先天下之忧而忧,后天下之乐而乐

•November 17, 2006 • Leave a Comment

It means,

First to worry thine country’s woes, last to consume thee fruits of labour.

Such beautiful words, epitomising the highest values of governance. One that I did not expect to see on our P65 MPs blog. But yes, I’ve seen it written by one whom had left a comment on Zaqy’s post.

For those whom wish to see the whole entry in context, do visit his blog here. I’ll not say more, for it was apparent that the person whom left these words had high hopes for our government. But I have left my comment to him in his blog, and will reproduce it here for your benefit.

His comment to Zagy –

我们的先辈与我们的领导们以“先天下之忧而忧,后天下之乐而乐”,表达了关心国家命运,把自己的荣辱得失置之度外的崇高精神。你是否为下一代考虑过?当你一命归天时,我们的国家状况是否会比你降生时更好?”莲花出污泥后的灿烂,还需经得起社会各种变化的冼礼,才能毅力不倒,只有通过全民的付出,奉献,不停的自我提升,附加价值与认同感,共创我们认同的感觉,才有明天会更好的谱曲。

My comment to his entry –

很可惜,如果人人都有如此崇高的精神,也许世界就不会有战乱,不会有纷争,跟不会有权利,私欲,与仇恨的存在.

而从新加坡的角度来看,我们现在的富裕,的的确确是我们先辈的耕耘所种出的果实.可惜的是,人人往往在得到成功与富裕的时候,也就是忘记如何回归社会的时候.要不然,就是为了更多的权利,更多的利益,要求人民得继续为国家而奋斗.

人们不介意为国家而奋斗,不介意舍身取仪,为的就是能够让这国家的人民,后代,过更好的生活.可是当这些奋斗者发现,自己的付出所换取的资源只分配到一些精英的手上,而看到一些落后在社会里的人,得不到他们所奋斗的果实时,觉得茫然,悔悟.

年老的,残缺的,只听到高高在上的领导人说,你们是不会被遗忘的,社会不会放弃你们的.可是却不愿把国家资源分配到他们身上,而要在奋斗的人民,有更多的爱心,更多的慈善精神来帮助他们.

好虚伪阿..

领导人不愿做的事,要人民来承担,却不愿听到人民的牢骚.

我们都希望有一个团结,和谐,拥有温馨与认同感的家.可是但国家变得越富裕时,却有人看不到曙光,国家要求越多时,人民却看不到尽头.

这里.. 还是家吗?

Do pardon me for the lack of translation, something which I’ll do in time after this current phase of heavy workload.

Regards,

Hogwash Tsunami

•November 16, 2006 • 2 Comments

So it seems that I had gone for a longer hiatus than I had planned for. I guess when work does catch up to you; it comes in torrents reminiscent of a tsunami.

Heh. It seems there had been a lot of subjects running about in the blogosphere at the moment, from the discriminatory revision of the penal code against homosexuals, unequal protection accorded to women in marriage, HDB’s discriminatory refusal to rent flats to foreign workers, tightening of laws against web users, and before I know it, GST is going to be raised to 7% in the pretext of using the bulk of the taxes to strengthen social nets for the needy. I know some or most are probably going ‘bullshite’ all this while as they read the news.

So, there seems to be a whole load of bad news out there. Oh well, and so we have been telling others that no one is discriminated in our country, neither is our government homophobic, that we won’t resort to welfare to help the needy lest developing crutch mentality, or tell others that we take a light touch on bloggers commenting on issues. And sometimes you wonder, if our country is truly a place for everyone, or a place where its leaders do not put their money on where their mouth is.

Will be taking a short break for the moment due to work constraints, and will perhaps be back to write some more in due time.

Till then,
Azmodeus

The Kingdom and it’s Shin

•October 31, 2006 • 3 Comments

It has been more than a month since the Sept 19 Thai coup which had ousted former Thai PM Thaksin from power while he was in New York for a United Nations General Assembly. In the aftermath of the coup, which had extended the furore of Temasek’s newest acqusition of Shin Corp from the former Thai PM.

