Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beauty is the Mouth of the Complainer

I got to admit it, I am total cad when it comes to beauty contest – I love watching them. As a heterosexual man, I like looking at women walking around in not very much. Then, there’s the anthropologist, sociologist in me, which enjoys something more – the reaction of the public towards these contests and what it says about them.

Beauty contest evoke a host of emotions in people. You have the brigade that hates them, arguing that beauty contest degrades women to the lowest common denominator (Let’s not forget that the Miss Universe Pageant was once owned by Donald Trump). Then you have the extreme end, the societies that take pride in them. Venezuela, for example takes so much pride in the fact that it has produced more “Miss Universes” than anyone else and has established a school just train girls to get through the pageant.

While I do admit that Beauty Contest are shallow and superficial, I believe that they have their uses. Just as sports has been used to raise boys from the streets into well to do heroes, beauty contest can do the same for girls. Conservative India for example, celebrates the various Miss’s by turning them into Bollywood starlets. As well as producing a great number of pageant winners, Venezuela produced the woman who won the grown and gave the world a first-hand account of what the soon to be US President is

While places like Venezuela and India use the pageant to get its girls onto better things, we in Singapore do something entirely different. No, we don’t attach the pageant for being a sexist relic. We merely set up the girls who enter the contest for a royal roasting. Where one would expect men to have sympathy for women who willingly parade in swimsuits, here in Singapore …..well just read the comments in the  following links:

Sure, I understand that we’re a society that doesn’t value the beauty pageant winner the way Venezuela does. I can understand that we’re a more conservative society where the girls considered “beautiful” don’t enter beauty pageants (once again, I don’t think Singapore can claim to be more conservative than India). – But do we really have to take so much delight in being so mean.

Sure, some of our beauty queens deserve the roasting they get. I think of Miss Ris Low, the 2009 winner of Miss World Singapore, who proceeded to give a lesson in how to turn people off while possessing a decent body in a bikini by giving an interview on internet TV ( and then getting caught shoplifting and committing credit card fraud.

Now, Miss. Low is back. She no longer looks like this:

Image result for Ris Low

She now looks like: 

Image result for Ris Low

However, she’s learnt how to speak properly ( and somehow she’s managed to use her infamy to propel herself into different things.

While Ms. Low deserved her online roasting, many of our other beauty queens have been decent representatives of the country and projected a respectable image of what a beautiful Singaporean woman should look like. I was particularly fond of Nuraliza Osman, our 2002 winner, who happens to be a senior legal counsel at Shell. Another beauty that comes to mind Eunice Olsen, who became a nominated member of parliament (a job I would love to have). I’ve also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Cheryl Tay, who was the 2005 winner and a vet (brains and a good heart – girl who loves animals).

What makes girls like these join the pageant? Surely you can’t say any of these ladies are lacking in the brain department nor can you say that they were coerced into the joining the pageant.

Which leads to the main point here – we may like beauty pageants for being shallow and superficial but we don’t have to mean spirited about the girls who enter the pageants. We should accept that a woman has the right to define beauty in her own way and we should celebrate that women with brains have the conscious choice to enjoy these pageants.

As for the guys who are complaining about the girls in the competition – I’m reminded of what my favourite flesh ball once said – “Eh, you think you very handsome ah!”  

Thursday, July 06, 2017

What is the Purpose of 377A?

I couldn’t agree more with writer of “Repeal of 377A won’t automatically change people’s minds” (Today Newspaper 21 March 2017). The writer has rightfully argued that it takes time to achieve a change in social attitudes than it does a change in legal statutes. Repealing 377A won’t make the general public any more accepting of homosexuality overnight.

What the writer and other writers did not address is the question of who does 377A protect. Why do we insist on criminalizing a particular sexual act when we have legitimized almost every other sexual act?

If one looks at laws governing sexual activity, one will notice that the key word is consent. As long as both parties are deemed capable of consent to a sexual act it is legal. If one party is deemed unable to give consent it is not. Rape is not legal because one party did not consent - a inconvenient fact that Professor Thio Li-Ann failed to take into consideration in her infamous 2007 speech to parliament when she urged Singapore's MP's to "Reject the argument of consent" citing it as morally bankrupt. I'm surprised that nobody has called the good professor out on this fact.  

The other area that governs most sexual acts is the question of where they take place. A sexual act in public is a criminal offense because it disturbs the public while an act in the bedroom does not.

