It doesn’t take a whole lot of brain juice to figure out what happens when one takes people from all over the world – Kalimantan brides, Nigerian scam artists, British lager louts, American red necks, Bangladeshi expatriates, Mainland Chinese lamian cooks – and cram them all into a small place bordered by the ECP, PIE and SLE.
How will we ever get along? What are the possible outcomes? Will the good currency win over the bad to produce something exciting?
In truth no one really knows for certain, as a melting pot of people this cacophonous thrown into one small place like this has never really been tried before – where one can even say globalization is made flesh and bone.
I don’t doubt for one moment somewhere along this heady mix many of the problems of the world may even wash up like flotsams to our shores. People after all carry their cultures, histories, religion and gripes with them wherever they go. And to exacerbate matters they also possess multiple identities – that a man may be a heterosexual, stir his coffee anti-clockwise, catholic, liberal, Liverpool supporter, Malaysian and a PR is given – but which one of these aspects which makes up his character swallows up the rest when he decides to call this place home is still a mystery? No one knows.
Here I am reminded not only can a man migrate physically by uprooting himself, but so can his values. Unfortunately, the debate concerning foreign talents fails to register this. Instead the debate is often couched in terms of what is lost against what’s gained. Not only does this make for an unimpressive account. It also skewers how we should make sense of the FT hubris.
Against this backdrop of how we decide whether someone is worthy or unworthy to enter our inner circle. A few broken record set pieces feature in this litany; our way of life, NS, the ties that bind and probably everything that we consider as comfort food, which we are content to lump under the general tag of what it means to be Singaporean.
No one denies these are worthy stuff; probably worth dying for a few times over and genuine even in the way they are often expressed, demonstrated and caressed by every quarter of our society. Not only do these beliefs reflect what we consider to be important, but they also form the main montage that serves to edify and validate many of our assumptions in what it means to be a citizen. That we should find tradition and the past consoling is not surprising. That it’s effective in binding us as a community is certainly a strong impulse that can never be denied.
But it still doesn’t answer the question: why is it so difficult for us to accept foreigners into our fold? What accounts for our reticence? Or inflexibility even in the way that we frequently marginalize the rhetoric of necessity why we should embrace foreigners into our fold?
I am reminded the idea of citizenship will always mean different things to different people. It cannot be pillored. Not even with the most persuasive killer arguments like
“if we don’t accept foreigners into our fold, we will eventually perish like the dodo bird in this age of globalization.”
That it seems real or imagined, doesn’t seem to cut any ice; not to the tea lady in my office or even to many of my colleagues who still harbor deep suspicions about foreigners.
I suspect, the idea of citizenship has something to do with the notion of how one perceives the sense the belonging as something which is closer to faith than a testable logic; for one it’s a concept that doesn’t lend itself very well to the art of gentle persuasion; as what really makes up the sum of these feelings remains perennially difficult, if not impossible to pin down.
I suspect this has alot with the distinction between history and heritage; and how citizenship as a state of mind or school of thought is often closer to the latter.
Unlike history that requires facts to be winnowed to ensure there are scrupulously as close to the truth as possible.
Heritage is the direct opposite. Here there are no pesky historians or archivers sieving through facts to balance the accounts. Infact, it has carte blanche (every right) to side step critical scrutiny – it’s not open to critical challenge. For what makes heritage different from history is it’s intrinsic biasness – whether it’s the right of the English to recount Irish jokes to reinforce the impression everyone in Ireland has an IQ of 5 below idiot; or whether it’s us having the right to look down on Malaysians as a backward people, isn’t really the point here.
My point is, that is the essential purpose of heritage, it’s supposed to bend, exaggerate, confect and embellish the account to produce a story that satisfies our inner craving to feel validated – we need to believe, we are better than those who may come before us; we need to believe they can offer us nothing that we already do not have; we even believe we can wing it alone and like Frank Sinatra, “do it our way.”
My point here is when we speak about citizenship, it is precisely in these terms that we speak of it – not as a historical reference but as something belonging to heritage.
I am not for one moment suggesting it’s bad to take pride in one’s citizenship; or to even insist on one’s right as a citizen. On the contrary, this feeling of sacredness nourishes the whole idea of our sense of belonging. Without it we will all be jelly fish.
Only what must be strenuously brought to bear is. It’s a cause for concern when our sense of belonging becomes bloated and conflated. Pride after all is a double edged sword; nurtured judiciously and wisely, it can certainly nourish the whole idea of what it means to be part of a community giving it a sense of purpose.
Taken too far, it can be corseting, parochial and decadent, trapping us further in a bunker of xenophobia and nationalism.
This it does by narrowing the field of possibilities and distorting our understanding of who is deserving and who is not worthy of entering our inner circle. To me this has to be a disturbing development only because some where down the blind road of nationalism and endless distortion; at some point; reality will have to tragically gives way to free wheeling myth making; instead of seeking out similarities we promote endless differences. Instead of wrestling to wordsmith the narrative of common ground; we hold steadfast to the familiarity of our trench lines and seek out the company of only those who mirror our heritage; objectivity gives way to biasness; truth gives way to endless embellishments; we bask in our false sense of self importance; until finally it becomes almost impossible for us to transform ourselves into the building blocks, components and raw materials for the greatest experiment in human history – where we can mash with others from distant shores in the great hope to produce something worthy, original and beautiful.
Commentary by Y2K : There are at least 3 versions of this article – a longer version is published in the Intelligent Singaporean under the heading. “City Living – The Great Experiment.” In APICS, a condensed version carries the title: “The Foreignness of Foreigners.”
This article was written sometime just after the age of the stone; when the French legation accepted an invitation by the confederation to make an opening speech in the Parliament of the brotherhood in the Great Hall. No sooner had the French ambassador begun his speech. He was heckled by the third rowers (the intellectual class) who cited him for his usage of French. They insisted, he should address the house in English. He refused. This diplomatic faux pas was again repeated in what appears to be a tit for tat retaliation when Darkness gave a similar opening speech before the Conseil supérieur (the French Parliament). He too was heckled by the French who perceived this as an open insult. Midway through the speech, Darkness relented and so the rest of speech was made in French satisfying his host.
This was not only a great humiliation for the brotherhood, but many held it against Darkness as a sign, he was not worthy to lead.
However, I am not so sure about this, as there is every indication to suggest this was strategy played out at the highest level. In examining the notes of the speech once given, Darkness writes nine times, “all warfare is based on deception.” To my reading it seems to be a deliberate effort to convince the French he is indeed no threat and content to play the role of the complaint colonial servant. What is worth noting is in the age of stone, the brotherhood had nothing. Often described in derogatory terms as the “wandering people” and “space gypsies.” They were very much beholden to the French as their benefactors and protectors.
In the reign of Pandishah IX, the Emperor of the known universe, demanded that each tribe sent a permanent delegation to the Académie Française (royal court). Many within the brotherhood saw this as an imperialistic attempt by the French to impose their will on them so they resisted in various ways. One of them was by refusing to speak French.
In this essay once written, Darkness is appealing to the space diplomatic corps to relent to these unreasonable demands. He is telling them, let us accept them into our fold. There is much that we can learn from them. We must migrate out of our tribal mentality.
Eventually a contingent was sent to the Academie. Unbeknown to the French, every single one of these diplomats belonged to the elite guard of the brotherhood, the Order of Purple – trained in the secret art of spy craft. They would prove instrumental in burrowing their way into the Royal French court to establish the most influential lobby group in the universe. During this period, the brotherhood amassed all their technology and know how by using these rogue diplomats; they would be charged with bribing and establishing networks within the French scientific community to ensure knowledge of their latest designs and plans. All these would be replicated in the secret mineral rich planet known as Sardonyx located at the edge of the known universe.
In the 50th anniversary of the Pandishah IX, when each tribe was required to sent a token fleet to pay their respects to the Royal creche – the brotherhood rolled out the largest fleet in the known universe, known as “The Fist of God” – this tour de force comprising of nearly 1,000 Liberium class star cruisers and some 3,000 pocket battleships was roughly modeled along the lines of Zeng Hu, “treasure fleet” shocked many and its effects would reverberate across the known universe for years.
As till then many believed the brotherhood were incapable of mastering such technology and were nothing more than mere minions in the game. This episode would not only signify their arrival as a super power in the virtual, but also mark the beginning of the decline of the Academie’s hold on the reign of power in the universe.
2 months after the regatta, the entire French Royal Creche were mysteriously assassinated. Following this incident, brotherhood forces moved into the French court to establish a protectorate to offer protection to it’s sole survivor, the Princess Urillian. Till today no one knows who is responsible for this trecherous act, thought rumors continue to abound.
[This article has been reconstituted by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press 2008]
August 20, 2008
Write even when I am cast into the abyss. Only write with all your heart.
Write as you are filled with joy even as time watches by like an indolent cat.
Write even when others have stopped writing, forgetting their lines.
Write even when you hear not a word from the abyss and when no letters come to you.