Shin Corp was founded by Thaksin in 1983, which had grown and developed into one of the largest conglomerates in Thailand. The company is linked by stock control to companies including Shin Satellite and Advance Info Service, the largest mobile phone network in the country. It also holds stakes in Thai AirAsia, a consumer finance company and ITV, a local television station. Therefore the conglomerate had been regarded by many Thais as their country’s strategic asset. The resulting tax free sale of the company on Jan 23, 2006, to Temasek Holdings in a US$1.88 billion deal, with Temasek acquiring 96 percent stake through nominee companies to bypass Thailand’s laws to limit foreign ownership had caused much anger to the Thai citizenry, loudly denouncing their former PM for selling an asset of national importance to a foreign entity, and hence selling out his nation.

With the controversy of the sale granted impetus to the already planned anti-Thaksin rallies throughout the country. Which in the process, drawing Madame Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek into the foray of political outroar in Thailand – burning her effigies on the streets of Bangkok. While Temasek’s spokesman for the Shin Corp deal, Jimmy Phoon, Temasek managing director for strategic development had denied any wrongdoing in the acquisition, from Temasek’s point of view, economically, Shin Corp had been an extremely good bargain for its portfolio as the leading player in Thailand’s telecommunications industry.

Yet, as it is, apart from the fact that Shin Corp had been a good buy economically, the risks involved in acquiring a key Thai national asset owned by Thaksin amidst the political upheaval against him, had been for all to see in the build up to the coup. In Thaksin’s claims for more transparency and conflict of interests, his decision to sell off Shin Corp had been a politically correct move, yet, its the choice of buyer that had been his ultimate death toll, had the buyer not been Temasek (Singapore’s investment arm) but another Thai company; perhaps the military coup against Thaksin might not trigger without that fatal catalyst.

 In the aftermath of the coup and the sale of Shin Corp brought up into scrutiny for its alleged breach of Thai laws and its issues of transparency in the deal. There had been several official statements from our PM Lee Hsien Loong in the bid to defend Temasek’s dealings in Thailand and lambasting the military coup which he describes as a setback for the Kingdom and its democracy. Such was the imperiousness in the claim to legitimacy of the business deal which Temasek supposedly claimed which had been shared by our government. While our PM had continued to claim legality and business high ground in the deal as mutually enriching. It was the lack of consideration for the political risks with the common Thai citizenry and Thaksin’s political rivals towards the deal that had triggered such an enormous backlash. With our government describing the Shin Corp purchase by Temasek to a Thai Senator months before the coup as solely a commercial deal, our government could not say they’ve not been warned of the possible repercussions. It could only have been in Temasek’s failings to see the risks that were already laid out for it to see.

 As for our government’s stand on the acquisition of Shin Corp by Temasek as solely a business deal. It was from the strangest of position that our PM took in his official capacity to defend the deal. With the sole executive powers of Temasek in the hands of Madame Ho Ching, with no prior influence to the conduct of the deal, it makes his defense of the Shin Corp deal from a position of a shareholder of Temasek extremely tenuous, if not lacking in credibility; provoking such strong and continual response from our Prime Minister, which would only serve to strengthen the belief in the Thai citizenry that there were political motivations involved to control majority stakes in strategic Thai assets.

With regards to the lack of commentary by our mainstream media, it was only understandable due to the only plausible derivations from such a failure in Temasek. With the political ties accrued from Madame Ho as our PM’s spouse, with additional reporting on the blundered deal, would only lead to negative responses from the public towards the management of our government’s investment arm; which would conspicuously point fingers towards our supposed Madame Ho’s infallible judgement. Such is the kind of political fallout and repercussions which our local editors would prefer to avoid within the local populace in the name of nation building, though of course, one would ask, what kind of nation building would one attain by the suppression of a balanced coverage from its citizenry?

From a commercial perspective, had Temasek Holdings been any other major corporation elsewhere without its political ties to our government, would Madame Ho have survived the implication of making a possible S$3 billion paper loss in 6 months without any recriminations? (Should the Thai Supreme Court finds any wrongdoing on Temasek’s part in the Shin deal, or the Thai government nationalises Shin Corp in the process.)

In all, our government’s drive towards further economic gains had undoubtedly affected our judgement to commit to the Shin Corp deal with former Thai PM Thaksin without giving due political considerations. While Thailand’s interim PM had stated that this deal would not affect bilateral relations of both states, belying such a response, was the fact that the Thai government would not intervene in the investigations of any possible trial in the Thai Supreme Court, should there be any Temasek misgivings in the Shin Corp deal. Such was the lack of approbation by the Thai PM towards our government’s continued response, which served only to further incite misgivings in the Thai people of our state. Perhaps we’ll see if bilateral relations had truly been affected in the long run, yet, the economic goodwill which we had built up during Thaksin’s administration in the past few years had probably been exhausted by our economic arrogance, displayed by our goverment in this Shin Corp debacle.

