May 2009

Sons Of Anarchy S0104 – The Beauty Of Anarchy

Emma Goldman on Anarchism:

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

I don’t care if a man’s theory for tomorrow is correct. I care if his spirit of today is correct.

On Capitalism:

The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade.

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What I Learned Today

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Japanese Game Developers Must Be On Drugs – Super Awesome Wii Game

Whatever those Japanese game developers are on, I wouldn’t mind having some. Super weird, slightly gay but freaking awesome Wii game.

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MediaCorp’s Super Fail ‘Just For Laughs’ Gag

Apparently some folks are getting their knickers in a tangle over the latest kerfuffle started by MediaCorp’s super fail ‘Just For Laughs’ gag. If I was ever put in such a position as these actors, I would be pissed. Some online folks seem to show little sympathy for our thespians, saying that they should take things easy – like the celebrities who get Punk’d by Ashton Kutcher.

Seriously?

Singapore isn’t some place where there is a whole row of roles queuing, waiting for the right actor (or actress) to come along. It is, in fact, the other way around – a lot of people (who, in my awfully stereotypical-programmed mind) probably do not have regularly acting gigs struggling to make a career in show biz.

Let’s put it this way. If you were unemployed, have bills to pay, and time is precious, and you are given hope there might be a chance to score a role for a gig that will increment your bank account, and you find out that you wasted your whole day for a gag, being pissed is probably too nice a reaction from anyone.

Those who got ‘tricked’ should have gone all ‘Carrie’ on the people responsible.

The difference between the celebrities being Punk’d and MediaCorp’s victims is that those celebrities who Ashton Kutcher targets can afford losing 1 day of their life.

Haha, yeah, ok… you got me and I look like an idiot and everyone is going to laugh when they see me on TV, but guess what, I still got a couple of millions in my bank account, I’m still going to bang all the hot chicks, so yeah, haha, good one. I’m DEFINITELY THE LOSER here.

The poor people who got targeted by MediaCorp probably do not have that luxury.

Also, I have this feeling that Ashton Kutcher expends a significant amount of his social currency after each gag. Do you think anyone at MediaCorp cares? Do you think any of them have to care? They are anonymous behind a corporate project.

Job done. Move along now people, nothing to see here.

You know how this gag could have been done? Go to a school, tell the teachers there MediaCorp is auditioning for the role of a teacher in some new drama series. Tell the teachers that MediaCorp is scouting for raw talent and want some authenticity. Plan some elaborate gag which involves the teacher trying to be a ‘teacher’ but failing terribly. Or something.

The best gags help people break out of the monotony of daily life and gives the victim something to laugh about when confounded by the sheer surreality, incredulity and absurdity of the improbable situation that unfolded. The aforementioned gag by MediaCorp fails because all it does is inconveniences.

The story on asiaone:

A PRANK meant “Just For Laughs” by MediaCorp has provoked an online furore, with actors aghast at the broadcaster’s “disrespect” for them.

The incident started when they turned up for an audition at MediaCorp’s premises on Monday, only to become victims of a prank.

Actress Daphne Ong posted an account on her blog and Facebook profile.

According to her, a man repeatedly tried to give her a scare in a room she was taken to, but failed.

“He said, ‘Surprise! You’re on Just For Laughs!’ and pointed to a camera in one of the two-way mirrors (in the room),” she said.

As she had reacted calmly, the man asked her to “pretend” to be “really scared” in a second take and, in return for doing so, she would appear on “national TV”.

Worse, when she asked if she would be paid, the man promised her compensation of a “whopping $20″, she said.

In response to queries yesterday, MediaCorp told my paper that “all participants who are filmed must sign release forms giving consent. Otherwise, we will not use the footage”.

The gags were part of a collaboration with the Canadian award-winning comedy show, Just For Laughs, with an Asian take on the series.

The spokesman added: “Given the nature of the gag, this involves putting the participants through situations to gauge their reactions and evaluate their spontaneity.”

But it was not in good taste, actors said.

Actor Brendon Fernandez, whose friend was a victim, wrote on Facebook: “This was a deliberately concocted scheme to lure professional actors into a humiliating trap. The people who attended devoted their time and their skills in preparation for what they believed to be an audition for a role in a professional TV series.”

Mr Randall Tan, 35, an Artiste Management celebrity, said he was split “down the middle”, but added that he thought the gag was “uncalled for”.

“Auditions mean work and, if there is an opportunity, we will take it,” he said.

However, Mr Rabil Lian, 37, a production manager, felt differently.

“To be fair, this could be seen as a prank that fell flat. Celebrities overseas are also Punk’d and humiliated, but they know how to laugh it off,” he said.

Home-grown singer-actress Asha Edmund said that while the incident was a prank, the actors were “angry about something else”.

“Maybe (it is because) MediaCorp does treat actors with disrespect,” she said.

“Maybe it does tend to be a little obnoxious, and maybe its programmes are mediocre.”

But there are many opportunities for actors to voice their unhappiness over those issues, so they shouldn’t overreact to this prank, she said.

On Singapore
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Devan Nair – The Alcoholic Womanizing Ex-President Of Singapore

I’m not sure how this piece of knowledge entered my head but I’m guessing that, as a young boy who followed his father around for business meetings and golf games, I might have heard one, if not a few, of my elders saying stuff about the late president Devan Nair to the effect that he was a ‘alcoholic, womanizing, nightclub regular’.

It was a piece of information that, even though I never had any way of verifying it, I have held to be true.

Then I read this (the foreword has been reproduced below).

I wonder now, how much of what my elders were talking about ex-president Devan Nair, were true. What was fed to us by the media at that time?

Using the great oracle Google, I discovered this rather old post over (reproduced below) at The Void Deck.

Conspiracy theories abound.

What I do know is that even if the stuff said about the late president were true, it does not discount his statements made about the state of Singapore and the path we as a country are going down. If we as a country are to grow, we need to learn to be discerning, to know when to separate the flaws of a man from the truth in his thoughts and words.

Because the truth is, we are all flawed, we all have our own demons to fight.

Before reading Francis Seow’s manuscript, I had decided that I would decline his request for a foreword. My political days are definitely over – and more reasons than either friends or foes imagine. Apart from a series of reflective essays (in preparation) on the making of an ideal (in which I too had been privileged to share), on its unmaking (which I watched in helpless pain from the sidelines), and on the dubious – to say the least – political and social aftermath of phenomenal economic success, I had, and still have, no intention of becoming involved in promoting the political views or program of any individual or group, whether within or without Singapore.

After reading through the manuscript, however, I realized that I would never again be able to look at my face in the mirror without flinching, if I said no to Francis, at least in regard to this particular piece of writing by him. For this was no political harangue by one of Singapore’s leading opposition figures, excoriating the political or economic program of the powers-that-be, and pleading the virtues of his own political cause. On the contrary, central to this book is a grim account of how a citizen of Singapore was treated while under detention without trial under the republic’s internal security laws.

As an ex-detainee myself, who had undergone in two separate spells a total of five years of political imprisonment in the fifties under the British colonial regime as an anticolonial freedom fighter, I recalled that I was never treated in the shockingly dehumanizing manner in which Francis was by the professedly democratic government of independent Singapore. Indeed, my fellow detainees and I had as legal counsel a brilliant lawyer and vocal freedom-fighter by the name of Lee Kuan Yew, who has publicly borne witness to the comfortable circumstances in which we lived under detention, and how he was able to visit us, without supervision, to discuss, among other things, strategies for bringing the colonial rule of our jailers to an end.

Francis’s account of his seventy-two days of detention by Prime Minister Lee’s government confronted me yet once again with acutely poignant questions: What has the nation come to? And what malefic hidden persona has emerged in Lee Kuan Yew of today? Surely, this cannot be the same man, whom I and several other starry-eyed anticolonial revolutionaries in the fifties and sixties had jubilantly accepted as our captain in the grim, heroic struggles of those early days to create what we expected would be a new Jerusalem? Alas, it took us thirty years to realize that we had been treading on air.

Mr. Seow’s book is an eye-opener; that is, for those whose eyes still required to be opened. Mine too, for that matter. Nobody is blinder than the captain’s inveterate hero-worshipper. And none probably as wilfuly, self-righteously closed to unfolding reality as I was. Indeed, until fairly recently, I had believed that the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, by which I had once sworn, had all along been tolerably civilized and humane in its treatment of political prisoners. Yet another scale had to fall from my eyes, the latest in a series of scales which had already fallen earlier, and which I will deal with in my own book.

