Are Singaporeans Really Apathetic? Part II

November 13, 2007

How is it that people who claim that we either live in an apathetic or engaged society, never ever seem to explain how they derived at this conclusion?  Doesn’t it seem incongruous to you whether we are apathetic or engaged ought to be as amenable to investigation like whether the Lochness monster or the Yeti actually exist?

I believe this can be accomplished. However, I don’t believe this can be done by simply asking: are we living in an apathetic society?

That sort of question is bound to produce, the fallacy of faulty generalization – where too often it leads to the promotion of preferences (subjective view) along with dispensation (propaganda) which reduces everything an imposition (laws) that manages to account for what is happening (theory), worst still it elevates a fallacy (myth) to some sort of supreme guideline. That all of us have to (yes, you guessed it) accept as the truth.

Let me give you an example of this sort of fallacy and why I believe it subtracts rather than adds any value to the discussion. Consider this: “377A proves that we are an engaged society….” – “I have a friend who often serves on weekends in a grass root committee….”

What we often fail to appreciate is how that sort of generalization is deemed suitable to establishing the claim we already live in an engaged society – but it doesn’t really tell us how this assumption was derived at!

Neither does it give us a comparative to enable us to scale the issue of apathy vs engagement divide. What’s actually happening in this sort of sub standard pariah dog logic is nothing short of an attempt to try to pass off the will of somebody, as the will of everybody and the preoccupation of a few delusional individuals as the collective will of the majority. That’s the reason why attempting to ask the question: are we an apathetic society? Can never successfully produce an accurate answer – it’s a loaded question. 

Having said that, it doesn’t mean we cannot successfully answer this question – we can, only in a round about way and this requires us to take the high road by examining the political process to see; how many avenues it provides for opportunities for contrarian expression and whether they can even lead to fruition by bringing about meaningful change. Confining our examination to the processes and systems which allows for representation should ideally form the basis of answering this question – it stands to reason – as either apathy or engagement MUST be directly proportional to our capacity to either control and moderate the outcome of events – so the higher the scope for representation, the less likely, we are to be an apathetic society and vice-versa.  

In that sort of approach we are looking at how many ways there is to stay engaged and  more importantly charting the rate of success i.e opportunities for successfully bringing about changes – by restricting our investigation to these linkages, it’s a cold an even objective calculation, but at least it cuts out much of the noise, propaganda and back slapping rhetoric associated with the apathy vs engaged debate. As it instills a measure of discipline to the whole investigative process and that will simply produce more accurate results!

Now in this case, what sort of question are we asking? It is simply this: does the system allow citizens to engage the government effectively and safely? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you can even have the best homily sugary fairytale of “I have a friend who is not apathetic…..” but the answer as to whether we live in an apathetic society still has to be a resounding yes! Conversely the same applies to producing an equally resounding ‘no,’ we are not living in an apathetic society. Only on this occasion, we have to be able empirically determine the presence of linkages which allows citizens to remain engaged. 

The conflict whether we are an apathetic or engaged society is not just about the best means to pursue generally acceptable ends. Ultimately, whatever answer it produces represent a way for us to discern what is actually happening around us without the danger of being led astray by what I term self-serving rhetoric – that suggest we are all together so different from the rest of the world, there may even be kernels of wisdom to propose, we should forge our own path of defining what our society should be, if it to remain engaged. That sort of nonsensical rhetoric is meant to defend the view that Singapore, in its current political reincarnation after the S377A debate has magically somehow become a more enlightened and mature society. As we know much of this rhetoric includes belittling the achievements of other regimes whose political processes allows fringe groups to vilify one another as bigoted religious fanatics or morally depraved atheist, racist reactionaries or crypto- totalitarian socialist, but at least in their political system, there is never ever any doubt, they have real opportunities of staying political engaged and even plenty of opportunities to moderate the outcome of their destiny. Meanwhile we are still ambling in dark trying to figure out whether we have really reached first base.

Empty rhetoric, I am reminded goes a long way to shore up the ‘reality’ that we may be engaged rather than terminally apathetic. Then again when one makes too much of rhetoric and only rhetoric at the expense of content, that can’t be very imaginative.

In any case, part of what it means to suffer a failure of imagination may be that one is unable conceive that one’s own imagination is too improverished to see the flip side of the coin – in the greater scheme of things, that can only mean, we may be apathetically engaged after all.

