to get to do something without hanging a dollar before them. Thirdly, when foreign workers predominate a certain sector, the locals will feel marginalized. As they will have less opportunities to turn the wheel of life and this in turn leads to the gradual erosion of the role of the farmer who has always been the de facto magistrate, benefactor and protector of the young, old and stupid. So what will happen is a gradual break down in the ties that binds farmer with the local community – the locals will begin to steal the farmer’s produce. He will in turn need to erect barbed fences and in this way, the whole idea of community fritters away, till only the law of the jungle rules and it’s really everyman for himself – this if you must know is why these foolish landowners were forced to sell their lands to me.

This is why Gentlemen those rumors you have all been hearing that I engineered the down fall of the mill barons along with references to my imperialistic tendencies are highly exaggerated. Believe me. I didn’t do anything against them. I didn’t have too – they were after all their worse enemies. All I did was pick up the pieces. Surely no Gentlemen here can fault me for doing that.  

As for me no one ever steals my oil palm bunches. Why should they? They are stakeholders! So they will protect my lands from brigands and marauders. The best part is when all of you do this, when there is more opportunity to own more lands – the village elders can only say, give it to that Singaporean, as if we give it to some carpetbagger we will probably get nothing except grief and heart burn. But with him, we can all be assured that together we can all turn the wheel of life will turn smoothly and even hand it down to our children – this man will keep our covenants as he knows how to true this wheel so that it turns without too much fuss.

Do you now see why a job is never just a job. And do you all see why, it profits a man nought to be so blinkered that he chases money at every turn and opportunity like some skirtchaser. My friends plant your seeds in the hearts and minds of others. I guarantee you all. A day will come when you will reap a bountiful harvest.

As for the fool, he will not even understand what I am talking about -  wonder no more why all he seems to be doing these days is putting out fires day and night. And let me tell you all this, it will get worse. As when people taste forbidden fruit – do not for one moment think that they can happily settle for tree bark congee ever again. These people have absolutely no idea what sort of firestorm is waiting for them just around the corner. They have absolutely no idea – and it gives me no pleasure to tell you all, that I have stood there before – in the hottest place in hell in Africa. And when it comes to that, there is really only one thing to do. And even if a winner emerges, it will be a best a Pyhrric victory. But that is only to be expected of fools who put their faith on false gold and throw out the valuable.

Darkness 2012

Excerpt of a conversation with the Interspacing Diplomatic Corps captured in the Hall of Mirrors in the Free French legation zone of Primus Aldentes Prime – relayed by the Mercy Starship KDD Temperance – relayed by the IMG.

Recently Mini Lee mentioned, Singapore can’t go down the ‘red vs blue’ path. He went on to say,

“If Singapore had a blue constituency and a red constituency, I think Singapore will be in trouble.”

Mini Lee was presumably referring to the fractious divide between the Republican and Democratic party that has increasingly attracted it’s share of critics who claim that partisan politics is the main reason holding back America from trumping a lethargic economy.  

However what needs to be emphasized is contrary to what Mini Lee has mentioned there is nothing wrong with the two (or even three) party system – rather to understand why the US political scenery is mired in perpetual disagreement leading to gridlock in policy formulation and implementation – much of this has more to do with run away partisanship which is driven by vested interest rather than what is so often misrepresented, that these problems are actually an accreation of the two party political process.

My point is the fact that politicians from both the Democratic or Republican camp these days seem to be only able to decide on issues through a partisan vantage rather than allowing the best ideas to surface naturally to work its way to pole position through the two party political system, as it should, cannot be denied. But this should NEVER be construed as an indictment of the two party political system. As the root cause of this divide lies within the flawed values that militate against Democrats and Republicans to forge agreement on issues of national importance.

Hence when Mini Lee mentioned, we cannot have a red and blue constituency as this will spell doom and gloom for Singapore. This has to mislead terribly. As the inference suggest the two party political system is an unreliable political template that’s closer to perdition than salvation. And should be avoided at all cost. Nothing can be further from the truth – as to truly appreciate the efficacy of the two party system – it really has to be seen beyond the US Democratic and Republican context to possibly even include so many other perfectly functioning two party systems which continue to operate through out the free world – suggesting that it remains one of the most reliable political templates of producing the good life for citizens along with safeguarding their interest.

The case for encouraging the inception of a two and if possible three party system in Singapore is especially urgent IMHO - as when one considers the abysmal trek record of the PAP in failing to successfully manage perfectly foreseeable fall outs, such as helium high prices of real estate, the escalating cost of living, cut throat competition from PMET FT’s in the job market as well as a general malaise in the middle class who remain helpless as they watch their quality of life fritter away day by day by unmitigated policies that seem to do very little except chase the chimera of growth.

This should prompt us all to consider: why has the PAP been allowed free rein to do the things they do without any discernable benefits to natives – then the case for promoting a two party political system becomes especially urgent. For one a two party political system would serve as a very effective checks and balance against the dominance and excesses of a single political oligrachy that doesn’t see the need for consultation with the electorate beyond supplying them endless streams of soundbites through the propaganda machine, the ST - secondly, political actors would have to argue their case intelligently in Parliament instead of regularly bringing pain to the thinking classes who would normally have to suspend disbelief as they listen to lazy politicians who never ever seem to see the wisdom of preparing their briefs exhaustively. Thirdly instead of the electorate having to subsidize a government that is so bovine that it regularly leverages on the propaganda machine to engineer consent, politicians would have to win on the metier of their briefs (that would certainly be a first).

In short our moribund political system will be revivified by the introduction of a two party system  - but most importantly the advent of the two party (if not three) will herald a new dawn of political maturity, professionalism accountability that is sorely presently lacking - where leaders are forced to put the interest of the electorate FIRST and FOREMOST - as if they fail to do so, they can easily be booted out for a rival party during an election.

The other alternative is of course we settle for what we have today or worst still an Napoleonic style dictatorship – and we all know moving forward by going backwards is no bloody good at all.

Darkness 2012

——————————————————————————————————————

“If you really want to test out whether a single political party can deliver the good life – you don’t need a Phd in political science – all you really need to do is ask yourself a simple question.

Consider this scenario fair ladies. How would it be like to have only one chicken rice shop in your local eatery? Now think deeply about this, since I happen to know Montburan loves kiah fan -  if that vendor decides to serve you only lashings of chicken backside and neck everytime you eat there? – what can you possibly do? Of course you can say, Hey Darkness, I am not a bloody fool, I can elect to eat Mee Rebus, Char Kuey Teow or Mee Pok. But my point is you CANNOT eat chicken rice. And it doesn’t just end there either. Because IF there is only one vendor – whenever he suka suka (feels like it) he will just up the price – now tell me what can you all do? Take it or leave it? So as you can very well see fair ladies, you’re all getting a lousy deal, nes pas? And this logic if you apply to anything in life, it’s virtually axiomatic.

As what you have is ineffect a monopoly. And a monopoly is no bloody good at all! The only people who benefit from a monopoly are the monopolist! Anyone who tells you different you might as well give him mon œil !

So don’t be stupid ladies and just listen to any carpetbagger who comes along and tell you all that having more than one political party will spell the death of Singapore – n’importe quoi! Do you hear me Montburan!..What kinda of kooky logic might that be? I will have you know Montburan if your tits weren’t so delightfully perky, I would probably challenge you to a duel for calling me a Philistine! That is pure and unadulterated rubbish woman! These people must really think I am an emotionless brain dead zombie prancing around with Montburan’s bra’s strapped to my head as brains! If you all fine ladies claim what they say is palpably true then it would have been the West rushing to join the GDR when the Berlin wall came down and not the other way round. And you name will be Olga Lim and mine would be Yuri whathefuckisky. And I will probably be lifting up all your laced skirts for a spot of farmer’s delight. So pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaze fair ladies lah….spare me your sanctimony…I am not guilty of schadenfreude…j’refuse!….gimme a kit kat…..gimme a break lah!

And if you want really want to know why so many things are wrong and aren’t really working well in Singapore ladies - all you have to do is ask yourself a simple question: Why is the ST incapable of churning out anything of readable quality for the thinking segment? Porquoi Montburan? Care to answer? Well if you ladies must really know, it is because it is not so different from that one and only chicken rice shop. It’s a bloody monopoly!

Besides politicians need to be consistent in thought, words and deeds - they need to cohere to at least some semblance of logic, if they claim to be the gold standard of good governance and genuinely want to attract intelligent folk to their ranks. And if they say that competition is good for businesses as it’s the most reliable means to winnow the losers from the winners – then you really need to ask yourself why do they seem so willing to make concessions for themselves when it comes introducing increased competition in the political sphere? Does it even make sense? Think about it! Wouldn’t we all benefit from a competitive political system where politicians who don’t deliver the beef get kicked out of office? I mean why should these people be allowed to have jobs in perpetuity? So to me that whole argument of just doesn’t cut any ice at all!   

I think what we all need to do here is look at the problem of red and blue deeper - and not how it is so often mispresented by politicians or the mind numbing propagandist press – the way I see it, the problem of partisanship doesn’t reside within the model of the two party political system - as it remains very much a Democratic and Republican problem at a DNA level - the problems that we regularly see in American politics is not an accreation of the two party system. There is nothing wrong with that model. It’s good then as it’s good now, good to go like by trusted Toyota landcruiser in conditions of rain or shine – that it seems to treat with an assured indifference ladies. If what Montburan said were really true, then 176 functioning democracies throughout the world would probably have thrown out their parliament and plumbed for a Romanz Napoleanic government at least decade ago. But we are not seeing that at all. Infact, what we are witnessing is a reversal, where power is slowly devolving from a single oligrachy to a multi party system – even our Northern cousins have begun to move towards that direction - Barisan Nasional now has to parlay with DAP and Pakatan and PAS, if they want to stay in power. No one denies there is still plenty of room for improvements. But if you ask most Malaysians you will find that these days the BN seems to be a much more professional outfit that trying darn hard to deliver the good life to their citizens – so as you can very well see for yourselves, competition in the political sphere is a good thing.

Now if we don’t migrate to a multi party system – then what would the alternative be? - do we start cloning Hitler and Mussolini in a petri dish to help us prescribe a cure for the ills of our age! Look no one denies things are seriously bad with the political machinery in America, as both the Democrats and Republicans seem to be hell bent on destroying each other even if it comes at the cost of decamping from saving America. But if you think about it, the main problem has more to do with the value system of these politicians along with probably the goals, visions and missions along with probably how money has of late featured as a key determinant in American politics. Now ladies this is really a topic that I would much prefer to address in a separate essay - but this much I am prepared to share with all of you, both the Democrats and Republicans have really lost sight of why people have even elected them into congress and senate. If you really want to know why things are so fucked up in the US, there you have it. The long and the short - things are so bad that both Democrats and Republicans have decided to dig in into their trenches along rigid partisan lines that they not even interested to look at the merit of the issues any longer – in the language of power and politics, that simply means the sum of what used to unite them is no longer as strong as their division and that is really why the middle ground has been squeezed out. This I fully concede ladies. It’s even conceivable the US political machinery is well and truly busted, kaput, finito, morte, habis. But let us go with the flow and try to take a sweep of a larger political geography to try to get a better perspective on how we should make sense of this hubris. if you look at most functional democracies that may even in some cases have three or more political parties such as Australia, New Zealand, Britian, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland and so on and so forth – what you will regularly see is that NOT a single one of them will subscribe to the idea of unilaterism in the form of only one party – as the two or more party system remains the most reliable way to promote centrism along with perhaps encouraging political parties to find common positions which appeal to wide swaths of the electorate. Contrary to what Mini Lee has mentioned, the two party system is something that we can all really benefit from. As for starters at least we can really have a dialogue or possibly a trilogue. As it is with only one party in power, all they seem to do is to have a monologue.

The way I see it, red or blue cat, who really cares, providing it keeps the mice population to a tolerable level, that is really the only thing that matters to me. By the way fair ladies. This is off topic, but does anyone here happen to have a score of por una cabeza? Just thought I will try my luck?”

Excerpt of conversation captured very recently in a thread in Ekunaba – relayed by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

There is a saying in Kendo that comes to an exponent when he enters the rank of fourth dan.

If you wave your sword around. Then a day will come when someone will ask you whether they can borrow it to cut firewood.

This idiom is instructive to impart to the exponent the value of never ever drawing out the sword UNLESS all diplomatic means have been first exhausted. It is also cited to remind the swordsman that the highest acme of war is to win with the art of persuasion and never with threats. To put it another way, it is encourage the student who now has the basic technical skills to begin to lead others as a master to reflect deeply on the wisdom of using soft power. After all this is what a wise man would do. He would never send mixed messages. First to settle disagreements. He will resort to soft power. He would probably try to reason with the other side first. If reason fails or he is rebuffed or not given the benefit of a level playing field to reply – then by all means take out the sword. Teach him a lesson. Take him to town. No one will hold it against you. As you have conducted your affairs as a gentlemen.

