Friday, October 13, 2017

How Much More Education Do We Need?

I couldn’t agree more with Chia Kee Seng’s letter “Singapore should aim to be smoke-free, not just smoke-lite,” (5 October 2017). Smoking is a vile habit that is not only socially unacceptable but has fatal consequences. Even the tobacco companies no longer deny the fact that their products kill. Governments around the world are right to make life exceedingly difficult for the tobacco companies.

Having said that, I believe the Dr. Chia’s approach may not necessarily work in the way that he hopes. The strict “parent-knows-best” approach has the potential to make an unpleasant habit “cool” or “edgy” with the youth. Bans, while popular with politicians needing to look tough, have a way of making things more encouraging for smugglers. As for the suggestion of increasing public awareness, the point remains – the danger caused by smoking is a well-known fact that has been drilled into the public throughout the years and the literature on the ill effects of smoking is more readily available than ever. The question is “what else can you tell people” remains a prominent one.

Just as it’s been popular to talk about being “tough on crime and the causes of crime,” perhaps the time is right to look at being the same on smoking. Governments around the world are tough on smoking but are they tough on the causes of smoking? Surely the answer to reduce rates of smoking is to look at why people smoke and offer them alternatives. In a modern economy, the most obvious answer to a social ill is to offer alternatives.

Dr. Chia has argued that alternative smoking products like e-cigarettes are just as bad as actual tobacco products and applauds banning them. I believe that the better approach is to challenge the tobacco industry to prove that the alternative products are better. Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco firm talks about a “Smoke-Free Future” and surely the best way to deal with the likes of Philip Morris is to challenge them to be as good as their word. They should be made to prove that the products are not dangerous. If the alternative tobacco products are as bad as the actual tobacco, challenge them to develop a product that isn’t so. This will encourage more R&D, which means high paying jobs. The idea is to get the tobacco companies to use their “ill-gotten gains” to do some good for the wider social scene.

Another alternative is to look at encouraging more physical/outdoor activities. There is enough science to show that exercise reduces the harmful effects of smoking. Earlier this year, the Independent Newspaper in the UK reported that Iceland had found a way to reduce teenage drinking, smoking and substance abuse by making physical activity more available – i.e getting kids to go for the “natural high” from physical activity. This is something worth doing and the government should look into increasing opportunities for the youth to do more exercise.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Drawing the Line Somewhere.

Life has been a little strange to be me because I usually have more sympathy for migrants than I do for the native-born. You could say that I was privileged to live the “expat” lifestyle in places like Spain, Germany and England, so I had a very coloured view of being a foreigner in someone else’s land.  Even when I started boarding at the age of 15, I was to all intents a “privileged” person.

Even when I lost the privileges of the “expat” background and Daddy’s backing (also known as growing up in the real world), I remained sympathetic to migrants, especially the Muslim variety. I grew up in England, where I ended up sympathizing with the South Asian chaps over the Anglo-Saxons. I grew up with jokes like “Why did the Romans build straight roads? – The stop the Paki’s from building corner shops.” Jokes like this came from a truism – Paki Muslim migrants built corner shops while the locals collected the dole.” When I returned to Singapore, it was the Indians and the Arab Muslims who gave me big breaks, while my own people wondered why I wasn’t good enough to become a servant of the government or a multinational run out of New York or London.

With all this being said of my background, you could say that it’s no surprise that my internal reactions towards the likes of Trump, Le Pen and the other right-wing populist popping up all over the world, are intrinsically violent. I look at someone like Donald Trump and his rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims and his half-hearted condemnation of Neo-Nazi’s and I see the enemy of the people who cared for me. If Donald Trump were in Asia, he’d be the typical overbearing White Executive who can’t help beating the natives about how their livelihoods depend on his benevolence. For me, I’ve been fortunate to never run into that type because the alternative to dealing with such a person is to resign or get fired before you do violence to that thing.