(By Darkness – Socio/Political – EP 9903737 – The Brotherhood Press 2007) 

Read The Latest Article: The Day After The Press Died

15 Responses to “Are Singaporeans Really Apathetic? Part II”

  1. Darkness said


    You don’t have a model. And when you don’t a model, you cannot understand the question. And when you don’t understand the question, is it such a wonder that you cannot even supply an answer for it?


    Buy another torque wrench.

  2. Darkness said

    “Darkness: wait, let me get this straight:

    1. You don’t seem to understand the very elementary distinction between an assertion that is meant to say something about how things are, as opposed to one about how things ought to be or how people ought to behave,

    2. You conflate the first distinction (in #1) with the distinction between a general, law-like claim as opposed to an “in general” claim that admits of exceptions, as opposed to a particular claim,

    3. You don’t seem to be aware that “there is advantage” is ambiguous as to the recipient of the advantage (whose advantage are we talking about?),

    4. You don’t seem to understand the difference between asking “What does P mean?” as opposed to asking “How do we go about finding out whether or not P?”, or for that matter, as opposed to “Is P true?”,

    (And note, the points #1-#4 are not even deep stuff–I’ll be deeply ashamed to call them philosophical.)

    5. You don’t seem to have any firm grasp of the concept of “utility” in modern economics, giving a caricature of the role that the concept of “rational behavior” plays in economics (whether of the Sweetwater/Chicago or the Saltwater School),


    6. You are now attempting to give a model for understanding an admittedly complex social and political phenomenon by means of…the Material Requirements Planning–ok, fine, version 2, MPR II–a method for the planning of the use of resources (including human resources) in manufacturing?”

    I am very sorry, but I understand it ALL only too well, believe me I do. Every single detail of it.

    In life you cannot dig a hole and expect someone to just jump into it, it doesn’t work that way, I know you’re in the hole and you probably thinking thats the best place in the world and you want me to come on down, but you know what? – some people are just going to look at you and wonder to themselves, what the hell is he doing there? How did he get himself all knotted up like that? Where is he going? Doesn’t he realize that’s a dead end? They are not going to budge one inch. They’re just going to stand on the lip of that hole and look at you while you wallow in your hole.

    No wonder you are frustrated, but that is good. As it can only mean one thing.

  3. Chronicler said


    I have absolutely no idea what he is on abt, and. I don’t even mean it in a smart way.

  4. montburan said

    Good Morning.

    I really have no idea what this ppl in Singapore Angle are doing. I understand the questions, but I don’t see how it necessarily adds any value to the whole issue of the main discussion i.e are we living in an apathetic society.

    I believe the goals could have been so different as they are all together incompatible.

    However, I look to hear further abt this MRP business. I know for a fact Bambi has always been unorthodox in his choice of paradigms when attempting to explain many of his theories.

  5. dotseng said

    Goody Morn all,

    My take is Bambi Baby Boy was remarkably patient with Huichieh. He is always unfairly blamed for starting fights, but not on this occasion. He explained step by step on at least 3 separate occasions, why the classification of the statement was irrelevant and yet the latter kept insisting the question should be answered under his terms.

    And when Bambi finally explained why its irrelevant again, the latter claims unilaterally, he doesnt understand this or that and finally resorts to name calling and personal character attacks.

    This only confirms my lasting suspicion concerning the Singapore Angle.

    To me most ppl are very down to earth and they will ask the question, who was the one who made real progress on the debate. Are we living in an apathetic society? It has to be darkness, he shines.

  6. Harvardian said

    It’s clear for all to see, one was just preoccupied with the whole issue of conceptual and semantic accuracy. For what design and end, even I have absolutely no idea. Even if darkness supplied all the correct answers to his questions, how does that add to the debate?

    Are we apathetic?

    I mean if you put both of them on the scale, who would you rather read? Someone who says it cannot be answered or just tells you we are apathetic because we are apathetic and doesnt even supply a single reason why. Or someone who says hold on a second, I may be able to explain this.

  7. dotseng said

    Darkness wrote this, but I think he posted in on another thread for some reason:

    “Understand this! Are we an apathetic society? That question cannot be successfully answered without dwelling deeper into the linkages between citizens and existing political system – why have I used the Material Resource Planning chassis to flesh out much of what I believe to be the calculus that defines the apathy vs engagement?

