Monday, October 24, 2011

Fallen Man and the Morally Upright and Very Clever Woman

When I first decided to go public in cyberspace about why I thought I should become a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), I was warned that I could be perceived as being a little narcissistic. Who else would proclaim their faults to the world and then ask for a job in public service in a country where everyone in public service is supposed to be a paragon of virtue?

I guess they may have a point here. I haven’t achieved much professionally and the less said about my personal life the better. However, after looking at some of the speeches given in by people in the job, I became more confident about wanting this office. I was particularly encouraged by a very clever and morally upright woman. I am talking about Professor Thio-Li-Ann.

Professor Thio Li-Ann is a professor in the faculty of law at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and she was an NMP in out 11th Parliament (from 18 January 2007). Her academic credentials (Oxford and Harvard Law School) are beyond reproach. Whatever you think of her, you have to admit that she is clever and capable and morally upright in her beliefs.

My academic credentials are more humble. I got my bachelor degree in anthropology and communications from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. Much to the disgust of my parents, I proceeded to spend my time in the union bar, arguing that I was hard at work observing how culture was being formed over a few pints.

Anyway, I decided to see if I could deconstruct Professor Thio’s most infamous speech. Despite having no legal training, I am confident that I can pick apart her arguments and I believe that if she could be a Nominated Member of Parliament, why can’t I?

Let’s see how I’ve done?

My Responses are marked in red:

377A serves public morality : NMP Thio Li-An

Two camps championing two distinct criminal law philosophies are polarised over whether to retain or repeal s377A which criminalizes public or private acts of gross indecency between two men, such as sodomy.

This act covers a public and private act.

There is already a law covering public obscenity or if one uses the good professor’s words “Gross Indecency.” So, since there’s already an act in place to cover public acts of “Gross Indecency” what “extra” protection does 377A provide for the public that the existing act does not? If it does not provide us with much needed protection - what is the use of having 377A?

If we are talking about a private act between two consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom, we need to ask ourselves how this law protects us? Is there a public health issue? Is there a national security issue? If we understand the purpose of laws in society as being there to protect vulnerable people - we have to ask ourselves who exactly does this law protect?

The ‘liberal’ camp wants 377A repealed. They offer an ‘argument from consent’ –government should not police the private sexual behaviour of consenting adults. They opine this violates their liberty or ‘privacy’. They ask, ‘Why criminalize something which does not “harm” anyone; if homosexuals are “born that way”, isn’t it unkind to ‘discriminate’ against their sexual practices?

The key question here is why do we need to keep an act that is between two consenting adults criminal? Who does the State protect when it enters and governs activity in the bedroom?

These flawed arguments are marinated with distracting fallacies which obscure what is at stake – repealing 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social morality, the common good and undermine our liberties.

This is an ingenious suggestion - we need a law to govern how two adults behave in the bedroom so that we can protect our liberties. If I am reading the good professor correctly, we need more government regulation to become more free.

The ‘communitarian’ camp argues from ‘community values’ – these social conservatives want 377A retained, to protect public health, morality, decency and order. A Keep 377A online petition attracted over 15,000 signatures after a few days.

How does keeping a private consensual act between two consenting adults protect public health, morality, decency and order? As for the 15,000 signatures it is merely an indication of the good organisation skills of a certain group promoting an agenda.

Like many, I applaud the government’s wisdom in keeping 377A which conserves what upholds the national interest. ‘Conservative’ here is not a dirty word connoting backwardness; environmental conservation protects our habitat; the moral ecology must be conserved to protect what is precious and sustains a dynamic, free and good society.

Once again, how does keeping a private act between consenting adults uphold the national interest. Will there be an outbreak of a nasty virus if two consenting adults do something in the privacy of their bedroom? Will there be a national security issue if two grown-ups do something in the privacy of their bedroom?

The welfare of future generations depends on basing law on sound public philosophy. We should reject the ‘argument from consent’ as its philosophy is intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt.

This is a shockingly disturbing argument from a learned law professor. The key word in laws governing sexual behaviour is “Consent.” Sexual activity requires two or more parties. All parties in the act must be able to provide consent (children and mentally disabled are considered unable to provide it). If you do not have consent from a person who can provide it, then you have a case of sexual assault or rape - something which everyone can agree on as being an act of criminal brutality and therefore morally repugnant.

Sir, the arguments to retain 377A are overwhelmingly compelling and should be fully articulated, to enable legislators to make informed decisions and not be bewitched by the empty rhetoric and emotional sloganeering employed by many radical liberals, which generate more heat than light.

So, what are the compelling arguments?

The real question today is not “if” we should repeal 377A now, or wait until people are ready to move. This assumes too much, as though we need an adjustment period before the inevitable. The real question is not “if” but “should” we ever repeal 377A. It is not inevitable; it is not desirable to repeal it in any event. Not only is retaining s377A sound public policy, it is legally and constitutionally beyond reproach. Responsible legislators must grapple with the facts, figures and principles involved; they cannot discount the noxious social consequences repeal will bring.

What are the noxious social consequences?

Debate must be based on substance not sound-bites. Let me red-flag four red herrings.

Good point – let’s have the substance from the good professor?

First, to say a law is archaic is merely chronological snobbery.

What exactly is chronological snobbery? How is it snobbery to suggest that something which might have worked in 2AD is no longer applicable to 2011AD?

Second, you cannot say a law is ‘regressive’ unless you first identify your ultimate goal. If we seek to copy the sexual libertine ethos of the wild wild West, then repealing s377A is progressive. But that is not our final destination. The onus is on those seeking repeal to prove this will not harm society.

So what exactly is the objective here? What is the objective of keeping a private act between consenting adults criminal? Do we protect anyone? Interesting to note that the good professor has spoken of the onus of those seeking to repeal the act to prove that it does society no harm when she has failed to mention a single group that the law protects?

Third, to say a law which criminalizes homosexual acts because many find it offensive is merely imposing a “prejudice” or “bias” assumes with justification that no reasonable contrary view exists. This evades debate. The liberal argument which says sodomy is a personal choice, private matter and ‘victimless crime’ merely asserts this. It rests precariously on an idiosyncratic notion of “harm” – but “harm” can be both physical and intangible; victims include both the immediate parties and third parties. What is done in ‘private’ can have public repercussions.

Good point from the professor. Harm can affect both immediate and third parties. Hence we do not encourage smoking because second hand smoke kills third parties. However, despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking causes harm to immediate and third parties it is not a criminal act. So, let’s ask the question - who are the possible third parties who will be harmed so badly that we need the law to step in, in order to protect third parties from two consenting adults doing something in the privacy of their bedroom?

Fourth, some argue that legislators should be ‘open-minded’ and decriminalize sodomy. However, like an open mouth, an open mind must eventually close on something solid. They urge legislators to be ‘objective’ and to leave their personal subjective beliefs at home, especially if they hold religious views which consider homosexuality aberrant.

I don’t have to like homosexuality or homosexuals. I will NEVER want to engage in homosexual sex. I don’t want to think of my male friends engaging and deriving pleasure from it. However, whatever my personal beliefs, I still ask - why is it necessary for someone who does enjoy homosexual sex with a like-minded consenting adult in the privacy of their bedroom to be considered a criminal under the law.

This demand for objectivity is intellectually disingenuous as there is no neutral ground, no ‘Switzerland of ambivalence’ when we consider the moral issues related to 377A which require moral judgment of what is right and wrong – not to take a stand, is to take a stand! As law has a moral basis, we need to consider which morality to legislate. Neither the majority or minority is always right – but there are fundamental values beyond fashion and politics which serve the common good. Religious views are part of our common morality. We separate ‘religion’ from ‘politics,’ but not ‘religion’ from ‘public policy’. That would be undemocratic. All citizens may propose views in public debate, whether influenced by religious or secular convictions or both; only the government can impose a view by law.

We can disapprove of certain acts based on our personal or religious convictions. However, does personal disapproval mean that private acts of totally unrelated consenting individuals should be criminalised by the state?

Incidentally, one does not have to be religious to consider homosexuality contrary to biological design and immoral; secular philosopher Immanuel Kant considered homosexuality “immoral acts against our animal nature” which did not preserve the species and dishonoured humanity.

Kant like the rest of us had his opinions - but still does not answer the question of why it is necessary to criminalise a private act between two consenting adults?

The issues surrounding s377A are about morality, not modernity or being cosmopolitan. What will foreigners think if we retain 377A? Depends on which foreigner you ask. Many would applaud us! Such issues divide other societies as well! The debate is not closed. A group of Canadians1 were grieved enough to issue an online apology to the world “for harm done through Canada‘s legalization of homosexual marriage”, urging us not to repeat their mistakes.

There are people all over the world who don’t like homosexuality, lesbianism and so on. For every group who doesn’t like something there is another who does. The question remains, who does 377A protect and why is it necessary to keep a private act between consenting adults criminal? Whether you like an act does not make it necessary for the state to abolish it. States should only interfere in private acts if it constitutes something like a national disaster....