So, given these two general facts, why is 377A on the statute books? Who does this law serve? In her 2007 speech, Professor Thio Li-Ann argued that keeping 377A served to protect the national interest. However, Professor Thio did not provide conclusive evidence of how the law protected the national interest.

Take, for example, the most obvious – public health and safety. It can be argued that participating in anal sex increases the risk of catching HIV/AIDS. However, while this may be the case, why is it legal for a heterosexual couple to engage in anal sex while it is not for homosexuals. Are we to say that the law is in favour of protecting homosexuals and not heterosexuals from the possibilities of catching sexually transmitted diseases?

Professor Thio did argue that homosexuals tend to live more promiscuous lifestyles, hence it was in the public interest to keep 377A. While 377A criminalises the act of anal sex between men, it does not criminalise promiscuity. Unless Professor Thio is able to provide scientific evidence linking the act of anal sex between men and promiscuous behavior, it’s hard to see how the act protects anyone in this respect. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health’s statistics would on HIV infections have shown that HIV/AIDS has long since ceased to be a homosexual disease.

There is an argument that people disapprove of homosexual behavior. However, once again there is no evidence to suggest that people believe that something they disapprove of should be illegal.

The topic of 377A creates many passions. However, nobody seems to have asked who the law protects. It would be in the national interest to have an evidence based explanation. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Best School I Went to

My Dad is going to shoot me for blogging this but I’m going to state that the single best school that I attended was School of Infantry Specialist or SISPEC as it was commonly known (SISPEC has since been rebranded as SCS or Specialist Cadet School). This is the school that dad didn’t have to pay king’s ransom for and it wasn’t the school that gave me the prestige of being a “Graduate from England.” It was the school that prepared me best for life.

It’s not to say that I didn’t value my time at Churcher’s College or Goldsmith’s College (In Arty Circles, the Great Art School of the University of London.) Goldsmith’s was great or should I say, it gave me the great experience of living in one of the greatest cities in human history – “The London Experience.” I also have great affection for Churcher’s College, a place where I have many happy memories and where I made some of my best friends.

While Churcher’s and Goldsmith’s were great for the academic training and prestige value, they didn’t quite expose me to the life that I was to have. While Churcher’s was by no means a major league public school, those of us who attended all came from a similar socio-economic background and we were basically a group of nice kids and it was understood that we would all be going to university. Goldsmith’s was like a bubble where you could hide from the realities of daily life.

SISPEC on the other hand was brutal. We all came from different socio-economic backgrounds and saw life from different sides of the road. My best friends included the Chinese speaking son of a fishmonger, who was raised by a single parent and the son of the plastic bag tycoon. Somehow, we had a find a way of gelling together.

SISPEC was supposed to train us how to “LEAD.” It was about getting guys who didn’t always feel like cooperating (or in some cases, thought fucking you up was a sport) and to add fuel to the fire, you had the superiors who weren’t exactly keen on making your life easier either. Somehow, between all of that, you had to find a way of getting things done.
One of my former officers described SAFTI OCS as the best leadership school in the East. Officers spend nearly a year learning how to lead. In the Singapore system, the NCO’s or “Specialist” as we’re known, are there for our “knowledge” of a particular topic. So, in a sense OCS might be a better leadership school than SISPEC.

However, being an officer is relatively simple in the sense that you’re part of management. Your job is to provide “leadership” and there are plenty of cooperative subordinates to do things for you. I remember reading a manual for NCO’s published by the American army, which tells a wonderful story. It involves a major, a few second lieutenants and a sergeant-major. The major asks the second lieutenants to put up a flag pole and the young officers spend hours trying to figure it out. After watching them struggle, the major offers to show them how to get it done. He turns to the sergeant-major and says, “Sargent-Major, please see that the flag pole is up by sun rise tomorrow.”
This story is the perfectly illustrates the difference between being part of the team that plans things and the team that has to execute things. As an NCO (or Specialist, as Singapore insist on calling them), your job is basically to get the basic unit to execute things. While you have some leadership authority, you are primarily the bridge between the boardroom and the shop floor. An officer has the advantage of a rank that says he’s entitled to lead. There is that distance between you and the men to say that you are the boss.

The NCO doesn’t always have that luxury. You have to be close to the men so that they feel compelled to do what you say but you also need to except orders.