I know a few people who’ve suggested that my intrinsic hatred for the “anti-immigrant” overwhelming white supremacist might have something to do with the fact that I’ve lived a “sheltered” life. For example, I’ve never had “cheaper” labour from elsewhere displace me. Just as I realise that it’s my good fortune to be born with the mentality not to go to government whenever I’m down, it also my good fortune to be born with the ability to imagine that whatever my misfortunes, it never occurred to me to think of it as the fault of someone else born elsewhere.

So, am I unusual and confined to an “ivory tower” when I am physically unable to sympathise with the call of far-right populist? I like to think not and I was recently relieved to find out that its actually natural to think of right-wing populist as disgusting, when I spoke to Thomas, my step-dad during the German elections.

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However bad this may look.......

Unlike me, Thomas has deals with the worst stereotype of the struggling Muslim migrant. For past two decades or more, he’s worked in a hospital that serves the lowest of the low. He once mentioned that the joy of delivering a baby is often ruined with the realization that the baby is bound to grow up with a shit life because the parents are often shit (drug using louts etc).

Amongst his worst clients are usually members of Germany’s Muslim migrants. These are the type that come to Germany and the only word of German they understand is the word for the “welfare office.” In short, his clients are living and breeding off the taxes that he pays. He also deals with incidents of women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence (often but always at the hands of family members).

You would imagine that someone with his experiences might be more inclined to listen to the voice of the far-right xenophobes. Yet, when I spoke to him about the results of the German elections, his only comment on the rise of the far right “Alternative fur Deutschland” (“AfD) was “Simply Disgusting.”
For all that is wrong with the Muslim Migrant community in Germany, my stepfather, is like many good people in Germany – there’s worse – the philosophy of the far right extremist.

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This is inevitably worse

You could say that in many ways, we are shaped by the experiences of our parents before us as much as we are shaped by our own. In my stepdad’s case, it was growing up with a father who fought of the Russian front and got scared fighting for a regime that the likes of the AfD seem to romanticize.
As bad as the migrants may be, as bad as a backward version of Islam may be, it should be clear to any level-headed person that the solutions preached by the extreme right are not solutions that any decent people should stand for.

Germany was ruled by the Nazi’s who blamed everything on the Jews. The killed lots of Jews, Gypsies and so on.  Instead of a stronger Germany, there was a weakened Germany that needed the rest of the Western World, particularly the USA, to bail her out with Marshal Aid. The economic dynamo in the centre of Europe that is modern Germany, is because modern Germany became a society that allowed different people to flourish and it was a society that took responsibility for its mistakes. Germany continues to pay for the Holocaust and it will continue to do so. No right-minded person in Germany would be caught dead chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Migrants bring problems as well as benefits and policy makers need to figure out how to minimize the problems while maximizing the benefits. The answer, as history and the state of the current US administration, has shown, is not in being singling out and pinning life’s woes on any particular group of people.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oh No – Not Again.

I somehow managed to avoid posting anything about Exercise Swift Lion despite the fact that it was the 20th anniversary of that very dark period my life and the life of everyone I served together with. It was a moment in our youth when we had the horrible, heart-break experience of having to watch our friends come home in a body bag. It’s been 20-years since but I still remember what Ronnie’s face looked like in casket – it didn’t look anything like him. He was a good guy who had his whole life ahead of him and he didn’t deserve to have it cut down because some bureaucrat in defense procurement couldn’t be bothered to their checks properly. For me, it was a moment of being sad, scared and pissed off.

I spend 19-years making sure I had something to say about that incident because I felt and I still feel that if Ronnie and Yin Tit had to die, they shouldn’t have died in vain. It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re not much of the scale of things but you try your best to make sure that no other kids have to go through the same thing that you went through.