Singapore is an independent state and we can decide the 377A issue ourselves; we have no need of foreign or neo-colonial moral imperialism in matters of fundamental morality.

There are no constitutional objections to s377A

Sir, there are no constitutional objections to retaining 377A while de-criminalising heterosexual oral and anal sex. Three legal points are worth making.

First, there is no constitutional right to homosexual sodomy. It is not a facet of personal liberty under article 9. Nor is there a human right to homosexual sodomy though some like to slip this in under the umbrella of ‘privacy.’ Human rights are universal, like prohibitions against genocide. Demands for ‘homosexual rights’ are the political claims of a narrow interest group masquerading as legal entitlements. Homosexual activists often try to infiltrate and hijack human rights initiatives to serve their political agenda, discrediting an otherwise noble cause to protect the weak and poor. You cannot make a human wrong a human right.

There is no constitutional right to sodomy full stop! Yet the heterosexual variety is legal while the homosexual is not. Is there is necessary reason for this? This is not about homosexual rights but a question is why it is necessary for one sexual act to be illegal while another one of the same nature remains perfectly legal. Contrary to what the good professor may think, this does become an issue of personal liberty under article 9. The question of why does it remain necessary to criminalise a private act between two consenting adults remains unanswered.

Second, while homosexuals are a numerical minority, there is no such thing as ‘sexual minorities’ at law. Activists have coined this term to draw a beguiling but fallacious association between homosexuals and legally recognized minorities like racial groups. Race is a fixed trait. It remains controversial whether homosexual orientation is genetic or environmental, perhaps both. There are no ex-Blacks but there are ex-gays. The analogy between race and sexual orientation or preferred sexual preferences, is false. Activists repeat the slogan ‘sexual minority’ ad nausem as a deceptive political ploy to get sympathy from people who don’t think through issues carefully. Repetition does not cure fallacy.

This is totally irrelevant. Whether there are ex-blacks, gays, polka dots and so on does not answer the question of why it is necessary to keep a private act between consenting adults criminal.

Science has become so politicized that the issue of whether gays are ‘born that way’ depends on which scientist you ask. You cannot base sound public philosophy on poor politicized pseudo ‘science’.

So, let’s look at the most credible science backed up by the most credible research and see what that says.

Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder; there are numerous examples of former homosexuals successfully dealing with this. Just this year, two high profile US activists left the homosexual lifestyle, the publisher of Venus, a lesbian magazine, and an editor of Young Gay America. Their stories are available on the net. An article by an ex-gay in the New Statesmen this July identified the roots of his emotional hurts, like a distant father, overbearing mother and sexual abuse by a family friend; after working through his pain, his unwanted same-sex attractions left. While difficult, change is possible and a compassionate society would help those wanting to fulfill their heterosexual potential. There is hope.

Professor Thio is a professor of law not a professor of psychology. The American Psychiatric Association would beg to disagree with Professor Thio on the notion of homosexuality.

As for the “ex-gays” - there are people who find their sexuality later in life. Heterosexual men do experiment with homosexuality and women are experiment with both sides. However, for most men, once they find their sexuality they are pretty set in it - they are either homosexual or heterosexual.

Singapore law only recognizes racial and religious minorities. Special protection is reserved for the poor and disadvantaged; the average homosexual person in Singapore is both well educated, with higher income – that’s why upscale condo developers target them! Homosexuals do not deserve special rights, just the rights we all have.

I agree - homosexuals should only have the rights that the rest of us have. So why don’t consenting adult homosexuals have the right to do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom. Isn't this a right that the rest of us have?

Sexual minorities’ and ‘sexual orientation’ are vague terms – covering anything from homosexuality, bestiality, incest, paedophilia – do all these minority sexual practices merit protection?

The good professor has twisted the answer by arguing against consent. Sexual practices like bestiality and pedophilia are not protected because animals and children are not considered able to provide consent. It’s been proven that incest does cause harm to third parties (children born out acts of incest). The same cannot be said of homosexuality.

Third, 377A does not breach the article 12 guarantee of equality. While all human persons are of equal worth, not all human behaviour is equally worthy. We separate the actor from the act. In criminalizing acts, we consider the wrongfulness of the act, the harm caused and how it affects the good of society.

So what is the harm caused and the affect on the good of society if two consenting adults do something in the privacy of their bedroom? Revolutions are caused by issues like unemployment and poverty. Revolutions occur because people get tiered of tyranny - of being bullied and dare I say rapped. They do not start revolutions because two consenting adults had consensual sex in the privacy of their bedroom.

Parliament has the power to classify; this involves a choice, like distinguishing murder and manslaughter. Classifications which satisfy the constitutional test of validity are called “differentiation”; only invalid classifications are called “discrimination.” Criminalising same-sex sodomy but not opposite-sex sodomy is valid “differentiation.” S377A does not target any specific actor; it would cover a heterosexual male experimenting with male sodomy.

Fair enough - but then why should people experimenting in the privacy of their bedroom with other consenting adults be penalised as criminals?

Valid classifications must have a clear basis and be rationally related to a legitimate purpose. In serving public health and public morality, 377A passes constitutional muster with flying colours.

Public Health Argument

Sir, public health and safety is a legitimate purpose served by the 377A ban on homosexual anal and oral sex. Both these practices are efficient methods of transmitting sexual diseases and AIDs / HIV which are public health problems. These are not victimless crimes as the whole community has to foot the costs of these diseases.

So all the more reason to ensure that the public is armed with facts.

Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink. The anus is designed to expel waste; when something is forcibly inserted into it, the muscles contract and cause tearing; fecal waste, viruses carried by sperm and blood thus congregate, with adverse health implications like ‘gay bowel syndrome’, anal cancer. ‘Acts of gross indecency’ under 377A also covers unhygienic practices like “rimming” where the mouth comes into contact with the anus. Consent to harmful acts is no defence – otherwise, our strong anti-drug laws must fall as it cannot co-exist with letting in recreational drugs as a matter of personal lifestyle choice.

Finally! The good professor says something that is scientifically believable. However, what is true of homosexual sodomy and “rimming” is also true of the heterosexual variety. So why is the homosexual variety illegal and the heterosexual one not? If there is a public health argument in criminalising sodomy based on this fact, surely it should apply to both heterosexual and homosexual sex?

Opposite-sex sodomy is harmful, but medical studies indicate that same-sex sodomy carries a higher price tag for society because of higher promiscuity and frequency levels. The New York Times reported that even informed homosexuals return to unsafe practices like bare-backing and bug-chasing after a health crisis wanes. A British Study showed that the legalization of homosexual sodomy correlated with an upsurge of STDs among gays. Common sense tells us that with more acceptance, any form of consensual sexual behaviour increases. Sodomy laws have some deterrent effect.

Wrong! It is not the act of sodomy that marks difference in heterosexual and homosexual sodomy but the issue of higher promiscuity and frequency levels. If I may detract for a bit - Professor Thio has argued that it is necessary to keep homosexual sodomy illegal because it causes diseases amongst a “numerical minority” - so are we to assume she is on a mission to protect homosexuals while leaving heterosexuals to get diseases etc?

It is rational for the state to target the most acute aspect of a problem. The legal issue is not whether the state should be concerned with heterosexual sodomy but whether it is reasonable to believe same-sex sodomy poses a distinct problem. Medical literature indicates that gays have disproportionately higher STDs rates, which puts them in a different category from the general public, warranting different treatment.

Once again - the point remains - it is the higher rates of promescuity that promote the “higher” rates of STDs amongst the homosexual community. The key here is to promote “responsible sex” (monogamy and condom useage) amongst homosexuals (which they are likely to do) rather than ensure that homosexual sodomy remains illegal (the gays will still have annal sex - thus making all public health arguments irrelevant)

Incidentally, if one believes the statistics of the Ministry of Health - HIV/AIDS has long become a heterosexual condition as opposed to one that is specific to the homosexual community. The rates of HIV infection amongst heterosexual men outweighs that of the homosexual and bisexual community. Furthermore heterosexual infections do cause far greater damage in that innocent women (new infections amongst women come from loyal spouses who get it from promiscuous husbands) and its even passed onto children - thus providing far greater “harm” to third parties than homosexual sodomy.

The onus rests on opponents of 377A to negate every conceivable basis for treating homosexual and heterosexual sodomy differently. They cannot, because classifications do not need to be perfect and can be under-inclusive; valid classifications only need to “go some way” to serve the legislative goal, which 377A clearly does.

The science and the understanding of science provided by the good professor on this matter can only be charitably be described as “criminal ignorance.”

Public Morality

Sir, the power to legislate morality is not limited to preventing demonstrable harm. The Penal Code now criminalizes the wounding of both religious and racial feelings (s498).

S377A serves public morality; the argument from community reminds us we share a way of life which gives legal expression to the moral repugnancy of homosexuality. Heterosexual sodomy unlike homosexual sodomy does not undermine the understanding of heterosexuality as the preferred social norm. To those who say that 377A penalizes only gays not lesbians, note there have been calls to criminalize lesbianism too.