 Kicked in the face by a ‘Shin’ from the north.

Addendum: In addition to what had transpired from the Shin Corp deal, there was apparent moves taken by Temasek in the background to link Thai royal counsellor Tongnoi Tongyai as Temasek’s corporate adviser to legitimise the deal with Thai royal family’s endorsement. Yet, in an about turn, the Thai Crown Prince office had issued a statement which had criticised the character of Tongnoi, which further embarrassed Temasek’s dealings in Thailand. This is further expanded by Alex in his Yawning Bread blog here.

Attitude of the High

•October 27, 2006 • Leave a Comment

With regards to the Ms. Wee episode, with her father finally making a full apology in our national paper. I’ll say, do let us drop the event for the moment, and let us be magnanimous, let the matter rest. Ms. Wee is after all, just 18, one whom is still concentrating on her studies whom had not known what it is to be like within the society to make one’s own living; until she has reached of age, when she had made her own mark within the society, have her own family and having served within the society; what she had said, or written would have to be taken in context to that background, and let us reserve our judgement till then.

And perhaps let us take joy in what what little victory that our voice had achieved. I personally agreed with what Kitana had mentioned in her recent post, do head there and take a look, and see what happens when we have that little voice to effect that little bit of change.

 It is just that attitude of our society, especially of those whom had been sitting up atop the pedestals of our state, which had caught my attention. The disconnection, antipathy, and insensitivity of replies in our leaders’ statements had always not failed to pull my feelings of cynicism of their words to the fore time and again.

It wasn’t that long ago, when Kitana had mentioned of why would she want to leave Singapore, and Kway Teow Man had put forth his questions to her reasoning; seeking to clarify his own doubts. While I felt that Kitana’s words had deeply resonated with mine, I had decided on my own accord to write a reply to his questioning, hoping that it might answer his questions. It was in the midst of our correspondence, I had wrote with regards to what exactly are the push factors that are actually driving us away. And it was here, I felt that the attitudes of Ms. Wee’s father, and what some of the statements of our MPs to the recent Mr Tan’s suicide, had echoed what I felt in what I had written to KTM.

 And here, I reproduce my second correspondence of my reply to KTM over email in full for your read.

Re KTM,

Well, I am glad to know that you’ve gone thru my mail and had replied with your own views with regards to some of my own.

Personally, you are right that I am a political activist at heart, though I am not sure if all that “upset” are caused by the fact that I was not heard. There are many other things I guess, some of which had already been covered by other people’s blogs, therefore I don’t intend to cover. To be honest, I think I had already gotten quite used to not being heard, I’ve had several writings to ST as well, and I don’t think any made it through (probably wrote it with a little more energy than the editors are able to swallow), mostly relating to topics such as our education system, ERP and fare hikes, the little exchange by our MM and our reporters, the pointless (pre-CSJ saga) Hong Lim park, and some other issues.

For me, I may not sell Char Kway Teow for a living, but yes, similarly content with my job as a sales engineer at a Japanese company. As one whom had gone through our famed education system, for a very long time, I had never realised what exactly is the problem when I as made to study relentlessly in pursue of academic success, the questions poised to my teachers and parents had only rendered me replies in realising my dreams in the future. And it was only later, when the questions became clearer, I start to ask, for all these years, the academic success for whom? And the dreams that I were seeking, were they really my own?

Doubtless, for years, the qualities which had sustained our economy, our workrate, the quality which had been encouraged by the government, to be hardworking, would mean you are able to sustain your lifestyle and perhaps your family, and to work even harder to earn substantial material wealth perhaps to brag to the rest of the extended family. That same quality being applied to our education system, to study really hard in order to achieve all that.

My parents bought that thought process, and thus, for years I was driven, sometimes by talk, mostly by cane to reach a point where I had been at the top. I was happy, happy that my parents were happy, happy that perhaps for a month or two during the holidays there wouldn’t be any caning or reprimands that my homework isn’t up to scratch. The process continued year after year, from primary school to seconday, and there, I stopped. I was tired, tired to continue the process, wondering when it will stop, I start to evaluate my dreams, wondering if all that studying would help me achieve what I want, and what do I really want?