Well, I somehow let my usual piece lapse. I paid my respects on the online Facebook forum that was set up for our batch but that was all that I did. In one way, it’s probably a good sign that we’ve finally reached the stage where you’re able to let the dead lie where they are and you think that the sadness, pain and fear that you felt on that day has finally subsided.
Then, the news tells you otherwise – I’m now reading about a boy, who was pretty much like Ronnie (last to book out, first to book in, always helpful to colleagues and his men and never having a bad word to say about anyone) being crushed to death when his armoured vehicle turned sideways and ended up crushing him. The story can be read at -

Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle
The Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle 

When I read about such incidents, my heart sinks a little bit more. You get a little pissed off with whatever divine powers are out there for thinking it’s very funny to knock of the good ones.
Then, there’s a feeling of sadness that someone out there is feeling the same sadness that you once had to experience. In a way, I’m blessed with the fact that the immediate child in my life is a girl, so she won’t have the same army type experience I had (not that girls are easy to deal with) but then again, that’s not true. There was Yooga, son of my ex-girlfriend. I’d be crushed if the little bugger was crushed by an armoured vehicle or blown up in a live firing accident. While I’ve not had these major accidents happen to me directly, having seen it once and having had to live through the aftermath and the grief, I ask myself – why should anyone be forced to live through the grief?

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The Happy Part that the Minister gets to See 

I don’t know why young boys get killed through accidents like these. Only sign of progress since that day 20-years ago is that there’s greater public participation in reporting these incidents. At least we got to know that the late 3SG Gavin Chan was one of the good guys and knowing that should inspire someone out there to try and do something to ensure such incidents don’t happen. I only wish we could have made it known that Ronnie and Yin Tit were part of the good guys and didn’t deserve to get cut down when they were cut down. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meet Singapore’s First Short, Fat and Bald President

Singapore has a new President and that lady is Madam Halimah Yacob, our former Speaker of Parliament. Madam Halimah’s rise to the Presidency was never in doubt but it was controversial. It all started with the fact that this was an election reserved for “ethnic Malays.” It turned out that the definition of a Malay became controversial because every candidate wasn’t quite “ethnic Malay.” All of them had a dose of “Indian-Muslim” blood (made sense in as much as the other criteria of being a President in Singapore means you’d have to have ran a company with $500 million in turnover and generally speaking Singapore’s Indian Muslims are business people while our Malay community generally isn’t). The controversy got even worse when one of our Ministers tried to define what it meant to be a Malay and generally ended up sticking his foot in his mouth.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with reserving the highest office in the land for someone from the Malay community. I actually think its high time someone from the Malay community got a shot at the top job. Singapore may claim to be international and our population may be 70 percent Chinese but the truth of the matter is that, we are part of the “Malay” world and in a way, if you take out the list of idiots in UMNO across the border, the Malay world has been exceedingly hospitable. The national language of Singapore is “Malay” and Malay culture is an important part of Singapore. Let’s put it this way – military commands in my mind are always given in Malay and as one of my friends said, “I will NEVER accept my national anthem being in anything other than Malay.”

Having said that, reserving a job for a race opens up a few issues. Why do we necessarily have to restrict things to race or religion? One might argue that certain groups are disadvantaged because they happen to be in the demographic minority and giving them the top job (the word top is used selectively. – top in this case is a matter of protocol rather than anything significant. Like the Queen of England, our President does what he is told to do by the Prime Minister.) to an ethnic minority does keep tensions at bay. Lee Kuan Yew mentions specifically that he needed Yousuf Ishak to be our first President because he needed to show the Malaysians that a Malay in Singapore could be our Head of State (or Yang Di Pertuan, though he was not Yang Di Pertuan Agong.) But that was then and this is now. Are race and religion the only things that separate people?

I’d argue that while race and religion still remain powerful dividers, there are other factors that divide people. If you look at it this way, the one group that suffers in society is known as the short, fat and the bald. Regardless of race, language or religion, it seems quite acceptable to make the short, fat and bald feel miserable for the mere sin of being short, fat and bald.

Looking good but still under appreciated - the price of being short, fat and bald

It’s not just acceptable to make the short, fat and bald feel miserable – it’s actually desired to mock the short, fat and bald. A good portion of Singapore’s economy would collapse if people didn’t give a hoot about being short, fat or bald? The slimming centres and hair restoring shops would shut down and people would be thrown out of work.