We may not like homosexuality but does that mean that a private act between consenting adults should be criminal? Thus far the “public health” argument in favour of keeping 377A falls flat. So what else is the good professor coming up with other than “I don’t like homos therefore what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms should be criminal?”

Public sexual morality must buttress strong families based on faithful union between man and wife, the best model for raising children. The state should not promote promiscuity nor condone sexual exploitation. New section 376D criminalizes the organisation of child sex tours. Bravo.

Bravo for this sound piece of wisdom. So, shouldn’t the good professor turn her considerable energies to criminalising marital rape, child abuse and domestic violence and dare I say heterosexual adultery. These causes will help strengthen the concept of a strong family than stopping the “numerical minority” of homosexuals from doing things to each other in the privacy of their bedroom.

The ‘argument from consent’ says the state should keep out of the bedroom, to safeguard ‘sexual autonomy’. While we cherish racial and religious diversity, sexual diversity is a different kettle of fish. Diversity is not license for perversity. This radical liberal argument is pernicious, a leftist philosophy based on radical individualism and radical egalitarianism. It is unworkable because every viable moral theory has limits to consent.

How did she work this one out? What defines perversity here? Is perversity criminality? Obviously the answer is no. We are not talking about assault and the removal of the ability to give consent. I may not like certain sexual acts. I don’t want to participate in them or to see or hear about them. However, do I believe that two people who do like those acts should be criminalised for engaging in them in the privacy of their bedroom?

Radical individualism would demand decriminalising consensual adult incest; but the Penal Code is not based on consent as s376F reflects. The state has always retained an interest in regulating conduct in the bedroom – the issue is which type?

Wrong. The argument from consent strictly applies to people who have the ability to provide it and that it does not cause harm to third parties. The science thus far shows incest does while homosexual sex is limited to immediate parties.

Radical egalitarianism applied to sexual morality says the state should not morally distinguish between types of consensual sex. It exudes a false neutrality but actually sneaks in a substantive philosophy: Hedonism which breeds narcissism. This extols satisfying desire without restraint as a matter of autonomy. But some desires are undesirable, harming self and society.

If one applies this argument, it is also applicable to heterosexual as well as homosexual sex. Given HIV statistics, one might argue that the message of restraint should be focused on the heterosexual rather than homosexual community.

The argument from consent ultimately celebrates sexual libertine values, the fruit of which is sexual licentiousness, a culture of lust, which takes, rather than love, which gives. This social decline will provoke more headlines like a 2004 Her World article called: “Gay guy confesses: I slept with 100 men…one of them could be your hubby.” What about the broken-hearts involved?

There’s Annabel Chong who was proudly penetrated 250 times by 70 men. How is that different from the 2004 “Gay Guy” that Professor Thio has cited? Ones sexual habbits are unrelated to ones sexual orientation. As Annabel Chong has shown there are promiscuous heterosexuals and there are actually very monogomous homosexuals. Professor Thio's headline is equally applicable to heterosexual men and women and it still does not constitute a legal, reasonable answer as to why two consenting adults cannot do as they please in the privacy of their bedroom.

If you argue from consent, how can you condemn any form of sexual self-expression, no matter how selfish or hurtful? But, no man is an island. Ideas, embodied in laws, have consequences. Don’t send the wrong message.

Adultery is hurtful yet people do it. Is it criminal? No. Why? Shouldn’t we criminalise adultery to save society from selfish and hurtful consequences?

The issues raised in the Petition fall apart on rigorous analysis.

Rule of Law vs. Rule of Good Law

Sir, government policy is not to pro-actively enforce 377A. Some argue that just keeping this law on the books will erode the rule of law. I disagree. It is not turning a blind eye on the existence of homosexuals here; it is refusing to celebrate homosexuality while allowing gays to live quiet lives. This is prudent, as it is difficult to enforce ‘bedroom’ offences; such intrusive powers should be judiciously used anyway.

This lies on the faulty assumption that the government of the day will remain wise and benevolent in its use of certain powers. I’m with the guys who said, “In God we trust - everyone else pays cash.”

How does it not erode the rule of law if you have a law and then declare that you will not use it? Not only should laws protect someone - they should be enforceable and enforced when they are breached. If they are not they are redundant.

We have other hard-to-police laws which embody communal standards of public decency, such as laws against nudity visible to the public eye, even if you are at home. Law is a Moral teacher and makes a moral statement; 6 years ago, Singapore symbolically blocked access to 100 porn sites, as a ‘statement of our values.’ We value our values, while remaining realistic.

Visible nudity to the public eye does cause “harm” to a third party. Sexual behaviour in the privacy of the bedroom does not. There is an argument to suggest that pornography can damage minors. There is no suggestion that private acts in the bedroom do the same.

A non pro-active policy does not mean 377A will never be enforced – who knows what another season may require? Policies can change.

Sir, citizens are not just concerned with the rule of law but with the rule of good law. Laws which violate core moral values will alienate many and bring the system into disrepute. Indeed, many citizens see keeping 377A as evidence the government is defending the right moral values, which lends legitimacy.

Keeping 377A is evidence that the government wants clauses to get political opponents if they don’t have anything else to get them on. This is not necessary - that what ISA is meant for.

Incidentally we are also concerned with being governed by silly laws, which could be randomly applied to catch out the vulnerable from unfair prosecution.

Criminalising Moral Wrongs – which?

Sir, it is true that not all moral wrongs, such as adultery, are criminalized; yet they retain their stigma. But adulterers know they done wrong and do not lobby for toleration of adultery as a sexual orientation right.

No, not all adulterers believe they are doing wrong. Nobody lobbies for adultery as a sexual orientation right because it is not a criminal offense.

Homosexual Agenda and Social Consequences

Conversely, homosexual activists lobby hard for a radical sexual revolution, waging a liberal fundamentalist crusade against traditional morality. They adopt a ‘step by step’ approach to hide how radical the agenda is. Liberals never ask: what happens next if you repeal 377A. Responsible legislators must see the Big Picture.

Traditional morality will remain whatever the law says. The Bible, Koran etc have not changed despite all the legislation that sometimes contravenes what certain Holy Books preach. Truly devout adherents will continue with their beliefs.

Whether I believe in the morality of homosexuality is irrelevant. What matters is whether two people who are consenting adults can do as they please in the privacy of their bedrooms no matter what anyone else thinks. I may not like sodomy but I don't believe that fact should make someone I don't know a criminal because they do something I don't like in the privacy of their bedroom.

Pro-gay academics identify 5 main steps in this agenda in their study of foreign jurisdictions.

Step 1: repeal laws criminalizing homosexual sex. They consider this “pivotal” to advancing the homosexual agenda. Why? Without this, they cannot advance in the public sphere or push for government funding and support for special programmes, such as the New York Gay High School. Governments don’t promote criminal activities. You need to change the criminal law before changing civil law.

If I am reading this correctly, she is saying, “We cannot allow two consenting adults to do something in the privacy of their bedroom because they may one days ask for money from the tax payer.”

There are two separate issues here. One is should we keep a private act between two consenting adults criminal. The other is about asking for government support for funding of programs. Let’s deal with two separate issues at a time.

But decriminalizing sodomy is only the tip of the iceberg which is 1/8 of an ice mass – we must see what lies beneath the water to avoid a Titanic fate.

Step 2 is to equalize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex; in some countries, this is as low as 13. Do we want to expose Sec 1 boys to adult sexual predators? To be sexually creative?

We don’t want to expose 13-year old girls to sexual predators either. Age of consent in Singapore remains way above 13 and I think the issue here is about the age of consent not about annal sex. The solution is to raise the age of consent. As of the time of writing, young girls are being exposed to sexual predators through human trafficking - I wonder if the good professor has an issue with that?

Furthermore the issue is not the age of consent. The issue remains the legality of whether consenting adults can do as they please in the privacy of their bedrooms.......Nobody agrees with the age of consent for boys and girls being 13. We are debating the issue of why it is necessary to criminalise a private act between two consenting adults. Nobody has said anything about age of consent –

Step 3 is to prohibit discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation’. But would this not include all sexual behaviour? “Sex before 8 or else it’s too late” is the motto of the North American Man Boy Love Association. Should we judge pedophilia or be relativist and promote “anything goes” sexual experimentation?

Keep the age of consent at an adult age and you no longer have the issue of legalising paedophilia.

Sir, to protect homosexuals, some countries have criminalized not sodomy but opposition to sodomy, making it a ‘hate crime’ to criticize homosexuality. This violates freedom of speech and religion; will sacred texts that declare homosexuality morally deviant, like the Bible and Koran, be criminalized? Social unrest beckons. Such assaults on constitutional liberties cannot be tolerated.

The same can be said of “anti-semitism.” Why is it a jail able offence in some countries to suggest that Hitler may have killed 5,999,999 instead of 6 million Jews? Censorship of debate only bottles up a genie waiting to explode with a vengeance.