It was when, I realised, I don’t really have a dream.

From there, I stumbled, I had stopped that relentless surge to maintain my academic grades, and in my mind was, whats the point? I started to indulge in things which I had not really had the chance to do in those years of studying, basketball till really late into the evening, video games at arcades, and late night outings to newton hawker centre. I just realised that I was tired, too tired to continue and I just wanted to be happy, life is supposed to be simple isn’t it?

It was till when my mum was freaked out by my sudden change, and her tears told me what was wrong, it was when it struck me that it was the society’s perception to success, that drive to success had forced itself on individuals. At that point in time I was 15? There I was thinking of things that I never thought that I myself as a 15 year old would have thought of. While my classmates were talking about that new pager or discussing about how to solve a chemistry 10 year series question, there I was wondering about the society’s pressure, my parents’ perceptions, and finding my dreams all over again.

And here I am, relating my my own path to someone whom I had never met, but yes, I have came face to face with this problem, and I did not let it wash over me as something which I should accept, simply because its reasonable to me. And this is not just my problem, but our society’s problem, when I mentioned of the limits and pressures set by others, and of our leaders’ views whom they think were superior than the rest. Does this mean that these views are meant to supplant the rest? and to force this set of values, which does not always work out there within the global arena, on us? And the next kid to question himself, why?

It affects me KTM, it does, and it isn’t about whether or not if I have been heard by the government, but of the consequences when they choose not to hear and impose it upon us. When I gave it even more thought, you’ll know its not the education system that is at fault, but the attitude, the attitude of which that economic success overrides all and with that you would attain a vicious cycle, the more the government continues on its drive to economic dominance, its going to affect its policies on its education, social welfare, public transport, civil liberties foreign diplomacy, and so on. To me, the most grevious of all injustices had not been the “stop at two” or even the ISA, but the attitude adopted by our leaders, the overriding principle which had been guiding our policy formulation. That, is the thing which will affect all Singaporeans no matter which field you may choose to do, where you may choose to study, or even where you wish to retire to.

And it is this attitude of our leaders, this self-centred view, that disallows all alternative views to their own, that dismisses positive feedbacks to them, had filtered down to the everyday Singaporeans. And together within this oppressed environment, as a whole, the people within the society decides, why should I be bothered when others do not, when the elites do not, I should just mind my own business and not be concerned. I’ve read the recent entry on the online ST forum by Seah Min Yi, as someone as young as her would even ask such a question on why had our social community start to deviate this way? When our education system were telling them to be more caring, when our leaders are telling us to be more concern, you ask why? Simply because, it starts with the attitude, an attitude which permeates through the society, from the top down, when our leadership deems Singapore lands too expensive for our old and aged.

I am not saying that all Singaporeans are like that, for there are those like you and me whom are concerned, and constantly wondering what went wrong with the likes of the everyday Singaporean. We may have our differences with regards to what may seem to have gone wrong with our society, but yes, the thing that truly bother me are not the tying of upgrading carrots to election, the suppression of our rights, or our education system, its our attitude.

And I have reached this point of my life, by adjusting to changes that I had made to my own life. But there will be the ones that I could not and perhaps never alter, that is the perception of this society, and I will remain to wait, to see change, and when I do not, or perhaps, got sick of the waiting, I might leave. Because like a lot of other people in this world, I just wish to be happy and continue to pursue my dreams, and not simply because when one fails, I had to forsake the rest of them.

And perhaps, maybe you are right on one point, the main problem with our society is not with our government, but the people, but I’ll stick to one point, that is, the government is a part of this society, and when the leadership attempts to subvert people’s minds to stop the progression as we could see in many areas of our society, the result, would be more drones within our society, the ones whom could think would leave, and leaving nothing but a shell in its place.

Perhaps my assessment is a tad grim, and there are some whom might share this assessment, I haven’t… yet, and I hope I never will.

And yes, it had been a pleasure for me as well to chat, I might have been rambling along sometimes. Do forgive me.

Regards
Azmodeus

Daughter’s words Father’s views

•October 25, 2006 • 5 Comments

So it has came to pass that the situation had attracted enough attention for MP Wee Siew Kim of Ang Mo Kio GRC to make a public statement to apologise for what his daughter had written on her blog in response to Derek Wee’s blog entry.

A lesson learnt, says MP and dad Wee Siew Kim

“What she said did come across as insensitive. The language was stronger than what most people could take.