In later life and having worked several industries (PR, advertising, insolvency, food and beverage and retail), I’ve noticed that the key skill is the ability to manage people.

One of the key problems with management is that it’s constantly presented as a top down thing. You are told that you manage when you can get your subordinates to do things. The thing that management schools generally fail to teach you is the need to manage up or “boss management.”

As an NCO in a military unit, you got to be able to command your specific unit but you also have to learn how to manage your bosses and believe me – you have plenty. In professional armies like the USA and UK, an NCO has to manage the men and very often his boss – the young officer, who in many cases is often young enough to be his son. Learning how to tell your boss he’s a total idiot in such a way that he understands and does something about it while still showing the proper deference is a skill. In corporate sector, the easy way out is to avoid telling your boss there’s a failing.  In the military, where you deal with lives in life-ending situations, it’s irresponsible not to acquire the skill.  

I’m not saying that SISPEC taught these skills perfectly but the experience made one aware of the need to acquire such skills.

In my current existence, I find myself learning to manage. I am essentially a bridge between various competing interests like bosses, clients, staff, colleagues, suppliers and so on. I don’t always do it perfectly, but the experience of going through SISPEC (nearly 30-years later) made life easier.
National Service wasn’t something I wanted to do. The job was forced upon me. However, when I look back, I’m grateful to the experience. It was wonderful preparation for later life.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Boys - Let the Cougars Hunt You Down!

As the French election draws to a close, I thought I would drop a line on the topic of being with an older woman since there is a possibility that the next “first lady” of France is significantly older than her husband. I am, of course, talking about Emanuel Marcon, the current front runner who is married to a woman 24-years his senior and the woman who has given him seven step-grandchildren and the ripe old age of 39.

What’s interesting about this, is the fact that Mr. Marcon’s marriage to an older woman is the fact that it’s been positioned against the marriage of the 70-year old Mr. Trump to a much younger woman. Not even the most extreme “Trump Haters” have questioned the marriage of a 70-year old man to a 46-year old woman. Sure, there have been comments about Mrs. Trump’s propensity to plagiarize speeches or to sue people ruining her chances on cashing in on being First Lady, but nobody has questioned a woman marrying a man old enough to be her father. Mr. Trump is actually somewhat respected for having a woman with a “hot-bod” walking next to him in public. Having a significantly younger woman is probably one of the better things Mr. Trump has done – most men overlook his record of being a miserable failure of a husband because he’s snagged their “wank fantasy” (cool – we like electing old farts who get young babes) and most women have an “understand” Mrs. Trump for making an advantageous marriage.

By contrast, Mr. Marcon gets flack for marrying a woman significantly older woman. His sexuality is being questioned and quite a few people have wondered if he’s got a “mummy fixation” (would you trust a Mummy’s boy to run the country?). The fact that Mr. Marcon has been a loyal husband makes people question him even more. I think the person who summed it up best is a Finnish friend of mine who suggested that Prince Charles had a screw lose because “What type of man kicks out a beautiful blonde and replaces her with an old hag.”

Perhaps its nature. Men are supposed to be providers and a man is supposed to be at his most attractive when he’s at the peak of his earning/hunting powers. A young boy of 17 may be physically fitter than a 30-year old but hey, he’s just a boy. By contrast, nature says women are supposed to be fertile and nature is such that a 17-year old girl is fertile and desirable whereas a woman in her late thirties is less so, even if the 30-year old woman is better educated, more mature and earns her own keep. My late Uncle Richard went as far as to advise me, “Make sure your next wife is half your age – no point having a girlfriend unless she’s very young and there’s no such thing as a good-looking woman over 25.”

While I have come to accept that I may not be expressing pedophilic tendencies every time I look at a woman 12-years younger than me, I have a lot of sympathy for men who like older women. I was one of them and I have to thank two ladies who touched my life.

One of them is around 12-years older. We met when I had came back from England for military service.  I was 19 going on 20, while she was 32. The fact that she’s black was probably a bonus (Chinese guys and black chicks is something that really happen in Asia). The point is this, the relationship made me feel like I had something special on the rest of the guys. I was 19 and there was this worldly-wise woman who thought I had something special to offer the world and wasn’t afraid of letting me know.