Steps 4 and 5 relate to legalizing same-sex marriage or partnerships, child adoption rights. This subverts both marriage and family, which are institutions homosexuals seek to redefine beyond recognition. Will MOE then commission a book copying the US “Heather has 2 mummies” called “Ah Beng has 2 daddies?” What if parents disagree with their kids studying homosexual propaganda?

Is legalizing same-sex marriage progressive? It is if you want a genderless planet where “husband” and “wife” are considered discriminatory terms, to be replaced by “spouse”.

I am surprised Professor Thio is against Gay Marriages. She has argued that the gay community suffers from a high rate of STDs because of their greater promiscuity. Surely, she would want the homosexual community to be tied down into the monogamy of marriage.

Incidentally, it was a Catholic Priest who pointed out that “Marriage” does not make people faithful to each other. Married men continue to keep Geylang’s business recession proof.

We want to be able to say, Majullah Singapura, not Mundur Singapura!

Repealing 377A will further batter the institution of ‘marriage’ which we must bolster! This is because the arguments raised to challenge a distinction between heterosexual and homosexual sodomy, equally apply to challenge legal distinctions between lawful heterosexual marriage between man and wife and unlawful homosexual unions.

We do not recognise homosexual marriage. What about unmarried heterosexual couples. Are these couples unlawful?

To reinforce the moral foundations of a pro-family policy that permits only heterosexuals to marry, it is permissible to differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual sodomy. To say that 377A discriminates is effectively to say that marriage laws discriminate and are unconstitutional.

What exactly is the link between marriage and sodomy? Is her argument - heterosexual marriage is legal and therefore a heterosexual man can penetrate a woman's annus despite all the obvious public health hazzards of sodomy while homosexual marriage is not legal and therefore homosexuals cannot have sex. The good professor is doing the legal fraternity a diservice if she assumes heterosexuals have sex only when they are married .....how about the unmarried heterosexuals having sex. Are they in the same camp as the homosexuals or the heterosexuals? Where exactly does marriage fit into the equation of whether we should distinguish between hetero and homosexual sodomy?

Legalising sodomy would set a bad example; by signaling approval, it may change both attitude and conduct; coupled with sexual hedonism, it makes a mockery of strong family values. 377A helps to protect against this harm.

Which sodomy are we walking about here? What is the argument? How does allowing homosexuals to have sex in the privacy of their bedrooms undermine family values? There is no evidence to suggest that allowing homosexuals to do certain things in the privacy of their bedrooms will undermine how the family functions. Take for example the average family of one father, mother, son and daughter. The “down side” is the son is a homosexual and has a homosexual partner. What does this mean? The parents can accept this or they don’t. The son will either continue to function as part of the family or he will cut his ties and live his life accordingly.

When you think about this, this is no different than if the son marries a girl. His parents either like, love and accept the girl. Or they don’t - and so the son leaves the family to be elsewhere. There is no hard evidence to specify that it was the particular fact of the son being a homosexual that undermined this particular family.

Academic supporters of the homosexual agenda like my colleague Michael Hor argued online that even if 377A was not enforced, discriminatory policies against homosexuals could be built on the logic of its existence. But taking his logic, repealing 377A would mean the government would be less able to resist claims for homosexual marriage or for promoting homosexuality as a desirable lifestyle in schools, as this would be ‘discriminatory’.These foreign developments warn us that the advance of the homosexual agenda here is not remote.

To slouch back to Sodom is to return to the Bad Old Days in ancient Greece or even China where sex was utterly wild and unrestrained, and homosexuality was considered superior to man-women relations. Women’s groups should note that where homosexuality was celebrated, women were relegated to low social roles; when homosexuality was idealized in Greece, women were objects not partners, who ran homes and bore babies. Back then, whether a man had sex with another man, woman or child was a matter of indifference, like one’s eating preferences. The only relevant category was penetrator and penetrated; sex was not seen as interactive intimacy, but a doing of something to someone. How degrading.

Victorian England had something similar. Women were to be seen and not heard. Homosexuality was not celebrated yet women were regarded as property - when a woman married her property went to her husband.

Polygamous societies were not much better. If I’m not wrong, you can be punished by death for being a homosexual but you can have a thousand wives whom you treat as property.

To link women’s rights and position in society to homosexuality is ingenious but faulty.

It was only when marriage was invented by the Jewish Torah that the genie of sexual impulses was forced into the marital bottle, so that sex no longer dominated society – this discipline provided the social base for the development of western civilization.

The concept of marriage existed long before the Jewish people. What the Jews tried to do was to create a concept of monogamy. However, one should note that the Jews were fairly open with the concept of mistresses. Abraham the Patriarch of the Jewish and Arab people had a wife called Sarah but a “Mistress” called Hagar. Incidentally is Professor Thio suggesting that Western Civilisation is superior to others?

Homosexuals as fellow citizens have the right to expect decent treatment from the rest of us; but they have no right to insist we surrender our fundamental moral beliefs so they can feel comfortable about their sexual behaviour. We should not be subject to the tyranny of the undemocratic minority who want to violate our consciences, trample on our cherished moral virtues and threaten our collective welfare by imposing homosexual dogma on right-thinking people. Keep 377A.

It is possible to separate a dislike for homosexuals from the desire to make homosexual acts illegal. The good professor has failed to show a single credible legal reason as to why two consenting adults have to be criminalised for their behaviour in the privacy of their bedroom. Allowing two consenting adults to do something in the privacy of their bedroom is not an imposition on us to surrender our fundamental values and beliefs. She has failed to indentify who the law protects and what harm repealing it would cause.

The argument that many people dislike homosexuality and therefore acts of consenting homosexual sex should be made illegal is what you would consider fitting for a playground and not a parliament or court of law. Professor Thio has failed to show a sound logical and legal reason as to why it is necessary to keep a consenting act between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom criminal. How can any logical and reasonable person of sound mind keep 377A on the statuette books based on her arguments?

Democracy and Debate

Sir, we Singaporeans will continue to debate and disagree over controversial moral issues as they arise. We should make substantive arguments and not think with our feelings; the media should present both sides fairly, without bias.

However, I have noted a disturbing phenomenon over the 377A debate– the argument by insult. Instead of reasoning, some have resorted to name-calling to intimidate and silence their opponents. People with principled moral objections to the homosexual agenda are tarred and feathered ‘homophobes’, ‘bigots’, to shut them up. This strategy is unoriginally imported from foreign gay activists, which stifles creative thinking and intellectual enquiry.

I don't think this is restricted to the debate on homosexuality. Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in many European nations. As awful as it may be, I believe criminalising debate is not the way to go. The only way to question views is to challenge them with evidence.

When you shout, full of sound and fury, and call your opponents nasty names, this terminates public debate. No one wants to be called a bigot. But think about it – if I oppose incest, am I an incestophobe? If I oppose alcoholism, am I a winophobe? If having an opinion means you are bigoted, then we are all bigots! What is your phobia?

Well, if you display an irrational fear of something it is not unreasonable to conclude that you have a phobia of something. Professor Thio has been thus far irrational in her views of homosexuals and therefore one can reasonably assume she is homophobic.

Where certain liberals accuse their opponents of being intolerant, they demonstrate their own intolerance towards their opponents! They are hoist on their own petard, guilty of everything they accuse their detractors of!

One of my colleagues, a young professor, suffered these vicious tactics when the Straits Times published an article this May where Yvonne Lee argued against repealing 377A. This well-researched, cogent article so incensed homosexual activists that they flooded her with a torrent of abusive, lewd emails and wrote to her head of department calling for her to be removed from her job. This appeared to be a co-ordinated campaign.

We academics are used to disagreement, but why write to her employer and threaten her livelihood? Why vilify someone and seek to assassinate their personal and professional reputation? I hope the House joins me in deploring these malicious attacks which also assault academic freedom. She is owed an apology. I would be ashamed to belong to any academic institution that cravenly bowed down to such disgraceful bully-boy tactics.

Same can be said for a parliament that saw listened to an argument filled with irrational statements and yet proceeded to bow down to the forces of irrationality and proceeded to mock the concept of the rule of law in a country that prides itself in legal transparency.

This August, I had my own experience with this sort of hysterical attack. I received an email from someone I never met, full of vile and obscene invective which I shall not repeat, accusing me of hatemongering. It cursed me and expressed the wish to defile my grave on the day 377A was repealed.

I believe in free debate but this oversteps the line. I was distressed, disgusted, upset enough to file a police report. Does a normal person go up to a stranger to express such irrational hatred?

Smear tactics indicate the poor quality of debate and also, of character. Let us have rational debate, not diatribe, free from abusive rhetoric and tantrum-throwing. As Singapore approaches her Jubilee, My hope for the post-65 generation is that we will not become an uncivil civil society borne from an immature culture of vulgarity which celebrates the base, not the noble.