But she wrote in a private blog and I feel that her privacy has been violated. After all, they were the rantings of an 18-year-old among friends.

I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.

Nonetheless, I have counseled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it.

In our current desire to encourage more debated, especially through the Internet, our comments must be tempered with sensitivity.

I will not gag her, since she’s 18 and should be able to stand by what she says.

The new media of the Internet is such that if you don’t like what she has said, you have the right of rebuttal.

Hopefully, after the discussion, everyone will be the richer for it. As a parent, I may not have inculcated the appropriate level of sensitivity, but she has learnt a lesson, and it’s good that he has learnt it at such an early stage in life.”

What had Derek said that was wrong? Not that I could see anything wrong with what he had said. I have not gone through his shoes to see things from a man in his 30s going to his 40s, nor do I feel that I going under stress of being retrenched within my company at the moment. Yet, I do feel that there is a certain truth in the words which he had said.

 In our bid to globalise, our economy had turned into one which would doubtlessly be influenced by external factors, and that is a one of the chief characteristics which define a free globalised economy. Thus, businesses within Singapore would naturally feel the pressure to ensure that they keep up to pace in the competition, when new competitors rise across the horizon from another country, flaunting cheaper products due to cheaper labour from another country, with similar management ability, marketing skills, financial stability, and business acumen, all that boils down to its the cost of business that is directly related to the overheads of the company, and one of the key overheads would be the salary of the their employees. As salaries of their older executives increase over time, overheads increase as a result, with younger graduates appearing every year with similar set of management skills and acumen, with a greater drive for success, and cheaper wages compared to the older executives. Businesses are hardpressed to cope with the increased competition and the pressure to cut cost are therefore multiplied, which in most cases, companies would either resort to retrenchment, mergers, or management reshuffle to cut cost, downsize, or hire cheaper workers in the face of the new economic environment in order to stay competitive.

If that were to be the case within this new globalised economy, where does that stand for our older executives beyond the age of 40? In these times of uncertainty when they need their jobs to provide for their family, coping with housing loans, car loans, and bottomlines. What is important is to review what could the government do to stabilise their fears in the face of their uncertainty and possible unemployment due to newer economic challenges?

As for what Ms. Wee had mentioned within her blog, it is understandable for one as young as her not to understand the market forces that drives a free and globalise economy within a Singaporean context.

 What struck me as astounding was the words of Mr Wee Siew Kim’s comments with regards to his daughter’s blog entry. While he chooses to acknowledge the fact that his daughter’s words had been a tad insensitive and its language had been stronger than what most could take, he had failed to mentioned that what his daughter had written had been more than just insensitive, but had not captured the cause behind that anxiety which had been troubling Derek and the similar group of Singaporeans, while assuming that the anxiety had been merely rants by one whom chose not to raise his competiveness, and chose to lay the blame on the government for his misfortunes.

In Mr Wee Siew Kim’s sweeping statement, “that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.” Yet, if Mr Wee Siew Kim had truly subscribe to his daughter’s words, does that mean that in supporting his daughter’s words had actually been his views which he had been indoctrinating in his daughter as well? The fact that one of our government’s MPs had not understood the similar market forces which drives our elder executives off the competition had not been an area of concern for him as an MP, a leader of his constituents, lest to say that he’s President & Deputy CEO of Singapore Technologies. Yet, he seemed to understand that lowering costs of business had been a critical issue for businesses to survive in the new economic environment not too long ago, or have this issue with his daughter truly revealed his views with regards to his thought process?

While on another note which he mentioned, that he feels that his daughter’s privacy had been violated as she had written in a private blog. As I would like to reiterate on what many other bloggers had written in response. That when you choose to write online within a blog which is undoubtedly accessible by many others through search engines or links through friends, one had already chose a medium which others could undoubtedly access and choose to comment, therefore rendering the argument of her writings within a private blog with her privacy violated as balderdash.

In all, with all the repercussions which had been started with an insensitive entry by Ms. Wee. What was more worrying had been the view of one of our leader’s, with his seemingly innocuous statement, had the implications of that he chose to ignore the concerns of an average Singaporean, whom could had been one of his constituents. That is truly worrying should that be the views which had been harboured by our community leaders whom had been elected along with our Prime Minister to lead us through the new challenges that are bound to beset us in the coming years.