The other is someone I met when I came back from university to serve an internship in Citibank Singapore. She’s 6-years older, Malaysian Chinese girl. She’s a beauty of the highest order, sweet and mild mannered yet strong. She’s worked most of her life and when she first approached me, I was thrilled. It really felt good that she had an interest in me and I saw her pretty much as everything a woman should be. My tag line with this particular lady is this – she turned an old nightmare of “settling down” in an HDB flat into a dream to work towards.

Neither relationship turned into anything concrete but I’m glad to say that I’m still a friend to both ladies, even if it’s mainly on Facebook.

Both of these ladies set a special tone for me. An older woman was the way to go. Sure, a younger one might be fresher to look at but if you’re looking at life-long commitment, you really want someone who will be like a good bottle of wine and gets better with time.
It’s like this, a younger girl may look prettier and fresher but young girls want to be adored. It’s easy to impress a young girl. Spend a bit of money on her, show her you can resemble whatever fantasy she may have and she’s yours. 

An older woman on the other hand, is more willing to accept you for who you actually are and somehow, when you have one in your life, you get driven to do things. To get an older woman to be interested in you is also more challenging because she’s been around. It’s easy for a woman to impress a man as long as she’s got tits and not obese.  It’s more challenging for a man to impress a woman into talking relationship, especially when the woman has seen more of the world.
Although I’m far away from my late teens and early thirties, I still take this view. Getting a worldly-wise woman to give you two looks is a challenge.

Hence, I hand it to Mr. Marcon. He met the Mrs. When she was his teacher. He was a mere 15-year old boy and yet he managed to find something to impress a decent looking woman, who had everything a woman could want. She actually gave up her life to be with him (and that’s with parents warning her to stay away until he was 18).

What I’ve said about an older woman having the ability to drive a younger man is very true for the Marcons. Prior to running for President, he was actually a minister and before that, he had a very successful career at Rothschilds. He’s actually credited her as the reason for his success.

By contrast, the Trump marriage is boringly obvious. When the current Mrs. meet Mr., Trump had been an established brand name for decades. The signs of luxury and luxurious living were all there. On his part, she had a nice pair of tits. There’s nothing to suggest that either of them have created something more an interesting than the old-fashioned trade off that women have made for the last thousand years – financial security for their bodies.

I used to be very proud that I would never have anything to do with a younger woman and for quite a few years, I actually stuck to that.

I’m a little less adamant about my no younger women rule. I was involved with an older woman who was a nightmare to hang around and expensively boring. I’m married to a younger woman who is level headed and very sharp.

Having said that, I still maintain that the best option is to go for a woman who wants to make you a better man, despite her age. Perhaps I’m the wrong person to give relationship advice but a man who can look beyond what makes his loins stir and goes for the woman who makes him special, is someone worthy of respect.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Did You Think the Devil Would Look like the Devil?

You got to hand it to Marine Le Pen but she stands out by looking good. Unlike Trump in the USA, you don’t find anyone talking about how she’s artificially enhanced herself (Orange Tan) nor does she exaggerate things about herself (think the hair of Trump or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands). Every shot of Ms. Le Pen is well thought out. She looks elegant and when she speaks, she is well spoken and on the surface sounds exceedingly reasonable. While Ms. Le Pen is past the age of being a “sex-bomb” she could easily pass off as someone you could consider growing old with.

Unfortunately, everything that I’ve just said is precisely what makes her perhaps the most dangerous of all the demagogues who have risen to prominence on the global political stage. While people like Mr. Trump in the USA or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are larger than life characters who make outrageously outlandish statements about this and that, Ms. Le Pen is attractively normal and sane.

As much as I dislike Donald Trump, I give him credit for being able to stir passions and to get people talking. Some of my blog post have been Trump inspired and I’m not alone. While Mr. Trump may rile against the media, his very rise to the presidency has been exceedingly good for the media, especially the newspaper business, which has been facing something of a decline.

Mr. Trump had a genius for saying things that upset or emboldened people. If you consider the fact that we live in an age where people around the world are pissed off with the way things are, Mr. Trump managed to push all the right buttons by riling us up against the things we were pissed off by. I like to think of voting for Mr. Trump and his policies as going for a binge drink because you hard day. Dealing with Mr. Trump’s attempts to run the country is the hangover that you get from binge drinking.

To be fair to Mr. Trump, he is what he is. His message is vile and his delivery is just as bad as his message. You could call Mr. Trump a rabid dog that you bring home just to piss off the rest of the family. A rabid dog is obviously rabid and anyone who touches it without gloves is pretty much responsible for whatever happens to them.