But if the sword is taken out without even any attempt to FIRST try to reason with the party who has transgressed you. Then no matter how righteous or justified you are. Then it could be said even if you win – all you have done despite your best efforts to set the record straight is to pull off the impossible, where a man wins the battle and still manages to lose the war.

Worst still, the serious men of this world will say that this man is an idiot. And a first class idiot at that. A king amongst idiots. As this man has really lost sight of the goal – the goal is not to win the battle, rather it is to win the war – the goal is not to win with threats and fear but to win the hearts and minds.

To do this well a wise man would havw to go with the flow. As it is impossible to win the war of the hearts and minds without first understanding what you are dealing with. When a man does not see the wisdom of going with the flow, all he is doing is sending mixed messages – he will come across as a person who does not seem to know how to do the right thing to win the hearts and minds of others. Such a man can only make others nervous. It is very difficult to respect such a man. As the serious men of this world will say of him, “that man doesn’t know how to wage war. He does not know how to scale threats. Above all he doesn’t even know what tools to get the job done……is it a wonder then that he uses an atomic bomb to kill an ant…..where is the wisdom there?”

Darkness 2012

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“Not too long ago General Yeo highlighted the importance of “going with the flow.” This to me is a very important Dao (way) that should be studied thoroughly. As when I reflect deeply on my own life as a planter – I find that there are really so many restrictions and conventions that I am forced to live with – at times I feel it can be a very corseted existence. But when I ask myself why the planters life is so steeped in tradition. Then I begin to understand that many of these cultural aspects are really remnants of a bygone age of empire. They predate to the age of sail when the British planters came to the Straits to grow rubber. By going with the flow through the ocean of time, it is easy to understand why all estate mansions have 14 foot ceilings and why afternoon tea is so important as to even take precedence over all else. Along with perhaps explaining why planters are always expected to take a nap during the afternoon. Or even why I have to take my place in a temple, mosque, funeral procession, council of elders etc. I have no choice. I have to be there. As my role is written for me by tradition. I have to stand there with my bush jacket to complete the story with others who are also there. That is what it means for a man to go with the flow. It does not mean he is a spineless jelly fish that goes with the prevailing tide. Or a man who is willing to close one eye to injustices and transgressions.

Please be clear here! Because if you think like that, then it is very likely you will not be able to do big things in life. You will all end up like Alvin Tan. In ten years time, Alvin will probably be poor, fat, bald and the worst thing is no decent woman wants to fuck him. No serious man will want to do business with him. Only the riff raff and the yawning bread crowd will mix with him – why? Because this fellow doesn’t know how to go with the flow. Not only that, he has taken the flow and he has desecrated it. So please remember this! Go with the flow.

Let me share with some of you who are preparing to go to Honduras my early experience as a planter. I wanted to change so many things. To improve this and that. This is really my nature. I am a tinkerer. As I really saw so many areas for improvement. But today if you ask me, I have shelved every single one of these plans. Why?

As when a man goes with the flow, he will begin to slowly realize that if he wants to be part of the community. And if he wants to turn the wheel of life smoothly – then he really needs to take on the role of planter very much in the way an actor is only expected to speak the lines that he has been scripted for him by the stage manager.

I am not saying this man does not have any scope to bring about changes – of course he can, but he always does it through the community and the skeleton key that allows him to do this is to first gain access into the hearts and minds. Even then any changes should be done through the community incrementally and not in a sudden and unexpected way that causes people to suffer fainting spells along with high blood pressure. Please write this down and laminate it and carry it in your wallet. This is how it is in estate life. This is how it is in every plantation. I don’t care whether it is North of Kampala or South of Roi Negro or along the rice belt of Kedah or even in the fertile plains of the Shan valley – that is how it is.

And it is the same with the internet. Please do not think the Internet is just an electronic framework. It is not a dead thing. There are fine strands of linkages and networks that connect people, shared beliefs, ethos along with the whole idea of identity. It is a living thing. And this thing has certain quirks, the psyche of the internet for example suffers from a morbid fear of being sued. When the lawyer is standing to serve the writ of summons, he is a cobra and the netizen is like the shivering rabbit. The internet also doesn’t take readily to the whole idea of regulation and zoo keeping either. Netizens value freedom above all else. If one goes with the flow, one may perhaps be able to tease out other historical linkages that accounts for these peculiar quirks along with others – there is certainly a historical chronology that accounts for this type of thinking. That is why when I heard that Andrew Loh was asked by Mini Lee when he was invited to the istana for curry puffs whether regulating the internet is a good idea – I almost fell of my chair! Everyone of us fell off the chair and the phrase then was goodness gracious me! Can you imagine that?

From that moment I knew that the conversation will be still born. At that moment, I realized the battle for the hearts and minds was lost- as to even pose that sort of question to bloggers is really not so different from going out with a date with a girl and asking her, what do you think about anal sex? I want to phrase it that way to convey the shock and awe. Now you certainly cannot blame mini Lee as he is really up there in the clouds in his ivory tower – but I couldn’t help asking myself for days thereafter – why didn’t any of his internet advisors advice him on choosing a better subject to break the ice. You see that was when I really began to question their professionalism. Maybe they just didn’t see the wisdom of going with the flow. They rushed into this thing before they really understood what they were dealing with. Maybe that is why it is so hard to get a real conversation going. Maybe that is why come 2030, we will all still be trying to have a conversation that we should have had in 2012?

Do you all now see how jugular it for our tribe to go with the flow?”

An excerpt of a conversation somewhere along the saffron route in a wadi known as the eye of the needle in the free space port of Prima Maritima in the Planet D’ni – brought to you by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

DUM FATA SINUNT, VIVITE LAETI

November 25, 2012

This is my reply to you on your ill conceived essay, entitled, “The Grass is not always greener on the otherside.”

P.S next time, if you lack the brain power to answer my question, just say so. No need to bar me from commenting or make up stories that I am rude to you. That to me is both impolite and really stupid beyond all belief.

Now please read and learn.

Good day to you.

Darkness 2012

Let me walk you through the chronology of events so that we are both clear. You have written an essay that hinges entirely on a ranking study that is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In this essay you have drawn wide sweeping conclusions concerning why Singapore is the best place in the world to live. 

I happen to disagree with you. As I have stated in 11.40, the Where to be born survey is really only a compilation based on ecometrics key performance indicators such as per capita, longevity, cost of capital, GDP, GNP and other metrics which belong to the stable that we normally associate with classical economics along with country ranking risk analysis and mitigation frameworks. 

MNC’s regularly use these studies as a ball park to ascribe weightings to country risk along with fine tuning their risk mitigation strategies – such as setting optimum hedge percentile risk in arbitrage, cost of capital etc – it’s a benchmark that they can input in their program to run a spreadsheet. That is all it is. Nothing more or less.

Even in commercial farming traders regularly used published studies from Gallup or EIU, they would of course prefer (as historically they have proven to be significantly more accurate and reflective) to use EAAE and FAO studies to help them manage and mitigate country risk associated with the agricultural – hence it’s not uncommon for oil palm traders to set the interest rate and futures capex risk based on the international price of CPO (crude palm oil) much higher in Nigeria than let’s say if one were growing the same crop in Malaysia. As the latter is less stable and the infrastructure is less comprehensive than the former. It’s also used in commercial banking as well, if I want to factor a letter credit in lets say Burma, these country rankings on cost of capital and inflationary risk will be used to calculate the percentage that the merchant bank will give me. In Burma, one has to settle for 10% tops. In Malaysia it is negotiatable to up to 20%. 

My point is these studies have to be seen in terms of their application – when the EIU comes out with a country list and it’s entitled, the best place to be born. It is not meant to be taken literally as the best place to be born. Rather it is based on a set of working assumption that suggest that it SHOULD be the best place to be born PROVIDING those weightings in conditions along with constraints are operable. 

Unfortunately, we all know that in most cases – many of these studies fail to capture with fidelity the reality on the ground – as many of these assumptions are usually negated by other drivers that cannot be captured by the econometric key performance indicators. So the studies are  hardly definitive statements of fact by themselves. They need to be complemented with suppoirting data which are able to capture the qualitative aspects of what is studied to balance the quantitative results. I wonder did you even see find to temper your findings in such a way? As many of the assumptions that would allow us all to draw a definitive conclusion as to whether Singapore is the best place to be born is NOT even factored into the EIU study – hence,  if you want to use this study as a basis to lend credence to the whole idea that Singapore is the best place to live, work and play – then you are really using this study for a purpose that it was obviously not designed for. As any conclusion based on solely this study is merely a vignette at best and NEVER a disquisition.

To put it another way. You are really taking it out of context. It’s really not so different from a man who uses his washing machine as a concrete mixer – the fact that in principle there is very little mechanical difference between a washing machine and a concrete mixer since they both share a drum that rotates does NOT necessarily make a washing machine a concrete mixer – once again, these studies like the EIU studies need to be seen from the vantage of their intended application. Hence for anyone to even draw the straight line conclusion that this studies points conclusively to the fact that Singapore is the 6th best place to grow up is simply a gross misrepresentation bordering on what I can only describe as stupidity of the highest order. I am so sorry if this stings. But there is really no other way to call a spade other than a spade that it is.

And this simply means you have to ask yourself the theoretical question whether perhaps you may have used the wrong support evidence to substantiate many of your points that you highlighted in your essay concerning Singapore. That is really the nub of what I have to say.

The preceptive reader will note, I NEVER disagreed with this study. Infact I went on to state categorically, since they used solely economic metrics to define organizational and personal success, they were indeed spot on from ONLY an econometric standpoint and NO OTHER.

I merely underscored the point, that because these KPI’s and metrics failed to include an entire range of other metrics to capture qualitative intangibles such as the anxieties brought forth by unmitigated immigration of PMET FT’s, the failure to include housing and the cost of owning a car in Singapore, the acute income inequality, the lack of a comprehensive health coverage plan – this study can neither exhaustive or for that matter complete – now if you don’t believe me, you can even write to the Economist Intelligence Unit and they will have absolutely no qualms in informing that what I have just shared with you just happens to be factually correct – as this is how professionals go about the business of condcuting studies, often assumptions are used to delienate the scope and breadth of the studies and it is generally accepted in professional circles whenever the remit of these assumptions are narrowly applied, they are bound to elide all other considerations, thus skewering the end result. 

My point is simply this, one has to be mindful of the limits of using studies, statistics or for that matter any other methodology to draw a definitive conclusion on a thing, let alone something that is as complex as the well being of a nation.

As you can see for yourself. I have already furnished you with supporting evidence as to why I believe this study conducted by the EIU should NEVER be used to substantiate many of the claims that you have made in your essay. Now I would appreciate it, if you could kindly answer my question now in 1.07 PM.

Good day to you Sir and send my best regards to the internet brigade. I have feeling we shall met again. Till then I remain yours truly..

Darkness 2012

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“Everyone has a right to push their propaganda. But you don’t have a right to insult my intelligence. You do not have a right to inflict pain on my grey matter! If you say Singapore is the best place in the world to live. Then I will ask you, best for who?

It is a pertinent question. And let me share with you why. If a person happens to be a multi millionaire and runs an enterprise – then its the best place in the world to do business. As he can literally bring in anyone he wants without hardly all restrictions at all. Unlike America or for that matter any developed country in the G20 where it is first necessary to supply proof that such skill sets cannot be found in the host country – such stringent requirements for job vetting. DO NOT EXIST TO PROTECT NATIVE PMET’S. If he is a owner of a manufacturing enterprise. Then again, Singapore is the best place to be born as that person has ready access to the narcotic of cheap labor.
Even if you happen to be an IT engineer from Bangalore, Singapore is a fantastic place to live. As since employers these days really only care about profit and very little else. They are almost guaranteed a job. And since their fixed cost in India is dramatically lower than what the natives have to regularly pay out for their housing loan, even if they land a relatively low paying job as a PMET, they still good to go.

So the question is really good for who precisely?

Because if you happen to be a lowly paid janitor or a cookie cutter it cant possibly be good for you. As salaries have remained stagnant even when we adjust for inflation and in many cases they are even regressing. And while all this is happening the cost of necessaries keep going up and up. As the government has a policy of passing the buck to the end user like a postman. So it can’t possibly be good for them.