    What is MRP first of all? Contrary to popular belief it is NOT a human resource logic, it is a closed loop system which attempts to link all the functionalities within a firm to one overriding objective: supplying demand efficiently without incurring wastages to turn a good ROI.

    Of course this assumption takes it as fact, if we superimpose the whole idea of why people tend towards apathy instead of being engaged, it is not all together so different from why a consumer would prefer to buy Y product instead of X. Neither can it be so different from why you would plumb to watch Z movie instead of E.

    Central to the whole decision making process is the idea of perceived valued and everything that goes with it, penalties, resources allocated, opportunity cost etc In this formula, a buy (engaged) decision or a ‘don’t want to buy (apathetic) response is the idea of expected payout – that in a nutshell is why I believe the MRP logic supplies ‘a way’ of making sense of the relationship between these two competing claims and I have even used it as the structural template.

    Having said that there is no art in being able fulfill market expectation, any firm can more or less accomplish this to their greater detriment, its just a matter of resource allocation, but it takes considerable planning and resource management skills to accomplish this balance while successfully being able to generate a profit, this is something that you always have to bear in mind – that is the goal.

    Follow me here – because this is the point when I will do something that is so heretical that it even defies logic, but nonetheless, it doesn’t take a stretch of the lateral train to see how MRP logic and how it’s able to manage the relationship between firm and market can be effectively used as a model to make sense of the relationship between state and citizen in the context of the apathy vs engaged debate.

    If we stack the MRP logic to the political / citizen context and what do you get? Can I as the government of the day provide citizens with opportunities to stay engaged while being able to effectively maintain power? Yes, of course, but once again there is no mystery or art here as that can be accomplish if cost of doing so never featured in this equation. That brings into focus the need to manage and even mitigate the cost of pursuing such a strategy. What if the cost of an engaged society leads to sectarian violence, revolution and even civil war?

    So the intelligent question will turn on whether its possible for the government of the day to deliver these goodies (that solicits a engaged state) while maintain control over the country as a whole?

    This is where the similarities which binds the comparison between a firm and a govt is not all together so different. What logic would one use then to determine the benchmark of efficiency, delivery reliability and the ability to balance the competing dichotomies?
    It has to be very close to MRP or even MRP itself –otherwise you just end up saying, we are an apathetic society! We cannot answer this question! Or something as ridiculous as I am apathetic to why Singaporeans are apathetic! And I wonder why?

    I must return to my work, but I have taken the trouble to explain to all of you so that there is no doubt – as for people calling me names, I have long got used to that, it used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore and if it doesn’t bother me, none of you should be concerned either.

    The important thing is, we attempted to answer a question that others proclaimed is impossible to answer and surely that must be progress in every sense of the word.

    My take is let the readers decide. I must return back to my work, thank you.”

    Darkness 2007

  8. Robbie said

    Hello Darkness,
    MRP successfully demonstrated its effectiveness in: inventory reduction, Reduction in production and delivery lead times by improving co-ordination and avoiding delays, Making commitments more realistic and Increased efficiency. MRP proved to be a very good technique for managing inventory, but it did not take into account other resources of an org. In 1970s, this gave birth to a modified MRP logic, popularly known as Closed Loop MRP. In this technique, the capacity of the organization to produce a particular product is also taken into account by incorporating a module called Capacity Requirements Planning (CRP). Hence, a feedback loop is provided from the CRP module to MPS if there is not enough capacity available to produce. In 1980s, the need was felt to integrate the other resources of a manufacturing organisation. Hence, evolved an integrated manufacturing management system called Manufacturing Resources Planning (MRPII). MRP can certainly be modeled to take into account the whole debate whether we are an apathetic society, albeit with quiet a lot of modifications to the engine. I can see how it can even simulate much of the interrelationship between demand / supply and the conversion process – inventory can be substituted for opportunity cost & resources – goods produced is services offered by a govt – customer is of course the citizen – as much as I like to believe MRP logic holds the key, I have been a production planner for almost 15 years and what I can observe is although it is a very impressive basis for “balancing” productivity and demand, it still suffers from a lot of limitations. As any factory manager can testify, even the best MRP can only achieve manufacturing fidelity of only 75% based on a median average of one production week. So given there is always a need to provision for buffer inventory – my question to darkness is a practical one as it relates to real MRP application to a factory setting rather than to his intended purpose of using as a model to explain his theory on how in can be used to explain the apathy and engagement divide.Firstly, how can the MRP be effectively stabilized through the course of a production week? Secondly does he see any substitute for buffer inventory without downtime? Sorry, I don’t mean to get free consultation, but I have asked many ppl this question but to no avail. I will really appreciate it if you can spare the time to just help me. Everyone in the Senoko 5 will really appreciate it, thanks, Robert Tham.