Ms. Marine Le Pen is a different kettle of fish. If Mr. Trump is a rabid dog, Ms. Le Pen is the loveable pooch that you bring home because you think that she’s going to make the kids happy. Then, once you’ve brought her home, she attacks everyone who tries to visit you and pisses all over the furniture.

This is precisely something Ms. Le Pen has devoted her political life to doing. Her predecessor as President of the National Front, her father John-Marie Le Pen was one of Europe’s crazy racist politicians, who was right wing to the extreme and proudly racist (he once promised to deport France’s winning football team because they were of Arab and Negro decent).

Le Pen senior said outrageous things and he was a rabid dog. While he had an appeal to certain segments of society, the majority would never have voted for him because – well would you give the car keys to a rabid dog? The old man managed to stir strong emotions, while 22 percent of people in France had a favourable view of him, 63 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him. You’re talking about a man who was accused of torturing people during the Algerian Wars and was persecuted for assaulting someone (note – Mr. Le Pen actually got involved in the doing of awful things, unlike Mr. Trump who talks about it).

Mr. Le Pen had one fluke back in the 2002 Presidential Election, when he made it passed the first round, beating the Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. The French electorate quickly came to their senses and ensured that Jacques Chirac (Not known for being the most honest of politicians) had a crushing victory.

Ms. Le Pen understood that the harsh far-right policies of the National Front made them unvoteable and has devoted her life to “De-demonizing” the party. Today’s National Front is not the “anti-Semitic” talk shop that it used to be. The “softer” image of the National Front under Ms. Le Pen has made it vote-able. In the 2011-2012 Presidential Election, she managed to come in third behind Nicholas Sarkozy and Francoise Hollande and ended up with more votes than her father did in his best showing of the 2002 election.

Today, Ms. Le Pen enters the second round of the Presidential Election with a very realistic of becoming the next French President. In 2002, when her father made it past the first round, it was a sign that the election would go to Jacques Chirac. Today, Ms. Le Pen trails her rival by a mere two percent in the polls and given that her rival is an inexperienced outsider, her chances are realistic.
How did she do it? The English comedian John Oliver says, “She has dangerously normalized the National Front.” People who would never have voted for her father because they thought he was a crazy old man, have happily voted for her. In many ways, her father was easier. He was a devil that who looked like the devil – admitting anything positive about him was an endorsement of being a racist thug.

Ms. Le Pen is different and more dangerous. Papa Le Pen was obviously the worst in us and in rational moments, we would never want him around us in a bar let alone in the seat of power in one of the world’s biggest economies. His daughter by contrast has made it such that we find that thinking at worst is perfectly normal.

If you look and listen carefully to Ms. Le Pen, you’ll realise that her message is essentially the same – racist, protectionist and nasty. Yet, its packaged better. You’ll never catch Ms. Le Pen saying revolting things like the Holocaust is a “mere detail of history.” But she’ll convince you, a well-educated person, that it’s perfectly normal to hate black, brown and yellow people.

The other area where Ms. Le Pen presents a danger is the fact that she has a reasonable image of competence. Mr. Trump made his inexperience in politics an electable strength and glossed over his business failures. However, once in power, the Trump administration has proven to be spectacularly incoherent.

By contrast, Ms. Le Pen has succeeded in running her party and instead of citing mad ideologues like Steve Bannon as an inspiration, Ms. Le Pen has paid tribute to credible people like the late 1988 Nobel Laureate, Maurice Allais. It makes her less frightening to a rational person, which in turn should make her terrifying.

We live in an age of instants. We like instant food, instant gratification and instant information. On one hand, we should celebrate technology and the way it makes life easier. On the other, we should worry that life isn’t encouraging us to think and analyze. Anyone with a brain cell should be able to recognize the faults of a Donald Trump. His appeal may resonate with some. He may touch us at the right moment, when we’re feeling down. However, a right-thinking person will see that Trump’s message is essentially faulty and in many ways, morally wrong. He is an obvious snake oil salesman who sells by bringing out the worst in us.