I’m sorry you had to suffer abuse. Then again, such is life in the public eye. If you can’t take it ..

I speak, at the risk of being burned at the stake by militant activists. But if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. I was raised to believe in speaking out for what is right, good and true, no matter the cost. It is important in life not only to have a Brain, but a Spine.

One of my favourite speeches by PM Lee, which I force my students to read, is his Harvard Club speech 2 years ago where he urged citizens not to be “passive bystanders” in their own fate but to debate issues with reason and conviction. I took this to heart. To forge good policy, we need to do our homework and engage in honest debate on the issues. Let us also speak with civility, which cannot be legislated, but draws deep from our character and upbringing. Before government can govern man, man must be able to govern himself.

Well Said.....So why don’t we allow people who can govern themselves to do as they please in the privacy of their bedroom?

Sir, let speaking in the public square with reason, passion, honesty, civility, even grace, be the mark of a Citizen of Singapore.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Wedding and the Funeral

My Grand-Auntie Luan died two-days ago. Last night, the family held a short, informal gathering. It was a touching moment. A few tears were shed but I felt that the gathering had the feel of a celebration of a life well lived rather than a wake for the departed. I remember telling Uncle Jeffrey I was sorry for the loss of his mother and he said, “No, don’t be sorry – she had a good, long life.”

He’s right; she lived until 85, which is a good innings by most standards. Her old age was what you could call a good one. While she had plenty of health issues, she constantly in the presence of loved ones and from what I gathered from her family, her passing was peaceful. What more could one have wished for?

These simple facts of her life ensured that despite the few tears shed, the family gathering became a celebration of her life rather than mourning for her death. Her passing is the end of an era for my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s grandmother’s children and their spouses (Grand-Aunt Luan was the wife of Grand-Uncle Peter, my grandma’s elder brother) have gone and as clichéd as it sounds a new era for the family begins.

This point was brought home by the fact that Grand-Aunt Luan passed away a week after her grandson Jonathan got married. Grand-Uncle Dick (Husband of Great-grandma’s adopted daughter, Eunice) pointed out that Grand-Aunt Luan had not been eating much towards the last few days of her life. However, when it came to Jonathan’s wedding she found her appetite again. You could say that she waited to see her grandson get married – enjoyed the party and then she left on a high-note. When you look at things this way – Uncle Jeffrey could not have been more correct – she had a good life.

Grand-Auntie Luan’s children and grandchildren have made it a point to ensure that her passing will be a celebration of her life. By doing that, they made sure that Chinese New Year celebrations at their house will remain a happy occasion and although the three old ladies who used to be the centre of attention (Grandma, Grand-Aunts Violet and Luan) are no longer around, the family love will continue.

What freaks me out was Jonathans wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy he’s found Crystal. They look good together and their wedding dinner was a fabulous occasion.

My problem is – I still think of Jonathan as a small kid and seeing him do something as grown-up as getting married is freaky! Suddenly it makes me realise that time is really flown by. The children that I once knew are growing up. What happened to all the “little cute” guys I knew.

First it was my baby brother Christopher. When I thought of Christopher it was all about giving him tight hugs and jumping in his bed in the morning. Now, he’s in university. The last time I had to say good bye to him, it was at a tube station in Hamburg, he was in the German Military and we saluted.

Now, it’s Jonathan getting married and taking that big step into setting up a life on his own with the woman that he loves. I can’t believe it and he still looks like a young boy.......

Grand Aunt’s passing and Jonathan’s wedding has been two reminders that life moves. My mum made the point that nothing is finite so treasure the people that you love now and don’t wait till they’re gone.

I didn’t spend all that much time with my grandma. I lived overseas most of my life and so only saw her on holiday. Then when I moved back, I continued to treat things as they were. Grandma seemed to be one of those people who would last forever. She had her bouts of ill health but other than that she was pretty indestructible. Then one day she was gone.

When I look back at my own experience, I have the regret that I wasn’t the better grandson I could have been. I do wish that I had found the time to share a decent moment with her.

However, I look at Grand-Aunt Luan’s passing and I bless the fact that there is God out there who saw to it that Jonathan was a better grandson to his grandmother than I was to mine. God was good to see that Jonathan could share his special moment with his grandmother. I’m sure it made her passing easier.........

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister - Ordinary Singaporean Looking for the Job of Nominated Member of Parliament

Prime Minister:

This note will probably come as something as a surprise to you but since I have escaped certain death twice this year; I figured that I might be being saved for something special. I have no idea what that special something is but since you are the key to one of the special things I would like to try and do, I thought I would draft a note to see how far I would get.

I am looking for a job in politics. Since I am not a member of the PAP, I can’t be a Member of Parliament nor do I wish to take the job since I have no desire to be everyone’s problem solver of last resort. I am however, looking to the possibility of being a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP.)

Why would anyone want to take this job? Well, I believe that I am qualified for the job and my presence in parliament would provide the government with a view from the ground that it would never be able to get through polls and grassroots feedback.

I am far from being a star that you can show off. You could say that in almost every way, my life has been something of a disappointment. However, I have had my moments of glory. In short, my life is probably the same story as your average working Singaporean. Like the majority of Singaporeans, I am struggling to make a living but somehow in that struggle, I have found a certain purpose in that very struggle.

You could call me a “failed entrepreneur.” I am the owner of a small public relations practice. I call myself failed in the sense that I haven’t made much money from this business. However, I can tell you that in the course of this business, I’ve learnt the lesson that the small man can stand up and have his day. As a one-man show, I have handled some of the biggest brands in the world. Amongst the clients I have serviced are GE Commercial Finance (Since sold to Standard Chartered Bank), Alcon, 3M and Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

As well serving big brands, I’ve also helped promote Singapore to the wider world. My proudest moment came when the Saudi Embassy, under former Ambassador, Dr Amin Kurdi hired me to coordinate the embassy’s efforts during Crown Prince Sultan’s visit to Singapore in 2006. As well as working for the Saudi Embassy, I also helped promote Saudi Culture through two projects with Saudi Aramco in 2004 and 2006.

However, life hasn’t been just about rubbing shoulders with the Excellencies and high flying civil servants to set the tone for Singapore. I count amongst my best friends, an immigrant from Nepal as well as a former prostitute who married a former prison convict. For brief period in 2004, I had to call Hotel 81 in Geylang Lorong 12 my home.

I am, as they say, not unfamiliar with the fact that Singapore has a gutter. As much as I have been part of Singapore’s sexy, I am also familiar with the underbelly that nobody wants to talk about. My familiarity with both sides of Singapore provides me with the unique view of Singapore as it really is rather than what any particular vested interest group may like you to think it is.

Having seen both sides of Singapore in the last decade, I remain a patriotic Singaporean. I am at time critical of certain things and I am at times grateful for things being the way that they are. I am one of the odd balls who moved back from the more “liberated” West because I believed Singapore was the place that I could do most for. Things haven’t exactly turned out the way I thought they would but on the balance of things, after a decade of being at home, it seems that I made a decent enough choice.

Like you, I am a Gunner from the 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery. I have served National Service in a combat unit and in a combat vocation. I believe that there are things about Singapore that are worth defending and even though I am now past the age where I’m obliged to do it militarily, I’ll gladly to it in public service.

I am also what you could call a creature of the new media. I maintain a blog, which I started back in 2006. Much to my surprise, I have had over 17 thousand page views. I blog under my own name and every time I participate in online discussions, I use my real name. I believe very firmly that if you need to say something, you should be able to take the consequences. You are free to check out my blog, which I have since translated, thanks to Google into Chinese, Hindi, Malay, Vietnamese, Thai and Tamil. I believe I make positions clear, I have been critical of government but I pray that what criticisms I’ve made were constructive.

I need a job and I believe the job of NMP needs someone like me. I understand that a select committee will be formed to look into who gets one of the available slots. Since I don’t know anyone on the committee, I pray that you would do me the honour of putting my name forward and that I would be considered for this position. It would be an honour to serve in Parliament.

I hope I’ve been brief but informative enough in telling you why I believe I deserve this chance to serve my nation. If you or anyone in parliament needs to know more, do feel free to contact me so that I may have the privilege with telling you what you want to know.

References can be provided if required.

With Warmest Regards

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Greatness

There can be no doubt that Steve Jobs; the late CEO of Apple Computers was a great man. If you were to look back at the last two-decades of human history and ask who was the greatest man, Mr Jobs would certainly be one of the leading contenders.

Mr Jobs was a revolutionary thinker. It was his brilliant strategic vision that made Apple one of the most valuable companies (at the time of writing, Apple is competing with ExxonMobil to be the most valuable company on the New York Stock Exchange) after it had been written off.

Every entrepreneur dreams of coming up with a product or service that will change an industry. Mr Jobs did this in about half a dozen industries. First he came out with the Mac, which revolutionised personal computing. Then, when he got kicked out of Apple in May 1985, Mr Jobs went on to create NeXT Computers (which produced the basis for many of Apple’s later inventions) and then to Pixar, the company that changed the face of animation (produced Toy Story, the first-ever full length animation feature film.) When he returned to Apple in 1996, Mr Jobs went onto change the way we use desktops with the iMac, listen to music with the iPod and use mobile phones thanks to the iPhone.