Write even when others have grown worn and moved on to other things.
Write even when your friends think you are wasting your life away.
Write, for I, the reader will return one day from the abyss, death will have no dominion over me. And let those who do not write say we were either lucky or blessed to be reunited again, it matters little to me which it is.
They will never understand, how with your writing, you delivered me as a reader.
Only you and I my friend will ever know how time stood so still, it is because you wrote as no one else ever did.
[It is not the first time that the writer’s guild in the Brotherhood Press has gone on strike.
This is an emblemic poem once written by Darkness to the writers guild – it sounds like a personal plea.
In this poem Darkness seems to be reminding them, they hold out the promise of hope in the endless circle of reading and writing.
This is a heartfelt piece and in light of the recent writers guild protest stretching to the second month this coming weekend.
I have seen fit to resurrect this poem, once written in APICS and posted in the middle of the night, it was not even signed off by the hand of Darkness.
It seems to be posted like rubbish in a thread where people were talking about trains, aeroplanes and buses, but eventually, it was picked up by one of the writers and posted in the main bulletin board and read by almost everyone. I have entitled it simply “write” as I don’t feel, I have a right to add or subtract more from the words. Three weeks after this poem was released, the writers protest action ceased – This poem has been reconstituted by Y2K – The Free Internet Library Board – The Brotherhood Press 2008]
August 20, 2008
My Sketchbook: Solutions for the new media
Singabloodypore: AIMs’ Press Conference
BothSidesOfTheJohorStraits: The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society; a necessary mouthful?
the(new)mediaslut: SG PM reading this blog?
On Going Thread discussions: http://magnezium.blogspot.com/2008/06/internet-deregulation.html
Process and Structure:
- Bloggers’ group proposes sweeping changes in Internet regulation (Press Release)
- Bloggers to send ideas on internet regulation to govt (Today)
- Key concerns about internet deregulation emerge at forum (Yawning Bread)
- A real grassroots initiative by bloggers (Aaron Ng)
- When Good is not so Good – A Study in Consultative Affirmative Action (Brotherhood Press)
- What is Really Wrong With the G-15 Proposal? (Brotherhood Press)
- The Fish For A Day Project – Dissecting the only critical article of the 20-page proposal by 15 bloggers to MICA (Little Bird)
- Superman’s ‘Right’ to Blog Anonymously (Brotherhood Press)
- My Inalienable Right to Remain Anon (Brotherhood Press)
- Do not forget the moral of U Turn signs (redbean)
- Community Moderation as an alternative to Internet Regulation in Singapore (Bernard Leong)
- Internet Content Consultative Committee (Gerald Giam)
- Community Moderation: Thoughts from the Internet Regulatory Reform Seminar (Bernard Leong)
- Why we need a bottom-up internet content consultative committee (Cherian George)
- The Fallacy of Community Regulation   [3A] [3B] [highly Recommended Reading i.e highest number of referrals][3C] [3D] (Brotherhood Press)
- One Battery Chicken Life Coming Up in the Net? (Brotherhood Press)
- Internet deregulation seminar (One dimensional island)
- After thoughts on the Proposals for Internet freedom in Singapore (Starry Nite)
- Another stupid “anti-community moderation” trash article (Little Bird)
Racial and Religious Hate Speech:
- Maintaining Racial and Religious Harmony through Criminal Law (Mohan Gopalan)
- Why I dissented to the Bloggers’ proposals on the Regulation of Hate Speech on the Internet (Ng E-Jay)
- The Incredible Unlikeness of Being of The Sedition Act – A Critique on “Deregulating The Net.”   (FILB)
Films (Political or otherwise):
- Why the Films Act should be trashed (Yawning Bread)
- Political Films and the Ruling Party (Gerald Giam)
- The Economics about Banning Political Films (Bernard Leong)
- For voters, politicians, lift ban on political films (Choo Zheng Xi)
MICA’s Response – Lighter Touch:
- MICA’s reply to bloggers’ Proposals for Internet freedom in Singapore (with commentary by Ng E-Jay)
- Govt looking at lighter touch on Net (Straits Times)
- From light to lighter: Government signals direction of Net regulation (Cherian George)
- Touchy Bloggers or Govt? (The Void Deck)
Not yet classified:
- Prosecute or nothing (Yawning Bread)
- The pigeons are already among us (Yawning Bread)
- Internet freedom: Rights come with responsibilities (Mok Wing Tat)
- Internet should not be subject to the law over and above those that apply in real life (Ng E-Jay)
- Responsibilities and Regulations (Benjamin Cheah)
- Global Trends on Blogger Arrests for 2008 (Bernard Leong)
- Bureaucratic ambiguity and Internet freedom (Straits Times)
- Let people form body to oversee net content (Straits Times)
- Rationality vs political expediency in internet policy (Arun Mahizhnan)
- Freedom in the Net (Sam)
- Why my right to privacy is ultimately a matter of choice – Sex, G-15 bloggers and Samizdat (Brotherhood Press)
- Internet Content: Some control needed (George Lim)
- Let public lend a hand in confronting Internet excess (Zhong Zewei)
- [LEGAL PERSPECTIVE] The Shattered Dreams of the Blogger 15   (Brotherhood Press)
- Cyberspace is No Man’s Land (redbean)
- Yay. Feedback on the April 28 article (Little Bird)
- As a policy proposal it fails (Balderdash)
Gerald Giam: Untangling Singapore’s web of Politics
Are we are already living in a sort of dystopian nightmare where we have ceased to examine the deeper meaning of education in Singapore?
I am reminded, the cost can be exorbitantly high when droves of people can do nothing beyond regurgitating what they have once parrot learnt.
Engineers aren’t really engineers as much as they remain technicians; physicians aren’t really healers as much as they impersonate mechanics to repair human wreckage; and lawyers are nothing more than car coupon aunties who blindly follow the logic of black letter law.
I mean if you really want to gauge where we really stand in the intellectual scorecard then throw out the back slapping. “we are the master’s of the universe” rhetoric and just check this out:
Yes nothing hits the spot better than a few tight slaps served up fast and furious.
What I really like about this; is it puts every thing into the proper perspective to even rubbish some of our time honored assumptions about education. I know we just managed to squeeze one in (incidentally it’s by ranking) and he shares the same slot as the last of the Mohican. But I am just wondering aloud; I mean, if there are so many superman flying around in our happy nation performing miracles everyday. Then why is it we still can’t manage to make up the numbers in the international list of renowned intellectuals?
I mean, we certainly don’t have a problem with bagging the best airline, best airport, best flush the toilet award; we don’t even have a problem of making it consistently to the top 10 of the most competitive nations every year; in fact, if you think about it, we even bag a disproportionate number of seats in ivy league colleges, even our math textbook is being used by school teachers in Harlem, presumably they’re more fun that carrying semi automatics and rocket launchers to school; so pray tell why is when it comes to the litmus test of assessing the brain of nationhood, we cant even rise beyond the pea brain of a dodo bird?
Where did it all go so wrong?
I mean this may sound odd, but it’s even conceivable there is no such thing as a Singaporean intellectual? God forbid, but before we jump into the deep end, what exactly is an intellectual? Now I know there is a multitude of interpretations here as to who is and isn’t an intellectual; for instance some people consider Confucius as a intellectual par excellence with his pragmatic one liners: Man who fight with wife all day get no piece at night; Man who lives in glass house should change clothes in basement; Man who fishes in other man’s well often catches crabs.
I don’t deny Confucius may have well have been an intellectual to some (especially after a few shots of Maotai in Sanlitun on ladies night Passionate kiss like spider’s web, soon lead to undoing of fly seems impossible to fault along with flirting is like game of poker. You start with pair and then when your pastor see you, you end up with Royal flush.), but to me, there has to be something more to the whole notion of intellectualism beyond just impersonating a fortune cookie; the kernel of intellectualism as a state of mind in my personal opinion first emerged during the Dreyfus affair; J’Accuse in 1898 in France when Emile Zola first questioned the ratio of the supreme courts decision concerning the incarceration of a Jewish officer, when asked “where does your authority to question the highest court in the land come from?” Zola nonchalantly replied, “I am a thinker. I don’t need authority. I think, so I am.”
That more of less chiseled the whole idea of intellectualism from Karl Kraus to Theodore Rozak – the idea to me is novel, as it suggest anyone could be an intellectual and the vocation doesn’t really demand any skills beyond being a common sense thinker; I know intellectualism may still be perceived as an elitist guild for clever dilettantes, savants, writers, social critiques, philosopher kings and generally people who really do very little beyond consuming large cups of coffee and talking alot of nonsense. It suffers the same indolent tag of blogging, only it carries with it a certain À la recherche du temps perdu “life of disippation” texture about it which lends it’self flippant and even deserving of being considered inconsequential.
But I disagree, even if others insist on narrowing the field of possibilities by proclaiming no end. The sun rises and sets only in the corridors of power such as parliament; that’s like saying since Chimpazees were the first species to be blasted into space, they’re set to conquer this new frontier called outer space.
