Missing the boat to the South China Seas – Part 2

November 6, 2016

Q: You mentioned earlier Singapore failed to transition successfully from a low cost center to a fully developed country that was able to leverage on innovation and creativity to create competitive advantage. Why is it so important for China to succeed in this transition given that in the case of Singapore even when she failed – she was still able to carve up competitive advantage. This question is directly from message capsule by the IMG.

A: The IMG. If you are familiar with the history of the IMG. Then by every definition even you will have to agree the IMG was and is certainly a very impressive outfit. This is of course is a digression. But I feel it’s a necessary – as when you know the history of the IMG, it will supply an explanation why this question could only have emerged from the ranks of this small select group of thinkers.

Beware! The games we play in our youth will invariably shape our outlook and perhaps thinking through out life and this is truest for the ranks of the IMG. If in the moment of one’s youth – one is accustomed to playing ‘Go’ like Isoroku Yamamoto – then you will not have any difficulty understanding why only such a mind could have conceived the daring raid of Pearl Harbor along the battle of Midway. If one the other hand one is accustomed to playing angry birds or candy crunch – then one can only see the world like most simple minded Singaporeans. In the early days of our game. It attracted many university students – many of them were nerdy kids who read either engineering or science based disciplines. So the quantitative slant of the game appealed to many. To add to the illicit thrill of the game – it was deliberately couched in an iron curtain of mystery and secrecy just like maybe the order of the Templar Knights or the Masonic Order. This also allowed me to charge a modest subscription fee since I or more accurately the mythical character Darkness was really the main protagonist that many players identified and even hero worshipped. During that period the game was played out in a board albeit with one modification – it would make us of the prototypal variant of the internet as we know it today that existed only in universities, specifically the faculty of engineering.

In every weekly edition of the run of each chapter of the game – there would be a codex that would allow the player to find the codes to move the pieces on the game board. This was a labor intensive process too much for one player, it also required numerical dexterity – hence to manage the division of labor. Many of the players formed into groups or chapters that we eventually called Guilds. Eventually all the guilds consolidated into four main houses.

If you read the ‘confessions of a Singaporean gangster in London’ – you will find the four houses being mentioned again and again. That was because at that period to supplement my meager income as a destitute student – I was also writing sappy love stories.

Today you have highly popular serials like descendants of the sun – just look at it as that lah! But it was all prototypal with bad spelling and lousy grammar.

Now everyone thinks I was a prolific writer. But that was not true. Yes, I certainly did flesh out the scenes like a set director in a movie and there was also the run of the mill ‘Akan Datang!’ To be continued….cliff hanger ending to each chapter that perpetuated the game.

So this was really the only game in town – everyone was playing this game. But what I never foresaw was one consequence of having one generation of highly intelligent people playing such a game was they would also gloss over it – that is to say. Many of the guilds would regularly meet up and discuss the travails of Darkness and how they could best win – hence each guild began manufacture their own version of how they could best win the game along with what Darkness meant when he said this or that. Truth is – I got a lot of inspiration from just sci-fi mumbo jumbo.

In the age of the sword – when computerization was made widely available to the masses. The game exploded and took a life of it’s own. Contrary to popular belief, by this period, I no longer controlled the game – yes Darkness was certainly a venerated figure to many of the gamers. A sort of post modernist hero like figure – but for most. He was also a distant and unapproachable figure. Since I was shy and autistic I feared crowds so I never attended any of the meet up’s and this merely heightened the mystery of Darkness.

During this period. One guild managed to fashion itself as the dominant house in the known universe of our game – the IMG, the Interspacing Mercantile Guild.

Under the aegis of IMG, there was a very large PRC contingent – but what really distinguished the IMG from the other guilds was a very charismatic leader. His name is Vollariane. He was a Singaporean scholar. Who eventually became a broken arrow and became a bond breaker. He was instrumental in engineering a breakaway group from mainstream brotherhood – like maybe the Waffen SS. Or perhaps the KG200 unit of the Luftwaffe. That is understandable as Vollariane the man was destined for greatest – that is to say both he and Prof Chandra believed in the overarching idea the game was not only a game, but rather a simulation of what will happen in the real world.

You must understand this was a period of great and historical change – the USSR had crumbled. Communism had ceased to exist in every sense of the word. And in the middle of all this was a group of very young and committed individuals who were mentally conditioned by the discipline of the game – they could be the architects of the future.

That is why I say, beware of the games you play in the moment of your youth – as it’s likely to shape your worldview and many of your attitudes.

Vollariane and his troupe believed that China could win and be the dominant force in the world. His worldview was confirmed in part by the daring of the IMG to seize control over the Laandstrad.

To many PRC students at the time this was inconceivable – the idea that an Asian group of students could beat and even dominate the West.

But what made all this possible was what I once published – today it in the annals of the brotherhood – it is known as the arcanum.

Secret knowledge concerning world domination – of course at that time it was all stuff that came out from my brain….stuff that I did not even take seriously myself. But I never counted on Vollariane and his troupe regarding it as seriously as they did – to them, it eventually became the blueprint of what will come to past and given Vollariane’s serious nature, he saw it thru to it’s logical end.