With his track record, you could call Mr Jobs a genius. He had the unique ability of understanding what people would want before they themselves knew it and creating the technology to suite those needs. Mr Jobs understood the technology and he understood the business. You could say that the only other person who understood business and technology was Thomas Edison who lived nearly a century earlier.

Mr Jobs was not without his faults. He was not above using intimidation and humiliation of his subordinates. He was also not above using “monopolistic” practices that were more commonly associated with his rival, Bill Gates of Microsoft.

However, all of these things grew into Mr Job’s public persona and on the whole; you could say that it made him even more enduring to the public imagination. If he was terrifying to work for, it was because he was a demanding perfectionist. Say what you like about the man but he did build his wealth from giving us things that changed our lives for the better and without “ravaging” the world in the manner of the robber barons of the past century did.

His personal story was also appealing. You could call it – “The stuff that makes epic movies.” His birth-name was not “Jobs.” His natural father is a Syrian Muslim called, “Abdulfattah John Jandali.” He was in fact given up for adoption to Paul and Clara Jobs. Much is also made of the fact that Mr Jobs dropped out of university.

His life had ups and downs. He created Apple back in the early 1980s with Steve Wozniak and was unceremoniously dismissed in May 1985 by the man he brought into be its CEO. His return to Apple in 1996 was the “comeback” story that most of us can only dream of.

Mr Jobs has done more than enough to deserve the title of “Great.” He is rightfully revered by the technology and wider community for his achievements. His death on October 5, 2011 at the age of 55 marks the loss to humanity of a man who single-handedly did so much to make life better for so many. Amongst the people delivering eulogies was the President of the USA. Even his old rival, Mr Bill Gates, paid tribute to man who had brought us so many good things.

As great as Mr Jobs was, he had one major failing. To the millions of Apple product fans around the world, I might be committing an act of heresy to speak of his failings, but failings he had and his major failing provides an important lesson in leadership and personal development.

Mr Jobs’s biggest failing was this – everything he did was about him. In one sense this might not matter much. Who cares why he brought us the various “I” products – fact remains, he brought them to us and we’ve benefited from them.

However, on the wider scale of things, Mr Jobs’s failure has wider implications on how people view professional and personal management. Mr Jobs is and will remain to be revered by people all over the world and as much as we may want to learn from the many things he did right, its important to learn from the things he did wrong.

Let’s start with the obvious – Mr Jobs’s relationship with Apple. He was the founder and visionary leader. He was ousted from the company. He came back to run the company at the point when it was crumbling and remade it such that it ended up taking over several worlds. This speaks volumes about Mr Jobs as talented and visionary entrepreneur.

However, Mr Jobs never really made much of an effort to distinguish between him and Apple. The legend is that it was Mr Jobs’s personal vision that got Apple to bring out the host of revolutionary products. It was Mr Jobs’s vision that marketed these products into “Must have’s” for the world. Crudely put, Apple’s success was Mr Jobs’s.

Apple and Mr Jobs were one and the same. Apple was brilliant because Mr Jobs was. For an organisation, this works well provided the brilliant founder running the company remains so indefinitely.

Unfortunately, Mr Jobs was human and had a very human fault – he was prone to ill health. In 2004 he was diagnosed with a mild form of pancreatic cancer. He only resigned in August 2011, two months before his death. When he resigned, shares in Apple fell by a mere five percent (which is significant if you take Apple’s market capitalisation into consideration.).

As the tributes to Mr Jobs pour in, the question remains – “What is Apple’s future without Steve Jobs?” This valid question should be worrying Apple Employees and Shareholders. Will the company be able to survive with Mr Jobs? Will the company be able to remain brilliantly innovative now that Mr Jobs is gone?

Greatness is often measure by personal achievements – your greatness depends on what you do. Where many great fail to take that step into “True – Greatness” is that the truly great men know when to leave the stage and in many cases leave the stage at their own choosing.

In this respect, Mr Jobs failed to take that step into true greatness, unlike his less flamboyant rival, Mr Bill Gates at Microsoft.

Like Mr Jobs, Mr Gates played a key role in revolutionising the technology industry. Unlike Mr Jobs, Mr Gates operated on more than just being a reflection of his personal glory.

Yes, Windows and MS Dos are inferior products to the Apple Mac. Both systems were not creations of Mr Gates (he bought them off someone else). Mr Gates did not build his fortune by personal brilliance in technology and entrepreneurship. He did by having a vision (Computer on every desk) and then bringing together the various parties to make it work (from the original creator of DOS to the team at IBM).

The PC may not have the sex appeal of the Apple Mac but for most of us, it remains a reliable tool that we use out of sheer necessity. Ironically, Apple ran commercials that summed it up. PC was personified by a dull chap in a tweed jacket while the Mac was personified by the sexy young man dressed in a hip manner. As is often said, “Girls may be attracted to bad-boys but they marry the good boys.” PC may have lacked sex appeal but has proven reliable enough for most of us to stick by it.

The same is true of Mr Gates. He may have lacked Mr Jobs’s showmanship and strategic flamboyance, but he more than made up for it by being reliable and dedicated to his core message of a computer on every desk. Who built the greater fortune? Who has made more for ordinary people? Mr Gates didn’t recreate the way we listen to music but he’s made being rich accessible to ordinary people.

More importantly, Mr Gates has separated himself from Microsoft. He stepped down as CEO and handed the reigns over to a successor he trusted. He has used his vast fortune to make a difference to the world we live in thanks to his foundation.

You may not like Mr Gates but you cannot argue against the fact that he has been an immensely decent person. Microsoft was where he made his money. His foundation will be the place where he secures his name in history – he is the one person who may single-handedly find a cure for diseases like malaria and TB, which make a difference to a bigger number of people than a new phone.

In short, Mr Gates has managed to work his way into “true-greatness” in a way that Mr Jobs failed to do because he understood that things were more than just about his personal brilliance. Mr Jobs did brilliant things at Apple and at the companies he worked for (Pixar and Disney.). We celebrate Mr Jobs for brining us great products and giving us technologies that enhanced our lives.

Mr Jobs and Apple were brilliant. However, the question remains, is Apple capable of surviving without Mr Jobs? In a way the signs are encouraging. The only other entrepreneur and innovator is Thomas Edison, the man who created General Electric (GE). Today GE remains the only surviving member of the original NYSE. However, there are other signs to suggest otherwise – namely the stories about Mr Jobs’s controlling personality.

By contrast, nobody will forget Mr Gates. History will remember him not just as the man who built what was the world’s greatest fortune (US$100 billion plus in the 1990s) but as the man who gave so much to making the lives of the world’s destitute much better.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

There are Foreigners and there are Foreigners

For anyone hanging around Singapore’s chattering class and surfing the internet, it’s easy to get the impression that there is a large gap between the rulers and the ruled in Singapore. This is especially so when it comes to the very touchy issue of foreigners. As far as the chattering classes are concerned, foreigners are the source of every social ill. Why are houses in Singapore so expensive? The answer is because the foreigners have made it so. Why can’t I get a job? The foreigners have taken them. Why are public service standards declining? The foreigners have made public transport unusable.

The rulers on the other hand, have been trying desperately to remind us that Singapore has a very precious commodity – economic growth. The only reason why we have this precious commodity is because we have “foreigners” to drive it for us. Why is Singapore prosperous? That’s because we are open to foreign investment and talent.

With two extreme views being thrown around, what’s the reality when it comes to foreigners in Singapore? Well, the answer is probably both and the reality is that the difference in view between the powers-that-be and the chattering classes is in fact not that great when it comes to issue of foreigners. The reason for this is simple. As far as the nation is concerned, there are foreigners and there are foreigners. The government has divided the two different groups into neat little categories called “foreign TALENT” and “foreign LABOUR.” What do these labels mean?

The official reasons are this – “To be a ‘TALENT’ means that you have a ‘professional’ skill of sorts. Chances are, you have a degree from a recognised university and chances are you work at middle-management level at the very least. If you are known as ‘LABOUR,’ you merely here to do manual work and you are most likely to have barely completed high-school.” What does this mean in “real-speak?” As far the officials are concerned, “TALENT” is a necessity and therefore something we have to go all out to woo, while “LABOUR” is what we grudgingly accept from our Asian neighbours. Funnily enough, there’s very little disagreement between the rulers and the ruled on this matter.

As far as the ruled are concerned, the “Talent” happen to be the type of people that we want to accommodate. Put any pale skin in front of any particular Singaporean, you’ll find them trying to change their accent to “fit-in” with the “welcomed” guest. However, when you put a Chinaman in front of a Singaporean, you’ll find that even the half educated, who can barely string a sentence of English together, wills start complaining that the Chinaman has failed to “integrate” into Singapore society by failing to learn English.