The economic transformation wrought by the PAP government is there for all the world to see. The towering skyline of the island city state, the great vistas of new high-rise apartments which had replaced the sordid sprawling slums and malarial swamps of only three decades ago, the magnificent international airport at Changi about which all visitors rave, the world latest and, perhaps, the best mass rapid transit system, the clean and green garden city – all and more – quite rightly evoke the envy and admiration of foreign visitors, especially those from developing countries with much less to boast of by way of efficient development-orientated governments.

I would be the last person to denigrate the material achievements of Singapore, for the good reason that I was also a member of the ruling team responsible for them. Like other members of the PAP old guard, I saw the creation of a solid socioeconomic base as a vitally necessary springboard for the realisation of human ends and values. At least for me, and for the others in the anticolonial movement like me, the human agenda was primary. In short, the urgent, organized, disciplined drive for economic growth and technological progress was powered by noneconomic aspirations and ideals.

We looked at the sad fate of other multiracial and multireligious developing countries and recognized that life’s highest rewards and fulfilments were beyond the reach of societies riven by sterile, senseless class and ethnic strife, and cursed by a corrupt polity, inefficient production, material poverty, and hungry bellies. Modern technology and management systems would be necessary means to advance the human agenda. Alas, we failed to forsee that human ends would come to be subverted for the greater glory of the material means, and our new Jerusalem would come to harbour a metallic soul with clanking heartbeats, behind a glittering technological facade.

History bears abundant witness that idealists generally come to grief. They awaken high human aspirations and hopes and ignite the liberating fires of revolution. The pains and humiliations of foreign subjection and exploitation are scorched, and, for a brief, blazing period, men transcend themselves in the inspiring vision of a great common future. The revolution triumphs – but idealists become expendable thereafter. One by one, sooner or later, they are eased out. And the revolution is inherited by cold, calculating power brokers at the head of a phalanx of philistines.

Lee Kuan Yew’s earlier speeches echo the great themes of freedom fighters everywhere. As the several irrefragable quotes Seow offers in his book testify, Lee too had once waxed eloquent about liberty, freedom, harmony, justice, and the dignity of man. But reading Lee Kuan Yew today, or listening to him, one realizes how brazenly he has abandoned the positions which had so convincingly persuaded an earlier, revolutionary generation of Singaporeans, both old-guard colleagues and the population at large, to confirm him in the captainship of party and nation. We had taken him at his powerfully eloquent word. If Lee had then given the mildest hint of the apostate he was to become, he would have received short shrift from the revolutionary following who had put their trust in him.

Those who order, systematise, and govern in the aftermath of revolutions often become votaries at covert and pernicious altars. Ineluctably, the Olympian gods are displaced and a Titan holds sway, with lamentable results. The march of the human spirit is first arrested, then retarded.

What we launched as the independent republic of Singapore succeeded, as the world knows, all too well, only to discover that in the eyes of Lee Kuan Yew, means had become ends in themselves. First principles were stood on their heads. Economic growth and social progress did not serve human beings. On the contrary, the primary function of citizens was to fuel economic growth – a weird reversal of values. The reign of Moloch had begun. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon to those who browse in the pages of history. My old-guard colleagues and I might have been wiser men and women if we had read our history with greater comprehension than we do now. Alas, one cannot alter the past.

The inevitable drift to totalitarianism begins with the typically symptomatic thesis of the progenitors: “Society as No. 1, and the individual, as part of society, as No. 2.” The words are Lee Kuan Yew’s, speaking to journalists in Canberra, ACT, on November 16, 1988. He was dutifully echoed by Goh Chok Tong, the First Deputy Prime Minister, (now Prime Minister), when he announced this as one of the pillars of the government’s new goal of “a national ideology” for Singapore. Portentous words, given the current morbidities of the republic, which include the account given by Francis Seow in the following pages of his seventy-two days of detention and interrogation by the guardians of “national security,” the Internal Security Department. Seow learned at first hand what happens to the individual as No. 2, when subjected to society as No. 1 in the shape of his jailers and interrogators in the Whitley Detention Centre.

“The individual, as part of society,” is a marginal improvement on Mr Lee’s egregious penchant for referring to fellow-citizens as “digits” of the development process. You are either a productive “digit” or an inefficient one. And “digits”, like robots, if they are to be functionally useful, have to be programmed. So one need not be surprised that Singapore’s political programmers should now be working on a “national ideology,” in addition to the social and genetic engineering already in the works. Shades of Huxley’s Brave New World!

History bears irrefutable witness to the self-evident truth that no harmony is possible between the individual and society where either seeks aggrandisement at the expense of the other. The mutual need for each other, for mutual completion and fulfilment, is frustrated if one seeks to devour the other. Invariably, the end result is material and spiritual impoverishment, stagnation and death, for both individual and society. The equation is infallible, whether the nation concerned is eastern or western, although Lee Kuan Yew pretends that Confucious would have sanctioned the outrages he has perpetrated in Singapore. Which, as those who decline to traduce history for political ends will appreciate, would be an unwarranted insult to the memory of the venerable figure, whose proverbial wisdom laid primary emphasis on character-building enhancement of the human spirit and of social mores – not their mutilation.

The tree is known by its fruits. The supremacy of the state over the individual which those inclined to totalitarianism always propound has invariably meant, in practice, the immolation of the individual at the altar of an impersonal, faceless, and conscienceless deity, sanctified by the grandiose term: “the organized community.” But the voices which issue from the iron throat are recognisably those of the political elite in power. They spell out the implacable social “imperatives” which override the rights of the individual. And in the name of these imperious mandates, the social juggernaut driven by political roughnecks grinds the hapless individual under its wheels. Francis Seow was one such victim. Another was Chia Thye Poh, whose lengthy incarceration has been compared to the experience of Nelson Mandela. It would be invidious to mention others by name, for either their spirits have been broken, or they remain subject to tongue-tying restrictions.

Seow survived the ordeal. Because he is a free man outside Singapore, he becomes the first ex-detainee to place on record the ordeal of arrest and detention without trial in Singapore. In doing so, he has rendered a signal service to all Singaporeans, as indeed to all sane and humane men and women everywhere. But they must know that he will have to pay a heavy price for his pains in the shape of repeated or fresh calumnies and of rearrest should he choose to return to Singapore. Indeed, this will be in addition to the price he has already paid for raising his voice against Moloch. It is a rare kind of courage which would take on so perverse and formidable an adversary.

I am personally able to confirm the brutal fact that exile, for whatever reason, uprooted from one’s entire milieu of life, culture, and career, from friends and relatives, is, to put it bluntly – unremitting spiritual agony. Nonetheless, an ordeal certainly preferable to the individual as No. 2 suffering systematic asphyxiation by society as No. 1. And writing this foreword, I am cruelly aware that I am, in effect, finally and irretrievably burning my boats with my country and a people whom I love and served over the greater part of a lifetime. But what would you? Exile, pensionless to boot, at least ensures the survival of the integrity of the person.

The story, as Francis Seow tells, is a grisly symptom of a high-seated (rather than deep-seated) political malaise afflicting Singapore. History will indict Singapore’s eminence grise, now Senior Minister and Secretary-General of the ruling party, Lee Kuan Yew, as the source and bearer of what, despite transient and misleading appearances to the contrary must, without radical political surgery, turn out to be a terminal condition.

I may be wrong in believing that the point of no return has already been passed, for currently it does appear that a population rendered politically comatose over the years will be unable to bestir itself sufficiently – apart from surreptitiously immobilizing subway trains by stuffing well-chewed chewing gum into their doors – to cancel the blank cheque it has given to the Singapore government.

However, I am also aware that we live in times when reality keeps exploding in the faces of experts. It has more than once exploded in mine, not to speak of Francis Seow’s. There is no guarantee that one day it will not explode in Lee’s own face, or in the face of those who will inherit his creed and style of power. Gorbachev, Ceausescu, and Honecker are only the more visible among the many who, undercurrents which suddenly surfaced, ensuing in utterly unforseen, convulsive change in the sprawling Soviet empire and eastern Europe, leaving all the world’s normally voluble geopolitical pundits and pontiffs flummoxed.