Ms. Le Pen is more frightening because she isn’t obvious. Instead of getting us to do something for the heck of it, she slowly persuades us to think that out worst qualities are actually perfectly normal.  Whether she wins or loses this election, she has already done damage by making the worst instincts in any society normal and acceptable. I can only pray that the French electorate prove more sensible than the British and American ones and reject her at the polls. A racist thug in a pretty face is still a racist thug. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Christian Beast

Last Thursday the Evil Teen decided that she wanted to watch the premier of Beauty & The Beast, which was a Disney live adaptation of its famous animated classic.

The movie had a boost of popularity thanks to a round of protest by the National Council of Churches (NCC), who had protested the movie having a “Gay Moment.” I posted something to the effect that the obsession with “Gay Moments” and “Gay Agenda’s” was a sign that Singapore has a large population of repressed homosexuals who hate themselves for being gay and therefore become extremely homophobic. My comments drew a few laughs but offended a friend of mine who admitted to being an “ex-homosexual.”

With this bit of background in mind, I went to see movie and true enough, I actually noticed the “gay moment” when one of the characters seemed to have an unhealthy devotion of his more outgoing male friend.

While, this was probably a “Gay Moment” (which someone else told me I only noticed because I was psychologically conditioned to look out for it), no rational person can say that it “promoted” the “homosexual lifestyle.” If anything, it should have been the “sensitive” homosexuals protesting about the stereotyping of the “LGBT” community as being effeminate and a group deserving of ridicule.
What’s even more interesting about the movie was the fact that it was filled with what one can call good Christian values. The so called “Gay Moment” was such a minor part to a film that was the living embodiment of Christian teaching.

The premise of the story was simple. A handsome and wealthy prince who screwed his people would not give shelter and food to an old, ugly hag who offered the one thing she had – a rose. Feeding the poor and giving shelter to the needy is right at the heart of Christian teaching. Christ tells us the parable of the widow’s mite – saying that God valued a single coin donated by an old widow than the vast riches donated by the wealthy. The teaching is simple – God doesn’t value the absolute amount but what you give from your heart.

The Prince finds damnation when he’s turned into a Beast. It’s always winter wherever he is and his only companions are his possessions (the servants got turned into possessions). The moral of this story is obvious – wealth can be a curse if all you have are possessions. When you lack love, you realise that having a lot of things is meaningless.

In the end, there is redemption. The Beast becomes tender and learns to love when he meets our heroine, Bell. This feisty young girl is cowed by his hideous appearance and sacrifices herself so that her father can have his freedom. In the end the Beast accepts that part of loving someone is learning to let them go. He recognizes that he needs to let Bell go to her father when he sees how much it torments her that she’s not able to be with her father in his hour of need. He lets her go with the full knowledge that she may never come back to him and he’ll be damned to live out his days as a Beast and even more friendless than when he was before (the talking objects become inanimate ones if he’s damned to be live out his days as a beast).

What is more Christian than that? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Man hath no greater love than he who would lay down his life for his fellow man.” This is what the Beast risk when he lets her go. He has learnt to love something greater than himself.

Perhaps the only thing more Christian than learning to sacrifice for the one you love but showing love and mercy to someone who not only hates you, but tries to do you harm. He practically allows “Gaston” the show’s knave to murder him, until Bell comes back and he fights back. Then, at the point when he’s in the position to deliver Gaston’s just deserts, he shows mercy and allows him to live.

Again, Christ is very specific on this. In both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, he tells people to “love your enemies as yourself,” to “bless those who curse you.” In that very moment of giving mercy to the man who would destroy him (Christ behavior), the Beast becomes more human than the entire village of people who followed Gaston on their quest to murder the Beast because ….well that’s what Gaston told them.

It’s funny how the National Council of Churches never wanted to talk about Christian values like mercy and love. Somehow an insignificant moment of what they deemed unnatural was more important than the overwhelming theme of giving undeserving love and mercy. How funny that Christ who said far more about sheltering the poor and blessing those who sought to do you harm was something that the churches didn’t want to talk about.

What a shame that our men of God don’t want to talk about love and compassion when these are central of God’s teachings. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Killing the Golden Goose to Stay on the Yellow Brick Road

Whether you like him or loath him, you got to hand it to Donald Trump for his genius for creating great talking points. Whenever Mr. Trump’s fingers hover above the tweet button, the world’s journalist start to salivate. Mr. Trump has made “Old Media” sexy again. The “dying” newspaper has had a fresh lease of life and television is booming. By being “politically incorrect,” Mr. Trump manages to stir passions on a whole range of issues like sexism, racism, immigration, taxes and so on.