If you happen to be a professional. Your job is no longer secure. And if you should happen to lose your job for any reason. I can almost guarantee you 100%. Your chances of getting back a job with a similar pay these days is zero. As the competition from PMET FT’s is fierce, if not voracious. To exacerbate matters a car that used to cost 100K is now 210K. Tell me has your salaried gone up the difference? How can it possibly go up when there are so many PMET FT’s depressing salaries – so again please. Who is it really good for?

All of know of friends and relatives who have had to go abroad to turn the wheel of life – every family in Singapore knows of someone who has to do this. So again who is it really good for? Government doesn’t want to talk about it – they don’t even want to discuss whether we may have a cataclysmic brain drain. They don’t even bother to find out why are so many professionals voting with their slippers. So who is it really benefitting?

It is not you and me. On that I am very sure – and all I ask is a very simple thing – tell the truth as it is – call a spade a spade. But instead everyday in blogoland we get all these Potemkin sites churning out the glorious and happy fairytale of golden hamster wheel.

And do not think Gentlemen this is a funny thing – it may appear comical like those soviet presses that once gloried life behind the iron curtain even when all their citizens could do was dream about scaling barbed wire fences, tunneling, hot air ballooning or how to fit into a briefcase just to escape to the West. As when a lie is repeated again and again. At some point it will become the truth. And that gentlemen is the truth and nothing but the truth.”

(Extract of a conversation somewhere in the Temple of Reason in Primus Aldentes Prime – relayed by the IMG)

This seems to be such a simple question. Yet there seems to be an abstract quality about it – it is as though we are looking at a thing through bullet proof glass. We all know what the dictionary meaning of the term “emotion,” implies. But if we really search ourselves – we can’t seem to get a firm grip on what it really means when we are labelled the most emotionless people in this world.

I guess it is only someone like me who will think about such questions at a deeper level – and one reason for this has to do with the e-book, I am currently writing. It is a story of a middle management banker who got retrenched and after a prolonged period of languishing in between jobs – he decides to drive a taxi. He tells himself it’s only tie him down for this lean period. It wouldn’t really be a permanent thing. Something better will come along. But as his meter clocks away and time goes by – and more time ticks away – like the many street lamps this taxi driver passes so does the chastening passage of time. Till it dawns on him, this may after all be his life. His only means to the turn the wheel of life.

The taxi driver would often say to himself at the end of the shift. “It may be a hamster wheel, but at least I get my daily grub.” Something has died in this man, it has frittered away. But even he doesn’t know what it is – soon each day resembles a series of prayer beads. Each day comes and go with the regularity of one bead being caressed and slipped over again and again – there is no beginning and no end. It’s an endless litany of pick up’s and long stretches of searches. He even regularly dreams about being stuck in a traffic jam. This goes on and on. Day by day. Till one day, this ex banker and newly reincarnated taxi driver no longer begins to ask whether perhaps he could even do anything else any longer except drive a taxi. He has given up.

One day he picks up a well dressed woman. She’s talking over the phone – it’s an arbitrage deal requiring cross financing. He knows that area like the lines on his palm. He strains to follow the conversation further. Something whirls in his mind, like a dusty old pistol being cocked. He shares what he thinks to the woman who seems unable to hide that look that says it all, “what do you know. You’re just a taxi driver.” But mid way through, she realizes the taxi driver has a point – she doesn’t need to cut the deal that way. This might work. And she begins to wonder who is this man? Really who is he……and what door has this taxi driver opened? Will it lead to his salvation or destruction?

It’s really a story about lost and found – but enough of that. I digress really.

In the process of trying to flesh out the character of the main protagonist. I had a lot of trouble trying to imagine the litany of driving a taxi. So one day when the world’s laziest journalist and her lazier editor rolled out the fairytale of the $7,000 taxi driver in our beloved daily rag. And the story washed up on blogoland. I dropped by into James Lim’s blog – diary of a Singapore taxi driver and just asked him.

.…..Tell me James. I want to know how it’s like for you to drive a taxi. I want to really know deep down how’ its like. Can you please share with me what goes through your mind before, during and after your shift. Please I hope you will not consider my request an imposition.

You see James, in my next book. I am considering featuring a taxi driver as the main protagonist.

I would consider it a personal favor, if you could humor a farmer who spends most of his time alone in the evenings all by himself in his plantation.

Darkness 2012

31 October 2012 18:14
Lim James said…
Hi Darkness 2012

You really want to know what is really deep down in my heart and mind during my shift?.

From the start, I must say that I’m
just one among thousands of taxi drivers and my thoughts definitely are not representative of others. Each one of us has different motivations and comes from different background and are unique individually.

Anyway, I’ll do you a favor and write what goes into my mind right now without edit.

Ok, I hate begin a taxi driver and wish I could do something else to make a living. On the other hand, it’s an easy and sometime fun job. So, my feelings shift frequently. I envy my friends who are do not have to work for a living now as they had accumulated retirement fund or are running their own business with good social standing. Taxi drivers are not like MP with good social standing. But than I’m glad that I’m healthy with a good family.

I must get to the wheel each evening albeit reluctantly because I committed to pay rental and had place food on the table and enjoy my occasional beer with puff. Once behind the wheel, I’m focused to do a good job. Each passenger I got made me feel good and when they left I felt lousy as I had to hunt for another “prey” like a hunter. I felt most “miserable” when I missed a passenger to someone else. But I moved on. I look at my taking and watch constantly. If had enough collection or earning for a shift, I’m tempted to break and call it a day at my handout at coffee shop with my buddies. Here, with my comrades, I felt most happy.

Sorry, Darkness. It’s late. Need to stop and get to my wheel. Bye.
31 October 2012 20:47

I began to reflect deeply on James’s reply – and now that I have been told we hold the accolade of being the most emotionless people on this world. This only serves to confirm what I have always suspected all along – it’s pithy summary of our times and if I had to point to one reason why most in the marginalized classes feel the need to insulate themselves with emotionless detachment. It has to be because it is so terribly expensive these days to be emotional. As any form of emotional attachment requires commitment – and how can anyone who is turning the wheel of life these days be really committed to anything when it seems the center is giving way? I sense a ground well that many are beginning to reach the realization that it’s getting harder and harder these days to turn the wheel of life in Singapore. Uncertainty about the future can only sharpen the sense of anxiety brought forth by fear – fear of losing ones job – fear of not being able to be a provider. Fear that one may suddenly be overwhelm by missing a foot amd falling on the treadmill of trying to keep up woth the frenetic pace of change that seems to shrink the power of the dollar day by day. Fear can only lead to anger. Anger to suffering. And suffering can only lead one to feel nothing. An emotionless state where one simply tries the very best to bear the unbearable.

As the main protagonist in my new book who regularly dreams about getting stuck in the traffic jam puts it “It may be a hamster wheel, but at least I get my daily grub.” To put it another way, when fear takes hold long enough, then even the best of us dare not dream beyond tomorrow. All that matters is really matters is to keep to the endless litany of an emotionless existence.

Darkness 2012

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“If you look around in blogoland these days. You will find alot of Potemkin sites that exist solely to promote what’s churned out my the propaganda machine – let me tell you why this is happening. As there is a great battle for that grey material in between your ears. The propagandist want to plant a flag in your brain. Now you know why Bertha Harian keeps begging us all to buy this or that paper. It is really a battle for the hearts and minds. And since no one these days really takes the ST seriously – what these people have to do is project online.

That is fine with me – as reading is really self selecting – only for me I value my brain. As without my brain there is very little I can do. Without the ability to see the events unfolding accurately, it is doubtful that I can even steer my business successfully – so for me, I simply cannot afford to read propaganda. As it can only mislead and cloud my powers of judgement. To me propaganda is poison! But even if you should regard the ST as impartial, objective and the purveyor of the truth and nothing but the truth.

As a reasonable man even you have to ask – why is it whenever there is a negative poll about Singapore = it is always conveniently explained away as a abberation or plain rubbish. But if it is a poll that paints the PAP in a glorious light, then they take the gongs and drums out and beat it again and again till all of us need to take two panadols and rub our temples with tiger balm. What is happening here? Are they trying to say to all of us that, all polls that paint Singapore in an unfavorable light are dubious and suspect? Do you all notice this happens almost every time without fail – or is it just me?

But my friends these days these propagandist are getting smarter, they even use reverse psychology by getting a white trash to write a counter commentary to lend credence what they have to regularly forward. To me this is very disturbing as what this suggest is these people are in a state of denial – when someone is in a state of denial, it is not so different from an alcoholic who doesn’t believe he has a drink problem. It is very difficult for this man to reform or even see any motivation to change his lifestyle.

That is why whenever one comes across a negative poll – it is best to reflect deeply on it and not be so quick to shoot it down – and to even ask ourselves whether this is really a problem and if so how best can we go about solving it to improve our lot. This is what wise people do. What they don’t do is dismiss it as rubbish or just something spurious automatically – only very arrogant people who believe they are always right and people who don’t see the value for continuous improvement will regularly do this. And they are silliest people in town. If you follow them. I can almost guarantee you that you will probably end up in debt and panting away in your hamster wheel. Now you know why I have not read the ST for nearly 5 years. Not even casually. As stupidity is contagious, worse still once you have developed the bent of hearing only the good news and even start living the happy life when you are munching on mud cakes and tree bark congee, it must means, your mind is no longer yours. It has been appropriated. In which case, you really need to press the pause button and ask yourself – are you just existing or are you really living? Maybe what you really have is the illusion that you’re living, when in fact all you’re doing is just existing.”

To a farmer, the process of change is like rain. I much prefer a light drizzle to a big downpour. As a light drizzle will moisturize the land and nourish the trees. Whereas a downpour can only bring landslides and erode away fertile top soil.

As you can all see. In farming it is possible to have too much of a good thing – rain after all just like the process change is a double edged sword.

This dao can be used when one goes about the business of proposing to change a thing – it doesn’t matter what is to be changed – it could be a character flaw, something that is holding back a firm or even making policy adjustments for a country.

Only understand this! BEFORE one rushes off to change a thing, it is best to first take the trouble to understand it for what it is and not what others have told you, it is – as when you look at a thing or for that matter anything long enough, then what you are really doing is “going with the flow.” And this will allow you to see the thing for what it is without any remnants of illusion that may cloud your judgement- in this way, when you set about the process of change – you will already know what tools you need and how to get the job done. Along with other considerations, like whether it is a good thing to even change it.

The dao of “Going with the flow” is the skeleton key that allows you to reflect deeply on HOW you may go about changing a thing. But even then should you decide on the path of change – do so incrementally like a light drizzle. Do not go about changing things like a tsunami or a thunderstorm – if you do that, you are likely to encounter resistance and end up creating more enemies than allies. This is why in the art of war, it is written.

“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”

Most practitioners of war I noticed can rattle the 5th discipline without too much fuss – but when you ask them what this really means – they have no idea. That is why they are none the wiser for it.

In sword play – an experienced swordsman does not just cross swords with any stranger who walks into a fencing hall. Only a bloody fool does that. First, the master swordsman will examine the form, symmetry and style of this stranger – he will ask himself what school does he come from? Who is was his master? He may even make a few calls to check up on this fellow – he may even allow the juniors to fence with this stranger to study his temperament – is he gentle with them in the way those who have acquired confidence always chooses to allow those who are less accomplished than him to hit him? Or is he trying too hard to show what a good swordsman he is? The master may even invite the stranger to supper to further understand what sort of man he is dealing. My point is in every case, one is going with the flow.

It is only AFTER “going through the flow,” that the master swordsman will consider whether it is a wise proposition to cross swords with the stranger or to say to him,

“It is not every day that such a prestigious swordsman comes to my humble fencing hall. Please I must insist that you lead us for this session.”

If the stranger is indeed a master swordsman in disguise. He will decline this offer politiely. If he is a man who does not know the art of war – his ego will get the better of him and he will rush to accept this offer only to be defeated by the master swords man.

And again this is how it is when a man goes about trying to change a thing. IF he scales it all wrong, then the chances are – he will be overwhelm and all his attempts to change that thing will fail miserably or cause so much grief that it will come back and bite him.

But if a man is cool headed about the whole business of change – then he will always be “going with the flow,” as this allows him to gauge what methods he should best use to get the job done. Above all going with the flow will allow this to evaluate whether that which he has set his mind to change will produce more good, than harm.

Research and study this well. As it applies to dealing with trouble teens, difficult members of the family, dysfunctional teams and people who always talk about introducing change in the office. It can also apply to tractor maintenance and how to fix mechanic problems associated with firearms along with cultivating friends.

Darkness 2012

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“No one in blogoland is saying to the PAP, that they should NOT pursue a policy of growth – by all means grow. But what needs to be done is for someone in the leadership of PAP to press the pause button and ask whether they are going about the business of growing a thing in the right way – to put it in another way, the question is not whether they are chasing the right goals. That is already given. But are they pursuing those goals in a way such a way that adds or subtracts more from the quality of life. Are they producing more good or bad in this relentless pursuit of growth?