Some believe that the necessary inspiration for surgical intervention to rescue Singapore from terminal risk might arise from within the republic’s own undoubtedly intelligent establishment. A good number of professionals and civil servants do know, and will private acknowledge – looking over the shoulder, of course – what has gone grievously wrong with the once promising Singapore experiment. In the strictest privacy, they readily admit that, if there is any country in Southeast Asia which, by virtue of economic success and probably the best educated population in Asia after Japan, can afford a more relaxed style of government, tolerant of free __expression and dissent – that country is Singapore. They appreciate that the people of Singapore are certainly intelligent enough to discern where their best interest lie, and run the risk of falling prey to rabble-rousing politicians with easy panaceas and quick fixes.

Indeed, they vividly recall that an earlier, less educated generation of Singaporeans had, after listening to open public arguments and debates, repeatedly rebuffed at the polls slogan-shouting demagogues who clearly did not know the social and economic priorities of a small, island nation with absolutely no natural resources to boast of, dependent on neighbouring Malaysia even for its water, and entirely dependent on the stability of export markets for comfortable living. Finally, they know that the source of the overweening authoritarianism – so entirely contra-indicated by one of the most vibrant and successful economies of Asia – issues from the increasingly obsessive fixations and bizarre values of one man – Lee Kuan Yew.

But it remains to be seen whether knowledge goes with moral courage and the will to action. I confess that, with every passing year, I have come to fear that the point of no return has already reached and passed. For Singapore’s grey eminence lords it over the republic from the top of a tower of undeniable previous achievement. He had been the superb captain of a superb team which had led a highly responsive and intelligent population out of a savage and sterile political wilderness into outstanding success and internationally recognized nationhood.

Today every member of that superb team has been eased out of power and influence in the name of political self-renewal, while Lee himself has ensured that he presides, as Secretary-General of the ruling party, not as he once did, over equals who had elected him, but over a government cabinet and a judiciary made up entirely of his appointees or nominees. In relation to old guard leaders, Lee had been no more than primus inter pares. He had perforce to deal with equals, and they were fully capable of speaking their minds. Once, in the early days of the PAP, in sheer exasperation, I myself had responded to him with a four-letter word and thought no more about it.

Today, Lee no longer deals with his equals, but with his chosen appointees, who did not earn power the hard way, but had it conferred on them. They are highly qualified men, no doubt, but nobody expects them to possess the gumption to talk back to the increasingly self-righteous know-it-all that Lee has become. Further, the bread of those who conform is handsomely buttered. Keep your head down and you could enjoy one of the highest living standards in Asia. Raise it and you could lose a job, a home, and be harassed by the Internal Security Department, or by both, as happened to Francis Seow.

Nonetheless, one must hope, even against hope, that the daunting challenge is not evaded by intellectually honest and spiritually courageous members of the Singapore establishment. The inevitable alternative is clearly the abortion of what began as the Singapore miracle. An abortion and a treachery. For not many societies return whole from the graveyard of elementary human rights and decencies.

Admittedly, Lee is right in talking of the remarkable economic transformation we wrought in Singapore, an achievement at once collective and individual. The people of Singapore well deserve the material success for which they worked so hard. But, all the same, they have reaped a baleful harvest. Lee bakes a bitter bread. The relish of greater material well-being gives way to the acrid taste of ill-being along other equally vital, if less tangible dimensions, beyond the gauge of GNP, the only measuring rod Lee knows. As his career progressed, he revealed, in increasing measure, enormous blind spots.

“Transformation” is quite the wrong word word for qualitative aberrations which have occurred in the noneconomic areas of life in Singapore. On reading Seow’s manuscript, the word which leaps to mind is “transmogrification” or the grotesque metamorphosis that has overtaken the perception and treatment of the individual in the republic.

My thoughts go back to my own arrest by the British colonial authorities in Singapore in the fifties. I have already indicated that my experience as a political prisoner under a British colonial administration had nothing in common with what Seow went through. I can come to only one conclusion. The colonial Special Branch were saints compared to Lee Kuan Yew’s Internal Security outfit. The end result of our struggle for political freedom and independence turns out to be not a progression in terms of respect for human dignity, but a surreptitious regression into barbarity.

Few can appreciate how painful a contemplation from the sidelines Seow’s account is for those like me who had spent a good part of our active lives helping to launch modern Singapore. Contrary to Lee’s pretensions, Singapore is not only his baby. It’s our baby as well. But under Lee’s exclusive charge, the miracle child suffocates today beneath a pile of heavy swaddling. Small wonder therefore that a disturbing number of Singaporeans have chosen to emigrate from Lee’s utopia to less strait-jacketed places like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, According to government figures, the exodus reached 4,000 families in 1989, around 16,000 people. The London Economist observed:

His (Lee’s) statistically-inclined government may well reflect that, proportionally, the exodus from Singapore, which faces no threat from China, was not far below the flight from Hong Kong last year.

Lee himself appears to be the only person who does not seem to have got the message. In his National Day Rally speech in 1989, he affected incredulity – even turning lachrymose – that so many Singaporeans should opt out of his paradise. Nobody present could summon the gumption to tell him that to discover the reason why, all that he need do was look into the mirror.

For Lee’s entire approach to government pointedly ignores some crucial ingredients of nation-building. Full employment, well-fed digestive tracks, clean streets, and decent homes are not the be-all and end-all of good government. They are only a necessary beginning – an essential foundation from which to aspire to greater human ends. Like people elsewhere, Singaporeans also have keen nonmaterial appetites, the satisfaction of which will not brook permanent denial. For these are fundamental urges which return after every banishment.

A new and better educated generation, increasingly open to the great winds of change blowing all over the world, is bound to intensify the search for an invigorating image of desire and hope, a liberating political formula, a more satisfying life scheme and scene than are available under the present pervasive system of coercion and control. Also, in this day and age, ideas and hopes increasingly scorn border check-points and censorship laws.

A society burdened by a multitude of prohibitions must come to suffer that stifling of innovation and creativity which comes of excessive regulation. Singaporeans today have to memorise an exhaustive list of prohibitions. But they are without a comparable list of what they are free to do.

Certainly citizens of a civilized community need to cultivate that sense of order and discipline which has served Singapore’s economic success so admirably thus far. But where a sense of social responsibility goes unnourished by an equally vivid sense of individual rights, and of participation and involvement in the entire political and legislative process, there the human spirit is bound to shrivel under the deadening touch of authoritarianism. Indeed, what has become increasingly evident to Singaporeans is Big Brother’s total lack of trust and confidence in the good sense and judgment of his citizens. Hence the hectoring speeches by ministers, and worse, the ubiquitous voice of the oracle telling everybody else, including government ministers who perform under his watchful eyes, what is good for them.

The obvious danger is that if ever Singapore is faced with a serious economic downturn, as is entirely possible given the republic’s overwhelming dependence on increasingly volatile export markets, the current disturbing brain drain may be expected to gush into massive exodus. And that would be a sad end for what began as the most promising experiment in socioeconomic growth in Southeast Asia.

Lest it be considered that I have revised my views about the conditions of my own detention, after having parted company with Lee Kuan Yew, I will quote here from the statement I made on behalf of the People’s Action Party of Singapore at the meeting of the Bureau of the Socialist International held in London on 28-29 May 1976, with the approval of Prime Minister Lee. I said:

In 1950 I joined the Anti-British League, an underground auxiliary of the Malayan Communist Party. I spent, in two separate spells, a total of five years in British prisons. I am not in the least bitter. Indeed, I look back back nostalgically to my years of incarceration, for they were years of intensive reading and self-education. On the whole, my fellow detainees and I were well-treated. One of the few complaints we had was that the British allowed us radio sets which were doctored to receive only Radio Singapore. We wanted to listen in to Peking and Moscow as well.

We were in touch, through easily bribable camp warders, with the communist underground in Singapore. We were instructed to go on a hunger strike and to protest against against “ill-treatment and torture.” When some of us pointed out that there was no ill-treatment and torture, our chief fellow detainee told us that “it was a revolutionary duty to expose the imperialists, through whatever means were available.” Our anticolonial zeal being greater than our commitment to truth, we swallowed whatever qualms we had and embarked on a six-day hunger strike. It had the required effect, not upon the British – who were quite unmoved – but as far underground communist propaganda in Singapore was concerned, for our hunger strike was extolled as an example of our heroism and of the vileness of the imperialists…

I was reminded of the episode when I read the Dutch Labour party paper about the torture of detainees…

I also happen to know a good deal about both prisons and detention camps in Singapore. For, soon after Lee Kuan Yew formed the first PAP Government in May 1959, I persuaded him to set up a Prisons Inquiry Commission, for I had not liked what I had seen of the demeaning conditions of imprisonment imposed by the British authorities: not on political detainees, but on convicted prisoners. For example, on the approach of a British prison officer, every convict had to kneel down on the floor, with his head down. That aroused my ire, and it still does, when I think of it.