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  10. CEO said

    If darkness did not come into the picture everything will still be cloudy and fuzzy. He came in with his no nonsense approach, so what if he decides to use manufacturing know how to model his calculus.

    Didn’t Ivor Sikorsky use a ceiling fan to model the principles of rotor flight? What about the Japanese who discovered TQM by looking at Zen gardens? Or Ishikawa who discovered failure fault analysis when he was picking through his fish one day. What abt the guy who discovered velcro while walking thru a field and noticing that seedlings clung to his wool pants? My point is people use whatever it takes to get the job done and it’s the results that matter at the end of the day.

    Black cat or white cat, what do I really care as long as it catches the mouse.

    At least we can all be very proud one of our home boys actually cracked this tough nut. IMHO, he did a very good job of coming out with a few principles. I dunno whether they are academically sound, but I know when I switch it on, alot of things are suddenly clearer and it definitely increases my understanding of the issues.

    As for SA what do you really expect me to say? I think, I rather keep my thoughts to myself. All I know is empty vessels make alot of noise.

    On record he said we are apathetic because we are apathetic, why? Because we are apathetic. Why is MRP inapplicable? Because MRP is inapplicable. Thank you very much, pls dont call us, we will call you in a couple of million years.

  11. tinkerbell said

    Darkness is first and foremost a raider. But not any variety of raider, these are nomads, they can get by with very little. My brother told me, every man in the bro is trained to assume a higher level of responsibility, he is first and foremost expected to be a thinker and never a respecter of orders – so they never give specific orders. The orders are structured in such a way, these people have alot of discreationary power to execute it on their own terms, but there must be results. That means they will use anything providing, it can get the results, then the means if secondary.

    If he really did use something that is commonly used in a factory setting to flesh out his formulations. I for one will be not be surprised. Thank you for bringing light, I believe this post goes a very long way to add to the learning experience.

  12. Nacramanga said

    Darkness is a maverick, many years ago when he developed his first invention, he derived his inspiration from a leaking water closet.

    This led him eventually to develop his famous bleeding bolt invention, where he hollowed out an ordinary bolt and filled it with pressurized ultra-violet dye.

    The whole idea is, if the bolt even suffered partial metal fatigue and failed, the dye would leak out.

    I remember when he first developed it many engineers said that he was a crackpot, bc who the hell hollows out a bolt! But according to darkness the strength of the bolt could be mitigated by the usage of stronger materials and the trade off between a dead bolt and a bolt that could forewarn formed the calculations for inventing such a product, when they asked him, how he came to his findings, he showed them pictures of his leaking toilet.

    Of course, everyone laugh, but KOBE came and guess who was laughing last when the Japanese had to physically test every single bolt by hand.

    The Gods favor the brave, the rest can only stumble in the dark.

  13. Darkness said


    This sounds serious. Anything more than two digits is a sign that something is not right. I would seriously advice you to re-look at the BOM list and perhaps chart out what are the offending raw materials that usually run out.

    Its standard Paretto 80/20, doesnt get easier then that, anyone who tries to tell you that its more complicated than that is probably a pastor who thinks Jesus asked him to play Donald Trump:

    (1) Find out what raw materials are you usually running out off.

    (2) Check the QC and production capacity report to determine whether the shortfall is process related.

    (3)If (2) yields a no, then it has to be an outdated BOM list.

    (4) If it not (3), then its a factory issue – capacity planning / someone is not sticking to the prodcution plan.

    In my experience it has to be either (2) or (4). Meanwhile, buffer for inventory (I dont think you have a choice).

  14. CEO said

    I dont even know why he bothers going to Singapore Angle, waste of time only – I believe, I can speak for most readers who have been following this, it didnt even so much as lift off even one inch!


  15. CEO said

    Might as well write it all here. This way we can all learn, not to say that we dont have the brain juice to make it turn on its pivot.

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