That is all everyone in blogoland is asking. Nothing more or less. So why are people in PAP hearing voices? Why do they keep on framing the question in terms of you are with me or against me on the issue of growth. Haven’t I already told you that we are on the same page when it comes to the question of growing the economy?

But if the cost of pursuing a strategy of growth means that natives have to be the one’s losing out in terms of quality of life and breaking free from the bondage of perpetual debt brought forth by helium high housing and COE’s. And if they are marginalized by PMET FT’s in job opportunities, education, housing, health along with having settle a significantly lower standard of life. If the cost of pursuing growth means the rich get super richer and the middle class begin to spiral towards the glorious life of the taxi driver- then you are really have to ask yourself whether the people who are responsible for pursuing this strategy of growing the economy even know what they are doing. Do they even know how to go about the business of changing a thing? Perhaps they have not through this aspect of change – the dimension that creates shattered dreams and even triggers a diaspora in the shape and form of our frittering brain drain. Or maybe worst still, some idiot there considers this a cost that has to be paid to prosecute on the idea of grabbing growth at every turn and opportunity. Or maybe they are simply never “gone with the flow” before – no has ever stepped back and stilled their minds to really ask. What happens when I cram in so many people into this small rock? What will be produced where people from every class and nationality form the raw material of this experiment? and when a man does not “go with the flow” BEFORE changing a thing by asking himself these questions – then it could be said, he lacks wisdom and he is really no different from a bloody juggling live hand grenades.

I give you all the facts you decide for yourself.”

Recently Nobel Laureate, Michael Spence wrote a flattering piece entitled, Lessons from S’pore for China’s new leaders. This essay IMHO misleads  – but before I dive into the salient. It’s worth mentioning that Michael Spence is undoubtedly a very brilliant economist. As stellar probably as two other economist who once received the Nobel prize and were jointly responsible for one of the largest arbitrage fold ups in US stock market history. For those of you who have not heard of LTCM, I’ll give a brief history. LTCM was a hedge fund that existed from 1994 – 2000 composed of people largely considered to be savants. It was staffed by two PhDs, Nobel laureates who credentials mesmerized Wall street –  Myron Scholes and Robert C. Merton who are known for the Black-Scholes-Merton Option Pricing Model and received Nobel prizes for their work. LTCM was wildly successful for several years with annualized returns in excess of 40%. Then, in a matter of just four months in 1998, the fund imploded when their models failed to account for several major events worldwide. The purpose of highlighting the swan dive of LTCM and the role of Scholes and Merton along with juxtaposing on the essay written recently by Michael Spence is not to cause intellectual offense. Rather it’s instructive to always remind ourselves that even the “best” minds can get it so wrong – the perceptive reader should always keep this in mind.

Now let’s dive in – why is Michael Spence wrong? Simple. China is simply too big to generalize – for anyone who has done business in China or even knows the country along with its nuanced economic, social, cultural and political history, to even suggest that China leaders NEED to learn from Singapore simply doesn’t make one molecule of sense to me at all. As by virtue of China’s sheer size, diversity along with the complexities of having to manage 5 autonomous regions – it’s really not even an apple to apple comparison.

And judging for the stellar rise of China along with the studied manner in which their leaderLs have been able to successfully steer such a big country without having to suffer many of the social side effects commonly experienced in miniscule Singapore – it could well be, Singapore needs to learn from China and not the other way round. After all it’s finally official now, in an emotional world, Singapore is comfortably numb, reports  Bloomberg Newsweek, citing  Gallup surveys which found Singapore was the most emotionless society in the world and that to me just puts everything in the correct perspective along with throwing what Michael Spencer has to say along with what Scholes and Merton once proclaimed as “elegant theory” right out into the compost heap.

Darkness 2012

 

“Gentlemen. Knowledge is of course important. But there is one thing that stands higher than even knowledge and that is understanding of a thing. Now what do I mean by this? Not too long ago General Yeo mentioned, Beijing is studying our political system, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and how it is responding to the general election in May last year.  But get high yet.  Read further what General Yeo had to say – he said, there is also scope for the PAP to look to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for lessons, such as how the latter prepares promising leaders to take on more responsibilities. When the reporter asked him why Singapore, a young nation of just over five million, is of interest to China, an ancient civilisation with 1.3 billion people, General Yeo replied: “For China, Singapore is  sometimes seen as a bonsai, but one with genetic similarities.”

Now there is a treasure trove of wisdom to be mined in this one compact retort, more than all the alphabets put together in what Michael Spence has to say – a bonsai is a small potted plant. Size is scale and that simply means, you need to put it all in scale – that simply means, for every lamp post we put up in Singapore, there are probably 100,000 lamppost that needs to be erected in China. For every geo-political situational threat that we have, there are probably 10,000 such threats that Chinese leaders have to regularly parlay with. So how can it be an apple to apple comparison? If anything it is like a ciku and durian comparative. How does one even reach a consensus on the assumptions - so as all of you can very well see for yourself, there is no basis to even begin a comparative study. Let alone propose that a country like China NEEDS to learn from Singapore. I bet if you speak to all the flies on the walls in Beijing, they are probably laughing their wings off - they r probably saying to themselves, another derellict academic looking for someone to pen the foreword to his new book about Asia. And this is how I see it, as if you reduce everything right down to only measuring personal and organization to GDP terms, then Michael Spence is 100% right – but we all know only too well how blindly chasing the rainbow of GDP has been the source of so much misery for so many Singaporeans – so this whole idea of comparing Singapore with China is really quite ludicrous – as when you compare and contrast the sheer difference in the scale, diversity and emerging challenges between China and Singapore  – I think what General Yeo had to say was very directional and instructive as to me he is trying to remind us of the facts of keeping it all in the right perspective, whenever we come across flattering comments, even if they happen to be of the Nobel pedigree, “don’t be so ya-ya papaya lah! If people look at you and take the trouble to zoom into your good points – it doesn’t mean they are out to emulate you 100%. It just means, they are very considerate and polite people who prefer not to mention the undesirable aspects of how you run your house. So don’t be an bloody fool and try to get political mileage out of it. Be humble lah!” This makes perfect sense to me.

And this especially true of the China leadership and probably a feature that is so well embedded in the Communist psyche.

You know when I was studying my master’s degree in Derby there was this time – I worked in Rolls Royce turbines – and there was a big Chinese contigent in my class, as it was a very quantitative discipline and so many of them excelled in this field – we got along really well. As they were all farming stock. So we had alot in common and spoke regularly about tractors, pumps, irrigation, life stock and pickling etc. I have always had a fetish for farming. Now during that period, China was really just beginning to transition – so many of these PRC students still had remnants of what I can only describe as socialist underpinings and thinking. And one aspect of this way of seeing the world means that they realize only too well, that they are using a decrepit ideology to transition into a free market economy – if you speak to Chinese bureaucrats at a senior level, they are always very mindful of this fact. They know that there are real limits to using communism as a reliable means of creating the good life for their citizens – they know this so well that you could even say they suffer from an acute inferiority complex whenever they speak to anyone who comes from a free economy. As the whole idea of communism and the free market are diametric opposites that can never be reconciled – it’s a fundamentally unnatural union. So when one suffers from that sort of mindset – one is constantly on the look out to shore up the system – my friend, who later on rose to a very high position in the Chinese Railway once described this very beautifully as a condition, “where it is like a man living in a very old Hu Tong and trying to install modern plumbing.” The metaphor is very powerful and although I am translating it into English, I think so much is lost – as when he said this in Putong Hwa, what he really meant to say was, Communism is really a way of life in China and it’s not really a changeable thing, not in our life time at least, so they are constantly searching to find ever more inventive ways to do the best they can with out upsetting the things that they have to live with – that same evening after our life changing conversation. I played a recital of butterfly lovers – and since the maestro was a man who didn’t really appreciate the sonic arrangement of the score and considered it, “structurally unsound.” I was slotted last after a very long intermission. Just as well, as I happen to have carrot fingers – most of the crowd had begun to leave when I began the solo concerto – but my Chinese friend and the rest of Chinese students stayed on – when I had finally finished, they were the only ones there as rest of the crowd had moved on – and I remembered turning to him after and saying to him rather dejectedly, “I feel like a man who has to live in a very old Hu Tong and trying to install modern plumbing.” That is to say, at that time, it was really quite impossible for the Western music toffeenose crowd to understand the musicality of this piece – as they don’t know the plot of the story between 梁山伯 and 祝英台. They don’t even know what is a erhu – so they cannot understand why anyone would play a violin with slids to an unusual instrumentation: 2-2-2-2 – 4-2-3-0 – timp, 3 perc. Or even why the score needs to run twenty pages and is divided into three sections -  or why the composer felt the need to incorporate higher notes to  conjure up images of misty mountains, waterfalls in a peaceful serene morning when the lovers first met and the low notes represent the valleys, then the next few bars where the flautist plays a trill, it represents butterflys flitting and bird singing. And since its an adaptation of folkmusic, there is also the part when the baddie turns up when the shrill appears followed by the brass. Neither do they realize when the tuba appears in the second section it represent the torment of the lovers and girl’s family rejection of the relationship. To me there is so much more musicality expression here than even Stravinsky and Debussy put together - all this is lost when there is no understanding of the plot. Or even any attempt to understand the subtlety of the nuances – that is really my point, knowledge without understanding is truly worthless. As here you have a bunch of accomplished musicians who don’t suffer from my affliction of carrot fingers and they cannot even use their prodigious wealth of knowledge to understand a thing for what it is - and this to me is really a metaphor of how superficially the West regularly sees China.

Only I know it to be very different that is all. But I digress gentlemen.

Many years later when we sat on the new Maglev train in Shanghai bulleting towards the city center – I asked my friend again whether things had changed in his old Hu Tong – it had become a sort of private joke between us and he looked around at the spanking new Alstom train from Germany and said, “No brother, it is still a very old Hu Tong, only the world seems to be going faster around us.” And I knew exactly what my old friend meant. I understood completely. I think you really have to be Chinese to understand the deeper meaning of this conversation Gentlemen.”

Excerpt of a conversation captured in the Sardonyx trenches along the 159th Parallel with the officers corps of the Sardokhan – relayed by the Magneto class scientific deep space cruiser – KDD Rumoro 3 – brought to you by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.   

PLEASE NOTE: THE BROTHERHOOD IS CURRENTLY UNDER FULL MEASURED RESPONSE MODE

 

 

“Gentlemen, if war is inevitable in the internet. Then I think we have to make every effort to explore all diplomatic avenues to avert it. We need a face to face meeting with the decision makers who have launched this cracked brain idea. We need to impress upon them the gravity of this matter along with bringing to their attention how this will only serve to fuel a classical Richardson arms race online. We need to sit them down on a table in a clearing in an oil palm estate at dawn and reason with them as best we can. As to why it pays out nought to prosecute this war online. As a war in the internet is a costly, time consuming and destructive enterprise and no one can really win it decisively. At best it will a Phyrric victory. At the very worst, it will degenerate into a war of materiale attrition that will only exacerbate mistrust and destroy everything that is good about the internet. Either way one chooses to cut it – it is lose/ lose – It is really only a matter of losing big or small that is all.

Now I happen to believe these people who run the internet brigade must have approval at an executive level to do what they are doing – otherwise how could they have possibly manipulated the propaganda machine to promote that train driver. Along with arranging for him to have a chit chat with ministers. So let us not kid ourselves – these people do have a copper clad mandate from the custodians in power and they are definitely not the lunatic fringe. There is every reason to believe, they have very clear and defined goals along with perhaps a coherent method to accomplish their primary objective.

Now Gentlemen, even if all diplomatic efforts to avert war fails - all is not lost. As even under those dire circumstances, we can still negotiate for both sides to buy into the rules of ngagement to prosecute this war in a civilized way. As without civility even in war – hell will be unleashed.

As a sign of good will, we will blank out all that we know of the train driver and his motley crew. You have my solemn word as a gentlemen. Hopefully, from this, they are able to make out that we are prepared to live and let and live. Only moving forward. We need to sit down in the real world. Not the virtual or in Facebook. As I really do not believe they know what they are getting into – Gentlemen, this is a matter of great urgency not only for the internet, but also for the well being of Singapore as well.

We need to set aside our emnity and mistrust and sit down and talk like human beings. Otherwise there is clear and present danger all this will go out of control and we will all be reduced to animals.

Gentlemen, I have seen this carnage unfold in the vast expanse of the China blogoland before – and I must tell you all, it is not a very handsome sight. Now all that remains is for us to find a way where we can sit down and discuss this matter like civilized folk.”