I was appointed Chairman of the Prisons Inquiry Commission, which included two British academics from the University of Malaya in Singapore – the late Dr Jean Robertson and Professor T.H. Elliott. The recommendations my commission made, to humanise prison conditions, still form the nominal basis for the administration of prisoners and detention centres in Singapore. The International Red Cross has had access to our prisoners, detainees, and places of detention. You will appreciate that the Red Cross is not allowed in several other countries, and I can confidently challenge any country in the world to boast a more efficient prison system than the one we have in Singapore.

This explains why I read with wry amusement the absurd allegations of ill-treatment, torture, and inhuman conditions in our prisons and detention centres, made by the communist united front group in Singapore, and faithfully repeated in the Dutch Labour Party paper.

Today I am obliged to eat a good number of the words I uttered in London in 1976. A humbling obligation, and therefore good for the soul. I have no difficulty, of course, reaffirming that my fellow detainees and I were well treated in British colonial centres of detention. That was a fact of direct personal experience. Not so, apparently, the conditions political detainees were subjected to in the seventies. I had then accepted, all too gullibly, that these were humane and civilised purely on the word of the powers-that-be. I was not the only credulous Singaporean to do so.

There is no better teacher than painful personal experience. I know today that in this matter, as in several others, my trust and confidence were grievously misplaced. I am certain now that if any of these detainees had brought themselves to write of their experience as Seow has done, their accounts would not have been greatly dissimilar. If anything, going by what Seow learned from other detainees whom he had represented as legal counsel, some of them went through much worse ordeals. I can also appreciate today that detainees do not speak up during guided tours of detention centres for Red Cross representatives.

Seow’s account of the horrendous process of interrogation he underwent, the freezing coldness of the soundproof interrogation room, an air-conditioner blower duct on the ceiling which directed a continuous and powerful cascade of cold air down at the spot where, barefooted, he was made to stand, the sudden paroxysms blasts of cold air sent him into, the total darkness save for the powerful spotlights trained on him, the obscenities, shouts, and threats he had to endure, all left me stupefied.

Sleep deprivation, for instance, is a fiendishly effective means employed by Singapore interrogators to thoroughly disorient the detainee, so that he may be suitably readied for abject “confessions” which would later be copiously presented by the government-controlled media as a “statutory declaration.” One cannot think of any other country in the civilized world where “statutory declarations” exacted under duress from political prisoners are published and unabashedly palmed off on the public as gospel truths.

I found acutely disturbing the following paragraphs in the book at page 121 et seq.:

As I walked through the doors of the interrogation room, a freezing coldness immediately wrapped itself around me …

I had lost all sense of time. I had been standing there under the pitiless glare of the spotlights. I felt the urge to go to the toilet. I told them. Two Gurkha guards appeared and escorted me to the toilet. Having stood motionless at one spot for so long I had great difficulty walking. I found myself rooted to the ground – a term more descriptive of the reality of the situation than a mere figure of speech. My limbs were stiff all over. I was unsteady. The two Gurkha guards on either side of me supported me under my arms. I staggered out of the interrogation room, half carried by them, along the dark corridors up two flights of stairs to the ground level of Block C, along a corridor, to a toilet located in an empty cell in Block D. I blinked at the unexpected harsh light of day. I was quite shocked. The urge to go the toilet forgotten for a moment. I asked one of the two Gurkhas for the time of day, …I was astounded. It was 11.30 in the morning. I then realized that I had been standing in the interrogation room for about sixteen hours warding off questions thrown unremittingly at me. It seem incredible to me that I could have stood at one spot, almost motionless, for that length of time. I recalled with shame that, when my detainee-clients had previously complained to me that they had been deprived of sleep and forced to stand for as long as 72 hours at a stretch, without sleep, I had great difficulty in believing them. I thought they were exaggerating; but now I was, incredibly, undergoing a somewhat similar experience!…

I noticed, too, dried sunburnt blisters peeling from the skin of both arms. I could not at first comprehend how I could have acquired them until I realized that I had been burnt by the powerful rays of those spotlights, which had also dried up the moisture in my eyes. Cold rashes had broken out all over my atrophied limbs under my clothes. Unlike many people who are sensitive to sunburn, I am susceptible to cold rashes. It was always troublesome for me whenever I had perforce to travel abroad during winter. In this instant case, as if signaled by a faithful built-in thermometer, the rashes broke out in chilling confirmation of the coldness of the room. My interrogators had swaddled themselves up in warm winter clothes and left it, time and again, whenever they could no longer withstand the wintry cold.

As a prisoner of the British, my fellow detainees and I had simply refused to be interrogated. We told our captors that we would only speak as free men. We were left alone after that. We experienced no soundproof room, no brutal interrogation and sleep deprivation for hours on end, no air-conditioner blower duct directing a powerful and continuous cascade of cold air at the spot where the barefoot detainee stood on “a floor like a slab of ice,” no spotlights, no threats and obscenities shouted in our ears, no absolutely solitary confinement throughout the period of detention, indeed none of the things which Mr Seow had to undergo at the hands of the rulers of free, independent, and professedly civilized Singapore.

After the statutory period of 21 days’ solitary confinement, my fellow detainees and I were allowed to live together in camp conditions, whether in Changi or, even better, on salubrious St. John’s Island. Our lawyer, Lee Kuan Yew, was freely allowed to visit and talk to us, without Special Branch supervision, and to plan with us the downfall of the British colonial power. So free were we as political detainees to pursue our own interests and studies that we light-heartedly referred to our places of detention as “St. John’s” University and “Changi” University.

Mr Lee knows all this. It surely cannot be termed progress in freedom and humanity to arrest and treat his own political prisoners so brutally, and with far less reason than the British had to detain me and my revolutionary comrades. After all, we had made no secret of the fact that we were committed to the violent overthrow of the British colonial power. But Seow and others like him certainly did not aim to overthrow the elected government of Singapore by unconstitutional means. Even if they did, Lee and his government would still stand convicted of the kind of inhumanity of which “the perfidious British colonialists” (as we referred to them in those days) were not guilty.

The government’s assertion that it does not ill-treat detainees strains credulity. Seow’s readers will find extraordinary (to put it mildly) Brigadier General Lee’s (Lee Kuan Yew’s son and Singapore Deputy Prime Minister) statement in an interview with the BBC World Service:

The Government does not ill-treat detainees. It does however apply psychological pressure to detainees to get to the truth of the matter … the truth would not be known unless psychological pressure was used during interrogation.

Systematic sleep deprivation, continuous interrogation over sixteen hours by strident, foul-mouthed intelligence officers, while standing barefoot in flimsy clothing on a cold cement floor in a freezing room under the skin-blistering and eye de-moisturing glare of spotlights, unlimited solitary confinement, are at once physical and psychological ordeals.

Mr Seow quotes to potent effect a comment by Jerome A. Cohen, a prominent legal representative of Asia Watch, while on a visit to Singapore at the time. Mr Cohen

… found deeply disturbing both the use of psychological torture and what he called a pervasive Singaporean, if not Asian view that “if you haven’t hit somebody, it isn’t torture.” Psychological disorientation is evil whether it happens in South Africa, the Soviet Union, China, Singapore or the United States. Yet here they seem almost proud of their psychological tactics – breaking down the defenses of people in captivity. They need to be more sensitive to the definition of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

One can understand why the Singapore government hurriedly withdrew its initial offer (made inadvertently by junior ministers when Big Brother happened to be out of town) to appoint a judicial Commission of Inquiry to examine public allegations of ill-treatment by nine ex-detainees in April 1988. They were rearrested instead, and it came as no surprise that some of them duly signed, while in renewed custody, “statutory declarations” withdrawing their earlier allegations, and asserting that they had not been ill-treated. Much more convenient, certainly, for Lee and his government, than a judicial Commission of Inquiry, which would publicly examine and pronounce on charges made from the witness stand by free men and women, subject to no constraints but those of conscience and of cross-examination by defence and prosecution alike.

The circumstances of Seow’s arrest and the subsequent ordeal of interrogation and detention provide occasion not only for grave disquiet over the brutal mistreatment of detainees. (they certainly put paid to any continued pretense of Lee Kuan Yew’s part that he walks in the company of civilised statesman.) It raises another question – perhaps the most crucial one – in my own mind. I may explain, even if the effort proves, as it certainly will, an unflattering commentary on some of my own past judgments of persons and events.