Duhhhhh! Do you see any monkeys working for NASA designing rockets to journey to Mars? My point is primates were just there for the ride; in the same way, no one denies Parliament may be the physical locale where laws are regularly tabled and enacted; but it’s certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas and it’s hold on being a happening place where smart people regularly mash to produce good ideas for change is even less assured.
It’s easy to confuse the thunder clap with the lightning. Truth remains, one doesn’t get there in one bound. And it has to be noted that so much of what we term “real change” actually begins with simple conversations.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s experimental architecture like the Bauhaus movement; a knot of geeks in Silicon Valley who consider Bill Gates as a reincarnation of Darth Vader. Or even the Santa Fe black arts fraternity who used to discussed fringe math; even Jazz, politics or serious gaming – it matter little what’s the topic of conversation.
My point is for there to be real and not bullshit social progress; these Bohemian encalves must not only be encouraged to take root, but if possible they should even be nourished so that linkages and networks can radiate out to add value to the ongoing social narrative – as those are really the places where things are happening and not parliament – only because there’s infinitely more room for improvisation, experimentation and in cummulative terms more brains there.
The sort of intelligent conversation in which one starts with a willingness to become a slightly different person. And that is something, that will never happen in Parliament.
Perhaps that’s why so many new social movements have the word ‘cafe’ in their titles – and if one really takes the trouble to waste time soaking up the cultural attributes of really happening firms like Google, Apple and Microsoft, God forbid, they want nothing to do with the moribund way of Parliament, Politburo or even our so called Great Hall.
As much as recreate the same exciting culture of buzz and impromptu feel of the cafe – it reaffirms their belief and commitment in the power of the intellectual’s wonder weapon i.e conversations can and do very often change the world in ways that we cannot even begin to understand.
Unfortunately, in Singapore, the notion of the pesky intellectual who throws out thorny questions triggers sidelong glances, sneers and derision. Often described as eccentric and even ultra altruistic, they’re considered part and parcel of the lunatic fringe. Now if you think this is just an off the cuff observation; don’t. Even our vernacular appears to discriminate against intellectuals. Consider the Singlish term, “cheem” (profound, deep) – what does it really mean? If anything it demonstrates our intolerance for anything remotely philosophical, never mind that philosophy is simply defined as a rational means of thinking how best we should live and make sense of the world.
And if that doesn’t stretch the intellectual on the pelt rack what about the Singlish vernacular “atas,” (bombastic, highfaluting). What does it really mean? And if that’s still not enough to sink the intellectual for six, that’s the cue for the village dunce to roll out and spout the lines, “hey chiat kantang, don’t talk so much lah!” – that to me is the clincher, that says it all –not only do we loathe intellectuals, but there exist no scope for them to even take root within our community.
I guess if we really want to nurture more intellectuals in our society. Then we simply need to look beyond the whole idea of education and ask ourselves the lateral question? How do we really fashion a better society? Is it true to believe all the answers can only be found in one party and all wisdom resides in only the hands of a few good men? Do we need to look deeper into the whole ratio of education beyond just producing automatons who can do very little except work according to script?
Ultimately for any society or even a tribe of monkeys like the brotherhood to perpetuate holistically. It’s not enough to be merely national park managers of the tried and tested yellow brick road; the only constant in nature is change; and this means there’s always be a need to question intelligently many of our assumptions of the status quo ante be it the imperative of educating our youth. And even the Tao of changing light bulbs in void decks to serve the imperative of continuous improvement – for none other than the betterment of society.
In truth, intellectuals represent a formidable force. For one they are born into every milieu of society. They offer tremendous opportunities for value creation and tempering much of what we may eventually weave into the fabric of society in the form of laws, policies and civic initiatives.
Neither do they belong to any particular class least of all the elite.
But all this can only take root in earnest in an environment that gives citizens the tools, curiosity and taste to engage in the societal debate without any inhibitions. In that world, all citizens and friends are potential intellectuals, only of different caliber.
May I be the first to embrace you all into our fold. I offer you all my hand of friendship…here take this sword, it has been with me since I entered the service of the Emperor as a loyal servant, here it shall remain, here it shall never leave, here it will serve the new Republic.
Meanwhile I remain your loyal servant.
“If you really want to know why everyone from Huan Thi, Stalin, Hitler etc have been trying to kill the intellectuals since the beginning of time; you don’t even have to read even a single book. All you have to do is play our game and at the end of the day, these people will make you pull your hair. They are just impossible. They are what the great Russian winter once was to Napoleon’s Grande Armie and Hitler’s 6th Army – we cannot fight all of them…do you all hear me? We will run out of ammo and just die! We must have the wisdom to pick and choose our battles. Meanwhile, let us get close to them, my feel is if we can earn their respect, we may have half a chance, but if not, we may have to go, but fighting them is definitely out of the question…you will win all the battles, but still manage to lose the war..gentlemen, this fish has too many bones, Bo Hua (no trade off)” -Darkness 2006
Commentary by Y2K:
This condensed essay once published in APICS< ASICS and in a longer version in the Intelligent Singaporean received nearly 20,000 hits.
It reads like any other BP essay; but it was actually an olive branch held out by Darkness to the intellectuals in the Great Hall. The relationship between Darkness and this class known as the third rowers (as they all sit on the third row) has always been fractious and bitter. I will con’t with this story later.
Perusing through their historical records, this was the first time, that Darkness conceded publicly to the role of the third rowers (the intellectual class) in Primus; not only did he reverse his position, but following the incident, the army were barred from entering the gates of Primus.
There is also evidence to suggest Darkness deliberately recruited many of the third rowers into the ranks of the army once he realized this group couldn’t be cowered by threats – the strategy of assimilation harks back to the Roman adage; “those who cannot be defeated, must be embraced. ”
Embrace them, he did by allowing the intellectuals to even transform the militia into a quasi diplomatic corps – many have described this as one of Darkness most significant reversals in Brotherhood history -following the advent of the age of reason, the alliance forged between Darkness and the third rowers would lead to a flourishing of the arts, sciences and laws giving rise to that period of enlightenment the brotherhood called, The Age of Reason or the Great Peace. Which led to the formation of the supra national republic known as the Confederation which united the entire Universe.
Regrettably this period would last only some 350 years (space time).
[This Essay has been reconstituted by the Free Internet Library Board (FILB) – The Brotherhood Press 2008]
August 14, 2008
My Dear Friends,
Our intelligence unit informs us, we have been infiltrated. As a precautionary measure, I want the following servers to be set for self destruct sequence by 0450 GMT @ 15-08-08
These are launch codes for auto deletion shut down:
Follow the Instructions to launch SD code:
(A) Enable set B.
(B) Enter Code / Re-enter to authenticate.
(C) Press CONFIRM – two times. A message to reconfirm may appear again / overide it with the authentication code and reconfirm again.
(D) A box will appear under the tag – SELF DESTRUCT – press ENABLE and ROTATE the vice ANTI-CLOCKWISE till an amber light appears / computer will sound a verbal warning: “YOU HAVE SET SERVER TO SELF DESTRUCT MODE> PLEASE CONFIRM” / PRESS CTRL and ENTER BUTTON to authenticate / a signal confirm will sound and count down will commence.
Totenkopf: 92309880-098 BETA
Gundam: 923329874-08 SIGMA
Inpemada: 92339823-07A DELTA
Illinois: 997237233-039 HOTEL
Imperial College: 99377332438-9937 ZEBRA
MIT: 99237072349 -23090 CHARLIE
Burn everything. Do not leave a single trace. Make sure there is absolutely nothing that they can use.
We are leaving the Singapore Blogosphere.
Regroup at sector 9903/0089/990 Strangelands / close APICS< ASICS< Strangelands< Intelligent Singaporean< ET1 to 8.
This message has been authenticated by The Interspacing Guild and originates from:
Harphoon – The Leader of the Brotherhood
The Fine Art of Standing Proudly Naked Before The World – A Study In The Mufflement of the Humanities
August 12, 2008
Indeed we pride ourselves as very pragmatic people. For one we rarely spend our time chasing fluffy butterfly abstractions like the West. Care to save the whales? Nope can I have another serving of whale sushi please? What about cutting down on our carbon footprint? Nope, past me another plastic bag will ya? What about the genocide in Darfur? Nope. Have to run late for a date, I am afraid. What about human rights? Nope. Err does that affect my right to shop till I fall dead?
Yes, we are very pragmatic people.
Some would say there’s nothing wrong with this ongoing preoccupation with reducing everything to “utility; functional and practical” Black cat, white cat, what does it matter? Providing it can catch mice terms.
But I disagree, the real problem sets in when we may unknowingly apply too narrow a definition of what’s useful, worthy and of value – at some point, we all have to consider what’s the actual cost of pursuing this one way street logic?