Excerpt of a conversation somewhere in the Great Hall of the Temple of Reason in Primus Aldentes Prime – relayed by the Dimitri Class Space Station KDD Eng Neo – courtesy of the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

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‘When you look at the Chinese firewall today – what you really need to understand is it’s really a mega project in every practical sense of the word. To understand how this giant digital panopticon came about. What you need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the mathematical model of how an arms race is triggered, in this case between the citizenry and the communist hegemony – its not as simple as Annie get your gun’s, “anything you can do, I can do better.” That unfortunately is how most lay people see the whole idea of an arms race – if you speak to someone who is numerate and has a flair for numbers. What they will actually tell you is that it is not a straight linear graph line that keeps going upwards in perpetuity based on always logical reasons or even trade offs – as a certain point in any arms race, even the raison detre or goal begins to liquify from something absolute to perhaps only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitor. And when this point is reached what invariably transpires is goals, missions and visions begin to blur imperceptibly to a point where both sides can’t even tell you why they are doing the things they do – in other words, other interest take over just as perhaps defense companies have every incentive to perpetuate the whole idea that governments need to always buy better killing machines and one reason for that is because the institutions that are responsible for the arms race begins to get so big that they are able to exert a disproportionate influence on the whole supply chain of interest and sub interest. Now this is something that I noticed first hand when China began dabbling with the ways to engineer consent online when they struggled to get a handle on the advent of the internet - in the early days the Chinese government were particularly inventive to the point of recklessness and they experimented with a host of models to engineer consent. Everything from starting fake blogs to popularize policies to white washing undesirable aspects of their administration. This is perfectly understandable as the internet must have been very scary thing to the leadership when it first made its appearance in China. But one of their critical mistakes that sparked off the internet arms race was when they dabbled in this form of electronic zoo keeping what they did was instead of allowing the internet to grow organically into a online community, they sparked off an arms race that finally culminated in the creation of the great Chinese firewall.

What is significant here is to understand that the Chinese firewall was not actually conceived as an apparatus of censorship per se. Rather it had to be created to interdict many of the threats brought forth my their covert policy of trying to engineer consent online – by promulgating the idea that it was possible to elevate the whole idea engineering consent into a science through online survelliance. What they inadvertently created was counter survelliance.

One reason why the citizenry were able to successfully to develop digital tools to counter covert state policies was because there was already a relatively mature online gaming community within China who could easily retrofit many of their programs to serve as countermeasures – and this precipitated a shift where gamers turned their code writing skills to counter government efforts to control the online community thus creating the need for a firewall. During the infancy of the internet in China, amongst these gamers who regularly created these countermeasures there was no real mission to speak about except probably the notion of trying to out smart the system. Along with probably exposing the many of the Potemkin sites created by the Chinese internet brigade masquerading as either anti government forums or some Bohemian underground hide out – and the government for its part began to up the ante by pouring men and materiele to keep up with this new underground class of mavericks. Now what you need to understand is these aren’t your ordinary crop of gamers. In today’s terms they are probably your level 70 World of Warcraft championship gamers – of importance here is a need to understand these ronins don’t move alone in the virtual. They have guilds along with the entire network. The arms race between netizens and the communist regime really only spiked when improvements in technology allowed them to network with foreign gamers who suddenly began to drop what they were playing when they realized drilling holes in the Chinese firewall offered a far more exciting gaming experience – this in turn forced the government to spend more money building higher walls that stretched further to interdict these networks. so in effect, when we talk about the Chinese fire wall today and try to understand why it is so big as to even defy all attempts at trying to scale it – what you really need to understand is, these idiots actually created the best game in the whole world. A game that is so highly evolved that it even comes complete with a fully functioning economy that is able to reward and renumerate anyone in the world that can actually provide a better code to serve as an electronic countermeasure as the latest drill bit, grappling hook or tunnelling kit to any Chinese who wants to take a chance on scaling it.

What needs to be emphasized here is gaming isn’t really gaming as it remains a very good training ground to spawn perhaps the most proficient cyber savvy sleuths – this is especially the case for those who know not only how to play games but also have the added knowledge to write code. To accelerate the arms race between citizens and the communist government to renewed heights. Many of these gamers had no problem buying codes and programs that could allow them to by pass the Chinese fire wall. Gaming platforms just like perhaps the fabled ghetto became centers of distribution and forums where code writers could exchange valuable know how with foreign code writers – this proved expedient for most Chinese code writers as they could pay for digital countermeasures in monopoly money – the sums transacted were not by any means small . Not when one consider that the cummulative transactions that occured in a game like Norrath during the 90′s was equivalent to the GNP of Russia – many of these foreign code writers had no problem creating clearing houses in the virtual to convert monopoly money into real money by either selling virtual gold or laundering them through e-bay. Fast forward today, when we talk about the Chinese firewall in the gaming context it’s no longer just a problem between Chinese citizens and the state any longer, it has really become an enterprise of sorts. Coupled with the illicit thrill of taking on Goliath that has to be a very exciting business proposition to anyone who knows how to write code. Not when one considers taking on the Chinese firewall is really the ultimate game that demands the highest level of cerebral fitness. A game that even comes with real penalties of languishing in a Chinese jail. A game that if played well can even make you into a multi millionaire (tax free) and above all, a game that you know, that everyone is probably just as good as you. No weekend warriors. Strictly for professionals only like the solid gold VIP roulette wheel of the Casino de Monte Carlo where it is not uncommon to find that creed of man who will risk everything on one throw of the dice - perhaps even the only game in town Gentlemen.

A game that today the Chinese government has no other choice but to continue playing 24/7. If it wants to remain in power. Because if one day, they decide not to play the game – it’s really game over for the whole lot of them. As this is the only way to contain the malevolent forces. The only to keep the lid on Pandora’s box. And this is really the worst case scenario for any government. The sum of all their fears even gentlemen - so I hope this explains why when we speak of the Chinese firewall, context is vital – it is not primary a means of filtering information. As it remains the only tool for the Communist regime to prevent the free and unfettered import and export of code writing information that would erode their hold on power.

And we are beginning to see the first chapters of this game being played out in blogoland in Singapore. Most people don’t see it; they wouldn’t even recognize it, if it came right up and plonked themselves in their computer screens. This is because the social political blog scene has largely developed organically relatively free from government inspired covert actions. Regrettably of late there has been a shift. We are beginning to see a host of Potemkin sites and even renewed efforts by government to project online using methods which are closely associated with spycraft.

Only governments should understand this! Spycraft begets spycraft! Online surveliance begets counter survelliance! Information gathering begets disinformation! Unleashing the internet brigade begets a counter insurgency force etc. My point is for every action there is a reaction. Now do you all understand why this best explained in terms of an arms race? As things never ever stay the same. Especially when governments are dumb enough to muck around with things they don’t fully understand. Neither is there a shortage of expertise or experiential knowledge either in Singapore or for that matter elsewhere that cannot gainfully make sense of government covert attempts to create a beach head in the online world.

Keep life simple. If you want to project into blogoland. Just be yourself. If you are not too confident with the level of risk. Then stay where you are. No need to create Potemkin sites masquerading as bona fide aggregators (that incidentally take the weekend off) or bloggers to forward a hidden agenda. Keep life simple. Just be comfortable in your own skin and be yourself. Otherwise there is always a danger that someone who has seen all this before and much more will just come along and put you all in your place – and where will you really be then?”

Excerpt of a conversation captured somewhere in the super structure of the Deep Space Free French Tiberius class Starcruiser – Les Enfants Du Paradis – relayed by the IMG.

Singapore is the Israel of South East Asia??????? Ha ha ha and another ha! Now we all have confirmation that academics in Yale regularly smoke Ganja and blog surf! Let’s dive in!

I am sure we have all seen it too often. Usually it happens, when we follow behind as the guy in front walks up to receive the gold medal. Or after reading a seminal thesis that just leaves us all wondering, “why didn’t I think of cutting it that way?”

You know who I am talking about don’t you? Nope, not our elite homegrown Singaporean Scholars – I am referring to another bunch of elites! You know the likes of  Einstein, Marx and Freud. Who are these elites?

The Israeli’s of course! The Jews. Have you ever wondered why those Jews are so bloody darn smart? They even make our scholars look like a bunch of intellectual paraplegics? What do those Jews really have? What’s behind their mojo, that gives them that advantage that allows them to run circles around our scholars, not every time, but all the time?

Do you really want to know their secret for success?

Before we dive in lets face it, most of us half believe and don’t, that Jews are really smart people, its one of those bag statements like: why did the chicken cross the road? Or how many monkeys can you fit into a mini? Those statements that belongs to the half way house of reality and implausibility – cut to the chase: are Jews really smarter than our scholars? Mmmmh, that’s a tough nut to crack isn’t it? After all don’t we have a scholarship program? Doesn’t our government regularly cull the crème de la crème and put them through the paces to produce “winners?” Don’t we even have a “nurture nature” program where we use the metaphor of “guppies” and “whales” to hopefully produce really smart people?

Pray tell then, why aren’t our scholars smarter than the Jews?

Now you may think this is some flippant weekend muse, but think again. I am asking a perfectly valid question. After all millions are spent every year on sustaining the scholarship program – many of these scholars after finishing their academic tenure are integrated into the various institutions with the hope of ensuring peak individual and organizational performance. So the scholarship program even affects those who aren’t directly scholars. How do these scholars really measure up when compared to the Jews?

Do the Jews have a comparative advantage because they’re simply more of them and less of us? After all, we all know our paltry population is hardly the stuff of critical mass. There’s only 3 point so-so million of us hardly even a drop in the sea of humans so hey what do you expect? It’s a numbers game you don’t really expect us to win. Right? Nope, in fact, I did some research and came up with some startling figures which suggest, the cerebral fitness of Jews has absolutely nothing to do with numerical superiority. Consider this: out of 25.2% of Nobel Prize Winners in the last 25 years have been Jews. Even though they comprise less then a quarter of one percent of the world’s population!

OK maybe they have some sort of natural advantage that our scholars don’t have – maybe a big fat clue lies in the old country where those Jews came from. When God was still prancing around earth turning wine to water, parting oceans, wasting whole communities with lighting rods and mega floods? Maybe the Jews have a “divine advantage.” I mean how the hell, do you expect our scholars to compete against God! (no wonder people keep on saying the brotherhood is unreasonable!) Don’t believe me? Even the Bible affirms this:

“Surely this is a wise an understanding race of people…” (Deu 4.6).

There you go directly from the big man upstairs. So it’s a done deal, let’s all pack our bags and go back home –we just got the shorter end of the stick and you know the rest of the story.

Hold on a second. I hear someone hollering, “The Jews are smarter than our scholars because of their glorious heritage?” Mmmmh sounds credible, especially when you consider in down town Jerusalem, anything less than 2,000 years is still considered modern.

I mean you can’t even sit, stand or lean on anything in the state of Israel without some pesky Rabbi poking you with his walking stick and reminding you, “hey, hey, careful that’s where Jesus sat! Hey, careful there! That’s where John the Baptist lost his head etc.” No doubt about it those Jews definitely have a long and rich heritage that harks back to a glorious past, maybe there’s some truth to it all. There must be something in their heritage that gives them all a competitive advantage. You can hardly blame our scholars. What do we have to compare with the glorious Jewish heritage? OK, we have one confused Merlion who vomits water along with a few trinkets of the past, hardly the stuff that makes the hair at the back of ones head stand up when we summon the word – heritage.

But hold on a second that’s the distant history of the Jews – it doesn’t really count does it? I mean if we really look at the recent history of Jews, weren’t everyone either trying to kill, drown or maim them in the dark ages? Weren’t they like dying off so fast, even Henry IV was forced to pass a charter, circa 1090, which banned Jew bashing: “If anyone shall wound a Jew, he shall pay one pound of gold ….his eyes will be put out and his right hand cut off.” I mean if people are trying to set you on fire or strangle you to death half the time what kind of competitive advantage can it really produce? And in the 20th century, didn’t this chap who threw a party in Munich, circa 1933 called the Nazi Party even pass the Nuremberg Act to discriminate against them? – didn’t he pack 6 million Jews off? So what kind of heritage are we talking here unless you believe regularly breathing in poison gas or surviving on a diet of twigs and insects is some secret diet that produces really smart people!

What’s happening here! Can someone please tell me: why our scholars aren’t as smart as those darn Jews?

Did someone say social conditioning? Oh you mean evolution? That makes sense, for instance, we all know in Singapore. The Hainanese community excels in the culinary field. They make the best chicken rice and kaya spread in the whole island only because most of them came here during the age of empire tagging along as house servants on the tail coats of their colonial masters – besides how can any food cognoscenti not know the Teo Chew’s serve up the best congee only because they originate from a delta where the soil was alluvial, hardly as even ideal rice farming conditions. Hence perfecting congee, the art of “more out of less” along with salting and pickling to tie then through the long winters – makes perfect sense. Right?