I had once publicly supported the need for the Internal Security Act when the democratically elected PAP Government was engaged in the life and death struggle against a murderous communist united front movement, committed to the violent overthrow of constitutional government. In subsequent years, I had continued to believe that the Act was justified given the volatile geopolitical milieu in which Singapore had to survive. Never had it occurred to me that the PAP government was capable of the gross abuse of the draconian powers conferred by the Act. And never was I more wholly wrong, and my conscience so grievously misplaced.

What an unconsciously long time some people take to learn that power really does corrupt, especially its exercise when placed outside the purview of an impartial third party – like an independent judiciary. No statesman was ever more resoundingly correct than Thomas Jefferson when he warned:

In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.

Alas, because he was not stopped in time, Lee Kuan Yew has proceeded to alter the laws to bind down the judiciary and the media instead.

The crucial question is this. What internal or external dangers threaten Singapore so gravely today to justify the need of a law like the Internal Security Act. allowing, as it does, indefinite detention without trial? None that anyone acquainted with the current political and economic situation in Southeast Asia can think of. None at all that cannot be more effectively dealt with by sensible democratic political process, under the ordinary laws of the land.

There is no longer a communist insurrectionary movement in Malaysia committed to the violent overthrow of lawfully constituted governments in Singapore and Malaysia. There is no communist united front movement left in Singapore. By all accounts, communist potential in the area has been decisively scotched by economic, political, and geographical developments. the Communist Party of Malaysia, a sad and bedraggled relic of a once truly formidable movement, which it took all the military and political skills of the British and subsequent Malaysian governments to defeat, finally laid down their arms on December 2, 1989, after signing peace agreements with the Malaysian and Thai governments, and thus brought to a formal close 41 years of armed conflict.

When this was announced, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, the late Tungku Abdul Rahman, promptly and publicly recalled the pledge he had given in the free Malaysian parliament to the effect that the internal security laws providing for the arrest and detention without trial of suspected subversives were directed solely at the communist insurrectionary movement, and would be repealed once the insurrection was overcome. He therefore called for the outright abolition of the Internal Security Act since the communist threat to constitutional government had ceased to exist. Not so Lee Kuan Yew whom the London Sunday Telegraph reported as saying: “I don’t see myself repealing it.” Do Confucian conformity and stability require powers of detention without trial?

In Singapore, by the early seventies, we had decisively debunked and defused a once powerful communist united front movement, which is no longer in evidence. I should know, because I was right out in the front line of that battle, among the foot soldiers, in constant danger of life and limb, leading the free trade unions – now, under Lee’s surrogates, no longer free. The economic, social, and administrative successes we registered clearly do not provide fertile soil for violent insurgency of any kind. With the notable exception of Singapore, everywhere else economic success, even of much less magnitude than we can boast of, has invariably been accompanied by more relaxed political climates and styles. Not so under Lee.

Success has been followed by an even further tightening of the screws. Indeed, even the insurrectionary communists of the fifties and sixties, with their unconstitutional resort to armed violence, civil riots, and strikes, were dealt with under laws and custodial treatment more benign and civilised than were constitutional law-abiding dissenters like Seow, and other social workers and professionals arrested and detained in Singapore in recent times. Neither were they obliged to produce abject statutory declarations “confessing” their numerous “misdeeds.” Much can be said of the defects and shortcomings of previous British colonial regimes in Singapore. But these did not include the systematic and ruthless crushing of the human spirit at which Lee’s Internal Security boys excel. One can appreciate now why he proudly refers to them as “professionals.”

Only recently, yet another striking departure from decent civilized practice occurred. Detention without trial is no longer subject to judicial review in Singapore. The government on January 25, 1989, amended the Internal Security Act to place its powers of detention without trial beyond challenge in the courts, with retrospective effect into the bargain. And nobody will ever know what takes place behind the walls in the soundproof, freezing rooms of the Whitley Detention Centre, from which issue “statutory declarations” by political prisoners abjectly admitting to a variety of anti-government offences.

Thus, by means the venerable Confucious would never have condoned, Lee hopes to enforce in his ideal city state the Confucian conformity and respect for authority he so much admires. In these circumstances, it will be a rash Singaporean who, knowing the grave risks he is likely to incur, will dare even to murmur dissent. But alarm bells are already ringing in the night. As already observed, internationally mobile Singaporeans are leaving “the Singapore Miracle” in disturbing numbers to seek their fortunes in more congenial pastures, where they can breathe more freely.

The road to perdition gets rougher and spikier as one goes down it. Relentlessly downhill has forged the predatory road with a vengeance, especially in the last few years. Consider the spate of repressive legislation enacted in a brief three to four years.

Parliament is converted into “a political mine-field,” as a pained and shocked Dr Toh Chin Chye, the founder chairman of the People’s Action Party, observed in 1987. A mine-field which blew opposition leader J.B. Jeyeratnam out of the legislative chamber and made certain that he would have not be able to contest another election for at least five years. An even worse fate has befallen Francis Seow.

Parliamentary select committees, by hallowed Westminster convention serious and sedate forums to consider public or professional reservations about government bills tabled in Parliament, are transformed into criminal courtrooms where a fiercely prosecuting, browbeating prime minister puts startled witnesses in the witness box for gruelling cross-examination. This was what happened to Francis Seow, the then president of the Law Society, and to members of the Society’s governing council. Subsequent legislation ensured that Seow no longer remained president, and that the Law Society would never again be able to comment publicly on bills before the legislature, on the ground that they were beyond the limited professional competence of the Society. The curious theory was trotted out that politics is only for politicians, not for professional bodies, even though their members are citizens with legitimate concerns about matters of public interest.

Draconian laws were passed to bring to heel foreign journals and newspapers which were critical of what they considered bizarre going-ons in the republic. The Asian Wall Street Journal and the Far East Economic Review were accused of “meddling in domestic politics,” and their free circulation was drastically curtailed. They were told that they were not reporting Singapore to Singaporeans “fairly,” as if that were the role of the free international media.

Lee forgets that in the colonial past, his British predecessors were not knocked off by free reporting on Singapore by the foreign media, even though they had to deal with an obstreperous population and its equally restive politicians who included, for instance, rambunctious types like Lee Kuan Yew and Devan Nair. In particular, he forgets that his own international reputation as a staunch anticolonial freedom fighter owed a great deal to the free and open manner in which the foreign media covered him and his party’s activities.

One could go on ad infinitum about the road Lee Kuan Yew has chosen to travel. My immediate purpose, however, is to as paint vividly as possible, with a few basic strokes, the political context in which Francis Seow’s book should be read. I hope I have managed to do this with at least a minimum of adequacy. For there have been other detainees in Singapore whose predicament was, if anything, worse than Seow’s was.

There is, for example, Chia Thye Poh. First arrested on October 29, 1966 under the ISA, Chia was banished on May 16, 1989 to the off-shore pleasure island of Sentosa. One cannot improve on what Christopher Lockwood of the London Sunday Telegraph noted:

Exile on Sentosa is a diabolically-crafted alternative. Who can take a prisoner of conscience seriously on a holiday island? With Chia out of jail, he (Chia) fears, world disapproval of his detention will simply evaporate.

But Nelson Mandela was unconditionally freed by President F.W. de Klerk of South Africa – free to begin shaking the evil apartheid system down to its foundations. Chia Thye Poh is incapable of shaking anything. So why this extraordinary vindictiveness?

I recalled Lee Kuan Yew once quoting, in euphoric mood, Churchill’s resonant words:

“In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity.”

Lee and his comrades-in-arms were resolute in all the political battles we fought in the early years against the colonialists, and the crooks. But Lee has never yet known defeat. So far he has met only victories, in all of which he has shown himself incredibly vicious. Unlike Churchill, who, incidentally, could not boast anything comparable to Lee’s two firsts and a star for distinction in Cambridge, Lee misses human greatness by several million light years.

As was inevitable for one who, in arrogant contempt for soulcraft as a vital ingredient of successful statecraft, recklessly opted for an errant orbit, traced in benighted times past by the trajectory of Moloch.

Lee’s major justification for his policies is the example of Singapore’s remarkable economic success. But what will haunt generations to come in Singapore and the Southeast Asian region generally are his even more monumental failures. Well did the Bard observe:

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interr’d with their bones.