What is the arcanum? What does it involve?

I don’t want to ramble on and on – cut to the chase. The IMG were the only guild who first understood the importance of playing the game within the game – that is to say both Prof Chandra and Vollaraine were able to perform very complex calculations concerning two aspects of what is required to win in a game. The first was the availability and cost of the securing a quantity of a resource, such a steel or aluminum or even oil. The second was the ability to convert that resource into stuff such as being able to convert iron ore into sheet metal and finally into ships. Or to be able to smelt Bauxite into Aluminum ingots which finally can be moulded into engine blocks.

By engineering either a deficit or surplus of these two aspects – within a very short period of time the IMG became the most influential guild despite their small size. To summarize their ability to do reduce into scientific theory the expectant demand of fictitious raw materials such as the precious mineral Sardonxy and the ability of convert these resources into products such as ray guns or to use it to fold space to facilitate interplanetary travel made them indispensable to other guilds.

It did not take either Prof Chandra or Vollaraine long to comprehend how this knowledge or arcanum as they called it could be superimposed on the real world to predict outcomes accurately – now this knowledge may not have been new in the conventional sense. At has been around and even frequently used – that is why nations stockpile raw materials on a regular basis be it oil, commodities in the form of rice, wheat or sugar and in the case of Singapore even basic building materials such as sand and mortar. But what was completely new was how it could be used to accurately predict outcomes in the real world – like how in 1941, Japan went to war because of an oil embargo. Or how Nazi Germany expanded eastwards to the Caucasus because this was the only means to fuel the machinery of imperialism.

From the outside looking in – it all looked like very logically structured seminally written mumbo jumbo. To me at least. But even I could not deny how elegant and reliable this theory can be used to supply many explanations to world events and even be modified to predict events with uncanny accuracy. Time and again, both Prof Chandra and Vollaraine were adept at not only predicting outcomes within the game, but most vitally they could even engineer outcomes to secure the primacy of the IMG.

In the real world the resource availibility and conversion theory could even account for why despite being mineral rich, the continent of Africa seem terminally in debt. And why countries with limited raw materials but advanced material conversion capabilities like Japan could thrive despite their inherent disadvantages to why the USSR eventually collapsed – this body of work proved very influential in more ways than I can possibly elaborate or even know the scope of completely. As I said the IMG was a force within a force with it’s own hierarchy and hegemony.

But one thing is very certain. However I need to qualify by stating categorically, that just happens to be my personal opinion as I can never truly be sure it’s fact – the IMG was instrumental in shaping a whole generation of thinkers, especially the fifth generation Chinese leaders.

We were all very young at that time to really know or even appreciate the awful reality how the games we play will eventually shape our worldview.

Even today whenever I trace back developments in China’s second industrial revolution – their near obsessiveness and fixation to gain core competencies in train technology, the methodical way in which they foresaw the strategic need to not only network the country and beyond to move men and materiel. But also their paranoia with securing line after line of raw material supply lines at every cost and opportunity. I can’t but trace out the insignia of the all seeing eye of the IMG secretly and mysteriously and furiously at work.

It is only now with the benefit of hindsight that I can appreciate how it must have been for many of those young Chinese scholars. Imagine. You’re just a farm boy who perhaps did well enough in the public examination to secure a Western scholarship – you have never ever sat on a plane before. You arrive in a Western university with only two changes of clothes and they both look like uniforms undertakers wear. You attend lectures and return back to your room where you huddle around with other comrades who are just as confused and probably scared like you are. Then suddenly a whole entire world beneath the world who are conscious of opens up before you. A world where suddenly for the very first time – everything that had confounded you like a shard of glass stuck to your head is yanked out and then it all seems to make perfect sense. Suddenly for the very first time in your life – everything that used to confuse and make you scared begins to dissolve away. Suddenly for the very first time it all becomes so very clear like the game we all once played in the moment of our youth – suddenly after a long stupor, you can believe for the very first time since discovering consciousness – you can finally believe you can win!

Darkness was of course credited for revealing this stream of consciousness. You got to understand Darkness fits the bill of the superhero, the √ľbermensch, the superman…he had a square jawline, dashing, popular with the girls and was so easy to believe in at so many levels – as even by then he had become a super duper mythical hero like demagogue figure. But the sheer genius was actually Vollaraine. The quiet, gentle, soft spoken and as I remembered impeccably polite and well read Vollaraine. Not a loud man like Darkness with absolutely perfect keel of disposition and demeanor in his clarity speech and precision of conduct. A top drawer gentleman, a man of letters. A man of wit, who perhaps didn’t have the boyish charm or even macho patina and brotherly voice of Darkness. But had somehow even at that young tender age when boys are boisterous and showy understood maturity and had made peace with his lot with providence. A man who by all appearances was content to live an austere life free of affectations and pretensions unlike Darkness who always wanted the trappings of success. Who much preferred a quiet life of servitude to humanity. As he was very much influenced by Opus Dei and I imagine truest to his faith as a staunch Catholic.

I did not know all this then. I couldn’t have. Like I said, I am a bit autistic.

Only…

Beware of the games you play when you are young.

I apologize if I did not seem to answer the question posed to me. I was thinking aloud to myself.

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