As someone how started losing his hair in his late teens and gained wait in his early thirties, I think its time that the short, the fat and bald took a stand and damn the fate of slimming centres and hair restoring shops. A bit of pride in being who you are would do much more for everyone that keeping shops open that stay open merely because there are lots of miserable people around.

So, why can’t we reserve the next election for someone who is short, fat or bald or a combination of the lot? I propose myself to be Singapore’s first-ever fat and bald president and one of my acts would be to import lots of Massai tribesmen to make myself look shorter to the rest of the population so that I become Singapore’s first ever short, fat and bald President. 

I think I’d make a good President. I enjoy walking with the troops (even if I was a substandard 155mm gunner), which is an essential skill for being President. I also have a good wave – another essential skill in being President.

In terms of dealing with foreign dignitaries, I believe I would be a hit. I speak decent enough English to keep the British and the Americans onside. One of the best things about an English education is that you know about sports like rugby and cricket. I’d make great palls with the lot Down Under over a pint and a discussion on rugby.
While my spoken Chinese is crap, I’ve been out with enough girls from the PRC to appreciate the beauty that China has to offer. I can see myself getting on with Xi-Jin Peng.

However, I believe that my talents would be best utilized with the Middle East and India. I know that Dubai is not the entire sum of the Arab world and I happened to make a group of Iranian tourists feel very happy when I said “Salaam” and acknowledged that there’s a difference between Iran and the Arab world.

 I may be fat and bald but in a world of increasing diversity and in a situation where Singapore needs to look to new markets, what couldn’t be better than a President who has actually looked at map?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let’s Get Our Priorities Right

I was relived to read the commentary “Time to hold last rites for marital-rape immunity” (14 April 2017). Professor. Eugene Tan has rightfully pointed out that the concept of “Marital-rape immunity” is anachronistic. More worryingly, the debate on Marital-rape immunity reveals something very disturbing about our legal and social approach to sex.

I support the government’s tough stand on crime. What I disagree with and find disturbing is the fact that when it comes to sexual behavior, there are laws which seem designed to encourage the wrong type of behavior like marital-rape immunity.

The lack of debate both in parliament and in the public sphere becomes even more disturbing when you compare it to the debates on the repeal of 377A, where you have the “LGBT” community and the “Religious” community going through great lengths and with great passion to get their point of view across. Whenever the topic of 377A comes into the public sphere, you will inevitably get letters for and against the law being published in the press.

By contrast, nobody talks about marital-rape immunity. Women do not talk about a woman’s right to say no. The religious community remains silent about social norms or moral standards. You might get the odd letter in the press by an academic now and then and nobody has challenged the constitutional validity of marital-rape immunity in the courts nor does anybody hold a march at Hong Lim Park.

Surely, something is wrong here. How is it possible for a society to turn the right of consenting adults to act in a certain way in the privacy of the bedroom into a national debate on social morality while we remain silent on the concept of allowing someone to force himself on another person without the other person’s consent?

I am the father of a teenage girl and I hope that she will one day find a good man to settle down with. As a father, I want my daughter to have the choice of when and whom she offers her body to. How can I accept that she needs to surrender her body whenever her future husband feels like it?

We have achieved so much in the last 50-years in terms of our economic development. I am proud of how our society is a mixture of cultures and religions. A good deal of this has been achieved by the hard work of strong women like the late Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew.

So, how is it that we’ve taken this long to lift legalized rape? Are we really a society that is happy to take from our women when they feel like it? Do we find it acceptable to be ambivalent about rape in any shape or form?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Best and the Worst in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

One of the things that you have to give the Trump Administration credit for is finding new lows. Just when you thought the administration could not get any more immoral and incompetent, they find a way to prove you spectacularly wrong.

During the weekend, far right protesters descended onto the town of Charlottesville in Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General who lead the Southern States to battle during the American Civil War. The protesters were met with counter protesters and violence erupted. People were killed and America finds itself at a bitterly divided point.