Ultimately, his most unpardonable failure is the crass betrayal of the ideal which launched the People’s Action Party into political orbit – that of an equal, multiracial, democratic society which would banish from its midst, for ever and a day, invidious notions of ethnic or religious majorities or minorities. In Singapore there would be no majorities and minorities. There would only be Singaporeans. This was the flaming aspiration on which Lee rode to power on the crest of revolutionary fervour. Today he has defiled the social atmosphere of Singapore with the sordid evil of ethno-centrism, which he had vowed to eradicate, in my company and in that of countless other comrades in the common struggle against colonialism, communalism, and communism. But this is not the place to expatiate on this particular piece of treachery. I will deal with it in my own book.

Lee is gifted with a brilliant brain and an eloquent tongue. But the capricious gods omitted to equip him with the saving grace of that essential wisdom which makes for true greatness. And Singapore thereby missed the infinitely more potent miracle of the political and spiritual success it might so easily have provided, as a practical, living demonstration to the other unhappy, struggling, heterogenous nations in Southeast Asia, not merely of singular economic achievement, but also of the eminent viability of a free, open, sane, and equal multiracial democracy, worthy at once of economic, political, and moral emulation.

As things are, one can only wonder how much longer successful economic performance and a loutish political style can sleep together in the same bed. While one dreams of electronic paradises to come, the other enacts, in political nightmares, vengeful vendettas against foes real or imaginary, mostly the latter. Alas, both must perished in fatal embrace, on the same bed.

“Mr Nair, as President, went on an unofficial visit to Sarawak, scheduled for 9 to 18 March 1985. From 13 March 1985 he began to behave in a bizarre manner, drinking heavily, behaving uninhibited with women, outraging their modesty, propositioning, fondling and molesting them. This led to Sarawak State Physician telephoning Mr Nair’s personal physician, Dr John A. Tambyah on 15 March 1985, asking that Mr Nair be brought back to Singapore.

Back in Singapore, he was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) where doctors diagnosed his condition as alcoholism, and recommended treatment for his condition.

Investigations brought out the history of his alcoholism and other facts as follows:

1) He had been a daily drinker. He used to drink heavily and continuously during three periods:

a) when Phey Yew Kok, a former trade unionist and MP was arrested and charged in 1979;
b) in the period before his nomination and after his installation as President;
c) after the 1984 general elections

2) He had been associating with a German woman, Konstance Schunemann whom he had met on one of his visits to Germany during his trade union days

3) He used to drive himself out of the Istana, disguised in a wig, without a driver or a security escort.

The Cabinet discussed these developments and decided that, because of his alcoholism and his behaviour which demeaned his high office, he had to resign or be removed from office.

In particular the Cabinet was concerned that should an accident occur when Mr Nair was driving under the influence of alcohol, he would not be prosecutable because of Article 17(2) of the Constitution, which provides that “The President shall not be liable to any proceedings whatsoever in any court”, and there wold be a public outcry.

On 25 March 1985 the Prime Minister and Senior Minister (Prime Minister’s Office) saw Mr Nair at the SGH to ask him to resign. At first Mr Nair refused, but eventually agreed on being told that otherwise the Prime Minister would have to move a motion in Parliament for his removal. Mr Nair resigned effective 28 March 1985.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues also managed to persuade Mr Nair to go to New York to be treated by Dr Stanley E. Gitlow of the Caron Foundation in New York (a specialist in the treatment of Addictive Disease in New York, and consultant to the US State Department). Dr Gitlow confirmed the diagnosis of alcoholism, which had been made by 7 doctors in Singapore. The treatment appeared successful. Many months later Mr Nair began denying that he had ever been an alcoholic.

The President is not entitled to a pension, except by way of a resolution in Parliament. Mr Nair had not completed even one full 4-year term in office, and was forced to resign under less than honorable circumstances, The Prime Minister was, therefore, not in favour of a government pension for Mr Nair. The majority of the Cabinet, however, thought that a pension could be justified, provided Mr Nair abided by the advice of a medical panel. Accordingly, the Minister for Law moved the resolution in Parliament on 31 August 1985. Mr Nair turned this down.

The Government:

1) is satisfied with the doctors’ advice that Mr Nair’s problems were due to alcoholism
2) was fully justified in its decision to have Mr Nair resign as President
3) has no reason to lift the condition in the pension resolution passed in Parliament on 31 August 1985.

Besides denying that he was ever an alcoholic, Mr Nair has ver the past year been making public statements regarding the offer to him of a conditional pension, and commenting on political developments in Singapore.

The government withheld the details of Mr Nair’s behaviour at the time of his resignation. It hoped that this would spare Mr Nair and his family some of the embarrassment arising from the circumstances of his resignation, and would help him readjust to a normal life. However, Mr Nair’s recent actions, and the likelihood that he may continue his public campaign against the Singapore government abroad, now make it necessary to put the facts on record, so that Singaporeans can understand Mr Nair’s motives and see through his actions.”

On Singapore

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No Seats On The MRT Should Be Reserved

Have you noticed the changed signs on our MRT trains informing us which seats are reserved? What a total waste of money.

There should not be any concept of reserved seats on the train.

All those classes of people who are supposed to get the seats near the exit should get any seat if they need it and want it.

While I understand why certain seats are specifically chosen to have the status reserved (because they are closest to the exits), designating certain seats for a special purpose excludes the other seats from fulfilling that purpose.

I get a sense each time I see someone who needs a seat enter the train that everyone NOT sitting on a reserved seat feels that it isn’t their job to offer their place. After all, they aren’t the ones occupying the reserve seat. And it isn’t like there is a sign that says they have to offer.

People pass the buck when we offer someone they can pass it to.

Not having reserved seats is the first step in developing a culture where everyone feels obliged, or rather be more willing, to give up their seat because they can, not because they have to.

Further thoughts:

I am not sure if it is because of recent STOMP shamings, but people seem more reluctant to sit on reserved seats at the earlier stops along the lines. All the non-reserved seats get filled first. This is quite different from the past where people might sit on a reserved seat even though there were empty non-reserved seats. It is like, if I sit there, then it becomes my problem to offer a seat later on. If I don’t, then I can have a peaceful trip because I am not obliged to do anything.

I don’t understand why we haven’t developed a culture where people who genuinely need something can just ask for it.

I used to be very strict on myself about the ‘no-sitting-on-reserved-seats’ rule because my mom had somehow got it into my head they were truly reserved for those people with the identified needs. They always felt like sacred spaces which my sitting would violate.

I believe it was probably around upper secondary or JC that I realized no one else cared. So I didn’t.

When I was going to church actively, I somehow got it into my head that all the ladies on a cabin should be having seats before I get to sit and if a lady entered the cabin, I should quietly leave my seat to open up 1 slot for her. I didn’t explicitly offer it to her because that would just be awkward with Singapore’s culture.

The above notion was probably dismissed after a couple of months when I realized all the other guys weren’t playing by the same rules.

The kiasu part of the Singaporean kicked in – I wasn’t going to let another guy enjoy a seat while I denied myself that right privilege. I am ashamed that I still think that way.

Musing about Life
On Singapore

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Taking A 3 Hours Walk

My company had our annual year end dinner some time ago at SRC. After the dinner, I decided to walk to Little India to take the NEL back to SengKang. Somehow, I just kept walking.

And walking…

And walking…

After 3 hours of walking, I had walked past Boon Keng MRT, made a turn to the right and walked along the river, ending up on the outskirts of Geylang. I was thinking of staying out till 4am to catch a Manchester United game but decided against it after realizing that I would probably die at work the next day if I did.

There is something about walking without a destination in mind. It gives the illusion that you are going somewhere even though what is really happening is you are just going further away from the starting point (actually, that’s not even always the case, but you get the idea… I hope).

Lots of activity, without any deliberate purposeful action.

johnnie-walker-keep-walking

Somehow, I don’t think ‘Keep Walking’ is a good thing. By itself.

Is each day in our life, as we commute to work, slave away at our offices, rush home to be with our family, just another step in a meaningless walk to nowhere, or is it deliberate purposeful strides towards our goals and dreams?

Musing about Life

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Ian Watches Star Trek – Spock Killed His Momma

I was never much of a Star Trek fan. The only two series I ever followed faithfully were Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise; and I only followed them because Hallmark was showing daily reruns for the former and for the latter, I am, unabashedly, a sucker for anything done by Scott Bakula (too much Quantum Leap when growing up does that to you).

Star Trek had always seemed to me like a contemplative universe – the movies and TV episodes lens to view the world, with its characters personification of all the myriad values and principles that exist in our world. Every story from Star trek felt like a parable, a moral exposition – too weighty for my liking.