Of Compassion, Charities and Governance

•October 23, 2006 • Leave a Comment

It was already quite sometime back when one have seen any advertisements on our mainstream media on any new charity acts on televisions seeking more contributions, promoting it with condominiums or cars to be won, or mediacorp artistes promising more back-breaking stunts to ensure more viewership and therefore more contributions in the process.

I remembered my mother used to say, “How could there be any charities whom make used of human’s greed to coerce contributions? Being charitable organisations, shouldn’t compassion be the core of their ethos, their spirit? How could they let those artistes attempt such dangerous stunts, satisfying viewership for extremes, in the effort to bring in more contributions?”

I agreed with her.

It was then I start to ask myself what is the role of a charity organisation in the context of societal compassion and local governance. Don’t we all used to hold the view that charity volunteers whom sacrifice their time and personal energy to help those in need at care centres, have this glow of human compassion and selflessness that we sometimes find so lacking within our society now? And I believe that there is a word that is used to describe them back when I was young… Angels.

I believe charities have a role, more than just raising funds for their beneficiaries, but have a role within our society to educate, not just to inform the populace that there are those among us whom requires aid, but also to spread their spirit of compassion amongst the population. The very values that they espouse, of altruism and selflessness to help the needy, is part of the very soul which is quickly disappearing within our society to cynicism and indifference. When I saw the commercials for the NKF fund raising event on television, I had this dilemma, for I know the commercials is promoting their event with lucky draws packed with great prizes, that to coerce contribution by tugging at one of humanity’s greatest evil, greed, was fundamentally wrong, and on the other hand, there are those needy whom needs the funds to help them on with their lives. And, I made the decision to not contribute, for I do not believe in the phrase ‘Whatever the means to achieve the ends.’ For in this case, whatever the means we choose, would definitely affect the ends. A means which could only serve to espouse detrimental values to our society should never and not be used to promote charitable causes, for it only serves to taint the very noble spirit which it brings about within our very own humanity, of compassion, altruism, and selflessness that should form the basis which we contribute to the needy.

For, when such education fails, when sponsorship drops in the time of economic recession, when human compassion fails at the time of need, whom is going to aid the less fortunate? It turns into a vicious cycle where the values of possible returns should be more than what one had contributed be incorporated into a charitable context.

Our government, one of which that operates in the view, of which welfare should not be used as a crutch, to be readily abuse by those whom should have no need for. Yet, it was this exact mentality, that promotes the view to receive handouts is wrong, is shameful, is disgraceful in the societal context. One that drives the prideful us to achieve more, and at the same time, to deny aid when we are in need.

It should be changed.

Governance of aid should be controlled, yes. But not in the manner that would discourage to those whom truly needs it, but instead should discourage those who seeks to abuse it. There is no clear system on how a proper welfare system should operate on, there would always be the rogue elements within our society thriving on its inadequacies, yet, should we continue to operate in a way to stop these rogue elements and prevent those that requires aid from seeking it, it would only serve to further polarise our population into those whom are at the bottom rungs of our society unheard and unaided, while those at the top, singing the efficiencies of good governance unseeing and unhearing.

Anointed MPs, Chingay, and Culture

•October 13, 2006 • Leave a Comment

Although this news isn’t exactly new, which I am sure most within the local blogosphere had already been talking or had talked about it. This new post 65 MPs blog which I had came across over at Mr Brown’s.

In some of their posts on their blog, they had talked about their enthusiasm and excitment in the up anc coming Chingay Festival. There was this big splash of our MP’s pictures in our mainstream media and the Chingay website in their posturing of hip-hop dancing. Resulting in this big hoo-haa with bloggers started talking about our MP’s roles, their involvement in the Chingay Festival with their little hip-hop item parading down Orchard road. I mean look, Its one thing engaging people during meet-the-people sessions, and another trying to look hip and cool and in touch with youngsters rowdying in mock african-american culture.

 To be honest here, I am appreciative of the newer PAP politicians’ attempts at getting close to the people whom they are serving, nor do I doubt their sincerity at it (or try not to). To many others and myself, it would definitely have to come across to me as a misguided attempt to connect with people.