This event has been something of an eye opener and for me, it was an incident that brought out the worst and the best of what I’ve called “White America.” I stress the point about “White America” because the largest ethnic groups in the USA are of European ancestry and we have to acknowledge that this remains the ethnic group that holds the largest influence in what goes on in the USA and by extension the rest of the world. America remains the country that sets the tone for the rest of the world.

Let’s remember that we had hope when America elected Barak Obama to the Presidency back in 2008. I know lifelong Republicans who actually said, “I am proud of the fact that his name is Barak Husain Obama.” The message was simple – after 200-years, America had lived up to its promise of being a beacon of hope for the rest of us – a place where the son of a Kenyan immigrant could rise to the highest office of the land. While President Obama didn’t fulfil every hope and dream, he did turn around an economy that was in its worst state in several decades and he did bring healthcare to millions who couldn’t afford it. He wasn’t liked by everyone else around the world but he did make an effort to bring peace to places like the Middle East by being “fair” – so fair that Binyamin Nethanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister was quite open about his dislike for Obama and here in Singapore, the powers that be decided to remind the public on several occasions that “change” was a foreign concept.

Things are different now. The son of an African Immigrant has now been replaced by the scion of a wealthy family that made its money on government projects. He inherited office by playing up to the worst in people, stroking their fears and attacking anyone who wasn’t part his version of the main stream. Somehow, he made the obvious character flaws (inability to be pleasant, competent, brave, truthful) into things that the ordinary people could relate to (it still astounds me whenever people tell me that Trump tells it like it is when he’s openly collecting money for charity and then using the money to enrich himself.)

You could say that the events that took place in Charlottesville was the chance for Mr. Trump to prove to the world that he was more than the narcistic clown who had conned the American people. Instead, of choosing leadership and being as tough as he had sounded on North Korean missile threats, he decided to take the easy way out by condemning the hatred on “so many sides,” and then said somethings about how “ideally, we should love each other.”

It didn’t help that David Duke, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that was founded on the premise of destroying black people, happily got plenty of air-time telling the world that he and his ilk got Donald Trump elected. More on Mr. Duke’s positions can be found at -

To put it crudely, Mr. Duke had chosen to commit an act of domestic terrorism and he had gotten away with it and even got the type of air time that the likes of Osama Bin Ladin could only have hoped for. The clan members, Nazis and other pleasant people at the protest took their chances to attack anyone who was of a different skin colour, Jews and even members of the clergy (which is ironic considering many of these groups consider themselves Christian. An example of the violence can be found at:


This was perhaps the worst in “White America.” The question of how this group of people who once claimed to have “saved the world from Nazis” be the actual Nazis themselves.

Having said that, there were great moments that were inspiring and saw the best of humanity come out. Let’s start with the most obvious – political leadership. If Trump didn’t have the courage to call out the worst in humanity, Governor Terry McAuliffe showed plenty of it when he told the “alt-right “ that their racism had no place and they were neither patriotic or American. This is what Donald Trump in a higher office should have said. The Governor did what a President should have done – told the world that there was no place for bigotry in a nation founded on the premise of giving everyone opportunity.

More of Governor McAuliffe’s speech can be found at:

What was especially encouraging was to hear a lifelong Republican, who served under George W Bush (a President I loathed for his policies in the Middle East) denouncing the “alt-right” supporters and advisors of Mr. Trump for being unAmerican -you can hear his disgust at sight of the KKK and its ilk at

While White America was on the side of the devils, it was also on the side of the angels. The woman who gave her life was called Heather Heyer, a White American who chose to stand up to bullies and to fight for the victims. More on Ms. Heyer can be found at

I am emotionally involved in this. While I haven’t been to America in nearly half a decade and I don’t really do much with America in my daily life, America is the nation that gave me two great blessings – my stepdad Lee and his family and my step mum, Nora and her family. These are the families from “White America” that accepted me and took me for who I am. They helped to nurture me into the person that I am today. I like to believe that America, for all its faults, is a land of decent people who accepted people from around the world as one of their own (I do make the point that it’s the part of America that accepted people from around the world as their own that prospered).