I’ve always been more of a soap opera kind of guy – like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives. Star Wars with its my-dad-is-dead-but-not-dead-however-is-my-mortal-enemy and that-hot-chick-is-actually-my-sister-so-now-I-cannot-bang-her and the-cocksure-smuggler-can-bang-the-princess storyline was more of my cup of tea.

But I digress.

There has always been a tacit agreement between fans of any universe and those who would weave the stories in which bind everything together – you may tell the stories only if you respect what is canon.

However, fans (alright, I) appreciate the commercial potential of rebooting a universe. But if you really must break from canon, create your own universe where things are different but still recognizable.

What Abrams did with the latest Star Trek movie was to totally break continuity. Whatever we knew happened will never happen. In the great scheme of things, the tape was rewound, time was reset and things that are to come will be different from that which we know has happened. It is like the last 10 movies and countless episodes of the 5 TV series were erased as the time stream was irrevocably damaged.

From a storyteller’s POV, the reboot could have been done without the introduction of the old Spock. If that had been the case, it could have been argued that this new Star Trek exists in a new parallel universe and that which had happened, happened in Earth 616 (to borrow from Marvel).

But even then, from what we know of the Star Trek universe, that argument could not be strongly made. The Star Trek universe has always existed as a fixed time universe as evidenced from Star Trek: First Contact when the crew on the Enterprise saw Earth change to a Borg colony after the Borg sphere had traveled back in time albeit one where changes in 1 point in time ripples forward along the time stream and not manifest instantly.

And so in a fixed time universe, time travel is a messy messy plot device. Even excusing the fact that those responsible for the new Star Trek cared little about the bleeding heart of the guardians of continuity, what they did with the whole time travel plot device was to initiate the possible total destruction of time in the Star Trek universe.

With the arrival of the old Spock and the Romulan vessel, a paradox was created. At some point in time in the future, the new Spock who would have aged would have to travel back in time with a Romulan ship.

Now I can only imagine what the folks on Romulus would think. The events in this Star Trek were pretty apocalyptic and attention grabbing that I am sure someone would be aware that Romulus is doomed in the future. If steps were taken to save Romulus, then there is no angry captain. If the star going supernova and its effects were contained, no wormhole to the past will be created.

Even if memory implants could be given to a bunch of Romulans so that they think their planet was destroyed, creating a wormhole to two exact points in the past is going to take a whole lot of effort.

It could almost be said to be impossible. So if this current time-line does not resolve the issue of sending Spock and a Romulan ship back, then USS Kelvin and the Vulcan home planet were never destroyed and thus the original continuity exists which means the original Spock and the ship will get sent back which means..

Do you see the loop the Star Trek universe could now be stuck in?

Further thoughts:

The old Spock is unable to teach the people in this timeline any of the technology he knows from the previous one. His knowledge is an accumulation of a whole generation of research and technological advancements. If he imparts his knowledge, then this new timeline will be able to improve on that over this generation which means when this new Spock goes back as the new old Spock, the next timeline created will have two generations of accumulated knowledge. Eventually, what might happen is that the Romulan ship going back will be so powerful that it cannot be overcome and then all kinds of shit will hit the fan with regards to continuity. Of course if the good folks from the United Federation of Planets are the ones sending back the Romulan ship then they can deliberately cripple its technology.

I don’t understand the Romulan captain. You go back in time. Instead of trying to warn your planet which has not been destroyed that they are in danger, you decide to take revenge for something which technically hasn’t happened yet. Dumb shit.

And Spock… he has a ship carrying something with the capability of generating a black hole which basically can destroy anything in space and he meekly surrenders over the ship? He should have gone all kamikaze on the Romulan ship. That would have been the logical thing to do.

And yes, I’m taking this too seriously.

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Straight People Like Anal Sex Too

Reading the discussion online surrounding AWARE and their Comprehensive Sexuality Education programme (i.e. CSE), one might get the idea that machiam only homosexuals engage in anal intercourse.

Which of course is not true.

What is even most interesting is that individuals who pledge abstinence (something which Christians push for) are most likely to engage in anal sex.

From a study ‘After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges

Condom use at first intercourse is a powerful predictor for subsequent consistent use. As found earlier, pledgers are significantly less likely to have used a condom at first intercourse than nonpledgers. However, pledgers are not less likely to use condoms at most recent intercourse reported in wave 3, or in the 12 months preceding the wave 3 interviews.

Because virginity is often culturally linked only to vaginal sex, to preserve virginity, adolescents and young adults may engage in other sexual behaviors that involve exchange of fluid and are thus salient for STD acquisition. Overall,oral sex and anal sex are prevalent behaviors in this population,most commonly in conjunction with vaginal sex.

Here we consider those who have oral or anal sex without vaginal sex. Amongst those who have only oral sex and/or anal sex, pledgers are over-represented. Overall, about 3% of respondents reported oral sex with one or more partners but no vaginal sex. Although just over 2% of nonpledgers fall into this group, 13% of consistent pledgers and 5% of inconsistent pledgers do. Similarly, 0.7% of nonpledgers report anal but no vaginal sex, compared with 1.2% for pledgers. Although too few females report anal but no vaginal sex, for males we find a significant difference between pledgers and nonpledgers. Specifically, slightly more than 1% of male nonpledgers report anal sex but no vaginal sex, compared with almost 3% for inconsistent pledgers and 4% for consistent pledgers. For oral sex, condom use is almost completely absent—respondents reported condom use for first oral sex for only 4% of the relationships that involved oral sex. For anal sex, condom use is also lower than for vaginal sex. Condoms were used in about 30% of relationships involving anal sex when partners had anal sex for the first time. The combination of low condom use and over-representation of pledgers provides some support for the hypothesis that this behavioral pattern is associated with greater than expected STD acquisition among pledgers, although the numbers are small and provide an insufficient basis from which to make inference.

Interesting point is the disparity between the percentage of females who report anal sex with no vaginal sex and that of the percentage of guys who report anal sex with no vaginal sex. One might suspect that this percentage of guys are gays; sadly the study does not make such explicit conclusions.

Still, it is an interesting study about abstinence and one should be mindful in the discussions that anal sex is not an activity just enjoyed by homosexuals.

A link to the study.

Dan Savage has an interesting take on the results:

I’m old enough to remember when getting fucked in the ass was considered a sex act, something that virgins, almost by definition, shied away from. But that was before kids were subjected to religious indoctrination masquerading as sex-ed. Abstinence “educators” emphasize the importance of virginity—but they only talk about vaginal intercourse because they figure if we don’t tell kids about anal sex they’ll never figure out what brown can do for them. But they do figure it out. And lacking accurate info, kids aren’t just concluding that anal sex isn’t really sex. (“Otherwise it would’ve been covered in our sex-ed classes, right?”) Kids are telling researchers that anal intercourse, unlike the premarital vaginal intercourse they were warned about (STDs! Pregnancy! Eternal damnation!), carries no risk of disease. (I can’t wait to tell all my dead friends!)

I wanted to scream and yell about this study—and a DTMFA letter leaves plenty of room—but then I figured, you know, fuck it. I’ve been ranting and raving about the idiocy of abstinence education for 10 years. Obviously I can’t beat ‘em, so I might as well join ‘em. All my life I’ve had to listen to fundamentalist Christian bigots like Pat Robertson and Rick Warren—Rick Warren, Obama?—fume about all the terrible, no good, really bad sodomy gay men get up to. But I haven’t been sodomizing the boyfriend all these years! I’ve been preserving his virginity.

I’ve been preserving the shit out of my boyfriend’s virginity for 14 years now. If my boyfriend ever decides to marry a woman—miracles can happen!—he’ll be able to wear white at his wedding. Hell, he’s so pure he can wear Saran Wrap at his wedding. And his wife will have me to thank for delivering him to her with his virginity intact. (Unfortunately, the boyfriend can’t preserve my virginity. As a teenager, I had actual vaginal intercourse, under duress, with an actual female’s actual vagina.) But until the boyfriend meets the right girl, I’m going to keep preserving the living shit out of his virginity. His virginity isn’t going anywhere—not on my watch.

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Ian Believes Virginity Is A State Of Mind

There seems to be some discussion about this particular phrase “Virginity is a state of mind” with regards to the controversial CSE programme by AWARE. One of the issue with this statement is the total absurdity of it from a physical POV. If a girl has had penetrative sex (i.e. had a penis inserted into a vagina or even the ass), obviously she is no longer a virgin, at least from the perspective that virginity is defined by the physical state that an individual can be in.