Why do I say that? Well, its simple, we are talking about people here, and the very people that we are engaging right now have feelings and they have the very eyes and ears to see and hear the news which had been ferreting down to them through controlled means. In other words, we’ve heard nothing that runs contradict to our ruling party’s policies, mostly just sunshine on our ass stuff. There are no hard questions, no critical commentary, no championing of issues (as delivered by Ms Bhavani’s famous letter to Today), and definitely no partisan politics (again Ms Bhavani). So after all that sunshine and no questions of where the sunshine comes from. The political leadership starts wondering with their own questions with regards to why aren’t the electorate putting forth questions, why are the Singapore youths so politically apathetic, and why do we not seem to care in contrast to our PM’s message to us where there would be a more open and inclusive society (note that I am taking this sentence broadly).

After years of political stewardship by the PAP, their MPs had garnered an image of stiffness, elitism, and an unwavering stance on toeing party lines. With so many MPs which have come and gone, even during the times of PM Goh’s softer and gentler approach, things had hardly changed. And in comes this new batch of MPs whom are quite determined to make a difference to the long battered image of stiff PAP politicians. As if in one feel swoop to answer all their critics on their image and approachability, trooping down Orchard road in gungho style, baggy pants, pack with a ripoff african-american rap attitude of if-you-can-we-can-too panache to show the youths whose da new kids on da block. Yet, its not just as simple as connecting through a mere dance item on a national event, but to peel away decades of cynicsm and conditioned bochupness. A well orchestrated hiphop item to display to our controlled media to show more sunshine on how hip and approachable of our post 65 MPs isn’t going to do more to improve on their image than just a publicity bandwagon to promote themselves. What better way to increase the cynicsm of our populace and the very youths which they had been trying to target in the first place with an artificial PR event?

And with reference to Chingay, I happened to have this little exchange with Faishal Ibrahim, one of the post 65 MPs on their blog. He posed a question to me with regards to what I think about Chingay. In truth, I have not watched the Chingay event over the past 6 years, with my last Chingay event being one in school trying to get the float working fine, had been a truly tiring yet job-well-done pride, which has totally nothing to do with the event itself. At that point in time, I did not know why we had Chingay in the first place, why was the event there, what was it for, what is the point of celebrating it. Look into the Chingay website, and there you have it, “Chingay was introduced as a substitute for a different kind of noise: firecrackers.”

Once, Singapore have a rich cultural heritage coming from all ways of life, racial and religious practises, one of our louder cultural inheritances, was the practise of igniting firecrackers during Chinese Lunar New Year. Once upon a time before I was born, they were really grand and noisy affairs, which was described vividly to me by my mother and grandparents. And we’ve lost abit of that culture with the ban of firecrackers in 1973, the lack of noise was replaced by what you termed now as Chingay. Born after the banning of firecrackers, I have no idea or any semblence of memory to relate to a CNY with firecrackers, with all that I’ve known of it was a quiet affair during the holidays where I get to visit my relatives and collect red packets, with the occasional reverie from my older relatives of the lost ‘noise’.

I did not know what was lost, always having the impression that a quiet, boring, meet-relative-collect-money CNY was the correct type of CNY. Till television shows me of the different kinds of CNY around the globe, and hey, they are all noisy and bustling affairs lasting for weeks, and why are ours such boring events? My travels to Shanghai and Taiwan had inevidently shown me what the real noisy CNY had been like, somehow, as I watched the swinging procession of banners, drums, lion and dragon dances trouping down the main road with noisy firecrackers exploding in the backdrop, I realised that I found abit of that something which I had lost before I was born. The look on the people’s faces when they walk by each other was one of joy and excitement, and there were many whom congratulated me with 新年快乐 or happy chinese new year, even when I was just another foreign stranger walking down the street marveling at a true cultural spectacle, one of which that truly tugged at my heart strings.

Looking back to our Chingay, it pales in comparison to the real procession which I had witnessed back in those other countries. Here, we invite societies, schools, and local performers from Singapore to perform at a street parade filled with floats aka a Brazillian carnival parade, sometimes even inviting foreign performers to revved up the performances to avoid the mix from descending into sterility. Now, looking at the two types of procession, one of which my ancestors had celebrated long before my time, filled with a deep cultural heritage of ancient origins, my origins. Another, a faux pas impersonation of a cultural event being thrown before me, before I was even given the choice to choose.

This is for you Faishal, culture is one that is nurtured in one within the context of your birth, one of which that had been influenced by those around you, by your traditions, and society, moulding into what is you, your views and your way of life. True culture could not be manufactured or substituted by an artificial event, one of which that serves no purpose other than to create ‘noise’ to be placed upon your platter to replace what is truly yours, and a part of you.