Was the International Monetary Fund and World Bank rebuke to Singapore over a ban on accredited activists invited to attend the annual meetings unreasonable?
Did we violate the terms of hosting the event by blocking the entry of 19 civil society representatives, who allegedly posed a security threat?
Why is the West always gunning us down? Is it just the politics of envy at work? Coming to think of it; is there a global conspiracy against us?
To be honest with you I don’t really know; but what remains astounding is how time and again, those assaulted by these assertions fall back on the first defensive line of structuring “rights” in terms of bureaucratic “practical necessities.”
Where a plethora of terms ranging from the “collective good”; “no one should interfere with our internal affairs” to the much vaunted “Asian values” constitute the main phalanx of why we should all consider junking these fundamental “rights.”
What I especially don’t like about this overtly defensive stance adopted by those who may not choose to see the value in promoting human rights is how they frequently elide whole sale the value of the counter narrative at the expense of coherency and reason.
For one, their position tacitly assumes what makes up our social and political attribution is all together so different that we would have little to gain by transplanting Western philosophy to sculpt our the outlook of our policies, institutions to further improve them to better serve people and planet.
While differences in culture, history and social make up do certainly exist in plentitudes; it still doesn’t answer the nagging question: why there’s no merit in aligning our values with the West; does it have something to do with the uniqueness of our Asian values?
Not really when one considers during the dark ages when Europeans were still burning heretics and dunking witches into the river; Emperor Akbar Khan had passed the most comprehensive laws to guarantee the freedom of worship in Asia. It seems real Asian values advocates embracing differences rather than promoting parochialism and insularism?
Neither is there any evidence to suggest Western values are altogether so alien to Asian values they remain wholly incompatible; when one considers how many nations have successfully grafted the American template of democratization as a reliable means of guaranteeing freedom against tyranny; it beggars the imaginations why this line of logic of junking Western thoughtware should even recruit any currency with thinking people.
What perplexes me is while, most of us don’t have any problems transplanting Atkins diet to help us lose weight; or even see fit to optimize our business process using the best practices of fortune 500 firms or accrediting ourselves with international manufacturing benchmarks; why is it whenever the issue of human rights crops up, it’s treated as an exception to the general rule?
What I really find incomprehensible is whenever this mufflement is perpetrated; these people not only elide whole sale the merits of counter narrative; but they have also inadvertently marginalize a reliable repository of knowledge, history, precedence and text which has traditionally united people and planet together for centuries; and all this is accomplished in a way which subverts reason that adds very little value to our understanding why human rights should be dispensed with.
Now I am not a very well read person, but I happen to know for a fact, no one rushes off to war in the name of Mickey Mouse or Barney the Magical Dinosaur, but I happen to know nearly 30 million allied troops fought and died against the Axis in the name of freedom and democracy.
I’ve also watched David Attenborough’s Gandhi, where it depicted hundreds of Indians protesting against British colonial rule by lying down on railway tracks to bring them to a halt.
Sure you can say, in those days when steam powered locomotives ran 5 mph around bends, lying on railway tracks was probably the equivalent a very relaxing mid afternoon siesta. Since there was still plenty of time for the train driver to turn over a few chapati’s, do the laundry and holler, “train coming!” I mean, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it these days with Maglev trains that run 600 mph, but it still doesn’t quite explain why through the ages there has never been a shortage of noble people who are prepared to step forward and even fight and die to defend these first principle values?
So don’t tell me it’s useless, dispensable and has no real value; one can no more adopt a presentist attitude and claim to talk about world history convincingly without at least mentioning these lost chapters of how human rights remains an indelible part of even the Singapore story. I mean where would we be if the “Eleanor gay” didn’t drop its mother load?
That’s the cue for the humanities to step in. I know it’s difficult, if not impossible to place humanities in the same practical rubber hits the road footing as engineering, medicine or even the law. But when we talk regularly about human rights that’s really what we are talking about – humanities.
Apart from the obvious observation the girls who usually make up the humanities faculty are immeasurably hotter than those anti-beauty cum internal beauty adherents in Engineering.
At least they go through the trouble of decorating their rooms with lava lights, bean bags, bead curtains and even perfume it with fruity incense sticks while they sashay around in Victoria Secrets to put one in the perfect mood for love; much better those honorary men in the engineering faculty who would have you listen to their comatose inducing lectures in their soviet box room 101 about prototype engines projects which can run on tap water. But despite the obvious inconsequential giving pleasure to people tag that humanities usually suffers from; my point is it does fulfill a very important social function.
For starters when we talk about “rights” be it juggernaut in your face human rights or even the rights of a few invisble cells on a pin head; we are really just skimming over the brief history of humanities i.e that body of knowledge that deals with the different branches of human beings and their culture, and so they remain the most comprehensive means for all of us to understand the language of human values and respect for the dignity of rights.
The distinctive task of the humanities, unlike the cold cut sciences, is it attempts to grasp human things in human terms, without converting or reducing them to something else: here, you can even say there is no conscious effort to subvert the final analysis by reducing it into practical theorems, formulations and hypothesis – science can certainly recount with admirable ease; how our voice box is made up of 21 muscles to produce speech – but it cannot tell you whether you have a right to stand up on a soap box in the public square to shout out to the world; if you don’t slouch, you stand 2 inches taller without running the risk of been packed off to the glue factory in the name of disrupting the peace – only the humanities can do that, it’s deliberately primroses and parks.
You could even say it’s the direct opposite of even pragmatic, practical and worthy. But this doesn’t diminish it as a reliable means for us to fashion an accurate lens to audit our actions against the tide of history as to how we may see ourselves or even chart a course to where we want to go.
My main point is not only is the humanities important, it’s even vital to suggest it would be foolish for us to chuck it aside. Certainly we can do without it, just as we might be able to use a Swiss knife from time to time to tighten that pesky screw that keeps coming loose.
But we all know, if the goal is to fix a book shelve; then nothing beats a dedicated rubber gripped screwdriver. By the same logic, if the imperative is to beacon out the murk reliably against the mind numbing complexities of our times; then there is no other discipline that even comes close to the humanities. Or even compares equally to what it can offer in the way of historical underpinnings; in short it remains the only way for us to understand what it means to be human.
This sense of urgency is only beginning to sharpen as we move closer to a post modernist future, where increasingly many of our assumptions are beginning to unravel like the onion story – the more we peel, the more we cry only to end with nothing – the hubris of sanctioning the organ trade; the moral conundrum posed by rouge regimes in Burma on our doorstep; our unceasing preoccupation to climb ladders to show the world how good we are while we grapple with an emerging underclass – all these challenges not only vex us, but they also demand moral and historical coherency.
It would be fool hardy for us to assume we could successfully wing it on our own without regard to the lessons humanities bears out for the benefit of greater mankind. Not only does such a view violate the spirit that there may be as many truths as there remain many perspectives – and no one truth can successfully shout down the rest.
But it also presumes there is only one definition of how one might “rightly” define personal and organizational success. Yes I have no doubt, we could busy ourselves by shouting down the humanities with an endless stream of “we have arrived” and “we have come to our own” icons, be it showcasing to the world; experimental bird nest stadiums, gravity defying water cubes and a forest of flaming skyscrapers to shout out loud; “this is how far we have come; do you all hear me?” And even if they choose to baulk at us, we might even consider remaining stoically silent as we caress our precious symbols of success no end; but here tragic realism rears its ugly head and takes a lasting bite.
Alas silence is only valuable when someone, somewhere expects you to say something worthy approaching an admirable sentiment – that sadly is what endless glass, stainless steel, co-axial wires, Louis Vuitton handbags, Jimmy Choo heels, Clive Christian signature scents, purring Lamborghinis and gold plated Hello Kitty key chains cannot do – if the truth be known, a new dawn can only be delivered by thinking men and women who are willing to pursue their dreams in the lofty, impractical and surreal land of “the admirable sentiment ” where wisely or naively, they believe, they can fashion a better world despite the overwhelming odds.
That incidentally, is the first lesson humanities teaches us, the rest I am afraid is just plain unimaginative pragmatism.
“Only a fool turns his back on what history can teach him.”
[This article has been lovingly reconstituted by the FILB (Free Internet Library Board) – first published in APICS during the IMF meet in Singapore in 2007, it questioned the merit of the Western preoccupation with human rights and how this might impact on our Singaporean sense and sensibilities – what astounds about this article is how the theme repeats itself with regularity. Even as we deliberate the merits of this article some Singaporeans question no end the same issues which we were once discussed. History it seems true to Santayana’s claim repeats itself.
Recorded conversation between Darkness and Harphoon on board the French starcruiser, les Enfants Du Paradis, ( never released before, digitally reconstituted by the FILB)
“I am sure you heard of the annotated version of the battle of Pillium where it’s often claimed by our nitwit historians it was our finest hour…. when we defeated the Aryanians…but what if said to you there is no honor there and even less cause for pride…if anything it has to be a badge of shame.