Social evolution…there could be something to this….mmmh.

According to M. Arkin’s “Aspects of Jewish Economic History” -one possible reason why the Jews are so smart is because they used to monopolize, the money lending trade which not only required a higher degree of skill once associates with farming or any of the traditional trades. So naturally, as time passed, those Jews started developing and honing their killer instincts, like business acumen, social skills: cultivating connections, winning over trust (or maybe bullying the competition, remember Shylock’s “pound of flesh”). So it’s fair to say, they may even have developed aggression, street wiseness and a competitive spirit that adds up to what we all term – smartness.

Hey but hold on a second, something doesn’t add up here! There’s a big deficit! If those Jews were so smart and developed razor sharp killer instincts how did they fail to see the likes of Adolf Hitler and his storm troopers marching with gongs and drums towards them? How did the Nazi’s manage to kill over 6 million Jews without even so much as a fight? If they’ve really so full of testosterone and street smart to suggest they could sniff out trouble like a blood hound, why did so many Jews step into those gas chambers masquerading as communal showers? Hey I mean, if it was me or you, we would probably ask – where’s the good morning towel? Where’s the mini sized Lux soap? Where’s the 200 thread count Robinson bath robe? Where is my bunny anti slip shower slippers? Nope it just doesn’t add up.

So the social evolution theory goes straight out of the window – what about genetics? Are the Jews genetically superior? Maybe our scholars can’t compete because our genetic pool just isn’t big enough? Do the Jews have a super duper smart helix that allows them to carve a competitive advantage? There’s even a recent controversial paper published by the Journal of Ashkenazi Intelligence stating that genetic selection is the main reason why the Ashkenazi Jews typically produce a disproportionably large number of doctors, lawyers, professors, and Nobel Prize winners. But let’s put a scale on this study, Ashkenazi Jews are minorities within minorities even within the broader Jewish population – less than even 2.7%! That’s like saying everyone that lives along a street in Singapore is super smart, hardly a statistical obelisk, that points to anything except a big fat nothing! Nope, again we can safely chuck out that theory. The Jews aren’t any smarter because of their genetic aristocracy anymore than kangaroo’s jump around because have pockets instead of breast.

However I need to be careful here, I don’t doubt for one moment there are plenty of refereed and even academic journals which seem to suggest otherwise, though I hasten to add, none of them goes beyond the polemics of even providing footnotes, let alone anything resembling an axiomatic ‘truth.’ Prove me wrong if you believe otherwise. I darkness challenge you! There’s absolutely no empirical proof suggesting Jews are genetically smarter!

To say that the Jews have a history of emphasizing scholarship is indeed true to even suggest that’s the reason why they are so smart is like saying the Sistine chapel is a Bible comic. I don’t doubt for one moment most children in Jewish households are comparatively more conscious of the importance of education but it still doesn’t go very far to answer why Jews are smarter than our scholars.

One reason according to S. Nuland, author of “How We Die” lies in the values and world view of Jews. For one unlike our scholars Jews don’t even expect to be treated fairly, let alone to be given such a thing as a level playing field to even suggest they have a privilege to state sponsored scholarship programs – it just doesn’t exist, not even in the state of Israel!

This “consciousness of disadvantage”, Nuland suggest promotes the whole idea of ‘portability” that’s why education is seen to be so important in the Jewish community (if you need to hightail what’s really important is in your head!) and probably evolved into the province of what we call today the Jewish academic aristocracy – it stands to reason, unlike our homegrown scholars who are often sold the idea of “stability and permanence.” The Jewish worldview is nothing short of a reversal of the whole notion of ‘permanence’ and instead reinforces how ‘instability’ and ‘chaos’ will always feature as an indelible feature of work, life and play – so according to anthropologist. Jews develop nomadic survival traits – they stay in ghettos in the same way dessert folk walk in single file to hide their numbers – they travel light, make do with the barest of necessities and develop skills like how to shift their weight and walk slightly off centre when carrying heavy loads, that way, they can walk longer without suffering any kinetic loss. Even more efficient that modern military backpacks! You learn these things when people regularly hunt you down for no other reason because you are a Jew! People get smart when you marginalize them – they get real smart when you start to erase their history – they put it all in their heads! So they develop photographic memories – unlike our scholars who expect to return to a cushy job along with all the predictability associated with promotion. Jews are often schooled in the “impermanence” of life. In the most authoritative book of Jewish law, the Shulchan Arukh, Jewish children are told the only thing that remains true is the covenant between them and God, the rest is pretty much the stuff of shifting sands and roller coasters. As a reminding that life offers nothing except the guarantee of impermanence during the first meal of the Sabbath, bread is dipped in salt, the Jewish symbol of the great preserver – Jews know they can be expelled at the slightest provocation, hence they develop techniques, skills and tricks which our scholars never ever need to develop, because they are feted and chaperone around the system like crippled mandarins – stuff like how to cut 400 crystal designs which they keep in their head, never ever once having to write them down even today! Stuff like how to table a diamond with the cool headedness that comes from putting the cutting tool it and with a pray hit it with one stroke to either increase its value a thousand fold or reduce to nothingness – they learn to take risk, manage it even to even feel perfectly comfortable in an environment of constant change and uncertainty, unlike our scholars, who plan as if the world revolves only around them! Owing them all a living – is it such a wonder, there is not fight!

Perhaps the single most important reason why I believe (personally) Jews are smarter than our local scholars is – they’re no such thing as elitism in their culture. The word, ‘elite’ doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, and in the Talmud, Jewish children are always reminded of the need to remain humble and to remember they are a community of one and everyone in the community is important.

Nope Singapore is definitely not Israel, Absurdistan perhaps, but definitely no where near Israel…not in a million….trillion years.

Darkness 2012

(This essay has be re-annotated from a 2007 edition  by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild)

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“The worst thing that a man can commit in this world is buy into a lie fashioned by others to perpetuate their self interest. Once he lives within that lie. It can do very little except hold him back. Its a bit like being under a spell. But once you see a thing for what it truly is – then you know it to be mumbo jumbo and that can only set you free. And when you are free. You will suddenly find that you have wings. Now please one more time apprentice as this is so important to your education – as if you cannot see, then you are really no different from 99.9% of the people out there in the internet. And that is no good. No bloody good at all. Why did they fashion the train driver as the name and face of the internet? Why was so much resources and material poured into this one endeavor? What is the goal? What could they have possibly gained from all this? I really need you to work this through yourself. You see, I can’t give you the answers all the time. The sleeper must awake. Only you can do this. Only you can connect the dots and make sense of this delightful mystery.”

“Dotty, I have been practising one score every evening for the last four years. It says everything I want to say in words, but cannot seem to find the words my butterfly.

It is the story of a very simple man. A man who is not too modern. Who perhaps would have been much more comfortable in the age of sail, candles and swords. One day this man looked out and he saw dark clouds over the horizon – he knew, that life would be progressively unbearable in Singapore. As the leadership seemed to be far more interested in worshipping money rather than serving the people. He was after all a simple man who saw the world prosaically. So one day he told his tribe that they had to take wing to seek their fortune in distant lands. And if they did not, life would simply be a grind. As the leaders could no longer be trusted to do the right and honorable thing any longer. So one by one they took flight like birds. This man realized life would be hard. He knew sacrifices would have to be made. And one of the hardest things he had to do was to lie to the woman he loved – to even tell her that he did not love her and that it was best that she did not wait for him and marry another man instead. He was after all a simple man who simply wanted the best for her.

In the first year when this man tried his best to turn the wheel of life in a foreign land – the wheel did not budge at all. No matter how hard he pushed, it did not relent. But this simple man persevered and one day it began to shift. And when this wheel of life began to turn earnestly and this simple man began to make progress. Some did not like it. They considered him too ambitious for his own good. So they waged war on him. And this man took up arms against them. By the third year all his enemies had been vanquished. All their lands were his. And by this time, the man who once left to seek his fortune in distant lands began to reflect on whether perhaps he might have made a mistake. But since he was a simple man. He never once looked back. He had after all made a promise. And he was not the sort who broke agreements. Till one day when he must have wished so hard to turn back time itself that maybe his kindred spirits, the birds and trees took pity on him and transformed this simple man into a butterfly. It is best if I stop here Dotty and just allow the music to tell the rest of the story.”

“What all of you need to ask yourself is simply this: what is the logical end of having to live in a country where the cost of living keeps going up as the salaries level out or when the aperture for job opportunities is greatly reduced by what I can only describe as happy-go-lucky immigration policies? OK, there are a few scenarios that can be played out – but I think no matter what the permutations might be – we can more or less identify the common features. Firstly, let’s look at the cost of living – as habitat and cars go up and up and the cost of home ownership requires more new owners to be in debt longer along with running the risk of default due to losing their jobs, sickness or some intervening event – then a point will come when the professional classes will begin to question the whole viability of turning the wheel of life in Singapore. They will ask themselves a series of trade off questions like, why should I be chained to a ball and chain for 36.5 years just to own a 99 year old box in the sky? Why do I need to fork out 60K just to own an entry level Korean car? Why do I need to deal with stagnating salaries brought forth by ceaseless competition from FT’s? Why do I need to work 12 hours a day because of the 24/7 work culture in Singapore? Why do I need to send my kids to tuition just to do the same thing schools are supposed to be doing? Why do I need to run the risk of getting bankrupted, if I or any of my loved ones fall sick? Why do I need to work beyond the retirement age just because I need to use so much of my CPF to buy a house?

Now these list of questions will generally lead to the same place – and that point of culmination can best be expressed as a mix of epiphany and the natural impulse for economic man to maximize on his utility and it summed up in the following terms,

“Hey! You buggers have absolutely no idea how to run a country!”

Now when that realization takes root – what is likely to happen is many of these professionals will begin to explore the prospects of living and working elsewhere. Bear in mind, globalization is a double edge sword – if you consider that professionals from elsewhere are landing on our shores because they are in search for better ways to escape the cacophony of having to live in country that doesn’t quite fulfill their aspirations to actualize their dreams – then by the same token, this theoretical model can just as well apply to a professional who perhaps has ten years work experience, a master’s degree or a Phd and can probably speak three foreign languages fluently – so what you will likely end up with is a brain drain.

And should this exodus be played out – to make up for the short fall. Government would have to bring in more foreign workers in the PMET job market to make up for the shortfall. So what you really end up with is a vicious cycle – a self perpetuating cycle that has within it the reserves of momentum to keep on spinning like a top.

Now we speak about this dooms day scenario in the context of the brain drain what you need to understand is this is not a dystopian theoretical model that is going to be played out in the distant future. As there is every reason to believe that this tipping point has already been reached and what we are really talking is already a reality.”

Darkness 2012

 

“My point gentlemen is there are real and practical limits to trying to sell the good life in Singapore these days to the middle class on a regimen of nano doggy bites. Sure it is possible to promote the idea of perfidious face train drivers who earn 2K a month and who is happy like cock. They can of course make hay out of ST to publicise how emancipate they are, that even ministers would want to invite them for coffee for a chit chat or speak in some tin pot school. So that those no hopers can say, “hey, I touched based with blogger ya know” or to back slap their puppet masters on a job well done! Only understand this 80% of that train drivers hits came from us! All we did was program a patch where gamers had to click on his site before they could log on. And since 60% of them can’t even read English. The internet brigade and their puppet masters kena con lah! Hiozzat for a shockalingham boys?

Or even forward the idea of millionaire taxi drivers who can earn 7K a month. But like I said there are practical limits gentlemen, Just as you can’t make a decent cake without real eggs. It’s impossible. As at some point the dissonance between what is forwarded by the apparatus of propaganda and what one perceives on the ground can only widen till the center gives way and send the whole house of cards tumbling down like London bridge – and when this happens, professionals will begin to vote with their slippers. Now train drivers cannot do this. They don’t really have any skills that can really allow them to plug and play in the global job market – but professionals can. And that is really my point gentlemen. And the will.

Even as I speak, we are beginning to see the first green shoots of this emerging diaspora amongst the middle classes in Singapore. Understand this! As what I am about to share with you is not a theoretical construct as it remains a veritable fact. You want names and addresses. This can be supplied – when I first came to these parts to farm commercially about four years ago – there were only a handful of Singaporean businessmen. But these folk, they don’t count – as they have been here for yonks. Many of them are Singaporeans only in the technical sense – as most are really Malaysians and the reason for that is because most of them are already in their fifties and they have been trading since the time when you could use a ringgit in Singapore and vice- versa.