So, funnily enough, the rulers and the ruled seem to agree on the two different classes of foreigners who are inhibiting Singapore. You could say a part of this is due to history. The foreigners who came from places where the natives were slightly pink tended to come as the “overlords,” whether they were Colonial Administrators in the 1800s or Senior Managers in the 2000s. As Lee Kuan Yew our Founding Prime Minister says, “The Superiority of the White Man was a fact of life.”

On the other hand, the foreigners who are dark skinned, came in and are still coming in to shovel our shit. You can’t blame the foreigners for doing what they do. The “dark” skinned people are coming to Singapore because – hey, they make more money shovelling our shit in one day than their folks make on the farm in a year.

You can’t blame pink and blotchy people for coming here either. Would you rather be in a place where you’re just one of the plebs or in a place where the natives will kill themselves just to clean your shit-stained arse with their tongues? If only people would do this for fat and bald men? The reason for pink-blotchy and dark foreigners coming here is obvious and if one were in their position, one would probably be doing the same thing – finding a way to get into this little island that welcomes people from all over the world.

You also have to give credit to the foreigners for doing lots of good. The dark foreigners do things like keep Singapore’s streets clean and they look after our kids. The pink-blotchy ones have also done credit to us. Where would the Singapore advertising industry be without the likes of Neil French, former Global Creative Head of the WPP Group? What needs to be questioned is the Singaporean attitude towards both groups of foreigners.

Its become a serious enough issue in the sense that Singaporeans seem to be allowing their personal views to ruin some of the very things that make Singapore so good – a place where there is something called “justice, equality and fairness.”

Let’s start with the pink-blotchy people. Generally, many of them do come from countries where certain skill sets in certain industries are more developed. As such, a good portion of them end up as senior managers in the big companies that employ the majority of Singaporeans. Neil French former global head of the WPP Group comes to mind as does my stepfather, Lee Smith, a former creative coordinator of what was then known as Lintas. Many of them have also started small enterprises, which have benefited Singaporeans.

From my personal and family circle, the name that comes to mind is Hans Hofer, the founder of Appa Guides. His story is well known. Mr Hofer came to Singapore in the 70s after a stint in Bali. The man came up with the idea of adding colour photos to guide books and somehow managed to produce a publishing empire. Years later, he sold out to the German Publishing Giant Langenscheidt. Mr Hofer employed Singaporeans and made Singapore a place to visit for people in the publishing industry. The likes of Mr French and Mr Hofer are rightly revered. If you look at their achievements, they’d be heroes even if they didn’t spend a good portion of their time in Singapore. These men are genuine talents. Unfortunately, the pink-blotchy community has a few duds.

In the advertising industry there is a chap called Alan Ardy, who has reinvented himself as the industry eccentric. Mr Ardy’s claim to fame was seducing my stepfather’s Thai maid and when that couldn’t get him the attention he sought, his wife accused my mother of stealing a cross-stitch book – a fact that is insulting not only on the account that it insinuated my mother was a thief but also the fact that she would stoop to steal a book on cross-stitching (something my old-lady has never been known to like).

Mr Ardy is a sorry excuse of an old queen who was jealous of the fact my stepfather ended up with my mother instead of him. If this was any other country, Mr Ardy would probably be left to wallow away his days in the Admiral Duncan in Soho (Gay Pub that got bombed while I still lived there). However, this is Asia and Mr Ardy has had the good fortune to be born the right colour. Go to any industry function and you’ll find Mr Ardy holding court as if he were king of the world. Mr Ardy has proudly offered to show me the number of women begging to for him to get into their panties and he’s always done this as he leers at me.

The nicest thing you can say about Mr Ardy is that he’s harmless. If the talented Asians in the industry want to have a laugh with him, so be it. If there are any women dying for him to get into their panties, I think they’ll be disappointed. In fairness to Mr Ardy, he tried to make a living in advertising and he didn’t swindle people.

Things become less pleasant when you start talking about the charlatans who actively promote theft and in some cases – genocide. I start with the likes of Fred Seaward, Pastor of Elim Church – Gina’s pastor. When you first meet Fred, he’s actually quite nice. He always seems happy to see you and his warmth is dare I say it, quite genuine. Attend one of his services and you’ll realise why he’s so keen to be your friend. What he wants is your soul.

Officially, it’s not him but Jesus. However, if you listen carefully enough, Fred hasn’t actually passed a soul to Jesus for quite sometime. Miracles come in the shape of donations – “We asked you for money to buy a car – we prayed, there was a miracle – we raised enough money for a five-door car instead of a four-door one. Praise the Lord.” Fred isn’t ashamed to say that the car he’s collecting for is for – his wife. You could say that if working-graduate-professionals are stupid enough to contribute to Fred’s coffers, you should let them. He never held a gun to their head and they just donated.

Where I take issue with Fred is in his active promotion of his version of Christianity of common sense and decency. He was smart and kept his views to “Isn’t it wonderful, we’re claiming one back from Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism etc.” However, my ex-wife had a way of repeating what he taught – “Those people in Indonesia and Thailand – they sin and they sin – you know what they’re religion is – that’s why God sent the Tsunami to punish them.” I don’t know about you but for me that borders of the promotion of genocide and the stirring-up of religious hatred – both are serious crimes in Singapore. Yet, nobody seems to complain about this. Singaporeans of all colours seem quite content to listen to Fred talk about “The Chosen People,” and their steal land is to be encouraged. It seems quite acceptable to talk about how people of different faiths deserve to be wiped out on mass because they had the good sense not to contribute to Pastors coffers. This is not acceptable by most decent people’s standards. Yet Fred remains untouched by the powers-that-be.

In the secular world, you have crooks like Roger James Hamilton and Dave Rogers. Messer’s Hamilton and Rogers are the stars of a show called “Badman and Robme.” How do they make a living? They sell memberships to a club called – “I’ll Make You RICH if you give me YOUR money.” I actually went to one of his seminars. His theme was as simple as “You can get rich if you give me money and I let you meet my billionaire friends.” Erm, if you had a personal data base of billionaires, you wouldn’t sell them to the highest bidder! The scam was obvious. People fell for it. Mr Hamilton couldn’t even be bothered to hide much.

He was happily claiming that the Depak Chopra Institute was behind him even though they had sent him legal notices about it. He claimed genius status from Cambridge even though he got a third. Yet, despite peddling what is blatant fraud, our Commercial Affairs Department couldn’t find anything wrong with him and the local press had this incredible urge to be “fair” to Mr Hamilton and somehow the urge to expose the obvious fraud went as far as pork chops in a mosque.

Now, if you look at the darkies who come over to Singapore, you’d find a somewhat similar story. Just as there are good and bad pink-blotchies, there are good and bad darkies. Girls from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have been known to work as prostitutes. The chaps from Bangladesh get roped into selling duty-free cigarettes on the streets of Geylang.

However, most of the darkies are hard working, decent people. If you look at Singapore hard enough, you’ll realise that it is the darkies who keep things moving. Our kids and old folks are looked after by Filipino and Indonesian maids. Our streets are kept clean by Bangladeshis. Indian, Chinese and Thai labourers build new buildings in the hot sun. Singapore’s leaders trust their lives to Ghurkha’s from Nepal. The darkies are not as refined as the pink-blotchies since most of them have barely left high school if they’ve even been to primary school in the first place.

The darkies are a little unsure of many of the social norms like volume control when chatting on the phone. Travel on a bus and the loudest voice usually belongs to a darkie chatting away with someone back home. However, when all of this is said and done, the darkies are a decent hard working community doing the jobs that Singaporeans won’t do or selling services that Singaporeans are more than happy to pay for. Nobody is forcing the local Singaporean man to head down to Geylang!

However, officialdom in Singapore doesn’t seem to take too kindly to this fact and our officials are on a mission to ensure that the darkies don’t get any funny ideas. The police will probably claim that this is necessary. I think of a Ministry of Manpower official who told me, “If they commit a crime, we can’t let them in,” after I told her that a group of darkies merely wanted to work in Singapore and pay tax – something which locals and Pink-Blotchies aren’t rushing to do. My question to her is – exactly what crimes have the darkies committed that warrants the official stamp of disapproval against them.

Let’s acknowledge that there is blatant racism against dark people in Singapore as there is in quite a few places. What’s a little frightening about the racism in Singapore is that it is actually in official policy.

I know of a White South African who couldn’t get a work permit. He’s a dental technician, the type of skilled professional we’re looking for, yet for some reason he was denied the right papers. Finally, he decided to see the people at Immigration. True enough – he got the permit. Reason was simple – they realised that despite having the word “Africa” on his passport – he is white.