You see at turn of the age of the machine when I first commanded the Sardo-Khan. I was a young, petulant and rash, you could even say I lacked wisdom. And there was no one to guide me. During those early days, it was like the Wild Wild West. We made the rules as went along. Not like now in the age of the rocket.
So that evening. There I was on top of the hill; I finally had them in a tight vice like fish in a barrel; they were checkmated with cunning and skill – what did I do?
I wasted every last man; even after they had surrendered, the killing went on for days; then sacked the city leveled it down to rumble;in it’s place I constructed a large man made reservoir as a warning to all who dared to attack us; my mind smoked with revenge; we had been fighting in the trenches for nearly a year. You may say, it’s only a make belief battle, but nonetheless, it’s bound to alter some of us. By that period most of us were no better than raving animals; – how was I to know? I said to myself this isn’t a real battle, it only exist only as digital flecks, a forgettable wisp of memory. Besides who is going to bother if I tore out one page of the Geneva Conventions? There are thousands of battles raging in the virtual, this was simply one drop in the ocean of time. How wrong was I? So very wrong?
It is important that you hear this from me and not from someone else. You see even today, no one remembers all the good I have done, all they seem to remember is how I once turned a thriving city into a reservoir. Since then I have educated myself by reading and writing broadly, but even then I cannot seem to shake off this one mistake.
This is why they called me Darkness, the great devil, the vanquisher of the planets. In spite of the good I done, they still see me as a monster.
One day when I am no longer around, someone will spit on my statute in Liberation Square, then another will do the same, then another and soon a crowd will tear it down.
When that day comes, I want you find the largest rock and lob it as hard as you can at my memory – do this and I would could be said as a Sadherine (master) I have taught you Shadallin (student) well – this is the first lesson you will learn today, never ever make the same mistake I once made. My young apprentice very few masters will tell you this…I want to be true to you….and this simply means, I must be brutally honest with you on the account of the past, let this be is your first lesson Shadallin, you must have no illusions history has as many eyes as a pineapple….and the internet is like an elephant, it never ever forgets….never….I just made one mistake, not two or three….just one….You have to remember leadership here is not like the PAP, where you are like a cat with nine lifes…here you fuck up once…and it’s game over.
Someday the game will be over for me and even I cannot change how this story will end….This will be your first lesson my young apprentice.”
[This article has been brought to you by the FILB – The Free Internet Library Board based in Primus Aldentes Prime – The Brotherhood Press 2008]
Can The Crescent and Stars Really Mean The Good Life? – A Study in the National Search for the Meaning of Life.
August 8, 2008
Love or loath it. The age of speed is here to stay. We can no more return to the cottage industry anymore than we can hammer our keyboards into ploughshares; neither can we undo the internet; dismantle the feral age of globalization and step back into a time machine.
But this doesn’t stop many of us from questioning the advent of this new order – where is it all leading too? What’s at the end of the road?
The life of the battery chicken is an apt pathos of life under this new order. It pokes fun at the imperative of speed but it also carries a serious message, one that paints a dystopian future rather than one of restful, meaningful and rejuvenating utopia.
What’s the net cost to this obsession with speed? How did it even manage to whirl itself into our lives? Surely our sinews, muscles and brain can’t keep up with the culture of speed forever – something has to give; relationships suffer; goals get compromised; one falls into a rut; Is it such a wonder these days many no longer see the allure of buying into the rat race and what really happens when one decides to walk out of synch with the drum beat of the culture of speed and ceaseless competition?
Don’t assume for one moment you are immune just because it hasn’t hit you – it’s like artery clogging food. You don’t know it, till you’re lying flat on your back while everyone draws straws to see who will give you mouth to mouth.
The speedophile culture creeps up on the best of us. Human resources even have nice round sounding words to describe why we should all impersonate Duracell bunnies – multi-tasking, strategic rotation, skills upgrading etc. Whatever they dress it up to be. It just means you’re shifting to a higher gear; it gets a little harder to turn the wheel of life, all the while tiny slices of the “I” gets sweep into the bigger “we” – individualism gives way to the generic – life becomes binary. One is either in or out, functional or dysfunctional, with us or against us, worthwhile or just plain disposal.
Are we barreling inexorably towards a precipitous cliff? Why hasn’t someone put up a “dead end” road sign?
Let’s begin by asking ourselves how much damage has already been inflicted on our mind, bodies and spirit? What happens when children are encouraged to speed read? Yes I know they cover a larger text footprint, but can scanning really enhance their understanding?
What’s the cost of this reductionism? Does it come at the expense of deep spirited understanding at a jugular level? I don’t know about you but I believe it’s hard, if not impossible to read poetry speedily without missing out large chunks of its deeper meaning.
Ultimately the question really hinges on; what you define as “understanding.” I don’t deny for one moment someone who speeds read a textbook would in theory cover more material than someone who reads slowly. But surely to equate quantity with understanding is just plain stupid. That’s only progress, if you deny the whole notion of quality against the quantity curve. It’s one that will ultimately militate against the whole idea of discernment. I know this first hand as there have been many instances when I find myself revisiting books I have once read only to find myself coaxing out nuances and teasing out new meanings which previously escaped me. They’re of course small things, infinitesimal even, but nonetheless, it all adds to up to the depth of understanding.
When Microsoft first rolled out power point – many managers heralded it as the end of comatose inducing presentations. That only holds true if you believe. The complexity of business can be subject to simplification by compressing schools of thoughts and states of minds into baby food bullet point. I don’t for one moment deny power point improves the overall presentation by offering an endless array of eye candies.
But it still doesn’t answer the question; does it really improve decision making and understanding at a jugular level? If understanding here refers to skimming superficially over concepts and ideas, by glossing over the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions – I have a word for form reductionism – it’s called “rail roading.”
Nothing more than a derivative of watching TV, where one’s nose is pulled along roughly at a speed of a motorized wheelchair to a prearranged script laced with rollercoaster CGI and a musical score that could probably sell Adolf Hitler as simply a misunderstood post card artist who was just trying to make the world a better place for blond, blue eyed albino’s.
In short it’s a form of hypnotism. The equivalent of lacing tap water with Prozac to keep masses in a happy chrysalis; where their sense of security has absolutely no bearing on reality.
I am reminded something precious usually has to bow out; when we relegate the “stop and go” old fashion dialogue to convenient sound bites; an underlying strata of the logic whizzes by us. Understanding gives way to confusion. The truth is substituted for the spin machine. Instead of deep spirited narratives; we all have to settle for shambolic mumblers.
As you can all see, I am not speedophile; you could even say, I reject the whole idea resolutely; enough for me to even throw out sautéeing; bullet trains; speed dating; scanning; dummies publications; executive summaries along with a hundred other things that threatens to water down my understanding.
Yes, I know it could very well be mistaken for nostalgia; a return even to the age of authenticity; not really when I consider how well I’ve taken to fake boobs; I just cant stand fake people who wear wonder bra (the only thing wondrous about it is when it finally comes off, one is left wondering where did it all go?).
I guess if there is such a thing as a longing for a “return” – it’s couched in terms of the search for “meaning” and “happiness.”
What I find depressing abt the search for “meaning” and “happiness” is how, it often shares the same arty farty shelve as humanities, poetry and probably the odd copy of Prozac Nation.
There’s an almost frivolous willo-the-wisp air about the whole idea of dissecting, distilling and pinning down, “happiness” and searching for the “meaning in life.”
Until recently, it’s been the sole hunting ground of poets, song-writers and film directors. Hardly the domain of hard nosed policy planners and strategist who would much prefer a mechanistic quantitative no nonsense approach. I suspect, spouting percentiles, facts and numbers lends them an air of credibility.
I do it everytime at work; scribble a few mumbo jumbo theorems on the white board and off I go. Usually no one even bothers to challenge me. Not even if what’s actually up there happens to be my latest crackbrained theory on how to win the national lottery by studying meandering ant trails.
No one I am reminded wants to come across as silly and usually when they’re confronted with a iron curtain of math gobble d guck. Most make teeth sucking sounds nod their heads as if they know what you’re really talking about.
Of course pulling off such a feat requires a certain amount of flair, panache and aplomb. Apart from the pesky problem of how to regularly deal with the seven habits of highly ineffective people; or how to side skirt difficult questions by out staring my opponents using the Jedi mind trick without coming across as a sex starved homo. Providing one remains confident and not fidget too much. One is rarely ever challenged.
I mean, I once increased the productivity of an apparel factory in the Philippines by a staggering 30% by just piping in music into the shopfloor.
In Malaysia, I reduced absentieesm to a mere trickle in a vendor of Proton by just allow workers in third shift to watch world cup football during their tea breaks.
Of course, one goes through the motions of throwing in a few robots, conveyor belts and cutting edge theories to mask the real reasons for these improvements. But at the end of the day.