Despite the obvious signs of chaos and incompetence from the White House, Mr. Trump’s supporters continue to love him. In fairness to Mr. Trump, the reason is obvious, he’s trying to keep his promises. He’s actively tried to bully companies into keeping the old-fashioned manufacturing jobs in America and he’s actively removed bits and pieces of environmental legislation to get oil pipelines 
moving through whenever they were supposed to go to – damn the environmental consequences.

 Mr. Trump’s supporters are thankful to their man for trying to restore things to how they used to be.
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump’s supporters have forgotten one basic point in life – namely the fact that change is inevitable and industries will get disrupted. In each instance of disruption people get thrown out of work as old industries die but many more people get employed in better paying jobs as new industries take their place. Think of what happened when we moved to the motor car from the horse drawn carriage. People lost jobs as grooms, stage coach makers and so on but many more people got employed in car factories.

Anyone who is gone past primary school would realise that disruption and change are part of life. Businesses and people that acknowledge disruption have a way of hanging around and thriving for a very long time.

I think of my own little nation of Singapore. We were built by a leader who was able to handle disruption. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister, started out as a loyal colonial subject. He took pride in the fact that he didn’t speak Chinese and spoke English of the English as opposed to this bastardised thing called Singlish. Mr. Lee was educated in the finest of English schools and was destined to be a glorious and grateful servant of the colonial master. However, he grew up in a time when people of colour didn’t want to be ruled by the colonial power and, more importantly, Mr. Lee quickly found out that it was not his people, the prim and proper English educated that moved things. It was the rough and ready Chinese speaking that caused revolutions. What did Mr. Lee do? He and his band learnt how to speak Mandarin and Hokkien, the language of the streets in a mere 6-months. Harry Lee became Lee Kuan Yew and the rest is history. Mr. Lee didn’t fight disruption – where possible, he tried to anticipate and prepare for it. He went into China, anticipating China’s rise and he even checked his own emails until his final days.

Singapore has thrived because we had a leader who understood that disruption was a fact of life. There are other examples.

The two examples that come to mind are Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world and Phillip Morris International, the largest cigarette company in the world Both Shell and Phillip Morris are global giants. Both are leaders in their fields, which contain vast pools of money. While oil prices took a tumble in 2014, “big oil” remains just that – “Big.” The same for Phillip Morris. The tobacco industry remains buoyant despite the vast taxes levied against cigarettes and the various limitations placed on the industry anytime soon.

Nobody would imagine oil or cigarettes going out of business anytime soon. Yet, Shell isn’t sitting in a shell. If anything, Shell has decided to prepare for the future. On 15 May 2015. Shell announced that it was setting up a “Green Energy Division” to invest in low carbon and renewable energies like wind. Nobody imagines oil going out of business anytime within the decade. Yet, here you have one of the major oil companies, a company that has a turn over comparable with the GDP of many countries, setting up a business that many imagine to be the antithesis of its core business.

Phillip Morris has also done something similar. In its newly relaunched website, the world’s largest tobacco company declares, “Designing a smoke-free future” and asks the provocative question of “How long will the world’s leading cigarette business be in the cigarette business?” The world’s largest cigarette company, which owns the top brands in its market, has decided to find ways to kill its golden goose to create its future.

Both international giants are trying to behave like the start-ups of Silicon Valley. How successful will they be? What Shell puts into its renewable energy business is still a drop in the ocean in its overall turnover. The cynics, which include many government officials, remain skeptical about Phillip Morris’s claim that is researching ways to make its products less harmful.

However, the fact that the international giants are trying to anticipate and prepare for disruption to their very core industries is a sign that they want to continue thriving for a very long time. Shell wants to prove they can be a player without oil. Phillip Morris is promoting a future where is doesn’t need its golden goose.

Giants take a long time to adapt because the need to do so doesn’t happen until it’s too late. However, here you have an example of two giants trying to disrupt themselves before the forces of economics do it for them. These are giants that have the foresight to acknowledge reality and prepare for it.
If huge corporate giants with huge bureaucracies can make the effort to anticipate the end of the golden goose, surely someone on an individual scale should be able to do the same. Focusing and preparing for a future without your golden goose is surely a better activity than listening to the likes of Mr. Trump and their promises of restoring a past that wasn’t quite there.