You have the case of making Saudi citizens apply for visas. This was a restriction imposed on Saudi Arabia after September 11, 2001. The argument ran something like 19 of the 22 hijackers were Saudi citizens so we have to be careful. However, this argument fails when you consider the fact that nobody has considered imposing visas on Americans and British citizens in the light of the 2008 financial crisis. If you use the argument that we have to be careful because 19 Saudis were terrorists, surely the same has to apply to Americans and Brits since the financial crisis was caused by American and British Bankers (who have on the balance of things caused far more damage to the world than the hijackers could have).

Singapore isn’t exactly trying to shy away from Saudi Arabia. In fact, we’re unashamedly trying to take their money. However, our easing restrictions on visas for Saudi’s entering Singapore has been quite pitiful and we’ve been content to allow Washington and Tel Aviv dictate our views on the Middle East – which is like asking Pamela Anderson to set a good example to teenage girls in a convent.

Whenever you compare the treatment that officials give to pink-blotchies and darkies, you are bound to see a scandalous contrast. Look at the police presence in Orchard Towers and Geylang – areas that offer hookers and booze.

In Orchard Towers the police presence consists of a car parked at the opposite end of the road. In the mean time you have girls actively soliciting for business (soliciting is a crime even if prostitution is not) along Singapore’s main shopping district. You have lots of alcohol, which means you get to see pink-blotchy culture at its best – the scum rises near the surface.

Whenever the boys in blue feel obliged to act, it’s always against anyone who objects to being pushed around by pink-blotchy scum.

In Geylang you have a lot less booze and the girls who are not in legal brothels tend to be standing along the ally ways. The booze drinkers usually stick to the coffee shops that sell them the booze. Yet the police are active in the area.

Darkies who sit together in a bus stop are likely to be questioned by the police. There are, needless to say far more instances of trouble in Pink-blotchy land in Orchard Towers than there are in Darkie Land in Geylang. However, the authorities look at what goes on in Orchard Towers as a bit of laddish fun while what goes on in Geylang is a crime waiting to happen.

Look at Singapore and you’ll realise that there parts where Pink-blotchy people might visit are always, without fail immaculate. There will always been a well ventilated, air-conditioned room for the pink-blotchy person and the government officials will be, without fail – attentive.

Compare that the Work Pass Division at the Ministry of Manpower. This is the division of the Manpower Ministry that deals with the foreign workers or more specifically the Darkies. Since no Pink-Blotchy is about to visit this section of the Ministry of Manpower, the ministry has invested close to nothing into ensuring that the place is halfway decent. The customers are after all Darkies and the staffs there is merely dealing with darkies. How does the system work at this section of the Ministry of Manpower?

The answer is simple. There is a small waiting room, which is fully air-conditioned. This is where the officials sit. People are processed in this room. You give them your details whenever they call you for an interview. If you are an unfortunate Darkie who has been called to this part of the Ministry of Manpower for an interview, you are processed and then told to wait outside.

It doesn’t exactly matter if it’s a hot day. Somehow, the officials there have figured out that there is a tin roof over your head and so you don’t get the full force of the sun. Since you are a darkie, as opposed to a pink-blotchie, this is considered significant shelter. You waiting time in the outdoor heat can vary. One of the standards runs merely from 10am to 6pm. Darkies are told to wait outside and they are to wait and wait and wait, until the Ministry of Manpower’s officials remember that they are supposed to deal with a bunch of darkies.

In the mean time, the darkies are supposed to sit there and endure the fact that its hot and there’s isn’t a vending machine within walk able distance. This is after all a place for Darkies. In Singapore’s official speak, I guess this is acceptable.

If I remember it correctly, the only place that had such a similar difference between pink-blotchies and darkies was South Africa. I remember they had a system called Apartheid and somehow that was wrong. I’m just looking for someone to explain to me why what we’re doing is not.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Can You Get It Right?

One of the most amusing things about Singapore is its legal code when it comes to the area of sex. Although we have sold ourselves to the rest of the world as an anally obsessive society that views sex as a National Obligation rather than a social pleasure (We are not lusty Westerners or Whores from the rest of Asia), we have some of the most liberal laws in the world when it comes to prostitution. As long as you’re not forcing people to work in the business, you are free to sell your body in “oppressive” Singapore – something which you most certainly wouldn’t do in “Liberal” New York. However, while we have a thriving Red Light district, we have banned all forms of pornography. Smuggling a copy of Play Boy into the country could get you a similar fine to smuggling cigarettes. What is interesting about sex as an industry is even more so when it comes to private acts in the bedroom. For many years we remained a country that banned the blow-job as a means to an end (technically the lady can do it to get you hard – but you’ve got to do something else after you’ve got it up – don’t ask me how they tried to enforce this). We, as a nation, remain one of the few on the planet where marital rape remains a perfectly legal activity. Simply put, if I’m in the mood and the Mrs isn’t, I’ll just force myself onto her. As far as the penal code is concerned, its my legal right as a husband to get plenty of action regardless of what she thinks (of course the Woman’s Charter protects her property in ways that it doesn’t for her body. She initiates divorce and I end up having to maintain her. I cannot claim a penny her even if she makes in a day what I make in a month). However, if I was a homosexual, I would be committing a criminal offence with my consenting partner is we decided to have sex in the privacy of our bedroom. According to the Society of Conservative She-Males, allowing two consenting adults to do something in the privacy of their bedroom would ruin the morals of society. The Prime Minister, unfortunately seems to agree with this and so, we have a law called S377A. However, the Prime Minister himself as declared that the law will not be “pro-actively” enforced. When you look at the various contradictions in Singapore’s legal code when it comes to governing sexual activity, one can’t help but be amused. I, for one, have always found S377A amusing because it brings out the worst in my fellow countrymen. You have intelligent, working professionals lauding the conservative she-male as a bastion of morality when she makes the spurious argument that allowing two-consenting adults to do something in the privacy of their bedroom is somehow bad for everyone else who isn’t privy to the act. The keeping of S377A was ridiculous and just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they promptly did. Thanks to the stupidity of the law enforcers, Singapore’s favourite Pantomime, Mr M Ravi (Westerners call him a “Human Rights” lawyer – the people who actually know ie the Indian Community prefer the term nut-job but then again, this is Singapore so the views of Westerners prevails the views of local Indians), is actually going to have the chance of winning a case based on solid legal arguments. The background of the case is simple enough. Two chaps were caught doing something naughty in a public toilet in a shopping mall in September 2010. The men were charged under S377A. Mr Ravi then challenged the constitutionality of the act and the Attorney General’s chambers then withdrew the charge and replaced it with charge S294A, which deals with public obscenity. Mr Ravi, who has a talent for publicity, promptly continued the challenge to S377A. The man has suddenly found that you don’t need the circus when you represent clients. He’s found a very brilliant legal point – S377A actually contradicts section 12 of the Singapore Constitution which “Guarantees” Equality of all. How can you argue against that? Well, the likes of the conservative she-males will argue that sexual orientation is not the same as ethnicity or religion so sexual orientation does not get the same treatment as race or religion. However, that argument fails because the lesbians are perfectly entitled to have lesbian sex. Not only is it perfectly legal for lesbians to do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, lesbian events are happily publicised to the rest of the world. So, it’s OK to do naughty things if you are a heterosexual and a dyke but somehow being a “Fairy Boy” is a crime? Does that make sense? Anyway, the challenge is going through the courts and the moment and I’m sure everyone will have plenty to say about it. My question remains – why did the AGC decide to bring charges against the men under S377A? I agree that the men deserved to get charge but the charge should have been for public obscenity. Let’s face it, I don’t mind what you do in the privacy of your bedroom but do I necessarily need to run the risk of running into someone committing a sexual act in a public place. More importantly, do I need my kids running the risk of watching you do naughty things in public? So yes they should have been charged for public obscenity. However, the law of S377A is specific. It refers to anal sex between two men and nothing else. There is no record of the two men having anal sex. The available records show that the men in question were having oral sex. So, regardless of whether the justices find in favour of Mr Ravi or not, S377A would not have worked anyway. The men were not in contradiction of the law. Now, here’s the question – why didn’t anyone in the police department or the AG’s chambers pick that up. You are talking about the chief prosecutor in the land here and if I, with non-existent legal experience can pick that up, why the hell was the nation’s chief legal prosecutor unable to? Is this sloppy police work or this an oversight by the Attorney-General’s chambers? In a way, this question is redundant. The fact remains, the prosecutor and legal enforcers actually charged two people under an act that simply did not apply to them. They have handed Mr Ravi a golden opportunity and to his credit Mr Ravi is running with it. The PAP got a nasty shock in the recent General and Presidential elections because the public basically felt that we were paying lots of money for public services that were not up to par. This glaring in Mas Selamat’s stroll from Whitely detention centre. It was glaring when there floods in Orchard Rd. In a way, the government needs to thank Mr Ravi for picking on the act of S377A and turning it into an issue of homosexual rights. This will take away attention from what is a less sexy but in a way more prominent issue – governmental incompetence and the management of it. The government has received its electoral mandate. It has been shown the issues that it needs to confront. It needs to do it instead of trying to obscure things if it wants to retain its commanding presence at the next election.