Today, there are close to 300 new Singaporeans within a 50 mile radius of my plantation– they are all professionals. They are all smart people who have either been retrenched, edged out or simply cannot gainfully turn the wheel any longer in Singapore due to the relentless influx of PMET’s from elsewhere – they are offering a host of services from consultancy to farming equipment supplies to fertilizers and herbicides. And its conceivable this figure is just the tip of the iceberg and much higher as I really don’t have either the time or resources to keep track of this exodus – my point is.

You really need to ask yourself this question: if things are really hunky dory back home as what it’s so open depicted in mainstream press = then why the fuck are so many Singaporean professionals turning the wheel of life here. It is a very simple question. Why?.

Gentlemen, I think we have more or less crossed the Rubicon. Though we can disagree on some many things in this rudimentary coffee table analysis – but one thing is palpably crystal clear to me. All cannot be well in the home front – there is something eating up these people and spitting them out of Singapore.

Now when a country reaches this end point – it’s no longer just about losing people any longer. As those who can turn the wheel of life gainfully abroad just happen to the top percentile group in Singapore. By every practical definition, these people have critical mass in knowledge that literally makes them top contributors to the intellectual economy, they are the capital – so what you are really losing is not only people. But also opportunity cost along with the very material that can carve competitive advantage on a nation scale. To paraphrase, when you lose this category of people – you lose everything and much more and do not for one moment believe this resource can be made up with just the transfusion of FT’s. It cannot. As I have said before to all of you – a job is not simply a job. As it remains a network of linkages that unites culture, core competencies along with the whole idea of perpetuating that vocation. And when that happens, it’s really game over for a country. Even Singapore. As it axiomatic. It’s finished, kaput, finito, finis, habis….Do you now all understand why this has to be the single most urgent and clear and present threat we face as a nation?”

Happy tiredness + CSI blogs

November 16, 2012

Today I woke up at the crack of dawn and joined the farm hands in the field. It’s now nearly three and the sun hangs high in the steely skies. I am totally spent. My arms are so tired that they feel as if they might be leaden. My legs ache and they seem to have gone on strike. As I lie down underneath the shade of a tree, it seems I am broken. Yet a strange happy sensation fills my heart that reminds me of a character in Tolstoy masterpiece Anna Kareninna.

But enough of this reverie. I must try to get up now and make the return journey back to my house on the hill to shave, shower and dress to receive Missy Dotty. The helicopter will be arriving soon from the South. I have not seen her for nearly four years. Not so much as spoken to her for this lenght of time. Maybe it is best not to strive to make conversation for the sake of conversation – perhaps I shall just ask her to accompany me in a repertoire after dinner. Yes, I shall open a fine Pinot and we will simply play Cafe Tango 1930 together. There are after so many happy variations to keep up us occupied throughout the evening. That is all I want to do this evening. Not to strive for wonderfulness or to try or to even do the impossible by trying to explain why I felt the need to leave Singapore in the way I did – like the happy litany of toil I simply want to feel the honesty of muscles as it ploughs through strings and cords to create beautiful music. To go into score, through it and to be spitted out like a seed to the otherside – that is all I wish for. That is all I really want. And that is all I can offer. No more or less. I have no more words.

“He thought of nothing, wished for nothing, but not to be left behind the peasants, and to do his work as well as possible. He heard nothing but the swish of scythes, and saw before him Tit’s upright figure mowing away, the crescent-shaped curve of the cut grass, the grass and flower heads slowly and rhythmically falling before the blade of his scythe, and ahead of him the end of the row, where would come the rest.

Suddenly, in the midst of his toil, without understanding what it was or whence it came, he felt a pleasant sensation of chill on his hot, moist shoulders. He glanced at the sky in the interval for whetting the scythes. A heavy, lowering storm-cloud had blown up, and big raindrops were falling. Some of the peasants went to their coats and put them on; others –just like Levin himself– merely shrugged their shoulders, enjoying the pleasant coolness of it.

Another row, and yet another row, followed–long rows and short rows, with good grass and with poor grass. Levin lost all sense of time, and could not have told whether it was late or early now. A change began to come over his work, which gave him immense satisfaction. In the midst of his toil there were moments during which he forgot what he was doing, and it came all easy to him, and at those same moments his row was almost as smooth and well cut as Tit’s. But so soon as he recollected what he was doing, and began trying to do better, he was at once conscious of all the difficulty of his task, and the row was badly mown.”

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Aiboh: “Darkness! Have you heard. There is a site called Singapore Hall of Shame, they have exposed the internet brigade!”

Darkness: “Oh really? And just because they release a couple of facebook pages. You buy into that aspect of their account hook, line, sinker? Do you mean to tell me life is so simple Aiboh? They jump, you jump and I just follow all of you down the rabbit hole. Or maybe what you mean to say is: probabilities make for possibilities - like that other blog that depicts the happy life of the Singaporean train driver who is feted by everyone under the bloody sun from ST to the school of Rajaratnam? No Aiboh, I don’t think they have exposed anything at all. All I really see is a blog that is trying very hard to sell bottled Himalayan air. And I can understand. I understand completely. As time is running out and that simply means their masters are desperate to get results. They want a bang and bang. And desperate people will do virtually anything Aiboh. Anything! But I think it best to hold my tongue. Besides they haven’t really made a move against us. So why even stir up shit? Does it even make sense Aiboh to start a new front? Maybe we should live and let live? If people want to believe that there is really a site that is able to reveal all and peer into darkened interiors - then let them believe what they want to believe. What does it really have to do with me? Since when did I elect to be the Batman of blogoland? Besides you’re forgetting one thing dearest Aiboh –  I am such a polite sort of fellow. Even all you ladies have to concede to that - it’s best, if we keep mum as to who they really are. Don’t you think so? After all they have a right to be here as much as anyone in blogoland. That is really all I am prepared to divulge for the time being. I am sorry, my lips are sealed. Nothing more or less. Besides I really have far more pressing concerns to deal with this evening. You see Missy Dotty. Do you remember her? She is visiting my plantation this evening.By the way Aiboh, do you still have that killer recipe for the caramel pear dessert? Do be a nice girl and send it over.”

Captured in a thread in the Strangelands – relayed by the Magneto class deep space scientific cruiser KDD Nebraska – brought to you by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

The Middle Class Struggle

November 15, 2012

I got this video from Diary of a Singaporean Mind which is a blog that is operated by Lucky Tan. Lucky has a been blogging for eversince I can remember. I can recall when I first started blogging during the early days of the Intelligent Singaporean. Lucky was already a fixture in blogoland – and through the years, if you take the trouble to scroll through his blog. You will find (unlike moir) he is one of the few bloggers who can actually take a very complicated subject and demystify it with remarkable ease – if I had to name one blogger who has consistently set the benchmark for the social political blog scene, it would certainly have to be Lucky Tan.

In this video, Elizabeth Warren speaks about the flaws in the America’s credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. It’s instructive for many of us, as the price of housing in Singapore has really rocketed in these last few years to renewed heights forcing many new house owners to get in debt for longer. And this video although long serves to highlight the salient on the hazards of a debt ridden economy – it is especially pertinent against the Singaporean backdrop; as there are many parallels that we can draw from this lecture to juxtapose on many of the problems faced by middle class citizens and residents these days in Singapore.

Darkness 2012

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“The middle class struggle in Singapore can be summed up succinctly in mathematical terms as a series of operating constraints – in lay language, it simply means the middle class don’t really earn enough to be rich in the emancipated sense. Neither are they poor or destitute either. They’re in a state of limbo, where they don’t even qualify for HDB’s. Thereby forcing many to buy their first habitat from the private sector. Thus bumping up their dollar commitments. Now that is not a real issue. As historically interest rates are dead low. And they are likely to get lower – that means many of the middle class will be lulled into a false sense of confidence and opt for super long loans. And what needs to be recognized here is Singapore has one of the longest housing repayment loans in the whole world. Just to give you a sense of scale, of how long the average Singaporean takes to pay off his housing loan – Germans on average need only work 10 years to pay off the housing loan. In the former GDR, it can be as low as 5. While Singaporeans need to work a shocking 36.4 years in order to do so!

In Asia, Thais need only work the shortest period of time to buy a similar-sized condominium. Though the wages of Thai workers are relatively low compared to Singapore, their properties are much cheaper which explain the discrepancy. While Japan is the most expensive country in Asia to live in, the average Japanese need only work 16 years to purchase such a condominium, 20 years less than Singapore. Let’s not even talk about the cost of owning a car!

Ordinary that would be fine – as I said, we live in an age when interest rates are dead low – so money is dead cheap. The real problem comes in when you factor in the realities that Singaporeans have the lowest wages and domestic purchasing power among developed nations – now what does this gobble d guck mean? It means the median salary of the average Singapore professional has in certain cases remained stagnant, regressed or only moved up marginally for while the cost of living and cost of owning a house has sky-rocketed in recent years. So what we have is a disparity that is hard if not impossible to reconcile economically. Added to this the professional job market is under tremendous stress due largely to the unmitigated influx of professionals from elsewhere – thereby pushing competition for jobs and in many cases reducing the aperture for job opportunity for natives. That means it is increasing harder for the middle class breadwinner to stay employed. And even if he is gainfully employed it is unlikely that his salary is going to go up steadily to make up for whatever spikes brought forth by the relentless escalating cost of living. And since the government needs to bring in more professionals from elsewhere to keep the housing market buoyant – that simply means this jobs are going to be less certain, secure or for that matter even a reliable means for the middle class to pay off their commitments. And so the risk of defaulting on their loans increases exponentially to a point where turning the wheel of life becomes impossibly hard if not impossible. 

And that is the reality that many middle class Singaporeans face these days. And that is why it is called the middle class struggle. But that is not the end of the equation. As there is a vicious barb that accompanies the coda this equation. Professionals are not stupid – neither are they like train drivers who have no choice but to lump it. They represent the most mobile segment of our population. So at some point, many will begin to say to themselves, “Hey, why should I get into debt for nearly 40 years, when I can go to Europe and pick up a 3,000 square foot apartment at firesale prices? Why should I pay 100K for a Jap car and keep you all shafters in style when I can drive the same car elsewhere for a fraction of the price? Why should I stay here when you losers don’t even know how to run a country for nuts?” When that happens, the mobile middle classes will vote with their slippers by the droves – a brain drain will ensue and as this exodus plays out more foreigners will have to make up for the shortfall.

And this brings into focus the nub of this analysis – as the question that is before us, is not whether we are bringing in too many foreigners – or even whether the housing boom can be sustained – but rather how bad is the brain drain in Singapore. How bad is it really. As when even I look at this equation that I have scrawled on a paper napkin when I worked it up just now – it sends a cold cinder of down my spine. You see I have seen the terror of this equation in our game. I have even tried to arrest it in vain – watched helplessly as it scissored through our community – it is none other than my greatest pain and dissapointment, the extinction game.

Now I become death, the destroyer of the worlds.”

(This excerpt of a conversation has been partially lost / captured by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild in the Gymnasium of Mathematics locate just off victory boulevard in Primus Aldentes Prime)

“I don’t really believe it makes any compelling sense to look at the death penalty in terms of whether it is an effective deterrent or not – to put it another way, this is not about what works and what doesn’t. Neither can you really say empirically this is issue where we can all deduce the outcome into a simple binary outcome of 1 or 0. We cannot reduce the argument down to absolutes of whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent against the drug menace.

Some will be deterred from trafficking drugs by the presence of the death penalty. As for others, it will not make one ounce of difference as the return on investment of the drug trade is so stratospherically lucrative.

If we execute drug mules and as you said, there is in fact no deterrent effect, I don’t think it gives you the right to reduce the whole argument into a fait accompli, where you say we have killed a bunch of drug traffickers in vain.

As what you seem to discount completely is the idea – the very fact, we have the death penalty in place conveys unequivocally to these drug barons that we are prepared to prosecute to the full extent of taking a human life – that conveys our resolve – if we catch you, you will dangle! To me that is the highest level of psychological warfare scripted in a alphabet and arrangement of language that only these motherfuckers can understand. It is really like dealing with brigands in the highroad to Kampala, only the one law rules there – the ordinance of the AK47 – Gentlemen,m the drug menace should be seen in terms of war. And if the other side has no qualms about circulating their solvent and ruining lives – then I don’t see why we should even quibble about whether the Geneva Conventions should or should not apply – to me, if the other side gives death, then it is futile for us to believe we have any other option but to return death – that to me is simply the politics of how war is conducted. And this is how I see the drug problem – it is a war. And it doesnt pay for us to discount or negotiate around this reality. I call a spade a spade!