I know only too well, life at the poverty line for the average worker (I even once went undercover on shift for nearly a full year in a cocoa factory ekking out a shift supervisors salary of $3,700 per month. That was how dedicated I was to my craft – I wanted to know how life was in the trenches – I just didn’t want to read about it; I wanted to experience it first hand; there is no one who is as good as me in this area – I am the best there is, not in a kampung hero sense, but in an international sense – I know what works and what doesn;t work!) can often be a dehumanizing ceaseless grind. And it’s usually the small things like fire stairs cigarette breaks, coffea breaks, corridor conversations and pull overs for a brief respite which can make all the difference between heaven and hell in the work place.
This prompts the question: should politicians, corporate leaders and decision makers take happiness more seriously?
For me, the question has to be; can they afford not too? Against a backdrop where many of us may already believe we are living in the age of paradox - this question has never been more urgent.
At a time when we are enjoying unparalleled economic growth; many of us still remain uncertain, bovine and apathetic about what the future holds; Will I still have a job come this time next year? Will I have enough money to retire comfortably? What’s the point of even writing this article? What am I trying to prove? How do I fit in?
Ultimately this profound sense of estrangement has to lead us all to consider; have we been looking for happiness in the wrong place all along?– Does it really reside somewhere in endless economic growth and consumption? Where is it?
Here I am reminded much of our metrics, definitions of success and national raison has since independence been structured to only deliver on the imperative of maximizing the Gross National Product, little room is given to the consideration of Gross National Happiness or Gross National Understanding of the Meaning of life.
Though we may choose to deny this “great patriotic struggle” may shape the way we weave it into our lives. It doesn’t detract from the fact it’s fast losing it’s allure as a reliable means to turn the wheel of life.
Perhaps its time to re-look at many of our traditional definitions of how we choose to square off our assumptions of what it means to be successful; and even question the abstraction whether it’s even possible to ceaselessly build ladders to climb to prove our superiority no end; maybe it’s time to pause, still ourselves and just take some time to smell the flowers.
Like primroses and parks that may do little to quicken the heart of the taxman; it may not even get us ahead in the rat race. Neither will it read like a page turner, but it could well be a life turner – relax, it’s another day.
I wish you all good luck in your search for wholeness & happiness.
The Story of the Zoo Keeper and the Bee Keeper
“It doesn’t require alot imagination to play the role of a zoo keeper; all you need to do is wave the rule book around like a policeman; any idiot can do that.
It takes considerable wisdom however to be a bee keeper; here one can come and go as he pleases, but at the end of the day, the bees are happy and they can always be counted to return home…remain productive….and even behave themselves and not burn the house down…..but that is not the real lesson my friends….look carefully, how does the bee keeper manage his bee hive? It is not so different from how a family, company or even country is run….the wise bee keeper never robs the bee of what is rightfully theirs. Here there is a heavenly balance; where you can say he is stands no higher than the Queen bee.
….if the harvest is thin, he will leave empty handed….if it is bountiful, he will take his fair share….
The zoo keeper on the otherhand is a kiasu and kiasi fellow (small minded and petty). All he does is takes and takes and takes and that is all he really knows. That is not surprising as this also happens to be the Tao of stupid people who do not know how to grow and prosper – they never ever see how their actions can affect others.
If it is convenient for them, they will bulldoze; if it serves their goal, they will just ignore you; or better still pretend that you do not have a valid case. That is why they will never venture into business. They will talk alot, but if you pin them down and ask them, why don’t you give up your job, security and standing and go and start an enterprise since you are so clever?
All they can do is give you one hundred grand mother excuses why they are needed here. And without them the system will simply come crashing down! All of which you can more or less flush down the toilet. Because if they go out there into the blue yonder; even they realize, they cannot fly. Cannot means cannot. I have seen this in their eyes – I call it the cult of the immutable deaf, dumb and stupid. There is no way to be polite or gentlemanly about it. Stupidity is stupidity and it is inexcusable!
Is it such a wonder they can only play the role of the zoo keeper….and when his bees decide to fly off, he is quick to call them names like “quiters” and label them “an ungrateful lot.” If that doesn’t work, he will threaten to name and shame them. If that doesn’t work, he will busy himself to undermine their credibility and reputation through the mass dumbing machinery. But notice never ever once does he ever blame himself; we see this not only with bond breakers but also with good people who decide to leave before their season of harvest; why I ask myself? Why should a man uproot himself? Why would he go through the trials and tribulations of starting all over again? It must be one of the most difficult decisions to make even once in 10 lifetimes. You could even say this is the only question that occupies my mind whenever I design, consult or flesh out a game…. or when I am asked why an enterprise has failed or why is it going nowhere….study and research this well and I guarantee you whatever you put your hand on, it will certainly prosper and grow.
Disregard this and do not be surprise, if one day you look back, there is no one either in front or behind you…you are alone.
They have all taken flight. It’s game over, finished, kaput…..”
Darkness to the International Confederation of Gamers Address – 2005
This essay was written on board the Royal Thai Cruiser – KDD Ramayana.
(This article has been reconstituted by the Free Internet Library Board – The Brotherhood Press 2008)
August 5, 2008
Lately, have you noticed everyone from the NTUC auntie to ministers seems to be advancing the idea we need to work twice as hard and smart if we want to remain on the top of the heap?
What’s really behind the logic that accounts for the gilded cage of the hamster wheel? How sustainable is this idea whole of ceaseless competition? At what point do our hearts and sinew give out in this frenetic race? What really accounts for it’s underpinning as a school of thought?
The cost of ceaseless competition is prohibitively high. Kids don’t play as much as they should. Instead they’re busy impersonating the glorious life of the battery chicken shuttling back and forth the regimen of perpetual tuition – relationships suffer, couples no longer spend quality time together anymore; worst they don’t even make love as much as struggle to met impossible deadlines.
If you really want to know what accounts for this disturbing trend of ceaseless competition. Look no further, it has everything to do with what I call the resurgent wave of Darwinism aka law of the jungle, namely the law that accounts for the survival of the fittess.
In a nub the logic goes something like this in tadpole language;
“What doesn’t kill you, will eventually make you stronger.”
Policy makers are the worst culprits for peddling the snake oil of social Darwinism, they regularly tell us welfare or not culling scholars from a wide stock or stemming the influx of FT’s is in the long run bad, it’s no good. They say. And what’s so bad about it? In the long run, the lack of competition turns our backbone into jelly; instead of inuring us with added resilience, lack of competition would stymie progress; worst it breeds a dependence mentality and eventually our resolve melts away like camphor.
Granted all this talk about survival of the fittest seems innocuous enough. Besides who can possibly deny free and unfettered competition has always been a reliable producer of goodies. One doesn’t need to look very far for vindication to bear this out, just look at SPH and ask yourself why is it so like that? I can say no more. Even where I regularly chow, there happens to be 3 chicken rice vendors in a row and every time, one of them up’s the ante by offering something for free, the others follows suits – prognosis: I and probably you the consumer benefit directly from this competitive arms race.
But where social Darwinism becomes insidious and even dangerous is when policy makers begin to speak along anecdotal lines by extending the ambit of Darwinism beyond what it actually is viz-a-viz a rudimentary theory that attempts to provide explanations of natural phenomena as methodological principles based on the process of natural selection.
Here what may or may not work or what is or is not ideal is regularly oversimplified to account for the deeper workings of social phenomenon. Worst, it brackets further discussion into the cogent and salient.
Take one common misconception; the reason: why the Jews are maybe a trillion times smarter than our scholars? Because since time in memorial everyone from Pharoah to Adolf has been trying to do them in; so through the generations they have evolved a super duper hardy, adept and savvy helix to beat the odds – OK, next time, you turn the knob in the shower we are going to rig it so that yellow poison gas spews out instead of water. And just to leave no doubts, we are going to put you on the Auswitzh Birkenau diet of insects, twigs and mud cakes. And just to be triple sure; we’re even going to check you into Abu Ghraib prison where they will use your body as lego blocks to construct pyramids. After 30 days we’re going to give you an IQ test to see whether there’s any marked improvement in peak performance. How’s that?
Still a fundamentalist social Darwinist? What did you say? I beg your pardon?
The one that really takes the cake in the Darwanian claptrap has to be this – we need to create the conditions of resource scarcity where people actually feel the hunger to want to succeed; that way they will summon up their last reserves of will power and achieve the impossible – OK, if the bird flu pandemic hits Singapore and you happen to be rolled into the ICU in Tan Tock Seng – no Tamiflu for you. How’s that?
Instead we’ve arranged for a Nigerian foreign talent who also happens to moonlight as a voodoo witch door, you know the type that even Africans shoo away when they get their hands on real medicine.
Then all of us are going to put you in a big shimmering pot with some diced carrots and beat drums, dance, go Woooh Wah bad billabong la ya ba da ba do mumbo jamba. We even throw in a few magic Reiki crystals for color and flavoring to help summon up your indomitable spirit as you happily melt away. How’s dat?
Still a social Darwinist? Still want to name and shame me? Your mother you!