The families from “White America” that touched me are the ones that remind me that Americans are intrinsically a decent people and it’s hard to look the KKK ilk and think of them as being “Americans.” I don’t recognize them as American and yet I have to acknowledge that they are sitting in America.

I can only pray that this Nation of Decent people triumphs over the likes of David Duke and condemns them to the dustbins of history quickly. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

What’s Next for Singapore?

Since National Day is only two-days ahead, I thought I would try and bash out a few thoughts on a topic which should be on the minds of every right-thinking Singaporean – namely, what is it that we want our little nation to be?

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I’ve somehow avoided this topic for the last 12-years because, for all my complaints about Singapore, it’s been pretty much the “Celestial Kingdom.” I never tire of saying this but Singapore is pretty much what a city should be – rich, green and clean. Our crime rates are low and as long as you’re reasonably intelligent, you can get by. It’s been as if we got one formula right at the start and everyone after that just needed to follow the proven script. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself – “When was the last time you heard the Singapore Government come out with a vision for the nation?” There’s plenty of talk about how to grow the economy but we haven’t exactly heard anyone talk about what they want for the nation.

I can say with all honesty that I’ve never thought much of the question of what I want Singapore to be. Like my fellow citizens, I’ve merely been following the path of just making a living and avoiding getting into any trouble. However, now that fatherhood to a teenager has become part of my life, the question has suddenly become important and why shouldn’t it – this is, after all, the ONLY country that I have an obligation to die for.

I guess we should start with what I hope never changes, which is for Singapore to remain a safe little red dot that remains open to the world.
Safety is something I never fully appreciated until I became a father of a teenage girl. I’ve lived in London, which is generally pretty safe and I’ve visited big American cities like New York and Chicago. While I’ve never experienced anything really nasty, there are parts of those cities that I wouldn’t walk in. I remember getting lost in “California Avenue” in Chicago with a best friend of mine who was driving a sports car. We were running low on gas but we drove on till we got the hell out of there – the local residents didn’t exactly look like they were going to let us keep the car if we got out.

You don’t get that feeling even in Singapore’s neighbourhoods. I remember a US Navy boy asking me if Geylang was our worst neighbourhood and when I replied that it was, he invited me to the States to show me what a bad neighbourhood was.

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This is officially a bad neighbourhood in Singapore

I hope that aspect of Singapore remains in perpetuity. I can live with a slowing economy but I don’t want to live in a place where I worry for my safety or more importantly not being able to sleep because I’m worried that my little girl hasn’t come home yet. One of my favourite Englishmen tells people, “Singapore is the freest place in the world – the safety it provides makes me feel free.”
I also want Singapore to be a place where we continue to accept people from all over the world. I love the fact that we remain a place where you see people of various shades walking around and having fun together. 

I love the fact that I can walk around and find a mosque, church and a temple side by side and worshipers popping into each other’s place of worship for a friendly nod to the divine. To my mind, God is everywhere and nothing is Godlier that human beings acknowledging him in all his various forms. I pray that we will remain the place where a Hindu temple is crowded with Taoist devotees worshiping the Hindu Gods outside. This is the way it should be. I want Singapore to always be the place where a Buddhist can enter a church and a Christian family will observe Hindu rights and Muslims celebrate Christmas.

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The Way it Should Be.

What would I change about Singapore? One of my biggest frustrations with life in Singapore lies in the fact that the minds of people tend to be preconditioned to look at the world in a certain way. Admittedly, it’s something that you could say about any other part of the world but I guess, since I live in Singapore I feel it the most here.

One of the most prominent examples of this “preconditioning” comes in the area of race. For all our talk about being a “multi-racial” society, we are shockingly racist. I go back to my favourite Englishman who tells me that when his son when to apply for a job at F1, it was quite noticeable that anyone who was white or yellow ended up as an usher while anyone who happened to be brown or black ended up on cleaning duty. I’ve refused to take up certain positions because what I was being offered was significantly lower than my predecessors and my colleagues have defended the discrepancy in what was being offered because the other person was of a lighter shade.