From a progammer’s POV, the class Human has a boolean field virginity with default value true. After the method insertPenisIntoVagina (or insertPenisIntoAss) has been called, the boolean field virginity is changed to false.

Yet being a virgin and conversely not being a virgin, in some sectors of our society, carries a whole lot of connatations than just being a change in physical state.

Go to Google and enter this as a search term ‘define:virginity‘.

Some of the results:

virgin – pure: in a state of sexual virginity; “pure and vestal modesty”; “a spinster or virgin lady”; “men have decreed that their women must be pure and virginal”

virginal – untouched or undefiled

Now, let’s use google and search with this term ‘define: undefiled‘.

immaculate: free from stain or blemish

Again from a computer programmer’s POV, the class Human has a boolean field called ‘moral person’ (i.e good person, the kind you want your son or daughter to marry) with default value true.

To some segments of our society, when you call the method insertPenisIntoVagina, the boolean field ‘moral person’ becomes false.

Do you know what shame and guilt can do to a person? There are very real esteem issues that can arise when we keep drumming into our youth that just because they are no longer virgins they are defiled and not pure. Once you tell someone they have lost something, it is much easier for them to behave in a manner consistent with not having it than actually be encouraged to get it back. Basically, you tell kids them losing virginity equal to them being delinquents (cos only immoral spawn of the devil will have premarital sex) they will behave so.

Well, the way some of us approach the issue of virginity dumps a whole lot of guilt, shame and esteem issues on our kids. Now, this can be bad in a whole lot of ways.

Not So Hypothetical Scenario 1.

The young naive girl has sex once because she thinks she loves a guy. They break up. She moves on to another relationship. This time she wants to value herself more and not just be used as some fuck toy. The guy tells her, ‘why so uptight. I mean, not say you are a virgin. Just bang bang only what. I mean, you love me right?’

Now she looks at herself and goes, ‘Yeah, I mean, it is true. I’ve done it once. What’s the difference between doing it a second time. Not like I can reset my physical state. So yeah, I lose it already might as well just do. After all, I do love this guy.’

Not So Hypothetical Scenario 2.

Similar to the above, but this time, the guy is slightly nastier. ‘Don’t be a bitch lah. You think you damn fucking atas and pure is it. I know you not virgin. Just 1 fuck also act like your pussy is some treasure cave that cannot open.’

The girl thinks, ‘Yeah, I’m trash. I mean, my mom and sunday school teacher told me that if I lose my virginity, I’m no longer pure. I’m dirty. He is probably right, I mean, it isn’t like I haven’t done it before. Maybe I’m being too uptight.’

Not all of us grow up in the same environment. Some of us are taught to value something more than others. Just because someone isn’t a virgin doesn’t make a person any less moral. But certain segments of our society place such importance in this physical state that it can cloud how we look at someone else – we see, not someone who might have had sex because they thought it was a natural extension of being in love, but a filthy dirty corrupted individual who just couldn’t control himself or herself.

‘Virginity is a state of mind’ allows people to do a soft reset. Yes, the physical state may not have changed, but that one decision in the past does not need to affect how they approach future situations when they are put in a position where sex is going to happened (or pressure is applied to make it happen).

From a computer programmer’s POV, just because the boolean field ‘virginity’ is equal to ‘false’ does not mean that the boolean field ‘will_have_sex’ is set to true always. The soft reset is a decrease of the integer variable ‘likely_to_have_sex_because_of_past_decisions’ to a number close to zero if not zero.

‘Virginity is a state of mind’ also allows those who value virginity and attach such strong moral attitudes to it to separate another individual’s past physical actions and current state of moral and emotional being.

At the end of the day, Christians can’t diss the statement ‘Virginity is a state of mind’ when they attach moral values and principles to the physical state of being a virgin because they clearly have shown that ‘Virginity is NOT just a physical state’ and if not just physical, and it is only our mind (and ok, maybe our soul) that can perceive moral implications of our actions, it is clearly that the Christians believe ‘Virginity IS INDEED ALSO a state of mind’.

Further Thoughts:

I realized that I might have been approaching this statement from the wrong POV. There is some evidence that there are youths who JUST engage in oral and anal sex to MAINTAIN THEIR VIRGINITY. These youths have a narrow definition of what sex is – to them, oral and anal sex is NOT SEX because they aren’t losing their virginity doing it (i.e. the penis is not inserted into a vagina). In a way, their definition of sex is like Bill Clinton’s.

But I digress.

What this narrow definition of sex leads to is a state of mind where, although they are engaging in sexual activities, the youths think they are safe because they are, after all based on the traditional definition of virginity, still virgins.

Musing about Life

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Ian Asks – Do You Have The License To Play (With Your Kids) ?

There used to be a time when parents were able to understand what their kids were doing for recreation. Football, tennis, badminton, softballs, rugby,squash – these were activities that parents understood, and could even support if not join in the fun.

Then those blasted contraptions called computers came along and things changed. Kids started getting lost in new worlds created by – what parents must surely think are the devil’s playthings – computer games.

“So son, what did you do over the weekend?”

“Oh, nothing much dad. Me and some clan mates played a few games where we gang-banged some idiot noobs.”

And the conversation pretty much ends there, with the parents’ hearts breaking into a million pieces, them wondering what they did wrong to raise such a deviant child.

In a move to help create an environment where father and son can bond over the sharing of spoils after slaying a level 200 monster in a faraway virtual land, the event Licence2Play is being organized by SPHere Exhibits and the Singapore) Cybersports and Online Gaming Association.

Its aim was to introduce cyberwellness and responsible gaming elements into the industry, thus engaging often-neglected stakeholders like parents, educators, and the Government. While at the same time having loads of fun and family entertainment, which is what gaming–a pretty recession-proof industry–should always be about.

Find out more about the event from Aaron over at his cnet blog.

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Ian Goes To SGTweetup And Sees Hot Babes

Yesterday the first, supposedly, Singapore Tweetup was held at Geek Terminal. Like the usual kaypoh I am, I decided to go down look look see see. It was great to finally meet ctham who I started following during the whole AWARE fiasco as well as catch up with some friends.

Sadly, I had to leave early, but not before acquiring a sour taste in my mouth. Apparently a few other individuals had also felt the joyous occasion of finally meeting people you kind-of-know-and-are-friends-with for the first time was sullied by a seemingly hidden agenda for organizing the Tweetup – the promotion of an online reality TV show SuperModelMe.

Now, there are few things I enjoy more than being in the presence of 10 hot babes, although only 1 lady really came close to shorting my thought and speech circuitries like the Bond gals did many years ago – yes, you the stunning leggy model in blue top, I’m talking about you.

bond05

But I like to be warned beforehand that I’m going for an event where someone is trying to officially promote something, and make no mistake, that was what happened tonight. Imagine if a company arranged an event called ‘Bloggers Meetup’ and a whole bunch of bloggers gathered thinking it was just a night of socializing and networking. Suddenly a representative of XXX company steps forward, takes the stage and starts pitching about a new product.

Make no mistake, THERE WILL BE BLOOD!!!

Twitterers are people too. It would be nice if they were engaged with a certain amount of courtesy. Tonight’s gathering was in danger of becoming a outreach-to-Twitterers event instead of a simple Tweetup. Spin it whatever way you want, the models weren’t Twitterers (despite them having accounts created) and tonight was a gathering for Twitterers.

Having said all that, I think getting the models to use Twitter for the duration of the contest is an interesting concept. Instead of going into a confession booth at EOD to complain about their day and bitch about fellow contestants, they can do it whenever they like by whipping out a phone and twitter. Hell, what I’m really looking forward to is the indiscriminate taking of photos and the subsequent uploads to Twitpic.

Sadly, these fine ladies don’t seem to be that much in the know about Twitter. But every cloud has a silver lining, and while I may not be a social media guru, I would gladly hold the hands of the ladies as they take baby steps into the brave new world of the Twitterverse.

Update:

As always, Unique Frequency weighs in with an interesting post.

Ingrid shares her thoughts.

There are actually worse ways for an event to be ‘spoiled’ – the addition of 10 well groomed ladies into our presence, relatively speaking, isn’t all bad.

Notes:

The story about the Bond gals is an interesting one, at least to me. Never had I ever been so close to four accomplished women with such perfect poise and mesmerizing beauty. I don’t think I ever will.

Happenings
Tangled Web We Weave

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