My point is simply this. What really disturbs me of late is how Darwinian models of natural selection have managed to leach into the narrative of politics, economics, sociology and education today. Its encroaching influence is so imperceptible these days; most of us don’t even register it’s rising at steady increments to permeate every feature of life from education to when we can get our CPF money.
Neither are the people who usually spout such unmitigated diatribe coy about it either. Whenever they extol no end the endless benefits of Darwinian self –flagellation. Fine if you abide by it. Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find growth in unceasing dog bite dog pressure cooker gladitorial lifestyle. The dull truth is that’s a sort of pain one that’s even elevated to the level of psychological warfare – pain at the end of the day is just tautological.
The only thing suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering.
Besides Darwinism is hardly a complete disquisition. Here I am reminded like eugenics, it belongs to a dubious Mengelian stable hardly pedigree building blocks for any self respecting professional to even justify building a card house let alone premise a whole policy, guideline or idea on .
Granted no one denies mother nature is indeed a very clever architect. But she is by no means infallible (I am reminded of this every time I look at the mirror). In fact nature is rife with jerry-rigging that regularly shows it to be clumsy, inelegant and at times darn right deserving of the rubber Dodo Bird Award– for one our molars aren’t even designed to last beyond 40 years of age; even our fragile bodies cant seem to survive in any habitat without the need for clothes; our memories regularly fail us; and why after millennia of social evolution is our language still so vague and ambiguous? Don’t believe me, just cast your memory back to the last time a woman ripped your clothes off and do recall, she’s exclaiming, “No, no, no..” How do you explain that? Huh, huh – coming to think of it we don’t even have any control what happens below our beltline. It’s disconcerting when you know it just has a mind of its own. Nope far from being a beautiful machine. It’s remarkable that we humans can still be entrusted to land billion dollar space shuttles and manage intercontinental ballistic missiles and we haven’t yet gone the way of the dinosaurs.
One reason why Darwinian logic is so often bandied around these days like snake oil for revivifying the scholar system to inuring the ranks of the indolent with a ramrod work ethic is it simply a very effective way to stymie the counter narrative. For one it’s able to demystify very complex problems into monkey cue cards to account for the workings of phenomena.
That there are certainly lazy bums who do not want to seek employment even if it stares them straight in the face is given, that the welfare system may even be abused by this scalywag minority remains a palpable truth when one looks to Europe, but to deny wholesale in one Darwinian sweep that it’s no good – is to deny all anecdotal evidence it remains one the most reliable means to alleviate endemic poverty and to even redress social equalities to allow millions to lead fruitful and meaningful lives.
My main gripe is this. Darwinian theory is NOT a rational theory to flesh out historical, cultural, socialogical and political scenery anymore than Snow White and Seven dwarfs can be used for macro-economic planning; it’s at best finger painting and at worst a dereliction of duty on the part of professionals who simply don’t see the need to gain a deeper understanding with subject matter – they’re a best dangerous amatuers.
What’s urgently required here is a sense of scale that puts everything in the right perspective, one which even suggest Darwinian thoughtware should never be a substitute for the anecdotal approach that can withstand the rigor of critical review.
Sure it can provide a historical vignette how chopsticks from China manage to find their way to Japan, but it cannot flesh out the detailed disquisition on why the belief systems of these two cultures are so diametrically apart – one needs to look at Ethnography for deeper answers.
It can certainly provide a jocular account of why the Jewish Menorah (candlestick) has nine-branches and not four or five, but it cannot account for how over 7 million Jews managed to settle on one of the most inhospitable slivers of land in the Mediterranean; the Jewish Diaspora can only be understood through the optic of middle east history.
Pressed harder it can even probably account for why the cloistered Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation (SPH) gingerly cut up their banana’s into small pieces before passing them with bated breathe into their mouth with a whispering hush. Stretched slightly further, it may even be able to explain why women of a certain free spirited ilk prefer gobble it down with two hands.
But it cannot explain why some people peel the skin, throw away the flesh only to use the inner skin to lubricate their bicycle chain like I do – only the director of the IMH and Dr Lee Wee Ling can explain that.
There lies the broken dreams of Darwinian theory as a reliable means of beaconing out the murk, it’s useless, no good, tak boleh pakai as our Northern cousins would say when they consider it good to boot.
And to see it been bandied around these days with impunity like some new mantra by people who are supposed to be cleverer is such a shame – if only they could really see for themselves how tragically shambolic they look and how utterly ridiculous they come across, it’s worth a least a few banana’s for the laughs – but I am not laughing. Today is a very sad day for me. As I realize for the very first time, I’ve never ever join them. You see the realization finally hit me like a diamond bullet, there’s nothing new that they can teach me that I can’t already learn from monkeys.
[This article was once written by Darkness, Harphoon, Scholarboy and Astroboy / posted in APICS and the reconstructed version, “It’s time to stop feeding the Monkeys” in the Intelligent Singaporean / “Sun Wukong, the Secret Recipe of The Singaporean ‘Success’ Story” – posted in Bagua.com Hong Kong /
FILB ARTICLE COMMENTARY by Y2K:
Make sure that our young people are hungry. If our young people are not hungry enough, bring in hungrier ones from overseas. Make them feel hungry, increase the hungr index.(Straits Times)
This article once written by the BP captures much of pathos with pursuing such a philosohy.
It’s well know that Darkness even developed many math theorems which not only debunked many myths of Competitive Darwinism i.e the law of the survival of the fittest, but even advances a less mechanistic approach.
Not only are many of the Darwinian based assumption questioned with lashings of barbed repartee’s. The authors even underscores a very serious kernel; Darwinism as a theory is no substitute for sound policy planning and reasoning. It should never be used indiscriminately without regard to deeper lines of enquiry.
By juxtaposing the different social and political scenes along what they see as an “encroaching” and even “pervasive” logic i.e evolutionary competitive theory – in doing so they question the deeper meaning of not only how policies are typically profiled, but also how they are justified, mythologized and often legitimize in the name of the greater glory of survival of the fitness – Y2K
Lamentations about the NDP every year always seem to have a familiar ring about them. Don’t get me wrong I’ve even taken the trouble to sun out the flag earlier than usual (that should sort out those pesky commissars knocking on my door). In all fairness NDP, has to be one of those nice events in the social calendar; sugary, cosy insiderism that all of us can relate too while picking the dead skin off our big toe and munching on bak khua as we watch our nation oozing before us at roughly the speed of a motorized wheelchair, like saving the whales or spending time teaching Oran Utan’s sign language, it’s really about the happy social narrative of how we once confronted evil and managed to cross through rivers of fire with our Bata slippers.
But after a while it gets vaguely annoying. Sooner of later, it’s bound to happen even to the best of us, the search for deeper meaning gnaws at us; what’s all this cloying uplift about? What does it really mean – the whole idea of home? Is it really that important in the digital age? Is the idea of home leeching away?
Look I am not for one moment saying the idea of home is incapable of ennobling us or even spurring us on to greater heights; Yes, I am sure, it does like poetry, primroses and parks; only of late, I’ve been questioning the whole idea of home.
I mean if the whole idea of home was such a badge of honor; then finest people on earth would all aspire to be home makers, a contention for which the evidence is, alas, mostly on the other side. On the contrary, as the erudite ranks of the Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation (SPH) have proven time and again the age of the emancipated man slapping feminist regularly turns its nose on the value of the home.
Judging from the way the sisterhood have astudiously elevated the art of wordsmithing to the upper reaches of the Kamasutra 7/24 work week preoccupation and sex in the city – this is where I rather be than any where else, the role of the homemaker is really deemed, cold fish, limp, menial, ball and chain.
That could well account for why I feel these days the idea of this is home is increasingly getting fuzzier; wispy even around the edges. The concept of home these days is really seen as the poor cousin of have-no-choice-but-to-stay- and-lump-it-out option; it even has a Sengkang Sally heartlander whiff about it; when compared to the sheen and polish of the upward and mobile cosmopolitans who would presumably plumb for anywhere else other than boring boh pian (no choice) home.
That can only mean as we barrel inexorably into the digital and globalized age; the idea of the permanence one ascribes to the idea of home decays and even fritters away; no one cannot deny that is what we see so much of obliquely these days; scholars who break bonds, people who choose to migrate to greener pastures; stayers and quitters; and I imagine this scene will be played out with increasing sharpness as we barrel further into the globalized age. Each circle doesn’t unite us as much as it draws us further away from the idea of home as a unifying linchpin.
All this can only leech our spatial awareness of where home really is; heightening our already profound sense of estrangement and narrowing the aperture of our understanding further.
In this increasingly homogenized social landscape painted by the digital age – my feel is the idea of home needs to be able to transcend the saccharine narrative of the Singapore Story, it has to be able to rise above the caricature of adventurers climbing up a soggy inflated Everest; bulimic Merlions who vomit colorful water; recycling elevator comatose inducing music.
There has to be something more to the whole idea of home. It cannot just be like a Cheshire cat with a winning smile and nothing else.