The other area that frustrates me about Singapore is that it can be an unforgiving place for people who don’t follow the prescribed cast system. I speak as someone who never had a conventional career path of going into the government or the government and decided to do his or her own thing. My own people could never look beyond the fact that I never took the position that New York or London were essential to global prosperity. For me, it was the companies from places like Dhaman (Saudi) or Chennai (India), that gave me a chance and I guess you could say I’m biased but I’m willing to give people outside the established order a chance because they gave me a chance.

It's like this, I applaud the fact that we welcome people from the third world to work here. However, if those people from the third world become uppity and try and go beyond the menial job we gave them, we don’t like it.

We need to be the place where second acts are celebrated. On my Facebook page, I’ve linked up with a few of the girls who worked at the bar that I drink at. They’ve gone back to the Philippines and reinvented themselves as online entrepreneurs. They came here with not very much and gone back as entrepreneurs.

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An example of the Capitalist Success Story of a Girl with Hunger

While I celebrate their success, I ask myself, why can’t we encourage them to start their second act in life here?

As well as celebrating the success of migrants, we should also be the place that encourages second acts amongst our mid-career professionals. We succeeded by producing the people who could work in one job and at one thing. So, as the world becomes more fluid, we should now focus on being the place where second acts take place and succeed. Would Ray Kroc, a milkshake mixer sales man at the age of 60 plus or Colonel Harland Sanders a washed out cook in his 60s get their second acts as restaurant owners in Singapore. The answer should be – why not.

Majullah Singapura. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Put Faith in Science

I was delighted to read “Marmite may be brain food: Study” (5 April 2017) because the article brought home an important point about how we approach many of the issues – letting the science speak for itself.
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Marmite, like many things in life is more than just an item that we eat. It is something that defines us in an emotional manner. You either love marmite or you loath it. Both sides have plenty of reasons to support their arguments and somehow, if one speaks to one side about the other’s argument, they will inevitably ignore the points that the other side is trying to make. Thankfully, in this instance, the science has been allowed to speak for itself – it has now been established that marmite will not harm you and may even be good for you. This fact won’t change the mind of those who loath marmite but it will allow people who enjoy marmite to do so without government interference.

Unfortunately, letting the science speak for itself is not an approach that applies to everything. Take the example of alcohol and cigarette consumption. Everyone agrees that alcohol and tobacco consumption are bad for you is bad for you and nobody complains when governments raise taxes of alcohol and tobacco and places restrictions on their consumption. Yet, despite all of the efforts to curb alcohol and tobacco consumption, those who love to smoke and drink continue to do so.
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Surely the approach to alcohol and tobacco consumption is to “create” science to find a way that allows those who enjoy alcohol and tobacco consumption to continue to do so in a way that minimizes harm to the user and eliminates harm to innocent bystanders. If we can send people to the moon, surely, we can find a way for people to drink and enjoy the pleasures of drinking without the risk of them becoming a danger if they get behind the wheels of car. If we can get people to live underwater, surely, we can find a way for people to smoke without putting the rest of us at risk?
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As much as the tobacco companies are unlikeable, they’re trying to come up with ways that that smokers can smoke without damaging the rest of us. Unfortunately, few governments around the world are trying to encourage the tobacco companies create science. Smoking remains an emotional issue guided by emotional responses.

There are, however, encouraging signs. New Zealand recently allowed the use of e-cigarettes in effort cut smoking rates and respected international bodies like the Royal College of Physicians in the UK have argued that science points out that this is the way to go.

One might argue that the science is not conclusive. However, instead of doing the draconian thing, surely the thing to do is to encourage all sides to create more science until there’s a clear direction. Both the tobacco and alcohol companies have made millions selling harm. Surely, its time they returned the money though investment in science and research to create better paying jobs for the rest of us.

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.