Neither do I see the point of trying to reconcile the death penalty with morality either. As in war the first casualty is everything that we associate with the civilized behavior - jurisprudence, moral underpinnings along with all the affectations that we normally associate with the chattering classes – war gentlemen has always been a dirty business – war simply demands the practical necessity of inflicting the highest index of damage on the other side in a cold and mechanical manner with the strategic imperative of maintaining détente. Don’t even think for one moment that you can reason with these drug barons in handsome language. You cannot! They only understand the ordinance of AK47!”

Excerpt of conversation somewhere along the trenches of the 149th parallel in the Sardonyx front in the planet D’ni – communications captured by the Vollariane class radio signal deep space vessel KDD Jamaica – relayed by the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

“The real problem with trying to intelligently managed an emerging aging population somewhere down the future, is not whether olders should work beyond the retirement age. That if you think real hard about it, is already given. It will have to be a fact of life, like eating, breathing, sleeping and shitting. The real challenge as I see it, is HOW will this Herculean feat be accomplished. Let me put it this way, if you put an older worker beside a nubile teen and expect the same output. Then I say, all you’re really doing is setting the former up for failure, disappointment and possibly creating a miserable working environment – life will simply be a living hell for the older worker. I can almost guarantee you this 110%. But if the working environment is tweaked to augment many of the physical limits brought forth by old age – then I think it’s possible to solve this problem intelligently.

So to me the real issue is not reskilling on even chasing productivity by opening out heads and trying to upload new software to improve performance – the real challenge is creating a work context that is able to take into account the physical limits of old age along with striking a blance with higher productivity.

To me this is the real challenge whenever we talk about the advent of an older workforce having to work beyond their golden years. You could even say it is the ONLY question on the table. Regrettably this also happens to be the one question that no one seems very interested to discuss. I believe one reason why this topic is always relegated to the back burner may have something to do with the idea that, it’s a very difficult problem to solve. But try as we might to run away from it – I really do not believe it is possible to elide this problem or even find a clever way to negotiate it around it with just platitudes and feel good rhetoric. Understand this, there are real limits to homily sugary soundbites. As this is not an easy act to pull off, not at all – you could even say, it is one of the hardest things to do. That could well be the reason why no one seems very interested to discuss it.”

Darkness 2012

————————————————————————

“I am not against the FT program per se. What I am against is unmitigated immigration that leads to a hollowing out of jobs. I think what you need to do is ask yourself a very basic and fundamental question: what is really a job? At a superficial level you may well conclude it is simply a way to turn the wheel of life. But when you look at this thing called a job long and hard enough. Then at some point you will begin to tease out very fine strands of social and cultural linkages along with networks and hubs that may perhaps lead you to draw the conclusion that a job is really a subset of a larger social construct – that is to say it is a way of life. And this is true of all jobs, it doesn’t matter whether it is menial or grand, significant or forgettable, low paying or stratospheric. If you look at Straits history and we focus let’s say on plantation life – you will find the Samsui woman. There migrated here from the san shui which in cantonese means the three waters – a reference to the three tributaries that formed the confluence in Kwan Tung in Imperial China. Now if we go deeper – we can even begin to tease out the nuances of their culture. They are very independent. They are the prototypal suffragettes of their period. Fiercely clannish to the point of even coming across as insular and perhaps even parochial. And if you should decide to drill deeper you may even come to the conclusion that there is a entire repository of history ranging from cuisine to even philosophy ranging from their disdain of the opium trade to their indifference to institution of marriage to perhaps how they saw themselves as a community along with how they preferred to define their relationship with other communities of that period. My point is when we look at a job from this vantage – then what emerges is the idea that the job is really an accretion of culture, history, share values, ethos, philosophy, arcanum etc – so can you see that a job is not just a job, it really goes beyond the dictionary meaning of a vocation and even embraces a whole geography of states of minds along with schools of thoughts.

So it is foolhardy to assume that a job is just a job. Anyone who tells you that banking, lawyering, doctoring, accountancy or even dog shooting in Singapore is just a statistical value probably wouldn’t know what I am talking about. That is like saying all you need to do, to be a planter is to know how to plant. That is hogwash! When you become a planter, by default you also take on the entire respository of the history that goes along with the planter’s way of life. I cannot wear a G2000 shirt to meet other planters. The socially correct attire is a bush jacket. I cannot while away my Sundays listening to records or shut myself off by retreating into my hermetically sealed world. If the community expects me to be there to offer alms, to usher in a birth of a first born or to take my place in a wake – I have to be there! Above all, I have to take my rightful place in the community as the benefactor, the magistrate and mechanic of the great wheel of life. And this is true of lawyering, accountancy, banking and maybe every single professional job in Singapore – it is a complex network of relationships. And this wheel of life isn’t as robust as what many people like to believe – get the demographics wrong and it is not so different from introducing a feral species of fish that will upset the balance of ecology in a fish tank – set the pace wrongly and it will not be so different from one of those horror stories where someone thought it might be a good idea to bring along a potted plant of flowers just to spice up the bonnet for Sunday church and that weed overreaches and strangles out the local fauna. There needs to be a balance. And the method to accomplish this is regulation.

This wheel of life known as a job is not automatic. If policymakers want to fudge with it – they really need to go beyond the whole idea of just the simplistic notion of bumping up their GDP or getting tax dollars from having more human beings on this island – to paraphrase, they need to appreciate the broader picture and understand the ramifications of the decisions they make – along with perhaps knowing every feature of this wheels quirks. Every sprocket, every kink and nick. Otherwise how is it possible for us to even talk about the whole idea of sustainability?

That is one reason why I consider it a form of insanity whenever policymakers decide to bring in whole loads of people into a particular job market. No calculations are made – if they are please share them with me – I will gladly retract this post after reviewing them if it shows evidence to the contrary. But I do not think there is. As when you look at the professional job market, so many jobs have already been hollowed out and those which are still standing are really so evacuated of natives to the point where these jobs can no longer support the social cultural networks that used to perpetuate them. No means of monitoring is even present to ensure that everything runs smoothly except maybe the crackbrained idea that there is some wisdom to this whole idea of the free market being able to find a happy sweet spot. Everything is left to vagaries to the supply and demand. What falls by the side is simply treated as grist to the mill. At best these policymakers are lazy, at worst this has to be gross negligence bordering on dereliction of duty.

One day many years from now. I have no doubt. None whatsoever that many of us will look at this point of Singapore’s history as perhaps a form of insanity, a non compos mentis on a Byzantine scale like how the EasterIslanders once broke their ecology in half by mindlessly building moi after moi – many will not understand. Many will even begin to feel a deep and profound sense of betrayal. A profundis of loss. But one thing is certain from all this. Many will know it to be the darkest chapter in our history.

In my mind I have absolutely no doubt of that this day of reckoning is marked somewhere along the time line in the future. Like I said, a job is not just a job. It is much more. Much much more….”

Since you have come to me to ask for my opinion. I shall speak plainly. Only understand this! Just as it is not possible for a man to make an omelette without breaking eggs. There is no way in which I can advise you without speaking frankly. Please bear this in mind always.

I think, you are jumping to Bertha Henson’s defense too hastily without really examining the facts. Tell me, how intelligent is that? Besides you must never forget she was once part of the state controlled propaganda apparatus for the better part of her entire working career. She was an editor, so she was in the business of rendering kosher and acceptable what many younger journalist often wordsmithed – to put it plainly, she once belonged to the equivalent of the Einsatzgruppen in that hierachy of wordsmithing. Her role was to ensure “purity” of thought and purpose. Even if that role was wholly misconceived. No one can deny editors are hardly chosen for their independent streak. But rather their metier to assassinate the truth. But let us leave that as it is.

Perhaps we should all ask ourselves how probable is it that this was not staged managed? After all, these days, we get all sorts of happy and sugary narratives – train drivers who blog and a who are feted by the establishment, ex journalist who blog and expect us all to magically forget what they once stood for, for the better part of their careers, ex appartchiks who now seem to have seen the light and are calling for many intellectuals to speak out without fear and favor. All that is probably missing now is a for a talking horse to make spellbinding appearance in blogoland.

We are living in a heady age. Are we not? An age where nothing is what it ever seems. An age with lashings of kitsch and make belief, it seems. I think it is fair to conclude nothing can ever be taken for granted any longer. Not even the “truth,” it seems. Everything must always be interrogated, probed and sieved. At least ten times over. Twenty would better. Thirty or forty times even better!

Besides even you cannot deny, all the fuss is really ONLY about an anonymous letter. Even she concedes to this. So is it deniable. This should prompt the perceptive reader to ask, who then is she really responding to when she responds to an anonymous letter? This is what you all have to ask? Or are we somehow supposed to make that perceptive leap of faith to assume this is simply another case of goliath taking on a Davidian blogger? I really don’t think it pays for us all to take the path of least resistance.

What we need to do is ask ourselves who benefits from all this? What is actually gained from this great diffusion of nervous energy? Coming to think of it, how can you, I or even the broader society that makes up blogoland be really certain that this letter even represents anyone in SPH? Maybe it is personal. After all do you see organized crime getting worked up over two drunks slugging it out in the back alley over how a mafia movie should rightly end? And if they don’t. How intelligent is it for us to get worked up, over an anonymous letter? Let me put it this way, if I, you and perhaps 99.9% of blogoland don’t even bother about anonymous post and letters that regularly emerge from the digital wilderness. Then I wonder why is Madam Henson so determined on kick up a fuss over apparently nothing? Maybe she feels the need to dissociated herself from SPH to enhance her credibility online? Perhaps she needs to differentiate herself from her previous life thereby allowing her to be reincarnated as a being of light in blogoland. A light that can even manage to beacon out the murk?

But even if she felt justified in responding in the manner which she did- I think she should have some respect for the dead along with giving SPH the benefit of fair light and not launch out on a siaow Charbor tirade. Who after all ressurects a SMS once send by the dearly departed? RIP means rest in peace, not rise if possible! I am not exactly a fan of Mr Fernandez & Co. But I really must insist on the idea of a giving my opponent the benefit of the doubt and the first right to a level playing field. Please bear in mind, we have not even heard their side of the story yet. I would have it no other way just as perhaps the classical duellist would always insist on keeping to Queensbury rules. Unless you can tell me conclusively that this letter was sanctioned by the management of SPH. But then it would signed off by the public relations officer or maybe the CEO himself. Yes? That was even endorsed with by the entire SPH press corps. In which case, it would probably be signed off en masse a la petition style. But as it is, it remains inconclusive. So it must be treated as an anonymous letter. As procedurally it is so wrong in so many ways that no sane person can even take it seriously. For all we know a kacang puteh man snuck it and wrote this when one of the journalist went for a toilet break. Hence where is the prima facie case to answer? Except maybe in the derranged mind of Madam Henson. Gentlemen, it is really as simple as that. So what is the point of jumping up and down and getting worked up over nothing? Coming to think of it what exactly is under seige? What really is the fuss over?

Perhaps all of you would do well to reacquiant yourself with the challenges that we are all presented with. My friends when you consider what is really at stake in the digital battlefield these days – nothing can ever be taken at face value any longer. Absolutely nothing at all. Besides you all seem to be forgetting Mr Liao. And how we have had to move to measured response mode. Need I say gentlemen. I was not here. I did not say this. This conversation never ever took place.

Now you must all excuse me. I need to log out from the virtual and return back to the field. I really don’t have time to waste on splicing the deranged thoughts of very batty woman fighting imaginary enemies. And I really don’t think any of you should either. Think about it gentlemen – what will people say of us?

Res ipsa loquitor.

Darkness 2012

(An excerpt of a conversation captured somewhere in the grande hall of mirrors in the east wing of the Temple of Reason in Primus Aldentes Prime – relayed by the Interspacing mercantile Guild.)

“One of the travesties of modern life is the demise of the gentle art of dueling. I realize this may sound rather passé these days in the computer age. But I actually believe reviving dueling may actually improve manners and decorum immeasurably. Fortunately plantation life is still stuck circa 1800′s. High ceiling mansions. Man servants. String quartets after dinner. Ladies who can still be relied to experience fainting spells are all very much alive in modern day plantation society. Along with dueling. So it is not unusual from time to time to hear of instances where two gentlemen may come together at the break of dawn in some clearing in an estate to settle scores. It is really a hushed affair. No one speaks of it openly, only perhaps obliquely. And if I were to recount my experience. I really don’t think it is such a bad thing. For one it compels a man to take responsibility for his words and actions. These days with courts and lawyers, everything is really like a circus. There is no finesse. No élan. And above all there is no honor these days and as people no longer see the need to take responsibility for what they write, say or do. That is why it is so difficult these days to be a gentlemen. Impossibly difficult it seems. How sad.”

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