Hence the search for meaning….
I don’t deny for one moment most of us do genuinely harbor a strong and abiding respect for the idea of home. We wouldn’t be humans if we didn’t – the idea that we are tied to our community and that we even have an obligation to nourish those ties by completing the circle of life.
Only let’s not delude ourselves that we ever once possessed the cultural gravitas that the Jews have when they wax lyrical about Bais Hamkdash. Or when mainland Chinese programmers in Silicon Valley speak teary eyed about the whole idea of jin-yi-huan-xiang.
I am reminded here, not only do most Singaporeans lack the overabundance of culture one associates with Europeans, Americans or even our Asean counterparts, but for the vast majority, the idea of home is really a kaleidoscope of the God of small; and this surfaces whenever a fellow Singaporean chances on another in a foreign land; after dispensing with the small talk; the conversation ultimately turns to the very serious business of food. It goes something like this:
“BTW, do you happen to have any Maggi noodles with you? I’ve run out!”
Yes, never mind that the French would have asked for a well cellared bottle of Bordeaux. The Russians would probably settle for Sevruga Caviar, Koreans Kimchi even our Northern cousins seem to better us in this regard.
I am sure they will have the decency to kick up a fuss about whether we can spare them a dollop of belachan and a tube of durian paste; but alas our most precious national heritage, the seat of all our identity, the linchpin that unites the bonds is the humble two minute chemically flavored instant Maggi noodle.
That’s telling; as I suspect it reveals what we still don’t possess – that we haven’t really labored the raison detre from the womb of nationhood?
Here there’s an almost unmistakable “Akan Datang” quality about how we choose to square off our notions of serendipity with the idea of who we are and where we are actually heading as a people. And somewhere in pot noodle, I am sure the idea of home is simmering happily away.
This attitude towards the idea of home may read like a indictment, but it isn’t as much as it remains a source of real and genuine pride; as it encapsulate much of our attitude about the whole idea of home; most nations are weighed down by the millstone of history; the Jews nurse their diasporas like prayer beads; the Muslims in the Middle East, mull no end about the “Intifada,” the Europeans about the Renaissance, but for us wisely or naively, we don’t seem to suffer from any of these affectations and mental baggage’s – less I am reminded is more – the best is yet to come.
There’s nothing wrong with this idea of regarding home as a kaleidoscope of the small; and even revelling in the idea of trivia; small conversations; small dreams; small relationships. small partnership, small hopes and even small beginning which may hopefully lead to bigger things is really what home is all about.
Rather like the ubiquitous Maggi Mee that most of us can relate too it provides the much needed sense of scale that’s missing to make sense of this whole idea of home: a hot respite that warms the cockles of our heart in the ceaseless grind; the ordinariness in way we account for our responsibilities to ourselves and those around us by sharing the last packet of Maggi mee along with the little slices of the small everyday; the one’s who we met in the void deck; the conversations with store keepers; the ceaseless imploring with car coupon aunties; the grist of sharing the mill with my buddies.
Somewhere in this endless litany snugly hidden in the God of small; you can say this is a place where you may or may not wish to belong too, a place where you may or may not wish to even fight for ; a place that you may or may not even wish to build on to pursue your dreams. But even you cannot deny. This is where all the one hundred million things which makes you who you are today, yesterday and tommorrow all adds up to make perfect sense and there in the palm of your hands lies the promise of redemption of a place called home.
Indeed, in the lonely winters of our lives, we can draw strength from this oasis called home, and in the waning sunset years, when all others memories have been crushed by time, “home” will still hold out a candle to guide us safely back.
It would be foolhardy for any of us to deny this yearning as anything other than a profound human condition that nourishes us all; ants cannot make this connection. As humans, we can. And so this “spirit” of a place once called home; whether it exist as faded memories, familiar smells and clips of sweet reposes in one corner of our hearts; can con’t to teach us many things about who we are? And set the direction to where we are going?
There is wisdom here my friends; rightly pursued even on this microscopic scale far removed from the big politics, big brass bands, big pyrotechnics, big rallies and the big machine of mass assimilation; rightly ordered and rightly reasoned, home even one as small as ours can edify, teach and illuminate.
May I wish you and your family and friends happy home coming in the land where the God of the small resides firmly in the palm of your hands. And to those who seek for a place called home, may I welcome you with open arms. God bless you all.
[Commentary by the FILB on the article:
There are at least 6 versions of this heart rendering piece which once won a melancholy claim with many readers posted in ASICS and APICS.
It was written directly after the planet of the brotherhood D’ni sustained a surprise attack which coincided with the NDP in 2006 in a virtual by a force that outnumbered them by over 5,000 to 1.
In the frantic race to escape their besieged planet; seven sleeper ships (giant transports) were hurriedly launched, each named after the kinship of each tribe. Only one of these sleeper ships made it through the blockade, the Wallachia. The others perished.
There’s a painful conversation recorded by their Chronicler in the Book of Ages (the historical record of the brotherhood); when the captain of the surviving ship was asked by the rest of survivors what had happened to the rest, the skipper tries to avoid admitting what he knows but finally breaks down and announces, “I am it.”
Note the present tense declaration. In a single sentence the skipper of the Wallachia, seems to have captured many of the deepest sentiments that course through the ranks of the brotherhood.
To paraphrase, I am all there’s left of our history. There’s nothing left. Here the survivors were not merely individuals, they were elevated to the ranks living and breathing symbols of identity and culture becoming even as the author describes, “something more to the idea of home…”
This is the first recorded instance when we find that brotherhood assumes a nomadic spirit. Previously they seemed more like interplanetry settlers; no doubt in this essay, Darkness has capitalized on the singularity of what this skipper once expressed which had such a profound hold on the psyche of his tride; he even juxtaposes it unto the broader canvass of what it means to be a citizen along with the whole idea of nationalism and patriotism.
As a historian, it’s interesting how the author elevates the status of the humble Maggi Mee to comical heights of greatest. But it begs the deeper question; why? I would like to believe this is just chupazh, but I know it isn’t.
One thing about this article is it contains reams and reams of preparatory notes which was previously never ever made public before; here a detailed study reveals, the author is wrestling with the realization history has proven time and again, that the idea of home plays a pivotal role in the well being and survival of a horde and even holds the key to the redemption of its people. Time and again he crosses out and returns to the question; where is home; this happens at least 29 times, and in one thread he shares his personal sentiments with Harphoon; “how do I tell my tribe to remain hopeful? When even I have no hope? Where is home?”
Somewhere amid this struggle to reconcile himself with the magnitude of the lost and the need to regain his footing, the author settles for the symbol of the Maggi instant noodle. It’s a good metaphor as most can relate to it, easily cooked and consumed, it’s an ever green favourite with NS men and housewife’s alike – the ultimate symbol of the “make do” spirit. What’s even more remarkable is how he manages to glorify the vulgar to a pedigree that even allows his horde to draw strenght from the nexus between home, scarcity and duty.
He seems almost to be telling them, “I do not have all the answers” – “we have nothing now! But never mind, this is as good as any a place to begin” – “it will be difficult from this point onwards, but let us count our blessings, all is not lost” – “don’t fret; the best is yet to come. We will make do with the Akan Datang spirit.”
The mention of “Akan Datang,” is poignant then as it is today; when we reflects on the meaning of what it means to be a citizen as NDP approaches. These days with uncertainty of rising cost, cut throat global competition and a less than clear outlook on the future; many have grown despondent about the idea of home; as the author rightly contends then and now much of the symbolism we attach to home has lost it meaning; but in the caricature of equating nationalism with the packet of instant noodles; what the author seems to be saying is; the beauty of who we are or where we are going lies before us and not in our wake like the Europeans or Americans; in one single masterful stroke, he has thrown the yoke of defeat and shame that has befallen his tribe into the fire; by changing the optic from past and present to the hopeful future.
Much of who were are or where will be will be written in the “Akan Datang,” spirit, it lies somewhere over the brow of the hill; here tacking on the metaphor of the Maggi mee, he introduces the notion of the God of the small, the fractional minutiae of life and here one suddenly realizes what is after all the sum total of culture and identity doesn’t reside in the traditional iconology of what we usually associate with big picture of nationalism, rather it resides in the simple and everyday litany of life.
The author seems to be saying forget our great buildings that were burnt to a cinder; forget even our planet; these things are transient, what we carry in our hearts and minds is what remains valuable and will even save us.
At the heart of the message, the author seems to be even declaring, we are a hunted people, so get used to it, this is as good as it will ever get; it doesn’t get better than this. But if we stick together and hunker it out by carrying our entire history in our hearts and minds that will be all we need to discover a place called home – the message is brutal and stark.
Exactly, one year after the surprise invasion of their lands; the brotherhood launched a surprise attack on the Aryanians; again the rallying cry would be for an elusive place called home. It would mark the most tumulous period in their history, known as the age of blood, iron and sweat. – Y2K. This article has been painfully reconstituted by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press 2008